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Written Word > Articles & Commentaries > September 2009 > The Danger of Turning Religion into a "Toy"
Current rating: 4.6 (24 ratings)
Very good article Father.It seems bordom is rapidly becoming the biggest challange to evangalism in the third millennium. Lately I have been ethuasticly going through Peter Kreeft's audio library and your article reminded me greatly of one of his lectures called "Lost in the Cosmos".

Here is the link, (


9/10/2009 5:29:00 PM
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Jay Nemar
You claim that atheism is linked to addiction. Please provide evidence.


9/11/2009 1:56:59 AM
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Hope you don't mind if I address your question. I can provide some evidence for his claim.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, which is the flagship for all drug and alcohol recovery programs, it is stated that nothing less than a personal spiritual experience followed by the development of an active spiritual life will save an addict from their disease of addiction. It should be considered that Alcoholics Anonymous has a higher success rate than any other recovery program for addict/alcoholics. In the 12 steps of AA, it is necessary for the addict to be convinced that their is a "Higher Power" which can save him/her from the disease of addiction. An atheist has a lot of personal reflection to do to overcome aversion to such language: its pretty clear that they're talking about God although the phrase "Higher Power" is a less loaded term.

So, I would back up Fr. Barron at least as far as to say that atheism can be a major stumbling block to an addict's recovery. That doesn't mean that I believe that all atheists become addicts, but I do believe that atheism can be dangerous to a person who has an addiction.
9/11/2009 10:57:58 AM
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I spent two and a half wonderful weeks in Scotland this summer, hiking in the highlands and visiting the west coast. I talked to people whose opinion was the same as your sound man's. Religion was at best a hobby that a few odd ducks engaged in, but nothing of concern to most people--certainly not the problem that motivates people like Hitchens and Dawkins. Over the last few years I've been to England and France, and my impression is that Europe is exhausted. It can't sustain it's population--Italy and Spain are disappearing. People fritter their lives away in mild hedonism and ennui. Maybe this isn't "addiction," but it seems close: low-level aimlessness and depression, as if life itself were only a hobby.
9/11/2009 6:49:39 PM
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Deacon Edwin Santiago
Thoreau’s Walden Pond brings this secularist approach to religion. The idea that each individual will interpret their religion as they see fit. The motivation for this type of thinking as I see it is that many institutions are failing. In California the failure of our government to get anything done and the failure of our prison system to rehabilitate the inmates are just two examples. I would say that these are two good examples of addiction. If we believe in the Paschal mystery than we stay wired to God through the institution of our Church. If we are deceived or do not believe in God than we hook up to something which is not God such as a lack of faith in Government, Church, and all institutions and become "Lost in the Cosmos".
9/13/2009 9:24:14 AM
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Kell Brigan
Using Freud in apologetic argument -- NICE! (Remind me to never play poker with Fr. Barron.)
9/15/2009 3:38:54 PM
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Bob S.
I can sympathize with the sound man in being jaded with too much meaningless symbolism, rubric, and prohibition in lieu of meaningful philosophical conviction. As a child raised in the Catholic tradition of the Hispanic culture I too was surrounded by a seeming overdose of religious iconography, architecture, and pomp.

All this was meaningful and significant when I was a child and my parents could answer my life questions but as we all got older it became perfunctory attendance in a sort of cultural social club that just happened to center around religious affiliation. When I look at what changed I recall that we all got caught up in pursuits of the material world and took the role of a Creator for granted. I never completely stopped believing but as I began to have more adult level questions about life, spirituality, and the meaning of it all, my parents were no longer able to answer them and neither were others. Religion ceased to have relevance to me.

Concurrently I started avoiding the questions as well because I started having desires that religion seemingly would repress and bring me a disordered existence (as contemporary thinking goes). I developed the deep philosophical convictions of the secular culture without direct intention. Little by little I moved from apathy into disdain for religion without even trying. I lived this way for years thinking it did not affect me at all.

