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Relationship between religion, spirituality, and young Lebanese university students’ well-being.

Publié le 13/07/2022

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« Senior study Relationship between religion, spirituality, and young Lebanese university students’ well-being. Fall 2021 Contents Abstract........................................................................................................................................... 3 Literature review............................................................................................................................. 3 Methods......................................................................................................................................... 11 Results........................................................................................................................................... 13 Discussion..................................................................................................................................... 14 Limitation...................................................................................................................................... 15 Conclusion .................................................................................................................................... 16 Reference ...................................................................................................................................... 18 Abstract Religiousness and spirituality have long been studied in an attempt to understand their relationship with well-being. Researchers still argue on the definitions of these terms as they overlap and often differ from a person to another. In this paper, religiousness was used to describe the practice of a religion, while spirituality was used to address the philosophy behind a religion. Well-being indicated feelings of being loved and having a meaning in life. Previous literature has shown that practicing a religion and being spiritual help people stand against adversities and hardships. But other studies have shown that being spiritual and religious can be linked to well-being and even trigger mental disorders like depression, anxiety, OCD, eating and psychotic disorders, etc. Christian religion was studied in this paper, for a sample of Lebanese university students aged between 18 and 26, using the 20-item DR scale, the Bylor Religious Survey Wave 6 and the SWBS. The aim of the study is to understand whether there is a relationship between religiousness, spirituality, and young Lebanese students’ well-being and whether this relationship is beneficial or disadvantageous for their well-being. Another purpose for this study is questioning young people’s beliefs, showing them another aspect of religion and spirituality that they might not have suspected, raising awareness and encouraging them to be more moderate when it comes to their religious beliefs and practices. Literature review There are many definitions for the words religion and spirituality. Being spiritual but not religious appears to be a popular answer to the question of religious affiliation nowadays, but the line that separates spirituality from religiousness is still blurry, as the definitions of the two words overlap. In this paper, the term religion will be used to indicate a set of behaviors, and social characteristics, while the term spirituality will be used to describe a philosophy concerned with human’s soul and life’s meaning. According to Starnino (2016), “definitional and conceptual uncertainty pose a barrier for social workers and related mental health practitioners who are interested in supporting spirituality and religion as potential recovery related resources.” But several studies have shown correlation between religiousness, spirituality, and mental illnesses, suggesting that religiousness and spirituality might have a negative impact on mental health and on well-being in general. Despite this observation, many clinicians still fail to address religious and spiritual beliefs and practices with their clients, even if a new approach to the way of caring for a whole individual, recognizes the effects of religion and spirituality on social, psychological, and even biological aspects of human’s life, and therefore, transforms “the bio-psycho-social model into a bio-psychosocial-religious/spiritual model” (Huguelet, P., 2009). For this paper, Christian religion was considered in an attempt to show the impact of its beliefs and practices on young Lebanese university students. Religion and spirituality have, for a long time, stood against the development of psychology. Sacred writings from pagan times, letters, inscriptions, medical records from the Middle Ages, scripts written by physicians, priests, medical doctors, show how spirituality and religion affected the treatment of patients with mental disorders. In the New Testament, madness is sometimes related to being possessed by demons. In the Old and New Testaments, when madness is portrayed, God has something to do with it, despite that insanity is viewed as a common thing, and described in naturalistic ways. (Thielman S., 2009). According to Huguelet (2009), for the early church writer Titian, madness was from demons and the cure would only come from God. Thielman (2009) claims that against states of persistent sadness, the bishop of Constantinople (c. 347-407 AD) would prescribe prayers and advise comparing the blessings God would give to the adverse circumstances. It is the Anglo-Saxons, in the Middle Ages, that first rejected those ideas and recognized “lunatics” as “mentally ill”. To cure them from their demonic possessions, physicians would prescribe herbal drugs and perform religious rituals and it’s only in 1584 that an English Puritan named Reginald Scott defined melancholy as the state of sadness and distress some people suffer from. He defined this state as a “malady” that had nothing to do with supernatural influences. Later, in