Friday, December 04, 2009

Religious Experience: Addiction or Transformation?


The purpose of this article is demonstrate the distinctions between addiction and transformation with a view toward disproving the atheist propaganda about religion as addiction and to demonstrate that religious experience is transfromative (dramatically changes life in positive ways). As regular readers of my blog recall Bill Walker tried to convince me to post on some atheist hack site "" I think. It's just another ridicule station for hate group atheism. Walker tries to come on with this great social worker initiation. I'm sick and delusional and weak and I need his help because I'm a stupid Christian self deluded and he's a strong rational atheist know all social worker who is out heal. Atheists are now healers trying to help the poor sick Christians get over their delusions. He pushes a book When God Becomes a Drug (he knows the book so well he even get's the authors name totally wrong). But the begins to sound like a social worker:

There is a book that I think may help you. When God Becomes a Drug.By Bart Aikins.* Please don't feel that this is a criticism of you. You are a victim- one of countless millions. I am rooting for you.

The books is really by Leo Booth. The helping professional initiation get's even thicker in the comments:

Joe, I read all of you post. I know you had a tough time. I'm glad you have that behind you. Bu god/jesus had nothing to do with it. Ple4ase Joe, read " When God Becomes a Drug." Joe this book w2as written for YOU. You have nothing to lose but your delusions. Join us at You will be as welcome as the flowers in May. Share your experiences & your thoughts with us. You may write as a Xian or a former Xian. Many people start with us as Xians, & are 'won over'. But you are very welcome to make posts as a Xian. It is POSSIBLE that you can make some4one revert to Xianity, thru reasoning, tho I haven't seen anyone who did that, to my knowledge. But I reaslly think it will give you the experiences & thoughts of other people who have suffered as you did.

He's so friendly and caring, he just trying to help me. Desite this compassionate helping shirnk-like come on, The folks on Atheist is Dead Blow the lid off this sham by showing us what really happens when one goes on that site to "discuss" from a Christian perspective.

Let us begin with ridicule in the form of name calling. I posted on ExChristian.Net as MarianoApologeticus (since Mariano was already taken when I registered).
Here is a taste:

MoronicusApoligeticus…jerk…load of ****…fundies…trolling for carcasses…MarianoPrevaricatoricus…your pathetic and infantile dumb-****…delusional ********…idiot…dubious drivel…Forgetful Freddy…beat it…Whoop-de-frickin'-doo! You're using your own interpretation of ******** to try to disprove someone else's interpretation of said ********. You may as well go debate some Harry Potter - it's all fiction anyway!...Hahahahahahahahaha, ha, ha, ha…TAKE A HIKE…utter ********…your Apologetic drivel…how deep in your *** you had to dig to…asinine logic…it's time for you to paint your **** white and run with the antelope…your god delusion…MarianoApologeticus (aka Mario-Brothers Aplogetics)…spill your trash…you seem strong in the whine department…Moronic Apologist…Marianorepeaticus…blah, blah, blah…Dumb-***…ye of little gray matter…Grow up…all sorts of stupid, that Christian philosophy is!....****….*******….disrespectful, disingenuous religious person….apologetic horse****….you are a ******* liar….Yoo-*******-hoo….**** off….your sky-daddy….mind-****….keep your distance [expletives removed]

Considering the comparison between addiction and life transformation, let's look at the effects of real addiction long term. this is form a Department of Labor site and it deals with long term effects of drug abuse and alcoholism.

"Addiction, Dependence" (a site by U.S. Dept. Labor)

Addiction is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive use of one or more substances that results in physical, psychological, or social harm to the individual and continued use of the substance or substances despite this harm. Addiction has two possible components, physical dependence and psychological dependence:

Physical dependence – A state of becoming physically adapted to alcohol or other drugs. There are two important aspects to physical dependence:

  • Tolerance – The need for higher and higher doses to achieve the same effects.
  • Withdrawal – The appearance of physical symptoms (e.g., nausea, chills, and vomiting) when someone stops taking a drug too quickly.

