I am of course speaking from experience. Long time readers of this blog will know that I was a member of the United Pentecostal Church for 5 years and became a licenced minister in New Zealand after getting a bachelor's degree in theology. They got me when I was young and vulnerable, after staggering away from a debilitating upbringing in a completely dysfunctional family.
The church provided a new family that were at least less dysfunctional than mine :s Along with feelings of belonging and again, I guess superiority over all those around us that weren't a part of our god experience. Church services seemed I guess more a place to get high on religion than to get thoughtful insights into being a christian. In fact much was made of the bible passage about people speaking in tongues and others thinking they were drunk, but if was fine to "get drunk on the lord".
“There’s the ubiquitous mood lighting so that you can only see what’s meant to be seen… Loud music ensures you hear only what is meant to be heard… Several high-energy warm-up acts make you feel only what you’re supposed to feel… By the time the featured attraction steps on stage… you’re so amped up you’ll hand over your body, soul, and wallet. It doesn’t even occur to you that this might be destructive, because feeling elated is the desired outcome.” The InfluenceI left the religion, cold turkey, not long after becoming a minister. Away from the intensity of theological study in the US in the class of 1983, back in New Zealand I regained my sensibilities and realised that I was actually in some sort of lunatic cult.
Perhaps leaving cold turkey helped me personally as although I've been involved in drug taking I never had a big problem stopping them. Was it because I'd already had experience with addiction? Albeit religious?
I can only compare the sort of religious experience I had, to drugs, as being extremely similar. I remember sitting waiting in a car once, off my head on Ice and feeling mindbogglingly fantastic in the moment. When going around in the car soon after the guy I was with and I were almost incredulous as we looked around at people, saying things like "don't they know what they're missing?" or "the poor things lost in their boring world" sort of thing.
We were there, we were happening, we were having the experience and the thoughts, we were better than the boring ones (poor dears) because we had some sort of "truth". Much the same way as the fundamentalists think of themselves in the experiences of euphoria in a church service.
I stopped taking Ice ages ago, with little problems. Don't even like the thought of it now, or how it might make me feel. As religion does, Ice gives you a very warped sense of the world and life; a non-reality.
At the time it provided an escape from my reality and I knew that, perhaps from being addicted to religion? In some sense that escape may well have saved my life, who knows? Would I have taken my life presented with reality back then with no escape from it?
Think I knew what I was doing and just wanted a break for a while. Unlike religion where it's supposed to be about eternity. Perhaps religious extremism is even more dangerous than drug addiction in that sense.
Can you really become addicted to religion? Well, the risk of any activity or substance becoming an addiction depends in part on the characteristics of the substance or activity, and in part—some experts believe most significantly—on the characteristics of the situation and user.
For even the most intense pleasures—those that tend to create the highest rates of compulsion—most users retain their capacity for autonomy and balance. Most people can ingest a pleasurable neurotoxin like alcohol or even cocaine in moderation, for example, while others find themselves drawn inexorably toward self-destruction. The same can be said about pleasurable activities like sex or gambling. And the same is logically true of religiously-induced pleasures—including intense feelings of euphoria, transcendence, hope, joy, absolution, security, immortality, certitude, purity, purpose, belonging, or superiority.
Chris Scott, a former devout Bible-believer from Phoenix, notes how the euphoric feelings spurred by religion have the potential for poor outcomes. Scott says that his experience was “most definitely” like an addiction. “The best definition of addiction that I’ve ever heard,” he says, “is anything that provides a mood-altering experience but has adjoining negative consequences, and yet the behavior is continued anyways.” The Influence