Is Religion Bad For Mental Health?

Former BYU Professor Presents Research at Dixie State

ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 Utah) More than 76 percent of Americans affiliate with a religious organization, according to the Pew Research Center. But does religion cause more harm to mental health than good?
 
"We all have to be careful," Dr. Allen Bergin said. 
 
Dr. Bergin presented his research to former Dixie State professors Monday afternoon, after decades of studying religion and mental health. 
 
"It can be helpful and it can be harmful, depending on how it's implemented," Dr. Bergin said. 
 
The former Columbia University and Brigham Young University professor said oftentimes, religion and spirituality positively impacts a person's mental stability.
 
His research found people who believe in a higher power cope better with stress and setbacks. 
 
They also respond better to therapy-based treatment for depression and other mental challenges. Those benefits are most pronounced in inclusive, flexible and tolerant organizations. 
 
But religions are not all perfect. 
 
"Even my own favorite religion has some things mixed in that are not easy to handle. That's because we are human and we have our own ways of implementing the high level of philosophy," Dr. Bergin said. 
 
Dr. Bergin said religions with strict uncompromising doctrine, ignorant of practical considerations can harm adults and children. 
 
He warns leaders and parishioners can use religion as a forum to gain authority and power, to the detriment of others. 
 
"If a person is in that kind of religious atmosphere, then we have problems," Dr. Bergin said. 
 
Dr. Bergin adds religious-based therapy is effective if the client is open to the idea, but a therapist should not force religion on a patient to get the beneficial results. 

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