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.
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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.”
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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
Like dude, religion is like the brown acid I took at Woodstock – a bad trip.
Chipmonk said don't take the brown acid.
But the green was ok.
I prefer the blue.
Well yeah, because they're not afraid of some 2000 year old sky-daddy coming down to give them a whooping if they step out of line. Doesn't seem all that profound.
I was raised Romain Catholic, but i'am now SPRITUAL!
I feel being a good Christian is not only giving to the poor, but living the Ten Comandants daily to the best of my ability.
I don't need a church to detremine my good deeds, I answer only to God at my death.
I give when I can, and I pray when I feel the need to talk to God, not when church leaders tell me too.
Leave it to the catholic preist to sprinkle his dose of guilt, with his comments, that really turns me away from churches, and leaders like him.
Yeah, but any self respecting minister/rabbi/priest/imam will tell you that you will still go to hell going it that way.
Because if you don't give at the collection plate, it invalidates your get into heaven free card.
Correlation does not imply causation. This is one of the most basic rules of statistics, but it seems we're perfectly happy to ignore it if it will lead to a story that grabs more headlines.
Does the guy on the beach get royalties for these articles? He seems to be the posterboy for the spiritualists.
That is a different picture.
Everytime they go to the beach, there he is.
I know that dude. We go to the same NA group.
Actually, it was the cheapest stock photo we could find. We use it on every SBNR story because we are just to busy creating important content on Justin Beiber.
Good thinking CNN blog staff.
Because nothing sells in America like a story about some celebrity.
"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."
Though I am sure it has been commented on already, one has to be careful with such comparissons. If a 'spiritual" minded person has a genetic condition like PKU....any other their mental disorders they may have could come from that and not being spiritual.
Causality is not determined by this study – merely the observation that people (SBNR) who search for meaning without a deterministic answer tend to have a higher incidence of eating disorders, anxiety, depression and neuroses than other groups.
In the right light is is a very unsurprising finding.
Yeah, we already hit the "mistaking correlation for causation" fallacy thing already. It's a very lame study.
Can't get too excited about correlation not equaling causation. Often the "fallacy" is just misattributing the direction of the relationship.
I think the age of respondents needs to be taken into account. The article states that 72% of millennials consider themselves SBNR... Who is more likely to experiment with drugs a 23 year old college student, or a 75 year old businessman/lifetime catholic?
Come on out fundies.
The atheists are all over your god board making fun of him and bashing religion.
Tell us how jeebus dies for us and loves us, or that god will put us in the fiery pit if we don't get on our knees like you do.
Quote some sh_eeet out of the babble for us that proves your sky fairy exists.
The way is not in the sky.
The way is in the heart.
The heart is nothing but a muscle that pumps blood.
you're proof enough. what purpose do you have here?
I thought buddha's way was thru the stomach.
Thank you, David.
That's proof of Zeus too.
So Nik...your purpose on here is what? Just wanting to fight and argue? How is that logical or rational?
The Godly kingdom domains are upon ones' insides and not within the skies. We are all Godly husbandries and are all Godly buildings wherein the families of God dare take residences upon all living body's insides.
Atheists who hang out in religious boards aren't really done with it. They may notwant to belief, but they still do.
Real atheists don't waste their time trying to convince themselves they're not making a mistake.
Whether you're running away or towards something, it's still the center of your existence.
Atheists belong in another country! do everyone a favor and leave ours to the faithful.
"Atheists who hang out in religious boards aren't really done with it."
Another lie from the xtians – 17!
I am just here to have fun and tease you fundies.
I have some music I need to audit, and I can do it while drinking a brew and having a laugh with/at the people here.
You fundies take everything so seriously, so I am here to lighten things us a bit.
That was good MojoSinkin.
I could care less about what you believe or if god exists or not.
I just care about having fun, and when I have a bit of time to kill, this board and you fundies never let me down when I need a laugh or two.
Don't get your panties in a bunch Slashie.
It is a big country, you mean I can't have any of it, it is all yours?
I thought you religious types were taught to share.
I don't think your imaginary friend would approve of you not sharing.....
@niknak- "I am just here to have fun and tease you fundies."
Fundie? In what way have I ever gave you the cause to think that?
Oh...it's obvious you are not here to be serious or to be relevant. It's just nice to see you are honest with your foolishness.
"drinking a brew"
Possible alcoholism..bet the ppl that came up with the study would say that's due to your atheistic background. Either that or your Irish.
"You fundies take everything so seriously, so I am here to lighten things us a bit."
Again with the fundies stuff...odd. Actually, you should focus on the atheist fundies. They take this more seriously than most of those with a religious faith. Look at "Reality" posting his copy/paste stuff on every single board. Isn't he a fundie?
A heart muscle
in meditation it is said that awareness near your navel is part of coming to know the way.
How can you deny what you haven't been? Do you know your self?
That is a good point Swine.
I have no idea what to make of Reality.
Sometimes he seems like a fundie, other times he seems like an atheist, but one with some pretty odd assertions.
If you guys are taking any of this thread seriously, then I need to be more obvious in my kidding around.
I kinda thought the whole thing would be seen as the sarcasm that I meant it to be.