Looking back I can see that it is an inherent tendency in man to develop and live by dogmas and doctrines whether they know it or not.

At mid-life I had the sort of crisis that seems to be an inevitable chapter in the script of the life of modern man. Mine culminated in a nasty addiction and alcoholism. I tried every means I could think of to resolve this and avoid the spiritual solution.

All the psychologists recommended the solution suggested by the other "father of psychoanalysis", Carl Jung. He suggested a hypothesis long held among physicians and psychologists who have dealt with mental disorders that addiction is a misplaced thirst for the divine hence the term "spirits" for the substance that filled the spirit of the man. He posited that only the "Spirit" can counter the addiction to the "spirits" hence the axiom, "Spiritus Contra Spiritum".

I struggled to defy my pragmatic nature and dependence on pure reason because this all seemed to be conjecture and I needed proof. As I began to attend support groups I began to see the evidence in the recovered people all around me. People who had sank to irreparable depths and made spectacular, impossible recoveries.

I still didn't want to turn my dependence to a divine consciousness but by reason I saw no other choice as all the analysis, therapy, medication, support, and will power alone couldn't solve the life problem.

I eventually did make a decision to live the spiritual life according to the directives of a Higher Power. This not only solved the crisis in my life but solved my problem with life. Inexplicably to me then it was as if I finally acknowledged and acted upon the "Being" part of being a Human Being.

In my walk of spiritual growth I constantly sought answers to my questions in life due to my pragmatic nature. But I no longer gave up with just a cursory view. Amazingly I found that there were teachers like Fr. Baron out there who employed reason AND faith to lead me to the answers.

This walk eventually led me back to the Catholic Church. I found all the other spiritual traditions to be lacking in something that I could not put my finger on. At first I thought it was simply the rituals but the I realized it was something more. I realized that I felt a more conscious contact with God in Catholic Mass than in any other spiritual service, even those with better music. My wife led me back to the Eucharist (long story) as this source, God bless her.

I also found Christian Unity in the Universal (Catholic) Church. But it is the humble unity that does not make protestation and determine the terms but rather conforms to the standards and humbly obeys. I found that I did not have to set aside reason for this but rather to apply it with diligence and an open mind.

Today all the symbols and ceremony have deep and rich meaning and the faith is relevant. For example the Virgin De Guadalupe in Mexican culture is no longer just a quaint symbol adapted for the peasant culture but rather she is the Queen of the Angels who transformed millions of men from a blood thirsty culture (my ancestors) into civil men in a very short period. Most importantly, I have found the meaning in life on that first hill of Calvary. Today I can effectively forgive those who do me wrong because He forgave us all. This is the Power that commands my heart and relieves my disordered thinking.

Thanks be to God.

Bob S.
9/15/2009 9:24:25 PM
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fe v lazaro
I just want to thank Bob S. for writing about his reversion to the Catholic Church. Your witness and testimony made me cry. "Welcome Home" dear brother and kudos to your dear wife. What an amazing woman she is!
Thank you sooo much.
9/25/2009 11:08:53 PM
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Ralph Y
I wonder, if the reason for "turning religion into a toy", is because to many people are going through the motions of the mass service without really having a deeper understanding of the word of God. I have been attending a Catholic church for about 3 years now, and have been attending RCIA classes, but find that most Catholics don't really know their Bible, and are worshiping on auto-pilot without really knowing where they are going in their Christian live walk. I am interested in a deeper study of the Bible and how Church interprets it historically and presently. I like to listen to Fr. Barron's homilies and commentaries and definitely gain new and different understanding from them, and appreciate them very much.
12/27/2009 12:22:18 PM
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I have to say that as Spaniard it hurts what I am reading but, at the same time, I have to admit that it is true what you said about religion in Spain.

I would like to explain that my view on religion was just like the one of that young Spaniard you talk with until I had an experience of God´s Love, then religion became something that helps me to get in touch with God and to know Him. Religion is the glass that helps me to drink the Watter I need.

