RealPagan- Paganism for the Real World


Religious Addiction and Paganism

The concept of addiction, including the process by which addiction occurs and the methods which lead to recovery, has been a well-known one for a number of years.  More recently investigations have been aimed at the addictive personality to identify the at-risk population in order to prevent addiction from developing.  In addition, both scholars and theologians in the traditional American Judeo-Christian community have begun to investigate the potential for “religious addiction” as a dysfunctional and detrimental process within the practices of mainstream religion groups.  It is suggested that this work has applications which can be useful to Pagans both in identifying those in Pagan groups who might be at risk of developing a religious addiction, and in treating those who might be victims of religious addiction.  This paper will explore the current theories of religious addiction and to show how those theories might be applied within the Pagan community.


What then is addiction?  Over the years that the concept of addiction has been recognized it has been said to be many things, such as an illness, personal weakness, a vice.  In actuality it is not truly one single thing, but a process involving the entire being and those who are close to that person.  However, at its simplest level addiction could be described as the attempt to find happiness through attempts to obtain perceived control of the natural and uncontrollable cycles of joy and sadness that we all undergo in our lives. (Nakken, pg 1-18, 5; Linn, Linn & Linn, pg 11, 4)  Or as another author put it, “Anything that is used consistently to move us away from reality is potentially addictive.” (Collins, pg 7, 3)  Religious addiction has been described as an “attempt to control a painful inner reality through a rigid religious belief system.” (Linn, Linn & Linn, pg 12, 4)


The Development of a Religious Addiction


The addiction process is often rooted in the addict’s childhood and the way that he  or she learned to think of him- or herself as a person.  Shame, guilt, and a feeling of being“dirty” or “useless” are often the underlying sources of the unhappiness that leads the potential addicts to seek something or someone who will relieve that pain they are feeling. Addicts are often the victim of homes where addiction of some sort was also present in the parents.  Abuse, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual; lack of appropriate intimacy; and false ideas as to the appropriate sources of happiness can set a child up for addiction in later life.  Children of such homes are often unable to form intimate attachments toother people as adults, and may replace the happiness such intimacy can bring by substituting other things for such attachments. (Linn, Linn & Linn, pg 43-48, 4; Booth,

pg 86-87, 2)

In addition to the impact of dysfunctional families on the addictive personality, some religious teachings can contribute to the feelings of being “dirty” or “useless” as described by Linn, et al, and Booth.  .Many modern Pagans began their religious journeys in other faith systems which aided in their perception of themselves as “sinful” or “unworthy”.  They were taught that there was one set of “true beliefs” that were not to be questioned, and those beliefs were based upon the premise that mankind was inherently sinful.  Matthew Fox, a noted Catholic theologian, wrote, “I also object to original sin as the starting point of religion because of the tremendous psychic damage it has done.  People are already terrible vulnerable in self-doubt and guilt, especially members of minority groups – women, blacks, Native Americans, homosexuals.  The whole ideology of original sin increases one’s alienation and feeds the sado-masochistic energies in the culture – the sense that one is not worthy.”  (as cited in Booth, pg 24, 2)


The process can begin quite innocently.  The addict feels unhappy and emotionally in pain.  He or she finds something, be it food, alcohol, drugs, gambling, or religion, that temporarily relieves those feelings of unhappiness.   When such feelings arise again, the addict remembers the feeling of relief that they obtained from that specific object, so they turn to it again and again, seeking the same relief.  As they invest more and more time and energy into the object of their addiction, they begin to experience guilt and shame regarding their weakness and inability for gain control of their life.  Now the guilt they feel about their addiction becomes a spur that leads them to increase the addictive behavior in an attempt to relieve the new discomfort and the downward spiral intensifies. (Nakken, pg 1-18, 5)


As with any other form of substance abuse, over indulgence in religion can become an addict’s way of temporarily relieving their emotional pain and suffering.  While it is true that religion can also provide genuine comfort and healing, it can also provide an emotional “high” that is very attractive to the addictive personality.  Instead of providing a means of developing healthy relationships with others and with the Divine, religion becomes a “thing” to be used even as drugs or alcohol are used in a vain attempt to achieve a manner of control over their life.  In effect, religious addiction replaces a genuine relationship with Deity with empty ritualistic behaviors.  (Arterburn & Felton, pg 103-104, 1; Booth, pg 38, 2)


In the same fashion as other addictions, religious addiction undergoes a predictable progression.  While the focus of the stages may vary depending upon the faith system involved, the progression nonetheless remains consistent across all religions.


It should be noted here that all human beings pass through a predictable series of stages in their development of faith as described by Fowler. These stages, which parallel cognitive growth, describe transitions from immature, concrete, and simple views of faith to stages which involve abstract, symbolic, and complex understandings. (Spilka, Hood, Hunsberger & Gorsuch, pg 82-83, 6) What may be a sign of religious addiction in one person may simply be an early stage of faith development in another.  However, if the person uses their religion as a means of avoiding reality and does not move on to a more accepting and integrated religious outlook it is likely that he/she is entering the realm of religious addiction.  (Linn, Linn & Linn, pg 18, 4)


In their book “Toxic Faith”, Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton offer the following list of characteristics of the early stages of religious addiction. (Arterbrun & Felton, pg 115-116, 1)


  • Extreme stress.  Increased stress impairs judgment and obscures warning signs of toxic faith.


  • Repeated disappointments.  Feelings that nothing works out right lead a potential addict to seek quick-fix solutions to lost expectations.


  • Miserable existence.  The addict has turned in many directions for hope and found none.


  • Feelings of insignificance.  The addict starts to believe life does not matter and there is no productive part to be played in it.


  • Spiritual search initiated.  Out of despair the addict seeks spiritual answers as a last resort.


  • Loneliness.  Any attention from any source would be welcomed.


  • Hoping for someone to solve misery.  Solving the problems seems too difficult; there is need to be rescued.


  • Increasing dependency on others.  Association with others allows for delusional thoughts and existence in an unreal world.


  • Feelings of guilt.  Nothing can be done to overcome powerful guilt feelings.


  • Feelings of insecurity.  A terrible disaster seems to be lurking and everything seems to be a potential sign of doom.


  • Geographic cures.  In an attempt to solve problems, the addict believes a fresh start will make life better – but discovers it has further complicated the problems.


  • Loss of other interests. Family, friends, and other activities are replaced with the compulsive activities surrounding the practice of toxic faith.


  • Abandonment by friends and family.  Associates become so irritated by obnoxious behavior that they no longer spend time with the religious addict.


  • Unwillingness to discuss problems.  The individual becomes unapproachable about increasingly out-of-control behavior.


  • One-sided sermons.  Edicts, scriptures, and judgments so fill the dialogue with the person that all conversations cease.


  • Faith attached to a person.  A comforting person becomes the link to toxic faith.


  • Intoxicating affiliation.  First experiences in the new toxic faith group produce immediate mood alteration.


  • Growing attraction.  Every new meeting, person, and experience increases the attraction to the toxic-faith group.


  • Heavy church attendance.  Attendance becomes a means of avoidance and a way to be part of the group with little relationship to God.


  • Conformity with other addicts.  The person starts to look, dress, and talk like others in the group.


  • Lack of intimate relationships.  Intimacy with friends and family sacrificed for the sake of religion.


  • Growing denial and self-justification.  The person becomes blind to problems and justifies behavior.


  • Scripture as a weapon.  Verses are quoted to judge others and justify self.


While these indicators of religious addiction are obviously built upon consideration of a Judeo-Christian worldview, I believe that they are equally applicable within the framework of Pagan religions.


Religious Addiction and Paganism


As mentioned previously, those who are significantly at risk of religious addiction include those who have been “shamed, put down, alienated, or discriminated against because of age, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic background.” Also, “minority groups and the young are especially attracted to the fantasy, the magical thinking, and feelings of control offered by religious addiction.”  (Booth, pg 88, 2) These people, often portrayed as powerless, unworthy, or sinful by their religion of birth, and who are at risk for developing a religious addiction, find acceptance in Paganism.


Many of those who come to Paganism do so because their former belief system failed in some way to meet their spiritual needs.  Women, homosexuals, and other minorities are often drawn to Paganism because they find there an acceptance that was not present in their original belief system.  In Paganism they find others like themselves who are accepting of them without reservation, and who affirm their worth as human beings.  For those who have been told all of their lives that they are unworthy, such acceptance can be an extremely intoxicating experience.


Paganism is also highly attractive to teenagers, as evidenced by the huge interest shown by teens across the internet and in the bookstores.  The teenage years are ones of turmoil when young people are seeking personal identity and striving to move away from parental control towards self-control.  Teens often feel powerless in the face of parental disapproval, school strictures, and peer pressures.  Paganism not only provides them with easy acceptance for whom they are, but also appears to promise a magical solution to all of their problems. 


There are numerous points at which the newcomer to Paganism may slip into the process of religious addiction.  If the individual joins a group such as a Wiccan coven it can be a simple step to forming an inappropriate attachment to a group leader especially if that leader is attractive and non-judgmental, exactly the characteristics that we encourage our Pagan clergy to demonstrate.  This can lead to the addict placing that person on a pedestal of unrealistic expectations.    The addict may also abrogate any sense of personal responsibility for their own actions and turn to the group leader for answers to any and all problems they face.  When the group leader falls from that pedestal – which will happen – the addict is left with a further perception that nothing works out right.


Even as the religious addict turns to Paganism because it provides them with a validation of self-worth that they did not experience in their religion of birth, their conversion also brings up feelings of doubt and guilt about their choice of spiritual path.  For most Pagans their original faith structure taught them that there was only “one true way” to believe, and that those who believed otherwise were tools of evil and subject to eternal damnation.  Their denial of these beliefs still contains the seeds of doubt and the concern that perhaps they are wrong in their new religion.  In an attempt to reconcile these feelings of self-doubt and guilt the addict may over- compensate by throwing themselves even more completely into the practices of Paganism.


As they begin to come “out of the broom closet” many Pagans encounter the disapproval of friends and family for their choice of religion.  At first they may attempt to explain their religion and to obtain the understanding and approval of their significant others.  However, if they are met with continuing disapproval, the addict may begin to turn away from the ones that they perceive as uncaring and unwilling to accept them as valuable people and limit themselves to social interactions only with those who share their same beliefs.


Gradually the religious addict turns more and more inward towards their spiritual path and the community that follows that path to the exclusion of all else.  They begin to take on other aspects of what they consider important symbols of their religion.  Consider for instance the tendency to dress in black, wear “ten pounds of bad pewter jewelry”, and to develop an insider vocabulary of terms and phrases that mark them out as Pagan.  With each step that marks them as “different” the religious addict cuts themselves off from those relationships and experiences that help to ground them in reality.


And with each rejection the addict seeks to justify their own actions by blaming others for their attempts to show the addict where they are going wrong.  Here we are often faced with the addict’s claims of “persecution” not only from those not of a Pagan persuasion, but also from those who are Pagan and see where the addict is mistaking their addiction for a genuine spiritual path.  The commonly termed “Fluff Bunny”, one who is unwilling or unable to think critically about their religion and who often blindly follows the teachings of one particular author or popular Pagan leader, and who claims that others are picking on them when they try to correct them is a perfect example of a religious addict in the making.


Father Leo Booth, in his book “When God Becomes a Drug”, offers a somewhat different listing of the signs of religious addiction.  These characteristics of religious addiction are also worth considering. (Booth, pg 59, 2)


  • Inability to think, doubt, or question information or authority


  • Black-and-white simplistic thinking


  • Shame-based belief that you aren’t good enough or you aren’t “doing it right.”


  • Magical thinking that God will fix you.


  • Scrupulously rigid, obsessive adherence to rules, codes of ethics, or guidelines.


  • Compulsive praying, going to church or crusades, quoting scripture.


  • Conflict with science, medicine, and education.


  • Progressive detachment from the real world, isolation, breakdown of relationships.


  • Psychosomatic illness: sleeplessness, back pains, headaches, hypertension.


  • Manipulating scripture or texts, feeling chosen, claiming to receive special messages from God.


  • Trancelike state or religious high, wearing a glazed happy face.


  • Cries for help; mental, emotional, physical breakdown; hospitalization.


Fundamentalist thinking is not something found only in Judeo-Christian belief systems.  It can be found amongst Pagans as well.  And it is often a symptom of religious addiction.  Addicts are often described as living in for the present moment and using emotional logic, of being “adolescent in behavior and attitude.”  (Nakken, pg 17, 5)  This can contribute to an inability to think critically about their choice of spiritual path and a willingness to accept the authority of group leaders and authors for guidance, even if the information they are receiving is faulty.  In effect this is an example of being “stuck” in Piaget’s “concrete operational stage” of spiritual development. (Spilka, Hood, Hunsberger & Gorsuch, pg 77, 6) 


One of the consequences of such rigid thinking is the inability to discern false information from fact (Booth, pg 59, 2), often leading to the perpetuation of popular myths regarding Pagan beliefs and history.  The addict seeks out information that reinforces their own worldview and ignores or attacks any information which negates any portion of their belief system.  One has only to look at the continued insistence on the myth of the “Burning Times” in the face of the lack of historical evidence to support it to see where this lack of critical thinking helps to maintain the sense of both persecution and superiority that is central to the religious addict’s belief structure.


The Pagan religious addict can become rigid in their practice and in their views of the practice of others.  A phrase often heard at Pagan gatherings or on the internet is “You can’t be a real Pagan if you….”  In other words, there is no room in Paganism for practices other than those to which the addict ascribes.  And any practice which threatens the addict’s limited view of Paganism must be invalidated in order to maintain their own sense of worthiness.


While Pagans do not as a rule replace scientific beliefs with religiosity, religious addiction can lead some to turn away from modern medicine because of their religion.  Most Pagans understand that spiritual approaches to healthcare concerns are best approached by using a combination of both religious beliefs and modern medicine.  However, there are those who chose to avoid the practices of Western medicine in favor of magical or herbal remedies because they believe Western medicine to be antithetical to their religious belief system.


As with any form of addiction, religious addiction becomes increasingly damaging to the individual, not only in only in terms of a loss of genuine spiritual relationship to the Divine, but also in terms of relationships to friends and family.  It can lead to emotional breakdown and even to suicide.  As religion ceases to provide the relief from pain that drew the addict to it in the first place, religion may be replaced with other forms of addiction such as alcohol, over-eating, or drugs.  (Arterbrun & Felton, pg 124-130, 1)


Addiction, Practice, and Growth


In reviewing Fr. Booth’s listing of signs of religious addiction one must, I believe, use some care in applying a number of these to those following Pagan spiritual paths.  Some of the signs that he addressed would also be considered normal behavior for Pagans.  Trance states, ritual highs, and magic are all part of Pagan belief systems.  What would need to be considered here is whether or not these signs are seen in conjunction with other characteristics of addictive behavior.  Are these signs seen in conjunction with a lack of connection with reality?  Is the individual chasing the ritual high for the sake of the emotional boost it gives them, or are they experiencing the high because of a genuine spiritual connection to the Divine?  Is the concept of magic being used as an excuse to avoid responsibility for one’s own actions? 


Furthermore, one must evaluate behaviors in terms of the normative stages of faith development put forward by several researchers.  Often early stages of faith development may be indistinguishable from religious addiction.  For instance, Kohlberg describes the 3rd and 4th stage of religious addiction as being characterized by the desire to please others, and by the importance of authority and strict rules.  (Spilka, Hood, Hunsberger & Gorsuch, pg 80, 6)    I believe it is important here to note the similarities here with some of the early indicators of addiction proposed by Fr. Booth.


In addition, in examining the Stages of Faith proposed by Fowler, one also encounters some of the same manifestations of thought and behavior as those seen in some religious addicts.  In the early stages of faith development, Fowler also proposes that one matures spiritually in an orderly progression.  In his 3rd step, Fowler also notes the tendency of the individual to accept their religious beliefs literally and without question.  (Spilka, Hood, Hunsberger & Gorsuch, pg 83, 6)   


Therefore, in evaluating whether the individual in question is in danger of religious addiction, one must also assess whether the behaviors demonstrated are danger signs on the road to addiction, or whether they are simply indicators as to where the individual is currently in the development of their faith.  The important marker to evaluate in this case would be whether the individual moves beyond the early stages of  faith development to a more mature understanding of their spiritual path, or whether they become stuck with the ritualistic and simplistic early stages.


