Being Religious or Spiritual Is Linked With Getting More Depressed

My experience with being very religious, attending church and bible study regularly, teaching Sunday school to pre-schoolers through adult, taking part in vacation bible school, and all the usual pot lucks and small group activities, left me with lots of frustrations, disappointments and impossible imperatives. I coined the phrase, “Passive Gospel”, meaning yield, pray, obey, turn the other cheek, love him to the lord, crucify myself daily in imitation of the crucified Christ  and rejoice in my crucifixion. 

Life’s circumstances forced me to look at the value system under which I tried to survive, only finding I had few skills to meet real grown-up problems and conflicts. 

One day I put my three ten-year old children in the car and ran away from my husband, god, church, dogma and began to look for ways to live a healthy, positive, safe, secure, stable, effective, and efficient life. These values were relatively easy to discover once I stopped trying to live down to the expectations of my religious community and began living as a strong, powerful, self-defined woman. 

I discovered qualities in me that were denied me by religious dogma. I could think, reason, explore, experiment, make decisions, and manage our household and raise three healthy children who will be fifty within a few months. They turned out to be fine, responsible, dependable, compassionate adults. 

I learned skills I needed to communicate effectively, express myself without fear and with confidence after exploring options, listening to others without feeling engulfed in their beliefs, doing those things that build strong family and community life, and stopped looking for guidance from some non-being with some human made writings, from some human made religion which had power and control issues. 

I found meaning and purpose far more compelling than anything I had learned through religion. The universe exists, is majestic, beautiful, unrelenting, and cruel. The Earth is a place of bloody beak and claw in which one must be clever and requires building a community for self-benefit as well as the benefit of others. You and I exist as we; together we can accomplish far more than one alone, or depending on some supernatural power to solve problems. 

I am born, live, grow old and die; each process has its risks and benefits. When I die the electrical current turns off and all parts of my body, mind and consciousness return to the soil to nourish other critters. I exist as the scion of a very long line of ancestors, all the way back to slime in a pond. It is a long heritage with great risks for never having been born at all. 

However, I was born, I live a rich and fulfilling life with lots of adventures, challenges, set backs, and steps forward. I am now in the generative phase of life with failing eye, hearing, and the diseases that often come with ageing. I have a pace maker, I have diabetes, I am recovering from two forms of breast cancer and the merciless chemo and radiation treatments that have the highest survival rate of all procedures studied. 

I have an incredibly strong support network of family, medical professionals and trained technicians. My friends and neighbors buoy up my emotional life. I have good health insurance to take care of the extraordinary costs of treatment, and a retirement fund to sustain my lifestyle in my own home. 

Now, that brings me to my next task in life: work toward universal health care for all as well as a safety net for people too young, old, infirm and disabled to care for themselves. These formidable challenges prevent me from being bored. The people with whom I discuss these issues offer intelligent thinking that holds my interests as well as my thoughts and actions. 

Life is very good, terribly short, and full of interesting things. For those who get bored, it is either a symptom of low intelligence or laziness. I am absolutely intolerant of any one who says, “I’m ’bored!”. Get out of my sight; don’t let me hear such nonsense. I am still capable of delivering a scathing lecture and rejection of nonsense.


Being Religious or Spiritual Is Linked With Getting More Depressed




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Replies to This Discussion

The religious SHOULD be depressed.  Being constantly told that you're a sinner, that you can't measure up unless you got Jebus in your heart, and even then not being 100% certain and having to constantly go back to reassure yourself that you're right with Jebus (but frequently more so the rest of your congregation!).  My church back when wasn't about this, but I can see where an awful lot of shaming and blaming and backbiting and gossip, particularly with the more fundamentalist and extreme forms of christianity, could give rise to precisely those kinds of behaviors.

They can HAVE it.



You are perhaps our best crusader for reason.  Your courage and determination in the face of daunting challenges is an inspiration to all of us.  You have prevailed through so much, I think most of us have a positive outlook on your behalf. 

I look forward to reading the article and many thanks.  .   


Loren, you write so powerfully. Thanks for your input.

