Professor emeritus of religion at the University of
Kansas, Minor has written a sane, soothing guide for
people confused by the occasionally frantic press of
the destructive ideas and abuse of the ultra religious
around them. Just as people must learn how to negotiate
family members with any kind of addiction, those with
friends and family for whom religion functions as a
very real addiction will find great advice and solace
in this thin book. Recommended by Kelly.
Lenore: The Raven Bookstore Gazette, November
You’ve probably seen the ads on TV. The latest
Christian pop rock group is touting their greatest
album ever. A male announcer extols the wonders of
this “amazing, life-changing music,” while
the camera pans a coliseum filled with concert-goers
who are all smiling, weeping, waving their arms in
the air, and indulging in a veritable religious frenzy.
So what’s the problem? We have freedom of speech
and religion here in America, right? People can order
whatever music they like, right? Christians can have
their own special rock groups, concerts, and CDs, right?
Well, sure, but here’s the thing: the
people in these ads look and act like they’re
drunk or stoned. These ads promote more than just an
album or a rock group; they promise the buyer a religious “high.” And
it’s never a good thing to be swept into mindlessness,
whether the mood-altering influence is drugs, alcohol,
or even religion.
This is the courageous and controversial premise of
author Dr. Robert Minor’s new book, When
Religion is an Addiction. Minor has earned
critical acclaim for two earlier works, Scared
Straight and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society.
I predict he will earn high marks from all thinking
religious people who read this newest work too, but
that he will also take fire from others, especially
those whom he describes as “religious addicts.”
Here is a synopsis of key points that promise to bring
both praise and consternation:
· Religion has little to do with God.
It is far more concerned with the institutionalized
expression of a given group’s beliefs, most of
which involve social, political and economic matters,
rather than purely spiritual ones.
· Religion accomplishes nothing for humanity, except to
provide justification for us to promote ourselves, persecute those who believe
differently, and even wage war.
· Obsessive religiosity parallels substance addiction. Like
all addicts, religious addicts are often medicating disturbing aspects of self,
frequently sexual feelings, including same-sex attractions or pedophilia. Remember
the countless Catholic priests who sexually abused children, and the anti-gay
evangelists whose secret, same-sex peccadilloes were ultimately exposed.
· Religious addicts promote the belief that humanity is
so evil that only God can conquer our sinfulness, and only then through annihilating
us. Meanwhile all we can do is to accept our fate and cope as best we can.
This view is supposed to reassure us that God is all powerful, but actually
leaves us helpless and leads to our own victimization.
· The traditional inclusive liberal response, i.e. “to
each his own beliefs,” has enabled addictive religion to set the political
agenda for our entire nation, promoted by a colluding media and government
officials who have blurred the lines between church and state and subverted
our constitution with impunity.
This is strong and alarming stuff indeed, but Minor
makes his case so cogently that it is hard to argue
otherwise. Fortunately, he leaves us with some hope.
There are “interventions” he says that
can be effective in overcoming religious addiction.
But they are not for the faint of heart or peacemaking
type. We can’t just “play nice and
get along” with the addict. Addiction must be
confronted and its control over our lives reversed.
Here are some steps Minor suggests:
· Examine your own relationship to religion.
Do you come to your beliefs openly and freely? Or do
you carry baggage from your past, some shame or guilt
possibly, that exercises a compulsive, negative influence
on your beliefs?
· Learn to distinguish addictive from non-addictive religion.
Remember that religious addicts presume to know God’s wishes for everyone,
allowing them to judge and condemn others, rationalizing their own divisive “for-or-against-us” thinking.
· Get the religious addict “out of the driver’s seat” through
non-codependent, non-addictive strategies. Stop trying to figure out the addiction
or the addict. Don’t argue with addicts and don’t let them
get you off topic by confusing you. Stick with your view of reality and stay
on message yourself.
· Take responsibility for what you believe to be true and right.
Don’t blame God, the Bible or tradition for your beliefs and stands.
Don’t let religious addicts use these things to dissuade you from your
· Finally, don’t do any of the above alone, and be gentle
with yourself. Find or create communities of support.
While Minor’s latest work is a worthwhile read
that I highly recommend, I can’t say it’s
an easy or fun one. Don’t misunderstand me here.
His thinking is brilliant, and his clear, fluid prose
a pleasure to digest. What’s hard is the point
he makes that addictive religion has become such a
dark, disturbing, yet powerful influence on our national
psyche. It’s just so convincing and thus so frightening.
But perhaps that’s a good thing. We should all
be afraid -- be very afraid -- of the negative
role addictive religion plays in American life today. Hopefully
that fear will awaken and motivate us to fight back.
— Fred Schloemer, Ed.D., LCSW, The
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Politics has the righteous right-wingers on an addictive
trip much like a crack fix that's being enabled by
the rest of us.
