Belief in an Angry God associated with mental illness

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 10:19 EDT
An angry man holds a Bible and a crucifix. Photo:

People who believe in an angry, punishing God are much more likely to suffer from a variety of mental illnesses, a scientific study published in the April edition of Journal of Religion & Health finds.

The study, conducted by Marymount Manhattan College Assistant Psychology Professor Nava Silton, used data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey of US Adults to examine the links between beliefs and anxiety disorders like social dysfunction, paranoia, obsession and compulsion.

To do this, Silton viewed the data through the lens of what’s called Evolutionary Threat Assessment System Theory, which posits that parts of the brain specifically evolved to detect threats, and suggests that many anxiety disorders may be a result of dysfunction in the brain’s perception of those threats.

In keeping with prior studies on this very subject, she queried the data on three types of believers: those who see God as angry, those who see God as neutral and those who see God as loving. Controlling specifically to weed out the non-believers, Silton found that a belief in a forgiving, loving God is associated with positive psychological traits, “almost protecting against psychopathology,” she told Raw Story.

But for those who think God is angry and preparing punishments for sinners, “that belief seems to be very much related to these negative symptoms,” Silton said.

“If you look at the previous research, they’ve connected it to depression and all sorts of other psychiatric disorders,” she said. “We were looking at social phobia, obsession, compulsion, paranoia and a lot of features of anxiety disorders.”

One thing Silton stressed is that her study should not be construed to have found a cause for such symptoms. “We are not looking at casual findings here,” she said. “We are looking at correlational findings. That means we’re not saying belief caused psychiatric symptoms, but we see relationships between beliefs and these psychiatric symptoms.”

Silton said that while her study was mostly quantitative in nature, she’s looking forward to “asking more qualitative questions” in future work, specifically “to look into what else belief systems might be related to.”

“We’d like to look more specifically at depression and eating disorders,” she said. “Do different beliefs in God relate to eating disorder symptoms? So, [we want to be] looking beyond just anxiety disorders.”

From :

— wazza2

19 thoughts on “Belief in an Angry God associated with mental illness

  1. The findings are a bit peculiar. “People who believe in an angry, punishing God are much more likely to suffer from a variety of mental illnesses.” Wouldn’t it be more accurate to state “People who are mentally ill are much more likely to promote a God who is just but not also merciful”?

    The evidence in the Bible shows that God is just and punishes (and He is kind and merciful). Is a person mentally ill because they believe what the Bible tells them about God? Be careful not to resurrect the heresy of Marcion who taught that there were two Gods: the God of the Old Testament who punishes and the god of the New Testament who relents.

    So, just because one believes that God is just and punishes absolutely can not be a basis for assuming one is mentally ill. More analysis is required to find out what else they believe about God. It might mean that they are competent.

  2. Jesus taught to fear God…”And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28. God is just, He rightfully angry with men…even King David spoke of God’s anger… Psalm 7

    6 Arise, O Lord, in Your anger;
    Lift Yourself up because of the rage of my enemies;
    Rise up for me[b] to the judgment You have commanded!
    7 So the congregation of the peoples shall surround You;
    For their sakes, therefore, return on high.
    8 The Lord shall judge the peoples;
    Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness,
    And according to my integrity within me.
    9 Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end,
    But establish the just;
    For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds.
    10 My defense is of God,
    Who saves the upright in heart.
    11 God is a just judge,
    And God is angry with the wicked every day.
    12 If he does not turn back,
    He will sharpen His sword;
    He bends His bow and makes it ready.
    13 He also prepares for Himself instruments of death;
    He makes His arrows into fiery shafts.
    14 Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity;
    Yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood.
    15 He made a pit and dug it out,
    And has fallen into the ditch which he made.
    16 His trouble shall return upon his own head,
    And his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown.
    17 I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness,
    And will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.

  3. God is angry with the wicked, yet He commands all to repent and turn to Him for mercy. God is loving, kind and long-suffering, He will forgive sin when a man turns and places his trust in the work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. God commands men to repent and believe. Read Acts 2:38

  4. As for Psalm 7. This is the same Psalmist who says “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” Ps 137:9.

    The God of the Old Testament is an incomplete revelation filled with error. Does God send disaster? Yes according to the Old Testament. Does god send invading armies to punish countries? Yes according to the Old Testament. Does God command genocide? Yes according to the Old Testament.