Psychological dependence – A subjective sense of need for alcohol or other drug, either for its positive effects or to avoid negative effects associated with no use.

It if had healthy effects they wouldn't talk about it. If it was good for you no one would try to get you to quite. Obviously addiction has bad long term effects or everyone would push being an addict rather than not being one.

What Long term effects of Religious experience have been noticed by the major studies of religious experience?

Long-Term Effects of Religious experience according to major scientific studies:

Wuthnow:(Wuthnow, Robert (1978). "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3), 59-75.)

*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style

Noble: (Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.)

*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion

Religion is the most powerful Factor in well being.

Poloma and Pendelton The Faith Factor: An Annotated Bibliography of Systematic Reviews And Clinical Research on Spiritual Subjects Vol. II, David B. Larson M.D., Natiional Institute for Health Research Dec. 1993, p. 3290.


"The authors found that religious satisfaction was the most powerful predicter of existential well being. The degree to which an individual felt close to God was the most important factor in terms of existential well-being. While frequency of prayer contributed to general life satisfaction and personal happiness. As a result of their study the authors concluded that it would be important to look at a combindation of religious items, including prayer, religionship with God, and other measures of religious experince to begin to adequately clearlify the associations of religious committment with general well-being."

(5) Greater happiness

Religion and Happiness

by Michael E. Nielsen, PhD

Many people expect religion to bring them happiness. Does this actually seem to be the case? Are religious people happier than nonreligious people? And if so, why might this be?

Researchers have been intrigued by such questions. Most studies have simply asked people how happy they are, although studies also may use scales that try to measure happiness more subtly than that. In general, researchers who have a large sample of people in their study tend to limit their measurement of happiness to just one or two questions, and researchers who have fewer numbers of people use several items or scales to measure happiness.

What do they find? In a nutshell, they find that people who are involved in religion also report greater levels of happiness than do those who are not religious. For example, one study involved over 160,000 people in Europe. Among weekly churchgoers, 85% reported being "very satisfied" with life, but this number reduced to 77% among those who never went to church (Inglehart, 1990). This kind of pattern is typical -- religious involvement is associated with modest increases in happiness

That doesn't really seem to be addictive does it? Not in terms of long term effects. The scientific studies on religious experience demonstate that that RE offers one the ability to navigate in life. The transfomrative effects are sucy that one can cope and get through life better.

Navigation in life:

By “navigation” I mean not physically finding our way in the world, not sailing the ocean and knowing where Jamaica is, or finding our way from Detroit to Cleveland, nor do I mean prognostication, or prophecy or using divine knowledge to get around on a daily basis. Rather, I mean finding our way emotionally in life. Mystical experience, religious experience, enables us to know who we are and where we are going, fills us with purpose and gives us a sense that our lives are on track and there a purpose in living. It also enables us to face life’s material trammels and bitter experiences. I am thinking of something more metaphorical, but just as important. The five senses enable us to navigate physically; certain centers in the brain enable us to remember not to try and walk through walls but use the door. This is analogous to the way that RE enables us to navigate. It doesn’t help us walk down the street, it helps us live and make choices and keep going in complex world in which we long for a clue about higher meaning. These experiences give us a sense of self-actualization, which is the basis of self-authentication. We understand who we are in relation to the whole. This is the basis of mythology; it’s the basis of what religion was always about, integration into the universe, and understanding of what life is about and how we fit into the bigger picture. These experiences fit the same kinds of criteria that we use anyway to make judgments about reality. There is no scientific data that gives us ultimate truth. There is no open door to ultimate truth and complete understanding of reality through any scientific or natural means. All we can do is make judgments about epistemology, and we do make them, the extent to which they give us navigation is the extent to which we deem a set of phenomena real. Thus, since RE gives us that same kind of judgment making ability, and for the same reasons (it works) we should construe it as an avenue to truth about the divine. What is said above about self authentication and mental health is good evidence for the mental the statements make above about Allman (1992)(1) Elkins (1995)(2) Shafranske and Malony (1990). (3)

