"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people."-Karl Marx, a.k.a. 'the serious Marx brother'
For years, my medicine cabinet was full of many useful painkillers. I could use these drugs to assuage fears, narrow my focus, and bat away unwanted thoughts and feelings.
Chief among my drugs of choice was religion, and I am currently two years clean. Most Americans are recreational users of religion. I however, was a junkie. What's worse, as an evangelical christian, I was selling on the streets. Like all lucky users however, I bottomed out, and decided some things had to change.
Much like a heroin addict will use methadone to kill some of the separation anxiety from their preferred (but much deadlier) drug of choice, I guess I turned to deism to help me cope with the loss of a personal god and the promise of heaven; at least in deism, you still have some divine oversight (deism is to emerging atheism what training wheels is to your child's bicycle). But, as Kanye West so brilliantly puts it on his latest album, 'We said we'd drink until the pain's over; but what's worse, the pain or the hangover?' Eventually I had to face down my transitional drug as well. It wasn't nearly as bad as the religion. Once I realized that I was using deism to cope with my divine separation anxiety, I soon got that much subtler beast back under control as well.
And now I'm clean. Totally clean. It's a new feeling. I feel like life I'm a new employee at a new job, in a new town. Yes, from time to time the religious equivalent of my 'booze brain' does come calling, asking me to consider various magical solutions to any number of personal issues. Ultimately, I say no. That atavistic part of my soul, looking for patterns and signs where none exist, is an unnecessary burden. I'm born-again in a sense. These past few years have been my first attempts to look at life through a non-supernatural prism. It's been wonderful. Things that had been dulled by repetitive sacramental consideration have received a new sheen when appreciated for their own sake. Filtering everything you see through the lenses of religion may be exciting for some folks, but I object to it for the same reason Roger Ebert objects to 3-D: It's unnecessary, and so much of the color is filtered out.
Once, I asked a guy that I used to work with--a recovering addict--how many hats I should have. I had just bought a derby, and was a little self conscious about wearing the same one all the time. This guy had tons of hats, so I thought he'd be a good person to put me straight on the subject.
'Spencer,' he said, 'I'm a recovering addict. I don't do the drugs anymore, but the thing that led me to do the drugs is the same thing that leads me to buy hats. It's the compulsion. Instead of feeding it with dope, I'm giving it hats.'
That wasn't the answer I expected, but I think I needed to hear it. I suppose that as a person in a different kind of recovery, I should be on the lookout for what kind of hats I'm feeding my compulsion with. I'll let you know what it is when I find it, but until then, here's to a life without unnecessary sedatives and 3-D glasses.