Elizabeth Esther On Spiritual Sobriety & The Realities Of Religious Addiction

Spiritual Sobriety illuminates the dangers of religious addiction. The book defines religious addiction as "the state of being dependent on a spiritually mood-altering system". It says that the aim of religious addicts is "not to worship God but to alter their perception of reality. (Such addicts) ...are religious junkies, obsessed with mood alteration and a quick fix to face life."

The book listed few characteristics of religious addicts as:
  • Attending church to feel significant and secure.
  • Using prayer as a medium to feel good.
  • Taking pride in the number of hours spent in prayer.
  • Transactional use of God, which is paying God with zeal and commitment while expecting good feelings, financial rewards and other blessings in return.

The book also highlights the issue of emotional manipulation by churches, as well as religious doctrines that borders on paganism. The author, who went through similar experiences, summarises the kind of teachings she was taught, saying: "instead of 'If you sacrifice a goat, it will rain,' we had 'If you tithe, you’ll have financial success' or 'If you avoid public school, your children won’t be tainted.'"

Spiritual Sobriety asks us to abandon our selfish, addictive ways and replace them with healthier expressions of spirituality.  It also pleads with us to nurture ourselves and be of service to our fellow humans. Even when we have our most pressing life questions unanswered, the book advises us not to obsess over silence, but be comfortable with life's unresolved riddles.

Spiritual Sobriety doesn't just exhort us to abandon our addictive ways, it also reveals what we can do to replace them. It tells us to:
"...refrain from using religion as a punishment against others or ourselves; seek to be rigorously honest rather than unfailingly good; and retain the best of (our) spiritual devotion in positive, life-enhancing ways".

Spiritual Sobriety is a book I wished I read many years ago. It is full of personal experiences and insights into the nature of modern Christianity's brand of perversion. The book doesn't pose to have all the answers, but gives simple guidelines by which you can start your own journey to recovery.

On the negative side, few people might be put off by few New-Age-y concepts the book bandies around. Spiritual Sobriety isn't perfect, but just like a sudden flash of lightning across the sky, it shines a bright light on a problem that many prefer no one talks about.

Many thanks to Covergent Books for review copy.


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