Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Religious Addiction

I've written a bit about religious addiction (primarily where patriarchy is concerned) here and here, and really, pretty much everything I write here deals with religious addiction and its fallout in general terms. It's a subject that could be explored to incredible depths, and will take someone more capable than me to fully uncover and discover, but I'll be writing more about it in the future.

In the meantime, I came across this page earlier today, and I think it's a pretty good starting point to measure from. Below is the text of the page...


© Paschal Baute 1993

  • Inability to think, doubt, or question religious information and/or authority
  • Black-and-white, good/bad, either/or simplistic thinking: one way or the other
  • Shame-based belief that you aren't good enough or you aren't doing it right
  • Magical thinking that God will fix you/ do it all, without serious work on your part
  • Scrupulosity: rigid obsessive adherence to rules, codes of ethics, or guidelines
  • Uncompromising judgmental attitudes: readiness to find fault or evil out there
  • Compulsive or obsessive praying, going to church or crusades, quoting scripture
  • Unrealistic financial contributions
  • Believing that sex is dirty; believing our bodies or physical pleasures are evil
  • Compulsive overeating and/or excessive fasting
  • Conflict and argumentation with science, medicine, and education
  • Progressive detachment from the real work, isolation and breakdown of relationships
  • Psychosomatic illness: back pains, sleeplessness, headaches, hypertension
  • Manipulating scripture or texts, feeling specially chosen, claiming to receive special messages from God
  • Maintaining a religious "high", trance-like state, keeping a happy face (or the belief that one should...)
  • Attitude of righteousness or superiority: "we versus the world," including the denial of one's human-ness.
  • Confusion, great doubts, mental, physical or emotional breakdown, cries for help

The ultimate temptation of the believer is to assume that his or her way to God is the best or only way for others. The particular Way to God becomes what is adored, not the ineffable and incomprehensible Mystery to which we give the name of God.

In essence we have become addicted to the certainty, sureness or sense of security that our faith provides. It is no longer a living by faith, with hope and growing in unconditional love.

adapted from When God Becomes a Drug, by Leo Booth

That's a pretty comprehensive list of symptoms, but even as such, it barely scratches the surface. The P/QF paradigm certainly doesn't fare very well when compared to it, does it?

It's a HUGE issue.


  1. "Believing that sex is dirty; believing our bodies or physical pleasures are evil"

    I couldn't agree more. That point is a HUGE beef of mine.

  2. Magical thinking that God will fix you/ do it all, without serious work on your part

    lol yep Spiritual pixie dust!

  3. I started writing about this one day last fall when I was thinking about friends we had and people we knew and I realized, with a heavy heart, "They're addicted."
    Why else would a person continue engaging in something that they know and have even admitted out loud is bad?
    People will probably be up in arms that there are those, like you (and me), who claim that people are addicted to religion. But the term is completely accurate. If a person is so devoted to, and so needs a particular group or activity to cling to as their way of life, that they're willing to continually ignore, or even worse, explain away, all the the strange and blatantly wrong things (that go along with something such as patriarchal teaching), then you're addicted. They need it in order to survive, and they don't care what ill effects come of it. That's an addiction.

  4. "The ultimate temptation of the believer is to assume that his or her way to God is the best or only way for others."

    I think this is the most important thing of everything said above. You see this all the time from P/QF organizations like Vision Forum, and you see it in their followers. This is THE correct way to have a family, THE correct way to live, etc.

    And of course, I've seen this in my own past. My mother literally told my adult sister that she is not a Christian because she (i.e. my sister) uses the word "sucks." My mom thinks she owns the copyright to the definition of the word "Christian."

  5. Also, I overheard a conversation a few years ago between an atheist and an evangelical Christian. The atheist asked "what would you do if you found out tomorrow that Jesus did not exist?" and the evangelical said "I would no longer have any reason for living, so I would kill myself." This evangelical is now in seminary, studying to be a pastor.

