By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Can being spiritual but not religious lead to mental health issues? The answer is yes, according to a recent study.
The study, published in the January edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry, says spiritual but not religious people, as opposed to people who are religious, agnostic or atheist, were more likely to develop a "mental disorder," "be dependent on drugs" and "have abnormal eating attitudes,” like bulimia and anorexia.
“People who have spiritual beliefs outside of the context of any organized religion are more likely to suffer from these maladies,” said Michael King, a professor at University College London and the head researcher on the project.
Thirty percent of respondents who identified as spiritual said they had used drugs, a number that was nearly twice as much as the 16% of religious respondents who said they had used drugs, according to the study. Among the spiritual respondents, 5% said they were dependent on drugs, while 2% of religious respondents identified as dependent.
On mental health issues, the study said spiritual but not religious people were more likely to suffer from “any neurotic disorder,” “mixed anxiety/depressive disorders” or “depression” than their religious counterparts. Overall, 19% of spiritual respondents said they suffered from a neurotic disorder, while 15% of religious respondents responded the same way.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
The practice of being spiritual but not religious is difficult to define and has a number of gray areas. The phrase is generally used to describe people who do not attend church, atheists who believe in some sort of higher power, free thinkers and the unaffiliated. It is also used for people who blend different faiths.
In short, King writes, “People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder.”
King, who said he has received a substantial amount of hate mail over the study, defended his findings, “If you take drug dependency, they are about 77% more likely than religious respondents, 24% more likely to having a generalized anxiety disorder. These are quite obvious differences.”
Opinion: 'I'm spiritual but not religious' is a cop-out
The study was conducted with the government of the United Kingdom, which asked the questions as part of a larger psychiatric study.
With a sample of 7,403 British people, the study found that nearly 19% of England’s population is spiritual but not religious. That number is higher in the United States, where, according to a 2002 Gallup Poll, in a sample of 729 adults, 33% of Americans identified themselves as "spiritual but not religious.”
Past academic studies in the United States have come to similar conclusions, said Tanya Luhrmann, a psychological anthropologist and the Watkins University professor at Stanford University. Most academic research about religion and well-being, said Luhrmann, has found that religion is good for you.
According to Luhrmann, organized religion provides three outlets that benefit churchgoers' well being: social support, attachment to a loving God and the organized practice of prayer.
“When you become spiritual but not religious, you are losing the first two points and most spiritual but not religious people aren’t participating in the third,” Luhrmann said. “It is not just a generic belief in God that works; it is specific practices that work.”
People who identify themselves as spiritual but not religious push back against the notion that they have no community to fall back on or impetus to help the poor. In an interview with CNN in June 2010, BJ Gallagher, a Huffington Post blogger who writes about spirituality, compared spiritual but not religious people to people who complete 12-step programs to beat addiction.
“Twelve-step people have a brilliant spiritual community that avoids all the pitfalls of organized religion,” said Gallagher, author of “The Best Way Out is Always Through.” “Each recovering addict has a 'God of our own understanding,' and there are no priests or intermediaries between you and your God. It's a spiritual community that works.”
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
Heather Cariou, a New York-based author, identifies as spiritual instead of religious. She told CNN last year that she adopted a spirituality that blends Buddhism, Judaism and other beliefs.
"I don't need to define myself to any community by putting myself in a box labeled Baptist or Catholic or Muslim," she said. "When I die, I believe all my accounting will be done to God, and that when I enter the eternal realm, I will not walk though a door with a label on it."
Younger people identify as spiritual but not religious more frequently than their older counterparts. In a 2009 survey by the research firm LifeWay Christian Resources, 72% of millennials (18- to 29-year-olds) said they are "more spiritual than religious."
The phrase is now so commonplace that it has spawned its own acronym ("I'm SBNR") and website: SBNR.org.
Traditionally the words "religious" and "spiritual" were closely linked, but over time the latter word began to describe an experience disconnected from the traditional confines of religion, particularly organized religion.