    Does God demand sacrifices? Yes but no according to Jeremiah 7:22.

    How do you guys equate your angry Old Testament God with Jesus who ate with sinners and the Father of the prodigal son?

    It seems there a schizophrenic god.

    The God that is revealed by Jesus and the vengeful god who demands human sacrifice to soothe his wrath.

  5. Jeremiah 7:21-22 (NASB)

    “21 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat flesh. 22 For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

    Seems fairly straight forward to me.

    You’d have to do some serious twisting to make it all add up.

    Mind you the NIV tried though.

    “22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, ” (NIV)

    Sneaky buggers!

  6. Don’t see any problem there.
    You are just upset because you cannot understand scripture,so you brand God as a liar.

  7. Jesus (in the new testament) spoke of God’s judgment and the fear of God – He said…”I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3.

    God has not and does not change – even between the old and new testaments. The message of scripture has not changed – throughout scripture it is the same…

    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding…” Prov 9:10

  8. Christians are first encouraged to see and seek God’s love. It is the goodness of God which leads us to repentance. The key scripture for most evangelicals is John 3:16, which speaks of the depth of God’s love for a sinful, rebellious world.

    The idea that God is a punishing God is only applicable to those who reject the work of the cross and the Lordship of Christ. In general Christians consider, primarily, the love of God and the way in which God has revealed His love through His Son.

    The attempt to psychologise belief is subjective. The analysis is focused on a very small and limited test group, most of whom are likely to be religiously inclined rather than Christian in Biblical terms. That’s not to say they are not believers, but, if, as Jason points out, one of the criteria is a link to mental illness, then the opening premis will lead to a potentially contrived conclusion.

    It should also be noted that because evangelicals speak of the subject of God’s wrath, which is Biblical, doesn’t mean this is the main doctrine or even the most discussed, but it is certainly important to include it in teaching if we are to present the full gospel, and not a watered down version which excludes some of the harder teachings of Christ and the Apostles.

    The most important doctrines surround the love of God and his willingness to redeem us despite our sinfulness. But there is a Way to God, and that is through faith in Jesus, the Son.

  9. I’m not a sinner.
    I just have a mental illness.
    So dope me up with psych meds to make me all the more delusional to the truth.
    Then i will never have to repent and be forgiven of anything.
    Just don’t come near me when i run out of meds.

  10. At least we shouldnt accept this kind of hell fire preaching, it might get souls but what damage does it do to peoples mental health?

    “If there’s a 2% chance of doubt in your mind (that hell might exist) you don’t want to take that 2% chance”

    Interesting eye-witness evidence about the Pope going to hell though….

  11. Tell me, if God allows a bomber to blow up people at a marathon event and you try to stop it, are you working against God?

    Also if that is the case are not the bombers agents of God?

    Consider the following rant about the Boston bombings and the sovereignty of God who gave the green light to the bombings because of interfaith prayer services..

    On Monday, April 15, shortly before 3:00 PM (EDT), two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. As of today, three people have been killed as a result of the bombing, with more than 170 people (young and old) injured, some gravely. The suspect(s) of this act of terror, cowardice, and murder has not yet been identified. It is not yet known (at least by the general public) if the Boston Marathon Bombing was an act of domestic or foreign terrorism.

    I, and no doubt millions of other Christians around the world, have been praying for the families of those killed, for those wounded and their families, for the first responders, for the investigators, for our president, and for justice to be served upon those who perpetrated this horrific act of violence.

    Why did the bombing at the Boston Marathon happen? Because Almighty Sovereign God allowed it to happen (Job 1:6-12; Job 2:1-6; Job 38:1-41; Job 39:1-30; Job 40: 1-24; Job 41:1-34; Psalm 50:9-11; Psalm 139:13-16; Psalm 96:10; Psalm 97:1; Psalm 99:1; Acts 4:24; 1 Timothy 6:15-16; Revelation 19:16).

