Toxic Faith: Understanding and Overcoming Religious Addiction, by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton (Oliver-Nelson, 316 pp.; $17.95, hardcover);A Hunger for Healing: The Twelve Steps as a Classic Model for Christian Spiritual Growth, by J. Keith Miller (HarperSan-Francisco, 262 pp.; $15.95, hardcover);Growing Up Holy Versus Growing Up Wholly: Understanding and Hope for Adult Children of Evangelicals, by Donald Sloat (Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 261 pp.; $9.95, paper). Reviewed by Jim Alsdurf, a forensic psychologist, and coauthor, with his wife, Phyllis, of Battered into Submission (InterVarsity).

Three recent releases within the “addiction” genre conclude that religious faith—evangelical style—can be pathological. This is a serious charge, which each book develops in its own way.

Expanding on our culture’s seeming addiction to addictions, authors Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton attempt to show in their book Toxic Faith how religious beliefs can lead to a “defective faith” in which religion and not the relationship with God controls a person’s life.

This “religious addiction” emanates from certain “toxic beliefs,” the authors suggest, as a way to avoid responsibility and distort the true life and health of faith. This avoidance manifests itself in everything from codependency to churchaholism to sexual perversion. In short, religious addiction is a faith system that has lost “its true object … the true presence of God.”

Arterburn and Felton contend that religious addiction leads to emotional imbalance, interpersonal isolation, and a stagelike progression that ends in despair, erratic behavior, deep depression, searching for another fix, family deterioration, and other experiences before the addict hits bottom.

The authors identify ...

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