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
I'm spiritual... I believe that "the big bang" may have been "god", "creator of heaven and earth" (which to me means – the universe). And that “god” did not create man, but created the building blocks for life which in time included man. This in turn would mean that Creation and/or Evolution are connected and not separate like many believe.
I can go on and on but the fact is; there is so much scientific study – evidence that has proven and disproved all kinds of hypotheses, and those things must not be ignored even if it goes against a little piece of what you believe (in your faith) to be true.
However, humanity still has so far to go in regards to advancement and understandings IN ALL AREAS of existence, for any one person to say with 100% certainty what is the Absolute Truth.
I believe in what I believe and you believe in what you believe… either way no one on this earth knows everything and at this rate no one will.
So just live your life doing good and with a smile! Respect everyone and there beliefs, because who knows… maybe… just maybe everyone is holding a little piece of what makes up the whole/real truth (the who, why, when, how, what was, what is, and what will be) in there beliefs and maybe… just maybe one day all those pieces will come together and become just another religion called “common knowledge”
But I have a feeling this will take eons… far beyond our life time as will as our children'. So relax, respect and always strive to improve, not just yourself, but humanity too – in mind and action.
I also believe that humans are not the only species capable of trained, adaptable and inventive though. That only our planet in the entire vastness of the universe, including the Milky Way Galaxy, is the only one capable of possessing the building blocks for life (of any kind)
“God” didn’t just create one planet, or one galaxy and so on… so why assume that he only made it possible for only one planet to possess the building blocks for life, or for that matter give the necessary time for those blocks to evolve into us and all the other species that earth currently inhabit or had in the past.
Incase anyone is curious, I put (the word or name) “God” in quotations because in all forms of religion there speaks of a supreme being (as we understand it to be-present day) above all others, and given that all religions have many differences, some of those differences refer to the name or word of what that supreme being is called. Now that being said, I feel that all of them or at least most of them are actually talking about the same being. So as such, I put the word or name of my choosing for this Supreme Being in quotations in reference to all the similarities of this Supreme Beings, and I use (the word or name) God because it was the one I was most exposed to.
Just like how most peoples belief system are base on what they have been exposed to. It does however change for some as they grow and reach adulthood, but not all.
I also believe Life is forever, until the soul acquires experiences and understandings that add up close to or perhaps all of the knowledge that THIS Universe has to offer. This may take thousands of lifetimes, or more, much more.
I to believe that death also is forever, that everything eventually dies in THIS Universe.
In connection with those last two paragraphs; (a) Heaven – a forever ecstasy. Existing in realities beyond what we consider now as reality. To again and again rediscover Love, Passion, Joy, Community, family and friendship, and the opposites that sometimes follow but never overtake. (b) Hell – in forever saddened reflection. Existing in realities beyond what we consider now as reality. To again and again rediscover lost opportunities, spirit darkening sorrows, heart breaking loss, unrecoverable mistakes, sadness, loneliness and increasingly eternal emptiness.
I'll believe in the words of Jesus Christ, and not so much the flawed and inerrant, rambling and varied opinions of the world...
Very nice post!
I see where you are coming from, I am much the same. I have additionally chosen to believe that true god is nothing more than consciousness and we are all collectively representing god. I find the news so exciting that so many young people are moving more and more toward a spiritual but not religious perspective. Sounds like there is definitely an energetic movement happening here :) I also follow the words of Jesus not in a religious way though. I had an experience as a child and it convinced me that if Jesus lived today he would laugh at all religion and would live a similar life to a "spiritual but not religious" person. If you look at his life back in the day that was how he was then, cant imagine why he would want to be the head of any religion haha :P
Whoa there... Does the reporter have the credentials to check this report before reporting it? Because this sure sounds like a causality issue.
The report is saying "spiritual people are more likely to face mental health issues," and I'm sure that's what the report says... but is it causality, or correlation? Without an explanation, it's de facto just a correlation:
People with a certain personality type, and that includes certain addictive behaviors, also tend to reject religion in favor of "acknowledging a higher power, but not wanting to be burdened by the rules of a religion."
