Thursday, December 11, 2008

Addicted to Religion

I just want to preface this by saying that I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist. I haven’t even taken the “standard” college psych class. I’m just writing from my observations and experiences. So, on with the show…

I have this theory that everyone is addicted to something. Alcohol and drugs are the common ideas that pop into people’s minds because those are addictions that cause chemical dependency, but there are many more addictions and they’re only driven by one chemical: dopamine. Gambling, shopping, BASE jumping, sex, food, hell, even politics (c’mon, you know you’ve gotten a “rush” from a heated debate and totally trouncing your freeper cousin). We’re all after that feeling of total awesomeness. It’s not that our compulsive society drives these addictions, but that our need for satisfaction drives the compulsive society.

Addictions can be treated, but the need for that next rush never goes away. my observation is that people “trade” one addiction for the next. I have a family member that is a gambler. After attending Gamblers Anonymous, he gained about 60lbs. He loves food. Well, he loves eating. It’s that rush. It makes him feel good. I’m sure everyone knows someone who has traded one addiction for another (maybe it’s you); food for exercise, gambling for shopping, alcohol for God. Yea, I said it. People don’t stop being addicted, they just focus their addiction on something else.

How many people do you know that found God after battling an addiction or rough spot? I know a lot. After all, most born-agains have the “My life was crazy until I found God” story. And, it’s not just Christian God. We all know people who have converted to another religion and became fanatics. Well, I’d like to replace the word “fanatic” with “addict.” I believe that the religious fanaticism in this country is not about God at all, but about addiction.

Think about it. Is there another explanation for religious fanatics? They’re addicted to feeling righteous, to feeling superior. But, beyond that, they display all the signs of addiction. Here are some general signs of drug use from the Mayo Clinic:

• Feeling that you need the drug regularly and, in some cases, many times a day
• Making certain that you maintain a supply of the drug
• Feeling that you need the drug to deal with your problems
• Driving or doing other activities that place you and others at risk of physical harm when you're under the influence of the drug

And my personal favorite (from the Hallucinogens section):

• Greatly impaired perception of reality

Interestingly, neglect and abuse were not listed, but from my own experiences with addicts, these are classic symptoms.

Religion can absolutely be substituted for drug in many of these cases: daily church attendance, not being able to go without church, feeling that only God can handle your problems, denying medical care to people because of religion. The impared perception of reality speaks for itself. We can plainly see that religious fanatics are not operating in the same dimension as the rest of the world. These are signs of addiction. I went to college with a girl who became “born again” and she used to pray that God would give her ideas for her assignments. She’d waste hours waiting for signs instead of just writing the paper. I thought she was just crazy, when in reality, she was an addict.

Maybe it’s too controversial to suggest that people can be addicted to religion, but I’m pretty sure that if scientific studies were conducted on the dopamine levels of religious fanatics, they would bear strikingly similar results to those of recognized addicts. Religious addiction is damaging our society, our Constitution, and it, more than anything else, drives a wedge between us and keeps us from moving forward as a people.

No comments: