I’m not sure it’s really good news: Dr. Michael M. Miller of the American Society for Addiction Medicine has announced that addictive behaviors are “a result of brain dysfunction.” It’s troubling to learn that our brains are involved, especially since brains are supposed to do good things for us. But the numbers hooked on hard-core addictions (drugs, alcohol, tobacco, snacks, sex, gambling, and video games) are swollen to epidemic proportions, while soft-core addictions such as exercise, porn, hand-washing, melancholia, cheer, sloth and work gain status via the sponsorship of entrepreneurs selling profitable remedies. Taken together these well known hard and soft-core addictions have been rearing their heads so religiously they crowd out of view the worst brain dysfunction of all––the one currently victimizing guilty and innocent alike as it sweeps across this addiction-infected land.
I refer here to Belief Addiction
What is Belief Addiction? Like any hard-core addiction it is a behavior disorder that subjects individuals to compulsions they perversely enjoy. It requires that individuals surrender their free will and common sense to their compulsion to believe. The brain chemistry of this disease tricks users into becoming convicted addicts. Just as drug addicts or alcoholics can’t resist another hit of meth or rum, Belief Addicts are enslaved by the pleasure provided by belief. Brains shrink under the influence of this pleasure, as brain power concentrates vocabulary to a “high” stimulated by the word “Truth.” As each high triggers a desire for more “Truth,” the pleasure center in the brain secretes chemical pathogens that momentarily sedate the user while increasing the dosage of “Truth” required for further sedation. Users are known to experience especially acute delusions if shouting or firearms are involved in debates, with many of these delusions convincing users that they know the minds of gods, have gods as personal friends or are gods themselves. Several of the ecstatic highs of Belief Addicts have spiraled so far out of control that they die with twisted smiles on their faces. Those who do not succumb to the disease are known to gather on hillsides to discuss the rapture they hope to inflict not only on themselves but everyone else.
Since not all beliefs are created equal, with some believers grounded in enough good sense to keep themselves from losing their minds, it is difficult not to conclude that those afflicted by Belief Addiction are closet socialists, a minority perhaps communists. This conclusion follows from the tendency Belief Addicts exhibit of wanting everybody to be alike, just like them. In their perfect world everyone would equally enjoy, as a communal treasure, the high provided by their “Truth,” a treasure with the magical property of rendering the vast gaps between rich and poor invisible.
What is the inspiration for Belief Addiction? What delusions of grandeur, omniscience and omnipotence enter the brains of its users, and with what deceptions do they seduce others, mainly children, to get hooked? As we well know from the effects of drugs and alcohol, delirium has strange power. When we were children we all loved to turn and turn in circles until we all fell down, and most kids derived from the experience lessons on how to grow up into mature adults. But Belief Addicts are stuck at a primal stage of human development, and the addiction prevents them from stabilizing their minds and acting like grown-ups. As they circle they cling passionately to the “Truth” that inevitably will let them down. Meanwhile, as they fall they insist they have the knowledge and power necessary to make themselves the socially acceptable norm able to remake even foreigners in their image as they fulfill their destiny to take over the world.
Circling is a cycle very difficult for Belief Addicts to break. The brain gets in a groove that keeps telling itself the same thing: “My Truth Is True Because I Believe It’s True and I Believe Because It’s True.” The delirium this induces enslaves the Belief Addict in the same way a criminal mind is convinced by a lie it keeps repeating to itself.
Here are a few examples of Belief Addiction “Truths” indulged in by liberals:
“I believe that more business as usual growth will solve the problems we face in a world with swelling population, deepening pollution, and shrinking natural resources. This is true because this is an American belief and I believe in American beliefs.”
“I believe it makes sense that each of the six days of creation in Genesis was actually like a million (or billion) years. Because this belief makes sense of something otherwise unbelievable.”
“I believe we should all put a brick in our toilets to save water. Because we have to believe in something if we want to believe in ourselves.”
“I don’t believe in God because I don’t.”
Here are a few examples of Belief Addiction “Truths” indulged by conservatives:
“I believe that greenhouse gasses are not causing the earth’s temperature to increase because that’s what I believe.”
“I believe that Noah’s ark will one day be found on a Turkish mountainside because I really believe it will if we believe.”
“I believe that a Hidden Hand that lowers the taxes of millionaires and billionaires will create jobs for ordinary Americans because I believe in a Hidden Hand and more jobs.”
“I believe God wrote the Bible and if you think otherwise you can go to hell and see for yourself.”
The hallucinogenic allure of Belief Addiction has corrupted every aspect of American life. Democratic, educational, medical, and religious institutions have all been victimized by its seductive power. The epidemic spread of Belief Addiction, however, should not be surprising, given the profound and subtle way it infects the human mind. Geneticist Dean Hamer, no doubt aware of the “selfish gene” theories of Richard Dawkins, posits the presence of a “God gene” (VMAT2) that “hardwires” belief in our genes and makes us susceptible to “mystic” experiences and a “spiritual” view of life. Though Hamer falls short of claiming that VMAT2 “encodes” belief in God, he does claim that it empowers humans with a gene-based sense of optimism. Whether this optimism in turn inspires belief in the God of the selfish gene has not yet been scientifically established, but it’s easy to see how the good feelings we’re hardwired with gives Belief Addicts such cheerful and uplifting highs users can’t get enough of them.
Especially pernicious are the self-medicating immunities built into the addiction process. When they’re especially high Belief Addicts feel like God––at once omniscient, omnipotent, and so invulnerable not even their own suicide will put an end to them. They believe that when they’re dead they will become immortal like God, and no one can challenge God. Many users also carry little American flags with them to wave all argument away. Belief, they say, is not only a God-given right but now it’s natural too, a function of the VMAT2, and also protected by the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court.
So, they conclude, because beliefs are sacred and patriotic nobody has to make sense of them.
For some odd reason Belief Addiction reminds me of the old 1950’s movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” If there’s something reassuring about watching a story unfold in the subtle grays of a black and white film, it’s profoundly disturbing to find myself wondering if I’m an alien or insane. Am I a member of an unaddicted silent majority? Do we dare think of Belief Addicts as dangerous subversives? Do we call them mentally ill? Do we dare call their superstitious pronouncements superstitions? Is our reluctance to do so an act of cowardice, or civility? Or both.
It’s well understood by addiction professionals that its cure requires long-range treatments, with programs in place to address the needs of the many who routinely relapse into addictive behaviors. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that there are about 23 million Americans hooked on chemical substances, with only two million getting the treatment they need. Drug dependency complicates the treatment of Belief Addiction. The cravings of Belief Addicts are especially profound, not normally relieved by chemical fixes. Even if a drug were invented to cure the disease its persistent brain secretions would be difficult to purify. It would be much less challenging and more socially useful to constructively redirect the longings at the heart of the disease.
New pleasures need to be developed to counter the Satanic power of Belief Addiction. It seems obvious that these new pleasures will have to satisfy the mind’s craving for logic, common sense, scientific knowledge, careful scholarship and intellectual honesty. It’s obvious too that the terrible rapture Belief Addicts want to inflict on us all must be taken seriously and addressed at an institutional level by governments, schools, the media, and churches.