There is no doubt that religion is heavily linked to fear and that, in times of religious crisis, fear becomes more pronounced, but why is that? Unfortunately, the connection between religion and fear is not well understood. However, while for many religion definitely serves as a source of comfort, many of the more common phobias have a decidedly religious component.
Phobias With a Religious Foundation
Several phobias have a religious component. In fact, some are so common that you have likely heard of them, scoffed at them or even believed them. The top three religious-based phobias are as follows:
- Fear of Death: Fear of death is common among religious and non-religious groups. In fact, fear of death is so pervasive and so deep-rooted that the majority of religions focus almost exclusively on the afterlife and how to ensure you “get accepted” into a good one.
- Doomsday Phobias: End-of-the-world fears have been circulating since the dawn of time. While many doomsday theories stem from over-imaginative thinkers, some have a religious foundation. For instance, the last chapter of the New Testament discusses Armageddon, the final battle between good and evil. The Hebrew Bible references events that are similar to Armageddon, such as Day of the Lords (on which God orders the demise of all sinners) and the War of the Gog and Magog (the war between Israel and its Gods and their adversaries). Islam refers to Armageddon as “The Hour,” which denotes a time of destruction following the death of Jesus.
- Numerical Phobias: Some religions assign importance to certain numbers or series of numbers. For instance, in Christianity, 666 is the sign of the devil. The number 13 is also often considered bad luck in Christianity, as Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus Christ, was said to have occupied the 13th seat at the Last Supper.
Religion Is Not Necessarily a Driver of Fear
Just because some of the more common phobias have a religious component does not necessarily mean that faith is a driver of fear. In fact, as mentioned above, religion is often a source of comfort for believers. Moreover, even those who do not identify with any one religion often claim to believe in conspiracy theories, if not perpetuate those theories themselves.
Even fear of death, which is probably the greatest phobia that religion feeds, is not exclusive to believers. Most people naturally become squeamish at the thought of their own demise, though they may not try to console themselves with thoughts of Heaven or the afterlife.
Fear Is Psychological
Though fear-based faith is an existing phenomenon, the truth is that fear is almost purely psychological. Proof of that is in the numbers:
- Approximately 40% of Americans fear they will become a victim of a mass shooting.
- Nearly half of all Americans are frightened at the prospect of a nuclear war with North Korea.
- About three-quarters of Americans say they are afraid of the level of corruption that will ensue under President Donald Trump’s leadership.
- A whopping 70%+ of Americans fear that robots will soon take over.
- Millennials in general fear for the future.
Regardless of the basis of a fear, it can continue to grow and torment one’s mind if it isn’t assuaged. If your fear is faith-based, you should take a two-step approach. The first is to seek mental health therapy. Religion may not have a scientific foundation, but seeing as fear does, it couldn’t hurt to gain a scientific perspective on the matter. Cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy and medications can all help to identify the basis of your fear and give you coping mechanisms to overcome it.
In addition to seeking outside help from a trained psychologist, you should also discuss your fears with your religious leader. Though he or she may preach fear-based scripture, it is unlikely the teachings were meant to cause ongoing anxiety. Religious counseling can help to resolve internal conflict and gain a better understanding of the scripture.