The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God
When God Becomes a Drug
A review of the book by Gary L.

Have any of you ever read the following book?

When God Becomes a Drug--Breaking the chains of religious addiction and abuse by Leo Booth

His book kind of follows the 12-step program for any addiction. When you look back at Armstrongism and it's continuing mess you will quickly see that it was an addictive and abuse cult.

Following are some tid-bits from the book.

Anyone who has ever tried to challenge a religious addict's belief system has undoubtedly been met with hostility bordering on fury. People who are spiritually healthy will not react with fear and anger to questions about their beliefs and practices.

Healthy spirituality in contrast is freeing; differing beliefs or even outright opposition do not threaten you. The symptoms of religious addiction point to a narrow, restrictive belief system, which limits your spiritual growth and victimizes you as well as those around you.

Symptoms of religious addiction:

1) Inability to think, doubt, or question information or authority:

If you cannot question or examine what you are taught, if you cannot doubt or challenge authority, you are in danger of being victimized and abused. You hand over responsibility for your beliefs, finances, relationships, employment, and destiny to a clergyman or other so called master. Faith is said to mean unquestioning obedience. If you are not permitted to think for yourself, to question, you stop your spiritual growth because you do not know how to see the ways God is working in you and through you. Questioning and exploring is a means of having a dialogue with God. To refuse to doubt, think about, or question what you are told is to miss an opportunity to talk with God.

2) Black and white, simplistic thinking:

You see life in terms of right and wrong, good or bad, saved or sinner; you never see the gray areas. The danger in this type of thinking is that life is seldom black or white. People who think this way are always waiting for the right answer-the clear signal, the burning bush. You sit and wait for the solution that fits your simplistic dogma, even though the answers is often right in front of you. You limit and stunt your life by rejecting anyone or anything that does not fit into your narrow frame of reference. You become abusive of others who do not share your view because difference, variety, and change all fall into the ambiguous gray areas, with which you cannot cope.

3) Shame based belief that you aren't good enough, or you aren't doing it right:

Shame based thinking reinforces the belief that you don't make mistakes, but that you are a mistake. Thus it robs you of the ability to constructively and healthily examine your behavior or choices, to learn how you might do it differently. Your black-and-white thinking causes you to label all your beliefs and behaviors as good or bad-mostly bad. This type of thinking also cheats you of the opportunity to discover and nurture your won inner strength. You never recognize or credit the positive choices you make in your life, never see how you create changes-how you do, in fact, do many things right. Believing yourself a failure and inadequate, you can never see when and how you have used your won gifts healthily and creatively. Shame based thinking robs you of power, self-respect, and dignity.

4) Magical thinking that God will fix you:

Believing yourself inadequate and worthless, you sit and wait for God to do things for you. Magical thinking also permits religious addicts to accept abuse and to abuse others. Religious addicts have a distorted conscience and sense of guilt. Just having a sexual thought or impulse might send them into a frenzy of self-hate and fear of damnation, but, these same people often have no prick of conscience in being hateful to people with a different belief system. Waiting for God to work the trick in our lives we often miss the sense of empowerment that comes with asking God to show us how to work our own magic-to create our own changes.

5) Scrupulosity: rigid, obsessive adherence to rules, codes to ethics, or guidelines:

The fear of punishment and the resulting need to be perfect that comes from shame based thinking creates an intense need to follow rules. The sense of right and wrong become totally lost in the obsession with minutely adhering to rules and rituals, which can render you incapable of questioning the validity of the rules or how they are applied. Instead you use rules and rituals to give you self-esteem, authority, and control. Consequently, you often judge yourself and others mercilessly harsh based solely on adhering to rules and regulations. That intense focus on rules becomes a way to escape reality and an avoidance of choice and responsibility. These people are obsessed with the idea that how well or often you perform some ritual or saying will save you from punishment. Terrified that punishment might result from not doing something right, they cling to absolutely, dogmatically to rules. Equating mistakes with sins for which they will be punished, they want to avoid taking responsibility by saying they followed the rules.. Unable to recognize how you've made a god of your rules and rituals, you live isolated by your rigidity. You cannot see that, in giving away your power to the rules and rituals, you miss the chance to work as a co-creator with God.

6) Uncompromising, judgmental attitudes:

A false sense of self worth based on putting down, humiliating or even persecuting others who do not share your beliefs or follow rules rigidly. Religious addicts must create the fantasy that others are somehow bad, inferior, or evil in order to maintain a sense of superiority. They fear anything that poses a threat to their fantasy driven sense of self-respect. They preach bigotry and hatred based on race, religion, or political persuasion, unable to recognize the abusiveness and hypocrisy. Some even feel justified in killing people they consider abusive. As religious addiction progresses, the range of people whom you fear, who threaten your religious fantasies, grows wider-they may include your parents, siblings, spouse, or children. Projecting your self hatred on others, you judge them as harshly as you judge yourself-always pronouncing on others the same guilty verdict you secretly pronounce on yourself.

