By Tom Joseph PhD
In order for us to understand what addicted to religion may mean, we first must understand what an addiction is. My definition of addiction is as follows:
It is any repeated need of a substance, person, thought, or action that creates a mood-altering euphoria in order to escape the pain of reality, which produces negative results and consequences in a person’s life. This pain, which is being avoided, includes emotional, relational, physical, and financial ones.
In light of this definition, religious repetition and false supernatural magic tricks only lead a person to what we call in the addiction recovery world as chasing the high. Chasing the high came from the idea of an addict who is hooked on a drug or substance, which gave that person an unbelievable feeling of bliss once the drug was first introduced to their system. After that initial encounter, the human body responds less and less to that drug, causing the addict to use more frequently, with more intensity, and with longer duration. Moreover, the addict repetitiously continues to try and fix their pain issue with the false promise that the drug or drink will make their pain go away.
As the substance abuser engages in this insane cyclical activity, so does the religious addict engage in rituals, and superstitious, unrealistic miracle cures, trying to escape the pain it will take to
truly be healed. Repetitive rosary beads, healing cloths, candle lighting, baptisms, communion, foot washings, confessions, signs of the cross, praise and worship, confessing over and over, forgiving over and over, sowing seed money, keeping the Sabbath, reading devotionals, and even positive exciting preaching. The religious addict continues to repeat the same ritualistic, emotionally driven behavior, to expect a different result, never satisfying the empty thirst that plagues them.
Repetitive religious actions and false doctrine of an easy fix brings a temporary euphoria that diminishes as soon as you leave the church parking lot. This is prevalent in third-world religions as well as modern-day Christian religions. The true Holy Bible does not promote, encourage, or require any of these ceremonial rituals in order for a person to be right with God or to achieve wholeness and
fulfillment. Anxiety-driven and fearful people saturate themselves with self-help Christian books and daily reading material to try and somehow find that golden nugget that just might be the magic answer from God to elevate their fear of making a tough, hard, direct decision on their own.
Most individuals, especially women, who come to my office for counseling and dare to follow through with the reality of tough behavioral change, end up throwing all their books away or donating them to the local thrift store. Why? Because they were chasing the high of what these books might give them to escape the pain of divorcing; setting boundaries with family, friends, and children; or facing the repercussions of rejection and confrontation. But when they realize that their issue is not going to go away by osmosis, then, and only then, can recovery start. The religious drug dealer continues to give the illusion that when one stays tuned, the answer will be revealed next week, next program, or even immediately if they sow a seed gift of a $100, $500, or a $1,000.
I remember how many Christians, over a period of approximately ten years, came to me for counseling who were unable to give the suggested donation for counseling services because they had spent their hard-earned money on boxes of Kenneth Copland faith tapes and CDs about how to claim their health and wealth. Years later and bankrupt, they finally came for real biblical advice and true
healing through painful recovery.