A widely discussed survey of adult Americans by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released in October found that the religiously unaffiliated both believe in God and define themselves as spiritual but not religious.
Sixty-eight percent of the religiously unaffiliated believe in God and 58% say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the Earth, in a spiritual way. Additionally, the study found 37% classify themselves as "spiritual" but not "religious" and 21% say they pray every day.
As expected, the practice of being spiritual but not religious has been roundly criticized by those who participate in organized religion. Jesuit priest James Martin told CNN in June that the phrase, "I’m spiritual but not religious," can boil down to egotism.
"Being spiritual but not religious can lead to complacency and self-centeredness," said Martin, an editor at America, a national Catholic magazine based in New York. "If it's just you and God in your room, and a religious community makes no demands on you, why help the poor?"
– CNN’s John Blake and Richard Greene contributed to this report
In other news, in effort to distance themselves from "crazy spiritualists," Chrsitians have begun declaring, "Hi, I'm a Christian. I'm religious but not at all spiritual."
even if they don't say it – you know they might be thinking it
which is so fing stupid
why have religion if not to achieve spirituality?
have you ever watched someone search their whole life for an inner connection to god through religion
and know that all they really want is to feel enlightened – which usually reguires spiritually based practices – like meditation, yoga, chi-gong, etc. – in order to activate kundalini and assist in it's passage to the crown chakra – to achieve the inner peace so many seek through religion – or enlightenment – or god's peace if you will – but you can't teach them enough in time – before they die?
kundalini has a lot to do with many of these so called mental disorders – mastering, understanding, and knowledge of it's existance and it's power to heal would be more helpful than creating more negative stereotype against those whom seek and/or are guided to and/or experience enlightenment – especially in the west – where this aspect of being human is not well known – nor understood – even by mental health professionals, physicians, nor many religious leaders.
anything else negative to say about this stereotype of enlightenment seekers CNN – why does someone have to be part of a religion to give to the poor – what's up with that? And why are 'spiritual but not religions' considered to be without a religion? They probably get their religion better than most – and – like Jesus – are prosecuted for it – cuz – Jesus would not have been considered to be mentally well in this day and age by the western society especially. Jesus too dealt with kundalini.
Just another jab at people who do yoga?
what's up with that CNN – why the constant negatives about people who practice yoga?
oh – i get it – cuz it's from India – what bunk ...
Trace our planet's geological and biological ages
"Being spiritual but not religious can lead to complacency and self-centeredness," – guess he fails to see the irony in that statement.
To all atheists:
Please state factual information to back up your beliefs.
FACT: Every single religious ideology know to man was born of human conjecture. Every single one is the manifestation of a person, or group of people at some point in time. You can argue that belief system "x" was divinely inspired but that is opinion, not fact. Religions are man's creations.
Sure, you have no evidence to prove there is a creator. See, wasn't that easy?
@Thoth : FACT: Every single religious ideology know to man was born of human conjecture
How do you propose to prove this as fact? Lets start with Genesis 1:1, where God creates matter, energy and time. How did the Biblical ghost writers know this to be true, when other ancients believed that the universe was composed of earth, sky, water and fire?
It's simple to prove. All religious doctrines were written by man. There is an abundant amount of evidence to that. There is zero evidence that any god ever wrote, did, or even existed.
As for Genesis, do you really want to get into all the scientific flaws contained in that particular chapter? Furthermore, I happen to agree with the majority of academic historians who view the OT as a recycled, revisioned version of the Epic of Gilgimesh, written much earlier.
Provide facts to back up yours Live4Him
@ Live4Him please tell me where Genesis 1 says god created " matter, energy, and time"? In Genesis 1 god calls the moon a light source, and any child with a second grade understanding of the universe know the moon is not a light source, the moon only reflects light.
You said, "Please state factual information to back up your beliefs."
You seem to be unclear, or mistaken, about what atheists believe, or don't believe.
