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It’s official: religion makes you miserable and sick

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THE most religious states in the US are also the biggest poppers of anti-depressants pills.

According to this report, a Gallup study published yesterday shows that the Mormon stronghold of Utah has long been the nation’s “capital of happy pill popping”, with its citizens twice as likely to be on anti-depressants than the general US population.

But the rest of the the most God-fearing states aren’t far behind. Of the top-ten most religious states, nine have higher than average use of anti-depressants.

The study confirmed that Mississippi remains the most pious state in the Union, followed by a handful of its southern Bible-belt siblings: Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, as well as Utah.

The Gallup poll showed that 58 percent of all Mississippians identify as “very stupid religious”. The least religious states in the US are the former stomping grounds of the very,very religious Puritans: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire.

In Utah, Louisiana and Arkansas – the 2nd, 4th and 5th most religious states in the Union– nearly 20 percent of the population is on some form of anti-depressants, according to a 2006 study by one of the largest prescription companies.

The rest of the highly religious states aren’t far behind. Mississippi (most religious), Alabama (third most religious), South Carolina (6th), Tennessee (7th), North Carolina (8th) and Oklahoma (10th) have above average rates of anti-depressant use, with 15 to 17 percent of the citizens medicated.

Of the top-ten most religious states, only one – Georgia – isn’t disproportionately addicted to anti-depressants. Nationally, the prescription rate was about 14 percent.

Anti-depressants weren’t the only medication being doled out in the most religious states. In fact, a state’s level of religiosity correlates with a state’s overall medication rate. Of the top ten most religious states in the Union, six are also on the list of top-ten most medicated states.

48 Responses to “It’s official: religion makes you miserable and sick”

  1. remigius says:

    Maybe they should take up Zen Buddhism and transcend mental medication :)

  2. Broga says:

    From what I have experienced of religion, including from USA contacts, I am not surprised. There is a facet to this worth examining. While the religious are unhappy and feel unhappy they are told, and believe, that they must be happy because of their faith. There is, therefore, a dysfuntion between what they feel and what they persuade themselves to think.

    I have been asked by a devout USA relative “How can you possibly be happy with no belief in God and no expectation of an afterlife?” This same woman proudly describes the many pills she takes every morning. All her behaviour, including divorce and ferocious arguments with her adult children, a sense of deep grievance against the world and a feeling she has never received due acknowledgement indicates misery. And yet she thinks she is “happy.”

  3. remigius says:

    Broga. And let’s face it, being told there is a man in the sky watching your every move, and perfectly natural behaviour is a sin, is bound to fuck you up.

  4. Agnostic freethinker says:

    The devil is the cause of their unhappiness…i guess…

  5. AgentCormac says:

    I’m not in the least surprised by this report. If what you have had drilled into you from birth is in direct variance to your experience of the world it’s no wonder that people take to popping pills in vein hope that the confusion and conflict might somehow ‘go away’.

    It is horribly tragic that millions (billions, no doubt) around the globe still suffer mental anguish and emotional torture at the hands of iron-age belief systems. The mafia-like criminals who head up these organised religions need tearing down, need putting in front of courts where their crimes against humanity can be properly examined and need to be publicly exposed for the charlatans they are.

  6. Matt Westwood says:

    Are cause and effect confused? May it just be that congenitally neurotic people, also predisposed to take happy-pills, are more likely to be drawn to irrational beliefs?

  7. Brian Oliver says:

    Maybe it’s the non-religious in those states who take the antidepressants to cope with having to live with all those religious people?

  8. jay says:

    “Are cause and effect confused? May it just be that congenitally neurotic people, also predisposed to take happy-pills, are more likely to be drawn to irrational beliefs?”

    Or simply, social or economic conditions which drive people to depression also drive them to religion.

    I realize that we’re just having a pot shot session and letting off a bit of steam, but as we so often tell people when defending rationalism, correlation is not causation.

  9. Angela_K says:

    And those States have the death penalty. I bet they have a disproportionate of gun ownership too – you wouldn’t think they’d need guns with gawd to protect them. Most the above States also have a comparative high teenage pregnancy rate and overall high birth rate.

