“Spiritual but not Religious” are more likely to suffer poor mental health: News Roundup

In the news this week "spiritual but not religious" are more likely to suffer poor mental health, Africa rises and China falls on Christian persecution list, the first Atheist church opens in London, and other stories. 

People who are "spiritual but not religious" are more likely to suffer poor mental health, according to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. Michael King of University College London and his colleagues examined 7,400 interviews with folk in Britain, of whom 35% had a religious understanding of life, 19% a spiritual one and 46% neither a religious nor spiritual outlook. The analysis led to one clear conclusion. "People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder [dependence on drugs, abnormal eating attitudes, anxiety, phobias and neuroses]." The work supports evidence from other studies too.

All the usual weaknesses associated with asking individuals about religion are at play here, as the authors acknowledge. Nonetheless, the study prompts a number of speculations. The Guardian 

 The persecution of Christians “vastly rose” in 2012 as radical Islamists consolidated power in Africa, according to Open Doors, a Christian missionary organization that publishes an annual list of offending nations.

Increasing threats to African Christians can be seen in focused attacks, such as the killings of Christians in Nigerian churches by the radical Muslim group Boko Haram, but also in the greater prevalence of radical Muslims in government, according to the California-based Open Doors.

In Mali, for example, which made the biggest leap on the "World Watch List," from unranked in 2011 to No. 7 in 2012, a coup in the north brought fundamentalist Muslims to power. “The situation in the north used to be a bit tense, but Christians and even missionaries could be active,” said Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra. Now, he said, Christians there are in grave danger. Religion News Service

The first atheist church has opened in London, and it serves as yet another reminder of three important facts connected to the ongoing cultural struggle between many believers and non-believers. First, principled atheism is as much a faith as is theism; no matter how much many atheists would have us believe otherwise. Second, the human longing for community transcends the often bitter divides about where to find it and how to celebrate it. Third, like most so-called firsts in the world of faith and no-faith, this one is not really new.

Very few, if any, ideas or institutions are truly new. Virtually everything that we celebrate as new has its roots in something else, and that is especially true when it comes to religion. For example, before there was Christmas, there was Hanukkah. And before there was Hanukkah there were yet older celebrations of light in the midst of darkness – some Greco-Roman and others Zoroastrian. Of course, each of these traditions is unique, but none simply fell from the sky as fully formed novelties. Each emerged from a context which included predecessors which they both mirrored and altered, and the same can be said for this “first” atheist church. The Washington Post

The “Rise of the Nones,” which was based on survey of nearly 3,000 Americans and more than 500 follow-up interviews, included questions on beliefs. But in the “Global Religious Landscape” report, belief was not a central focus. The report includes but three sentences on belief in the “Religiously Unaffiliated” section. That is, it offers precious little insight into global patterns of religious belief or unbelief.

The Pew report on the religiously unaffiliated in the United States does focus substantially on belief, offering a number of significant findings among Nones:

  • 68% of the Unaffiliated in general believe in God or a Universal Spirit
  • Among those who self-identify as Atheist/Agnostic, 38% say they believe in God or a Universal Spirit
  • Among those who self-identified as “Nothing in Particular”—the majority of Nones (71%) in general—some 81% say they believe in God or a Universal Spirit

Religion Dispatches

The head of a controversial Catholic sect says that Jews are "enemies of the Church," but the sect has denied any anti-Semitic intentions.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, declared Jews "enemies of the Church" during a talk that aired on a Canadian radio station, the Catholic News Agency recently reported. Fellay's remarks took place on Dec. 28 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Chapel in New Hamburg, Ontario.

Fellay, discussing negotiations with the Vatican in 2012 concerning the Society's future, said the following during the address: “Who, during that time, was the most opposed that the Church would recognize the Society? The enemies of the Church. The Jews, the Masons, the Modernists.” The Huffington Post