It's the complete and utter lack of any factual information supporting a belief in any gods that will lead any rational human to a lack of belief in them.
Looks like Live4Him has left the building.
Where Does All Earth's Gold Come From? (not g-od)
Precious Metals the Result of Meteorite Bombardment, Rock Analysis Finds
Sep. 9, 2011 — Ultra high precision analyses of some of the oldest rock samples on Earth by researchers at the University of Bristol provides clear evidence that the planet's accessible reserves of precious metals are the result of a bombardment of meteorites more than 200 million years after Earth was formed.
Gawd dun it wiff spellz
Please state factual information to back up your claims. Science.
Live4Him: You ask others to provide facts, but I cannot see where you have provided any.
This is not surprising – perhaps religions evolved as a means to stabilize people who are spiritually inclined, or even bug house crazy, and allow them to function in ordinary life.
Or perhaps mentally ill people are incapable of adhering to the normative life of people who embrace religion.
....or, mentally ill people find shelter under the umbrella of religion
The study indicates non-religious people are more subject to drugs and mental illness sam.
"The study indicates non-religious people are more subject to drugs and mental illness sam."
But it's saying spiritual people are subject to drugs and mental illness, believing in a God. Sixty-eight percent of the religiously unaffiliated believe in God and 58% say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the Earth, in a spiritual way. Additionally, the study found 37% classify themselves as "spiritual" but not "religious" and 21% say they pray every day.
or perhaps we are all flawed. Some are religous, some use other things as their religon, and some are spiritiual but not religous. We know what this study tells us.
Defining people that are spiritual but not religious. That's not like defining people that way 180 to 200 pounds, or peopole with green eyes, or red heads, etc. I think the whole study is flawed.
It is just another article for non religious people to bash religious people on the CNN website. Nothing new in 2013.
The article is not accurate because they don't account for religious people who take their beliefs to the level of being mentally ill
It's not a mental illness if its done in the name of religion.
DSM V may include something on this.
TTOO, if CNN writes an article on that, do you believe the blog web servers will be able to handle the number of comments?
Regarding :'72% of millennials (18- to 29-year-olds) said they are "more spiritual than religious."'
This is not surprising to me. Often, children are taught the religious beliefs (Christian and atheism) of their parents. As they mature, these teachings are put to the test. When I was 18, I would have considered myself SBNR too. Yet, as I matured, I grew wiser, my faith solidified and I became a very conservative Christian.
So, "growing wiser" now involves believing in a talking snake and a virgin birth. Got it.
Do you believe that employing mockery gives you the appearance of being wise?
I never said such a thing, just pointing out how backwards religious thinking is. Ridiculous beliefs deserve to be ridiculed.
Conservative Christian is an oxymoron.
Your Jesus, from his purported words and actions, was the biggest liberal ever. Do you not understand the phrase "bleeding heart liberal"?
What you've demonstrated is the inability to enter into a rational discussion. Rather, you give a visceral response, believing that you're right.
No, wisdom is the polar opposite of believing in a collection of contradictory writings and then claiming that they are factual in nature.
"Live4Him", it is difficult to get into a rational discussion with someone who believes in talking snakes, virgin births, and a god who can simultaneously read the minds of 7 billion people. At least when it comes to those beliefs. I work with many religious folks, and as long as the conversation is about something other than their superst-ition, we can have rational disussions. But if we are talking about religion, rational discussion goes right out the window.
Rational discussion? Please tell me you are making an attempt at comedy. Try having a rational discussion with an adult that believes Santa flies around the world on a crappy sled at high altitudes with no Oxygen mask, in a frilly red suit that somehow prevents him from freezing to death.
Now, you were saying?
@THE BROWN NOTE
Sigh, ANOTHER person who believes that employing mockery makes him wise.
wise means talking to the red horned thing
@BU2B : 'it is difficult to get into a rational discussion'
Do you lack the ability? Or do you feel so superior that it is beneath you?
