Does Faking Religion Lead to Depression?

By Brandon Withrow

At the recent National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump called the United States a “nation of believers.” The highly Christian language of his speech—focused on the Bible and being “created in Jesus Christ”—underscored for some the president’s focus on Christian nationalism and the exclusionary nature of his vision for America.

Of course, there can be real problems when a nation circumscribes who belongs and who doesn’t by whether they are people of faith. That type of social duress can be culturally and personally unhealthy. In fact, according to a recent study in the journal, Society and Mental Health, individuals who consider leaving a faith, but do not, tend to experience more depression than those who decide to leave.

The research, done by Matthew May, assistant professor of sociology at Oakland University, analyzed the still data-wealthy Portrait of American Life Study (PALS), which (through 1300 interviews) focused on the religious life of 2,610 participants from 2006-2012.

“PALS,” says May, “is the only data set that asks people if they have seriously considered dropping out of religion.”

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