The Recovery Process


As some point the religious addict may finally recognize that their lives are out of control and seek to find a way out of the downward spiral of addictive behaviors.  The first step in the process is to admit to and claim their addictive personalities. Only when the addict admits to their addiction is it possible for recovery to begin.  (Nakken, pg 92, 5)


Various methods have been used to assist the recovering addict.  Talk therapy has been used in an attempt to permit the addict to work through the issues that formed the catalyst for his or her addiction.  However, in actual clinical practice talk therapy has been found to be ineffective in dealing with addiction   The difficulty in using talk therapy is that it deals with addiction on an intellectual level, but addiction is experienced on an emotional level.  The addict is often so involved in how he or she “feels” that he or she are unable to approach their addiction by thinking about the roots of their problem in a cognitive manner. (Nakken, pg 30, 5)


The most effective method for treatment of addictions that has been found to date appears to be one which includes a supportive group of friends, family, and some form of 12-step program. (Nakken, pg 66, 5)  The original 12-step program was used by Alcoholics Anonymous and was built upon a Judeo-Christian worldview.  However, it can be applied equally to Pagans with some changes to the wording.


Fr. Leo Booth provides a 12-step program for religious addicts in his book “When God Becomes a Drug,”  (Booth, pg 157-158, 2)  This program includes the following steps:


  • We admitted we were powerless over our dysfunctional religion or beliefs – that our lives had become unmanageable.


  • Came to believe that a Spiritual Power within ourselves could guide us to sanity.


  • Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a Spiritual Power as we understood this Spiritual Power.


  • Made a searching and fearless inventory of our dysfunctional religious beliefs and behaviors.


  • Admitted to our Spiritual Power, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of those behaviors.


  • Were entirely ready to work with our Spiritual Power in replacing all these old behaviors.


  • Worked with our Spiritual Power to help replace our dysfunctional patterns.


  • Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.


  • Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injury them or others.


  • Continued to take personal inventory and when we made mistakes, promptly admitted them.


  • Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our Spiritual Power, as we understood Spiritual Power, praying only for knowledge of that Power’s guidance and the willingness to carry that out.


  • Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


It is noteworthy that these steps in recover from religious addiction as proposed by Fr. Booth are essentially neutral in terms of the specific Spiritual Power that is called upon, and could as easily be used by a Pagan as part of their recovery process.  However, some Pagans in recovery have sought a somewhat different 12-step model more closely aligned with their view of the recovery process.  In the book “The Recovery Spiral – A Pagan Path to Healing”, Cynthia Jane Collins proposes a different 12-step model based upon the concept of “Harm None” and the Wiccan worldview of life being a spiral as opposed to a linear journey.  (Collins, pg 3-4, 3)


  • We admitted that we were harming ourselves and others and that our lives had become overwhelming.


  • Came to believe that a power within ourselves and our world could restore us to balance.


  • Made a decision to move our wills and our lives toward that Divine Presence.


  • Made a searching and fearless ethical inventory of ourselves.


  • Admitted to ourselves, to the Divine Presence, and to others the exact nature of our harm.


  • Were entirely ready to have our harmful patterns replaced by ethical coping skills.


  • Asked the Divine to transform us, giving us rebirth in our lives.


  • Made a list of all beings we had harmed, beginning with ourselves and including our world, and become willing to make amends to them all.


  • Made direct amends to all whenever possible, except when to do so would violate the Rede.


  • Continued to take personal ethical inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it and corrected it.


  • Sought through action and meditation to improve our conscious knowledge and contact with the Divine Presence, seeking only to choose in harmony with the greatest good.


  • Having had spiritual awakening as results of these steps, we offered this opportunity to others and practiced these principles in our lives.



While there is a strong similarity to the two different approaches to the 12-step recovery process, I believe it is important to note that the process advanced by Collins (Collins, pg 157- 158, 3 ) seems to presuppose an inner power that the addict can call upon to assist in recovery. This would appear to be congruent with Pagan teachings regarding taking personal responsibility for one’s actions.  However, studies of the addictive personality have shown that the concepts of being in “control” and being responsible are an illusion.  In fact, the addict is out of control and unable to take  responsibility.  Only when they are able to “surrender” that control to a Higher Power is the addict able to find the strength to start forming connections with others.  (Nakken, pg 30-31, 5)


I think it is also of value to note that the 12-step program suggested by Collins (Collins, pg 157-158, 3) is also based upon a Wiccan worldview and ethical system.  Not all Pagan spiritual paths are based upon the ethics put forward in the last couplet of the Wiccan Rede. (Ventimiglia, pg 186, 7)


In many programs designed to help reverse the addiction process the recovery is dependent on complete abstinence from the object or event that is at the heart of addiction.  (Nakken, pg 98, 5)  However, the 12-step models that are mentioned previously (Booth, pg 157-158, 2; Collins, pg 3-4, 3) are both predicated upon a continuing connection with a Higher Power or Divine Presence.  This is a similar situation as that experienced by the food addict.  Obviously one cannot completely stop eating to treat an addiction to food.  Likewise it is not necessary to forego one’s religion to treat religious addiction.  Instead it is the dysfunctional beliefs about religion and the Divine that must be abandoned.  (Booth, pg 159, 2)


The key to successful recovery from religious addiction appears to be recognizing that the use of religion is not bettering one’s life nor bringing oneself closer to the Divine.  Rather one’s behaviors are instead creating a distancing from the Divine, from friends, and from family.  (Booth, pg 162, 2)  And at this point it would be  appropriate to ask for help from the Higher Power to move beyond the dysfunctional patterns of behavior into healthier patterns.  (Booth, pg 165-170)


Once it is recognized that there is a problem with religious addiction and that it is not making one’s life a better and more spiritual one, the addict next takes stock of how their religious addiction as harmed themselves and others; and to begin to make amends for their actions.  And the final step in the recovery process is to reestablish a genuine connection with the Divine or the Higher Power.  (Booth, pg 177-183, 2)




Religious addiction is a process by which a normal and healthy religiosity becomes transformed into a dysfunctional pattern of empty behaviors by which the addict attempts to relieve his/her inner discomfort and his/her inability to control their life.  Certain people, particularly those with a dysfunctional family upbringing and those who have been “shamed, put down, alienated, or discriminated against because of age, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic background” (Booth, pg 88, 2)  may be more susceptible to religious addiction.  Many who come to Paganism bring with them just this burden of emotional baggage, and they are therefore susceptible to becoming religious addicts.  The process may be heightened by some of the core beliefs and practices of Pagan religions, including greater acceptance of those who are “different”, magical solutions to problems, energy manipulation, and the presence of “authority figures” to whom the addict defers their own sense of responsibility.


The addiction process, no matter the religion involved, often follows a predictable course during which the addict moves further and further from friends, family and a genuine spirituality.  This may lead eventually to loss of faith, breakdown, or moving on to a different form of addiction such as drugs, food, sex, or alcohol.


Alternatively, if the addict is able to be honest with themselves about the fact that their life is out of control, recovery is possible.  A variety of 12-step programs have been found useful over the years in treating addiction.  Many such programs now recognize the need to be more open to those who are not of the Judeo-Christian traditions and have replaced references to “God” with references to a “Higher Power” or “Divine Presence.”





Works Cited



  1. Arterburn, Stephen & Felton, Jack.  Toxic Faith.  Colorado Springs, Colorado, Shaw Books:  1991; 2001.


  1. Booth, Leo.  When God Becomes a Drug.  New York, New York, G.P. Putnam’s Sons:  1991.


  1. Collins, Cynthia Jane.  The Recovery Spiral, A Pagan Path To Healing.  New York, New York, The Citadel Press:  2004.


  1. Linn, Matthew, Linn Sheila, & Linn, Dennis.  Healing Spiritual Abuse and Religious Addiction.  New York/Mahwah, New Jersey, Paulist Press:  1993.


