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Christian Religious Addiction in Hawaii?

Surveys show that religion and spirituality play a central role in the lives of most of the population in human experience. Gallup (1989) found that 53% of the U. population considers religion to be very important in their life, and another 31% considered it fairly important (p. 176). The religious and spiritual dimensions of culture were found to be among the most important factors that structure human experience, beliefs, values, behavior, and illness (Browning et al.

, 1990; James, 1961; Krippner and Welch, 1992). Researchers however, report that some individuals have problems that concern their religion. Members of the American Psychological Association reported that at least one in six of their clients presented issues that involve religion or spirituality (Shafranske and Maloney, 1990). In another study, 29% of psychologists agreed that religious issues are important in the treatment of all or many of their clients (Bergin and Jensen, 1990, p. 3).

Psychotherapy can sometimes be effective in treating religious problems. Robinson (1986) noted, "Some patients have troublesome conflicts about religion that could probably be resolved through the process of psychotherapy" (p.22). Religious problems can be as various and complex as mental health problems. One type of psychoreligious problem involves patients who intensify their adherence to religious practices and orthodoxy (Lukoff, Lu, and Turner 1992, p. 677). Generally when people speak of addictive diseases they imply a medical problem. In the past few years the term addiction has been used to characterize behaviors that go beyond chemicals. Dr. Robert Lefever (1988) views addiction as a "family disease" involving self-denial and caretaking, domination, and submission (p.

ix). Gerald May (1988) states that addiction is a "state of compulsion, obsession, or preoccupation that enslaves a person's will and desire" (p.14). Shaef (1987) defines addiction as "any process over which we are powerless" (p. 18). She divides addictions into two categories: substance addictions -alcohol, drugs, nicotine, food) and process addictions -money-accumulation, gambling, sex, work, worry, and religion. Research in the area of religious addiction is deficient, however there were a few older related studies found in the literature. Simmonds (1977) reports that there is some evidence to indicate that "religious people in general tend to exhibit dependency on some external source of gratification" (p. 114). Black and London (1966) found a high positive correlation between the variables of obedience to parents and country and indices of religious belief such as church attendance, belief in God and prayer (p.

39). Goldsen, et al. (1960) showed that people who were more religious consistently showed tendencies toward greater social conformity than did the nonreligious, a finding consistent with the notion that religious people seek external approval. These results are supported by Fisher (1964 p. 784), who reported that a measure of social approval and religion were strongly associated. Religious people show dependence not only on social values, but also on other external agents. Duke (1964, p. 227) found that church attendance indicated more responsiveness to the effects of a placebo. In a study of 50 alcoholics, it was found that those who were dependent on alcohol were more likely to have had a religious background (Walters, 1957, p. 405).

The few research studies aforementioned seem to suggest that religious people develop a dependency on religious practices for social approval. Since religious people seem to be describable in terms of relatively high levels of dependence, it seems useful to borrow a concept suggested by Peele and Brodsky (1975)- that of "addiction." According to these writers addiction is "a person's attachment to a sensation, an object, or another person. such as to lessen his appreciation of and ability to deal with other things in his environment, or in himself, so that he has become increasingly dependent on that experience as his only source of gratification" (p. 168). There are a variety of definitions for the concept of religious addiction. Arterburn and Felton (1992) state that "when a person is excessively devoted to something or surrenders compulsively and habitually to something, that pathological and physiological dependency on a substance, relationship, or behavior results in addiction" (p. 104). They indicate that, "like any other addiction, the practice of religion becomes central to every other aspect of life.


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