My husband and I were discussing what exactly defines spiritual abuse and why is it so bad? In my estimation, spiritual or religious abuse happens when religion is used, not for the spiritual benefit of the individual, but solely for the gain of the organization and its leaders. Scriptures and principles are turned on their head and used in a way to manipulate, coerce, force and extort actions out of the person being used. What is supposed to be holy, is used in a way that can result in financial, emotional, physical and sometimes psychological harm. What is so horrible about this is in the church realm is that people give a very special part of themselves (soul and spirit, not to mention time and effort they can never recover) to know more about God. The knowledge of God is tied to our eternal destiny, and many times people are willing to give up all, and open their hearts to obtain what they perceive as the ultimate prize, eternal paradise.
A very vulnerable place to be.
Because churches bestow such high honor on earthly church leaders, people that are seeking to connect with God can be led like sheep to the slaughter.