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Why are addicts and outcasts so often strongly religious?

What role does religion play in the lives of the outcast and the desperate among us? Sadly, it can be difficult for such people to find their way into the Church, because there are so many obstacles to their socialisation. But they are often strongly religious, as Chris Arnade has observed in the Guardian. Arnade writes, of one of the many people he met on the streets of New York:

The first addict I met was Takeesha. She was standing near the high wall of the Corpus Christi Monastery. We talked for close to an hour before I took her picture. When we finished, I asked her how she wanted to be described. She said without any pause, ‘As who I am. A prostitute, a mother of six, and a child of God.’

The words of Takeesha express the paradox that we all live: we are in this world, which can often leads us into terrible places; but we are the children of God. Indeed, one of the conclusions that Arnade draws is that we are all sinners, though the rich and comfortable can sometimes manage to smother this realisation. That means, of course, those living on the streets are perhaps wiser than those of us living sheltered lives.

Arnade uses his article to criticise his earlier teenage self, and also to criticise the position of Professor Richard Dawkins. That is the way his experience has led him, and he has clearly been moved by his encounters with people who believe, and for whom religion is part of their survival strategy. I suppose any atheist worth their salt would reply that religion is in fact a comfort for the desperate, but once we take away the poverty and the social issues that have reduced them to such desperation, people will soon slough off their religious allegiances too.

Read more at Catholic Herald.

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