What Exactly Is Religious Programming?

faith deconstruction religious programming May 08, 2022

We talk an awful lot about religious programming, as we find it to be a very important component to the healing process from religion! But what exactly does that even mean?  Religious programming is the aftereffect of the teachings and indoctrinations of religion that defined for you how to:

  1. View the world (us vs. them)
  2. Behave among your community and the outside world around you (the rules of behavior)
  3. Relate to yourself (you are sinful, in need of saving)

 It leaves deeply lasting effects on your life, your thought patterns, and your emotional wellbeing; and how you operate in the world now has been greatly influenced by your religious programming. 

And the kicker about religious programming is that it doesn't just leave you once you've left the Church. This stuff will unconsciously keep playing behind the scenes, unknowingly guiding you. We have seen this over and again in our lives, in the lives of our clients, as well as in the faith deconstruction community. Even though you no longer believe that:

  • You are sinful, in need of a savior
  • The Bible has all the answers you need
  • Your sinful nature is to not be trusted
  • You are responsible for saving the lost or being a good witness

...it now just changes, leaving you still thinking that: 


  1. "I must always announce all of my thoughts and opinions on all topics!" (you were trained after all, to always be a good witness for Christ and to never be ashamed!).
  2. "Something is wrong with me, I need to be fixed!" (being told you need a savior to save you from your sinful nature creates this belief that you're still broken.
  3. "I should burn every memory of my religious past to the ground!" (just like you had to with your secular, worldly self).
  4. "There is a right way to live now and I need to find it!" (when you were programmed to believe there was ONE right path to God, it keeps you on that hamster wheel of thinking there is one way for everything).
  5. "I am responsible for the emotions and behaviors of others!" (over-responsibility was something you were taught when told it's your job to save others and to hold your brothers and sisters in Christ accountable). 
  6. "I cannot trust myself!" (your religious obedience was dependent upon mistrusting yourself).
  7. "I must tell everyone my new beliefs or else I'm not being authentic!" (religion taught you unhealthy boundaries by making you believe that you had to confess your sins, be held accountable, and that you couldn't keep anything from the group). 

Can you see how it's just the different side of the same coin? The name is different but what is underneath is still the same.

 So what does that mean for you now? What CAN you do with your religious programming? The 4 things  we tell our clients are:

  1. REALIZE that this is normal. How could you NOT still be affected by this programming?  
  2. RECOGNIZE when it happens. By becoming more self aware, you also notice it quicker.
  3. REMIND yourself that is how your programming is now showing up in your life. 
  4. REFRAME what you tell yourself when it does. Try gentleness and compassion instead of impatience and negative self talk. 

Also, we created a meaningful ritual for releasing the things in your religious past that you no longer want to keep. 

Stay connected with us!

Join the 4000 others signed up to get Happy Mail 2x/month in your inbox! We are trained to help you through your faith transition. You're not alone.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.