Is Following A Religion A Sign Of Mental Illness?

During the hardest time in your life, who or what do you gain strength from to get over it?

Some may say that they turn to their family or friends. After all, it feels calming to talk to your loved ones regarding your issues and possibly receive any advice from them. When these people return to their respective homes and lives, however, other problematic individuals find peace and solace from religious faith.

When people think of their mortality, most don’t want to be alone as they make that transition to the other side. That’s when someone might turn to spirituality and/or religion for support. — Kalila Borghini, LCSW


In this article, we won’t discuss whether there’s indeed a God or not. Instead, we’ll answer the question: “Is following a religion a sign of mental illness?”

Read on to know more.




The Common Belief

It isn’t a new assumption that being a part of a religious conviction makes you worthy of a room in an asylum. A lot of non-religious folks already perceived the ancient ones who believed in various deities and worshipped the natural elements as not wholly sane ages before organized systems came to life. The conflict never ceased even now since the former couldn’t understand why the latter would put their faith in gods or spirits that were still invisible to them.

The Innovation

What’s different at this time, though, is that a group of scientists went on to conduct a legitimate study concerning the matter in the United States. Dr. Neva Silton and company asked 1426 adults if they believe in a punitive, benevolent, or uninvolved god. Along with that query, they wanted to know who among those individuals had – or still has – issues emotionally.

It turned out that most of the respondents who have confidence in a punishing deity are more likely to carry emotional problems compared with the others. The professionals further revealed that the first-mentioned people tend to think that God is there to reprove everyone. Thus, they don’t see anything wrong with causing harm to folks around them, assuming that their religious figure would like it.

The amassed research indicates that higher levels of religious belief and practice (known in social science as “religiosity”) is associated with better mental health. In particular, the research suggests that higher levels of religiosity are associated with lower rates of depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, and suicidal behavior. — Rob Whitley, Ph.D.

When it comes to the believers of the compassionate God, they may go on with the thought that the deity will keep danger away from them.


The Problem With The Findings

As comprehensive as the research may appear, many scientists continue to oppose the results of Dr. Silton’s study as well. A few of them like Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University implied that it’s difficult to deduce from a single investigation that following a religion is a sign of mental illness.

The probable reason is that the disorder may be a result of a diverse occurrence in the person’s life, e.g., the death of a loved one, trauma, etc. The issue can be hereditary too, which is an idea that experts cannot discount. They merely happened to be in a religious sect, which they perhaps grew up with or recently entered, but it is not a reliable foundation to back up the claim that the religion is the cause of any neurological disease.

I hope your perception of the link between psychological ailments and religious beliefs is clear now. Although there may be several exceptions to the statements earlier, it remains atrocious to say that believing in a religion is a sign of mental illness.

Now more than ever we need these spiritual children to grow up into spiritual adults. We need to raise spiritual children who have a sense of peacefulness, curiosity, industry, and awe, as well as a deep sense of empathy with others’ suffering. — David J Bredehoft Ph.D.