What we have here is correlation; not necessarily causality.
Atheists are stupid. When they open their mouth and talk nothing but garbage comes out. They have no morals
Hey, come on, now. I'm not an atheist – I actually identify myself as religious – but I don't think that's fair to say about atheists. Sure, I've known some people to be combative when the subject of religion or deity is brought up, but I also have atheist friends who are very polite and kind even in discussing these difficult topics.
And really, I think that a lot of the fighting that goes on between religious people and atheists starts with someone insulting the other side, intentionally or not. When I want to teach someone about my religion, I try not to cause contention; my inspiration to teach is love. If someone wants to reject what I have to say, and even if they want to go out of their way to insult me, that's their problem.
So, I just want to say that starting or perpetuating fights helps nobody. And that's something that religion taught me: in no indirect words I was taught "love your enemies."
Anyways, if you don't find it offensive of me to say it, God bless you today.
the summary of the Bible states unmerited favor, That Jesus took Gods judgement of Sin apon Himself,that whom so ever believes on Him sincerly recieves this Gift of Salvation of complete forgiveness. and God promises to never leave you nor forsake you so this new life is now His responsiblity to lead you through it. and judging others is not in His character as it wasnt while He was on earth John 3;16 now thats the truth
the summary of the Bible states unmerited favor, That Jesus took Gods judgement of Sin apon Himself,that whom so ever believes on Him sincerly recieves this Gift of Salvation of complete forgiveness. and God promises to never leave you nor forsake you so this new life is now His responsiblity to lead you through it. and judging others is not in His character as it wasnt while He was on earth John 3;16
what is the truth? the truth enables a person to know in their own soul that the truth is either there or its not. This is not up for discussion, as this is ones soul were talking about. Talk about being considerate, the truth speaks for itself just fine thats why the world is revealing itself just as the truth stated it would condemnation is a bear isnt it? The smarter one claims to be the greater the set up for the fall. hence the world system.
Is God Necessary?
No. New theories in physics are beginning to demonstrate how the creation of the universe was a thermodynamically neutral event- i.e. did not need any "magic" input from lala land. And, once the universe was formed, evolution is what created life.
Here's an idea, read a book that WASN'T written back when we still thought the earth was the center of our solar system (there have been some great insights since then).
Also, you are referencing the bible to support the bible... usually when one wishes to corroborate a theory or argument you need to reference something outside of that theory or argument yet which still supports it.
I believe in evolution, I believe we all came from fish and my great, great etc. grandfather was a fish. I believe mermaids existed and maybe even big foots
New theories in physics are beginning to demonstrate how the creation of the universe was a thermodynamically neutral event ... Also, you are referencing the bible to support the bible...
First, you have to take a leap of faith to accept these theories without any supporting evidence (as of yet). Talk about BLIND FAITH, this one takes the cake! Second, I didn't reference the Bible to support my beliefs – other than following basic scientific principles. I simply stated what was in the Bible. Since you seem to have forgotten what I wrote, here it is again.
Is God Necessary?
a) Given the lack of a natural explaination to create matter, energy and time,
b) Given the lack of a natural explaination to create life,
Therefore, this implies some supernatural being (i.e. God) is necessary, but not necessariuly the Biblical God.
Which God Did It?
a) Given the Biblical account that begins with the creation of matter, energy and time,
b) Given no other religions (other than the Abrahamic branches) begins with the creation of matter, energy and time,
Therefore, this implies that only the Abrahamic religions are worthy of consideration.
Did the Judism God Do It?
a) Given accurate transmission of the Jewish Bible,
b) Given the fulfillment of foretold specific prophecies (incl: Eze 37) in the Jewish Bible
Therefore, the God of the Jews is a viable answer contender.
Did the Islamic God Do It?
a) Given inaccurate transmission of the Koran Bible,
b) Given the factual inaccuracies (i.e. members of the Trinity)
c) Given the lack of specific prophecies in the Koran
Therefore, the God of the Muslims is not a viable contender.
