Monday, April 29, 2013

Does a New Study Find Religous Beleif Leads to Emotional Problems?

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....I fully expect to find atheists saying this of the study discussed in The Huffington Post 04/24/2013, "Religion and Mental Health, New Study Links in 'Punative God' to emotional problems," to say this. The story is done by By .
....They Study was Published in the Journal of Religion and Health.[1] It shows that people who believe in an angry vengeful God are likely to suffer form mental health issues such as anxiety, paranoia and obsessive thinking. Sample included 1,426 Americans and the methodology consisted of  poll. They divided the people into three groups; angry God people, loving God people, indifferent God people (deist). Of course they found that the most problems were in the angry God group. Naturally there is no comparison to no God people, the study in Huff was complete with the obligatory admission "it's only a coloration, no attempt was made to look at cause.
....It actually  sounds pretty hallow. No comparison to those who don't believe in God, while other studies find people who experience God in a meaningful way* have much less depression and mental illness than those who don't, including atheists. Other studies find that Atheists suffer greater sense of low self esteem.[2] [3]The finding people who believe in a vengeful God are paranoid and obsessed sounds more like a value judgement on the part of the researchers. The researchers say not only that it's just a  correlation but also they can't really tell which way the causality flows: “We don't know whether it was the poorer mental health (anxiety, paranoia) that caused subjects to perceive God as punitive, or whether it was the view of God as punitive that caused the poor mental health.” [4]

The study Abstract Springer:

This study examines the association between beliefs about God and psychiatric symptoms in the context of Evolutionary Threat Assessment System Theory, using data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey of US Adults (N = 1,426). Three beliefs about God were tested separately in ordinary least squares regression models to predict five classes of psychiatric symptoms: general anxiety, social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion. Belief in a punitive God was positively associated with four psychiatric symptoms, while belief in a benevolent God was negatively associated with four psychiatric symptoms, controlling for demographic characteristics, religiousness, and strength of belief in God. Belief in a deistic God and one’s overall belief in God were not significantly related to any psychiatric symptoms.[5]
....This is hardly groundbreaking research. It's a good contribution to a huge body of research. The findings have already been done. Many times in other studies. They have been linked to atheists as well. Francis established the positive correlation between belief in God and good self esteem.[6] There's a much larger body of work that discusses the issues of self esteem and God image. Ralph Peidmont wrote about that body of work in his book Research into the Social Scientific Study of Religion volume 16.[7] He also discusses Francis's work. In that study (Francis) Peidmont quotes a positive correlation is established between good self esteem and a positive God image, that is a loving accepting God. Peidmont also quotes Bentson and Spilka persons with high levels of self esteem may fin it hard to get across to those with low self esteem that God is loving.

Persons with high levels of self esteem may find it difficult to share the same religious belief. A theology predicated upon a loving accepting God is cognitively compatible with high self esteem, but it could be a source of discomfort for a believer low in self esteem. It does not make good cognitive sense to be loved when one is unlovable. Consequently the latter person can march to a different theology, one that is more consistent with his self image. (Benson and Spilka 209-210).[8]

I've often wondered why atheists seem so much more hostile to those carrying a message a positive loving God than they do toward the old fire and brimstone fundies. Why don't they say "O good this is what I've been wanting?" Some actually sort of intimate this but this really explains the reaction of most of them. Ralph Hood invented the M Scale is one of the major sources I draw upon in my arguments about religious experience. Spilka was his co-Author in their book on the study of religious experience and empirical methods.[9]
....Studies show that increased religious commitment, not just experience of God's presence, but chruch attendance as a measure of commitment result in greater health beneifits including mental health.


"The Reviews identified 10 areas of clinical staus in whihc research has demonstrated benefits of religious commitment: (1) Depression, (2) Suicide, (3) Delinquency, (4) Mortality, (5) Alchohol use (6) Drug use, (7) Well-being, (8) Divorce and martital satisfaction, (9) Physical Health Status, and (10) Mental health outcome studies....The authors underscored the need for additional longitudinal studies featuring health outcomes. Although there were few, such studies tended to show mental health benefit. Similarly, in the case of teh few longevity or mortality outcome studies, the benefit was in favor of those who attended least 70% of the time, increased religious commitment was associated with improved coping and protection from problems."[10]

Peidmont shows that the literature on self esteem and God image is very complex and voluminous. There are trails that lead nowhere in that body of work. There are correlations between belief in God and low self esteem. When they correct for negative God image vs. positive they find the correlation is strong. This research is nothing new. Nor is it a negation of the positions I've argue for. I never said that any sort of belief in God is always positive. We should understand the nature of God as loving. The sever austere angry God that wants to fry everyone is going to produce negative results because it's not the truth about  God. Now we need to be rational beings and balance our egos. The ego is supposed to balance between the superego and id. So we can't be into a God who is so loving and kind that he has nothing to say and always gives us what we want and never get's upset no matter what we do. That's a mommy God, our servant. We don't want a God who is always demanding the rent. We the true and living God, God of Jesus whose love is never separated from us but who wants us to be good ground to grow fruit of the spirit in.
...I think atheists fear that emotions are a link to mental illness becuase they don't understand emotions. They think bottling them up and pretending they don't exist and pretending all their decisions are rational and logical is the key to mental health. Emotions are not mental illness. Venting them is probably better for mental health then keeping them bottled up. Emotions are not proof either. Emotions are the side effect. My religious experience arguments are not based upon feeling tingly. The tingly feeling is a side effect of sensing God's presence. The proof is the long term effects on things like mental health. How are we supposed to know that we have experienced God's presence if we don't mark it in some way? If it doesn't' stand out form other daily waking hours how are we supposed to take note of it's effects? So the side effect of emotion is important an healthy it helps us understand something important has been discovered and experienced. A huge body of studies shows us that religious expedience is not linked to mental illness.