Sam, Thank you for your kind words. I have lots of nourishment from family and friends and professionals and bright minds taking this walk through life with me. The human spirit, whatever that is, resides within each of us. There is no need for religion.

I'm not convinced that the causation doesn't go the other way around - tendencies to depression causing people to become religious or spiritual.

Their definition of "spiritual" is funny:  "believing that there is some power or force other than yourself, which might influence life." 

By that definition everyone is spiritual :)

Laura you have a good point, but I have never met many people who become religious, unless they are just changing from one brand to the other, many in the communities I grew up with were indoctrinated at a very early age and then around puberty rebelled or strayed away because they start to question, most fell back into it because of gang mentality there is protection in numbers and also they felt as if what was good for their parents has to be good for them also afraid from all the rhetoric that there maybe a god and they won't secure their place in the imaginary heaven. The religion is a man made concept to get them to punish themselves( I know you already know this but Im just conversating here) keeps them always feeling like sheep

People might feel depressed because they have an overbearing "inner parent" and try to make peace with their inner parent/accuser via religion. 

Thanks Joan.  Good article.  And you, as usual, have some well thought-out and nicely expressed comments.

This is the first time I've heard you say anything about your intolerance of bored people.  I agree life is short and full of interesting things.  I can't understand bored people, and I feel sorry for them.

I've heard so many people say they wouldn't want to live forever, as they would get bored.  I can't imagine  ever getting bored in this vast universe with so many things to learn and do.

I would add to your comment that they have "low intelligence or laziness", that they have a lack of imagination.

O how I loved this, thanks for sharing!Joan Denoo.. I always tell people when they say to me " I am bored" -" only boring people get bored" lol...I really dont mean any harm when I say that but its trying to get them to have the idea that there is always something to study, to see, to engulf themselves in.

I read the article and I have thought about this many times. Religious beliefs only seem to make the people more depressed if they do something so minor as have a improper thought they seem to be all torn up about it, I have told family remembers that the thought is not bad, it is the action which is deadly. They get to saying "oh please pray for me, I am going to hell" and I am just astonish at the logic of it all. They seem not to be able to reason.

a young man told me once he was going to hell because as he sat in church he began lusting for a woman in a tight dress, I told him nonsense because his thinking was natural, and that he had done nothing wrong. That he was making the situation more than what it should be. He couldn't hear my words because he has already been indoctrinated 

Thank you Joan for sharing so much of yourself and fighting the cause we need more people like you out here, that work for the people not to get a place in a imaginary heaven, but because they have morals and are human.. 

Interesting article, Joan. Thanks

 Joan, you took it upon yourself to pull you and your kids through. There must have been a clarity that shown through the fog of depression. Being beaten down and told what to think, wouldn't that make you more angry than feeling worthless? Patronizing attitudes coming from those to whom you committed? I'm not saying, but just wondering if running the gamut of negative emotions is in fact depression.

You see Joan, where I'm coming from is that I have suffered a lifetime of clinical depression. I'm also a lifelong atheist. It was never definitively diagnosed 'til I was 51 (I'm 58). Real depression is quite different than depression brought on by circumstance. Their are many aspects of my life and family that have been very positive, but that didn't take away that feeling of gloom and doom and doubt that always seemed to flow me around.

 Freedom from what I consider to be a childish, fearful, and patently false set of ideas that religion tries to impose did not bring me up from the depths. Drugs did. Thank gawd (ahem) for science!


Christopher, I agree there is a difference between situational depression and clinical depression. They are not the same and cannot be treated using the same methods. Born into a culture of violence and domination started for me in the crib and continued until age 38 when anger took over and I took control of my life. I lacked skills of communication, problem solving, and conflict resolution. I didn't know that I didn't know. Once I started looking in that directions, instead of trying to survive in a hostile environment, I blossomed. I learned to be helpless as a child and learned to function as an adult when I ran away at 38. I obviously am a slow learner. 

Clinical depression must be awful, until it is properly diagnosed and treated. I am so very happy for you that you found the remedy for your condition and found relief. The chemistry and electrical energy of the body works on us whether we know it or not. Now you know and find relief. 

"Thank gawd for science!" YES! I feel that way too because I didn't know what healthy living was until I went searching for a better way. 




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