1. Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.

The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, study

By ZenobiaSky, Jan 9, 2013 | | |
  1. ZenobiaSky
    18823.jpg 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.

    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.”

    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," boils 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?"

    By Dan Merica, CNN, January 9, 2013


  1. Euphoric
    Re: The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, st

    Interesting story. This does not surprise me. However, it is of course possible that people with mental illnesses are more likely to identify as SBNR, rather than being SBNR leading to mental illness...
  2. Zerix
    Re: The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, st

    HAHAHA I couldn't even read the whole thing... What a load of crock.

    It's true we spiritual people like to explore the unknown...get in tune with ourselves and our minds and achieve a higher state of consciousness. There are many methods to achieve this, and just because some people like to use ethnobotanicals (WHICH AREN'T FUCKING DRUGS) or mind altering substances to help them achieve a higher state of consciousness or provide answers that they seek.... There is NOTHING wrong with it. Whoever wrote or participated in this article are dumb religious freaks who would probably spend their lives time converting people to Jesus than they would researching more important things. Truth.
  3. CaptainTripps
    Re: The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, st

    Interesting concept. I have always felt that folks who were either religious (believing in some absolute and knowable concept of God) and atheists (those who are certain that God or other higher powers do not exist) were the epitome of arrogance and egotism. Leave it to a Jesuit to turn the truth on it's head. To say one "knows the truth" about something that is unknowable is in itself crazy. Agnostics at least acknowledge that they don't know, which I find to be both humble and insightful. Spiritual people either are wishful thinkers or are basing their beliefs on experiences they or others have had. I personally have had what could be described as paranormal experiences (yes while perfectly straight) and other people I know and respect have had similar experiences. While these have been very real to me, I am more than willing to consider the possibility that there are perfectly rational explanations for these. I also am willing to accept that these exist only in my mind. If you asked me if I think ghosts are real, I would say yes. However, if you asked me if ghosts are real, I would have to say I really don't know.

    As to the issue of helping the poor, I find one common thread in most non religious but spiritual people, and that is the concept of karma. I don't use this word in the strict religious sense, but rather the concept that there are some kind of natural checks and balances in the world. The idea that in some way you are rewarded for good and punished for evil. Most spiritual people I know try to do what they think is the right thing. Religious people tend to do what they have been told is the right thing to do. So while they may believe in helping the poor, they may also believe in sending homosexuals to prison (how ironic and crazy is that?) and may support capitol punishment for a wide variety of crimes. It is interesting that many people of religious right are opposed to things like universal health care and food stamps. But they are for tax breaks for the rich.

    As for mental illness I agree with Euphoric about the chicken and egg issue. Having delusions could easily lead to a kind of spiritualism. Also it is a well know fact that many people with mental problems self medicate. Also there can be no doubt that using too much of certain drugs can make you crazy and believe crazy things. Correlations are not the same thing as cause and effect.

    Religions are kind of closed system that have all the answers. So no need to explore to find hidden truths. All you need to do is read a certain book, or talk to some holy-man. They also tend to in the words of some "take people away from God". The search for truth will often do that. Spiritual people tend to follow their own sense of right and wrong and therefore make their own determinations as to whether drug use is right or wrong. Or even believe that some drugs are OK and others are not.

    Please note that I am not trying to paint all religious people with the same brush. Actually, just the opposite, there are great differences of opinion between not only the major religions, but those who claim to be members of the same religions. These differences are so great wars have been fought over them. If there is one true religion, then probably 99% of the worlds population is out of compliance. That is simply something that I have trouble believing.
  4. Routemaster Flash
    Re: The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, st

    Haha, what? Of course they're drugs. A substance that affects your mood, perception or consciousness is a drug. Whether it's a leaf or a seed or a pill or a powder makes no difference whatsoever.

    Edit: and to be honest, the idea that SBNR people are more likely to be egotists is rather well borne out by this line of yours:

    So whereas traditional religions generally place a good deal emphasis on family and community, on respecting one's elders, helping the poor and sick, basically encouraging people to be responsible members of a society (however well that may work out in practice), the (post)modern new-agey type of "spirituality" is first and foremost about climbing the karmic career ladder - self-improvement, like a spiritual version of spending hours in the gym working on your abs - I've seen this before in various people. Take that kind of self-centred mindset, add a general disdain for rationality with some drug use (yes, drug use, whatever you choose to call it) on the side, and I can well believe you've got a psychological make-up that's more prone to mental illness than the average person.
  5. Routemaster Flash
    Re: The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, st

    Absolutely, this was my first thought when I saw the article.
  6. Joe-(5-HTP)
    Re: The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, st

    These study results are only possible due to their failure to consider religious belief as a mental health issue itself.

    Additionally, of course religious people are far more likely to manage to get their kids to 'just say no', since they are well used to taking and accepting things on that sort of faith.

    Plus, I have no doubt that being free from religion can be psychologically destabilizing.. that's the whole point of religion- to give nice easy answers to the questions our existential needs make us ask.

