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Should Religious Groups be Allowed to Shun?

Updated on November 11, 2016
Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn Green is interested in propaganda techniques and how thought control is used as a means to unduly influence the unsuspecting.

Ostracized and Cast Out

Denied comfort, companionship and care.
Denied comfort, companionship and care.

A Harmful Policy that Destroys Human Relationships

Shunning is one of the most divisive and harmful doctrines taught and practiced by cults and a handful of modern religions today. And the question begs to be asked, in civilized society, should any group be allowed to wield this much power over people's lives?

It has been said that shunning is an abuse of religious authority because this a doctrine goes outside of church walls and religious meeting places and invades homes and family units, undermining critically important relationships. The practice is so severe in some cases, the shunned person is evicted and has to leave the home.

While some may dismiss this issue, believing that you can't control what someone believes and the choices they make, in most cases, shunning was not someone's personal belief initially and is actually imposed on members and converts and enforced through guilt-mongering, peer pressure, fear-mongering and punitive action. Shunning, in actuality, is not a choice but a requirement and members are stripped of their freedom of religion by having to conform to group directives.

Even if someone later comes to accept and believe that shunning and cutting someone out of their life is an acceptable course of action, in most cases, as mentioned, this was not their personal belief before joining the shunning group. This belief has been indoctrinated into them and fostered through their association with the particular group, so ultimately, they have been victims of undue influence and thought control.

This article will examine important questions: Can shunning really be said to be "just" personal belief? How are people convinced to shun friends and family? How do shunning groups compare to mainstream Christian religions? What is the impact of shunning?

An examination of these questions will help readers determine whether or not religious groups should be allowed to shun.

Erring Gravely

By shunning someone, the shunners place the victim in an unforgiven state. Is this scriptural? The Bible says there is only ONE unforgivable sin. Logic should tell us that the majority of those being shunned have not committed this sin.

Treated as One Dead


Can Shunning Really be Said to be "Just" Personal Belief?

  1. Shunning is usually not a personal belief that rational people hold to before joining cults and high-control religious groups and coming under undue influence and group pressure to conform.
  2. While religious and cult leaders may personally believe in shunning, in most cases they aren't content to keep it personal. Instead, they impose their beliefs on others. Their members are expected to adopt leaders' beliefs and policies and worse still, they know "the consequences" if they don't. Shunning thus goes well outside of mere personal belief and is demanded of others and enforced.
  3. These leaders teach their maladaptive, extremist, family-destroying beliefs to thousands, if not millions of people, and as such, are contributing to the breakdown of human relationships and a severing of family bonds, and in a larger sense, they are undermining societal cohesiveness.

How Are People Convinced to Shun Friends and Family?

Interestingly, many people have stated confidently that no force would ever convince them to shun their family; however, those same people, once exposed to thought control, have gone on to shun their loved ones. How is this possible?

By Individuals

A cult guru or religious leader is often skilled in propaganda techniques. This plays out in a number of ways. A charismatic leader may convince followers that he is being guided by God and as such, his teachings should be heeded. He may take it one step further and claim he has received divine revelation that adherents must obey. In rare cases, someone might actually claim to be the Messiah, which, of course, gives them the ultimate position of authority.

By Leaders

When a cult or religion is administrated by a body of men (pastors, ministers, a quorum, a priesthood, or any type of governing body or governing council), they use similar techniques to sway adherents. They often claim either divine direction, divine appointment or direct revelation. Even when they don’t embrace the “claim to divine fame,” they have other cards at their disposal that are effective in gaining compliance. If they are an end-times apocalyptic group, they tell members that in order to survive the world’s end, they must obey directives, even if friendship and family bonds are strong and even if doing so causes heartache. Another maneuver is to make shunning a question of loyalty to God. This is an effective side-step because even if someone were to disagree with leaders’ teachings, when it’s made a question of loyalty to God, that is a much harder hurdle to overcome mentally. When members have been conditioned to obey leaders as God's representatives, they believe that disobeying them is akin to disobeying God.

