A Reminder About Our Reactions to the Religion Addiction That Got Us Here

Take right-wing religion’s teaching that people are basically so evil and lost that they deserve eternal, abusive punishment. Add its effectiveness at convincing people of their innate evil because they’re prepared for it through child-rearing methods that punish inherently bad children.

Enforce such messages with political leaders whose solution to problems is more punishment. The result: adults’ desperate need for a fix to provide relief from self-denigrating, self-abusive feelings.

That’s what makes the high of being righteous so addictive. And with the past (and present) political success of the right-wing and the enabling of FOX news, people who use religion as an addiction can’t give up their fix: the high of winning politically that proves they’re righteousness.

The religion addicted can’t give it up even in the face of the blatant hypocrisy and con-like pandering of a president* who in his personal life embodies everything right-wingers have spent decades criticizing in others.

Back before the rise of their political aspirations with the Moral Majority, Marches for Life, and politicized televangelists, huddling together in congregations seemed enough for the addicted. In their meetings and services they could be with those who felt the same misery and heard that there were no works they could do to be “saved.”

These meetings weren’t recovery groups, providing support to overcome the addiction. They were more like opium dens and highly orchestrated sales meetings.

Their preachers dealt the high. They did nothing to make people feel as if they were, or could in themselves become, worthwhile. In fact, they convinced them that they were so evil that they shouldn’t trust their own intuitions, thoughts, and positive feelings about themselves. Trusting onedself was put down as “New Age.”

Their preachers and theologians told them they could only be acceptable because another Being really, really, really would accept them in spite of their inborn evil. If people bet on that notion, it became okay to feel joy.

They could also feel as if the “lost” people out there, were the ones with problems, not them. They’d lap up “prophecy,” which would assure them that they’d come out winners in the end and that those who didn’t participate in their addiction would be proven wrong by being “Left Behind.”

As they became more addicted, the fix became more desperate. Services were the gathering together of addicts for another drink, another line. But addictions are progressive, so where would they get even heavier doses?

The movement of the religious right-wing into politics, which most previously had rejected as too involved with “the world,” was a new drug, a stronger drink. Righteous political wins for their religious position became the new blessed relief from facing the painful notion that they are, as their hymns reminded them, “wretches,” “worms,” “without [even] one plea,” and “deeply stained within.”

Logically, one would think that believing they’re so evil would cause them to be less judgmental, more sympathetic with others. After all, one can actually find that notion in their Bible. So, in the midst of their righteous wins, they do sometimes talk sympathetically, saying to LGBTQ people: “We’re all sinners.”

But addictions are not logical, and looking for the logic in them, Al-Anon members know, is a waste of time. What drives this need for winning is the high: taking political victories as the proof of their righteousness.

They can’t face what they believe about their rotten selves too long or they just couldn’t handle it – it’s bad enough to probably require anti-depressants and hospitalization, but taking them would be seen as a righteousness failure.

When they win government and electoral approval for their doctrines, then, those aren’t acts of faith at all. Their trust is not in their Higher Power.

It’s in government and the electorate. It’s in the feeling that they have approval of a majority of voters. None of that has to do with “What Would Jesus Do?”

The fix of these wins has thus become an obsession. And threats to that poltical fix make them even more desperate because past wins meant to them they’re right and okay.

And a “high” can never last. They’d fall back into their feelings of fear and loathing.

The need for a cause to win is still the seeking of approval by projecting their evil onto the other. It’s never the addict’s fault.

Addictions remove the sense of responsibility. Feminists, “activist judges,” LGBTQ people, liberals, atheists, wiccans, whomever, must be understood as the real causes of the addict’s problems.

Addicts must be convinced they’re right.

Sadly, many addicts never come to until they’ve hit bottom and destroyed their lives and the lives of their families and acquaintances. Some go into recovery - there, after all, have even been groups such as Fundamentalists Anonymous.

Now, it’s going to take a while for addictive religion to hit bottom. It’s still on its drug with user activities such as protests and angry confrontations, and it has mainstream approval.

Remember, then, that dealing with addictions requires saving oneself first, not the addict. It often involves the sadness of watching the addict crash and burn.

But we the enablers? Are we still making excuses for the addict?

Are we still trying to find the logic in what they do? Are we wasting time trying to understand their “real” motives and intentions? Are we covering up for the addict?

Are we emotionally unable or unwilling to speak truth to the addict, saying the addiction is wrong, sick, and destructive? Are we unable to separate from the addiction?

Are we unwilling to envision the equivalent of support groups like Al-Anon or to form Mothers Against Abusive Religion?

Do we ourselves have a positive enough self-image to refuse to be abused by others who won’t face the addiction -- such as politicians who treat us like crazy but rich relatives they come to for support but hide out of the way in the closet when people want to know who those relatives are?

Are we willing to face the fact that we’ll still be affected by the addiction and, therefore, have to live our lives in the light of that fact, that we have to protect ourselves and our safety? Are we able to affirm that they, not we, are the problem?

Once we’ve named an addiction, it’s our choice how we live with an addict. It’s our choice about whether we seek an addict’s love and support.

And it’s our choice, knowing that addictions can be hard to overcome, whether of not we’re in it for the long haul because, in the end, we want to stop addictions from hurting everyone.

© 2019 Robert N. Minor

Other Issues, Books, Resources

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Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction; Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human; and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org

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