  10. Buffy says:

    So much for the oft-cited claim that religious people are happier. Maybe they are–but only after they’ve taken their daily pile of Zoloft.

  11. barriejohn says:

    Matt: That is a very good point. However, relatives of mine who share many of my characteristics have also suffered from depression, but none have turned to religion, and it was most definitely religion that brought me to the verge of suicide. When I finally found the strength to free myself from its shackles it was as if an enormous burden had been lifted from my shoulders – very much like a conversion experience, ironically! Christians have a favourite hymn which says:

    Heav’n above is softer blue, Earth around is sweeter green!
    Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen;
    Birds with gladder songs o’erflow, flowers with deeper beauties shine,
    Since I know, as now I know, I am His, and He is mine.

    I never knew anything of this when I became a Christian, but, in common with many other atheists, I can tell you that this is precisely how I feel now that I look at the world – and life -in a rational way. The universe itself I view with an awe and sense of wonderment that I never experienced when I thought to myself “God did that”. I’m a different person now, as all my family know, but oh, how I regret the wasted years!

  12. Canada Dave says:

    Suppose that settles it then….you have to be medicated to be religious….well that does make some sense though.

  13. Matt Westwood says:

    @barriejohn: Replace “Christless” in that sickly little verse with “dopeless” and that would sum up the chemical nature of consciousness.

    My own depression was not because of religion, but because the love of my life chucked me over for a local rock star. I can recount to this day the exact moment that the depression lifted – it was when someone brought the news to me that said ex had finally seen through this guy’s charm to what lay underneath. The depression vanished in an instant and it has never come back in all the (count ‘em) 16 years following, since when I gave up alcohol, nicotine and various assorted recreational drugs of questionable legality without a hitch.

  14. Marky Mark says:

    (And let’s face it, being told there is a man in the sky watching your every move, and perfectly natural behaviour is a sin, is bound to fuck you up.)
    …ya know, there is more wisdom to those words than one would think. But if one is a truly horrible person, it just might cause them to think twice about doing something evil, though I have yet to see a study on this.

    (Most the above States also have a comparative high teenage pregnancy rate and overall high birth rate.)
    …and are mostly poor states as well. Why? Because the state sanctioned religion teaches them that they don’t need anything in this world, as they will be rewarded after they die. If they do achieve some wealth they should give it to the church or face hell.

  15. Marky Mark says:

    (since when I gave up alcohol, nicotine and various assorted recreational drugs of questionable legality without a hitch.)
    …Is your real name Keith Richards?

  16. barriejohn says:

    Marky Mark: If you want an example of their utter stupidity, just take a look at this – and read the comments as well!

    http://tobeapilgrim.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/what-thieves-cannot-break-through-and-steal/

    There’s really nothing that you can say, is there? He tells his boy that “No one in this world can touch or harm you without God’s permission” and then goes shopping for “home defence shotguns”!

  17. barriejohn says:

    PS He’s headmaster of a Christian school!

  18. RabbitOnAStick says:

    No wonder these people are unhappy. How can they be happy.
    Xtinas for example have to believe and be happy at their gawd-spells. How can you live your life reading this and having to believe it is true in order to be happy.
    You’d need anti-depressants to get through it -simply ‘ignore’ it -negate it from your logic reason and common sense – or just to have any faith in this.

    This is in the pamphlets. The gawd-spell of Peter which says that Joe-Zeus is crucified and buried. Then the joo leaders are so worried that Joe-Zeus disciples will steal Joe-Zeus body, the joo leaders go with some guards to camp outside the tomb. Two angels come down from heaven, roll back the stone by the power of thought or some other process, and go inside the tomb to get Joe-Zeus. Hamdullah! Joe-Zeus is ‘alive’. When he comes out, he is so tall that his head is literally in the clouds. The cross floats out after him, and the cross exchanges some words with a voice from heaven. – WHAT!

    And this is totally believable. All xtinas believe this. Its true. It makes them happy.