Oh no, it's not mockery. It's merely pointing out the absurdity of your perspective and subsequent demand for rationale.
In the responses, it looks like "BU2B" has the same problem that biblical literalists have: that is, stuck on "literal" interpretations, unable to accept or understand figurative or symbolic language. That's actually not a very "rational" approach. It's easy to construct simplistic, black-and-white arguments with flimsy "straw men" – and some biblical literalists and some "rationalists" have precisely the same problem. Boring.
Religitards respond better to good vibes rather than good sense. Throw some speech in there about tears and joy. Couch your arguments as "coming from the heart." He may listen.
"Do you believe that employing mockery gives you the appearance of being wise?"
Do you believe that quoting a bible gives you the appearance of being wise?
BU2B – If you knew anything at all, you would know that you sound like an idiot. Sure sit around and mock people that you think should be mocked. Perhaps that is your way to deal with life, all knowing wise person you percieve yourself to be.... A very sad case indeed.
1 John 4:1
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Yet another bible quote that attempts to keep the sheep in the pasture. Good job.
RB, that is an absolutely dumb reply to any one who is a non-believer. Quoting from your book of myths is piontless, it serves no purpose ohter than to make you 'feel good,' but it doesn't make you look inteligent. It just means you can quote from a book. I'll bet you carry your babble everywhere you go, just so you can get your 'fix,' right?
It is for the spiritual not religious. There is a spirit realm, but there is only one holy spirit. Those who are into spiritual things should be extra cautious.
I don’t carry my bible everywhere, there are some really good bible sites on the internet.
I was raised a in a strict Roman Catholic home. My mother "dutifully" attended mass, but it seemed that and a rote prayer before dinner was the extent of it. At 15, I became super involved with the Church by becoming the first teen lay person to deliver Scriptures, read announcements, and distribute Communion. I would attend Mass two or three times per weekend. During my elementary school years, I went to parochial school and wanted to become a nun. In and throughout all of this, the only time I heard about helping the "poor" was from the nuns during elementary school and the nuns out in the community who answered my questions. The Church did not provide any of this for me.
I am afflicted with extreme mental health issues, starting at the age of four. I grew to become so disillusioned by the Church (and subsequent organized religions I tried on for size) that I blended several into my Spiritual beliefs that I live by today.
Instead of thinking, "Am I going to hell if I do this?" I think "Is the best thing to do, or am I going to hurt someone or myself?" I learned the first in the Catholic Church, the latter throughout a mix of Spiritualism. Bottom line, I have a kind, merciful universal Creator who wants me to thrive and be happy, treat others as I would be treated, and Who loves me even if I screw up (I just have to do better next time). My spirituality helps me deal with my mental health issues beyond what words can say. Without my faith, I don't know where I'd be today.
I have found that many who embrace religious teachings early in life have never understood WHY they believe what they believe. IMO these people have the illusion, rather than true faith. You obviously have a spiritual need to fulfill, but WHY do you believe as you believe?
"Bottom line, I have a kind, merciful universal Creator who wants me to thrive and be happy, treat others as I would be treated, and Who loves me even if I screw up (I just have to do better next time)".
True, this "creator" you speak of is your mother and father. They are the ones who actually created you. Most likely, assuming they were decent parents, they wanted you to thrive and be happy, treat others as you would like to be treated, etc. Nothing ground breaking here, just common sense.
Live, you are 100% incorrect. Please state factual information to back up your claims. Science.
Paula, it sounds to me as if you could still be a Catholic. Allow me to invite you back to the mass sister.
@ Live4Him True faith IS the illusion.
"Allow me to invite you back to the mass sister," said the spider to the fly...
I have seen people healed that medical science could not explain. That was not an illusion. To assume that you know the bases of everyones faith is not only illogical, its ignorant.
