I Need a Fix
As a recovering drug addict I'm very familiar with addiction. I understand that need to get a fix. I also understand that addiction goes beyond drugs. More than anything it is a mindset that the user holds on to. We do not think we can make it through life without a crutch to lean on. Most of us suffer from a lack of self-confidence and little if any self-esteem. But not all of us indulge in drug use as our crutch. Indeed, there is an addiction that more people on this planet indulge than any other.
Nietzsche once called religion the opiate of the masses. Like myself, he saw that people are addicted to religion. It is the crutch that the majority of humans use to get by in life. It is the most used and abused drug mankind has ever known. The side effects of this drug are as bad as any other drug and worse than some. These side effects, such as bigotry and a superiority complex, affect all those around the user. Just like any other drug, it is often those close to us who suffer from our addiction. It tears apart families and destroys friendships. It pushes people out of your life who otherwise would stand by your side. Worst of all, the user is often so clouded in a haze of their chosen addiction that they either can't see the side effects or they just don't care.
The Pusher Man
There are two types of people who sell drugs. There are dealers who simply have the substance and let others who want it come and get it. Then there is the pusher man. The pusher is the man on the street corner peddling his wares to all who pass by. They'll sell to a kid or anyone else who they can convince to buy their product.
The holy man is a pusher. He doesn't just provide a service that others have asked for. He's constantly looking to make new addicts because this increases his profit margin. He'll tell you that the family and friends you lose are because they don't understand how good the drug is. If they would just try the dope they'd understand. So they ask their users to go give the dope to others. They ask you to spread it around and send them to him so he can get them really hooked. Many drugs only take one use to get you hooked and the religious pusher man knows that his dope is one of those that'll get you hooked quick.
Like most drugs, religion makes you feel good. It fills you with a sense of contentment and a false sense of happiness. By the time you see what you've lost due to your addiction, it's often too late to do anything about it. This often just feeds the addiction and turns an addict into a junky. Many people never see the damage the dope is doing and simply write off anyone who won't accept their addiction. In the end, the addict is often left either alone or hanging out in the dope man's house with all the other junkies.
Most addicts don't like being told that they have a problem. We will make excuses and halfhearted apologies or just outrightly fight with those who simply want to help us. Once we get deep enough into our addiction, we usually develop an us versus them mentality and feel that anyone who doesn't support us in our addiction is against us.
We see this same mindset from the religious addicts as well. When we point out the sexism and homophobia and other bigotries their religions endorse, they get defensive and claim that we are attacking their beliefs. But the reality is that this mindset is no different than a crackhead that gets mad at you because you asked them not to come back to their house because you caught them stealing from your wallet. They think that simply because they are entitled to make whatever bad decisions they want or hold onto any bad idea they want, that others are simply supposed to accept that behavior. But we aren't obligated to respect such poor behavior and we aren't obligated to accept how their poor behavior affects the rest of us.
The only thing that can break an addiction is to first notice and accept that you're an addict, accept that your behavior affects others, and have a personal desire to correct that behavior. Atheist groups and communities are rehab centers for recovering religious addicts. We seek to remind each other of just how silly our addiction was and we seek to possibly open the eyes of some current addicts. And we do so by asking one simple question - Isn't it time to give up the ghost?
Photo Credits: Michael Velardo