• Christopher Tanner

Mind Control: Comparing the Salvation Story to Brainwashing

When one really thinks about it, a lot of Christianity acts as mind control. While I may tackle different aspects of this in other posts, I want to start with the basics here and focus on the story of salvation, especially as taught to children in more fundamentalist sects of Christianity. As we know, children are particularly vulnerable to being taught nonsense, and are biologically predisposed to accept authority figures like their parents and teachers without much protest. At such a young age, their very conception of life is determined by parental guidance and other similar authority figures, potentially creating  long lasting consequences in their lives. As the Bible itself teaches, “start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). While this is obviously not a foolproof method, it is effective overall, and it can be difficult to extricate itself from such a mindset at a later age. Even more alarming details about the indoctrination of children, as we will see in this post, are some eerie parallels to literal brainwashing.

So, what are children often taught thoughout Christianity? Well, it can vary from one family to another, depending on the denomination and intensity of belief, but the salvation story among fundamentalists basically goes like this. First, children are taught about how everyone is a sinner. The most common Bible verse used to point out that we are all sinners is Romans 3:23, which states: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Moreover, people are taught, due to the concept of original sin from the Adam and Eve story in Genesis 2-3, that people are born sinful, even though they did nothing wrong; “it makes us objects in a cruel experiment whereby we are created sick and commanded to be well”. They are then taught that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

In my experience, Christians generally only quote the first half of that, and save the latter part for other Bible verse. “The wages of sin is death”: we die because of sin. We are born condemned to death. Not only that, but this death is not just a physical death; it is a spiritual death. In other words, because you are such a sinful horrible person in the eyes of God, you will go to hell when you die, and be tortured for all eternity. This can be scary and possibly traumatizing to children, because they tend to believe what they are taught regardless. But wait, there is hope because God loves us! “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that we may not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)! Children are taught they do not have to die and go to hell and be tortured. God loves them after all, and does not want anyone to go to hell. But they better accept that this Jewish guy died for their sins and rose from the dead! And that’s how they get children. They tell them they are born guilty and subject to the fires of hell until they believe it, and then they are given a way out.


This is brainwashing, plain and simple. Brainwashing is a means by which people are often compelled to change their entire worldview, without being convinced by reason and evidence. It is also referred to as thought reform or mind control, because people can be convinced to believe anything when it works. There are twelve main steps to the method of brainwashing.

First, there is an assault on one’s identity, in which people are convinced they are a bad person of some sort. These attacks are relentless, and break a person down over time. It is, in a sense, a form of abuse. The purpose of these assaults on identity is to make the person feel guilt, which is step two of the process. These attacks continue until the person begins to betray oneself and agree with the person attempting to control them that they are bad. This puts the person in an uncomfortable position. They are told they are bad until they believe it. This can eventually lead to an identity crisis in which the person questions himself. It is in this vulnerable state in which the person doing the brainwashing can then “go to work” on the person involved, re-forming them into what they want them to be.

The brainwasher expresses leniency on the subject, and gives them a reprieve from their abuse. They then encourage the person being brainwashed to confess their “sins” and talk about how bad they are. The person being brainwashed often fails to see why he is bad; he just knows he is bad. Their old belief system becomes synonymous with negativity, and people are led to believe that their old belief system and old views are what is bad, not them necessarily. This leaves the subject open to accept a new belief system. The brainwasher then lays down a new belief system in which a person can be made good again. The person then chooses to adopt the new belief system of choice, and becomes a new believer in it.

I am sure people see the parallels here, but if not, let’s bring it all together. In brainwashing, one’s identity is assaulted until they admit they are evil. In Christianity, people are told they are sinful for simply being human, and in need of saving. This is particularly effective among children who are defenseless and do not know any better. In brainwashing, the brainwasher then gives the subject a way out by telling them to do or believe something. In Christianity, people are told to accept Jesus to be saved from death and hell, often without critical thinking behind it. The parallels here are chilling. Christianity, at least in its more “pure forms”, comes off as a form of blatant brainwashing.

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