Narcissists, God, and Religion

Closeup of a woman reading her bible in a city square

“1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jan’nes and Jam’bres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.”

(The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy 3:1-9)

God is everything the narcissist ever wants to be: omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, admired, much discussed, and awe inspiring. God is the narcissist’s wet dream, his ultimate grandiose fantasy. But God comes handy in other ways as well.

The narcissist alternately idealizes and devalues figures of authority.

In the idealization phase, he strives to emulate them, he admires them, imitate them (often ludicrously), and defends them. They cannot go wrong, or be wrong. The narcissist regards them as bigger than life, infallible, perfect, whole, and brilliant. But as the narcissist’s unrealistic and inflated expectations are inevitably frustrated, he begins to devalue his former idols.

Now they are “human” (to the narcissist, a derogatory term). They are small, fragile, error-prone, pusillanimous, mean, dumb, and mediocre. The narcissist goes through the same cycle in his relationship with God, the quintessential authority figure.

But often, even when disillusionment and iconoclastic despair have set in – the narcissist continues to pretend to love God and follow Him. The narcissist maintains this deception because his continued proximity to God confers on him authority. Priests, leaders of the congregation, preachers, evangelists, cultists, politicians, intellectuals – all derive authority from their allegedly privileged relationship with God.

Religious authority allows the narcissist to indulge his sadistic urges and to exercise his misogynism freely and openly. Such a narcissist is likely to taunt and torment his followers, hector and chastise them, humiliate and berate them, abuse them spiritually, or even sexually. The narcissist whose source of authority is religious is looking for obedient and unquestioning slaves upon whom to exercise his capricious and wicked mastery. The narcissist transforms even the most innocuous and pure religious sentiments into a cultish ritual and a virulent hierarchy. He preys on the gullible. His flock become his hostages.

Religious authority also secures the narcissist’s Narcissistic Supply. His coreligionists, members of his congregation, his parish, his constituency, his audience – are transformed into loyal and stable Sources of Narcissistic Supply. They obey his commands, heed his admonitions, follow his creed, admire his personality, applaud his personal traits, satisfy his needs (sometimes even his carnal desires), revere and idolize him.

Moreover, being a part of a “bigger thing” is very gratifying narcissistically. Being a particle of God, being immersed in His grandeur, experiencing His power and blessings first hand, communing with him – are all Sources of unending Narcissistic Supply. The narcissist becomes God by observing His commandments, following His instructions, loving Him, obeying Him, succumbing to Him, merging with Him, communicating with Him – or even by defying him (the bigger the narcissist’s enemy – the more grandiosely important the narcissist feels).

Like everything else in the narcissist’s life, he mutates God into a kind of inverted narcissist. God becomes his dominant Source of Supply. He forms a personal relationship with this overwhelming and overpowering entity – in order to overwhelm and overpower others. He becomes God vicariously, by the proxy of his relationship with Him. He idealizes God, then devalues Him, then abuses Him. This is the classic narcissistic pattern and even God himself cannot escape it.


Also Read
The Narcissist and Social Institutions
Collective Narcissism
The Misanthropic Altruist
The Cult of the Narcissist
The Professions of the Narcissist
Acquired Situational Narcissism
Lasch – The Cultural Narcissist
Narcissists in Positions of Authority
Narcissism, Ethnic or Religious Affiliation, Terrorism

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Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love, and runs the website Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited.Sam has served as the author of the Personality Disorders topic, Narcissistic Personality Disorder topic, the Verbal and Emotional Abuse topic, and the Spousal Abuse and Domestic Violence topic, Suite101.

1 Comment

  1. Michael R.

    February 26, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    It would seem to be an insurmountable challenge — to rid religious faith of narcissistic personalities — insofar as nearly every religion’s god appears to be a narcissist (or exhibits narcissistic traits); ‘Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.’ [Exodus 34:14] And, in the New Testament, we have Jesus saying I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.’ [John 14:6]. As a non-believer/agnostic, and looking objectively at this statement, one cannot escape the apparent narcissism inherent in it. This might be excused as the impression of one unstudied in holy scripture (though this is not the case with myself)…but that is the point: the vast majority of believers (the ‘faithful’) are unstudied in scriptural analysis…they simply believe (and many act on these beliefs, some, embody them, or radically self-identify with them, that is, they think they are god, or Jesus, etc.). And let us not forget the prophet Muhammad, nor the ancient gods of Greece and Rome (and the myriad “pagan” cultures prior to or contemporaneous to them)…From the prophetic traditions and myths that have been preserved through the ages, we see god, or the various pagan gods, acting in atrociously self-centered and egotistical ways (always justified by blaming others [gods or men/women])…In short, I submit to you, that the close linkage between religious faith and narcissism is integral to the believer’s psychology, to the nature of the human mind; all (formal) religions may likely be the products of narcissistic personalities (for how many founders of said religions declare themselves “alone” in their righteousness or possession of the truth — and thus [there being] no others before or after them, who match or are equal to the current [prophet, messiah, etc.] in holiness or power or authority? Just as the narcissistic personality (though loathsome when revealed/exposed) is exceedingly attractive, charismatic and ‘powerful’ (difficult to resist), so too is the religious prophet, teacher, or messiah. We marvel at human narcissists because they have the audacity to place themselves above others and demand your full attention and admiration…How then is this different from the god or prophet or so-called savior who demands your full devotion, loyalty and spiritual-emotional dependence?

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