    I am shocked some US bible belt states are only 20% medicated.

  19. Broga says:

    I realise how lucky I was to have had only the lightest of religious indoctrination. We never said grace. Every night I said, “If I should die before I wake/I pray the Lord my soul to take.” I had no idea what a soul was and no one explained. I was bundled off to Sunday School every week (much of that was enjoyable including picnics and Christmas party) followed immediately by two unending boring hours in church. No one questioned the truth of religion. It was both accepted as fact and largely ignored.

    I grew up with grandparents and my Scot’s granny was superstitious. To her the devil was a reality and she was convinced that a farm worker, attending a horse in the middle of the night, met him. This man heard chains shaking and everywhere went cold. A sure sign apparently. Reading tea leaves was a popular pasttime. At about 14 when I got my hands on the appropriate books I realised it was all nonsense and never changed my mind. I feel so sympathetic to those driven to depression by religion. It just never touched me to that extent.

    As for neurosis I have a super religious cousin who seems to have neurotic characteristics. She gives a silly little giggle at the end of every comment she makes regardless of whether it is amusing or not. It is intensely irritating and doesn’t seem normal to me. She is loaded up with pills every day. Her huband told me she took 18 every morning. Can that possibly be true? Seems incredible but she has pain killers, stomach pills, pills to combat the sickness caused by the stomach pills, sleeping pills, anti-depressants, pills for various ailments. No wonder the NHS is going bust. And she prays a lot which makes me wonder why she needs the pills. This leads to her comment that, “You are just being silly again.”

  20. David Anderson says:

    I’ll just leave this here again;

    “If only religion were an opiate. No known narcotic rots the brain so fast.” (Hitch, Nation 18/3/83)

  21. tony e says:

    Barriejohn,

    The first thing that sprang to mind after reading the link was ‘why did god put them through this in the first place?’

    Which, for some bizzare reason, failed to be mentioned in the comments at the end of the article.

  22. barriejohn says:

    Broga: I do realize that this is anecdotal, but a lot of the Brethren whom I knew were neurotic, and many were hypochondriacs. Christians tend to champion homoeopathy and other “complementary” medicine, and to load themselves with various herbal and other remedies like Wilhelm Scheussler’s Tissue Salts and Bach Flower Remedies (look them up if you don’t know how idiotic they are!). They used to talk about their “ailments” and bodily functions ad nauseam, and, as I have said before, wanted me to consult a homoeopath about my depression, which, if I had done, might well have led to me not being here today to tell the tale. We have also discussed before – as is clearly the case with that lunatic to whose blog I have linked above – the pressure that Christians are under to be constantly joyful and happy, whatever life throws at them, because it is “Father’s will” and must be part of his “perfect plan” for their lives. Any failure to cope is therefore their fault and an indication of their lack of faith and obedience. I knew many Christians who took “tablets” for their “nerves” – they never used the terms “tranquillizers”, “anti-depressants” or – God forbid “drugs” – as that would have blown the whole thing wide open!

  23. barriejohn says:

    PS They’re so ignorant that a drug which occurs “naturally” might be perfectly acceptable, whatever its potency and side-effects, as “God” gave us herbs for our good (see Genesis), but one produced in the laboratory – which might actually be identical – is strictly verboten as it is “man made”. My biggest laugh, however, came when that “noted biochemist and medical expert”, Dame Barbara Cartland, after years of promoting the magical powers of Royal Jelly and Bee Pollen, suddenly announced that ther was nothing in these “remedies” at all. All that money down the drain for nothing!

  24. Broga says:

    @barriejohn: You provide, not for the first time, a candid insight into the anxiety and misery behind the religious facade. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather. He allowed me to plough with two horses when I was about ten and at harvest time bring the hay home perched high on the cart. This was when horse power and not tractors was used. I know they couldn’t have been but I remember these days as an unbroken idyll. One day I asked him if he could tell me what God was. His reply, “I have never thought about it.”

