What Hell, Fire and Damnation Does to Your Health

“God will punish the wicked,” one of my friends confidently declared. “The cheaters, the liars, the fornicators. They will all be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah.”

He took a sip of his water (because God condemns coffee drinkers). I ticked through all the “liars” and “fornicators” I knew, but only in my head. I wasn’t about to reveal to him I had recently fibbed to my mother about liking a new recipe she had cooked for a family dinner. Or that I had been working on fixing my less desirable manipulative inclinations.

“What about forgiveness?” I asked.

“Well, God does forgive. But if you don’t repent immediately. If you’re not sorry enough, he will punish you. Just like he punished my ex-wife for cheating on me. She’s now miserable and alone because of her poor choices.”

Whoa.

I imagined my friend whipping himself in his basement to atone for his sins.

What The Research Reveals

According to a recent study published in April 2015 by the Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health (Jones et al., 2015), 10% of people have negative spiritual beliefs. In other words, they believe that if they do something wrong, God will stop loving them.

It turns out these kinds of beliefs do more harm than making for bad conversation.

Those who conducted the study interviewed almost 200 people with varying health conditions. Some had cancer or brain traumas while others were totally healthy.

The participants were divided into two groups. Group 1 was for people with a positive spiritual outlook. Group 2 was for people with a negative spiritual outlook.

Those with a negative spiritual outlook reported being in much more pain and having worse mental health than those with a positive outlook. Even a little negativity made a poor impact on health.

Even if you belong to the same religion, your concept of a higher power may be completely different than a fellow member’s. Defining how “God” or “the divine” treats you is more about how you view the world and less about God. Some people can read the Bible and decide God is loving. Others read the same text and decide he is heavy handed. While others decide it’s made-up crap. It has nothing to do with the text and everything to do with the meaning you assign to it.

Just think, we can have a major impact on our health by simply deciding the world is a loving, supportive place. Which sounds easy and stupid on the surface, but, it turns out, it can be very difficult to self audit.

There are certain things I learned growing up and from events in my life. Some have a negative impact on my thinking. Some have a positive impact. I have to consistently ask myself what viewpoints are serving me and what is hurting me.

For a while, I got caught up in the story that I had issues with my ex husband because I wasn’t pious enough. When I first met him, I wasn’t spiritual. That was the problem, I’d tell myself. I didn’t pray to God enough. It was a punishment for not staying close to the spirit. And this viewpoint was cemented by the people I surrounded myself with. Specifically a relationship I had after my divorce.

Then one day I realized how dumb that was. I could interpret the story however I decided. And I decided that I wanted to live in a world where God loved me unconditionally. (Even if I made mistakes sometimes.) So, I re-wrote the story.

Sometimes my decision to live in a world of love works out, but I still catch myself slipping into old patterns of self punishment. Especially if I’m around others who think this way. And I’m guessing there are a lot of other unconscious things I do that I’m not even aware of. Whenever I find myself mindlessly eating a whole box of chocolates because I don’t want to deal with a stressful situation, I remind myself of this.

All my love,

Laura

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