How do we discern if / when something is a normal expression of faith in life versus being motivated by an underlying religious spirit? This may or may not be something you have thought of before, but it is worthy of consideration. In my experience, I don't think I've heard people saying aloud that they are under the control of religious influences that are from the netherworld. It's not likely that people want to consider themselves in this way, at length, at the risk of unexpected and unpleasant surprise.
I have said before, and still think it's true, when people fail to discern, they consider all spiritual inspiration or motivation to be from God. This is clearly not the case. All spiritual inspiration and motivation does not come from God. If the only possible source of spiritual inspiration for the believer was from God, why would we have been cautioned or encouraged to try the spirits, as we are in 1st John? John says that many false prophets (interpret that as false voices or false motivators / motivations) are gone out into the world. If the only single possibility of spiritual motivation for the believer was the Holy Spirit, we would not have been cautioned in this way.
A lot of the motivation that we receive, I am sure, comes from God. But even that should be discerned. That's the purpose of discernment, to put us in a position to hold firmly to what is from God. Test all things & hold firmly to that which is good is the way it reads.
I will confess that in my view discernment (which is called discerning of spirits in the King James Version) is not passed out in equal measure to all believers. Some have little capacity for this, some a lot, some seem to have none, and varying degrees in between. The undiscerning are often the most misled, and that doesn't happen solely by human agency, tho we can see it happening by mankind (to mankind) over and over, and throughout history.
False voices come to us. Often they sound like your own thoughts. We also hear other people who are saying things that are false, even tho the person doing the speaking holds it out there like it was the gospel itself. We need to grow in our ability to recognize this happening, but that can only happen if we are being obedient to the instruction to be watchful and test all things. It takes practice.
Let me give an example that is close to home.
Some years ago I was in a pivotal place in my young life, trying to make a decision about some next big steps. A few close friends knew about the process I was going thru, but it seemed to be only the beginning stages. One such friend, in a moment of “inspiration” cautioned me about making a change as if he were speaking from heaven's front porch. It was very direct and clearly inspired, don't doubt it! I heeded his guidance and made up my mind, I am not going to turn but keep persisting in the same direction. Little did I know, the road I was on was leading to a blind curve, followed by a cliff. Was my friend speaking by inspiration? Absolutely, but it took me a few years to play the scenario out into it's full payload of pain, and to realize that the inspiration had not come from the Lord. There was and is not a doubt in my mind of my friends love, then or now. Without question. But that doesn't mean that what he said was right, and it was my job to discern it. I failed.
An example from scripture comes to mind also. You may have beat me there. Jesus turns to Peter, after Peter's inspirational conviction that He did not need to go to the cross, and calls him out on it. Jesus says get behind me, or get out of my path, Satan, because you are a stumbling block (or offense, or impediment, or tripping hazard… you get it). Peter was thinking after man's thoughts, not God's, and that was a temptation and real stumbling block to Jesus to try to lead Him away from His destiny. Here man's (Peter's) thoughts had come into harmony with Satan himself. Thinking with human wisdom is a full proof way to be lead astray, and also very effective in leading others astray, tho I don’t recommend it. 🙂
What was it about Peter's communication that flagged Jesus? I am sure it was contained in the fact that He knew His rendezvous with the cross was destined, and this was a voice that had intent and capacity to mislead Him. We have to have clear minds, not letting such inspiration have a place of consideration, or an environment to germinate in the soil of our thinking. The capacity of false voices to lead us down a path of destruction should not be in doubt. You, like me, may have taken a tour. If so, repent.
Will you be discerning, or misled? It is that simple.