The God Drug: When Religion Becomes an Addiction

ASM_14hourService_1
Congregation at Angelus Temple during 14-hour Holy Ghost service led by Aimee Semple McPherson, Los Angeles, Calif., 1942 Public Domain.

Do you guys know any religion addicts? Valerie Tareco asks if one “can really be addicted to religion,” at The Influence:

Although he quit believing in God as a teenager, 50-year-old Brandon Osborn feared hell and damnation until he was 35. Raised in the “holiness movement” branch of the Church of LDS after escaping his mother’s abusive home, Osborn finds addiction and recovery fitting symbols for his experience.

“I consider religion to be an imposed addiction—no different than holding a baby and shooting it up with small doses of heroin, increasing the doses as the baby grows,” he says. “Religion is as poisonous and as attractive, to many, as heroin—Karl Marx said it right, ‘Religion is the opiate of the masses.’ I’m still recovering from it. Part of my recovery is helping others get free.”

***

Can you really become addicted to religion? Well, the risk of any activity or substance becoming an addiction depends in part on the characteristics of the substance or activity, and in part—some experts believe most significantly—on the characteristics of the situation and user.

For even the most intense pleasures—those that tend to create the highest rates of compulsion—most users retain their capacity for autonomy and balance. Most people can ingest a pleasurable neurotoxin like alcohol or even cocaine in moderation, for example, while others find themselves drawn inexorably toward self-destruction. The same can be said about pleasurable activities like sex or gambling. And the same is logically true of religiously-induced pleasures—including intense feelings of euphoria, transcendence, hope, joy, absolution, security, immortality, certitude, purity, purpose, belonging, or superiority…

[continues at The Influence]

majestic

Majestic is gadfly emeritus.