Is religion a form of substance abuse?
By Anna Miller
Many have faith that God will keep the world from falling to ruins. But relying on a god to fix the world’s problems is the equivalent of consuming opioids to treat suffering instead of repairing the source of the pain. Opioids treat suffering by preventing the patient from caring about their pain. But pain serves a purpose. When pain causes suffering, we are motivated to make changes to our circumstances.
God is the opioid that stagnates our drive to relieve ourselves of pain. God is the opioid that keeps us from seeing the surgeon for our infected appendix. Trusting a god to solve the world’s problems removes the anxiety and panic associated with facing a future in jeopardy. It erases our sufferings so that we can better forget about the sources of our pain. It numbs us. And it’s not safe to be numb. Relying on God doesn’t encourage the divergent thinking necessary for change, it absolves it.
Why would one think to look for an infected appendix if the patient isn’t suffering?
Persistent use of opioids upregulates our pain receptors, resulting in further dependency on these drugs to cope. Similarly, our reliance on God further dulls our ability to solve problems, which perpetuates our dependence on him. Using God to relieve ourselves of analytical thinking and free us from suffering becomes a difficult habit to break. God is the opioid that prevents us from participating in our own self-care. Depending on a god to solve the world’s problems is the beginning of a slippery slope, where we become less able to discuss the sources of the world’s pain and more inclined to pursue complacency.
Humans have about 12 years left to limit the climate change catastrophe that we caused. Everything we hold dear is in danger because of how we’ve chosen to live our lives, and yet we are just beginning to admit that it’s our fault. To quote Greta Thunberg, a climate activist speaking at the World Economic Forum: “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Becau
se it is.” We don’t have time to be numb to our panic. We don’t have time to rely on a god. It will take every person in awareness of their own efficacy to save us. And putting faith in a god to solve this problem doesn’t acknowledge the power we hold when we work together or the actions that brought us to this point in the first place.
Anna, 18, is from Bellingham, Wash., and will attend Bryn Mawr College, with plans of studying biochemistry and philosophy. She volunteers with Brushfire, an organization dedicated to funding and supporting the education of teen mothers. Anna also teaches weekly piano lessons and plays club soccer.