Religious narcissists are everywhere. They become priests, pastors, or other church leaders because it is a service industry that automatically grants the holder of the position authority over many people in the community. BUT…does the narcissist actually believe in God?
As a general rule, a religious narcissist does believe in God, but not like we do. Because they lack empathy and can’t see things in terms of humanity, they see God in the same way. He is just a means to an end. A tool to use to get what they want, which is usually adoration and control over everyone around them.
But there’s more to the story than that simple answer. Let’s take a look at how the narcissist’s belief in God plays out in real life.
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The Narcissist Sees a Different God Than We Do
As a devout Christian for nearly my whole life, I see God as my Savior, Protector, Guide, Comforter, Inspiration, and so much more. But that is not the case with most narcissists, especially as they appear higher on the narcissism spectrum.
A narcissist sees God as their equal, even though the words of the narcissist proclaim the Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Omnipotence of God. The reason for this seeming dichotomy lies in the fact that the narcissist wants to be all of those things. That is what they aspire to and what they actually proclaim when they speak of “growing more like God daily.” What they don’t understand is that we are not supposed to be taking over God, but rather, we are supposed to be growing more in tune with God daily.
The Narcissist Believes God is a Vehicle to Get Them What They Want
In addition to trying to take God over in their neverending pursuit of admiration and glory, narcissists believe in God as the vehicle that can bring them all the glory. This concept for them is the same as the fact that from childhood we are told to associate with people that will be beneficial in our life. We are taught that to associate with kind, loving, good people that are productive members of society will be good for us. On the other hand, associating with criminals, abusers, and mean people will bring those character traits out in us as well.
So, narcissists believe that God is their ticket to all of the admiration and glory they need. They believe that if they can show everyone how close they are to God, nobody can question their motives, Christianity, or wisdom. Because to do so would be criticizing God Himself.
Narcissists know how to behave like a Christian. They can act like the most caring, kind, self-sacrificing, attentive person in the room. But it is all an act. This is so frustrating! If they know how to act, I could never figure out why they couldn’t figure out that those qualities were the key to living an authentic life. But that wasn’t what he was trying to live. It was more about how to elevate himself by tearing others down while pretending to be the best, most loving Christian in the room. I know, it sounds confusing. But when you have lived it, it makes so much more sense!
God is, in effect, the tool that the narcissist uses to exercise power, manipulation, and control over those around him. If anybody chooses to disagree, he will bring the very judgment of God down on their head. And he will make sure the whole world knows it. That person will never dare cross him again.
Additionally, nobody else will dare cross him because they don’t want to be destroyed in the same way they witnessed the destruction of the “example.” This can go on for years in Christian circles, especially because most Christians don’t want to bring other people’s darkness to light.
Narcissists Seem to Believe They Can Manipulate God
C.S. Lewis, in his book, Mere Christianity (click on the title to check out this beautiful keepsake edition), said, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
Narcissists believe in God in that He is there for them to manipulate. They don’t have to look to God. They already have God set up as a construct in their mind. A narcissist never lets the facts get in the way of their perceptions!
I remember my husband always telling me that he didn’t need to read a book to tell him how to do something. He could figure it out himself. I would respond by asking if he wouldn’t at least value the time saved in not having to figure it out or the inspiration. He would continue to state that nobody needed to tell him what to do or how to do it. He was pretty much the same with his feelings (or lack of) for God.
My ex-husband read and memorized Scripture all the time. He could generally outrank me in quoting Scriptures. But he didn’t do these things to grow closer to God or to become more sanctified in his Christianity. He did it to use the Scriptures as proof texts for his narcissistic behavior. As long as he had proof that he was “doing God’s work,” nobody could counter him. Because again, to counter him would be to go against God Himself. I’m sure you are now seeing the pattern emerge.
Counselors, pastors, and church elders tried to explain the correct meaning of the Scriptures to him. But he denied it, called them unbiblical, and moved on to people that accepted and encouraged his narcissistic interpretation of the Bible.
Religious narcissists appear to be the model Christian in most public settings. They capitalize on their ability to mimic true Christianity. But in reality, they are liars, manipulative, selfish, mean, conniving, and totally lacking in any empathy.
They aren’t looking to God. Instead, they are looking to the next stepping stone that will get them further along their road. What they don’t realize is that they are on a path to destruction. And amazingly, they don’t realize that God sees them for what they are. And they will not escape His judgment if they don’t repent. (For more on this, check out my article here.) They will eventually have to believe in God in the true way.
“You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” –James 2:19, New Living Translation.
What has your experience with a religious narcissist been like? Did he believe in God in a different way? Did he use his religious beliefs to harm those around him? I would love to hear your experience. Please feel free to comment below or here if you don’t feel comfortable commenting publicly.
Hugs and love to you,