Our mentors and page authors are not necessarily psychologists or therapists. Even when they are, this page is not medical or psychological advice and they are not creating a doctor/therapist-client relationship. You should consult a professional if possible and they can tell you whether this advice applies to your situation. If this is an emergency, you should call your national emergency number, like 911, or a mental health hotline, like 1-800-950-6264.
Dweebs mentors are here to listen to you and will not challenge your religious and spiritual beliefs. We also do not espouse any religious views ourselves and do not seek to convert you. However, it is important for YOU to always challenge and reevaluate your religious and spiritual beliefs to make sure that you are learning and growing over time and that you know what you believe and how those beliefs make you feel. No religion wants you to feel bad or to suffer.
Here are some ways that religion or spirituality can help improve your mental health:
- Providing you with a group of like-minded people with similar core beliefs who can provide a shoulder to cry on or comfort.
- Providing you with answers to questions about death, grief, and trauma that may soothe your mind or allow you to find solace in an explanation.
- Providing you with context for your life and world and encouraging you to look beyond your problems to the whole planet or universe. This perspective can help with dealing with some of the day-to-day mental struggles you may be facing.
- Prayer or chanting that helps calm your mind for a bit of time every day or week, allowing you to relax and connect with yourself and the world.
- Emphasizing the importance of family, friends, and kindness.
Here are some ways that religion or spirituality can hurt your mental health:
- Preventing you from changing your thoughts, behaviors, and actions through rigid rules with little explanation.
- Inciting you or others to cause harm or pain.
- Preventing you from interacting with the real, tangible world. Improving your mental health depends on your ability to stay grounded in reality and in knowing how you feel about certain situations.
If your religion or spiritual beliefs are hurting you or others you know, you need to find out and be honest with yourself. Do they cause you pain? Do you record an increase in spending time with your religious group as reducing the quality of your mood when you do mood-tracking?
That is okay and doesn’t mean you are broken. It could mean that some of your ingrained beliefs are no longer working for you. Religion is not meant to hurt. It is meant to help. (And if you think your religion is meant to hurt, you might want to reevaluate why you choose to keep your religion.)
Core Beliefs Worksheet Technique
One technique is to do a core beliefs worksheet. If you’ve discovered you have a core belief that is really hampering your life, such as “I am unlovable” or “things will never be as good as when I was a kid again,” one way to work on it over time is to write the belief at the top of a page in your journal with a percentage on how much you agree with it. Then do evidence for and against on the entire page and end with your new belief and the percent you agree with it. Over many sessions of doing this, you may find you hack away at your core belief over time.
- For a spirituality example, you might think that God is punishing you and agree with this 90%. Then write pros and cons arguing for and against tis position on the sheet. You’ll probably notice that some good things have happened in your life lately. Maybe you’ll notice you don’t meet your religion’s categories for “deserving of punishment.” Maybe you will challenge your religious beliefs and whether there’s support for their accuracy, either through real life experimentation or by rereading religious texts. Perhaps ask a pastor, priest, or religious leader. Then, at the bottom of the sheet, maybe now your new belief is that God is not punishing you, but that you are going through a tough spot and that God may help you in the future. Maybe you agree with this only 50%. That’s okay. It will get better over time.
What to Do if You Can’t Change Your Mind
Thoughts aren’t good or bad; they are helpful or hurtful.
What is true about the world isn’t your choice (there either exists a God or doesn’t; that God looks a certain way or doesn’t), but what you believe is. Your religion is a choice. What you believe is a choice. No matter what your faith, there are brilliant, exciting, amazing, smart people out there who believe something fundamentally different about the world.
All-or-nothing thinking and right-or-wrong absolutism are two of the biggest barriers to your mental health success. So remember that there are other really smart, really kind, awesome people out there who do not agree with you. That is okay and it is an indication that you may not be right about everything, even if you think you are.
Yet despite knowing all this, sometimes, you believe you just can’t change your mind. Whether it’s because you think it’s a true fact about the world or because you were taught to believe a certain perspective since you were a child, sometimes you can’t fix your core belief.
In that case, try hard to evaluate what’s actually wrong and what you can change. Do more core beliefs worksheets. Dig deep and figure out what’s bothering you. Speak to people in your situation who had your problem, are members of your faith, and came through okay. Speak to people who left your faith. If you can’t challenge your beliefs at all, then chances are you’re hanging onto something you wouldn’t believe if you had the courage to consider letting go.
Remember that for you to believe something, you have to be able to challenge it and stick to it. You have to be able to respond to criticisms with an explanation of why you’re right and critically think about if others might be right. Otherwise, you don’t actively believe it at all; you’re just repeating something you’ve been told. That’s a disservice to you and your faith.
One example is if you think God is telling you to do something. If that something doesn’t make you feel good or right, maybe God isn’t telling you what you think. Maybe you need to evaluate if it’s a test, if there are options that are better for you, or if what you’ve been told doesn’t make sense. Maybe you need to challenge if it’s actually God who told it to you or someone else that your brain has merged with God. Maybe you need to reevaluate if you agree with God in this situation and if you always have to.
Another example is if you think your fate or astrological beliefs mean that you can or cannot do something you want to. Reevaluate if there are options that allow you to practice your spiritual beliefs and live the life you want. Are there days that work better for you? Is there evidence to support that your interpretation of your astrology or reason to be on Earth is the only interpretation that is valid? Finally, once again, are you sure that your astrological or destiny beliefs are accurate?
Another example common to eastern religions is feeling like it is your duty to do something that brings you great unhappiness. For example, you may believe it is your duty to physically take care of your parents instead of finding a nursing home. Reevaluate if there are options that allow for your duty to be fulfilled in other ways. Sometimes, you can’t give your parents the care they need at home and so you fulfil your duty by paying for an expensive at-home nurse or home they can stay at. That doesn’t mean you’re not doing your duty. Perhaps you have other duties to yourself or to others in your family that also need to be fulfilled. Perhaps you are reading the definition of duty in the scriptures wrong.
Reevaluating your religion or spirituality does not make you a bad Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, Sikh, atheist, or anything else. It makes you human. Religion is here to bind you to your community and add joy to your life. If it isn’t working for you, it isn’t. Millions of people around the world realized that and have taken actions to make their lives work better for them. You can too.
Notes on Sexuality
If your religion is making you feel like you are betraying God, doing wrong, or not fulfilling your duty because you are not straight or cisgender, then you need to find a solution and the answer isn’t to betray who you are. There are many, many people around the world who are practicing Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc. who are also happily living as gays, lesbians, transgender, and more. Please contact one of our mentors, a member of your faith who is also a member of your sexuality, or a therapist.
Conversion therapy and other methods like this are not safe or effective and they won’t make you feel better. There is plenty of research to support that. All of your beliefs exist in your mind and you can work on changing them or finding options within your belief system, impossible as it may seem. We believe that above all, God wants you to be happy and to increase the happiness in the world. Blaming yourself or trying to change people’s sexualities just increases tangible pain and suffering. And if you think that your God/religion doesn’t want you to be happy, challenge why you feel that way, why you believe that about your God/religion, and what beliefs you are willing to change in your mind.
And please, speak to a member of your faith who is a sexual minority. There are some more resources for you to find help here: https://www.glaad.org/resourcelist.
More on our LGBTQ page [link],