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You are a devoted follower of God. You’ve pledged yourself to His service and have poured out your heart in surrender, love, and commitment. God is your life. But on days when awful, blasphemous thoughts pop into your mind unbidden, you can’t help but question your entire religious experience.

Why would a true believer get unwanted, blasphemous thoughts?

Thoughts that make you doubt your beliefs…

Thoughts that urge you to curse God, deny Christ, or pray to Satan…

Thoughts about ugly, sacrilegious deeds you dare not express…

Even nasty thoughts against God that seem to beat in the rhythm of everyday sounds.

why would a true believer get unwanted blasphemous thoughts?

You don’t want these thoughts, and you don’t like them. When they force themselves into your mind, you panic. You push back frantically, trying your best to stay true to what you really believe and love. The more you struggle, the worse these thoughts become, until you exhaust yourself with anxiety and fear. You swear you didn’t mean to think those thoughts — but how do you really know?

Unwanted thoughts about God or religion happen to every spiritually inclined person. But for some people, they can come with so much repetition and intensity that you might feel like you’re going crazy. Typically, these are people who have scrupulosity, also known as religious OCD.

“OCD” is often used as an adjective for people who like to keep things clean and tidy. However, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a real mental health issue that affects about 2% of the world’s population.

Sometimes the subject matter of OCD is germs. Sometimes it is orderliness. But other times it relates to religion, morality, sexuality, or the potential of causing harm to others. For those with religious obsessions and compulsions, blasphemous thoughts are surprisingly common.

Do you have scrupulosity? Take the test HERE!

In this article, you’ll find a complete and redemptive guide to dealing with the blasphemous thoughts of scrupulosity.

Why Do I Have Bad Religious Thoughts?

Not all “bad” religious thoughts are the same. Sometimes a scary doubt or negative thought can actually be positive. Other times, they can be completely worthless, unimportant mental noise. Let’s take a look at three kinds of uncomfortable religious thoughts:

  1. Convictions that don’t fit with your faith community or background
  2. A new level of being “real” with God
  3. The intrusive thoughts of religious OCD

Not all bad religious thoughts are the same. Sometimes a scary doubt or negative thought can actually be positive.

Type 1: Convictions that Don’t Fit With Your Faith Community

Human beings are designed to live in community. We crave a sense of belonging. Connections give us a feeling of safety, so we are very hesitant to do anything against the norm that may endanger our social belongingness.

That’s one reason why it’s so tough to change religious beliefs.

Most spiritually inclined people are deeply enmeshed in a religious community. Some may even be employed by a particular ministry or church organization. Getting doubts about your beliefs and practices can carry a lot of far-reaching implications!

Not surprisingly, challenges to your long-held beliefs can be hard to handle, particularly if you are enmeshed in a faith community that expects you to be unswervingly loyal to these beliefs.

But guess what? Most of us on planet earth don’t have all our ducks in a row. In fact, I would go so far as to say that there isn’t a single religious system or denomination that has 100% of God’s truth.

We just don’t. None of us do.

Sometimes doubt has some truth to it. Doubt can help us refine our theological positions.

This doesn’t mean truth is relative or that I would endorse postmodern philosophical foundations. But let’s have a bit of methodological humility and admit that although some denominations are more biblical than others, no one can claim to know everything.

“Now we know in part,” says the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12, but we don’t know in totality. God probably chuckles as He watches us argue over doctrinal points. We know 0.00002% of all there is to know in the universe and yet we spew dogma as if we know everything.

Don’t get me wrong — studying and learning is good. I’m working on my fourth degree. I’m all for philosophizing and churning out apologetic answers.

But we ought to be humble and admit that there is a lot we don’t know. There are things we might be wrong about. There are things our entire faith community might be missing, just like the Jews missed out on the Messiah when He came.

Getting an onslaught of spiritual doubts that go against the grain of your faith community might be very disturbing to you. It might feel like you’re betraying God, your beliefs, and the people you love.

But maybe those doubts have some truth to them. If they are backed by evidence from Scripture, and they keep coming back around, it might be God convicting your heart.

How Do I Know If This Is My Type of Blasphemous Thought?

This type of scary religious thought — conviction about something new — may apply to you if:

  • Your so-called “blasphemous thoughts” are questions or doubts about your faith community’s doctrines
  • Your thoughts are criticisms of the way your faith community operates or treats people
  • Your thoughts are related to logic or “making sense”

The scary thoughts of conviction probably don’t apply to you if:

  • Your blasphemous thoughts are bizarre, repetitive, and illogical
  • Your thoughts are not a direct question or criticism of any part of the spiritual experience but feel more like “attacks” against God

What Should I Do If This Describes Me?

If you think your uncomfortable doubt is a legitimate conviction, don’t run from it.

Be willing to submit yourself to the Word of God, even if it’s teaching you something new or at odds with your faith community.

If you think your uncomfortable doubts are a legitimate conviction, don't run from it.

I have a very international social group, and many of my friends grew up in non-Christian families. Many of them experienced social difficulties and even persecution when they began doubting their beliefs. In the beginning, they felt like these thoughts were strange and unwanted, but as they investigated further, they discovered truth and beauty.

Guess what? This experience isn’t just for non-Christian religions or cults.

God is leading all of us through a constant process of refinement. There is always more to learn, more to grow. Just because you’re Christian doesn’t mean you’ve got it all right yet! Doubt can be a powerful tool in God’s hand to convict you of greater truth.

Type 2: Being “Real” with God

Having a seemingly awful thought towards God may also be a sign of deepening authenticity.

In my younger years, I used to have a Pollyanna-type relationship with God. Everything was perfect, I was thankful for everything that came my way (or at least I tried to convince myself of this), and I only brought my positive emotions to God.

Having a seemingly awful thought towards God may also be a sign of deepening authenticity.

Even when I felt confused, stressed, and angry, I blamed myself. I stuffed it down and thought it would be “unholy” to express in prayer.

But after going through a series of severe difficulties, I finally cracked. Why was God allowing this to happen to me? Why didn’t He intervene?

I fell to my knees and poured out my bitterness in prayer. As it says in Psalm 142:2, “I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare before Him my trouble.” I complained — and not with Pollyanna’s positive outlook.

Over the next weeks, as I passed through more challenging times, I continued voicing negative thoughts about God. They were raw. Real. Authentic.

Most people, if they would have heard the kinds of complaints I made against God, would have thought I was on the brink of atheism. But I wasn’t. I was finally breaking out of the super-Christian façade. And God, I believe, was ok with that.

