1. Religion & Spirituality

Discuss in my forum

Austin Cline

Comment of the Week: Christianity and Mental Health

By November 6, 2012

Follow me on:

Does religion help or harm mental health? Most believers will probably say that it helps, and it can't harm too much otherwise it probably wouldn't have survived so well for so long. Nevertheless, some forms of religion surely do more harm than good and there are sound reasons to question religion generally regarding this.

Mental Health
Mental Health
Photo: Martin Barraud/Getty

If there is one thing that might contribute to religion -- in particular, western theistic religion -- having a negative impact on mental health it's the way it can encourage passivity. Prayer is too often the best or only answer. Even worse, a person's lack of faith or failure to adhere to religious dogmas can be cited as the cause of one's problems.

Dean writes:

As someone from a Pentecostal 'divorced home', I can testfiy that Pentacostalism not only doesn't protect children from these ills, it prevents constructively addressing them. If praying it away doesn't work, Pentacostalism has no more to offer, just the sensation of tacking a failure of faith onto whatever other problems you already had.

During the school year I lived with my more moderate mother, during the summer, as a teenage Pentecostal going to church three times a week, I had a shoplifting compulsion that went away as soon as I was out of that environment. I was under so much pressure to conform that I had to let it off somehow.

[original post]

Telling people to simply pray and leave everything up to God rather than how they can directly address their problems and take substantive action to deal with them will only be harmful in the long run. What others things do you see in religion which can create real problems for people's emotional, psychological, and mental health?

Comments
November 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm
(1) Dean J. Smith says:

I sometimes wonder if I had been brought up in a more liberal faith, that I might not have become such a skeptic. Fundamentalism is hard, but brittle: if you’re raised to believe that the Bible is inerrant, faith can unravel pretty quickly once you’ve read it through. So, in a roundabout way, I may have my earlier fundamentalism partly to thank for my current skepticism.

On the other hand, I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with more severe family issues, like alcoholism, with only prayer to which to turn.

November 7, 2012 at 1:55 am
(2) Contradiction Much says:

Your previous article where you purported to refute the moral basis that Christianity provides and mildly linking it with Nazi ideology contradicts this article.

Nazi ideology, which you seem to conflate with Christianity to a degree because you used it for an analogy, is aggressive, but here you’re saying that prayer, a core component of Christian living, promotes passivity.

It seems that you will label Christianity with anything that denigrates it, even if those subjects contradict your earlier smears. Here is the first sentence that you wrote in your article entitled Flaws in Reasoning and Arguments: Confirmation Bias: “Confirmation bias occurs when we selectively notice or focus upon evidence which tends to support the things we already believe or want to be true while ignoring that evidence which would serve to disconfirm those beliefs or ideas.”

And by the way, this article is useless because there aren’t any verses in the Bible that say Christianity is supposed to be like a pillow.

November 7, 2012 at 7:31 am
(3) Austin Cline says:

Your previous article where you purported to refute the moral basis that Christianity provides and mildly linking it with Nazi ideology contradicts this article. Nazi ideology, which you seem to conflate with Christianity to a degree because you used it for an analogy, is aggressive

No, I don’t link Christianity with Nazi ideology nor do I even use it as an example. I only raise the topic because Christians often use it in their arguments in defense of the existence of absolute, objective morality. Every instance of the word “Nazi” is, in fact, in the context of describing or addressing that argument.

You can’t have read the article very closely to have missed something so obvious.

but here you’re saying that prayer, a core component of Christian living, promotes passivity.

No, I’m not. Instead I’m saying that telling people to pray and leave everything up to God promotes passivity. How could you have missed that last clause unless you simply aren’t bothering to read? Or is it the case that you are aware of the truth but are deliberately misrepresenting my words in the hopes that no one will notice?

And by the way, this article is useless because there aren’t any verses in the Bible that say Christianity is supposed to be like a pillow.

So, no one every defends Christianity by saying that it provides comfort and hope to people? Maybe you’ve seen them do exactly that, but never noticed because it’s not just atheists’ writings that you so badly misread.

February 13, 2013 at 8:05 pm
(4) joe de lisle says:

yeah this article reeks.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.