  1. Nakken, Craig. The Addictive Personality. Center City, Minnesota, Hazelden Foundation: 1988; 1996.


  1. Spilka, Bernard, Hood, Ralph W.,Jr., Hunsberger, Bruce, and Gorsuch, Richard. The Psychology of Religion, New York, New York, Guilford Press: 2003


  1. Ventimiglia, Mark.  The Wiccan Rede.  New York, New York, Kensington Publishing Corporation: 2003









Arterburn, Stephen and Felton, Jack (1991, 2001), Toxic Faith, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Shaw Books


Black, Claudia (1981), It Will Never Happen To Me, Denver, Colorado, MAC Printing and Publications Division.


Booth, Father Leo (1991), When God Becomes a Drug, New York, New York, G.P. Putnam’s Sons


Collins, Cynthia Jane (2004), The Recovery Spiral, A Pagan Path to Healing, New York, New York, Citadel Press


Kurtz, Ernest & Ketcham, Katherine (1992), The Spirituality of Imperfection, New York, New York, Bantam Books


Linn, Matthew, Linn Sheila Fabricant, and Linn Dennis (1994), Healing Spiritual Abuse and Ritual Addiction, New York, New York, Pawlist Press


Nakken, Craig (1988; 1996), The Addictive Personality, Center City, Minnesota, Hazelden Foundation


Spilka, Bernard, Hood, Ralph W.,Jr., Hunsberger, Bruce, and Gorsuch, Richard, (2003), The Psychology of Religion, New York, New York, Guilford Press


Ventimiglia, Mark (2003).  The Wiccan Rede.  New York, New York, Kensington Publishing Corporation:

















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Daniel Comment by Daniel yesterday

What a tremendously important and useful piece of writing!  I have seen just this sort of addiction in members of my local Pagan communities and in some members of Outer Court groups with which I have been affiliated.  It is my intention to share this post with those in my coven who are empowered to initiate.  It would be a very valuable tool when evaluating potential initiates.  Thank you for such a well researched and concise post!

SullenGirl Comment by SullenGirl yesterday

What had me to stop and think were about the fact that I have been down so many religious paths but have always been involved in paganism to some level since I was about eleven.  It could have been that I changed mainstream religion so much because nothing fit, I did not want to be Baptist in the South, and my family did not approve of Islam.  Finally my husband and I agreed upon Catholicism and is becoming more comfortable with the occult.  I will admit I have fallen into more than a couple of categories listed.  Always the analyst.

Comment by LittleWitchMagazine yesterday

Excellent, excellent piece! Thank you very, very much for sharing it. I've always warned those who come to me for guidance that going with the flow is fine but the high of the ritual should never be the goal of the ritual. Back when Buffy was sill on T.V. I was shocked by Willow's addiction to magick but found it had a truth to it. It's been on my mind ever since and it's kept me from some very stupid decisions. 


I volunteered for a lesbian-oriented magazine for a while and met a lot of LGB people along the way whose lives revolved solely around their sexual orientation. I see the same in the Pagan community sometimes and it makes for very unbalanced practicing. 


Thank you for another reminder. I'll save this post for future reference for my students. 

SullenGirl Comment by SullenGirl on Sunday
Thank you for sharing this post.  I found it very insightful and useful in taking my personal inventory.
Leisha -- Back Home Comment by Leisha -- Back Home on Saturday

A stunning work...thank you for sharing this!


Two of the things that has always troubled me about many people within paganism are those who become obsessed with pursuing the next ritual high, and those who are obsessed with collecting large amounts of "religious stuff" in pursuit of their ideal state of practice. At one time, I have fit into either/both of those categories to some level, although I would hope I never crossed the line to addict. I know of some individuals whose entire lives are pagan-related...belonging to/running multiple groups, filling their calendar only with interaction within paganism, etc. I also know individuals who have houses crammed full of so much pagan stuff (books, tools, jewelry, and so on) that they could end up on an episode of Hoarders. One local gal was literally dying in a house full of so much stuff that it took teams of people coming in to rescue her because she was unable to leave her house, nor move around in it. I don't know what can be done to support people like that. The greater community is truly lacking in both people who know how to support situations like that and those who are able to provide support. This is a wonderful resource as a starting point to at least broach the subject. It would be intriguing to see a study of which religions have higher percentages of religious addicts, but because the topic is so under-studied, information like that probably won't be around in my lifetime. 


Awesome work!!


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