So many of you have such venomus anti religious believes, do you spend your life wishing you could attack others. Now the internet has provided the perfect place for an assult that you would never do in person? Do you verbally assualt all people who don't agree with your point of view on life? Were you abused by a religious person? Please share something other than the bible says this which can't be true, or religiuos people are crazy. Tell us about yourself. What makes you so enligtened? Much better chance of people listening to your opinion that Mocking others who do not agree with you.
TexasGoober: I don't doubt you've seen people healed that you could not explain. Medical science probably understood it just fine. They probably even wanted to explain it to you, there's just only so much a moron can soak up, and only so many hours in a day.
AND THEY'RE LIKELY TO EXPERIENCE DREADLOCKS.
A riddle perhaps...
There is Knowing beyond books.
There are Books without pages.
There are Pages without words.
There are Words without knowing.
An endless cycle, like the discussions between believers and non-believers.
Or is it?
facing mental health issues?
and not searching in that direction..
This was a survey, not a study. HUGE difference.
Click study link top of page.
For STUDY info click The Study, not a survey.
What about secular humanists?
they're cool. NEXT!
Thank you for telling us whose cool. I wasn't sure and had to wait on your chosen gift of knowlege.
Rob-Texas, whose who's are you hewing into hues? Then was a time to use 'than'. There are two tu's to your tutu too. It's time for its correct usage.
There a many loose ends in this article. For instance, "72% of millennials (18- to 29-year-olds) said they are 'more spiritual than religious.'" Might this the ages in which emotional and mental health issues are most likely to emerge. Or, is the conclusion, perhaps, any different than saying that sailors are more likely than landlubbers to be in danger of drowning?
When confronting comments by so called atheists on these blogs it is critical to remember that all atheists are liars.
Conclusions from study
People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder.
......and all Christians are ped...o...philes
When confronting comments made by 'truth be told,' it is critical to remember that all he says is pure bullschitt, and that he is full of same.
How many of the religious who have regular conversations with an imaginary person who is often, but not exclusively, called Jesus were counted as delusional?
How many of the ones who assert they have two-way communication of some type, (e.g. auditory/visual hallucinations, or communication more akin to what would be termed telepathy) were counted as suffering from some type of psychosis?
In short, did anyone get a pass on a diagnosis because they claimed what would otherwise be a mental illness was related to a religious belief?
Now that is a good one.
Heather Cariou is an exception, just sayin'
Let's consider some of the suppositions:
1. If you are spiritual, then you're an egotist, which can lead to complacency and self-centeredness. (they told you that, so it must be true)
2. If you are spiritual then you don't have a social support group. (again reasoned as above)
3. If you are spiritual then you don't have an attachment to a loving God. (again reasoned as above)
4. If you are spiritual then you don't participate in prayer. (again reasoned as above)
5. All who are not Spiritual, are more likely to be exempt from mental disorders.
6. All who are not Spiritual, are more likely to be exempt from drug dependencies.
7. All who are not Spiritual, are more likely to be exempt from eating disorders.
Or so this article supposes.
could it be you're upset since you are spiritual but not religious?
Or could it be, that I don't fit in the box?
Or that I have no reason to be upset?
Let me just say I like a little bit of crazy in people. I celebrate your individualism. There is a spectrum on which humans express their desire for individualism, but you are no more in or out of the human box than any other human. Feeling "special" or above the human condition is where cults get formed.
I am definitely human, but am not confused by my relationship with my environment, are you?
My environment created/creates/will create me, as does yours. My environment changes constantly, subtlely defining who I am, at least to me. I am not a god, or have a need to provide a service to one, or have a need to deny someone else's need to have an attachment to their God.
I do not want my spirit confined in a box. I am allowed to transverse Space and Time, through my perception and Imagination.
I am definitely human, but I understand Life beyond human, because I hold the key to the door, which is Life, as do you and all others. The key is Comparison. But where is that Door of Life, that might be a better serving question for you, instead of finding a fault to a Thinking Process (as it is not mine, I just use it)?
BTW the Thinking Process is available to anyone, in the Book without pages, mentioned in my riddle above.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.