Religion and science: How faith can harm health

Problems of religion

From this article you will learn:

How biology explains religion;
The harms of religion to a person's mental and physical health;
Answers to frequent questions.

The connection between biology and religion

In general, the strong influence of mentally unhealthy people in various societies has been documented in people suffering from schizophrenia or schizotypal disorder (a mild form of schizophrenia). In particular, these illnesses were often found in shamans, who were highly valued in society. This is thought to be due to the fact that their thinking is more characterized by so-called metamagic thinking, which involves greater fidelity to religious meanings and doctrines, as well as more literal interpretation.

This phenomenon was discovered almost as soon as anthropological research began in each society. There is a strong correlation between magical and religious thinking. According to Gallup, 25% of Americans believe in ghosts, 36% believe in telepathy, 47% believe in UFOs, and over 50% believe the devil exists and influences life. Not surprisingly, only 3% of non-believers have one or more of these beliefs, and 97% of those who believe in any of these things are religious people. A better confirmation of the link between magical and religious thinking is hard to find.

The influence of people with schizophrenia or schizotypal disorder on religion can be seen in all societies, even Western societies where rationality is honored. In this matter, the difference between Western and non-Western societies is not as great as is commonly believed. Schizotypal disorder and schizophrenia are caused by high levels of the notorious dopamine and are treated with drugs that reduce the effects of dopamine on the brain.

As humanity has evolved, the views of major religious authorities on the question of proper religious behavior have changed. More stable are religions in which individual "right" actions are rewarded more and more each day. In neurobiological and psychological terms, this means that a person gets a release of dopamine and serotonin for religiously correct actions. This not only gives pleasant emotions, but also motivates to repeat such actions to get the release of these substances again, and thus positive emotions. The urge to get positive emotions again operates not only on a conscious level but also on a subconscious level.

How does religion make us anxious?

As we know, absolutely any religion includes prayer rituals. Many religions not only allow for arbitrary improvisation during prayer, but even have separate prayers for a wide variety of occasions. For example, in Orthodoxy there are several volumes of prayers for different situations in life, and one prayer does not take up 10-20 pages at all. It may consist of no more than a few paragraphs.

The maximum benefit of such rituals is temporary calming, because these prayers will not affect the situation in the real world. It is no secret that the vast majority of followers of each religion do not fully follow all the established norms and requirements. The real adherents of all the rules are only monks. Already this fact suggests that these are unrealistic requirements, provoking internal dissatisfaction with oneself and intrapersonal conflicts.

Religion tries to educate perfectionism in us, because it requires us to be perfect and follow all the commandments or other rules. Otherwise, after death, endless torment in hell awaits us. It has been proven by cognitive psychology that perfectionism is the main psychological prerequisite for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Depression is not only when a person is constantly thinking about suicide, completely incapacitated, etc. Depression can also be in a mild form. In such cases, a person may not realize the negative impact of a mild form of depression on their life. Such a person may have lowered self-esteem, but not to the point where the problem is noticeable enough to realize it and begin to deal with it. And this is only one of the possible problems. There may also be:

  • Low libido;
  • Lack of desire for self-actualization;
  • Chronic procrastination;
  • Social alienation;
  • Irritability;
  • Decreased or loss of pleasure in certain activities or life in general;
  • Even mild depression has been scientifically proven to shorten life expectancy due to stress on a physiological level;
  • Other less significant problems.

What's wrong with religion

How does perfectionism provoke all of these problems?

Perfectionism is characterized by striving for perfection in one's life or expecting perfection from the world around them. A perfectionist strives to do everything perfectly. It is clear that this is absolutely impossible, mistakes, inaccuracies or the wrong result (ideal result) are the absolute norm. The result often also depends on external factors that we do not know or have no control over. However, when a perfectionist is faced with an unsatisfactory result, he does not realize it. He blames himself and/or those around him. Even if you try to explain to him the dead-end and counterproductive nature of his attitude toward the world, he is guaranteed to deny it. He will trigger a psychological defense mechanism called denial. He may rationalize his desire for perfectionism by saying that it will allow him to achieve self-actualization, authority, etc.

However, these excuses, denials, or shifting of responsibility do not protect against the onset of self-dissatisfaction. Science has proven that perfectionism always causes self-criticism and dissatisfaction with oneself, which over time only accumulate and destroy the inner mental balance. A person with perfectionism believes that he should control his destiny and everything that happens around him. But this is also impossible. For those who are interested in delving deeper into this topic, in science it is called locus of control.

A perfectionist believes that people should be perfect. They should behave perfectly towards him or her or in general. This doesn't happen either, which again leads to bad consequences. Perfectionism combined with some religious ideas can cause people to sacrifice all their material goods because from a religious point of view altruism is the right thing to do, and they strive to fulfill this dogma perfectly, to approach it with maximalism.

Many religions consider discouragement to be a great sin, but it turns out that religion can cause discouragement, which in turn increases intrapersonal conflict and dissatisfaction with oneself.

Many religions require total or partial abstinence from sexual activity, which is biologically unnatural to the extreme and has serious consequences for the mental and physical health of even those who only partially follow these norms.

The principle of partial abstinence from sexual activity also has devastating consequences for mental and physical health. Regular abstinence from sex for a few weeks, in other words, sex once every few weeks and no masturbation, destroys the brain and leads to hormone imbalance. This is scientifically proven data. The human psyche becomes unhinged, more aggressive and anxious, because evolution has built into us an extreme desire to leave offspring for the survival of the biological species. Failure to fulfill this function throws the body into anxiety.

On a neurological level, the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for experiencing and regulating emotions), the hippocampus (the area of the brain responsible for short-term and long-term memory, as well as learning in general and cognitive flexibility) and the pituitary gland (the area of the brain that regulates hormone production and directly "orders" the thyroid gland and other hormone-producing organs through the nervous system) are destroyed.

In conclusion

As we can see, religion has many disadvantages, and many of them are confirmed by medicine. It can provoke many problems, but one cannot deny the possible great benefit of religion for the individual and society as a whole. Religion and hope in God can help a person through difficult times in life, get out of difficulties, etc. There is evidence that moderate adherence to religion has a beneficial effect on a person's sense of self and happiness.

Protestantism has been linked to suicide rates, but the vast majority of sociologists, political scientists and economists believe that it was the Protestant faith that played a key role in the establishment of capitalism. It has also played a key role in the wealth of many countries. All Protestant countries are among the richest and most prosperous nations in the world. This is because, from the Protestant perspective, God endorses hard work, the accumulation of financial capital, and honesty in economic relationships.


Q: What problems does religion often lead to?

A: Perfectionism, physical illness, and a deep and destructive dissatisfaction with oneself;

Q: What health problems does the sexual abstinence common in many religions provoke?

Answer: Hormonal disruptions and destruction of important areas of the brain such as the hippocampus, amygdala and pituitary gland.


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