Did the Christian God Do It?
a) Given accurate transmission of the Christian Bible (i.e. Jewish / OT and NT),
b) Given the fulfillment of foretold specific prophecies (incl: Eze 37, Rev 13) in the Christian Bible
Therefore, the God of the Christian is a viable contender for the answer to how we got here. Since it includes the Jewish beliefs as well, it is the better answer.
Most atheists have mental problems and treat it with alcohol abuse and drugs, not to mention they lie, cheat and can't be trusted
Funny, ... or demented? I can't decide which way you were going with this.
Dick, Where's your evidence?
Rick is a demented troll, saying anything to get a rise out of people. It posts under several names, but you can always tell by the idiocy factor.
Another religious nutter making claims with no evidence? It's not like they haven't been doing this for thousands of years. Feel free to visit any psych ward, or prison then come back and tell me how many atheists you find. I promise you are going to be disappointed.
Fr Jim Martin's last sentence in this article is spot on. Being spiritual but not religious generally leads to self-centeredness and no help for the poor
Being just religious can lead to those things too. You can't get much more self-centered than running your entire life around trying to get into heaven. Some people will do anything for heaven. Push their gay kids out of the house, give more money than they can afford to a pastor who turns around and buys a new car with it, home school their kids over a subject that they can't rationally find any fault with... All just to save their sorry butts from some imagined threat. If that isn't selfish then I don't know what is.
Consider this alternate option:
You are equipped with a Spaceship, which is your Body, and a Time Machine, which is your Mind.
Nobody gave you the manuals for operation, sorry.
Or did they?
What is the fuel for your exceptional Time and Space device?
What are your limitations?
Is there just this one journey, and can you get a new device if yours is broken?
There is some pretty cool stuff, right here in this time and space.
Or if you need to go to a different one, you're gonna need a map and some more instructions.
The manuals and maps are all around you. Some left by other travellers are readily available, and others more obscure.
It was so much easier, when you were not held by time constraints and health concerns, and all the other walls that have been built up around you.
"Some left by other travellers are readily available, and others more obscure."
For a while there I thought you were alluding to God and Heaven, but we both know that nobody has ever seen God or been to Heaven, right?
I am saying that everyone has a decision making process, and that some folks choose to invest in a belief system.
Whether anyone is a believer or not, they will still have to decide on what they want to think about.
Believers choose to think about God and heaven, and also Satan and hell, to complete that thought process. And some non-believers choose to spend their time thinking about believers.
The maps and instructions for your space ship and time machine, could be found in religious works, but that is not the only option. The maps and instructions are not just found in books, and more than likely are found outside of your Self. The obscure ones can be found in the most unusual people and places. And some will never be found, because of who you are, because of your heart, because of your conscience.
Remember when you were a child...., Ope time travel alert spoiler...
That is my point. You can time travel back to your childhood, and even to a God or heaven, if that is how you want to invest your thoughts.
When travelling it is best to come prepared. You are gonna need a map. You are gonna need instructions. What is happening where you wander, and how do you get back in case of emergency, or at all.
We are the many eyed creatures. When you were a child, you had those eyes wide opened. You used your space ship and time machine, every day. And then you became an adult, and forgot how to use your spaceship and your time machine.
How do you want to invest your thoughts?
Use your Imagination.
I remember when you used to smile... but wait that's impossible, isn't it?
Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics
Dec. 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway – which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells – has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cell this week.
What magic words could I say, that could awaken your imagination, that were not written in your favorite books or stories?
How can you ever hope to reclaim the wonder and beauty, that you as a child lived?
This is it then, you have your truth, you shield it, and bunker down. Nothing new, nothing fresh, just telling others that they failed. Thats great!! Genius!!!
Wake up... Did you have a good dream?
Quick questions: All your knowing, whether you are a believer or non-believer, what purpose does it serve?
What good is it? Does it get rid of those of opposing thoughts? Does it bring you to a better place, in your mind?
