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Hello, my name is Don and I am a religious addict.

By Don Shafer - ex Christian, ex pastor, ex idiot ~

It's true, I am addicted to Christianity, to Jesus, to God, to the church, to the methods and relationships and the high I get from my involvement in that organization. But like any addiction to a harmful substance, it stole from me, and still will if I indulge. I feel the pull - the twinge to get back involved - my consecrated mind speaks to me - it represents the voice I was taught was really the voice of god - "remember the time you had a group of loving Christians gather around you and pray - remember how good that felt?" Yea, it did, but was it because there was a supernatural god there or just because we all respond to loving people who gather around us and lay hands on us. Of course that feels good. We are made for human touch and attention. The problem with it all is that we have been conditioned to equate those moments with an imaginary god that we are taught to picture in our minds until it feels real. We are given stories to create an image and the image is given details until we each have a picture of how this god is supposed to look and behave. We give the image characteristics - those characteristics vary from church to church, person to person - so this god is very different wherever you go - but real for that person or group just the same. We learn to get in touch with our feelings - our needs and our loving emotions - and mix them up with the idea of god. In a way, this might even be a healthy psychological exercise - if there is no one around to love or be loved by - then imagine one and feel those feelings as if it was really happening. Same results real or imagined, right? The problem with this is it isn't real, it is only imagined.

Religion is a lifestyle - and a ruler - and a cage - it has had thousands of years to perfect its craft - and it involves a person to the core - it demands a buy in that includes all of our thoughts and emotions and desires. It re-organizes our thinking to get us to conform to the group think - and we learn how to train ourselves to become the vessels of this entity we learn to believe in. We become full of it until it spills out of us. It fills our thinking and our behaviors. We learn to check with the teaching before we act or think or be. The teaching affects our thinking until it becomes built in - a part of us - until we cannot tell where our thinking ends and the god think begins.

I could learn to love an inanimate item such as a rock with this same conditioning. I could convince myself that the rock loves me back until I get emotional about it and when someone challenges my relationship with the rock I get angry and upset and feel like I am being persecuted and misunderstood, and even that I must help others fall in love with this rock that I now believe is so wonderful. If I daily sing to the rock and talk to the rock and listen to the rock, I might start thinking I have a relationship with the rock because I am tickling those same emotions that I normally want with a real person.

Religion is a lifestyle - and a ruler - and a cageBut, the illusion breaks down when I start to make demands on the rock. I need the rock to do a miracle - to get me out of a jam - to rescue my daughter from depression or my son from drugs or my family from debt. I pray to the rock - I try to make deals - it takes up my time and energy and I start to feel disappointed so I increase my passion. Maybe I was taught that the rock needs a sacrifice - that I need to stop doing something that comes natural like enjoy my food, so I mix ashes with it. Will the rock accept my sacrifice and be pleased enough with me to give me some attention now? More disappointment. I am told that the rock is angry with me for some reason - there are many reasons the rock should be angry and give me the cold shoulder. I am told its always my fault if the rock doesn't do a miracle. It is my fault that the promises the rock made are unkept. Soon I discover that this relationship is totally one sided - it won't exist unless I do all of the work. My god, the rock, never initiates conversation or surprises me for my birthday with flowers. This rock just sits there and I have to be the one to sing and talk and pray and worship to make it real.

So I come to my senses, but the guilt follows me. I hear the conditioning tell me that I have disappointed the rock, and I will suffer for it. I see a group of rock worshippers and I feel the pull back into fellowship. Like a gambler, I tell myself, maybe it will work if it give it one more chance. Then I get disappointed again and leave again only to return again. Like a real addict.

it takes time to become healed from the conditioning. Our logical minds need to be nurtured again - and our disappointments remembered. A group like ex-Christians helps. it is good to hear the stories of others who gave in to the rock, were burned, abused, disappointed, lied to, and messed with, to help us out of the mind control. For some of us, the illusion went so deep that we still feel the fear and anxiety of trying to please an unpleasable god and being told that we were failing, and our self esteem suffered deep psychological scars. But I believe that in time if we keep moving toward the light of understanding and logic and reconditioning our thinking that we will find the kind of peace and happiness that is available. For some it may require professional therapy.