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on November 14, 2002
This book exposes the beliefs, characteristics and rules of toxic faith. For the most part, these aren't practices we will stumble across and recognize. In fact, that's the problem: they come disguised as respectable and often successful, or as strong and effective leadership. Once exposed, however, many will recognize these experiences all too well.

In these settings, for example, you don't ask questions, you don't express your feelings, you don't do anything outside your role and you don't trust anyone (four of the ten rules of the toxic faith system).

These are religion systems that are often subtle yet abusive, significantly materialistic (money is viewed as an indicator of spiritual strength), manipulative and, at heart, mean.

The combination of naivete and the general desire of religious folks to serve their churches, schools and organizations have caused many to succumb and become innocent victims. Paradoxically, it may take faithful followers willing to commit "organizational suicide" and become "outcasts" of the system in order to force other religious addicts to face reality.

Religious addicts are experts at setting up "exclusive societies" of toxic faith believers. People prosper and succeed by supporting the beliefs and practices of the "persecuting leader(s)." Once inside, you may not be aware of a "destructive system," but you will likely notice that your guilt and anger only increases while your self-worth decreases.

Addictive, hateful, destructive religion in America seems to have exploded since the first publication of this book in 1991. Recovery, hope and freedom are available. "Overcoming" starts with "understanding" the truths contained in this book.
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on February 6, 2004
This book helped me to see that any Christian can have unhealthy faith without realizing it! I really liked how Arterburn specifically explained each element of toxic faith. In addition, "Toxic Faith" helped me to understand the structure of an unhealthy system (i.e. a religious organization) and the role of all the players involved. This is a must-read for any Christian who wants to grow in his/her relationship with God. Also recommended for victims/former members of destructive religious cults.
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on August 28, 2009
This is such an important book- If I and my family had only been aware of this book's contents we might have `escaped' our toxic church prison twenty years earlier[...].

Arteburn and Felton cover the two extremes of what they have labeled as `toxic faith': Religion that promotes a God who loves you according to your performance level as opposed to a `Feel-Good' God who's only concern is our perfect happiness.

After twenty odd years in a hell-hole of a church that enslaved my mind, my body, my emotions, and most importantly my faith, I am researching with all my vim and vigor what enabled this demon church to survive.

Arteburn and Felton had an astute answer: me.
With my fear of God and His retribution for not following His `Voice From the Pulpit', I faithfully served my `Master'- my so-called `pastor'.

With the cunning of the cult leader that she is, she became my `Persecutor'.

Arteburn and Felton give a concise list of characteristics for the Persecutor, including:

*Feels the need to be in control

*Feels the need to embellish the truth and make things appear more grand than they are

*Lives in a false world where person is convinced he or she is right

*Manipulates others using guilt, shame, or remorse

*Blames others for own mistakes

I became, through no choice of my own, her `Co-Conspirator':

*Always finds a way to support the position of the persecutor

*Feeds the persecutor's ego

*Lives to be appreciated and recognized by the persecutor

*Ties personal feelings of value to another person rather than God

Toxic Faith contains the cautionary tale of Faye, a woman who `gave the all' as her cult leader continually urged her to do: she lived check to check, tried to proselyte every co-worker, and devoted every spare moment to the church and its functions.

When her daughter fell ill, she took her to the church to receive the healing touch of its members.

"Have more faith!" they demanded, when the girl failed to revive.

Desperate, the mom took her to the clinic-but it was too late. The little girl died the next morning.

Faye buried her daughter, cleaned her house, and swallowed a bottle full of pills.

Having suffered through a best friend's suicide in the hell-hole church, I can attest to the severity of the toxic faith system.

Read this book!