    This reminds me of the reply (sadly apocryphal) of the great French mathematician and astronomer Laplace to Napoleon. Laplace had explained his theory of the forces behind the movement of the planets. Napoleon asked, “What about God?”

    “I had no need of that hypothesis,” replied Laplace.

  25. barriejohn says:

    Here’s something else that will amuse some of you: Why do Christians object to the Metric System, and why is its widespread use a sign that we are in the Last Days? Answer: Because measurements like feet, inches and yards are based upon the human body, which “God” created, whereas metric measurements are based upon the dimensions of the earth, which belongs to Satan. (It was also devised under Napoleon, who was an antichrist.) Just don’t ask who gave us ten fingers with which to count, as that confuses them!

    http://youtu.be/h42zOpPlPLY

  26. Matt Westwood says:

    “She is loaded up with pills every day. Her huband told me she took 18 every morning. Can that possibly be true? Seems incredible but she has pain killers, stomach pills, pills to combat the sickness caused by the stomach pills, sleeping pills, anti-depressants, pills for various ailments. No wonder the NHS is going bust. ”

    My own experience is that women appear to take a considerably larger quantity of medication than men. I wonder why this is?

    There’s even one of those argh-screaming “Here come the girls” adverts where the (male) boss comes out of his office into the room filled with (young, smart, perfectly-made-up) women sitting neatly regimented in front of their computer terminals and says, “I’ve got a headache, does anyone have any headache pills?” Like a bunch of synchronised swimmers, the women reach straight into their handbags and pull out a pack of the pills which are being advertised.

    There’s also a lot of debate about man-flu: is it *really* as bad as the stereotype teach us? My own suspicion is that as men are so rarely ill, they feel it more. As women are *constantly* ill (at least, the ones I’ve met are), they take it in their stride.

    So the real question here is: why do women have so much greater a tendency to be hyphchondriacs than men?

  27. Matt Westwood says:

    “They’re so ignorant that a drug which occurs “naturally” might be perfectly acceptable, whatever its potency and side-effects, as “God” gave us herbs for our good (see Genesis), but one produced in the laboratory – which might actually be identical – is strictly verboten as it is “man made”.”

    On the contrary. Xtians are far more likely than atheists to be totally against the legalisation of cannabis, but (as can be seen from the posting above) are delighted to pop Prozac by the bucketload.

    As for me, I’d be far happier to trust a “natural” remedy than a heavily advertised and expensively-marketed manufactured pharmaceutical drug, for precisely the same reasons why I distrust big business, big government and rich people.

  28. barriejohn says:

    As for me, I’d be far happier to trust a “natural” remedy than a heavily advertised and expensively-marketed manufactured pharmaceutical drug, for precisely the same reasons why I distrust big business, big government and rich people.

    That’s a different point, Matt. After being addicted to Valium for ten years no one is more sceptical of the pharmaceutical industry than myself (they’re still pushing tranquillizers, just as they push nicotine, in the Third World – I wonder why?). I’m also glad that I had the courage to stand up to the medical profession where some of their antidepressants were concerned, as I know when something is making me feel ten times worse and putting my life in danger! I also prefer “natural” remedies wherever possible, and have taken garlic and other supplements for some years now. (I can’t stand garlic with my meals, but the maxim “Let food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” has much to commend it.) The benefits of many supplements have been clearly shown, though I had serious doubts about St John’s Wort, and seem to have been proved right. Common sense is required, and the Christians whom I knew certainly seemed willing to accept any old wives’ tale about “natural” remedies.

  29. Broga says:

    @Matt Westwood: The pill culture interests me and, in my limited experience, the wives are the ones who take the pills. What I notice is that pills are now seen to be an essential part of life. People think that if they do not consume pills every day then something terrible will happen to them. There is a superstition, highly profitable for Big Pharma, that only the pills can ward off ill health.

    I live in a non pill consuming family encouraged by my wife, a retired doctor. Her view, fairly obvious I suppose, is that drugs have a powerful effect on the body and non comes without side effects. As a GP she said patients did not think they had been “properly treated” unless they were given pills. To be told that the body will heal itself, just give it time, was often regarded as very unwelcome advice.