The Sullivan study (1993), which shows therapeutic value in mystical experience. The Richards study (mentioned above) about mystical experience and surviving cancer. Several other studies show therapeutic value in spiritual and religious experience and mystical experience. Pargament (1996) (4) finds five studies find that religious forms of coping are especially helpful to people in uncontrollable or extremely difficult circumstances. Elliot (1994) (5) found that female survivors of childhood sexual abuse who displayed religious belief systems (namely Christian) were less likely to display the symptoms of other females so abused. Himelein and McElrath (1996)(6) find that female survivors of childhood sexual violence who scored high on adjustment scales indicated among positive change brought about by the experience their finding of religious faith. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse found that their religion: “was important in assisting them in making sense of the experience in a manner that served to free them of blame and guilt for the abuse…and gave them the faith to hold on to life and find meaning in their lives. (Valentine and Feinauer 1993 (220).” (7)

There are two problems with using this material. First, Elliot, Himelein and Valentine are not necessarily talking about mystical experience per se (although some are as indicated above). They talk about “religious beliefs,” “religious forms of coping.” It will be seen in chapters five and six that there is a continuum of experience. All believers probably encounter some aspect of mystical experience even though they don’t necessarily have the full blown mystical union. Nevertheless, if a belief system is an effective means of coping then surely we can infer from that that the actual transformative power of that belief system will also be a an effective means of coping. This leads to a discussion of the second problem, that survivors (especially female) of sexual trauma and violence often reject religion and often experience negative aspects associated with religion. These effects are not the result of religious experience such as peak experience, but are associated with the religion of the abuser especially if the abuser put a religious justification on his/her abuse.(8) This is also where mystical experience enters the picture again. The alternative to rejecting religion as whole, that female survivors often take as an alternative is to change religious views, sometimes change religions altogether and to take a more privative and spiritualized practice. This often takes the form of mystical experience. Some researchers, according Ryan find that the violence itself is a occasion for mystical experience and it is theorized that violence can be a trigger.(9) None religious women who have not been forced to associate their abuse with a particular religious tradition often turn to religion and spiritual practice as solace.(10) Irwin found that the more likely a child was to have traumatic events in childhood the more likely the child was to experience paranormal events latter in life.(11) Moreover, it is also been found that as people reach middle age they are more likely to broaden their religious perspective to a point that they see more of a transcendent form of spirituality. Many abuse victims come to view God in more cosmic and impersonal terms, which would be compatible with some forms of mystical experience. Survivors of childhood trauma and abuse often report that they felt the abuser was trying to destroy their soul but that this was the one inviolable core that the abuser could not reach. (12) This should certainly link survival to spiritual experience.

Loretta Do Rozario’s hermeneutic Phenomenological study of those with disabled people indicates the value of peak experience or self transcendence, the transformative power of religious experience.(13) The study was conducted as series of interviews with respondents chosen for disabilities and hardships that they faced (more about the mythology in chapter four, “studies”). The study proceeded based upon two major procedures, analysis of interviews done with respondents and autobiographies the respondents wrote.(14) The findings indicate a set of over all strategies and paradigms that people use to enable them to move forward and survive and deal with their conditions. The major results show that the states of hardship and joy can coexist in the same life at the same time but these depend upon strategies. Mystical experience is not a panacea through which all problems vanish just because one has this experience. But the study does show that the transformative power of religious experience as a whole and mystical experience in particular, is a vital and integral part of making the strategies work. The sense of spiritual unity involves transcendence of the self, thus making suffering bearable. Spiritual awareness (which is clearly an aspect of experience) fosters hope through belief in some greater aspect such as the divine or a cosmic force; religious assurance as a value of traditional beliefs; religious experience along with rituals provides order and meaning; adds to the sense of an existential journey in which the sufferer is growing and progressing, and the idea of purgatory enables one to separate oneself from suffering. (15)