I remember when I was a little girl and the churches were full, it was under Franco´s "dictadura". There was no choice, we had to be Catholic. All my life I´ve been in Catholic schools and I have to say that the religious formation I received did not mean a lot to me. I studied religion to pass the exam and even went to several spiritual retreats there at the School.

I was not attracted to any nun or priest, I could not see anything in them that would make me think "I want that". I remember that priest in High school that liked to talk about aliens during religion class...UFO´s...and things like that. My goodness what a mess...I remember the nuns smoking and wearing tight pants...

Spaniards of my age (I am 42) t have gone through the transition from Franco to Democracy and we went through many big changes...What was doing the church at that time? I don´t know, perhaps it was doing some kind of sojourning and it got lost and in that sojourning we got lost too.

There is a minority of people that are rediscovering the Catholic Church, and perhaps it will take a very long time until the whole country is of fire for God once more.

I want to apologize too for the remark about " you Americans..." I am really sorry. I live in America and I´ve found so many wonderful people here. We don´t know the American people. People from Spain and other parts of Europe don´t know the heart of people from USA.

Well, thank you so much for your time and for all you are doing. God´s Blessings.
1/2/2010 10:01:58 AM
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Vytai John Brannan
You say in the last part of your article that people will
'damage' themselves if they make created things their gods.

'Damage'. This is a terrible euphemism.

They set themselves up for an eternity of hatred i.e. hatred of God, hatred of self, hatred of others and all this accompanied by the terrible reality that THEY themselves put themselves into this situation and that in hell there is absolutely no hope.

Religion (especially Catholicism) is treated like with indifference precisely because it is preached as one of many options one can choose.
Many prelates, more concerned about politics, have failed to actually preach the Gospel of Decision and consequence either for the salvation or eternal damnation of souls.

Our religions founder never tried to 'euphemize', the reality of a real living hell.
He was very clear: Do what I command you to do and you will have life. Reject my commands and you will put your self into hell.

Do yourself a favor Father, recognize the reality of hell along with the reality of heaven and start putting that choice before all of your listeners.

When you do that you will truly be serving Christ.

2/12/2010 1:09:57 PM
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Mark H
Thank you, and Bless you, Fr. Barron.
Bob's testimony, could very well be an "every man's" story, including myself. I find an innate calling to Christ and the Church. However, the Sloth of the day to day habits of decades of neglect are such a barrier. I find it nearly impossible with any regularity to bring myself to achieve a state in which the Eucharist can be participated. The spatter of sin on the windshield heading toward the light is blinding, and Reconciliation is typically inadequate as floodgates are opened but much is forgotten or replaced in due course. To be honest, I am never worthy in "what I have done and what I have failed to do." As Fr Barron has said many times I cannot will myself away from sin. It does trouble me as my responsibilities seem to be in conflict to achieving a truly saintly lifestyle which leave me to Adoration only, and Mass avoidance. All the fellowship and prayer at Mass cannot absolve the stain enough to be in a state to receive the Eucharist. But I long too. I am left simply, a sinner and not worthy, and rest all hope in Grace. As St Thomas More said, "Whoever bids other folks to do right, but gives an evil example by acting the opposite way, is like a foolish weaver who weaves quickly with one hand and unravels the cloth just as quickly with the other. " That's me.

Fr Barron's Word on Fire clips and shows lift my spirit.
12/1/2010 7:41:08 AM
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Kell Brigan
Hey, Mark H.
Speaking as a member of the laity here, but it sounds like you might want to speak with a Priest about Confession/Reconciliation. If we all had to forego Communion until we managed to be fully worthy, we'd all be outside the Church looking in. You don't have to be perfect (yet), you just have to accept God's grace and foregiveness, and then go on and do your best. In fact, we're given the Eucharist to help sustain us in our journey toward perfection, not as a "reward." God bless.
12/1/2010 10:45:15 AM
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