It might save you or your loved ones terrible pain.
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on February 25, 2002
This book exposes how religion becomes unhealthy and addictive, and how it hinders our growth, faith, and perspective of God. It addresses both the believers, and the leaders. This book helped me gain valuable insight into my own personality, and what caused me to be attracted to cults and churches that were unhealthy, and also understanding of unhealthy leaders. It was very hard for me to understand how a leader could believe they were doing right, when in fact they were very far off base, and practices did not line up with scripture. My husband & I would often discuss whether leaders made a conscious effect to manipulate people and hurt people, or if they really thought they were doing right in God's eyes. This book answered a lot of puzzling questions, and helped me see what really happened. If a pastor was taught or believes he/she has to earn God's favor, and never grasped the concept of a healthy faith and grace in their own lives, they will project those same views to other believers and their congregations. This book gave me understanding. And understanding helped me to gain some empathy for those leaders who harmed us, and I was able to begin to overcome the resentment and anger I felt toward them. I find that Steven Arterburn and Jack Fenton's books are power packed with valuable insight, healthy balance, and key to helping people in recovery of any kind of addiction. I was truly blessed by their ministry, and found true fulfillment as a Christian believer, that was once tainted by spiritual abuse.
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on June 8, 2001
In Toxic Faith: Experiencing Healing From Painful Spiritual Abuse, Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton effectively collaborate to show how personal disappointments, loss, betrayal, distortion of religious concepts and scriptures, as well as unrealistic expectations of God, can damage faith. They then show how to heal distorted views of God as weak, distant, or uncaring; find release from striving to earn God's love; break free from an unhealthy dependency on religion at the expense of a personal relationship with God; and how to rediscover the reality of true faith in a loving God and move beyond the suffocating, distorting, spiritually impairing limits of a "toxic faith".
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on March 14, 2007
Every Christian needs to read this book. The last church I attended was toxic but when I was in it I didn't fully realize it. I kept making excuses for the pastor's behavior (and the church leadership's behavior). Leaving that church was like coming out of a fog. Reading Toxic Faith was like reading a play that the church had been acting out. The book explains that in a toxic faith system, there are various roles that each person plays: a persecutor, co-conspirator, enabler, victim and an outcast. In order to keep this system going each person remains in their roles (as in an emotionally unhealthy family). But toxic faith doesn't just begin in a church. Toxic faith begins in our personal lives (usually from childhood) in some way and transfers into our faith system. The book tells the characteristics of a toxic church vs a healthy church. It talks about religious addiction vs a relationship with God. It toook a minute for me to get into the book because right away I was hoping to hear about the bad church system I'd just left, but first the book talked about how toxic faith begins (with us). This book isn't filled with a lot of Bible Scripture, but it's filled with knowledge from two guys extremely gifted by God in their insight and keen discernment. The book helped further my healing after leaving a toxic faith system. Just because a church is big, popular, located all over the world, teaches the Bible extremely well (this is was what fooled me with my church), and started out with good intentions in its early days doesn't mean it's immune to toxicity! I highly recommend this book.
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on November 5, 2006
I am basically reiterating most of the other reviews posted for this book, yet I felt it was an important book to review because there are few books on this subject out there.

This is an awesome book for anyone being healed of a legalistic mindset. I also strongly recommend this book for anyone leaving a cultish religious group or if you are helping people you know that are involved in one.

For someone breaking free from a legalism, control, or hyper- religiousness; this book does highlight the need for healthy balance and a true revelation of Grace.

As a person who was involved with an unhealthy movement, I found this book helped me to see more clearly and realize I wasn't the only one. It has a list of the signs of toxic faith, "10 rules of a toxic faith system" that proved helpful.

I believe many Christians would benefit from checking this book out because anyone can fall into unhealthy faith.
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on November 9, 2006
Many, maybe even most of us, have been in situations that are not healthy. At some point we realize that the person/group we are with are controlling, manipulative, and/or deceitful. Christianity is supposed to be a place where we have the ultimate amount of freedom inside the structure of personal responsibility and individual responsibility and obedience to God. Because this is a hurting world with many hurting people, many who call themselves Christians are also injured and wounded. When these wounded people become leaders in the church they impart the rigid structures that enable them to feel OK about themselves as truth. It is at this point it becomes a religion instead of a relationship with God. It is also the point that the Christian religion begins to become sick.

This book discusses the injuries sick church leaders do to their followers. It discusses how to identify the characteristics and parameters of a sick church group. In so doing, it frees the reader to identify the sickness and liberates them to leave these types of groups. This is a very well done and unfortunately needed book. I found it very validating and healing to read.
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on February 26, 2013
If you've been in an abusive situation at church, there are many forces at work to make you feel as if you are in the wrong. Abusive leaders will use psychological manipulation, peer pressure, guilt trips, character assassination and many other tactics to keep you "in line". It is extremely difficult to extricate yourself from an abusive ministry and this book helps to identify the problems and give the reader a pathway to healing.
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on May 25, 2001
This book is an eye-opener. It discusses the difference between healthy faith in God and dysfunctional, addictive practices. The book is especially helpful in its clear definitions of toxic faith systems, the roles therein, and the uderlying psychological motivations of both leaders and followers. There are many personal examples and stories. This book will be especially helpful for those who have been spiritually abused or involved in dysfunctional, high demand groups. Definitely worth reading.
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