Does it make a better world for all of us? Is your knowing just for yourself?
And if a billion other folks, seem to think exactly like you, does that mean its true, that its Truth?
Can you help this sad world, without your role of power (Believer/Atheist)?
Can you wake from the dream of My Perspective?
Can you engage in what is natural and real?
This is not a feel good story, it is just a request, that you accept others for who they are, because of what they have been made aware of.
What good is knowledge that serves no purpose?
History is COOL!!!
Oil Gold Water
OIL & GOLD around 200 million years after earth formed.
Were 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.
Dr Willbold continued: "Our work shows that most of the precious metals on which our economies and many key industrial processes are based have been added to our planet by lucky coincidence when the Earth was hit by about 20 billion tonnes of asteroidal material."
The religiously unaffiliated have twice as much mental illness, twice as much drug dependency, and atheists kill themselves more than believers. Does any of this surprise you?
that you would lie? no it doesn't surprise me.
I'll repeat, I find it more surprising that talking to an imaginary ghost in your head that you believe is an all-powerful creator of the universe is not considered a mental illness.
CORRELATION is not CAUSATION. Sheesh, people, it's so basic.
THANK YOU!!!!!! Because this is a strange article indeed, especially the last sentence. "Why help people" – as if you need a group of others to pressure you to help people. Strange.
this was done in uk were they have a state religion that citizens are supposed to adhere to. newer survey says only half ot the citizens are religious, and only a third of younger people under 30 are. This is meant to scare people back to religion, its not going to work.
Oh yes, Dennis. Most university researchers in England are concerned about scaring people back into religion. Good call.
The UK does have a state religion, but, except for the Royal family, no one is "expected to adhere" to it. There is wide tolerance of religious diversity.
Stephen Hawking: 'There is no heaven' – Under God – The ...
by Elizabeth Tenety – in 624 Google+ circles – More by Elizabeth Tenety
May 16, 2011 – There is no heaven... that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” Hawking told the Guardian.
Theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg suggests that in fact this is not much of a God at all. Weinberg notes that traditionally the word "God" has meant "an interested personality". But that is not what Hawking and Lederman mean. Their "god", he says, is really just "an abstract principle of order and harmony", a set of mathematical equations. Weinberg questions then why they use the word "god" at all. He makes the rather profound point that "if language is to be of any use to us, then we ought to try and preserve the meaning of words, and 'god' historically has not meant the laws of nature." The question of just what is "God" has taxed theologians for thousands of years; what Weinberg reminds us is to be wary of glib definitions.
whereas the religious are certain to already have mental health issues. It goes with the delusion territory.
Many of the "spiritual but not religious" were chased out of their places of worship. Of course they have mental problems from being spiritual abused by the "religious".
Yes, they were chased out of their places of worship because those vile preachers were abusing them with talk about turning the other cheek, humility, honesty, doing unto others, giving to the poor, standing up for what you believe in, having an informed conscience, commitment, morality, an awareness of your sinfulness and limitations, and other such kookery
No, Gerry, those preachers were just saying whatever would get money onto their tip plate. Same old same old blah blah jeebus blah blah blah.
Tim – you have to turn off Sunday morning TV preaching and try real religion for a change. You might find decent, earnest, smart, thoughtful, kind, people, who are making their way through life, just like everyone else
@geraldine: just wanted to say i loved your sarcastic post about finding smart people in church. What a hoot!
@Gerry from Bayonne– It wasn't the preaching, it was the hypocrasy. And I'm not talking about televangelists, I'm talking about congregations that talk a good talk, but don't do the walk. They love to hear about unconditional love, then turn on people. Sure, there's a few good people at church, but they do nothing while the bad ones run the church and push others out. And I've learned I care enough for myself not to get into that mess again.
So you probably don't vote because of corrupt politicians or eat because of food poisoning either do you?
Well of course they face health issues and drug use, the thought of embracing Tim the Destroyer of Worlds can be very stressful. Ferretianism is the one true religion. Repent!
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.