Guess some people take EVERYTHING seriously.
I gt it. conrad is the guy in the picture.
I'm not the guy in the picture. I belong to the very organized religion of Zen Buddhism. I understand though that the teachings of Buddhism are very different from Christianity and sometimes it is easier to attempt to delegitimize something than it is to try to understand it. I do believe though that Jesus understood the same things that the Buddha did – he simply expressed it differently.
Well Paddy Wak, what ppl believe in is usually important. That and for many on here this is an exercise in debate tactics. So when you perform a fallacy or such...ppl tend to point it out. Whether you are being serious or not. Sarcasm can be tough..especially on a comment board.
What church did Jesus belong to?
What church did Buddha belong to?
Ahhh ... the timeless and persistent effort to keep us from looking within ....
"...the kingdom of God is within you.” – Jesus
Jesus sent Buddha to hell. His mommy didn't teach him how to share.
Everyone uses drugs.. cough medicine.. anti-depresents.. alcohol.. pain meds.. I'm sure every person has used a drug..
You forgot the more potent, yet invisible drugs:
Video games, TV, quest for money, quest for power, sacrificing everything to be attractive just so people will look at you.
And some use religion instead (or as well).
This study is not complete: This study fails to assess that most of the spiritual but not religious people used to be religious that got screwed up, brain washed by organized religions and now are trying to get cured from religiuos slevary and be free. This is where the anxiety comes in. Keep on working and walking to freedom and light
So I take it that you recognize that people who have completely forsaken religiosity (those who are neither spiritual nor religious) and whose levels of mental disorders are indistinguishable from the religious have also chosen a wise path.
"and be free."
Curious, what do you think is the benefit of this so called "freedom" of yours?
Just as I thought. these people are loopy from the start
"being spiritual" only means they think there might be a superior being, but they do not believe that the superior being has the right to restrict us with "commandments". Their narcissism cannot accept any lack of total freedom of action. They consider themselves the equal of God, merely limited to the physical existence of their bodies by the accident of birth.
Obviously, I have little regard for narcissists and their psychological neighbors, the psychopaths.
My take is that belief is not something that can be forced. Most people who are spiritual, but not religious probably aren't comfortable with blindly accepting a set of rules that they don't understand. Some religion traditions have practices that take the back-door approach which is to allow a person to come to their understanding of the divine through their own experience and then the 'rules' or 'commandment's' as you call them come naturally as they are the consequence of a peaceful and loving relationship with oneself.
The so called laws of God are really our true self, our deepest nature, but they are obscured from our knowing because we falsely believe we are lacking, crafted of original sin. We only allow ourselves to identify with our job and how much money we make, or whether we are attractive physically. We continue to cultivate this delusion rather than allowing for a genuinely deeper search. Don't dismiss the seekers as merely narcissists ... it isn't fair and it isn't accurate.
Every soul seeks the truth of life. While a religious person seeks the truth through God, a spiritual person seeks it through journey within oneself (self-realization). The mean of reaching such enlightenment maybe different, but the destiny is the same. Also, there is no point in arguing which God is a better mean to realize that truth. Religion/God is only a path to achieve that realization of truth. So, in my humble opinion, every 'truly' religious person is a spiritual person.
Thank-you for the lovely comment.
Sorry, that H was supposed to be an L.
Pluck god, like a turkey was what I meant to write.
And the cure? (as currently practices by the older members of this blog)
The Apostles' / Agnostics’ Creed 2013 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)
Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????
I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)
Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,
He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.
(References used are available upon request.)
I have a request...quit posting your copy/paste stuff.
"Jesus was summarily crucified..by
the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate"
So you do think the Bible is factual? Interesting.
Oops, make that "as practiced by the older members of this blog".
Regarding the facts in the bible:
Only for the new members of this blog:
An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% or less of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.
The 30% or less of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.
In regards to the facts in the OT/Torah, see http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482
As a good student, you have read the reiterations of the "fems" (flaws, errors, muck and stench) of religion. Therefore the seeds have been planted in rich soil. Go therefore and preach the truth to all nations, reiterating as you go amongst the lost, bred, born and brainwashed souls of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism as Rational Thinking makes its triumphant return all because of you!!!!
So YOU do think the Bible is factual. Good to know.
"as Rational Thinking makes its triumphant return"
I dare say that what you think of as rational thinking never arrived in the first place. Not to humanity at least.
It's officially happy hour, so I can have that second brew and not feel guilty about it.
Got some great tunes bumpin' over the B and Ws, a cold beer in hand, and ready to do some xtian bashing!
Where's Deacon Blues?
Because everyone knows us atheists just love ourselves some xtian bashing (when we are not trying to overthrow the government).
You don't know yet that you are a seeker, but it's written all over your comments. Something inside you is trying to reconcile conflicted feelings or a genuinely deeper curiosity. Maybe you feel you can't seek because somebody(s) in your life would mock you and call you uncool, but secretly you long for something more profound than beer and having fun.
My honest suggestion is to try meditation because it answers your questions without a lot of dogma.
Conrad Dobler, you couldn't be further from the truth.
