"Spiritual But Not Religious People" May be Nuts

Come on. Didn't we kinda' know this already?
A new study indicates that individuals who claim to be “spiritual,” but who lack an allegiance to a specific religion, may, in fact, be more likely to suffer from mental health problems.

The research shows that people who embrace spiritualism without religious constructs are at a potential mental-health disadvantage compared to those who are more traditionally religious (or even when compared to those who are atheists and agnostics). In addition to having greater mental health problems, these people are also more likely to take medication to deal with associated issues, the Telegraph reports.

The research, which was conducted by Professor Michael King from the University College London, among others, was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The shocking study came to the following conclusion: “There is increasing evidence that people who profess spiritual beliefs in the absence of a religious framework are more vulnerable to mental disorder.”
It seems to me that being spiritual but not religious doesn't pin people down to the rules that they likely seek to avoid but I don't see how they obtain comfort from such a faith, if that's what it can be called.

The thing is, the "rules" that people don't like are really just guideposts towards holiness and love. People look at the Commandments as a bunch of "thou shall nots." But I always look at it as similar to getting married. You can look at your vows as saying no to millions of ladies or saying "yes" to one.

So if you look at it that way, if you got married and did't honor your commitment to your wife what comfort could you possibly get from that marriage? To me, being married and unfaithful is similar to being spiritual but not religious.



  1. My favorite quote to counter the Spiritual but not religious thing
    "Do you know what religion is? It is a school in which every soul must be trained, smoothed and polished by the Holy Spirit, who acts as a physician to our souls until, well smoothed and polished, they can be united and joined to the will of God. . .Religion is an infirmary for the spiritually sick, who wish to be cured and must therefore undergo the pains of surgery." - St. Pio of Pietrelcina

  2. In a book I have on Korean shamanism, it mentions that people who can talk to the spirits (Korean shamans let their gods possess their bodies during rituals) either become shamans, and live by shamanic taboos, or they go crazy—one woman was described as talking to chickens. The ritual by which shamans are "ordained" is also the ritual where the "spirit sickness" is cured.

    Similarly, most Native American and Asian religions treat every invocation of the spirits as a thing almost like nuclear power; a Navajo sandpainting, for instance, always has a border made up of the body of a ranbow-god (I think it might be a special version of the god the Hopi call Kokopelli), to protect the surroundings from the other spirits depicted. The Japanese equivalent of "holy ground" literally means "a barrier", and the inner sanctum of a Shinto shrine is restricted to entry by a very few priests. Korean shamanism considers one's dead relatives, who watch over their living kin and are invoked for luck and prosperity, to nevertheless be very dangerous beings—a famous shaman's adage is jugeun soneun gashi sonida, "a dead hand is a thorny hand", i.e. you cannot touch it safely.

    Religions are things that make spirits safe. People have come, thanks to living on the reservation the Church has staked out for them, to think of spirits as helpful friendly things, but even the friendly and helpful spirits can be damned dangerous on their own. We only don't have to worry because our god can come to us as a man, and one who returned from the dead. Remember that even Jewish priests went into the Holy of Holies as little as possible, with a rope tied around their ankle so their corpse could be dragged out if they dropped dead.

  3. Way to show Christ-like love to all people there, sarcastic and smug blog writer.

    Every now and then I think, gee, maybe one way I'll deepen my faith is to explore blogs by fellow Catholics. It must be the devil tempting me, because I invariably end up further from my faith when I read blogs like yours.

  4. I wonder if a big problem is that a lot of spiritual but not religious people tend to dabble in the occult....

    divination, transcendental meditation, crystals, communing with spirits.... when you open the door, someone's gonna come a knocking, and if you won't welcome God, the strangers you'll be welcoming are.... less than friendly.

  5. Amy. I don't see anything in-Christian about the blog post. Can you be quite specific about what you found to be so upsetting?

  6. "The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man."

    Albert Einstein, a very spiritual man in the secular sense of awe and wonder of the universe did not believe in a God except in the Spinoza sense of God and did not ascribe to the tenets of a religion was perhaps at a higher risk of mental health problems.

  7. I suffer from severe mental health issues and I'm a daily communicant. What does that make me?

  8. @Rationalist1, Einstein was a religious fanatic who arbitrarily selected a value for the cosmological constant that would a priori advantage a steady-state model—as required by his religious beliefs (Spinozan pantheism is also known as "static monism").

    And he was also an emotionally abusive philanderer, so...what exactly was your point? He was probably precisely the sort of mentally ill that this post is talking about.

  9. Einstein did add in a cosmological constant to make his equations agree with the prevailing notion and observation at the time of steady state cosmos. Later when Hubble showed the universe was expanding he said that change was the biggest professional mistake of his life. There in lies the difference between science and religion. Einstein changed his view when evidence changed, religion chances the evidence to fit the religion.

  10. Helene - Ignore the article. It makes you nothing more or less than you are now. It's just a person who thinks you need to be religious to have values. Religious people have values and non religious people have values.

  11. Helene said...
    I suffer from severe mental health issues and I'm a daily communicant. What does that make me?
    A daliy communicant with mental health problems. Offer up your trials to the good God and be glad.

  12. The important thing to keep in mind here is that while one might be more likely to experience mental problems if one is spiritual but not religious, it doesn't mean people who are either religious or who are neither religious nor spiritual are immune from mental problems.

    Matthew's comparison to marriage is somewhat relevant here. Yes you absolutely need to be faithful to truly experience the benefits of marriage, but some marriages are sterile anyway because we live in a fallen world. Likewise Deidre Mundy's comment is right on the mark as well. People who try to engage the spirits on their own terms are opening themselves up to some pretty malevolent spirits, but remaining faithful doesn't mean you won't experience spiritual attack; it only prepares you better for the attacks when they come.


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