the eighteenth century, physicians like Pinel started distinguishing and separating religion from the soul, directing its study more towards philosophy. Finally, during the nineteenth century, religion disappeared from psychiatry. But even then, alienists (psychiatrists of the time) had divided opinions on whether religion and spirituality had positive or negative impact on mental health. Thielman (2009), states that Freud, father of psychology as we know it today, came later and was an atheist who considered religion to be “helpful for some, harmful for others”. He despised religiousness and considered religions to be the sign of “immaturity” (Freud,1927). According to Favazza (2009), many religions, including Christianity, use sin and guilt to control their members behaviors, and this can lead to depressive states or to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD) and Eating disorders, for example. The Bible also promotes abusive behaviors of men towards women by making women submissive to their husbands. It also condemns homosexuality, premarital sexual practices and divorce. Despite that Christians are not forced to follow religious laws, and that homosexuality is not considered to be a mental disease anymore, many Christians continue to reject homosexuality. The New Testament contains anti-Semitic messages, as the Jews were hold responsible for Jesus’s crucifixion. After World War Two, faith crisis hit the populations. Many felt that God was not a real presence, that they were responsible for their own fate. Jesus’s voluntary suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection, His life’s sacrifice to save us from our sins, are subjects that are often found in Christian patients with psychotic disorders who claim to be Jesus. It’s very dangerous because these patients firmly believe they are almighty and all powerful and can display behaviors that are lethal for them and for others (like jumping off buildings for example or killing people to follow God’s orders). Glorification of suffering helps devaluate treatment for Christian individuals who need it. Handicaps are perceived as assets even, because they are an opportunity to get touched by God and to connect fully with Him. The upside is resilience and self-worth, but the downside however is a passive acceptance of infirmity, or even a rejection of efficient treatments and self-harming behaviors. Self-mutilation and self-harm (both conscious and unconscious) are also common practices that are acceptable if considered from a spiritual/religious point of view. People feel a strong identification with the suffering of Jesus. By self-mutilating, a Christian believer shares the suffering of Christ as it was commended in the Bible. This suffering is supposed to bring joy. One of the verses of the Bible says: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. ” (Mathew 5:4) Inflicting pain to one-self in certain situations is, not only acceptable, but also encouraged. In the Gospel of Mathew, it is said: “If your right eye is your trouble, gouge it out and cast it from you. … And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you.” (Gospel of Matthew 5:28– 30). Words with the almost exact same meaning appear in the Gospel of Mark 9:43– 48. Self-infliction of pain becomes an act of purification, self-sacrifice is the summon of Love. According to Favazza A. (2009), “It should be noted clinically that one act of major self-injury puts a patient at very high risk for a second act.” Fasting, during the Lent is another example of trying to control the body, in order to purify the soul. Women (considered as demonic sinners) especially were the targets of these practices under this belief. According to Favazza (2009), “the foremost method of suffering was self-starvation, whose deepest goal was to facilitate a divine union with Jesus by subsisting on a diet of communion wafers. Thus, anorexia was approved as a saintly behavior. Some modern anorexics believe that there is no fat in heaven because the gate to enter paradise is very narrow.“ (Huguelet P. et at, 2009). Religion also dictates what is sinful and what is not. Sinners deserve to be punished, so they go to hell after being judged by God on the Judgement Day. A common result of believing in sin is shame and guilt. It also leads to remorse of having done something execrable, and to self-blame and self-loath. Humans are imperfect, and even having a fantasy about a neighbor’s wife is a sin. “Religion rely partly on a guilty conscious to control the behavior of its members […] Behaviors such as committing a sin, that are disapproved of by one’s conscience result in anxiety, guilt and low self-esteem.”(Huguelet P. et al, 2009) In their study on the correlation between low-self-esteem and depression, Sowislo & Orth found that the effect of selfesteem on depression was greater that the effect of depression on self-esteem, showing that lowself esteem contributes to depression. “Dythymic persons experience their guilt by feelings of inferiority, depression, and worthlessness, while obsessive-compulsive persons experience their guilt by attempting to deny and to magically counteract it through their symptomatic rituals that, like a religious service, must be performed flawlessly. People whose consciences are unbearably harsh may develop a psychotic depression with suicidality and come to regard themselves as truly great sinners who are condemned to hell.” (Huguelet P. et al, 2009) But creating shame and guilt are not the only drawbacks of Christianity. Other issues also arise when it comes to sexuality, gender identity, and marital issues. In Christianity, women are perceived as sinners. Their role is to lead men into temptation with lust and therefore cause their death. They are also seen as men’s “possession” ( Favazza, A., 2009) whose role is to cook, look after the children and the house, and remain silent. In the New Testament, Jesus declared that the only reason to divorce was adultery. Before that, women could not divorce their husbands and husbands could divorce