New Study Finds God Makes Religious People Less Depressed

Finding Hope in Dark Times by Margaret Dulaney

New Study Finds God Makes Religious People Less DepressedMany of you might have seen the little film by the Welsh Poet Tom Roberts called the Great Realization. Tom is reading a poem, spoken as a bedtime story, to his two younger siblings. It is written from the perspective of the future and speaks of the positive changes that have come about as a result of the visit of the virus to our planet. It pictures a post-pandemic world of attention to kindness and healthy relationships, with our loved ones, and with our ailing planet.

One of his young siblings asks, “Why did it take a virus to bring people back together?”

And he answers, “Sometimes you have to get sick, my boy, before you start feeling better.”

The film took off like wildfire and has been translated and shared by millions around the world.

In an interview about the little film, Tom says, “I would suggest the thing that is magical about hope — and optimism especially — is that if enough people choose to adopt it, the potential for good things to happen becomes more likely.”

Do we dare hope that good will come of this pause in everyday living? Do we risk hoping that, given the time to take a good look at ourselves, we will be changed by this period in our history and will create a better world? Do we dare believe that this might be an opportunity to begin to heal what ails our world, our good planet?

Can I hope that the ravages of bigotry will be washed away by positive changes in the country where I live? Do I dare hope for equal justice for every living spirit?

“Don’t get your hopes up,” we are often told when young, “you might be disappointed.” But surely, disappointment is something one can work through. Isn’t it? It just takes time.

It’s cynicism that is our true enemy. Cynicism is a dead end.

You’ve probably noticed that cynicism requires zero effort. “Nothing’s going to change,” the cynic will say, “nothing ever improves. The world will go on with its bad habits, its disparity of riches, its class wars, its racism, its unthinking consumption and destruction.”

Cynicism is a lazy slide down a slippery slope on a flabby ass. Hope, on the other hand, hope requires that you engage the old gluteus maximus, and stand up. In short, hope requires courage, where cynicism requires absolutely nothing. But, please don’t think that I am pointing any fingers. Not only am I perfectly capable of defeatism, but I don’t believe that anyone is a full-bred, confirmed cynic, not down to their skivvies. If we were to strip off the trappings of skepticism, we might find a spirit of tremendous sensitivity, capable of all sorts of courage.

Hope, though, at times deep-seated and difficult to trace, is almost always present under the show of pessimism. Hope isn’t a luxury, it seems, but a requirement, like air.

The reason, I suspect, that most people well up when they watch the Great Realization, is because hope can be profoundly moving. They don’t react because they fear it is a fairytale, that nothing will ever change, but because somewhere inside of them, they hope what the film is suggesting is the truth. They dare to hope that we will learn from this time and create a better, sustainable and more just world.

The wise ones will always encourage this sort of bravery. Not false bravery, not the sort that poses at being tough, but true bravery, the sort that believes in good things, the sort that dares to be openly hopeful.

“The arc of the moral universe is long,” wrote Dr. Martin Luther King, “but it bends toward justice.”

I’ll have what he’s having.

The world does not change from top to bottom. Masses do not awaken, people do. Individuals achieve enlightenment, not governments. Tipping points can be reached and laws can change, and that’s a beautiful thing, but it’s important that we not put our own enlightenment on hold until the masses awaken, thinking that we will be carried on a wave of awakening. It doesn’t work that way.

Unfortunately. You can’t even be assured of carrying your closest friends with you. Don’t let that worry you. The same force of progress is leaning on your loved ones as leans on you, as leans on every soul.

I write this as my country is taking another look at its long-standing, systematic racial inequalities. This chronic disease of ours is having some good light shone upon it, and our people are taking to the streets. My husband attended a peaceful protest the other day, and came home brimming with hope. “These are young people, very organized,” he told me, “not just a bunch of aging hippies” – you could put my husband and me under that heading. “And,” he continued, “the majority of them are young women.”

“Right on, sisters!” I thought. “Crown your good with sisterhood!”

I suspect what this time of upheaval and attention requires of us, among other things, is an effort to keep our hope alive. We have a choice every day between hope and despair. If we can possibly manage it, it would be best to choose hope, not only for ourselves, but for those around us.

It will take a degree of diligence to carefully tend the garden of our thoughts. On the days when we can’t seem to manage it, when all of the thoughts of hope in our garden are parched and wilting, perhaps we could think of someone who might be able to offer us a few drops from their own store of hope, one of our brave friends. We could call them. “Do you have any hope today?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Enough to spare me a little?”

“Yeah, I think I have enough to go around.”

“Bless you, courageous one. I hope to return the favor someday.”

Margaret Dulaney wrote for the theater in New York City, then moved to Bucks County, Penn., to write non-fiction. She founded Listen Well, a spoken-word website exploring the Divine through story and metaphor.