Generic Spirituality and Depression

By Curtis Rittenour
Posted April 23, 2018

According to the latest research, many today are abandoning formal religious belief to identify themselves as being “spiritual, but not religious.”

Among those using that label, a recent Psychology Today article notes, one-third are more likely to report symptoms of depression. By contrast, in a study of U.S. military veterans, those who use the word “religious” to describe their spiritual practices—individuals who adhere to a specific faith and its tenets—have a lower “risk for adverse mental health outcomes including PTSD, alcohol use disorder, major depressive disorder, and suicidal thinking.”

Dr. Jeffrey Vittengl, a psychology professor at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, believes the “self-focus” of spirituality—as opposed to the structure of a religious community’s beliefs, practices, and fellowship—may hold the key to the answer. He notes that spiritual people “may be engaging in a ‘lonely search’ for answers to their ultimate questions that, if unsatisfied, increases risk for depression.”

Given the evidence, it might be reasonable to conclude that a return to a more-specific religious faith would seem to be the answer for the “spiritual, but not religious” types who are finding difficulty in their lives. Instead, the magazine’s writer hopes “more and more” integration of an apparently ambiguous “spirituality” will eventually “flip” the relationship between the “lonely search” and depression. “Time will tell,” the article concludes.

But we don’t have to wait for time to tell us; it already has. Some two thousand years ago, on Mars Hill—overlooking the then-pagan city of Athens, Greece—the apostle Paul delivered a sermon in which he called out the Athenians for one of their venerated places: “For as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23).

From near the beginning of time, people on this planet have practiced either true religion or false spirituality. From Cain’s decision to “go his own way” in Genesis 4, to the pagans on Mars Hill, the Scripture is replete with examples of those who turned their back on God’s freely offered plan—improving their lives in exchange for a “spiritual” approach that He either rejects or, in many instances, explicitly condemns.

The answer for everyone seeking a reliable path to spiritual fulfillment is to carefully examine what the Bible says about prophecy, spiritual guidance, astrology and the like. While the answers might surprise you (hint: some seemingly harmless practices aren’t so!), finding out what God suggests as the way to happiness is of vital importance.

Amazing Facts offers an online Bible study course, free, to help everyone find out God’s ideas on these important issues. If you’ve ever wondered “Does God Inspire Astrologers and Psychics?”, click here to learn helpful lessons from the Bible.

Written by Mark A. Kellner


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