  6. Religious addiction is just as soul destroying as any other addiction. In the Pharisees' case, it was worse than the usual addictions we name- they could encourage Christ's crucifixion without recognizing he was the Messiah they were waiting for, all the while devoting themselves to their religion. Lots of truth in this post.

  7. I took part in a twelve step program for adult children of dysfunctional families back in the 1980s. Even then it was acknowledged that religion can be an addiction. The group started out for adult children of alcoholics only, but then realized that there are all these other addictions out there (gambling, narcotics, religion, etc.) that hurt children in almost exactly the same manner, so they expanded their reach.

    Religious addiction definitely hurts families.

  8. Magical thinking that God will fix you/ do it all, without serious work on your part

    That was a MAJOR problem for my ex - never accepting personal responsibility for making right choices, living as if God just does some kind of Vulcan mind-meld on people to make them do "His will".

    Scrupulosity: rigid obsessive adherence to rules, codes of ethics, or guidelines

    This is true of patriarchals in "normative" patriarchal life conditions. Challenge the fiefdom, however, and scruples, ethics, and morality in general go right out the window. People then become expendable. You have two choices in legalistic systems of "Christianity": Live in spiritual and emotional bondage to the rules and formulas, or, become expendable.

    Maintaining a religious "high", trance-like state, keeping a happy face (or the belief that one should...)

    Yep. "Keep sweet" and wear a smile, even if your heart and soul is rotting, because, after all, it's the exterior that counts. White-washed tombs.

    Compulsive or obsessive praying, going to church or crusades, quoting scripture

    If there's one on the list that hits close to home, it's this one. I used to have a scripture for just about everything...even if I wasn't a fundie...and many times my prayers have been more habitual, or even obligatory, than heartfelt. Examining myself here, too.

  9. I found Fr Leo's book at my used bookstore about a year ago and it was stunning how accurately he described my family--generations of it--in his character studies. We were the textbook examples, right down to the obese women, the sons who became pastors, missionaries, and military. One set of grandparents fit the "country club Christian" and the other set fit the "blue collar Christian" In my generation, we've got it all--and none of us were even remotely Patriarchal-with-a-capital-P, just garden variety Evangelical fundamentalists.

  10. Rachel,

    That really sucks. @9:53am

    Maybe that's more of a self-fulfilling prophesy than anybody realizes. @12:34pm :-)

  11. This is a good list. It's unfortunate that these characteristics apply to most religious groups today.

  12. this is...

    i used to see this all the time [ok, i exaggerate a bit] among women who came to the DV shelter. they only came because "God told them" if they came, their husband would see his error and "come back to God".

    some of these women were so physically damaged, just YEARS of accumulated damage, that they were flat-out physically disabled. one only came because she caught her husband pawing at their 12-year old daughter - and she blamed HERSELF, because she "hadn't kept up with her wifely duties" because she'd had 10 kids in 14 years and that AGES you, and so because she looked 50 instead of 38, her husband wasn't attracted to her anymore, and this was all HER fault for somehow not being "Right with God" enough to be able to retain her looks enough to keep her husband from straying [and worse]. she wanted us to *keep the girl* while she went and got "fixed" [had plastic surgery] so that her husband would "see her as his proper wife again" and not be "drawn to sin because of her lack". and then once she was recovered, she came to get her daughter back.
    and was PISSED that her daughter was then a Ward of the State, because she'd been A) at the very least molested by her father B) abandoned by her mother for 3 weeks and C) her mother was planning to return her to the home with the man who had abused her without the man getting ANY sort of therapy. she was a Ward 3 days after the woman left her there! [that was the law, then - it took 3 days to declare a child under the age of 15 "abandoned". it's been changed since, at least to the point of "any child" instead of just "under the age of 15" but i don't remember if the TIME changed]

    it's terrifying. it's WORSE than a physical addiction - you *can* be prevented from aquiring a substance [it's a violation of one's rights unless one consents, but one CAN consent and be restrained and etc]. there is no way short of lobotomy to prevent one from praying and etc.

    and there's always that fine line between "fervent believer" and "outright addicted" [even i almost tipped into the addicted category, which *should* be almost impossible with a religion like mine.]

    i weep for these people - i pity them. i mean, they scare me to death, but i can't help but pity them.

