It is to my understanding that religion, at its best, is a choice – a choice that manifests one’s conception of humanity in relation to the sacred. Yet, I intend to discuss religion at its worst – religion as an addiction, as a meta-determinant of choice. This is to say that religion harbors the potential to evolve into a subjugating agent akin to drug addiction. To deal in terms of both religion and addiction, I am tasked with incorporating a diversity of disciplines. It is tempting to endeavor into this inquiry with a sense of semantic sensationalism, conducting a cursory assessment of the explicit parallels. Nevertheless, such a method would not do the inquiry justice, nor does it construct an academically sound theory that can be carried forward within the broader discipline of Religious Studies. As such, this essay aims to construct a foundational theory of religious addiction, knitting together a gamut of widely-accepted, precedence-setting academic theories and processes from across the disciplines of Neurobiology, Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy and, of course, Religious Studies. The purpose of this essay is neither to condemn nor diagnose any specific institutions, people groups, or individuals nor is it inversely meant to venerate any specific religion, political ideology, or ethical position. Rather, a theory of religious addiction brings with it a sense of introspective freedom in understanding one’s own self and the opportunity for greater empathy when it comes to conceptualizing the religious experiences and motivations of those around us.
Toler, Adam Chiang, "Religious Addiction" (2019). Undergraduate Student Research Awards. 58.