Robert N. Minor, Ph.D, Professor of Religious Studies
at the University of Kansas and the Lambda Award wining
author of Scared Straight and Gay & Healthy
in a Sick Society, charges that most evangelists
are literally addicted to their religion. Minor draws
parallels with the behaviors of alcoholics, gamblers
and drug addicts... and those who enable them.
It's no secret that the morally righteous among us
have been on a political bender for years advancing
their beliefs through activism instead of church activities.
The dirty secret, however, is that everyone else is
to blame. In When Religion Is an Addiction,
a book guaranteed to generate hate mail, Minor places
the responsibility for the politically successful obsessions
of the fervent right wing squarely on liberals.
This is a compelling and eye-opening look as such
topics as the recognizable differences between addictive
and non-addictive religion, the conservative Christian
teaching that people are so evil and lost, they deserve
eternal punishment, how religious addicts blame God
for their beliefs and activities, how addictive religion
is often used to cover sexual addiction, and how the
"nice" liberal response hasn't worked.
Written for both the left and the right, the book
is a first step for both in naming the disease while
demystifying its dynamics, providing hope, and allowing
the non-addicted to act in ways that are more effective
-- without liberal doses of guilt. For anyone trying
to deal with the destructive powers of addictive religion
in either American politics or on a personal level,
with a family member, friend or co-worker, this is
a clear, practical and "how-to"
book of immense value and usefulness.
-- Toby Grace, Out in Jersey, April-May 2008
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On a far more serious note, Liberty Press' own Robert
Minor has a new book out: When
Religion is an Addiction (HumanityWorks!
$14.95). This book takes an interesting stance
regarding that small group of people who can't be
reasoned with (the extremists of the Evangelical movement,
young-Earth creationists, etc.) and suggests that
instead of either ignoring them (too dangerous for
us), or trying to be nice to them (doesn't work), we
should isolate them and instead concentrate on those
people in the middle whose opinions can actually be
changed by reality.
Minor uses "addiction" as
a literal description here: people who are addicted
to their religion act out of fear, secretiveness and
defensiveness, and lash out when they think their "substance" is
being threatened. I like it. I especially like the
fact that the book can serve as a useful manual for
action, rather than just another hand-wringing eulogy
for our rights.
What we need now, and what Minor provides
here, is a way to take these people "out of the
of our political system.
— Sheryl LeSage, Liberty Press - October
Is there anyone who better understands the full measure
of continuing discrimination against LGBT people — from
the family to the workplace — and who writes about
it with such passion as Dr. Robert Minor?
books, Scared Straight:
Why It’s So
Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard
to Be Human and Gay & Healthy in a Sick
have helped readers understand the origins of prejudice,
how all forms of oppression share a common root and how
everyone, whatever his or her sexual identification,
is demeaned by having to play a role in our society,
rather than encouraged to discover the richness of one’s
Through his books Minor furthers insights of
the late international human liberation leader Charlie
Kreiner, who was unable to publish much during his short
lifetime but affected many of us in Kansas City during
six or eight workshops when we brought him here or when
we went to his workshops on the coasts.
In his new book, When
Religion is an Addiction, Minor,
professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas,
tackles the religious right by questioning a typical
strategy of the religious left to seek common ground.
Minor quotes Robert Frost: “A liberal is a man
too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.”
says liberals eschew the sound-bite type of communication
he associates with “right-wingers,” and doubts
that liberal attempts at nuance often succeed in such
As an example, Minor opens Chapter
7 by citing a certain religious “liberal” who
writes “a popular
column for a mainstream daily newspaper.” That’s
me, writing each Wednesday in The
Kansas City Star.
He says I was “no . . .match” on a local
public TV station against a “right-wing minister
of a suburban mega-church who "had grabbed
the [local and national]" spotlight by pushing
a successful amendment to his state’s constitution
to ban marriage equality for gay citizens.”
Minor says “the columnist” had his facts
straight, his arguments were cogent and his preparation
included biblical material. The columnist “was
polite, reasoned and inoffensive to everyone. And, as
a progressive friend of mine commented, the right-winger
ate him alive,” Minor reports.
I’m not sure
I have the objectivity to judge whether what Minor calls
Johnston’s “arrogant and
condescending” authoritarian tone was more appealing
to the viewers than the “nice” tone of yours
What I do know is that Minor rightly raises questions
that trouble many of us. When you are called a fag, does
it make sense to tolerate the person hurling that epithet
hatefully or even threateningly? How can a tolerant person
accept intolerance? How do we respond to those who want
to use government to enforce their own religious views
on everyone else? Or perhaps more important, how do we
not respond to the right-wingers and instead focus our
attention on those who are actually open to hearing about
marriage equality or whatever our issues might be?
intensifies his criticism of liberals by calling them “enablers” of
those addicted to the high that comes from thinking one
is absolutely right in matters of faith.
