While getting a head start in studying for one of next semester's psychology courses I came across some very interesting facts about psychology in respect to religion.
Over most of this century, clinical psychologists have held a very negative view of religion. This was in part due to the practices of the church back in the Middle Ages, where it was believed that mental illness was a sign that demons and evil spirits had possessed a victim. The treatments were usually exorcism and torture.
This negative view also had to do with the realization that people suffered great distress and dysfunction from having behaviors and thoughts not condoned by their respected religions despite that it was apparent that they were perfectly healthy and normal thoughts and behaviors for people to have. One example being masturbation, which even today many young men seek therapy to remedy, despite it being a perfectly normal behavior. In addition to that, many religious groups came to fabricate myths about behaviors with the intention of inspiring fear in people. Many of these fabrications still exist today.
Guilt and shame from religious beliefs was often observed in case studies. Freud came to argue that religious beliefs were defense mechanisms that men had developed in order to cope with helplessness. It was forbidden in many clinical practices to even discuss religious beliefs for a good share of the century.
Over the last couple decades, it became apparent that some people benefited greatly from spiritual beliefs. Psychologists began to study specifically what beliefs had the greatest positive impact on patients/clients. Researchers systematically studied links between spiritual beliefs and mental health and came to conclude something that I have found extremely interesting. Interpretation is key. Those people who believed in a loving, forgiving, and caring God showed significantly greater mental health than the general population. Whereas those who believed in an authoritarian, judging, and traditionalistic God did not enjoy any benefits or were actually predisposed to psychological disorder.
Since then, clinical psychologists have treated religion as another form of cultural diversity and have pushed for religious individuals to take on a positive interpretation of God.
I was actually quite happy to read this and even look into some of the clinical studies and see for myself. It confirms what I had already concluded.
My conclusion: Being "God Fearing" is bad for you mental health.