    In a religious context, people grow up with their destiny already dictated for them. This is what is good, this is what is evil, this is what your purpose is, this is etc etc etc. Not being religious means you have to figure all these things out for yourself. This is the kind of personal searching which religious sheep in this article, viewed from their extreme, can only understand as 'egoism'.
  7. BitterSweet
    Re: The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, st

    I was just about to say that it might be said that the religiously devote are mentally ill in the first place - religion can be like a cult in that after so much time and pressing of its ideals and beliefs, a person identifies them to be true. This statement aimed more so at those people raised extremely religious since a very young age.

    To the comment about the religious and atheists being at two extremes but almost equally arrogant - it is tough to put atheists into one label - some prefer to be called nonbelievers, secular, agnostic, etc. There are different forms of atheism - militant atheism, where a person may assert that they know there is no god. But as an atheist myself, or a nonbeliever, I, and many others, do not assert that god doesn't exist, we just lack belief, in that we haven't seen any particularly convincing reason to believe god exists. Then things get muddled - the gods depicted in religions, well if atheists like myself assert that religions are a product of mankind, then the gods described in scripture or holy books are pretty much actively denied - but as to the idea of a creator, a beginning, whatever one wants to call it, I think most true atheists (meaning those atheists who are completely angry at religion and then are more so antitheistic) pride themselves on approaching these matters with reason, science, and so forth. I'm a fan of Richard Dawkins, although he can be hard core, but I am sure one must need that air of arrogance when debating with the religiously brainwashed. Anyway, I'll speak for the majority of atheists or nonbelievers or what have you, that we by no stretch of the imagination have all the answers, but we can look to science and be satisfied with the progress that has been made.

    I wrote a lot of papers about the problematic issue in society about labels, with a large focus on the stereotype of atheists, when really, we are just trying to find a way to say we are not religious and are not believers. That's all we are saying - but the promotion of the word atheist has been a sort of crusade to show that there is no shame in being one, and as more people become comfortable coming out as atheists, the misconceptions associated with the word, and the shock value, will hopefully die down.

    I also wrote a paper about the issues that arise when trying to place someone under the category of religious or spiritual - where does the line in the sand draw?
    Sorry to get off topic. With this study, I'm wondering how many religious persons have been assessed as having a mental disorder. One could claim not to have one while in reality they might. Spiritual persons may be more likely to have mental illnesses, but that may be the very reason they found spirituality. As for the comment in the article about the religious having a support network or community, and the other two points - well that's just a presumption that is not necessarily correlated with mental illness. A non-religious person can find strength that community networks provide in other areas of their life - it doesn't need be religious, plus I think that's a weak argument in general.
    And to correlate all of this back to the main theme of drug use... well, it's a bit of a stretch to me. And what is the conclusion? That it is better to be religious than spiritual? Pfft. Trying to evaluate these kinds of things in a controlled study is hard, especially when you are starting with hugely subjective topics - religion, spirituality, mental illness, and drug use. It's highly reliant on the participant's responses. Some people claim to be religious yet know jack all about the religion they claim to be in. This study ignores the millions of other factors that contribute to drug use.
  8. Catsntats
    Re: The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, st

    I wonder why they didn't include atheists in the study too.

    As far as where is the incentive to help the poor-if you only do it to appease your religious community as the last sentence suggests, you might want to look at your motivations. The belief (some) religious people have that only they are capable of charity is arrogant.
  9. Zerix
    Re: The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, st

    Well, you did say one thing right... I am most definitely prone to being mentally ill.

    Tradition religion doesn't exist in this world anymore, I'm sorry to burst your bubble. But religion is complete and utter bullshit :)
  10. Routemaster Flash
    Re: The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, st

    Heh, I'm unaware that I had a "bubble". Would you care to explain to me what sort of "bubble" you think you've burst?

    If you mean the idea that "tradition[al] religion doesn't exist in this world anymore"...well that's rather a grand claim. What do you mean by "traditional religion"? I would take it to mean a religion with a canonical scripture, a system of established beliefs and practices and some kind of priesthood. In which case you're obviously talking bullshit, I mean Christianity, Islam and Hinduism are practised by well over half the world's population between them.
  11. ianzombie
    Re: The spiritual but not religious likely to face mental health issues, drug use, st

    Ethnobotanicals are not drugs?
    Can you explain to me how substances like Kratom, or Mushrooms are not drugs?
    Where do you draw your line on what is or is not a drug?

    The definition of drugs is:
    A substance that has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body, in particular.

    Ethnobotanicals would most certainly fit into this definition.

    Perhaps you are one of many people who believes that 'Natural' plants/fungi are not Drugs?
    Obviously Kratom, mushrooms, kava etc are every bit as much a drug (by definition) as opium is.

    Im not sure how you could claim that, considering the amount of the worlds population who subscribe to dozens of 'traditional' religions.
    Perhaps you meant something else?
To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!