The findings of this study put the experience of having an illness or disability into an overall context of a person’s universal search for meaning and self transcending. This can be likened to Victory Frankl’s belief, based upon his experience of living in a Nazi concentration camp, that ‘suffering ceases to be suffering in some way at the moment it finds a meaning…and that through suffering one is given a last chance to actualize the highest value to fulfill the deepest meaning…’ People in this study concurred with this personal and contextual interpretation of illness and disability, by reaffirming that the process of meaning making was similar to that of the mythology of the hero and heroine’s journey, which depicts a universal journey from a separation of self to a return to ‘true self…’ The inner awareness of wholeness despite all the odds points to an implicit experience of life which can transcend form and matter. This experience of wholeness or consciousness extends and challenges the view of disability and illness as only a meaning making and revaluing opportunity in the lives of people. Instead, the model of wholeness and reconstitution point to the possibility of an implicit order of consciousness or wholeness in which people who have undergone some crisis or critical incident in their lives may be able to access and experience a ‘deeper reality’ or ‘flow’ in life…similar to the insights of the great religions (author points to social psychologist Csikentmihalyi).(16)

Thus the “shared” aspect of the experience is not in terms of physical navigation the world, not shared perception of objective objects, but the “inter-subjective” similarities of navigation in life. RE is an integral aspect of the spiritual and psychological wherewithal that we all need to “make it” to bear up under the material trammels and horrific disappointments and tragedies that life brings our way. Just as the same kinds of experiences, the same emotional and para-senstory features are experienced by people the world over so the same coping ability and meaning and journey to wholeness is also experienced through RE.

We can boil down what is meant by "transformation" to the simple two things: (1) Are you happier? (2) are you functional? "Happier" compered to the "before conversion." If you can't say
"Yes" to both of these then something is wrong with your religious experience. Not to say that it was not a valid religious experience, but something in the current practice has gone wrong, and quite probably the answer is to look at the group you are in. I call your attention to a study foot noted below. That study is: D.M. Elliot, “the Impact of Christian Faith on the Prevalence and Sequelae of Sexual Abuse (fn5). This study says that when religion is used by absuers of children it tends to make the children turn out to hate religion, and it magnifies the effects of the trauma. The atheist propaganda machine is sure to sieze upon this and say "see, religion makes you into a child abuser." Of cousre that's not anything like what the study says. The study is not about the causes of child abuse. But wehat I'm sure hey will ignore of take out of context is that the study also shows that when victims of childhood abuse (this is speaking mainly sexual) aer able to use religion as a buffer or for solice it's very effective and can be psychologically healing. The determining factor is weather or not the absuer is able to force the child to link the abuser to God or not.

Rather than proving that religion makes you into a child abuser, what this actually means is that religin is very powerful, and it depends upon how it's used as to weather or not it's harmful. Those who link the absuer to God are often the super literalism, the authoritarian, the one who imposes religion upon the child in the form of legalism, wrather, atuhority without temporing it with love and understanding. Of course if the abusers understood love they would not be abusers. That's the whole point of the Christian message is love. If you screw that up and turn God's love into something perverted its a very powerful weapon that can crush the psyche of a child. When people are able to sense the presence of God they are healed by God's love. This is not my opinion nor it is the regurgitation of sundae school cliches, this all over the studies. The essence of the sense of the numinous is an all pervasive sense of divine love permeating all of reality. The abuser does not experience the love of God, is not a mystic, does not have the numinous and is in the dark about the true essence of religion and thus iposes an er zots form of religion that is a perversion of the actual thing itself. That is my own extrapolation from the studies but I think I can back it up pretty well.

We all know what the Atheist propaganda machine will do with this. It's the "no true Scotsman fallacy," they will say. For them that means if one moron who calls himself a "Christian" however badly he/she exemplifies the faith, that person must be the essence of Christianity and is proof that Christianity is evil. But none of hte good things Christians do represent true Christianity but are adde on because they are human and humans are good or whatever. They are basically essentialist. Christianity has the evil essence of Religion and no amount of clensing can change it. In all religous belief their lurks the hidden Hitler waiting to get and kill some Jews and abuse some kids. Of course it's pretty transparent why these people say such thing. It's clear the "ex Christians" at "" are probably suffering form this sort of er zots religion in the first place.