Having negative or blasphemous thoughts against God does not always mean there is something wrong with you.

Having negative or blasphemous thoughts against God does not always mean there is something wrong with you. It may be a sign that you are breaking apart an old habit of toxic positivity and becoming more “real” in your relationship with God.

How Do I Know If This Is My Type of Blasphemous Thought?

This type of blasphemous thought may apply to you if:

  • You have a history of being an overly-positive super-Christian
  • You typically hold back or stuff down your emotions, particularly in your relationship with God
  • You find yourself going through very difficult times and are struggling to maintain your emotional façade

But these scary thoughts against God probably don’t apply to you if:

  • You already have a balanced relationship with God that includes the ability to voice your feelings
  • Your thoughts against God are illogical and unrelated to any past traumas or present challenges in your life

If you find yourself having scary, unwanted blasphemous thoughts against God that are not caused by spiritual conviction and are not caused by a new relationship of authenticity with God, there’s one more possible cause. Let’s investigate our third and last option.

Type 3: The Intrusive Thoughts of Religious OCD

An “intrusive thought” is a name for something that happens when you have certain mental health disorders. Most often, intrusive thoughts happen to people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Intrusive thoughts are words, mental images, ideas, or any other kind of thought that pops into your mind unbidden and unwanted. It causes severe distress, since you typically don’t know where it came from and why you’re thinking about something that strikes so violently against your core beliefs and loyalties. To make it worse, these thoughts won’t go away. They are:

  • Repetitive
  • Persistent
  • Unwanted
  • Distressing
  • Alien
  • Distracting
  • Anxiety-Inducing

Intrusive thoughts have nothing to do with your spiritual reality.

Since most people who have OCD typically struggle with one or two main areas of obsession, intrusive thoughts can center on many different themes. If you have OCD, you may get intrusive thoughts in one or more of the following areas:

  • Contamination (obsession about spreading germs or contracting a disease)
  • Harm (afraid you may lose control and hurt someone)
  • Sexuality (obsession about possibly being a homosexual, a pedophile, or a sexual predator)
  • Philosophy (obsessions about whether you truly exist or not, or whether your life has meaning)
  • Morality (fear that you have made ethical mistakes)
  • Spirituality (obsessions about being damned, urges to curse God or commit sacrilegious acts)

Do you have scrupulosity? Take the test HERE!

These kinds of blasphemous thoughts are different from the first two. The first two signal a growing, maturing Christian experience. But intrusive thoughts have nothing to do with your spiritual reality. Instead, they are signs of a mental health condition.

If you have these kinds of blasphemous thoughts, you should know that it isn’t part of a normal religious experience, and it isn’t your fault for having this. And thankfully, it’s something you can fix.

What Is Scrupulosity? And Why Do I Get These Bad Religious Thoughts?

“Scrupulosity” is another name for Religious OCD. It’s what happens when obsessive-compulsive disorder hijacks your spirituality. It comes from the word “scruples” — a strong moral or ethical reservation.

Scrupulosity has three main parts:

  1. Obsessions
  2. Compulsions
  3. Intrusive Thoughts

Very often — or, let me say, extremely often — these intrusive thoughts are unwilling, unwanted blasphemous thoughts against God.

To read more about the obsessions and compulsions of scrupulosity, read my Ultimate Guide to Scrupulosity here!

Scrupulosity is when obsessive-compulsive disorder hijacks your spirituality.

What kind of blasphemous thoughts are we talking about? Here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Abusive words towards God
  • Disavowing, rejecting, or denying Christ
  • Projection of “self” as God or thoughts of receiving worship
  • Hatred or negative emotions towards God
  • Sacrilegious mental images
  • Inappropriate sexual thoughts about God or other religious figures
  • Intrusive thoughts about worshipping Satan or being possessed by a demon

Does this sound like what you’re experiencing? Well, read on.

I’ll help you break down the most important facts you need to know to stop these blasphemous thoughts in their tracks.

What Are Intrusive Thoughts?

Many of the clients I work with are very bothered by their blasphemous thoughts because they aren’t convinced that these thoughts are not from them. They struggle to differentiate between their thoughts and the alien productions of OCD.

Let me share one secret that will make this process easier.

There are two ways to categorize thoughts:

  1. Ego-Syntonic
  2. Ego-Dystonic

An ego-syntonic thought is anything you think that is in accordance with your ego. It is a thought that feels harmonious with your core values and beliefs. It is a thought that affirms the “real you.”

Now, not every ego-syntonic thought is objectively correct. For example, Nazi soldiers believed that the Arian race was superior to Jews and that ethnic cleansing would bring about a race of Übermenschen. When they brutally murdered the Jews during the holocaust, many were acting in accordance with their values and beliefs.

Thus, their thoughts and intents to kill Jews was ego-syntonic. It was not ethically right, but it was internally harmonious for their egos.

Intrusive thoughts are alien, foreign, and disgustingly undesired.

On the other hand, an ego-dystonic thought is any thought which seems to conflict with the ego. It seems alien, as though coming from outside the “true self.” It is unwanted, unplanned, uninitiated.

Ego-dystonic thoughts, also, may be objectively correct or incorrect — but they are perceived as being at odds with the self.

Is It Me, or My OCD? 4 Characteristics of Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts (including the blasphemous kind) have four main characteristics. I like to summarize these four characteristics with the acronym RUMP. Intrusive thoughts are:

  1. Repetitive
  2. Unwanted
  3. Meaningful
  4. Powerful

Let’s look at each of these characteristics and how it is important to finding our escape from blasphemous thoughts.

Intrusive Thoughts are Repetitive

The first characteristic of intrusive thoughts is repetitiveness (the “R” in RUMP).

Have you ever gotten a thought that just won’t go away, no matter what you do? It just keeps coming back and consuming your attention. It makes you feel like you have to solve it or do something to make it go away.

You may struggle with a blasphemous thought for several hours, days, or even years. John Bunyan, author of the famous Pilgrim’s Progress, struggled with blasphemous thoughts urging him to deny Christ. He spent up to several hours of each day struggling against these thoughts. It was a challenge that went on for years before he found relief.

The repetitive nature of intrusive thoughts mean they’ll keep coming back again and again. And if you get bored of one, it’ll morph into a different form to make sure it maintains your attention.

The repetitive nature of intrusive thoughts means they'll keep coming back again and again.

