“I’ve never been happier since I quit my 30-year addiction to Jesus.” —A former believer
To a medical researcher, the wordaddiction has a specific biological meaning. But in common vernacular, it means approximately this: the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, such as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.
Based on this definition some religious experiences seem a lot like addictions—at least that’s what former believers say.
Blogger and former Christian Sandra Kee looks back at her family history and sees religion and addiction as a messy tangle: “My family for several generations was in a dysfunctional and addictive religious life, using God (or what we believed about God) as a drug. Many of the family who left religion simply traded for another addiction. The generations that entered into religion did so to escape alcoholism and other addictions (though it wasn't called addiction back then). Many who remained in religion developed additional addictions as well.”
Former Mormon Brandon Olson is even more emphatic: “Karl Marx said it right, ‘Religion is the opiate of the masses.’ I'm still recovering from it. Part of my recovery is helping others get free,” says Olson. “I quit believing in a god when I was a teenager, but I was afraid of hell/damnation until I was about 35. It took me until I was 40 to speak up and revoke my LDS cult membership. I am now 50, and I consider religion to be an imposed addiction—no different than holding a baby and shooting it up with small doses of heroin, increasing the doses as the baby grows.”
In recent decades, the idea of recovery from religion has taken root. Recovery websites provide platforms for sharing stories, like exChristian.net, or offer support and help, like RecoveringfromReligion.org. Many draw on the language and strategies of other recovery programs.