    What we now seem to have developed is a culture where pills are consumed by the ton whether or not they are needed. Meanwhile, one of the best health aids of all, exercise, is ignored. Someone said that if the benefits of exercise could be put in a pill and swallowed it would be an all time best seller. The “problem” with exercise is that it requires effort and time.

  30. barriejohn says:

    There is really no such thing as a “side effect”. Drugs have effects on the way that the body functions, and have no idea why we are consuming them. WE take them because one or more of their effects is beneficial to us, but we don’t know what else they may be doing, especially in the long term.

    This guy ties himself in knots on the subject. Either God heals or he doesn’t!

    http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-anti-depressants.html

  31. barriejohn says:

    I knew Christians who were dead against epidurals on the basis that God wanted women to suffer during chidbirth. Again, there may be reasons for not having one, but that’s not it!

    http://voices.yahoo.com/giving-birth-without-epidural-10924442.html

  32. barriejohn says:

    Maybe it would cheer up the religiots if they let down their hair and enjoyed this sort of thing – especially as so many of them reside in Northern Ireland:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qkmdw

    As I have said on the Pink News site today, the fact that my elderly mother (89 next month) roars with laughter at Brendan O’Carroll shows just how far we have come since the days when people like Kenneth Williams and Frankie Howerd had to pretend to be straight for the sake of their showbusiness careers. I didn’t realize until last night that she actually knew what swingers were!

  33. RabbitOnAStick says:

    BTW is the photo that of Bob Hutton?

  34. RabbitOnAStick says:

    I have a screen shot of a bearded chap linked to myspace.com/souladrift. But i cannot link that site myself. It just goes to google. Not sure why. I presume gawd is doing this?

    Is this the one true Bob Hutton whose photo is so difficult to locate and which he keeps so well hidden?

  35. jay says:

    “They’re so ignorant that a drug which occurs “naturally” might be perfectly acceptable, whatever its potency and side-effects, as “God” gave us herbs for our good (see Genesis), but one produced in the laboratory – which might actually be identical – is strictly verboten as it is “man made”.”

    It’s not just the religious nutters. I encountered a chiropractor at a family gathering who was very much of the same mindset. Except that it was ‘nature’ who ‘gave’ us these miracle treatments. She insisted that ‘natural medicines’ were not ‘drugs’.

    “As for me, I’d be far happier to trust a “natural” remedy than a heavily advertised and expensively-marketed manufactured pharmaceutical drug,”

    This is a bit of magical thinking. Plants evolve chemical systems ENTIRELY for their own purposes. No plant ever evolved a chemical with helping humans as a goal (unlike manufactured pharmaceuticals). Even having a substance that is, quite by evolutionary accident, helpful to humans, the plant also has plenty of other stuff, some of which may be harmful. When scientists purify, standardize and possibly improve the natural product it is safer and more reliable than the ‘natural’ version

  36. Broga says:

    I think Mama Tess, currently headed for sainthood once the second miracle kicks in, was keen on women suffering during child birth. Her enthusiasm was such that she made sure they didn’t get drugs. I think suffering, not Tess’s of course who loved the first class lifestyle, brought them closer to God. Hitch did a classy piece of work on Tess. Holed her below the waterline as it were and she has been sinking steadily ever since.

  37. Stephen Mynett says:

    The Albanian poison-dwarf was also against the terminally ill having pain-control. Not buying pain killers is another example of what she did with all the money her charity conned out of people who thought they were helping the destitute of India.

  38. tony e says:

    @Matt Westwood,

    ‘Man flu’ is real.

    Enjoy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbmbMSrsZVQ

  39. barriejohn says:

    @jay: I have heard the believers in “natural remedies” aver that “Nature”, as you put it, has put all those substances together so that they will work syncretically to assist one another in the healing of the human body. Absolute garbage!