    Why did God allow this seemingly senseless act of violence to happen? Only God knows (Job 35:7; Isaiah 40:12-14; Romans 11:33-36; 1 Corinthians 2:16).

    Did something bad happen to good people? No. Something bad happened to inherently sinful people, at the hands of inherently sinful people (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 10:18; Romans 3:10-18; Ephesians 2:1-3).

    Were innocent people injured and killed as a result of the bombing? Innocent before God? No. Innocent in the sense that they did nothing to the perpetrators that warranted or justified the attack against them? Yes.

    Since God allowed the tragedy to take place, are those who perpetrated the act responsible for what they did? Yes (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Timothy 5:24; Hebrews 4:13; Hebrews 9:27; Hebrews 10:26-31; 1 Peter 4:4-6; 1 Peter 4:17; 2 Peter 3:7; Jude 1:14-16).

    Sadly, some Christians will blaspheme God by creating an idolatrous image of God in their imagination, an image with which unbelievers will be slightly more comfortable, by saying that God would never allow something like this to happen. To make such a statement is to make God less than holy, less than sovereign, less than in perfect control, less than God.

    The reality is that God allowed the events of April 15 to take place in Boston, for reasons known only to Him, with the perfect intent of bringing Himself glory in the event itself or in the aftermath. And no human being has the right or authority to question God about it, as a prosecuting attorney would cross examine a suspected criminal (Rom 9:20-26).

    Please don’t mistake what I have written thus far for flippancy. What happened on April 15 in Boston was a tragic, horrific, mind-numbing, rage-inducing, judgment-demanding, grace-hoping, and mercy-pleading event. While I fully trust in the goodness, sovereignty, and holiness of Almighty God, I do not wish his wrath to be poured out on anyone (whether directly or indirectly)–certainly not the men, women, and children injured, maimed, and killed during the Boston Marathon. Again, my thoughts are with them and my prayers are for them.

    In the midst of asking the expected “why” questions of God, many people turn to prayer for answers and for comfort. God does not hear the prayers of most people (Psalm 66:18; Proverbs 1:28; Isaiah 1:15; Isaiah 59:2-3; Jeremiah 7:8-10; Ezekiel 8:17-18; Zechariah 7:13; Micah 3:4), certainly not the prayers of those who seek solace from false gods (Deuteronomy 4:28; Psalm 99:7; Psalm 115:1-8; Isaiah 45:20; Isaiah 46:6-7;Jeremiah 10:5; Acts 19:26; Romans 1:21-23), such as the false gods of Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism, the Russellites (Jehovah’s Witnesses), and every other religious “ism” created by man. False worship and unheard prayers also extend to those who pray to or through Mary or anyone deemed a “saint” by a religious institution.

    Contrary to the Word and will of God, today our nation once again turned its back on Him, by seeking the solace of false gods and by blaspheming the one, true God. Today our nation practiced, yet again, the unholy tradition of the Interfaith Prayer Service. And the list of speakers, as acceptable as they no doubt were to the “coexist” camp, show just how unacceptable such a ritual is to God.

    So none of the people bombed were innocent. They all deserved the wrath of God, judgment, blowing up, being thrown into the Lake of fire because that apparently is all humanity is good for and God’s pissed of with us..

    He’s right about idolatry.

    But he’s made God in his image. A god who is not revealed in the Son but in his own imagination.

  12. Just Calvinism wrapped up in lack of discernment of truth.

    God is for people, not against them. He has sent Jesus to be e Propitiation to bring remission for sin through his shed blood.

    God’s wrath, at this time, the Age of the Gentiles, is covered by His grace, mercy and long suffering.

    The time for His wrath and judgment is yet to come at the end of the age, when He will wrap it all up.

    God has, during this present age, sent His Church out to all the world to preach the kingdom, repentance and the gospel of peace. He is not sending disaster on people. He has opened His arms to all sinners and is offering salvation through faith in Christ.

    God is not the author of evil. He is not the puppet master orchestrating everything. He knows all, is all powerful and all knowing, and sees the end from the beginning, but it is our own free will and desire which leads to sin, and the devil who tempts and manipulates. Those who yield to sin are subject to the control of the devil, it God.

    Reformed theology has obscured truth and allowed people to blame God for things He is not responsible for.

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