MEDIA ALERT - 3/1/2022
Contact Dr. Terri Daniel -

Toxic Theology and Religious Trauma
to be Explored at Portland, OR., Conference 


In many religious traditions, it is believed that God is responsive to the needs of believers, and in difficult times, the faithful turn to God for comfort and guidance. But when God is viewed as a benevolent protector that can shield us from harm, what happens to faith -- and healing -- when God fails to provide that protection? How do we make sense of the cognitive dissonance that occurs when beliefs don’t match up with actual lived experience? That tension is even more pronounced when we are taught as children to respond to all problems with prayer and faith, but in the process, we fail to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

These questions and more will be addressed at The Conference on Death, Grief and Belief, which will be held in Portland, OR., July 15 - 17, 2022. Conference presenters include psychologists, educators, theologians, hospice professionals and grief counselors who will be tackling a range of issues related to spiritual beliefs that cause psychological harm, especially when coping with death, trauma and bereavement.

The conference was founded by Dr. Terri Daniel, a Portland-based inter-spiritual hospice chaplain and educator whose work focuses on unpacking religious beliefs and spiritual concepts that can be harmful when facing loss and grief.

“Doctrines such as original sin and eternal punishment in hell can be soul-crushing for someone dealing with loss and trauma,” says Dr. Daniel. “Similarly, the belief that prayer can change the course of events can lead to confusion and guilt when prayers don’t produce the desired results. Our conference speaks to those who have rejected these toxic teachings in favor of healthier, more empowering spiritual options.”

Daniel’s observations align with current research on religiosity in America, as increasing numbers of people abandon specific religious traditions  in favor of identifying as “Spiritual but Not Religious” (SBNR). Back in 1955, roughly 95% of Americans identified as either Catholic, Protestant or Jewish,[1] with the 1950s often characterized as “the high tide of civic religion.”[2] But in 2021, statistics from the Pew Research Center show that only 63% of the U.S. population identifies as Christian, which is 12 points lower than it was ten years earlier.[3] Similarly, a 2021 Gallup Poll reported that membership in a church, synagogue or mosque dropped 20 points in the last 20 years, due primarily to an increase in the number of Americans who have no religious affiliation.[4]

Daniel explains, “A healthy engagement with a spiritual dimension -- through meditation, ritual or community liturgy -- should produce a positive effect on emotional health and well-being. But for many people, childhood religious indoctrination and the image of God as a punishing father figure can be terrifying and psychologically damaging.  While the conference is specifically focused on how religious beliefs influence one's relationship with death and grief, it is also a general forum for anybody who may be questioning an inherited or chosen faith tradition, or simply looking for a more inclusive faith community.”


WHAT:             The Conference on Death, Grief and Belief

WHEN:            July 15 - 17, 2022

WHERE:           Sheraton PDX Hotel, Portland, OR.


CONTACT:       Dr. Terri Daniel - - 971-236-1541




[1] In Will Herberg’s classic 1955 book, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, the author states, “Almost everybody in the United States today locates himself in one of the three great religious communities… 95 per cent declared themselves to be either Protestants, Catholics, or Jews”  (Clayton,2012, Transforming Christian Theology: For Church and Society. Seoul: Faith & Intelligence Press, p. 11).

[2] Putnam and Campbell described the 1950s as “the high tide of civic religion, with the period from the late 1940s to the early 1960s being one of exceptional religious observance in America (Putnam, R. D., & Campbell, D. E. (2012). American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. Simon & Schuster. P. 82-83

[3] About Three-in-Ten U.S. Adults Are Now Religiously Unaffiliated. (2021, December 14). Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.

[4] Jones, Jeffrey. (2021, March 29). U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time. Gallup.Com.