    @Stephen Mynett: She afforded them the inestimable privilege of “sharing the sufferings of Christ”. More garbage. I remember when some poor reporter had the audacity to ask the Prune-faced One what should be the reaction of the world to the atrocity at Bhopal, only to have her spit the word “FORRR-GIVE!” in her face. Bloody stupid cow!

  40. Broga says:

    @barriejohn: Malcolm Muggeridge, a bit of a smug git himself, has a lot to answer for in being taken in by Tess. In a Peter Sellers film a gardener found himself inadvertently elevated to such a level of wisdom that his most banal utterances were interpreted as profound wisdom. He would say something like, “It is winter now but we await the Spring.” This led to responses like, “Amazing”, “So profound”, “the hidden meaning is there if we can find it.”

    There is today a lot of mileage today in this counterfeit coin and Tess, having become viewed as deeply spiritual (and it is essential that the suckers do not know what that means but think they do) didn’t have to say much. It is the coin of preachers, gurus, people who are elderly and bearded and preferably wear frocks and Ratzi could get a following. Mystics and Eastern gurus are brilliant at it. The suckers sit at their feet and listen to banalities and incomprehensible statements and view them as wisdom.

    Amazingly, a thump to the head with a heavy stick by a Buddhist Master has for centuries been viewed by followers as conferringthe gift of enlightenment. Simlarly, knocking over jars, slamming a door or turning one’s back. There is no end to the potential of this stuff. The suckers project the message. I don’t know whether the NSS can adapt something similar for atheists. It is, of course, the Emperor’s new clothes scenario.

  41. john c says:

    One question arises, is it the religious themselves who are popping happy pills, or have they driven the atheist portion of their population to dispair?

  42. AgentCormac says:

    john c

    According to the above article it is indeed the religious themselves who are popping happy pills. And I’m not quite sure what you are trying to imply that the atheist portion of ‘their’ population has been driven to dispair (sic)

    Could just be I’m reading your post wrong, so run that by us again. I’m not sure I actually understand what you are getting at.

  43. Robster says:

    Religious people are expected to believe absurd nonsense, that is a task and would no doubt lead to a degree of unhappiness. Religious people hang around with other religious people who’ll happily look them in the eye and tell them that the baby jesus loves them while keeping a straight face. This non stop lying to each other, eating and drinking bits if the baby jesus on Sundays, being expected to respect that nasty piece of work, the pope and his criminal staff, believe in ghosts, the devil and the rest of it would lead to mental instability and through that unhappiness. Kids play let’s pretend, adults should be over it.

  44. John A says:

    ‘THE most religious states in the US are also the biggest poppers of anti-depressants pills.’
    Another thought is, are these pills being taken by the non-religious who have to live amongst that lot. I shudder at the thought of being in a community that considers it the norm to believe in the supernatural, proactively endorses religious concepts and seeks out rationalists and free thinkers as a target for their ire. To be regarded as somehow abnormal for considering science, logic and reason to be a viable alternative to religious dogma is enough to make me want to grab a handful of ‘happy pills’!
    Either way though, religion makes you miserable and sick…

  45. vitto says:

    I don’t think this study established the link between religiousness and the use of anti-depression drugs or between religion and hapiness in general. Let’s look outside USA. How would you explain that according to the various worldwide happiness studies, Scandinavian and other European countries (primarily secular) are much less happy than some very backward and very religious nations, especially in very Catholic South America and Philipines. I think what I am trying to say that happiness is not a measure of intellect or truth. Being reasonable, educated, wise, right or honest (to oneself especially) does not necessarily means being happy. If truth makes you misarable, I’d say rather pop the pill, but not try to fool yourself into happiness. In my country, I would say, yes, religious people, especially the older generation, seem to be somewhwat happier, more confident, more resistant to all kinds hardship. That does not make religion true though, does it? Happy for a wrong reason, so to say.

  46. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    Broga said
    “It is the coin of preachers, gurus, people who are elderly and bearded ”

    Oy, I’m elderly and bearded :-)

  47. Broga says:

    @Graham Martin-Royal: I’m exempting you and any contributors to this site apart from Ken (disappeared again) and MaryD.