7) Compulsive praying, going to church or crusades, quoting scripture:

These behaviors do for religious addicts what snorting cocaine or swilling vodka do for substance abusers. When you hear religious addicts quoting scripture nonstop, imagine seeing heroin addicts shooting up. There is nothing wrong with praying, going to church, missions crusades or talking to God, unless it is to the exclusion of all else. When you feel compelled to force your family and friends to follow your beliefs- and become angry and hostile when they choose not to accept them-you are not practicing healthy religion. You are being religiously abusive. When you resent anything that interferes with your religious practices, that is not healthy. When you flee from all beliefs but your own, you shut yourself away from God.

8) Unrealistic financial contributions:

9) Believing that sex is dirty-that our bodies and physical pleasures are evil:

10) Compulsive over eating or excessive fasting:

Religious addicts, especially women, are frequently over weight-and miserable. So many religious addicts were brought up in a family system that was religiously restrictive. The rules were no smoking, no drinking, no dancing, no playing cards, and very limited relationships with the opposite sex until marriage. The one thing you were allowed to do, and was encouraged to do, was eat.

11) Conflict with science, medicine, and education:

Religious addicts, because of narrow and restrictive beliefs, often have conflicts with medicine and education. These two disciplines challenge black and white thinking, the need for simplistic solutions, and the inability to think and question. They require trust and choices, and you might not trust the right person, make the right choice. Better leave it to God. Then it's not your responsibility. Parents remove their children from schools in which they might be exposed to a different view. Seeking to protect their children from so-called "evil thinking" they unknowingly harm them by refusing to allow their children to use their greatest gift God has given them: the ability to use their minds. So their children grow up being taught to fear anything different, unable to evaluate for themselves, confused, isolated, and often in a rage against a world that constantly threatens their narrow view.

12) Progressive detachment from the real world, isolation, breakdown of relationships:

Healthy spirituality encompasses mental, emotional, and physical well being. They all interact.

13) Psychosomatic illness: sleeplessness, back pains, headaches, hypertension:

At this stage you are consumed by religion. Nothing else in the world seems to matter. Life revolves around the church so that you become increasingly isolated and emotionally unable to be intimate with your loved ones. Eventually you end up all alone, without family or friends. Dysfunction begets dysfunction: The disease of religious addiction is a family disease, a relational disease. Religion often divides families in a way that other addictions do not. Children of religious addicts carry deep scars of guilt and shame, low self-esteem, inability to make decisions, fear of manipulation. Some become as abusive as their parents, perpetuating prejudice and hatred. Other abandon God completely, struggling to live with no spiritual nourishment, often becomes addicted to other substances as a result.

14) Manipulating scriptures or texts, feeling chosen, claiming to receive special messages from God:

There is a difference in using scripture to support what you are saying and twisting it to justify irrational claims and behavior. People who are manipulating and twisting scripture will keep repeating the same rote, fixedly dogmatic. Healthy use of scripture or teachings to support ideas allows for discussion and differing interpretations-something religious addicts cannot do.

15) Trance like state or religious high, wearing a glazed happy face:

The too-bright, falsely cheerful expression is also a mask. Underneath it see the tension, anger, and rigid control. God's children are supposed to be happy; that's the fantasy. The illusion. Don't let anyone know that you're not happy, for admitting not being happy in the Lord is to admit imperfection, failure, not in doing right. Such an admission courts disapproval, so you paste on your false smile.

16) Cries for help: mental, emotional, physical breakdown; hospitalization:

You cannot stop meditating, praying, incense burning, crusades, and obsessive scripture quoting. Your family does not know what to do. You've tithes away your savings; maybe you are near bankruptcy. Certainly you are spiritually bankrupt-you cannot sleep; your headaches; your stomach is in knots; you're so depressed you can barely function. You nay have a nervous breakdown.

Religious addicts manipulate with guilt. Who dares to argue with the Bible? Who dares not side with God? How can anyone object to a godly lifestyle? When there is no balance, when religious addicts give their families no choice, when there is no room for differing opinions and beliefs, it becomes abusive. When they restrict their family's lives, continually trying to force them into a belief system under threat of rejection, punishment, or abandonment, it becomes abusive. When God is used as a weapon, people often see God as the abuser, rather than the addict. Children who are raised in this kind of religious environment seldom have the opportunity to question those beliefs, especially if they are raised in a home in which doubting and questioning were punishable sins. They become judgmental, dogmatic, rigid, intolerant, and perfectionists just as their parents are. They become increasingly out of touch with their own emotions, they have been conditioned no to think for themselves. The dissenting spouse is portrayed as sinful and ungodly. Worse, when children are involved, they are often caught in a good parent/evil parent situation, creating great guilt and confusion.

The book includes the following chapters:

Sin, Shame Fear and Control: The roots of religious addiction

When God Becomes a Drug: The stages of religious addiction

Where Does It Hurt? The symptoms of religious addiction

Religious Addiction: A family disease

Suffer the Children: The consequences of religious addiction and abuse

Recovery: Twelve steps in breaking you chains

Toward a Healthy Spirituality

Helping Others to Recovery

A Guide for Professionals


If you have anything you would like to
submit to this site, or any comments,
email me at:
Send Me Email

Back to "Painful Truth" menu


The content of this site, including but not limited to the text and images herein and their arrangement, are copyright 1997-2003 by The Painful Truth. All rights reserved.

Do not duplicate, copy or redistribute in any form without prior written consent.