Both parties will employ constant reminders and repetition to continue to program their members to compliance, both parties will use guilt and fear, and in most cases will threaten punitive action. And any maverick individuals who are strong enough to go against the indoctrination are often made examples of to invoke even more fear.

Do you think that religions have the right to force their members to shun friends and family?

See results

Forgiving or Intolerant?

Christians were exhorted to forgive repeatedly, not shun perpetually.

Cults as Compared to Mainstream Christian Groups

High-control religious groups operate using a my-way-or-the-highway approach.

In contrast, most Christian groups strive to embrace tolerance and forgiveness, as directed by the scriptures, and leave the judging to God.

While mainstream churches attract and retain adherents without the coercion and punitive measures, fringe groups resort to control tactics as a means of member control and retention.

Hostage Takers?

Groups that have the power to take away your friends and family, could be said to be hostage takers. They hold people captive to a concept, by locking them into an ideological prison.

Shunning's Devastating Impact

Ostracism and shunning impose isolation on those subjected to it. Imagine losing all your friends in the group you belonged to, or worse still, being completely cut off by your family.

Now, think about this treatment continuing year-after-year, decade-after-decade, and possibly right up until the moment you die. What price can ever be put on all those lost years? Something precious has been stolen away from you and you can never get it back.

Imagine being excluded and missing out on family occasions like births, graduations, weddings, anniversaries and holidays, or family get-togethers and recreational activities. Imagine missing out on time spent with your grown children or your grandchildren. Imagine receiving no aid from family if you find yourself in dire straits or with severe health problems. Imagine dying without your family around you.

This is the horrible reality of shunning, a no-man’s-land that cuts to the heart and bone and subjects victims to years of emotional and psychological torment.

Imagine Recieving News That a Close Relative Has Died and Having to Grieve Alone


Should someone in a position of religious authority be allowed to impose their personal beliefs on others?

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Should Tax-Exempt Religions be Allowed to Teach, Impose, and Enforce Shunning?

Many cults and religious groups claim to be charities and thus they can rake in millions, without having to pay anything in taxes. Under the auspices of freedom of religion, they are also free to operate with impunity and inflict harm on members.

This is something that needs to be changed because in exercising their beliefs, they rob others of that same liberty. Freedom of religion should apply to all, not the select few who are in charge.

It is to be hoped that as policy-makers become more aware of the devastating effects of shunning, they will enact “best practices” guidelines for religious organizations that prevent them from inflicting this form of member abuse.

While leaders are free to believe in shunning and to practice it within their own family, they should not be free to impose their beliefs on others; they should not be free to rip apart families. Any charity should have to adhere to a set of rules that protect members, and if not, have their tax-free status revoked, as a way to not only protect members but all other parties affected by shunning.

© 2016 Athlyn Green

What do you think? Should religious groups be allowed to shun?

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    • Athlyn Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Athlyn Green 

      3 years ago from West Kootenays

      The sad thing is that some freedoms are protected, i.e. the freedom to harm others by abusing religious authority, but those who are harmed receive little protection. This is where laws need to change. Yes, someone should be free to believe what they will, but should they also be free to punish and harm someone and tear apart their family all for exercising religious freedom and making personal choices about what to believe?

    • MJFenn profile image


      3 years ago

      The way this hub is worded on the surface is made to sound appealing but at a deeper level it's also a question of how freedom of association is applied under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For example, if it were mooted that what secularists associate with should somehow be subject to the veto of unconnected religious people, the response would be a resounding, No. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms also works in the other direction: what religious people associate with is not subject to the veto of secularists. Neither does the Charter sanction the policing of people's and groups' tax status on the basis of the way they (whether secularist or religious) exercise their freedom of association under the Charter. So while some of the wording of the hub may sound appealing, the way the Charter protects freedom of association of people and groups of various hues does very much need to be seen as part of the equation.


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