Intrusive Thoughts are Unwanted

Again, intrusive thoughts are ego-dystonic. They are unwanted and seem to come from beyond the conscious ego. They are alien, foreign, and disgustingly undesired.

This marks a key difference between the “apostate” and the person with OCD. If someone honestly wishes to change his religious status, leave his religion, curse God, or use abusive language towards a deity, he will do so without reservation.

But for the person who gets these thoughts while simultaneously having a deep sense of loyalty towards God, it is clearly unwanted. This constitutes the “U” in our acronym RUMP. Intrusive thoughts are Repetitive, Unwanted, and now we will see that they appear to have Meaning.

are your blasphemous thoughts in harmony with your ego

Intrusive Thoughts are Meaningful

No intrusive thought would cause fear unless it seemed to have some kind of inherent meaning.

Most people with OCD do believe that their intrusive thoughts are meaningful — either that they will come true or already have.

  • Having an abusive thought against God MEANS you believe that thought
  • Thinking something sacrilegious MEANS you are apostate or damned
  • Getting random thoughts that you might be praying to yourself MEANS you are prideful and believe you are God

Since intrusive thoughts are ego-dystonic, they don’t have the same inherent meaning that purposeful thoughts do. They are not chosen thoughts, therefore they are not meaningful. But they are perceived to be meaningful, which makes them ever-so-uncomfortable.

Intrusive Thoughts are Powerful

We have seen how intrusive thoughts are Repetitive, Unwanted, and Meaningful — now we will see that they are also viewed as being very Powerful (RUMP).

These intrusive, blasphemous thoughts are believed to have power to actually cause something to happen. For the person with religious OCD, this typically relates to a person’s spiritual life and destiny.

The perceived power (and notice I do not say “real” power) of intrusive thoughts relates to something called “thought-action fusion.” This is a term used with mental health issues to refer to the magical, almost superstitious connection that some people make between thoughts and reality.

But the bottom line? Thoughts have VERY little relationship to the real world. If they did, I would just sit down and think up a million dollars for myself.

But that doesn’t work. Everybody has crazy fantasies, mean intentions, and ugly thoughts from time to time. But most people never act on these thoughts, so they are never actualized in real life. In fact, you cant even be held accountable for your thoughts in a court of law — only for actions!

So another important point about intrusive thoughts is that they are believed to have power (even though they do not).

Intrusive thoughts are believed to have power (even though they do not)

This summarizes the four main characteristics of intrusive thoughts: they are Repetitive, Unwanted, Meaningful, and Powerful (RUMP). This can help you differentiate between your own thoughts and the intrusive thoughts of OCD.

Those Naughty Intrusive Thoughts — Here’s What Else They Can Cause!

Unfortunately, intrusive blasphemous thoughts aren’t alone when they ring the doorbell. They bring the whole gang: obsessions and compulsions, too!

Having these scary, unwanted, perceived-to-be-meaningful thoughts can be so distressing that people go to great lengths to fix them. This well-intentioned “fixing” takes two main forms.

First of all, the scrupulous person will begin with obsession. Why did I have that blasphemous thought? Was it really me? What will this mean for my eternal salvation? Should I ask forgiveness, or is it too late?

The blasphemous thought brings an incredible load of false guilt and feelings of impending doom. Like the prophet Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me! For I am undone,” the scrupulous person feels that they are at the very end of their lifeline. Everything feels out of order, uncertain, terrifying.

This is where compulsions enter the picture — the second attempt to “fix” blasphemous thoughts.

A compulsion is any action that is done in order to alleviate the feelings of anxiety that come with the blasphemous thoughts.

A compulsion is any action that is done in order to alleviate the feelings of anxiety that come with the blasphemous thoughts

These compulsions are meant to cancel, resist, fix, solve, or atone for the negative religious thoughts. For example:

  • Praying a prayer of repentance
  • Repeating verses a certain number of times
  • Ruminating on the event to try to figure out if your blasphemous thought was genuine
  • Seeking reassurance from a religious leader that you are not damned and have not committed the unpardonable sin
  • Giving in charity, making personal sacrifices, or making pacts with God

These kinds of compulsive behaviors do not spring from a heart of genuine worship. They are panicked, reactive responses to ego-dystonic religious thoughts.

Which means two things: first of all, these compulsions aren’t necessary. Second of all, they aren’t effective. Not only do they lack the true spirit that is necessary for genuine worship, but they are also ineffective at fixing your obsessive-compulsive anxiety. For that reason, compulsions are generally viewed negatively during the recovery process.

You Aren’t Blaspheming; It’s Your Intrusive Thoughts

Everybody has weird, inappropriate thoughts from time to time. Most people let the thought go in one side of the brain and right back out the other.

But for people with OCD, these unwanted thoughts are sticky. They hang out and overstay their welcome until we are whipped into a frenzy of anxiety.

The important thing to realize is that these blasphemous thoughts, fundamentally, are intrusive and ego-dystonic.

They are not your own.

Therefore, we may treat them like enemy intruders and we may treat ourselves with acceptance and mercy.

We may treat intrusive thoughts like enemy intruders and we may treat ourselves with acceptance and mercy

What Does the Bible Say About Blasphemous Thoughts?

Perhaps you’ve gone to Google and typed in “Bible verses about blasphemy” and have been terribly discouraged by what you find.

Yes, the Bible does talk about blasphemy. But the discussion needs to take place with an understanding of of mental health, which is often not the primary focus of Bible passages.

There are two paths we can take when we ask, “what does the Bible say about blasphemous thoughts?”

The first route is to analyze passages that talk about blasphemy as ego-syntonic, chosen, willful behavior.

The second route is to analyze passage that speak to the reality of blasphemous thoughts that are ego-dystonic, alien, and unwanted.

What we find in both categories is surprising! If you’ve based your understanding of blasphemous thoughts on only one or two verses, you might be astonished to see the complexity and layers of nuance in the complete picture.

Bible Verses About Purposeful Blasphemy

Many people have the idea that “blasphemy” is the act of using a curse word against God or resisting the Holy Spirit to some kind of vague “point of no return.”

This is a constricted, incomplete picture of what blasphemy means! And because it’s such a narrow-minded definition, it seems deceptively easy to fall into by accident.

Most people have a very narrow understanding of what the Bible actually says about blasphemy

However, when it comes to willful, purposeful blasphemy, there are a number of factors involved.

