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COVID-19 Update

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Memorial Church, the Center for Inter-Religious Community, Learning and Experiences (CIRCLE), and Windhover Contemplative Center are all currently closed. Students who wish to apply for a religious event exemption, click HERE for more information.

Banner image for the “Avoiding Unhealthy Religious Organizations " section featuring 3 images: a photo of multiple caution signs overlaid onto on another, a photo of a cracked concrete wall, and a photo featuring a macro shot of an eye.

Avoiding Unhealthy Religious Organizations

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Religion is a powerful force. Most of the time religious organizations promote healthy habits that encourage spiritual growth and personal well being. However, sometimes, religious organizations can encourage practitioners to engage in unhealthy religious behaviors.

Everyone is capable of being persuaded to do something they did not want to do, and that susceptibility is what these groups use to increasingly control people’s thoughts and lives. Unhealthy religious activities do not start with something dramatic, but rather with incremental efforts.

New students and others experiencing major life transitions are often especially vulnerable to unhealthy religious groups. These groups often seem extremely friendly. They provide many opportunities for community and seem to create stability in a time of change. However, unlike healthy spiritual and ethical communities, these groups do not ultimately support students’ intellectual freedom, academic success, physical and mental health. Unhealthy religious organizations often undermine positive relationships with family and friends.

Stanford University values the positive role of religious and spiritual life in higher education as a balancing complement to the numerous challenges one faces on campus and in life.  Therefore, the Office for Religious & Spiritual Life sponsors diverse religious student organizations. Stanford Associated Religions is a coalition of over 30 recognized student organizations that provide healthy spiritual life for our campus community. We strongly encourage students to begin their exploration for religious and philosophical communities with those listed on the Office for Religious & Spiritual Life website.

If you believe you have encountered an unhealthy religious organization on campus, for your safety and that of our campus community, please contact the Office for Religious & Spiritual Life at 650-723-1762.

View the full pamphlet