Cross-National & Scientific Evidence Confirm The Negative Well-Being Effects of Hell Beliefs

by • February 17, 2014 • Psychology, Science, SpiritualityComments (0)3237

A fascinating new scientific study released by the prestigious scientific journal PLOSone confirms that a religious belief system anchored in a concept of a punitive hell causes severe and long-lasting detrimental effects on one’s well-being.  “Although religiosity is consistently tied to greater well-being, little research has examined which elements of religious belief offer mood benefits, which do not, and which may in fact be detrimental,” write the authors in their study.

The abstract reads as follows: “Though beliefs in Heaven and Hell are related, they are associated with different personality characteristics and social phenomena. Here we present three studies measuring Heaven and Hell beliefs’ associations with and impact on subjective well-being.  We find that a belief in Heaven is consistently associated with greater happiness and life satisfaction while a belief in Hell is associated with lower happiness and life satisfaction at the national (Study 1) and individual (Study 2) level.  An experimental priming study (Study 3) suggests that these differences are mainly driven by the negative emotional impact of Hell beliefs.  Possible cultural evolutionary explanations for the persistence of such a distressing religious concept are discussed.”

The researchers carefully analyzed data provided by the Gallup World Poll, World Values Survey, and European Values Survey in order to compare the “differences in subjective well-being between 63 countries against national rates of Heaven and Hell beliefs.”  Because the data was sourced from hundreds of thousands of participants, researchers were able to eliminate any discrepancies related to such variables as religious attendance, GDP per capita, unemployment levels, etc.  The final analysis proved that countries which had higher levels of belief in Hell were significantly unhappier than countries which had a stronger proportion of believers in Heaven.  People from countries which leaned more heavily towards Heaven-oriented beliefs demonstrated much higher levels of happiness.

Researchers also searched for any differences between the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) vs. non-Abrahamic religions such as Hinduism, and discovered the effect was universal — Hell beliefs lead to significantly lower levels of well-being, while Heaven beliefs manifest with much higher levels of well-being.  The studies overwhelmingly highlight a direct correlation between the belief in Hell and unhappiness, but the discovery offers a “chicken and the egg” paradox — does a belief in Hell cause the unhappiness, or are these people already unhappy when they choose to believe in something so damaging to their mental health?  “While we suggest that a belief in Hell leads to lower levels of well-being, these data cannot rule out the possibility that individuals with low levels of well-being are more likely to adopt the belief in Hell or that some third variable is responsible for this pattern,” the authors explained.

You can read the entire study by visiting PLOSone.  Several months ago I referred to another scientific study which confirmed how those who believe in an angry, punishing God are far more likely to suffer from a wide range of mental illnesses.  You can read the full story by CLICKING HERE.

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