Does Eclectic Spirituality Make You Crazy?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 17, 2008 — 9 Comments

Australian papers are reporting on the work of PhD candidate Dr. Rosemary Aird, who has done a study on the effects of “non-traditional” religious views on young adults.

“A UQ study has found that young adults with a belief in a spiritual or higher power other than God were at more risk of poorer mental health and deviant social behaviour than those who rejected these beliefs. Young men who held non-traditional religious views were at twice the risk of being more anxious and depressed than those with traditional beliefs. The study was based on surveys of 3705 21-year-olds in Brisbane under the Mater-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy.”

While Dr. Aird admits that the only common thread in all those surveyed is a sense of “individualism”, and that the correlation between mental health and those who hold “non-traditional” religious views deserves “further study”, that hasn’t stopped the Brisbane Times from making some sweeping conclusions.

“DIY religions cause more harm than good: Meditation, crystal therapy, self-help books – think they’re making you happier? Think again. A Brisbane academic has found a strong link between new-age spirituality and poor mental health in young people.”

As for Dr. Aird, while she portrays those without a traditional religious home as “cast adrift” and in danger of experiencing “real confusion”, she is forced to admit that gathering conclusive data on this topic would be almost impossible.

“While the study suggests a need for further research into the extent that religious change is linked to population mental health, she admits such a task would be enormous. “Research used to look only at traditional religion and used things like church attendance as a measurement. “These people don’t go to church – they’re meditating, they’re reading books, they might be part of a group or just attend courses. “There’s no way of measuring all of those different types of things.'”

In other words, there is no hard evidence that young adults who engage in “DIY” religions, or religions that hold “a belief in a spiritual or higher power other than God”, are in any greater risk for mental illness or “deviant” social behavior than those who hold to a “traditional” form of faith. This study made no attempt to differentiate between different forms of “non-traditional” forms of belief, and frankly, proves little except the personal biases of Dr. Aird.

“People who are into the new-age spirituality tend to shop around and will often borrow from all sorts of old beliefs, like Wicca, witchcraft or Native American religions. It’s a whole mish-mash and changes all the time, where they’ll do something for a while before doing something else … Religion and belief has kind of become mixed up with popular culture. Look at television and the kinds of shows that we’ve got, like Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Medium. They promote witchcraft, special powers and spirituality and the general population and young people especially are exposed to these things and could see them as very attractive.”

Kids these days! With their “Buffy” and their mish-mash psuedo-Wiccan style! They are all crazy I tell ya, I have scientific proof!

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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