  1. Spiritual Treason: making yourself god
  2. Royal Disrespect: ignoring, challenging, or showing disdain for the distinction between Creator and creature
  3. Idolatry and Disobedience: turning away from God

As you can see, there are multiple aspects to blasphemy. Think of “blasphemy” as another word for a coup d’état — when guerrilla soldiers come in to forcibly remove the government. Blasphemy is any human attempt to replace God — and this can manifest itself in pride, egocentrism, idolatry, cursing God, ignoring God, being disobedient, and claiming to have divine powers.

Certainly, the idea that “blasphemy” is merely cursing God or offending the Holy Spirit is a very narrow definition.

“Blasphemy” as Spiritual Treason

God is our Creator, our King, and our Lord. He’s the boss — even over those who don’t believe in Him.

Treason occurs when you try to challenge His role as boss and become the boss yourself. Lots of Bible verses refer to this.

And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Mark 2:6-7

Only the King can make legal rulings to dole out justice or forgive sins. A common peasant would be out of line if he attempted to make a royal declaration. This is what the scribes assumed when they heard Jesus claiming to forgive sins. Only God can do that, they thought — so Jesus must be committing blasphemy. For them, blasphemy was a form of treason, of claiming to do something that only God could do.

blasphemy was a form of treason, of claiming to do something that only God could do

A prime example of blasphemy’s “treason” is seen in the prophetic forewarnings of Revelation’s terrifying beast power — also called the “Son of Perdition” in 2 Thessalonians. This power would exalt himself as God and blaspheme His name to the point of getting everyone who is not saved to worship himself.

Blasphemy, in this usage, literally means to put yourself in God’s place.

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.

It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Revelation 13:5-8

Jesus was constantly having fiascos related to blasphemy.

The things He said and did as the Son of God were appropriate — but if any other human being would have done them, it would have counted as blasphemy — treason against God. An attempt to wrest God’s throne from Him.

The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”

John 10:33

The religious leaders were upset because Jesus, whom they thought was a mere man, had seemingly crossed a line by declaring Himself one with God. Later, when standing before the court, Jesus made a similar statement which, for any other person, would have been severely blasphemous.

But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!

Matthew 26:63-65

“Blasphemy” as Royal Disrespect

US President Harry Truman used to begin each day with a staff meeting at 8:30. One day during this meeting, the mail clerk brought him a lavender envelope sealed with an ornate wax seal and bound with elegant ribbons. It was a letter from King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia.

The letter opened with the salutation, “Your Magnificence.”

President Truman chuckled and told his staff, “I like that. I don’t know what you guys call me when I’m not here, but it’s okay if you refer to me from now on as ‘His Magnificence.’”

Some time later, President Truman worked with the UN to support the importation of 100,000 Jews into Palestine. He then received a second letter from Ibn Saud. But this time, the letter began with the simple words, “Dear Mr. President.”

Apparently, the king’s lavish respect for President Truman had its limitations!

But it leads us to a question: what is respect?

It is the appropriate response given to a person that duly recognizes his or her status and role.

As created human beings, we owe respect to God as our Creator, Lord, and King

As created human beings, we owe respect to God as our Creator, Lord, and King. He is the One who created us, saved us, and rules us. Though He is close and personal to each one of us, there is still an immense gap of ontological distance. God is God, and we are His servants.

Not His equals. Not His pals.

A healthy ability to distinguish between His role as king and our role as subjects will protect us from blasphemy. Today, aspects of God’s closeness have almost been overemphasized to the point of erasing the Creator-creature distinction. God is portrayed as a buddy-buddy “nice guy in the sky” and humans are said to have a “spark of divinity” within them.

This is a form of blasphemy!

The Bible has several verses that speak about blasphemy as royal disrespect. For example:

Whom have you reproached and blasphemed?
Against whom have you raised your voice,
And lifted up your eyes on high?
Against the Holy One of Israel.

2 Kings 19:22

This was a rebuke to Sennacherib, the king who openly challenged Yahweh’s ability to save Israel from their enemies.

Here’s another somewhat lengthy example of how blasphemy can be any form of disrespect, of lowering God’s estimate and worth, or failing to show the proper respect.

Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp. And the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.) Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the Lord might be shown to them.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.

“Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death.

Leviticus 24:10-16

Speaking vile words or curses against God is a form of blasphemy. But again, remember that we are speaking of purposeful and willful blasphemy. Later we will speak about ego-dystonic or unwanted thoughts against God. For now we are speaking only of the verses that condemn this behavior in those who are engaging in it purposefully.

Speaking vile words or curses against God is a form of blasphemy

“Blasphemy” as Idolatry and Disobedience

Blasphemy can be a type of spiritual treason, where you place yourself on the throne and declare yourself God.

Or it can be a form of arrogant disrespect to your Creator, either in the form of cursing, taunting, or vile speaking.

But when both of these failures are combined, the result is idolatrous disobedience.

When you are fully sold to the idea that you are the god of your own life and you no longer have respect for God’s authority, you sink into an experience of blatant disregard and sin.

“Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “In this too your fathers have blasphemed Me, by being unfaithful to Me. When I brought them into the land concerning which I had raised My hand in an oath to give them, and they saw all the high hills and all the thick trees, there they offered their sacrifices and provoked Me with their offerings. There they also sent up their sweet aroma and poured out their drink offerings.

Ezekiel 20:27-28

And again,

You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.

Romans 2:22-24

It’s not hard to understand how continual disrespect and replacement of God in your life can lead to disobedience. But remember, all these verses are describing purposeful, willful choices to blaspheme (or, in the accusations against Jesus, they describe what blasphemy would look like if a normal person said some of the things that Jesus said).

continual disrespect and replacement of God in your life can lead to disobedience

What about the verses on blaspheming the Holy Spirit? Where do they fit into the discussion? Interestingly, they are also part of this category of willful, purposeful action — so let’s briefly take a look at them now.

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

Jesus made a very strong statement about blaspheming the Holy Spirit. It was important enough to be recorded in all three synoptic gospels — Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And in two of these gospels — Matthew and Mark — the statement is set within a story, and the author remarks, “Jesus said this because…”

Wouldn’t you be interested to know what the “because” statement was? Me, too!

Context is so, so important.

People love to pick out verses here and there to build a case without any attention to the context. And nowhere is that more true than these scary verses about grieving the Holy Spirit (in context, they are not so scary).

Why did Jesus make these strong statements? To whom was He talking? What were they doing, thinking, or saying that provoked such a response? Does this verse even APPLY to us?

The passages that give the background story are in Matthew 12:22-32 and Mark 3:20-30. Here’s the passage from Mark:

Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.”

So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.

“Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”— because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Mark 3:20-30

Here are a few observations from the context:

  1. “His own people,” that is, those who knew Jesus, His life, and the works He had done claimed He was “out of His mind.”
  2. They attempted to explain away His supernatural miracles by claiming He was empowered by a devil or unclean spirit.
  3. Their claims were unfounded on logic and were instead instigated by an unwillingness to accept Christ. Jesus was easily able to deflect their illogical arguments in His parable of binding the strong man. But this was fundamentally not a matter of logic — it was a matter of unbelief.

Think about other stories of unbelief. It is interesting that Jesus did not give this tough response to the man who asked for healing for his son. Remember, the doubting guy who said, “Lord, I believe — help my unbelief!” He was trying to believe, and Jesus didn’t bash him over the head with a threat of the unpardonable sin. He reserved this warning for those who were already hardened in unbelief.

People who are worried about having committed the unpardonable sin haven't - simply because they're worried about it.

Jesus warned them about blaspheming the Holy Spirit “because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’”

Imagine how far these guys had gone. They were far more privileged than you and I in their ability to witness miracles and hear the words of Jesus. But they didn’t want to believe, and they willfully searched for excuses.

They labeled. They bullied. They manipulated.

But by all means, they had to stop their ears to the voice of the Holy Spirit!

This is when Jesus pulled out the big guns. He leveled at them the severest warning that He ever utters in Scripture. Be careful. If you continue on this path, you pass a point of no return.

Where we get confused is when we attempt to apply this warning to those who believe or are trying their best to believe. This passage simply wasn’t meant for them.

People who are worried about having committed the unpardonable sin haven't - simply because they're worried about it.

One of my Bible professors in college told a story once of a man who was very scrupulously devoted to applying every passage in Scripture to himself.

He read a verse about gluttony, so he began skipping one meal per day.

Then he read a verse about fasting, so he began skipping two meals per day.

After that, he read about self-control, and he cut down to eating only a scanty amount of food each day — a piece of fruit, a few nuts…

He became skin and bones from trying to apply everything in Scripture to himself. My professor encouraged us to use common sense when analyzing who must apply which verses to their own lives.

Not every verse in the Bible applies to you.

And if the verses about blaspheming the Holy Spirit applied to you, you would need to match a variety of qualifiers: having a blatant unwillingness to believe, seeing firsthand miracles and yet explaining them away, etc.

You would be hard-pressed to fit the same qualifiers as the people Jesus was speaking to. It is commonly said that people who are worried about having committed the unpardonable sin haven’t — simply because they’re worried about it. Despite the simplicity of this logic, it really is true.

People who are worried about having committed the unpardonable sin haven't - simply because they're worried about it.

Bible Verses About Intrusive Blasphemous Thoughts

So let’s imagine, then, that you aren’t being purposeful or willful in committing blasphemy. You’re trying hard to believe and follow God, but you get these intrusive, OCD-type blasphemous thoughts. What does the Bible say to someone like you?

There are a few verses we can use to understand this phenomenon and help you reduce your fears.

Psalm 94:11 – Thoughts Have No Power

Psalm 94-11

The Lord knows the thoughts of man,
That they are futile.

Psalm 94:11

If you have scrupulosity, you probably have had “thought-action fusion” to some extent.

Thought-action fusion happens when you believe that your thoughts have power to cause or prevent bad things from happening.

For example, you may believe that thinking about the color yellow will make something bad happen. Or you may believe that a sudden intrusive thought about turning your car into oncoming traffic means you are actually going to do it.

Thought-action fusion is very common for OCD sufferers. But when it comes to blasphemous thoughts, it can get even more tricky.

There isn’t anything in the Bible that tells us not to think about the color yellow. But there are passages that tell us not to blaspheme.

So, automatically, the fear of blasphemous thoughts seems so much more sensible than the fear of yellow. There is a kind of pseudo-logic that seems to add validity to these concerns about blasphemous thoughts.

But thought-action fusion pushes the boundaries.

It tells you that merely thinking such thoughts means you actually believe them. It tells you that if you have an intrusive, unwanted blasphemous thought, that you are actually a blasphemer.

Psalm 94:11 tells us that God knows our thoughts are futile. They have no power. They can neither cause evil nor prevent it. And thoughts certainly aren’t good predictors for our true spiritual condition.

Thoughts aren't good predictors for our true spiritual condition

If thoughts have true power, why wouldn’t murderers just think their enemies to death instead of going through the immense risk of planning and executing a crime?

If thoughts have true power, why can’t I just stay home and think a million dollars for myself rather than working?

If thoughts have true power, why can’t the cancer patient think her way to health rather than going through agonizing and expensive treatments?

Oh — what’s that? You say YOUR thoughts are more powerful than other people? That your OCD fears are strong enough to actually change reality?

Well, please do get in touch. I’d like you think a positive future for me with your powerful mind. 😉

Blasphemous thoughts are scary because they seem powerful enough to change our status from “saved,” “beloved,” “chosen by God” to the very opposite. Blasphemous thoughts, unwanted though they may be, seem to carry a power strong enough to snatch us out of God’s hand — even though Jesus declared there is nothing powerful enough to do that.

A big part of overcoming scrupulosity involves a recognition of what Psalm 94:11 says. Our thoughts are futile. They are just blinking neurons that have, at best, a weak correlation with reality.

And God knows that.

Our thoughts are futile. They are just blinking neurons that have, at best, a weak correlation with reality

Hebrews 4:12 – God Can Judge Our Thoughts Better Than We Can

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

Sometimes it can be very difficult to understand our own intentions.

Did we really mean to think that blasphemous thought?

Was it me, or was it my OCD?

Going back to the concept of ego-syntonic versus ego-dystonic thoughts, one of the biggest stressors for someone suffering from blasphemous thoughts is trying to figure out whether we really intended to think that thought or not.

God understands our thoughts and intentions better than we do

Thankfully, the Bible says that God, through His Word, is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. This means that He can understand our intentions way better than we can. Again, this idea is echoed in Psalm 139:

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.

Psalm 139:1-3

God doesn’t even have to try hard to understand our thoughts. He understands them “afar off.” He comprehends our behavior and the reason behind all the things that we do.

God isn’t caught in a web of trying to figure this stuff out. We are, but He isn’t.

That’s incredibly encouraging for people who suffer from scrupulosity’s blasphemous thoughts. God’s got this, even when we feel like we don’t.

How Should I Respond to Unwanted Blasphemous Thoughts?

