Religion is a specific system of belief, worship, conduct, a code of ethics, and a philosophy of living. It usually involves belief in a divine power or creator. The word comes from a Latin root that means to bind together. Religious people bind themselves to each other and to their Higher Power through their beliefs and a community of kindred spirits.

Religiosity is the quality of being extremely or excessively religious. It concerns the trappings of religion and the potential to manipulate people in the name of a certain religion or religious doctrine.

Religious Addiction

Religiosity describes attitudes and beliefs that a person feels are the ultimate, only, and unquestionable truth. The extreme of these attitudes can be described as religious abuse and religious addiction. These are characterized by:

  • A hunger for power
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Excessive guilt and shame or self-righteousness
  • Dichotomous thinking
  • Ideas that conflict with science
  • Family dysfunction
  • Authoritarianism
  • Denial of reality
  • Rigidity
  • Idolatry
  • Covert hypocritical behavior


Throughout history there have been prominent religious personalities who have become involved in scandals relating to sex, money, power, and other activities, violating the trust of their followers. It is not hard to see addictive behavior involved in these transgressions. You may also remember an extreme case such as the Guyana tragedy involving Jim Jones.


Satanic cults are perhaps the most shocking example of religiosity or religious addiction, and are more common than most of us would feel comfortable knowing. Cult leaders can work their members into such a state that they actually sacrifice children and brutally torture people, both from within and from outside the cult. Many of those who survive these activities become ‘severely scarred emotionally. Alcohol, drugs, sex, and other addictive behaviors are integrated into the whole mess.

Power Trip

Religiosity is the ultimate power trip. Nothing comes close to it for its potential to control and manipulate the faithful. It is easy to see the altered states of consciousness in any of, the more dramatic religious activities. Some fundamentalist revivals, the “Whirling Dervishes” of Turkey who dance themselves into a frenzy, and other emotional ceremonies and rituals involve plenty of neurochemistry.

Many religions, of course, supplement the emotional effects with drugs, from alcohol to peyote.


Every aspect of addiction that we discuss in this manual can apply to religious addiction: physical, emotional, mental, and of course, spiritual. Recovery is difficult, because people “stung” by religiosity often take an antispiritual attitude that makes it hard for them to work a Twelve-Step recovery. There is a group called Fundamentalists Anonymous, but they are not a Twelve-Step group and they do not use a Higher Power. See the page on Secular Spirituality.

Fr. Leo

Father Leo Booth, an Episcopal priest who is a recovering alcoholic, speaks out candidly on the subject of religious abuse and addiction in When God Becomes a Drug: Breaking the Chains of Religious Addiction and Abuse (1991). He says that religious abuse lies at the core of shame that fuels most addictions and codependency; it is often the cause of relapse or chronic depression. Healthy spirituality, he says, is positive, creative self-acceptance.

Religiosity, see also: Addiction, Arousal, Bingeing, Biochemistry, Celebrations, Excitement, Exercise & activity, Family, Higher Power, History of Twelve-Step groups, Moodifiers, Neurotransmitters, Power, Prevention of addiction, Purging, Sanity, Sex, Spiritual aspects, Stress & strain, Unmanageability.

Updated 6 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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