What Is the Fear of Churches?

Ecclesiophobia - A Fear of Churches

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Don't let your fear of churches (ecclesiophobia) prevent you from sharing important moments with your family and friends. Weddings, funerals and other religious ceremonies are meaningful events that can bring people closer together, even if you are not religious.

Ecclesiophobia, or the fear of churches, refers to either of two separate fears:

  • a fear of the building itself
  • a fear of what the church represents

    If your fear of churches is actually a phobia, it is, by definition, life-limiting.

    Fear of the Church Building

    Some churches, particularly those that are hundreds or thousands of years old, can be imposing. Gothic cathedrals may conjure up images of Victorian horror novels.

    Tiny village chapels can feel claustrophobic or put you into uncomfortably close contact with people in the pugh. Even ultra-modern church buildings can be disorienting.

    Church buildings are often filled with imagery that can be disturbing to believers and non-believers alike. Scenes of Jesus' suffering on the cross could trigger phobias of blood and death even in those who do not attach a religious connotation to the depictions.

    Fear of The Church

    In many cases, the fear is not of the building itself, but of the religious or known nefarious practices that can occur within.

    Some people distrust "the church" as an entity, regardless of personal religious beliefs.

    True stories of pedophile priests in the Catholic church and organized emotional abuse of the LGBT community during the now debunked conversion therapy "pray away the gay" camps, are pervasive and could invoke fear, which, over time, can develop into a full-blown phobia.

    Fear of Other Religions' Religious Buildings

    If you are comfortable in your own church, synagogue, mosque or other religious institution, but fear those affiliated with other religions, you may be suffering from a form of xenophobia.

    Some denominations teach their followers that other religions are untrustworthy or even dangerous. You may be afraid that spending time in a house of worship belonging to another religion is sacrilegious.

    Some atheists and agnostics report that they are uncomfortable or fearful in any religious building, regardless of affiliation.

    Do I have a Fear or Phobia of Churches?

    If you have an intense fear of churches, you might be wondering whether it's a phobia. If you go to a therapist, she will help you figure this out by comparing your symptoms to the criteria for diagnosis from the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

    A true phobia of churches would fall into the category of specific phobia, the fear of a certain object or situation. However, you may also have another phobia that presents similar symptoms.

    What you think is a fear of churches might actually fit the APA criteria for agoraphobia.

    If you have agoraphobia, you fear you won't be able to get to a safe and private place when you have a phobic reaction.

    For example, if you're seated in the middle of the pugh and start to feel anxious, you might worry you won't be able to escape and that you might feel humiliated if parishioners stare at you.


    American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th Ed.).

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