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When Religion Is an Addiction

Blog X (Seattle)
Camp (Kansas City)
Liberty Press
Lost Lenore: The Raven Bookstore Gazette
Out In Jersey (Trenton)
The Word (Indianapolis)


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.

Kelly, Lost Lenore: The Raven Bookstore Gazette, November 26, 2011


THE WORD (Indianapolis, IN)

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 beliefs, either.
·  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 Word, June 2008



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 traditional "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



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 driver's seat" of our political system.

— Sheryl LeSage, Liberty Press - October 2007

CAMP (Kansas City)

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?

His earlier 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 Society, 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 own being.

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.”

Minor 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 religious contests.

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 truly.

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?

Minor 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 an “enabler.”

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 faith.

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?

Part 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 addicted ourselves.
Minor’s book prepares us to make the right interventions.

-- The Rev. Vern Barnet, DMn., Camp, September 1, 2007


BLOG X (Seattle, WA)

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 around politics.

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.

The book 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 the rhetoric.

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



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 inappropriate behavior.

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 eternal condemnation.

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 of Christianity.

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 addictions.