3.19.2006

Religious Addiction

Yeah, I don't know what's up with all the posting today, either. Better not to question it at this point and just to go with it before it disappears again.

Anyway. Via Pharyngula comes this thought-provoking and, quite honestly, dead-on take from Dr. Bob Minor over at The Fairness Project about how to deal with the religous wingnuts we know and love. The angle? That the religious extremists so obsessed with regulating who's sleeping with whom and which godless celebrity uttered exactly what naughty word during a live telecast instead of, you know, following the principles in that book they're so fond of thumping are actually addicts.

In fact, you could say they're strung out on religious X-stasy. ::rimshot:: Thank you, folks, I'll be here all week.

In all seriousness, though, Minor's point is a good one, and I think the parallels, whether anecdotal or indicative of a true underlying pathology similar to other recognized addictions, serve as an excellent guide in how best to deal with these people. Consider:

You can’t argue with an addict. Arguing religion to one so addicted plays into the addictive game. Arguing about the Bible or tradition is like arguing with the alcoholic about whether whiskey or tequila is better for them. It’s useless and affirms the addiction.
This is a mistake I think we make when we try to "discuss" religion and politics in this country. And I'm as guilty of it as anyone. The honest debater in me has tried on several occasions to engage especially fervent believers in religious debate on an intellectual level and it never, ever produces anything but awkwardness and in some cases, hard feelings. Not because I was ever condescending or unfair to them, nor because I had any intention of trying to make them "see the light", but because they simply weren't having it. You can't engage them in an honest intellectual debate on this topic, because they're not coming from an honest intellectual standpoint.

And here's where I insert the standard disclaimer that I'm not talking about all religious people, nor about religious people who believe strongly as they do, whether I agree with them or not. those who can engage on a level, with the inherent understanding that theirs is one interpretation amongst many -- not the people I'm talking about. So no angry screeds about how I'm an anti-religion commie-loving devil worshiper in my email inbox, alright?

That being said, the religious debate, insomuch as it intersects politics and social issues in this country, has been overtaken by a very dangerous kind of "true believer" that, as Dr. Minor points out, is no different than a crack addict. Think about that for a minute. If, every time you hear some wingnut religious bloviator introduced as "National Director of the Association of Concerned Christians" or whatever, and you substituted the word "Alcoholic" for "Christian"...puts them in a whole different light, doesn't it? And in that sense, what they have to say really has about as much merit:

Don’t accept that the addiction needs equal time. Stop debating as if there are two sides. Get over any guilt about a free country requiring you to make space for addictive arguments. You don’t have to act as if here are “two sides” to the debate. Addicts and their dealers already have the power of the addiction and addictive communities behind their messages.
It really is time to stop acting as if these people are honest players in the debate. They aren't. They're too muddled by their addiction to do so.

1 comment:

ASHLEE said...

How their religious attitudes affect people can represent an infinite variety of causes and motivations, and the reasons behind those causes can explain a great deal about the individuals psychological profile and mental stability. Its not enough to simply say, His religion makes him feel good, because there are many troubled people who find similar peace and strength through negative stimuli as well, such as alcohol.Religion, like alcoholism, can be a crutch, and it can be an addiction. Just as with alcohol, religion may be used to hide other problems. Addiction is defined as the abuse of a substance to cover up the underlying disease or discomfort. Religion can be viewed as an addiction if it is used as a cover up for unresolved issues of shame, anger and authority. When you take away the superficial layers of the drinking or the religion, the underlying pathology is revealed. Knowing what lies underneath that veneer of religion is critical to understanding the hyper-religious persons behavior. Therefore, it helps to know what brought about the change in attitude when someone’s conspicuous preoccupation with religious belief and ritual takes on an extreme, consuming new importance in their lives.
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Ashleejames


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