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Is it Dangerous for Mental Health to be "Spiritual, not Religious"?

A religion is a community based on a system of doctrine and morals and worship. It is dogma based - you are not allowed to change your mind regarding its accepted teaching, its established teaching, even when you see proof that you are wrong. A religion is supposed to consist of spiritual people. But today most who call themselves spiritual do not mean the spirituality required by a religion's doctrine.  It is something more vague than that.

 

Christians like to say that being spiritual is part of human nature so unless you are spiritual you are not fully human. Thus if you have the wrong spirituality or none or are not interested there is something defective  or inhuman about you. See the subtle poison in such a doctrine?  Christians believe God gives you a soul and that soul is meant to follow what God told the Christian religion so anything unChristian is unspiritual or fake spirituality.  The idea of a spiritual soul given to you by the Christian God is narrow and degrading and arrogant.
 
Today, the spiritual person is usually seen as a person who is on a journey and is his or her own religion. The spiritual person may or not be dogmatic. The one who is dogmatic is immune to evidence and facts and truth. That alone is dangerous. It means there is no way of changing the person whose beliefs are dangerous to themselves and others. It means that if she or he is harmless, that harmlessless could be temporary. It means that if she or he is harmless it is not because of her beliefs but down to luck. The essential anti-truth attitude is still there. Instead of being good they want to invent a goodness of their own. This spirituality despite looking good and caring is essentially bad and unhealthy.
 
The one who is not dogmatic could be too changeable and her or his faith could be in God one day and in a spellbook the next. Abortion could be acceptable in the morning to them, wrong at noon and morally neutral by evening and acceptable again at midnight. This kind of person like the previous has an anti-truth me me me attitude and they want to invent a good of their own instead of being good.
 
A religion is what binds you and the rest of your community to believe its teaching. Christianity says that faith in the Christian religion and in the doctrines and truths God has revealed is not natural and is a gift from God. Religion must and can only be a communication to people from the God of truth. He must give you an experience of your faith as a gift from him. It is a gift from God who is a supernatural power that tells you the truth and only the truth and demands obedience. So to summarise, a religion that is from God is based on God communicating truth to people and making sure they know he is in touch with them. So religion and the notion of infallible revelation go together. If the spiritual person sees herself as somehow infallible, so does the religious person. If religion is bad because people think they know what they don't know, then the spiritual not religious brigade are no better. Some would say the latter are worse for each one of them wants no constraints but to be her or his own religion. They would say there is nothing to stop them from going completely astray. They reason that religion is bad but each person being her or his own religion makes things worse for it means more religions - so the fewer religions around the better.
 
If spiritual people are harmful, and if religion is a collection of like-minded spiritual people then it is harmful too. Cranks are terrible on an individual basis but a nightmare when they become a collection.
 
In 2012, researchers at University College London conducted a study with interesting findings which were published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. They found that those who claim to be spiritual but not religious or members of religion were more likely to have anxiety disorders, phobias, neurotic disorders, eating disorders, drink problems and drug problems. They were found to be more likely than others to be taking medication for mental health problems. The Catholic press and media - eg the Iona Institute - has capitalised on this study in the hope of stemming the flow of Catholics out of the Catholic Church to become freelance spiritual people.
The study concluded, "Our main finding is that people who had a spiritual understanding of life had worse mental health than those with an understanding that was neither religious nor spiritual."
 
7,403 men and women in England were chosen at random for the study. 35% said they attended places of worship such as churches and mosques etc. Five out of six of those people identified as Christian. 46% - nearly half the people selected for the study - said they were were not religious or spiritual. That leaves 19% who said that they were spiritual but had no religion.
 
This 19% were found to be 77% more likely than the others to depend on mental health drugs. They were 72% more likely to suffer from a phobia. And they were 50% more likely to have an anxiety disorder. They were found to be 40% more likely to be getting treatment with psychotropic drugs. Their risk of neurosis was 37% higher.
 
It is vital to note that the study found no significant difference between those who had a religious outlook and those with no religion in terms of their mental health.
 
It is ludicrous to suggest that it is okay to be a godless church cursing atheist or a fervent believer and churchgoer and bad for you to be spiritual and not go to Church. If it is not going to Church that is the problem, then the unbelievers who stay away from Church should have the biggest problems.
 
We must remember that spiritual people such as Charles Manson and Hitler have proved very dangerous. People who consider themselves spiritual more than religious have arguably done more evil than religious people. Religion itself has its history books full of people who claimed to be members of a religion and did evil on spiritual grounds against the religion's will.
 
Religion is when spiritual people come together under the one faith and ethos and umbrella. Religion likes power and money and influence so when it behaves itself, it is because it needs something from society and doesn't want to attract hostility. Experts say that spirituality that does not care about being guided by religion or spiritual therapists can lead you to becoming a complete crank and you may end up kidnapping the local toddlers to sacrifice them. If individual spirituality is dangerous, this danger is seems to be tempered by religion. Or is it? What tempers the danger is the need to cooperate and fit into the religious community. This is not the same as it being tempered by religion. There are as many different levels of commitment to Catholicism in parishes as there are parishes. If a priest talks sense into a wayward youth, it does not follow that religion helped the youth. The priest approached the youth as a person and not as a priest. Some priests are humanist and do not realise it. Religious believers themselves are tempered by the doubts created by humanists and atheists. That is why a faith can be evil and endorse evil and its people may rise above that and be good in spite of it.
 
The tempering itself is a problem when it is based on the spiritual attitude. Even the most outrageous spiritual individualists will co-operate but only for as long as they feel like it. Their co-operation is not based on the idea that we must try to level with others. It is only outward or cosmetic co-operation.
 