Since childhood I always thought the existence of god was a complete lie, like santa claus for adults.
The more I had to endure learing about it, the more I knew it was bogus.
Now as an adult, I am completely free from having to endure it any longer.
I don't even give god, or religion a second thought, other then to laugh at the people who get on their knees and pray to some imaginary friend.
But go ahead, waste your time praying and believing. I could care less what you do with your time.
The only thing I ask, and so do all the other non-believers, is that you stop trying to force your beliefs on us.
A mind is a terrible things to lose, to religion......
Probably what you were being taught was bogus, which is why you revloted from it, but that doesn't mean there isn't anything more to be discovered. I'm with you in thinking that the vast majority of religiosity is made-up nonsense meant to keep people in a state of fear and obedience (to other men, not God), and I certainly don't think real spiritual truth would require us to lead a life of self loathing and guilt – which is exactly what you get most of the time.
I'm also fine with you living your life however you see fit, and have no desire to force you to believe anything just becase I do. I'm just saying some parts of what you write seem like someone wanting more. I've known meditation (which includes no talking, forcing, dogma, or even God for that matter) to be a powerful source of that 'more' – and thought maybe you'd look into it some day, but if you don't that's fine too.
There is a Buddhist teaching in which a student asks the teacher about another student who has been studying and meditating for many many years. The student asked the teacher, "why isn't that student enlightened yet?". The teacher replied, "because he isn't."
"If it's just you and God in your room, and a religious community makes no demands on you, why help the poor?"
Uhhh, you help the poor because it's a kind thing to do that will improve the quality of life for others. NOT because a community makes demands that you do so. I know a lot of religious people that modify their behavior and actions out of community pressure or fear of God. Now I'm no saint, but when I do a good thing, it's because I genuinely feel like I am making the world a better place because of it. Not all religious people fall into this category, but those who do use religion and community as a crutch are more likely to make poor decisions when that community isn't around.
Truer words have not been spoken
I suspect this is a correlation rather than causation. If the lack of "social support, attachment to a loving God and the organized practice of prayer" were detrimental, then all non-religious people would be more likely to have problems, not just people who claim to be spiritual but not religious. It seems more likely that such people have a personality that both makes them more likely to be spiritual, and more likely to have these mental difficulties.
Moreover, I highly doubt that you can cause mental illness by choosing to believe one thing or another. Only a religious fanatic would claim such a thing.
The study demonstrates nothing but correlation. It does not even suggest causality.
Though the idea that a group of people who are searching for meaning and have not adopted a deterministic position might have a higher incidence of mental disorders spanning anxiety, depression and neuroses, than other groups, does not seem so outlandish.
If these people have Jesus in their hearts, I doubt they will be doing drugs or having mental issues. Mental issues are caused by evil spirits not the Holy Spirit.
Mental issues are caused by evil spirits? What year is it for you, 1350? Perhaps you should drill a whole in their skulls to let the evil spirits escape. Better bleed them too, that works for whatever ails you.
"If these people have Jesus in their hearts, I doubt they will be doing drugs or having mental issues."
The history of your religion proves this false.
1word: Really??? So Andrea Yates wasn't religious? The lady drowned 5 innocent children because she believed was suffering from religious psychosis. There are other cases of mental health issues involving devout christards.
because she believed...should have read because she believed in your god and...
Andrea Yates? There's no proof she was led by the Holy Spirit. The God I serve gives me the Grace not to involve myself with evil behavior.
"The God I serve gives me the Grace not to involve myself with evil behavior."
Everyone is a sinner including you.
Sorry to tell you this Fred, but god just told me you are the only sinner.
He also said you will most definately NOT be going to heaven.
He also said he made a huge mistake making you, and that you dress funny too.
It came from god Fred, so it must be true.
Sucks to be you I guess.
Fred, I don't serve sin. I serve God, the majority of my time is spent in study and worship. I may be in the World but I am not of the World.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
This just in 1word, god says he does not like you either.
He also says you are praying to the wrong god,
Wait a sec......
Just got off the mind phone with him, and he wants you to know that you will be joining Fred in the fiery pit.
Says you two can be roomies, so you gotz that to look foreward to for all of eternity.
Sorry bro, but it was from god and all, so it must be true.
Other studies have shown that extreme religiosity and adherence to dogma is a sign of mental illness.
You should examine why you wouldn't want to be of this world, when you most certainly are of this world – flesh and blood and typing on a computer.
This is the biggest pile of crap I have ever seen written/posted on CNN. This has me wondering if anything else that's written/posted on CNN is even worth reading or believing.
No, nothing written here is worth your time or belief. Go away.
Thinly veiled appeal for Ye Olde Ways, One True Church, and the Holy Romans. Gag me with mental myopia. From Britain, no less, home of Officialdom. Save us from your Queens and Cardinals.
better take it up with the British Journal of Psychiatry.
I did my own study (with a bunch of my drug-using friends) and found that people who do studies on religious and spiritual beliefs are psychotic.
I don't give a f00k what anyone says, I'm going to do what I'm going to do. f00k your sh444t
Hopefully that will involve quietly drowning yourself in the toilet.
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.