If god is good, is he also good for you? It depends on whether you believe in a kind and benevolent superbeing, or in a compulsive rager who is a candidate for anger management.
Psychologists led by Nava Silton of Marymount Manhattan College tried to determine
…how one’s perception of God — as punitive, benevolent, or indifferent — was associated with five different psychiatric symptoms: general anxiety, social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion.
Respondents’ characterizations of God were gleaned from their opinions of how six adjectives — absolute, critical, just, punishing, severe, or wrathful — applied to God. A numbering system was used to gauge the degree to which the subject viewed the adjective as an accurate descriptor of God (very well = 4; somewhat well = 3, not very well = 2, etc.). In a similar fashion, respondents answered queries designed to measure the five aforementioned psychiatric symptoms.
The researchers found that belief in a punitive God was significantly associated with an increase in social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion. Conversely, belief in a benevolent God was associated with reductions in those four symptoms. Belief in an indifferent God was not linked to any symptoms.
It’s a nice-to-know conclusion that probably won’t surprise anyone. Or, as one snarky commenter noted,
It doesn’t take a scientific study to conclude that there is something seriously wrong with people who smile gleefully as they describe their rapture, when they’ll be whisked away in a blissful twinkle of an eye, and the rest of humanity will suffer all manner of death and torture for not heeding their proactive told-ya-so.
[image via flickriver]