Monday, March 18, 2013

Religious Addiction v. Religious Conversion

            My comments today are about the idea of “religious addiction,” how it is different from conversion, and why it is detrimental to society. I know it isn't about being a mom, or even really about being an author, but it's something I've thought a lot about and want to share. 
            Before I begin, I’d like to say that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I believe in the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith said is “the most correct of any book on earth,” and I believe that man will “get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (Introduction of The Book of Mormon). Likewise, I believe the LDS religion is the most correct religion, and that man can get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other religion. It has brought joy into my life, and I enjoy sharing the Gospel with others who might also benefit from the joy I’ve found through the LDS doctrine.
However, while I believe in the everlasting Gospel, in God and His Son, and in modern day revelation, I still believe that my church is run by people, and people are not (and never will be) perfect. I believe God’s Word is totally correct, but I don’t think we necessarily have all of it right all the time, as imperfect beings. 
Therefore, I believe my church is the most correct church, if not the only church or moral philosophy that has any truth to offer. Everyone has lived different lives, believed different things, and been in different stages of spiritual growth throughout their mortal experience, and I truly believe that most people, whether they belong to my church, a different church, or no church at all, are just trying to be the best they can, whatever that means for them at that time.
And that is why I find it so horrifying that religious addiction exists. Religious addiction has been the source of persecution, genocide, war, and despair throughout history (consider the Crusades or the Middle East, which are NOT the only examples), and Latter-day Saints are not blameless. There are many out there who are addicted to their religion, not converted to it, and that saddens me greatly.
What is religious addiction, you ask? Well, Psychology Today says that “addiction is a condition that results when a person…engages in an activity that can be pleasurable but the continued use of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work or relationships, or health. Users may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.” Religious addiction is the same as any other addiction. You receive pleasure in the feeling you get when you serve others, or live righteously, or when you think ahead to the promised blessings if you follow God, but you do it because you think you must, or because you like how it feels, or because everyone else is doing it. Not because your heart has been changed.
I read an article in a Postmodern Literature class I took at BYU that outlines symptoms of religious addiction. It’s copyrighted by Paschal Baute, and it is adapted from When God Becomes a Drug, by Leo Booth. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering the entire list, and you should look at it. But for my purposes today, I’d like to focus on the symptoms of religious addiction that cause people to belittle, persecute, be contentious toward, and judge anyone who doesn’t believe exactly as they do. I believe that religious addiction exists, and I believe that it is not the same as religious conversion.

  • …rigid [and] obsessive adherence to rules
  • Uncompromising judgmental attitudes: readiness to find fault or evil out there
  • Conflict and argumentation with science, medicine, and education
  • Progressive detachment from the real world, isolation and breakdown of relationships
  • Manipulating scripture or texts … claiming to receive special messages from God
  • Attitude of righteousness or superiority: "we versus the world," including the denial of one's human-ness.
The ultimate temptation of the believer is to assume that his or her way to God is the best or only way for others. The particular Way to God becomes what is adored, not [God himself].

            This list is filled with a lot of negative words: Rigid, obsessive, uncompromising, judgmental, conflict, argumentation, detachment, isolation, manipulation, denial—Now, take Christianity. None of those words describe Christ. We can’t be like Him, if this is what we are instead. Religious addiction results in a lack of love and respect for others, and it has harmed humanity.
Your way might not be the best and only way, so work on improving yourself, not on improving others. You can share your beliefs; you can have discussions, but don’t be self-righteous. Be open-minded, and accept the good in all religions and philosophies, while deciding for yourself what is true and what is not…for you. This will lead you to conversion, as well as keep you from addiction. One leads to positive behaviors and attitudes, the other to destructive ones.
            Man is that he might have joy. Find happiness in your conversion, and let it change your heart to make you a better person. If you’re grouchy, filled with guilt, or judgmental because of the religion you practice, then you probably are not converted. Maybe you’re even addicted. Let your fruits be charity, love, and kindness, not intolerance, superiority, or contention. What you do shows who you really are. Are you converted? Or are you simply addicted?

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1 comment:

  1. Excellent writing Jillian!!! Very provoking thoughts....