Saturday, February 11, 2012

Is Religion the Answer for Addicts?

From this morning's New York Times (here):
Addiction, [Rabbi Taub] argues, is less a chemical dependency or a mental illness than the consequence of an individual’s absence from God and of the psychic pain that absence inflicts.
This nonsensical pablum raises a host of questions. Is Rabbi Taub referring exclusively to his god (the jealous and terrible ruler of the Old Testament)? Would he include Jesus, whose father seems to have mellowed? What about absence from older gods like Zeus or Ra? Is his statement the equivalent a Taoist assertion that an addicted person has merely lost "the way"? Does Rabbi Taub mean to suggest a la Christian Scientism that prayer (or some other approach to re-embracing god) is either necessary and sufficient to cure chemical dependencies? I believe a cursory glance at the science of addiction and recovery would show that, while some form of religious belief or commitment to an ethical code might be helpful in resolving addictions, it is neither necessary nor sufficient.

Rabbi Taub's claim also unhelpfully casts blame on addicts who already are religious believers and others who are in no significant way culpable for their own addictions. As Psychology Today observes (here):
No matter which kind of addiction is meant, it is important to recognize that its cause is not a search for pleasure, and addiction has nothing to do with one's morality or strength of character.
At the end of the day, Rabbi Taub's assertion tells us a great deal more about his own preferences and prejudices than it does about the nature of addition or of those who become addicts.

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