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Christianity Heads South

Religious Addiction

addiction1.gifFor as long as I've had a personal relationship with God, I've encountered people suffering from religious addiction. They are often folks who have struggled with "other" addictions during the course of their lives (e.g. alcohol, drugs, sex) or are ACA's (Adult Children of Alcholics). Apparently, the transference of one addictive lifestyle for another is fairly common, and when addicts come to faith in Christ, such a transference can occur. This is nothing new, of course, people have been studying and writing on this important topic for many years, producing books like "When God Becomes a Drug", and more recently, "Toxic Faith."

My heart goes out to these dear people. They sincerely want to love and serve god, but are often blind to the grip addiction still has on them. How do they behave? Here's a helpful...

synopsis of common symptoms associated with religious addiction.

Religious addiction is not merely a personal matter. The religious addict affects all the people around them -- family, neighbors, friends, coworkers. They often see themselves as "annointed" and "effective" representatives of God -- "truth-bearers" who, unlike other people, refuse to compromise the mandates of scripture. They oppress people with their words and demeanor, and when a religious addict moves into church leadership, the havoc wreaked is even more tragic -- at least that has been my observation over the years. I've also seen how religious addicts and religious zealots are often confused by people as being the same thing. This may lead some to focus on the outer issues (e.g. excessive use of Christianeese, over spiritualization of things) without getting to the heart of the addiction.

There still seems to be so much to learn about all of this. Have any of you dealt effectively with religious addicts or have any insights which might be helpful?


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Wasn't this more a problem in some areas of the Charismatic movement? Where the line between spiritual and "feel good" worship gets blurred that people can become church/meeting hopping junkies.

And then of course there is the internet...

But anyway the biggest criteria for "an addiction" is if a behavior is actually interfering with ordinary behavior nencessary for
everyday life. For isntance, the worst thing that happened to me for ooze surfing (and earning the title of "forums maniac") was forgetting to take the garbage out the (day before pickup) a couple of times, and I think I burned a frozen pizza, or a bagle I was trying to toast... That's pretty mild stuff. Not anything like missing work, school or other things that make behaviors rise to the level where they would deemed "disfunctional".

Of course in contrast I remeber some discussions of some women deemed "spooky spiritual" in the Charismatic movement. Many of these women had really let themselves go and their houses. They wore wigs because they didn't want to bother taking care of their hair. They stopped cleaning their house etc. They pretty much had stopped all everyday activities, in favor of praying, going to church, conventions etc. And even for that culture which generally welcoems high involvement, even ministers in that movement knew this behvior was too extreme.

I keep coming back to your statement "I've also seen how religious addicts and religious zealots are often confused by people as being the same thing." and thinking that the "addict" themself often does this most of all. Honest self-perception is a very hard thing...

A thought - how do we handle this in a POMO influenced community, where the tendency seems to be a high tolerance for differing points of view, and often less rules and structure? It's one thing to accept and converse with a religious zealot (possibly addict) in an online forum. Is it a different thing if they walk through your front door?

I guess I have far more questions than insights or opinions...

Fine line between passion and addiction, between calling and craving.

this is fascinating. i've experienced addiction and am recovering. i had never thought of religious addiction before, but it makes a lot of sense. interesting!

the first time i heard this term was from my professor of community health nursing. it made some sort of innate sense as soon as i heard it. we were talking about homeless alcoholics who were trying for rehab at a religious homeless shelter and counseling place that we were visiting.

May I make a supposition? Religious Addiction, as with all addiction, is a disease and these people should be treated with great tolerance and in the most gentle manner. After all, when you are sick, you don't want anyone to be abusive or confrontational. My friend and boss is a person I diagnose with Religious Addiction. He tells me he is God's prophet, and quotes a dozen verses or so. He tells me true stories of how people who don't like him are going to find out "the truth" someday. I realise the more rejection he gets, the more he draws on his addiction to get him through. I look at him with a loving and caring attitude because I realize it is the only way out of this for him. My heart also goes out for these people because they are good-hearted and in the deep pain of frustration because (as they say) God won't always answer their prayer right away. My friend is definately disfunctional in society and with groups. I suppose this is why God has people like us around, our job is to be their keeper. I commend all us "keepers" for being in the true spirit of God.

Just enjoyed a 4 day visit from one of my favorite religion addicts. Interestingly, though she was in town for her mother's funeral, she never shed a tear, or showed a bit of emotion, except for anger at the minister for not trying to "save people" at the funeral.

I'm a recovering alcoholic, and also attend alanon, so that helps.

I treat the addict with respect. I listen to her, but I don't try to reason with her, or bring her around to my way of thinking. When she makes an assertion, I pull out the alanon secret weapon, and say "you could be right". That always stops'em in their tracks.

Hi Kristi! Thanks for sharing. Sounds like this person might be a classic case. Emotions that are denied or burried in this way inevitably pop up later (even if it's years down the road). You just can't keep that "subterranean" stuff down forever -- know what I mean?

And I LOVE the Alanon secret weapon -- what an awesome reminder. You're friend is blessed to have someone like you in their life.

Hope to hear more from you here. Thanks again!

maybe the anger was there as a direct result of not expressing the other emotions which would be more appropriate to the situation, but more difficult to process.

Avoiding painful feelings is a hallmark of addiction...and there's no safer place to hide than behind a wall of anger - you're right, Tammy.

i have a sister who's suffered from this for a few years, and it's not fascinating, it's heartbreaking. she is unable to function in any normal way with those outside of my family. my family is seeking help, but this is so specialized a problem that it's difficult to know where to go for help. my parents have been talking to a priest for the past year (we're catholic).

does anyone have any suggestions?

i have just woken up to the reality that my Grandmother has always suffered from relgious addiction..right down to condemning anyone who does not believe as she believes.

it was a painful revelation..as achild i always thought..because she prayed ALL THE TIME that somehow she had a direct pipeline to God and her prayers were going to protect me(she is also quick to lead others into thinking that she alone knows the "truth" and someday we will too..because of her prayers.

developing my own personal relationship with Love has been hard..and her old messages trail through my mind often...but i know now.

it is so sad..when a person thinks themselves to be all knowing..in a sense..believes themselves to be God and tries to get others to follow there way. melissa

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