The technical term for unwanted, distressing thoughts that just pop into your mind is called “intrusive thoughts.” If you google this term, you’ll find millions of websites on the topic. Unwanted blasphemous thoughts also fit into this category. In pursuing a way forward, it’s helpful to look at some of the general research about intrusive thoughts.

Generally, there are three main disorders that can cause intrusive thoughts:

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Post-Partum Depression

Within the broader context of psychotherapy, intrusive thoughts are typically treated with Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (ERP). This is a type of treatment that involves getting you to face your biggest fear head-on, either through real or imagined exposure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dQlEl85ols

For example, if you have intrusive thoughts about losing control and stabbing someone with a knife, you may be asked to touch a knife or hold a knife to your therapist’s back.

This obviously will trigger your anxiety to a supremely desperate pitch. But with guided practice, repeated exposure to your fears will eventually result in a reduction of anxiety.

What does this look like for something intangible like blasphemous thoughts? Typically, ERP involves exposing yourself to these thoughts and choosing not to resist, avoid, or fight back.

Exposure Therapy for Religious Themes

For instance (I’m going to use a silly example so that I don’t trigger any readers): let’s say that Suzy is a devoted follower of the god Chemosh. She regularly gets blasphemous thoughts that urge her to say, “Chemosh is a worthless stone idol!” and, “I deny you, Chemosh!”

Suzy’s therapist may choose to guide her through ERP in one of two ways: either a DIRECT or an INDIRECT exposure, followed by an intentional refusal to respond to the anxiety.

The most intense form of ERP would be a direct sort of exposure, where Suzy is asked to say these blasphemous thoughts about Chemosh out loud and not respond to the anxiety that arises. After doing this over and over again, she no longer feels very bad when she declares that Chemosh is nothing more than a stone idol.

However, Suzy feels very uncomfortable with this kind of ERP because she feels that each time she goes to treatment, is is mortally offending her god. She knows it is helping her get better and have more emotional stability, but at what cost to her eternal future in Chemosh-land?

More than once, Suzy quits treatment and falls back into old patterns of fighting and resisting the blasphemous thoughts, which always spiral her into deeper anxiety. But the risk to her eternal welfare seems too great.

We may undercut the power of intrusive thoughts by indirectly exposing ourselves to a less black-and-white worldview

However, another option, rather than verbalizing Suzy’s blasphemous thoughts directly, is to undercut their power by indirectly exposing her to a less black-and-white worldview. This helps break the certainty addiction that most people with scrupulosity have. For example:

“Suzy, you have a recurring blasphemous thought that Chemosh is only a stone idol, is that right?”

“Yes, that’s right. It’s a horrible thought. I know it isn’t true. Chemosh is real.”

“Do you know that Chemosh is real, or do you believe it?”

“I know it! I read about Chemosh in the golden oracles of Moab.”

“But wouldn’t you agree that this is belief rather than knowledge? That every single religious person in the world bases their spiritual experience on faith in unseen realities?”

“Well, yes — I suppose so.”

“When you have that thought telling you that Chemosh is just a stone idol, what would happen if you respond by saying ‘maybe he is?’”

“I could never do that! It would be a denial of my faith!”

“Oh, hold on — hear me out. We aren’t saying that Chemosh isn’t real. We aren’t saying that he IS real. What we are saying is that we are humans and our knowledge is partial and prone to errors. There are many things about Chemosh that we don’t understand. If we claim to know everything, that would be very arrogant. How would you feel about saying, ‘I’m pretty sure that Chemosh is real, but there’s always a possibility that I’m wrong and he actually is a stone idol?’”

“That still feels terrifying.”

“I know. But does a statement like that fit in your worldview? Can you say it with a good conscience?”

“Well, I guess it would be arrogant to say that I am 100% sure…but maybe I could say that I’m pretty sure Chemosh is more than a stone idol.”

“And how does that make you feel to say that, Suzy?”

“Oh — terribly anxious!”

“But what you’re really saying is that there’s no way you can be 100% sure about anything in the metaphysical world. You accept all these things by faith but not by sight. Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes…but! If I doubt Chemosh, I feel like I will lose eternity in Chemosh-land! I mean, I can see how what you’re saying is true, but it still gives me a lot of anxiety!”

“And what does that anxiety make you want to do?”

“I feel the need to blow air out of my mouth to expel the bad thought, and verbalize that ‘Chemosh is Lord.’”

“So these are your compulsions, right? They are actions that you feel will cancel out the bad thought?”

“Yes!”

“So let’s see if we can go for five minutes without you blowing any air out and without verbalizing that Chemosh is Lord…and next time we will try to go for ten minutes…”

People with scrupulosity tend to see the world in severely black and white terms. Sometimes it is enough to introduce the various shades of nuance in the Bible and to lean into the mysterious, unknown, faith-based aspects of spirituality. This can do much to break OCD’s insistence on absolutes. This is what allows the religious exposure to go forward without violating your conscience.

Exposure therapy involves breaking OCD's insistence on absolutes

Verbalizing your blasphemous thought can feel like a dangerous denial of your faith. But you’re making progress if you’re able to listen to that thought urging you to deny God and say, “well, I’m pretty sure that I’m on a good track to be a faithful believer till the day I die, but there’s no way of knowing 100% that I won’t deny God at some point in the future. I recognize the thought is there in my head, but I’m not going to engage with it, no matter how scary it is. It’s pointless to engage, because there simply isn’t any way to solve it to the level of absoluteness that my brain wants.”

That’s progress. When you step out of your need for absolutes and refuse to engage, you break OCD’s back. And that’s what exposure therapy helps you to do.

Exposure Therapy in the Bible

The Bible is not a book about mental health treatments. It doesn’t talk about something so modern and specific as exposure therapy. However, there are helpful principles that let us know we are on the right track.

One of my favorite stories about non-response is in the passion story. Remember when Jesus was taken before King Herod? The king was very interested in seeing Jesus because he was eager to have a miracle performed. He wanted some entertainment.

But he didn’t want truth.

No — truth had already come to Herod through the voice of John the Baptist. He had already been pricked in his heart and had refused to respond. When his adulterous affair with Herodias ended with the gruesome death of John, his guilty conscience could barely be contained.

At one point, when he heard of the miracles of Jesus, King Herod believed for a moment that it might be John the Baptist risen from the dead (Matthew 14:1-3)!

When Jesus appeared before Herod, he was appearing before a monarch who would in no way be benefited from dialogue. So Jesus did not speak. At all.

Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him. Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate.

