To Reason magazine, August
[Bracked material deleted
Bruce Alexander's review of Stanton Peele's Diseasing of America
("Beware the Cure," Aug/Sep 1990) continues your welcome recent focus on the issue of whether addiction or excessive
behavioir is sick, bad, crazy, or whatever. In examining Peele's candidates for the cause of such widespread behavior,
however, he overlooks a couple of vital points.
correctly observes that the ideas that addiction is a disease (which Peele rejects) and that addiction is a failure of will
(which Peele entertains) are both "dangerous." However, this danger is not based on the incorrectness of
either idea -- indeed, I see each of them as expressing an aspect of the full picture -- but on the likelihood that powers-that-be
(or that-would-like-to-be) will try to use them to rationalize their desires to intervene into other people's lives with
coercive treatment methods and programs.
And he fails
to note that, in its own way, the third view (which Alexander and Peele seem to entertain) suggests its own coercive governmental
solutions. If "excessive people are coping as well as they can with impossibly difficult circumstances, given the limitation
of their personalities and abilities," then perhaps we need higher taxes and spending to reduce poverty and joblessness
among the underclasses and to rebuild our shattered communities.
To be fair, Alexander may have noted this possibility, too, but regarded it as less coercive and dangerous, seeming
to involve only people's property and not their personal freedom. This is a false dichotomy, of course.
Also to his credit, Alexander allows that the seemingly more humane solutions he
favors "may be out of reach without some further analysis of the forces that made American society so harsh in the first
place." As I see it, those forces stem from bad ideas.
As Leonard Peikoff argued in his controversial book The Ominous Parallels [-- that ideas (in the form of
various mutations and applications of Kant's philosophy) were the root cause of the horrors of Nazi Germany -- I would
follow John Bradshaw (in Healing the Shame that Binds You) in arguing that the cause of widespread excessive or addictive
behavior is the "poisonous pedagogy": a set of ideas in the form of dysfunctional family rules based on centuries-old
beliefs about absolute parental power.
Even in diluted,
partially accepted form -- as the vast majority of parents practice them -- these rules justify various highly abusive parenting
methods, such as "physical beatings, lying, duplicity, manipulation, scare tactics, withdrawal of love, isolation and
coercion to the point of torture." (p. 41) Even in families not troubled by drug or alcohol abuse, incest, workaholism,
etc., these methods almost universally cause children to freeze their emotions and thus to bias and impair their perception,
judgment, and reasoning, "which are crucial to the will in its choicemaking duties." (p. 107) The poisonous pedagogy
is a setup for addiction!
I hope it is clear that this
analysis points to the fundamental -- and only workable -- remedy to the problem ot addiction. Just as] we need a "paradigm"
change" from Kant's philosophy to save our culture from further descent into barbarism and totalitarianism, we also
need to eradicate the poisonous pedagogy and replace it with functional family rules, if we ever hope to heal our sick society.
Wars on drugs, alcohol, cigarette smoking, overeating, oversexing, overworking, etc.;
coercive treatment programs; domestic welfare spending -- none of these will work. A battle of ideas can, if enough of us
are willing to arm ourselves properly and fight it. The continuing spread of various Twelve-Step recovery programs is one
very encouraging sign that the tide of battle may actually be turning.
To Orange County Register, April 9,
You seem to have touched a raw nerve with your article on "Religious addiction" (March 17),
which dealt with a very real fact and problem in America. In his letter, "Someone 'hooked' on God needs no cure"
(March 31), Harry Dumskey, clearly a very religious person himself, tries every way he can to deny that religious addiction
is "a sickness comparable to drug and alcohol abuse."
Dumskey tries to characterize deprogrammer Stephen Arterburn as an enemy of the worldwide revival movement. He claims
that Arterburn refers to those who believe in "faith healing" and "regularly speaking to God in an audible
voice" as "addicts." In truth, Arterburn said merely that these were two of a number of possible signs
that a person is using religion as a form of addiction.
me, it is an obvious truth that some of the people "who have taken refuge in their religion because circumstances in
their personal lives have become more than they can handle alone" are indeed religiously ill. And by this, I mean not
that their religion is making them ill, but that they are misusing their religion in a way that disguises and perpetuates,
rather than heals, the emotional illness they had before turning to religion.
I have my own list of telltale signs that newly super-devout worshippers are engaging in religious
addiction. Here are just a few of them:
Although they have been "healed by God" of their abuse of alcohol or drugs
or sex or whatever, they are still locked in the grip of other addictions, such as nicotene or compulsive spending.
Under the guise of religious righteousness and missionary zeal, they still engage
in the same hateful and abusive actions toward friends and loved ones that they did before "finding God."
They speak of being forgiven of their sins by God, yet make no effort to acknowledge
the exact nature of those wrongs to the people they have hurt and make no effort to make amends for their wrongdoing.
For these people -- and believe me, they do exist, in the Calvary Chapel and elsewhere
-- religion is a "refuge." It is a hideaway, not unlike the bottle, where they can continue to deny responsibility
for their mistakes and to avoid facing up to their problems in dealing with life and with other people.
For these people, it is a very small step from "How Dry I Am" to "How
Great Thou Art."
In recognizing and helping to treat
this form of addiction, Arterburn is performing an extremely valuable service to our society. The emotionally healthy members
of the "bright young churches" Dumskey refers to would do well to encourage the religious addicts in their midst
to patronize this man's center -- or to set up a center of their own.