He draws a parallel
to family and friends of alcoholics who cover up or excuse
the problem, enabling the alcoholic to deny the addiction.
A liberal who declines to point out religious addiction
because of respect for all religious perspectives is
Many serious studies support
Minor’s analysis that
religion can be addictive and destructive not only to
the fanatic but also to those who fail to challenge toxic
As for that columnist, well, would it be too liberal
for him to write that while he respects Minor’s
viewpoint, the columnist wonders if it is possible to
build upon a sense of the sacred even with right-wingers?
of me says no, part says yes.
On one hand, you often cannot
reason with an addict or sustain a relationship of mutuality.
Rather than feeding the addict with attention, your energy
can be more constructive elsewhere.
On the other hand,
the goal is not just to win an argument but to win a
friend and move civilization forward. Otherwise we become
Minor’s book prepares us to make the right interventions.
-- The Rev. Vern Barnet, DMn., Camp, September
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When Religion is an Addiction is
an interesting book for the sociological heads out there.
I know there’s a few of you that read this
blog, and so this book is going to fit in right at home
with your collection of literary pieces.
The book is a
commentary on how the Christian right has overtaken the
identities of Americans to an extent that thinking is
no longer common place, and that anything not religiously
tinged is not the right thing to pursue, or maintain.
So bad is the addiction, that the corporations are capitalizing
through the media and the ammunition in the guns is centralized
The book goes on to blame liberals for
allowing conservatives to trump in and takeover thanks
to religious tones, for many years. By not wanting to
offend conservatives, liberals have really taken themselves
out of the equation of sorts, and let themselves be run
over into a new status in the U.S that is feeding off
of religious pressures, rather than the good of a larger
audience or body.
This book is full of heavy handed language,
and pulls no punches. I was surprised, not by the tone
or voice, but the shortage of pages. I would figure this
book to be longer, given the subject matter, but it really
is shorter than expected, but packs so much information
in its packaging, that you might have to read it twice
to get it all. It’s really an interesting book
that will find its home in many different homes.
falls apart, for me, in that it is so focused on one
thing, that it is not going to get the main audience
appeal that needs to read this. It seems that the book
is too smart for its own good, and if you’re not
well equipped to already understand religion and politics
with a historical background, you’re going to be
left in the dust, as the author really pushes forward,
with the idea that you’re smart enough to handle
I wouldn’t recommend this book to
everyone, but the premise is so interesting, that you’ll
be hard pressed not to pick it up. This is definitely
a book that will fit in your sociology book case, but
not necessarily one that is going to haunt you in the
middle of the night, for not reading.
- Sir Jorge, Blog
X, March 31, 2008
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There are many books on the
topic of unhealthy faith and religious addictions. This
reviewer’s library has several other books on the
same topic. Minor’s book is one of the better books
this reviewer has read. Minor is able to write in a very
clear, concise manner.
A person writing on religious addictions can easily
come across as being anti-religious. Robert Minor takes
a clear position early in the book. When Religion is
an Addiction does not run down religion or Christianity.
Minor does not feel blaming religion for personal or
societal problems is appropriate.
In addictive religion, there is a tendency for people
to be so consumed by God, the Bible, and the church that
personal issues are not addressed. Instead of religion
being a positive healthy aspect of one’s life,
religion is stands in the way of good health.
There are religious highs. An intense religious high
can be compared to the high a person gets from a drug.
The need to feel good, to get a religious high, is intense
for many people, because they are struggling to feel
good in the face of the condemnation of original sin,
fear of abandonment by God, and the sense they deserve
eternal damnation and punishment. Not being able to keep
the religious high is seen as a personal fault.
Religion can be a way for people to avoid taking responsibility
for their personal actions. Those who have religious
addictions often blame God or the Bible for what they
do. In a strange twist, people with religious addictions
end up blaming God, not the devil, for some of their
People have an addictive personality may have more than
one addiction. Minor makes the point that religious and
sexual addictions can go hand-in-hand. The number of
clergy and media evangelists who are disgraced by inappropriate
sexual conduct prove his point.
Minor believes religious addictions explain some of
the political dynamics seen in the United States. He
believes the constant search for a bigger spiritual high
leads some Christian leaders to exert strong political
pressure on elected officials. Political victories help
the addictive spiritual personality feel safer, less
threatened by secular society, and less deserving of
Robert Minor explains how he feels many liberal Christians
have acted as enablers for conservative American Christians
who have a religious addiction. According to Minor, liberal
Christians need to offer a very public alternative vision
In the last chapter, Robert Minor explains some ways
people can respond to people in their lives who have
religious addictions. The strategies presented can help
keep a person from hurt by other people’s spiritual
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