Luke 23:8-11

Jesus was surrounded by “questioning with many words,” “vehement accusations,” “contempt,” and “mocking.” Does it sound like the voice of OCD? Certainly!

Jesus demonstrated to us that it is possible to be in the presence of intense questioning and even false statements of untruth and yet not respond

Jesus demonstrated to us that it is possible to be in the presence of intense questioning and even false statements of untruth and yet not respond. With some people (and with some mental health disorders) dialogue does no good. Response does no good.

So remain silent and let the untruths swirl around you. Keep your hands in your pockets, keep your mouth closed, and wait for falsehood to fall to the floor of its own accord.

Exposure Therapy: Lessons from the Honeybee

My dad loves bees. He’s a master beekeeper and used to be president of a statewide beekeepers association. I always used to laugh at him when I saw him suited up, but when it came to eating the honey he brought back, I retracted my laughter. Raw, freshly harvested honey is so tasty!

I never liked going with him to the hives. All those swarming insects gave me the heebie-jeebies! But bees can teach us important lessons about non-response to our OCD.

Potential Versus Actual Danger

We grow up knowing that large flying insects like bees, wasps, and hornets can sting. And many of us know from experience that these stings hurt. So when you get a bee buzzing around your head, you may get an automatic danger signal.

Oh, no! It’s going to sting me!

What most people don’t know is that honeybees can only sting once and then they die. This is because their stingers are barbed, and once they stick into your flesh, they don’t come out again. The bee flies away and the entire poison sack is ripped out of her abdomen, causing her death.

Since the bees die when stinging you, they save their stings for life-or-death situations — like protecting the hive. If you are just hanging out at a picnic table in the park and have a bee buzzing around your head, it simply means she is checking you out to see if you have any tasty pollen. Especially if you’re wearing a colorful shirt or sweet perfume, you may get lots of bee attention — but it’s typically out of curiosity, not antagonism.

You feel afraid when there is no actual danger.

The honeybee reminds us that it is possible to feel afraid when there is no actual danger

The intrusive, blasphemous thoughts of OCD are very much like those buzzing honeybees. They feel dangerous but typically present no real harm. People with OCD tend to assign a lot of unwarranted power to our thoughts. We think that our thoughts are dangerous, but they aren’t. They only feel that way.

Finding Safety in Not Responding

The second OCD lesson we can take from the honeybee is the value of not responding when we feel endangered.

Just when you were about to sit down at the outdoor picnic, you hear the ominous buzz of a bee around your head. What do you do?

Well, you know what you don’t want to do. You don’t want to wildly flail your arms in defense. You don’t want to pick up a paper plate and try whacking the bee. You don’t want to do anything aggressive.

That’s a sure-fire way to get yourself stung!

Honeybees teach us that the best response is to be very still and not respond. Bees rarely sting a calm, quiet human that is not invading their territory. So from an early age, we are told “just be still!” when a bee buzzes nearby.

With the intrusive, blasphemous thoughts of OCD, the same rule applies. Fighting back against blasphemous thoughts is a sure-fire way to get yourself stuck in an endless loop of self-analysis, doubt, and ever-rising anxiety. But there is safety in not responding.

Sometimes our greatest safety is in stillness

As the bee will fly away of its own accord, so will the blasphemous thought. You just have to wait for it.

Frequently Asked Questions About Blasphemous Thoughts

In the final section of this guide, I’d like to cover some of the most commonly asked questions about blasphemous thoughts. I will briefly discuss the following:

  • How can I reduce my anxiety and panic while ignoring the blasphemous thoughts?
  • Why do I get feelings of numbness, disconnection, depersonalization when I get blasphemous thoughts?
  • What if it feels like my thoughts were really wanted and chosen?

How Can I Reduce My Anxiety and Panic While Ignoring Blasphemous Thoughts?

I won’t lie to you — riding out the wave of anxiety that comes with intrusive thoughts is tough. It really is. But it’s the only way forward.

While we intentionally ignore and refuse to respond to the blasphemous thoughts, there are two tricks that can help you reduce the anxiety. The first trick is helpful at any stage of progress, but the second trick will probably only be helpful to those who are at more advanced stages in overcoming scrupulosity.

Anxiety Reduction Trick 1: Biblical Imaging

In another post, I describe in detail how we can use a four-step process to meet, greet, label and eat our intrusive thoughts (read the article to understand what I’m talking about)!

The core of this approach involves Biblical imaging — that is, choosing a specific scene in Scripture and mentally placing yourself there. One that is very useful to riding out the anxiety of blasphemous thoughts is from Psalm 23.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

Psalm 23:4-5

God never promised to remove the things that bother us — but He said He will prepare a banqueting table for us while our evil enemies (like intrusive thoughts) glower and lurk in the dark forest nearby.

We acknowledge our blasphemous thoughts lurking nearby but don't invite them to the banqueting table

When the intrusive thoughts press in, we imagine ourselves sitting with our Good Shepherd at this table. We imagine feasting and enjoying the blessing of His presence while the intrusive thoughts (in whatever form you imagine them) watch from nearby.

It is a way of acknowledging our intrusive thoughts without engaging with them. You see, we want to acknowledge them, because otherwise we will get into avoidance tactics. But we want to ignore them in the sense that we don’t enter dialogue. We are enjoying our feast, but they are not invited to the table.

Anxiety Reduction Trick 2: Mockery

Mockery is a powerful and often fast-acting tool against intrusive thoughts, but may not be helpful to you in the very beginning when you are still getting the hang of exposure. Try it, and if it doesn’t work so well right now, leave it aside and try again when you’ve gained some more mental muscle.

Mocking our intrusive thoughts can sometimes deliver such a powerful blow that the thoughts go away almost immediately — but like all techniques, it has its limitations and may not be appropriate for every single blasphemous thought.

Mocking our intrusive thoughts can sometimes deliver such a powerful blow that the thoughts go away almost immediately

Mockery is merely a way of meeting intrusive thoughts on their own ground. Intrusive thoughts are highly exaggerated and false, so we respond with even more exaggeration and falsity.

For example:

Zach has an intrusive thought telling him that he is a devil-worshipper. Whenever that thought comes to mind, Zach responds with overly-exaggerated, sarcastic rhetoric.

“I’m a devil worshipper? Why, thank you so much for reminding me! But, dear brain, you have sorely underestimated my evilness. I am not only a devil worshipper, I am a demon in disguise! Haven’t I ever showed you my pitchfork? Haven’t you seen my tail? Well, if you’ll excuse me, dear brain, I really don’t have time to chat, because I have so much havoc and destruction on my to-do list for today. Talk to you later!”