When Walker says :

I know you had a tough time. I'm glad you have that behind you. Bu god/jesus had nothing to do with it. Ple4ase Joe, read " When God Becomes a Drug." Joe this book w2as written for YOU.
He could not be absurdly wrong. He's taking the book he use out of context because the Priest who wrote it certainly does not agree with Walker that religion itself is to blame, then of curse he's being extremely patronizing to assume that he knows my situation better than I do, he doesn't' even listen when I talk about what things actually enabled me to cope and kept me from suicide (which I did intend at one point) so he's not even allowing me to have my own life or my own experiences, he's so certain that he has to be right that he dictates to me what my experiences were and what got me through them. His entire position is groundless because he doe snot have even a signle to back him up, he's flying in the face of 300 empirical studies that say he's full of it, and the one the book he does use he's taken so out of context he doesn't even know the author's name.

The over all point I make is this: religous epxeirnce, if it is genuine, does relate to a reality beyond ourselves and it is proved scientifically that it is more likely to give the strength to cope with life than is anything else. Certainly more the mocking ridiculing know nothings on atheist boards who have no data to back up their hateful claims except that which they steal from sources they don't understand. Don't listen to their lies. Don't be afraid to trust God. The scientific data shows that we can trust whatever that is that we experience when we have those experiences. I call it "God." You can trust God. What you can't trust is people. Don't turn your psyche over to other people, even if you understood therapy with a qualified shrink don't just turn yourself over, be an active participant in your therapy. Any shrink that wont let you participate actively in your own therapy is a fraud. Don't be afraid to trust God. All you have to do to trust God is not freak out and believe that God will help you. That's it. You don't have to do anything, you don't have to risk anything. If someone tells you to give them your money they are probably a con man. Don't listen to the lies of atheists, don't be afraid to read the Bible. Seek to understand the Bible. Understanding is the key not fear. Religious belief is not an addiction, mocking and ridiculing people to make yourself feel better is an addiction.

[1] L.S. Allman, L.S., Dela, R.O., Elins, D.N., & Weathers, R.S. (1992). Psychotherapists attitude towards mystical experiences. Psychotherapy, 29, 564-569.

[2] Elkins, D.N. (1995). “Psychotherapy and spirituality: Toward a theory of the soul”. Journal ofHumanistic Psychology, 35, 78-98.

[3] E.P. Shafranske and H.N. Malony, “Clinical Psychologists Religious and Spiritual Orientations And Their Practice of Psychotherapy.” Psychotherapy, 7, 72-78

[4] K.I. Pargament, in Patricia L. Ryan, “Spirituality Among Adult Survivors of Childhood Violence A Literature Review.” Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol. 30,no. 1 (1998) 41.

[5] D.M. Elliot, “the Impact of Christian Faith on the Prevalence and Sequelae of Sexual Abuse.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 9(1) (1994) 95-108.

[6] M.J. Heimelein and McElrath, Childhood Sexual Survivors, Cognitive Coping and Illusion.” Child Abuse and Neglect, 20 (8), (1996) 747-758.

[7] L Valintine and LL. Feninuer. “Resistance Factors Associated With Female Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse.” The American Journal of Family Therapy, 21 (3) (1993) 216-224.

[8] Ryan, 41-46.

[9] Ibid, 47

[10] Ibid, 42

[11] H.J. Irwin, “Childhood Trauma and the Origin of Paranormal Belief: A Constructive Replication.Psychological Reports. 74 (1) (1994) 107.

[12] Ryan 43, see Gamje-Fling and McCarthy.

[13] Loretta Do Rozario, “Spirituality in the Lives of People With Disability and Chronic Illness: A Creative Paradigm of Wholeness and Reconstitution.” Disability and Rehabilitation: An International and Multidisciplinary Journal.Vol 19, no 10 (1997) 427

[14] Ibid. 428

[15] Ibid, 430-431

[16] Ibid. 433

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