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The Most Religious Red States Also Consume the Most Antidepressants

For much of the world’s population, religious belief systems inform their world view by relating humanity to spirituality and, more often than not, to values that give meaning to life by providing adherents morality, ethics, and directions for their preferred lifestyle. In America, forty percent of the population considers themselves very religious, and they claim, without apology, that their worldview and reason for living derives from their strict adherence to Christianity; the primary religion in this country. It should come as no surprise that the most religious regions of the country are located in southern states, and a recent poll revealed that, indeed, except for Utah (56%), well over 50% of the population in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Oklahoma consider themselves to be very religious, and they are very depressed.

In a study conducted between 2000 and 2006 by a large pharmaceutical manufacturer, they discovered that the most religious states have the highest percentage of the population using some kind of anti-depressant drug. The comprehensive study focused on the implications and numerous challenges of managing prescription drug costs, and they focused on the “sociodemographic forces influencing the use of prescription drugs,” but they did not examine the role religion plays in the higher-than-average use of anti-depressants. It is quite possible, and likely, that “very religious” Christians are having difficulty reconciling their Christ-centered beliefs with the direction American Christianity is going, and the conflicts inherent with adhering to archaic knowledge and understanding of the world while living in the 21st century where science and empirical data contradicts the superstitious and antiquated “facts” contained in the Christian bible.

Faith in Christ is supposed to be succor to the afflicted, and give hope to his followers that living a life of charity and love for all human kind is the path to happiness now and earns the reward of life eternal in Christ’s presence in Heaven. However, the trend among many Christians is rejecting the tenets of Christ’s message for harsh Old Testament edicts meant to instill fear and guilt endemic to disobeying god’s laws instead of love of neighbor, and it must affect the mental state of adherents struggling to reconcile Christ’s love with the Old Testament message of an angry and wrathful “god of love.” It is no wonder the “very religious” are depressed when they read in their bible that Christ commanded the rich to give away all their belongings to the poor to enter into Heaven, and yet their clergy preach support of politicians who take from the poor to give to the rich. Are they compensating for their religious dilemma by resorting to chemicals to assuage the misery of disobeying their lord and savior, Jesus Christ, or dulling the guilt from causing suffering on their fellow Americans?

Most of the political and cultural positions of highly religious states give the appearance that unless Christians force their Old Testament sensibilities featuring intolerance, hatred, and retribution for non-compliance with god’s laws on the rest of America, they are doomed to burn in everlasting fire.  And yet, they read in scripture that Jesus commanded them to treat their enemies and non-believers with peace and love, and lacking fortitude to challenge the clergy’s contradictions, it is just as easy to stay sedate to mask their internal conflict as they support the proliferation of guns, treating women as slaves, and punishing gays; many of them fellow Christians.

It is also possible they require anti-depressants to balance the constant state of fear, rage, and antipathy for science and knowledge that belies the bible’s explanation of the universe and its contention the Earth and its inhabitants were created 10,000 years ago. In a poll conducted in July, 2012, forty-six percent of Americans confirmed their belief in the creationist view that God made the Universe, Earth and human beings in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary and absolutely no proof of the bible’s explanation. What is astonishing is that there are seemingly intelligent, university-educated Christians who go into a rage if their creation myth is challenged, and when any high-school sophomore presents incontestable proof they are misinformed, the realization that everything they learned from the bible, the clergy, and church is false must engender overwhelming depression. Take, for example, the case of Mormons who are generally highly educated and still cling to a mid-nineteenth century story that high school geography, history, and archeology proves is absolutely false, and it makes sense that Utah residents are as highly medicated with anti-depressants as any uber-religious Southern state.

Religion, although strange to a secular Humanist, does have redeeming value for millions of Americans in that it gives them comfort that there is something other than this wondrous life. However, throughout the history of the Christian religion, it has wrought death and destruction on those who choose not to follow it and that is a sad commentary on a religion allegedly based in tolerance, love, and humanity. To learn that its adherents resort to using chemicals to allay their depressive state, regardless the reason, is sadder still and worse, is of their own making. Every Christian knows that Jesus Christ’s message is contrary to their ideology of intolerance, hate, and greed, and that they have benefitted immensely from science they deride in clinging to Stone Age mythology. No-one denies them their beliefs, or faith, if they need it to direct their morality, but if they are so conflicted they need anti-depressants to cope, perhaps it is time they examine either their religion, or their practice thereof, because there are bad men in the clergy and politics using their depression, and sedate mental state, to inflict harm on the rest of population that Jesus would never condone; but there are few Christians listening to Jesus these days.

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