Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 53, Issue 5, pp 1285–1296 | Cite as

Beliefs About God and Mental Health Among American Adults

  • Nava R. Silton
  • Kevin J. Flannelly
  • Kathleen Galek
  • Christopher G. Ellison
Original Paper

Abstract

This study examines the association between beliefs about God and psychiatric symptoms in the context of Evolutionary Threat Assessment System Theory, using data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey of US Adults (N = 1,426). Three beliefs about God were tested separately in ordinary least squares regression models to predict five classes of psychiatric symptoms: general anxiety, social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion. Belief in a punitive God was positively associated with four psychiatric symptoms, while belief in a benevolent God was negatively associated with four psychiatric symptoms, controlling for demographic characteristics, religiousness, and strength of belief in God. Belief in a deistic God and one’s overall belief in God were not significantly related to any psychiatric symptoms.

Keywords

Beliefs ETAS theory General anxiety Social anxiety Obsession–compulsion Paranoia Religion 

References

  1. Aardema, F., O’Connor, K. P., & Emmelkamp, P. M. G. (2006). Inferential confusion and obsessive beliefs in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 35(3), 138–147.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alatiq, Y., Crane, C., Williams, J. M. G., & Goodwin, G. M. (2010). Dysfunctional beliefs in bipolar disorder: Hypomanic vs. depressive attitudes. Journal of Affective Disorders, 122(3), 294–300.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beck, A. T., Emery, G., & Greenberg, R. L. (1985). Anxiety disorders and phobias: A cognitive perspective. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  4. Beck, A. T., Butler, A. C., Brown, G. K., Dahlsgaard, K. K., Newman, C. F., & Beck, J. S. (2001). Dysfunctional beliefs discriminate personality disorders. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 39(10), 1213–1225.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Benson, P., & Spilka, B. (1973). God image as a function of self-esteem and locus of control. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 12(3), 297–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blanchard, D. C., Hynd, A. L., Minke, K. A., Minemoto, T., & Blanchard, R. J. (2001). Human defensive behaviors to threat scenarios show parallels to fear- and anxiety-related defense patterns of non-human mammals. Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews, 25, 761–770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brune, M. (2006). The evolutionary psychology of obsessive-compulsive disorder: The role of cognitive metarepresentation. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 49(3), 317–329.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burker, E. J., Evon, D. M., Sedway, J. A., & Egan, T. (2005). Religious and non-religious coping in lung transplant candidates: Does adding god to the picture tell us more? Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 28(6), 513–526.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cicirelli, V. G. (2002). Fear of death in older adults: Predictions from terror management theory. Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 57(4), P358–P366.Google Scholar
  10. Clark, D. M. (1999). Anxiety disorders: Why they persist and how to treat them. Behavior Research & Therapy, 37(Suppl 1), S5–S27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Exline, J. J., Park, C. L., Smyth, J. M., & Carey, M. P. (2011). Anger toward god: Social-cognitive predictors, prevalence, and links with adjustment to bereavement and cancer. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100(1), 129–148.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fenigstein, A., & Vanable, P. A. (1992). Paranoia and self-consciousness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62(1), 129–138.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fitchett, G., Murphy, P. E., Kim, J., Gibbons, J. L., Cameron, J. R., & Davis, J. A. (2004). Religious struggle: Prevalence, correlates and mental health risks in diabetic, congestive heart failure, and oncology patients. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 34(2), 179–196.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Flannelly, K. J., & Galek, K. (2010). Religion, evolution, and mental health: Attachment theory and ETAS theory. Journal of Religion and Health, 49(3), 337–350.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Flannelly, K. J., Koenig, H. G., Galek, K., & Ellison, C. G. (2007). Beliefs, mental health, and evolutionary threat assessment systems in the brain. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 195(12), 996–1003.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Flannelly, K. J., Galek, K., Ellison, C. G., & Koenig, H. G. (2010). Beliefs about god, psychiatric symptoms, and evolutionary psychiatry. Journal of Religion and Health, 49(2), 246–261.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Foster, R. A., & Keating, J. P. (1992). Measuring androcentrism in the western god-concept. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 31(3), 366–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Francis, L. J., Gibson, H. M., & Robbins, M. (2001). God images and self-worth among adolescents in Scotland. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 4(2), 103–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Freud, S. (1920). A general introduction to psychoanalysis. New York: Horace Liveright.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Froese, P., & Bader, C. D. (2007). God in America: Why theology is not simply the concern of philosophers. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 46(4), 465–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Froese, P., & Bader, C. D. (2010). America’s four Gods. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Gilbert, P. (1984). Depression: From psychology to brain state. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  23. Gilbert, P. (1998a). Evolutionary psychopathology: Why isn’t the mind designed better than it is? British Journal of Medical Psychology, 71(Pt 4), 353–373.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gilbert, P. (1998b). The evolved basis and adaptive functions of cognitive distortions. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 71(Pt 4), 447–463.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gilbert, P. (2001). Evolution and social anxiety: The role of attraction, social competition, and social hierarchies. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 24(4), 723–751.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gilbert, P. (2002). Evolutionary approaches to psychopathology and cognitive therapy. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 16(3), 263–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gilbert, P., Boxall, M., Cheung, M., & Irons, C. (2005). The relationship of paranoid ideation and society anxiety in a mixed clinical population. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 12, 124–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hammersla, J. F., Andrews-Qualls, L. C., & Frease, L. G. (1986). God concepts and religious commitment among Christian University students. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 25(4), 424–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hogg, M. A., Adelman, J. R., & Blagg, R. D. (2010). Religion in the face of uncertainty: An uncertainty-identity theory account of religiousness. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14(1), 72–83.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kaplan, S. L. (1994). A self-rated scale for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 50, 564–574.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kirkpatrick, L. A. (1992). An attachment-theory approach to the psychology of religion. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 2(1), 3–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2005). Attachment, evolution, and the psychology of religion. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  33. Krause, N. (2002). Church-based social support and health in old age: Exploring variations by race. Journals of Gerontology, 57B(6), S332–S347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Krause, N. (2005). God-mediated control and psychological well-being in late life. Research on Aging, 27(2), 136–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kroenke, K., Spitzer, R. L., Williams, J. B. W., & Lowe, B. (2009). An ultra-brief screening scale for anxiety and depression: The PHQ-4. Psychosomatics, 50(6), 613–621.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. MacLean, P. D. (1977). The triune brain in conflict. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 28, 207–220.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. MacLean, P. D. (1985). Evolutionary psychiatry and the triune brain. Psychological Medicine, 15(2), 219–221.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. MacLean, P. D. (1990). The triune brain in evolution: Role in paleocerebral functions. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  39. Marks, I. M., & Nesse, R. M. (1994). Fear and fitness: An evolutionary analysis of anxiety disorders. Ethology & Sociobiology, 15(5–6), 247–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McConnell, K. M., Pargament, K. I., Ellison, C. G., & Flannelly, K. J. (2006). Examining the links between spiritual struggles and symptoms of psychopathology in a national sample. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(12), 1469–1484.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McNaughton, N., & Corr, P. J. (2004). A two-dimensional neuropsychology of defense: Fear/anxiety and defensive distance. Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews, 28, 285–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Moore, K. A., & Gee, D. L. (2003). The reliability, validity, discriminant and predictive properties of the social phobia inventory (SoPhi). Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 16(1), 109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Moritz, S., & Pohl, R. F. (2006). False beliefs maintenance for fear-related information in obsessive-compulsive disorder: An investigation with the hindsight paradigm. Neuropsychology, 20(6), 737–742.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Nelsen, H. M., Cheek, N. H., & Au, P. (1985). Gender differences in images of God. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 24(4), 396–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nesse, R. M. (1987). An evolutionary perspective on panic disorder and agoraphobia. Ethology & Sociobiology, 8, 73S–83S.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Nesse, R. (1998). Emotional disorders in evolutionary perspective. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 71(4), 397–415.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Noffke, J. L., & McFadden, S. H. (2001). Denominational and age comparisons of God concepts. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 40(4), 747–756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pargament, K. I., Koenig, H. G., & Perez, L. M. (2000). The many methods of religious coping: Development and Initial Validation of the RCOPE. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 56(4), 519–543.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Phillips, R. E., Pargament, K. I., Lynn, Q. K., & Crossley, C. D. (2004). Self-directing religious coping: A deistic God, abandoning God, or no God at all? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 43(3), 409–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Roof, W. C., & Roof, J. L. (1984). Review of the polls: Images of God among Americans. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 23(2), 201–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rosmarin, D. H., Pargament, K. I., & Mahoney, A. (2009a). The role of religiousness in anxiety, depression, and happiness in a Jewish community sample: A preliminary investigation. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 12(2), 97–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rosmarin, D. H., Pirutinsky, S., Pargament, K. I., & Krumrei, E. J. (2009b). Are religious beliefs relevant to mental health among Jews? Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 1(3), 180–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Schaap-Jonker, H., Eurelings-Bontekoe, E., Zock, H., & Jonker, E. (2002). Development and validation of the Dutch questionnaire God image: Effects of mental health and religious culture. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 11(5), 501–515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schieman, S., Pudrovska, T., Pearlin, L. I., & Ellison, C. G. (2006). The sense of divine control and psychological distress: Variations across race and socioeconomic status. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 45(4), 529–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schlager, D. (1995). Evolutionary perspectives on paranoid disorder. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 18(2), 263–279.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Silton, N. R., Flannelly, K. J., Ellison, C. G., Galek, K., Jacobs, M. R., Marcum, J. P., et al. (2011a). The association between religious beliefs and practices and end-of-life fears among members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). Review of Religious Research, 53, 357–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Silton, N. R., Flannelly, L. T., Flannelly, K. J., & Galek, K. (2011b). Toward a theory of holistic needs and the brain. Holistic Nursing Practice, 25(5), 258–265.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Steenwyk, S. A. M., Atkins, D. C., Bedics, J. D., & Whitley, B. E, Jr. (2010). Images of God as they relate to life satisfaction and hopelessness. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 20(2), 85–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Stein, M. B., Torgrud, L. J., & Walker, J. R. (2000). Social phobia symptoms, subtypes, and severity: Findings from a community survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 57(11), 1046–1052.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tamayo, A., & Desjardines, L. (1976). Belief systems and conceptual images of parents and God. Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 92(1), 131–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Taylor, S., McKay, D., & Abramowitz, J. S. (2005). Hierarchical structure of dysfunctional beliefs in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 34(4), 216–228.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Vail, K. E, 3rd, Rothschild, Z. K., Weise, D. R., Solomon, S., Pyszczynski, T., & Greenberg, J. (2010). A terror management analysis of the psychological functions of religion. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14(1), 84–94.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wenzel, A., Sharp, I. R., Brown, G. K., Greenberg, R. L., & Beck, A. T. (2006). Dysfunctional beliefs in panic disorder: The panic belief inventory. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(6), 819–833.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wiegand, K. E., & Weiss, H. M. (2006). Affective reactions to the thought of “God”: Moderating effects of image of God. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(1), 23–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wood, B. T., Worthington, E. L, Jr, Exline, J. J., Yali, A. M., Aten, J. D., & McMinn, M. R. (2010). Development, refinement, and psychometric properties of the attitudes toward god scale (ATGS-9). Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2(3), 148–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nava R. Silton
    • 1
  • Kevin J. Flannelly
    • 2
  • Kathleen Galek
    • 3
  • Christopher G. Ellison
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMarymount Manhattan CollegeNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Center for Psychosocial ResearchMassapequaUSA
  3. 3.The Spears Research Institute, Healthcare ChaplaincyNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Department of SociologyThe University of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA

Personalised recommendations