  13. Maintaining a religious "high", trance-like state, keeping a happy face (or the belief that one should...)

    I still have that terrified smile on my face most days.......

  14. Very very interesting, the comments made on the article as much as the article itself. I'm just glad there IS a God and that there is life after this earthly journey. The opinions on this article will swing like a pendulum. Far left, far right...there is a middle ground, one without compromising the word of God, I know there is...but still looking for it myself. I'll just say, people, be careful with your words, they can wound. If you have to wound someone to make your point, then that's not right either.

  15. Maidservant...I'm not concerned about middle ground so much as I'm concerned about truth and spiritual health. If those can be found at the left, the middle, or the right, so be it. I'd rather position myself where truth and spiritual health are rather than expect them to come to me.

    Even though I never set out to wound any particular people through what I write here, if I spent all of my time worrying about who might be offended, there'd be very little, if any, content here - and Jesus would've never had a ministry.

    Personally, I see the list of symptoms of religious addiction AS truth.

  16. And when they miss church they have withdrawals, experience paranoia, when you do anything outside the box you are afraid. always feeling like you have to look over your shoulder.

  17. I'm reading the book "Toxic Faith" right now and it's all about religious addiction. Excellent book and I highly recommend it to any of the readers here.

  18. WOw. It's funny, the other night I was watching "Bowling For Columbine" with my husband for the 5th or 6th time, and Michael Moore asks many times throughout why America is so much more murderous as a nation than other first-world countries. If only he had grown up Fundamentalist, he would know. Marilyn Manson (whose music I would never ever listen to, but whom I would vote for as President, he's a whole lot smarter than anyone else who got elected in my lifetime so far) hit the nail on the head with his reply of "a culture of fear and consumption." And you know what bred the fear? Western Christianity. I firmly believe that. Even the largely godless population of our country today was still raised in a culture of fear. I came to that conclusion years ago. We are taught to be afraid of ourselves, afraid of everyone else, to see evil in everything. I am, by the way, a 2nd Amendment supporter. But as my politically active oldest brother likes to point out, it wasn't put there so we could save ourselves from "The Bad Guys." It was to make sure that the government could never outgun the citizens. We've forgotten all about the principles behind our laws in favor of making sure nothing bad can ever happen to us. So we create a bad thing to protect ourselves.

  19. Pippi...

    "Godless"?! over 70% of the country is Christian; less than 5% claim to be atheist or agnostic, the other 22% or so is some OTHER religion.

    where do you get "Godless"? the fact that we have a SECULAR government? all democracies are [or at least SHOULD] be secular, and most gov'ts today ARE secular, and you only need to look at Saudi Arabia to see why theocracies are BAD.

    but you specifically said "Godless population" and that's just INCORRECT - over 90% of the population is religious. as in "Not Godless" [except Buddists, Taoist and Janeist - and we don't HAVE that many of any of them - and even there, they may not have "God" as the Western World understands "God" [a Deity, or Deities] but they still have the Divine]

    so i'm REALLY confused by that.

  20. Pippi, I struggle with your statement that Western Christianity breeds fear.

    Even with all I read about patriarchal hypocrisy and control, and religion being abused for the leaders' will, I cannot see how Christianity causes fear. In my country, crime causes fear. Leaders threatening with communist ideas (taking farms and mines for the state) cause fear. We get a lot of our religious fads and religious teachings from America, but that is not where our fears come from.

    And in America, it also seem that Christianity (Christ following) don't cause fear, but some people fear the wrong things because of religious (not Christ following) doctrines. In my experience, Christianity lessens fear. And much of my Christian influences and reading material is Western.

  21. No son enfermos, son personas a las que se les ha confundido con un monton de cuentos biblicos intragables, si lo raro es que no terminen más enfermos con tanta fantasia mental. Hoy día tenemos la TV, cine,... para darle un pause al cerebro, el placevo de la religión es innecesario.