Wednesday, October 31, 2007

When Religion Is An Addiction

I went to a talk given last night by Dr. Robert Minor of the KU Religious Studies Department. He has just published a new book titled, When Religion Is An Addiction. In 2001, he published another book, Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It's So Hard to Be Human.

His talk was quite interesting. Basically, his main arguments are:

  • Religion is an addiction. Many people seek religion (especially Christianity) because they feel so bad about themselves and who they are. His point was, Why else would someone join a religion that promises the punishment of Eternal Child Abuse (Hell) by a supposedly loving Father?

  • Religion gives people an excuse not to confront their own feelings, fears, and prejudices. "It’s not me who hates homosexuals (or Jews or Muslims); God does, so I do." It’s a way to avoid confrontation with our darkest selves, which can make us feel so bad we need to change ourselves. This is something many of us are unwilling to do—change ourselves—so religion gives us the excuse that it’s okay to go on being our wretched selves and not have to change our thinking or our ways and take responsibility for our own beliefs and lives. Christianity tells us that’s just the way we are—we’re born sinners and evil-doers.

  • Minor feels that, when someone tells him that human beings are evil, that’s telling him something about the person saying it (how they feel about themselves). That’s the same as saying, "I think I’m a bad person. I think I’m evil, so I need God or Jesus or Somebody or Something to tell me I was born in sin and evil, but that’s okay because everyone else is too, so that makes me not feel so bad about myself and the disgusting person I really think I am."

  • Many fundamentalist Christians cannot see past their own addiction, as addicts of any type cannot, and it’s unnecessary and useless to try and argue with them; in fact, doing so only encourages their addiction (and makes those who argue with them enablers) since they’re enabling the addictive thought process by validating the addict’s beliefs and behaviors.
Perhaps this may seem a bit extreme, but he makes some very valid points, and it’s all definitely food for thought. Of course with me he’s basically preaching to the choir (no pun intended) since I’m already somewhere on the continuum between agnosticism and atheism anyway.

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