Religion and Dopamine Addiction: The Triple Whammy

by Charles Lyell and Leif Sanning on July 3, 2011

“The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reason.” – Voltaire

The endless conflicts among religion addicts offer invaluable insights into how three shared addictions keep like-mindless groups hating one another. We’re talking about why the term “religious fanatic” is a euphemism for peer-approval, safety, and esteem addict.

The addiction to peer approval keeps dopamine addicts flocking to religions offering instant approval to anyone willing to do little more than accept the incredible, based on nothing more than faith. Peer-approval addicts never figure this out because the need for approval precludes critical thinking, questioning, or behaving in any way that might invite rejection. By convincing one another the only God is on their side, safety addicts feed one other’s addictions. Esteem addicts thrive on the delusion that being smart enough to worship the one true savior confers a sense of esteem-elevating superiority.

This trifecta of addictions is volatile. Peer-approval addicts can’t risk rejection so they do as they’re told. Safety addicts, threatened by everyone who doesn’t share their fears, are highly manipulable. Esteem addicts, never satisfied with flaunting delusional superiority, are compelled to prove they know better. Religion addicts are especially dangerous because they obsess over converting others to their one true addiction.

To complicate matters, esteem addicts can only be right if others are wrong until the need to feed addictions leaves no room for compromise. “With us or against us” becomes a battle cry until the addictions turn so all-consuming that religious fanatics who worship the same loving God keep looking for reasons, rationalizations, and excuses to kill one another.


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