And if religion can temper the dangers of spirituality, we must remember that religions can lose their influence.
 
Religions can collapse.
 
Religions disillusion people - thus the spiritual person who becomes a religionist could end up even more spiritual and crazy. If a spiritual person poses a danger and a risk, a disillusioned one who ends up hating or being suspicious of all religious guidance will be worse.
 
We must remember that if the media and society give the impression that a certain view, however irrational and ridiculous, is the accepted view or the "in" view people will largely go along with it or enable it by failing to contradict it or imagine they believe it or they may believe it. If being spiritual in an individualistic or irrational way is seen as socially acceptable, this enables and opens the door to any problems that may result. Irrational or stupid views seem more reasonable when you are among people that claim to hold them. Being part of the group puts you in a haze that stops you seeing how illogical you are being.
 
The dangerous spiritual but not religious person will feel supported by religion for like him or her, the religion is based on the notion that people can have infallible knowledge of the truth thanks to God. Condemnations of her or him by the religion will be seen as unjust and hypocritical and have no reforming effect.
 
The study shows that being spiritual is unhealthy. Maybe going to Church and participating in social activities to do with the Church makes people better at hiding the unhealthy side. Or perhaps the benefits prevent the harm done from showing or being too obvious. If my spirituality was giving me a generalised anxiety disorder, perhaps that is cancelled out by the social benefits. The spirituality is still doing me harm though. It is still dangerous.
 
Religious people need the delusion that they can have personal ill-feelings towards immorality but not against the immoral person. Personal ill-feelings are by definition against the person. People need the lie. Religion tells them the lie and they lap it up. Religion is based on this fundamental lie - it is the rock it is built on. Any happiness that results from the delusion or lie not real happiness and is pathological. The spiritual person may leave the lie behind and go out and punish sinners instead of pretending that sinners and sins are separate and must get separate treatment.
 
A man-made religion has no intrinsic right to consider anybody to be a member of it. It is perfectly just and sensible for a person who is labelled a Mormon and who has been raised Mormon to disown that label even if the Church won't disfellowship and de-register him. It is up to you to decide what you are, not others. The implication is that being part of a religion is no protection against the dangers of being spiritual when you realise this.
 
The spiritual person goes their own way and is ultimately an individualist. She only bothers with others when it is going to serve her individualism. It is very dangerous for a person to be their own pope and prophet and Jesus and religion. That means they think their views are the views of God. If they are harmless, then that is through luck. Their attitude is intrinsically risky and dangerous. It makes a bad example before others.
 
Most believers who are fanatical in at least some things, keep it in check or feel too intimidated by society to unleash. Some people claim to be spiritual not religious. If it is true that those people are more fanatical and mentally unhealthy than religious people, then we must ponder the following question. Is the reason they have problems because spirituality is dangerous in itself but they are missing the social constraints imposed by religion? Their situation is not necessarily a case for religion. It is a case against it.
 
We conclude that religious people have a screw loose but this craziness tends to be contained. For example, believers can behave deranged in Church but not in a shopping centre. So religion is contained craziness and spirituality is uncontained craziness.
  
Response to God Is dead, but faith never will be, Freethinker article by Luna Linsday - argues that she is atheist and has faith and is spiritual

 

I think atheism should be faith and can be comforting. For example, you can accept death as a means of leaving a space for somebody else to enjoy life. After all, if nobody ever died life on earth would be hell.

I do not like the term spiritual. It seems to imply a ghost in the machine. And philosophically spirit means an immaterial reality. Spirit in Mormonism means a physical substance that is not like anything we can test in a lab or examine. There are sects such as the Christadelphians and Jehovah's Witnesses that hold that you are your body and there is no soul and nothing to survive death - so they would agree with the atheists there. Suppose they would use the word spiritual but not in the way most people would understand it.

People often enjoy the escapism provided by religion and religious worship. It makes them feel magic instead of the mundane. They fear the hardness of life and the horrible realities of life in this world. Religion and worship help these evils seem far away and somehow unreal. People fear that reason might prove there is no God and no afterlife and that their loved ones suffer for nothing along the lines of a divine purpose. So religion and worship allows them to escape from reason. If reality and the rational world are scary and seem omnipotent, you will wish that there was some magic that subverts and conquers them. If you are dying, you can get enormous relief by doing magic spells for you feel that something magical will happen to save your life. You want a miracle and you hope for one. Television and cinema and different things provide escapism. People enjoy watching the suffering of characters in movies for it triggers the sense that bad things are fine if they happen to others but not me and so they won't happen to me. If bad things are happening to them, they can feel they are not and that other people thankfully are doing the suffering not them. Religion is evil precisely because it teases out and develops our faculties for escapism and not only that but wants to turn us into escapists all the time.

 

COMMENT

 

For the NHS, "[spirituality pertains to] the essence of human beings as unique individuals: the power, energy and hopefulness in a person". Some use that definition to hide their religious intentions and hopefully to get the law of the land to endorse spirituality legally. This definition is describing self-confidence not spirituality.

Any meaningful definition of spirituality will involve the belief that there is a higher power who pours supernatural strength into you. It is a religious concept and must be struck out of the law.

 

However, Susan Stebbing (1885-1943) spoke of spiritual excellences that had nothing to do with religious belief or faith.

Loving the human beings you come into contact with.
Being joyful when human nature is creative.
Respecting truth and loving to learn.
Being loyal to others.
Compassion for those who suffer and being generous in exercising that compassion.
Hating cruelty and things which hurt people.
Rejoicing in the beauty of nature and art.
Accepting that you may need to give up what is good for you for the greater good of others.

 

None of that needs the word spiritual appended in.  If you use personal excellences it makes better sense and sounds less flowery and mystical.