A friend of mine recently posted a quote by Fredrik Nietzsche on Facebook.
“One loves one’s desires, not the desired.”
My response was to comment on the correlation between desire in this sense and addiction. Since most would agree when someone desires alcohol, chocolate, cigarettes or drugs it’s not the actual, physical thing that’s drawing them to it, it’s their desire that compels them towards consuming it. Inanimate objects do not have the power to force or coerce us to do anything. Instead, it’s our own state of mind that convinces us that we want or need that particular thing.
Now, I have noticed this same correlation between addiction and religion for many years. But at the risk of being labeled a heretic (more so than I probably already am) I’ve kept my mouth shut. But my friend’s post got me to thinking about that connection again and I haven’t been able to get it off my mind. In Church and in the Bible we are told to love God, cherish him and desire him above all else. I would agree.
In my own life I’ve found that when I’m “close with God” that he is all I can think or talk about. But in order to maintain this “closeness” I must listen to Christian music, read christian books, read the Bible, pray, go to church and bible studies and countless other things to “keep me focused on God”. And the longer I go not reading the Bible, listening to other music and not constantly filling my mind with religious things then the less I think about it until God is no longer that important. So my relationship with God becomes a cycle of addiction. I want to think more about God so I start focusing more on Christian things that keep me thinking about God, I keep thinking more about God so I continue to focus on those things. When something breaks the cycle and I “drift away”, “backslide” or get distracted, the cycle begins to crumble.
For years I’ve felt very guilty for thinking about my relationship with God like an addict to cocaine. But maybe that’s exactly what belief is- addiction.
But is this such a bad thing? We as humans need addiction to stay alive. One could go so far as to say that humans have an addiction to oxygen or food. But these are things we need to survive so we never think of our addiction to good things in a negative way. Call me bitter and cynical but even our desire to love and be loved could be called an addiction. We crave it, we want it and we fall into fits of depression when we don’t get it. I think in one sense that’s what Nietzsche was talking about. But getting back to the point, even if a belief in God is an addiction, is that really a bad thing? I’ve found the times in my life when I was most focused and centered of God I was more calm, at peace and in a better state of mind. Never has my addiction to God left me empty, disillusioned and broken like so many other addictions in my life. I’ve gone on drinking binges in which I lost count of the bottles. I’ve gone through weeks of sex and hookups that were nothing more than notches on a belt. And none of these things ever left me at peace, centered or satisfied. Quite the opposite.
I think we as humans judge the severity of the addiction by the mess it leaves the addict in. A sex addict may end up with a warped view of the opposite (or same) sex and at worse could end up with numerous STD’s or even HIV. A drug addict may lose their own life to an addiction. Most negative addictions come with severe consequences. But few would argue that an addiction to love has life threatening consequences. Sure, there are casualties and people have died, been killed or committed suicide from a negative experience with love. But we have yet to see love being banned for being harmful or destructive. I think the same is true of a belief in God. Never have I experienced a harmful or destructive repercussion from my belief in God. On the contrary, through it I’ve avoided some very bad paths and mistakes in my life.
But just to clarify for some who may already be thinking about all the harmful, evil, wicked things that have been done in the name of God and religion- I believe there is a difference between a genuine, deep faith in and love for God and a fanatical devotion to a religion, organization or certain way of thinking. We are too often quick to judge God based upon the people who say they follow him. For example, if an American goes to Brazil, gets drunk and gets into a car accident and kills a bus of children, we would say it’s absurd if the parents of those children wanted President Obama to answer for the deaths of their children. Yes, the drunk was an American citizen and yes maybe he voted for Obama. But Obama didn’t tell him to get drunk and kill those kids. Just the same I don’t believe God tells people to do half the shit they actually do. But in order to justify their actions and to make themselves feel better they use some imagined idea of who they think God is as an excuses to do some of the most horrendous things.
So is it wrong to say that I have an addiction to God? It may sound strange and I may still be called a heretic. But when I come to understand that this is one addiction that won’t leave me broken and empty then I find comfort in that. In Scripture Jesus compares himself to a lot of things; one of those is a well that never runs dry. A drug addict can run out of drugs or the money to pay for them. A sex addict can lose all excitement and interest in “normal” sex and frustrate himself looking for something to arouse him. The reason bad addictions are dangerous is because we don’t abuse them, they abuse us and drain us until we have nothing left. But what if we were addicted to something that never ran out, that always kept us satisfied and always gave more than we took? That’s an addiction I can live with.