their wives anytime, without giving any reason, sometimes. A Christian religious spiritual wife must stay with her husband even if he is abusing her. Her role, as a woman, is to carry his children in her womb, and satisfy his every need; even the sexual needs, which is problematic, considering the lustful nature of women. Women had to stay virgins (Like Mary, the Holy Virgin Mother of Jesus, holy example of how a woman should behave and aspire to be), but have kids at the same time. To remediate to this problem, women were to have sex to fill their marital obligation, but without ever enjoying it. Moreover, “ many abused women may give in to guilt evoking pressure from their husband, their family, their pastor, and even members of their religious congregation to return to the abusive situation because “it’s against the Bible not to submit to your husband.”” ( Huguelet P. et al,2009). Church still reserves priesthood only for men, but luckily, nowadays, more religious/spiritual support is shown to women who are trapped in abusive relationships they wish to leave. Similarly, homosexuality is condemned by Christianity. According to Saint Paul, homosexuals, child molesters, masturbators, effeminate, and male prostitutes don’t go to heaven. However, more readings show that it is most likely he was talking about men who fall for lust, instead of talking about men who fall in love with men. It’s only later that the word “sodomite” was introduced to designate homosexuals and treat them as if they were threats to social morality. Church has maintained that homosexuality is a sin, creating distress. According to Whitehead (2012), “Individuals’ religious backgrounds facilitate the maintenance of negative views toward homosexuality despite evidence that people may not fully choose their sexual orientation, that it is not controllable.” Luckily again, nowadays, the general public is more tolerant of LBGTQ+ community and the Catholic Church’s fall in disgrace (after the pedophilia scandals that have agitated the medias for the past years) revealed that many priests have homosexual orientations. Being religious and spiritual help individuals heal when confronted to difficulties. Research shows that improvement of distressing conditions seemed to be linked to the intensity of faith to a patient. When it comes to depression and its relationship with religiousness, studies have shown that “posthoc analyses revealed that aspects reflecting a critical attitude toward religion, extrinsic religious motivation, and negative religious coping (for example, blaming God for difficulties) were associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms.” (Huguelet P., et al., 2009) Literature also mentions religious discontent: “There is a reported link between criticism of God or a sense of being abandoned by God and higher levels of depressive symptoms. “(Huguelet P., et al., 2009). Wong et al., suggest that religiousness and spirituality are more or less, beneficial, depending on age and that adolescents for example might gain a sense of order during times of turbulent development and important decision making. As stated earlier, Freud, father of psychology, despised religiousness and used the terms “obsessional neurosis of the universe” to describe it. Despite that religiousness and spirituality have been proven to be an efficient way to ameliorate symptoms of anxiety in certain individuals, studies have shown that “religious involvement may also exacerbate anxiety in certain individuals, and anxious individuals may sometimes distort or manipulate religion to serve neurotic ends.” (Huguelet P. et al, 2009). According to Koenig, “conventional wisdom would argue that religious teachings about hellfire, punishment, and damnation could worsen psychiatric symptoms in the individual predisposed to anxiety.” (Huguelet P, et al, 2009). Wilson W, in his study, found that “the greater the religious involvement, the greater the anxiety.” (Wilson W., 1968). However, it is still unclear whether religion makes people more anxious, or whether anxiety makes people more religious. Religious teachings about the afterlife for example can reinforce anxiety in predisposed people. These people might worry about not being good enough to enter Heaven, for example, or fear not pleasing God. Similarly, for OCD, a study lead by Steketee and colleagues, couldn’t determine if OCD leads to more religious practices and spirituality, or if it’s religious practices and spirituality that lead to OCD. According to Koenig (2009), “there may be a bias that favors the detection of OCD symptoms in religious persons” because the scale used to measure OCD are contaminated with religious questions to which the tested individual answers by the affirmative. It’s also important to note that there is a difference between people who suffer from religious obsessions, and religious people who suffer from obsessions. For phobias, frequencies of prayers were linked to higher phobia scores in a study lead by Morse and Wisocki on people from different age groups. Moreover, religion and spirituality interfere in the shaping of identity. Religious behaviors and spirituality are conveyed from adults to which a child is closely related and attached. Socialization in a religious/spiritual context also assumes the belonging of a child in the heart of a community. As demonstrated by Freud, unresolved oedipal complex created to escape maturity and growth can empower religious figures. These figures could replace parental figures and fill a lack of attachment bonds. Because of the identification process to the group that happens due to religiousness and spirituality, a reproach heard during a sermon can be perceived as a persecution, and the experience of a ritual in which everybody perform similarly, can lead to a sense of losing touch with oneself that can be very disturbing. Religion doesn’t “favor an individual’s autonomy” and “has the effect of reinforcing regressive attitudes. “ (Brandt P. et al, 2009) »

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