1).Effects indicate that Mystical expereince cannot be reduced to Mental Illness.

Mental illness is usually either treatable or progressive (gets worse), but it is not positive over a long term. Mentally ill people do not gian long lasting postive effects from thier illness that gives them a heightend sense of well being and lasts for long term. Mental illness does not improve the sense of self-actualization or make one a "whole" person. Religious experience does this and mystical expereince or "peak experience" so so all the more. Evidence to document this point is found above under argument III, but more studies can also be sited.[see above, Larson, The Faith Factor, Study search]

2) No relationship Mysticism and Mental Illness.

[Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.]

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration (unpublished paper 1992)
Jayne Gackenback

"Scientific interest in the mystical experience was broadened with the research on psychoactive drugs. The popular belief was that such drugs mimicked either mystical states and/or schizophrenic ones (reviewed in Lukoff, Zanger & Lu, 1990). Although there is likely some physiological similarity as well as phenomenological recent work has shown clear differences. For instance, Oxman, Rosenberg, Schnurr, Tucker and Gala (1988) analyzed 66 autobiographical accounts of schizophrenia, hallucinogenic drug experiences, and mystical ecstasy as well as 28 control accounts of important personal experiences. They concluded that the: "subjective experiences of schizophrenia, hallucinogenic drug-induced states, and mystical ecstasy are more different from one another than alike" (p. 401).

(Ibid) "Relatedly, Caird (1987) found no relationship between reported mystical experience and neuroticism, psychoticism and lying while Spanos and Moretti (1988) found no relationship between a measure of mystical experience and psychopathology."

a. Trend toward positive view among psychologists.

Spiriutal Emergency


"Offsetting the clinical literature that views mystical experiences as pathological, many theorists (Bucke, 1961; Hood, 1974, 1976; James, 1961; Jung, 1973; Laski, 1968; Maslow, 1962, 1971; Stace, 1960; Underhill, 1955) have viewed mystical experiences as a sign of health and a powerful agent of transformation."

b. Most clinicians and clinical studies see postive.
"Results of a recent survey (Allman, et al,. 1992) suggest that most clinicians do not view mystical experiences as pathological. Also, studies by several researchers have found that people reporting mystical experiences scored lower on psychopathology scales and higher on measures of psychological well-being than controls (Caird, 1987; Hood, 1976, 1977, 1979; Spanos and Moretti, 1988)".

c. Incidence rate suggests no pathology.

"Numerous studies assessing the incidence of mystical experience (Back and Bourque, 1970; Greeley, 1974, 1987; Hay and Morisy, 1978; Hood, 1974, 1975, 1977; Thomas and Cooper, 1980) all support the conclusion that 30-40% of the population do have such experiences, suggesting that they are normal rather than pathological phenomena. In addition, a recent survey (Allman et al., 1992) has demonstrated that the number of patients who bring mystical experiences into treatment is not insignificant. Psychologists in full-time practice were asked to estimate the percentage of their clients over the past 12 months who had reported a mystical experience. The 285 respondents indicated that of the 20,670 clients seen during the past year, the incidence of mystical experience was 4.5%. This clearly challenges the GAP report on Mysticism, which claims that "mystical experiences are rarely observed in psychotherapeutic practice" (Group for Advancement of Psychiatry, 1976, p. 799).

2) Not the restult of deprivation or fantasy; mystics tend to be successful people.

Council on Spiritual Practices

State of Unitive Consciousness
"Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. "

3) Mystisicm offers therapeutic insights.

"...Within the Western model we recognize and define psychosis as a suboptimal state of consciousness that views reality in a distorted way and does not recognize that distortion. It is therefore important to note that from the mystical perspective our usual state fits all the criteria of psychosis, being suboptimal, having a distorted view of reality, yet not recognizing that distortion. Indeed from the ultimate mystical perspective, psychosis can be defined as being trapped in, or attached to, any one state of consciousness, each of which by itself is necessarily limited and only relatively real.'' [-- page 665 ) [Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

See Also: Lukoff, David & Francis G. Lu (1988). ``Transpersonal psychology research review: Topic: Mystical experiences.'' Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2), 161-184. Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.

[1] Nava Silton, Kevin J. Flannelly, Kathleen Galak, Christepher G. Ellison. "Beliefs About God and Mental Health Among American Adults." Journal of Religion and Health.
[2] Study By Francis discussed in this Blog "Rejection of Christianity and Self Esteem, a Review of a Study by Leslie Francis," Atheistwatch, monday 25,2010.
[3] Leslie Francis, God images and Self Esteem,
Online copy:

[4] The researcher quoted in Macrina Cooper-White "Religion and Mental Health,  'Punative God' to emotional problems," the Huffington Post, 4/24/2013.
[5] Spinger Link:
[6] Francis Ibid.
[7] Ralph Peidmont wrote about that body of work in his book Research into the Social Scientific Study of Religion volume 16, Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2005,105.
Ralph L. Piedmont is Psychologist at the Department of Pastoral Counseling, Loyola College in Maryland, Columbia, USA. One of his publications is The Revised NEO Personality Inventory: Clinical and Research Applications (Plenum Press, 1998).
[8] Peidmont quoting Benston and Spilka
[9] Bernard Spilka and Ralph Hood, Jr. et al. Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach, fourth Edition. New York: Gilford Press, 2009.
[10] J. Gartner, D.B. Allen, The Faith Factor: An Annotated Bibliography of Systematic Reviews And Clinical Research on Spiritual Subjects Vol. II, David B. Larson M.D., National Institute for Health Research Dec. 1993, p. 3090. The authors conducted a literature search of over 2000 publications to glean the current state of empirical study data in areas of Spirituality and health.

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