remember hearing popular psychological speaker and writer
John Bradshaw say that the “high” one gets
from being righteous was similar to the high of cocaine.
As both a former monk and addict, he knew the feelings
the religious right pushes its anti-gay, anti-women’s
reproductive rights, anti-science, pro-profit agenda
nationally and in state capitals across the nation and
wins, that high is a sweet fix for the addicted. It
gives them a comforting feeling of relief that they’re
really right, okay, worthwhile, and acceptable.
all fixes, though, it doesn’t last. So, the addict
is driven to seek another and another – another
issue, another evil, another paranoiac threat to defeat.
It can’t ever end. Like the need for heavier doses,
the causes have to become bigger and more evil in the
addict’s mind to provide the fix.
mind-altering fix of righteousness covers their paranoid
shame-based feelings about the internal and external
dangers stalking them. The victim-role language of their
dealers, right-wing religious leaders, feeds it. Like
alcoholism and drug addiction, the fix numbs the religious
addict against any feelings about how their addiction
Religion doesn’t have to be this way; it can
be healing. But what we see in the dominant religious/political
right-wing fundamentalism that’s driving the debate
on most conservative issues (political, social, economic,
international) is anything but healthy. It’s what
addiction specialists call a process addiction, like
sex or romance addiction, or workaholism. In an addictive
society, such addictions are encouraged.
substance addictions, it takes over, dominates life,
pushes other issues to the background, tells them how
and what to feel to prevent them from facing their real
feelings about themselves and life, creates a mythology
about the world, protects its “stash,” and
supports their denial that they have a problem. Addiction
specialist Anne Wilson Schaef would say, like all addictions,
religious addiction is progressive and fatal.
you’re outside the addiction, you’ve probably
wondered about what’s going on, what’s the
dynamic that’s driving the right-wing religious
agenda that looks so hateful and destructive. Why is
it so hard to crack? Why won’t evidence or logic
you’re an enabler or the addict yourself, the
above must sound over the top. You’d prefer to
deny or soften the reality of the addiction.
if we’re going to think clearly about the right-wing
juggernaut’s use of religion, and not function
as its enablers, we must realize that we’re dealing
with an addict. Right-wing political-religious fundamentalism
can destroy us too if we’re like the dependent
spouse who protects, defends, and covers up for the
what can we do to protect ourselves, maintain our sanity,
promote a healthy alternative, and confront religious
addiction? What’s the closest thing to an intervention
when we’re dealing with the advanced, destructive
form of religious addiction that’s become culturally
takes massive inner strength and a good self-concept.
There’s no place for codependency and the need
to be liked or affirmed by the person with the addiction.
ALANON knows that. It requires clarity of purpose, freedom
from the need to fix the addict, and doing what maintains
one’s own health and safety.
reinforce each other. Fundamentalist religious organizations
and media are their supportive co-users. So the person
who deals with someone’s addiction cannot do it
alone. They must have support from others outside the
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.
can’t buy into the addict’s view of reality.
Addicts cover their addiction with a mythology about
the world and with language that mystifies. This means
we must never use their language.
say, even to reject it or with “so-called”
before it: “partial-birth abortion,” “gay
rights,” “intelligent design,” “gay
marriage,” etc. Speak clearly in terms of what
you believe it really is. Say “a seldom used late-term
procedure,” “equal rights for all,”
“creationist ideology,” “marriage
let the addict get you off topic. Addicts love to confuse
the issues, get you talking about things that don’t
challenge their problem. When you do, you further the
argue about whether sexual orientation is a choice.
It doesn’t matter.
argue about sex. Our country is too sick to deal with
its sexual problems.
okay to affirm that you don’t care or these aren’t
the issues. You don’t need to justify your beliefs
to a drunk or druggie.
your message on target and repeat it. Get support for
your message from others so that they’re on the
same page. Make it short, simple, to the point, and
nag addicts. Don’t speak belligerently or as if
you have to defend yourself. Just say: The government
and other people have no right to tell someone whom
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.
what it is to be a healthy human being without the addiction.
Addicts must see people living outside the addiction,
happy, confident, proud, and free from the effects of
the disease. In spite of the fact that we’re a
nation that supports both substance and process addictions
so people don’t threaten the institutions and
values that pursue profits over humanity, live as if
that has no ultimate control over you.
believe that you, your friends, children, relationships,
hopes, and dreams, are any less valuable or legitimate
because they aren’t sanctioned by a government,
politicians, or religious leaders that are in a coping,
rather than healing, mode of life.
with addictions takes an emotional toll on everyone.
Yet, recognizing religious addiction as an addiction
demystifies its dynamics and maintains our sanity.
© The Fairness Project, February
May be reprinted in full with full credit (such
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