Obviously, deep down you know that none of this is true. Sarcasm deals in opposites to get a point across. Did you ever make a silly mistake and have a family member affectionately (or not so affectionately) say, “you’re a genius?”

In that moment, they were using sarcasm/mockery as a way to give a message through its opposite expression.

Mockery can be deadly to our intrusive thoughts. Try it.

Why Do I Get Feelings of Numbness, Dead Emotions, and Depersonalization When I Have Blasphemous Thoughts?

A common phenomenon experienced alongside scrupulosity’s blasphemous thoughts is a feeling of numbness. This may be numbness of the emotions, an inability to feel the heart or soul, lack of motivation, or a sense of being disconnected from the body (called “depersonalization“).

This may happen because the constant struggle against bad thoughts leads to mental and emotional exhaustion. Disconnecting may be your body’s way of gaining a temporary sense of relief after you have depleted your stores of stress chemicals.

Having intrusive, blasphemous thoughts means you’re having lots of stress chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline constantly pumping through your body. When no relief is in sight, your body and brain might work together to shut down this cycle by pulling the plug, figuratively speaking.

The experience of numbness and depersonalization is also common to people with PTSD who have experienced prolonged periods of trauma.

For example, the little girl who is growing up in a severely abusive home feels endangered and powerless (like the person with OCD). After a really long time in this environment, she will begin to have periods of depersonalization, where she feels emotionally numb, disconnected from her personality, and may have out-of-body experiences.

Your intrusive thoughts produce similar feelings of danger and powerlessness. Your numbness might be quite scary, but don’t be afraid of it. It is your body and brain cooperating together to create a safety valve to prevent things from getting out of hand.

You may sometimes feel numb, unemotional, or disconnected because of the mental strain of blasphemous thoughts

As you learn healthier ways of preventing the OCD escalation, you will probably have less of these kinds of episodes.

What If It Feels Like My Blasphemous Thoughts Were Really Wanted and Chosen?

In an earlier section, we talked about the difference between ego-syntonic and ego-dystonic thoughts. We talked about how ego-syntonic blasphemous thoughts — thoughts that are in harmony with your ego and sense of self — are not good, but ego-dystonic blasphemous thoughts count as “intrusive thoughts” and shouldn’t be worried about.

Every scrupulous person’s biggest fear is, “what if that thought was genuinely from me?”

In other words, they fear their intrusive thought was actually ego-syntonic.

Let’s be honest here: sometimes it sincerely feels like we willfully generated a bad thought. Why in the world does this happen? And does it indicate something about our spirituality?

In another article, I talk about the OCD escalation cycle, which can often include an element of willful, desperate pseudo-agreement with our blasphemous thoughts (I say “pseudo-agreement” because it isn’t real even though it feels like it is).

Here’s the cycle in a nutshell (but head over the read the full article for more explanation):

  1. Triggering thought: you have an intrusive thought of a blasphemous nature. This gets your wheels rolling.
  2. Rumination: you overanalyze the thought, trying to figure out where it came from and what it tells you about yourself. You are starting to get a bit anxious.
  3. Resistance: you are sure that you don’t want or agree to this thought, so you resist it strongly. But it’s still there, so you resist harder. Your anxiety levels are escalating rapidly.
  4. Anger and desperation: no matter what you do, you can’t get rid of the blasphemous thought! You begin to grow angry and/or desperate. You feel as if your life forces are bleeding out of you as you pour all your efforts into avoiding the possibility that you might agree with the thought.
  5. Explosion: finally, you can’t take it anymore. You have been whipped into a frenzy and dangled at the edge of self-destruct for so long that you explode. You give up the struggle and “agree” to the thought.
  6. Mental silence: almost immediately, the emotional pitch subsides. You free-fall into mental silence so profound that you may feel numb or disconnected from your self or your soul. This stage introduces other fears that you may have committed the unpardonable sin or truly meant what you thought.
  7. Reconciliation: after some time, you feel a little calmer and you return to God to seek reconciliation. After this point, you may have positive spiritual experiences until the next trigger, at which point you may go through the same cycle again.

Religious OCD Cycle: Reconciliation Stage

In this scenario, you did not choose your blasphemous thought. It was not ego-syntonic. Your apparent “assent” happened because of intense mental strain. It is no different than the prisoner who admits to a crime he did not do while being physically tortured.

The litmus test to know if you are a truly reprobate person or merely a scrupulous person is to ask how often you come back to God to seek reconciliation.

A reprobate will blaspheme and keep going in a godless direction without looking behind him or caring one whit about grieving the Holy Spirit.

A scrupulous person will appear to “assent” to bad thoughts but keep coming back over and over again to ask for forgiveness. She will seek reconciliation and continue trying to please God. She will mourn and feel sorry for what she thinks was a sinful thought.

Yes, you may feel that you sometimes “agree” to these thoughts, but if you keep coming back, that’s all that counts.

You’re part of God’s flock. You belong here.

Conclusion

Having unwanted, blasphemous thoughts is a terrifying experience, but it’s quite common to people with religious OCD. Having these unwanted thoughts is not a sin. God still loves you and He understands what you’re going through.

It is possible to get blasphemous thoughts to lose their power over you. The key lies in remembering that thoughts have no power and God understands the origins of our thoughts better than we do.

Yes, there are different methods — ERP, Biblical imaging, direct mockery — but above and beyond these methods we must remember that God is kindly and compassionately uniting with us in our efforts to get better.

God is kindly and compassionately uniting with us in our efforts to get better

He wants you to be free, just as much as he wants healing for broken legs, cancer, and depression.

As we go through the valley of the shadow of death, we may feel as though these unwanted blasphemous thoughts rob us of our eternal hopes. We may feel estranged from God and cast upon the rocks of despair. But through all this, God never leaves our side. He walks with us through the valley, well aware that our thoughts are caused by a mental disorder called OCD.

And He loves you through the fog of mental health. Because He sees the real you.

Dear friend, don’t give up. Your blasphemous thoughts don’t define you. You are beloved by God, and no thought that pops into your mind will ever be powerful enough to reverse His love for you.

Drop me a comment to let me know how you’ve seen God become more real to you through your struggle with scrupulosity!

Best wishes on the journey,

jaimie eckert signature


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  1. Thank you so much for this article. I am very grateful to you for helping me even though we don’t know each other personally.

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