The human race has demonstrated a great predilection for addiction. Drug addiction. Alcoholism. Internet addiction. But there's one which nobody seems to recognize even when it is right before their face -- religion addiction. The religious in society laud religiousity -- to the point where they are simply unable to see when one particular adherent has become fixated upon their religious practice to a wholly unhealthy degree. Even atheists seem to ignore this peculiar problem, as they seem to be equally dismissive of all ranks of the faithful without distinguishing those whose faith turns into behavior which would be identified as addictive in any other area.

Imagine, if you will, an exceedingly devoted baseball fan, or Beatles fan, or Harry Potter fan -- and indeed, such people do exist in abundance. But imagine what a person might be like if they crossed the threshold from 'fan' to addict. If they found themselves emotionally unable to go, even hour to hour, without engaging in activities relating to the subject of their fandom. Imagine if they sought to inject the topic of their fandom into their every conversation, no matter how orthogonal to the topic. Imagine the baseball fan who tries to lecture his fellows on the superiority of baseball while they are trying to watch the Super Bowl. Envision the Harry Potter fan who seeks to press the importance of that media empire in the middle of a screening of the Hobbit. Picture a Beatles lover seeking converts to his point of view outside an Iron Maiden concert. And beyond that, imagine the conduct and mindset of such a fan who'd been strictly taught that their fandom was so correct that they would be rewarded for advancing it, and punished for not doing so. To put in a purely addictive frame, imagine a heroin user who'd been indoctrinated with the conviction that using heroin was a sacred act, and refusing to use it was a terrible wrong, one meriting horrific consequences.

Now this enquiry is not intended to engulf those who are simply deeply religious, or passionate in their defense of their faith. But compulsive behavior directed to religious devotion can undoubtedly be harmful to the exhibiting person. In one account, a person raised into a compulsive level of religiousity describes how she "spent literally years injuring myself, cutting and burning my arms, taking overdoses and starving myself, to punish myself so that God doesn't have to punish me." And even for those not inclined to self-injure, addictive behavior can drain away all time for other pursuits. Amongst the most constant in their religious devotion are monks (found in various religions, or with equivalents in them) who lock themselves away in secluded lives of prayer. This is not to suggest that all such people are addicts, but it must be quite the temptation -- a person with a religion addiction becoming a monk or other full-time religious professional is like a compulsive eater working as a chef, a cripplingly obsessed pornography addict becoming the proprietor of a porn store, or an alcoholic pursuing an occupation as a bartender. It seems to be no recipe for a healthfully balanced life.

The deepest problem with religion addiction is the impetus for religious organizations to stonewall any effort to uncover the existence of such a condition, much less to treat it. To "treat" somebody for addiction to a thing is to suggest that the thing itself at least requires moderation. And how would one approach an actual sufferer of a religion addiction? It is the one addiction for which a Twelve Step Program would only make the problem worse!! One treats alcoholism or gambling addictions by giving up alcohol or gambling altogether, but the religious armaments of society would never stand for the suggestion that an individual, no matter how badly harmed by their religious devotion, ought to give up that religion altogether. The situation might be compared to a food addiction, since even the food addict doing everything to overcome their problem must eat to survive. But one can survive without having religion -- and the biological need to eat is one reason why eating disorders can be so hard to overcome. Plenty of people with eating disorders die from them, even knowing they have them and knowing that their compulsions are irrational and against their health. So one must wonder, how many more people die, or suffer a lifetime of destroyed capacity, while living in a society where it is effectively forbidden to identify their especial unusually rigorous compulsion to religion as being a problem at all.

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