Atheists Live Better Than Religionists

Today’s Globe offers a look at atheism versus religionism (okay, for you purists, theism), and we atheists look pretty damn good.

A sample…

The few studies that did treat nonbelief seriously offered tantalizing hints that to look only at religiosity was to miss an important part of the spectrum of human belief. One study conducted in 1985 by German psychologist Franz Buggle and his colleagues suggests that neither religion nor irreligion has a monopoly on improving people’s mental health. Among 174 people surveyed, it found that two groups enjoyed the lowest scores on a scale of depression: the most pious Christians and the convinced atheists. Those in the middle, the lukewarm believers, were most likely to be depressed. In 2005, a team at Newcastle University in Britain reported a similar result.

More recently, Karen Hwang, a professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, decided to examine atheists at risk for depression more closely. Hwang’s interviews with atheists suffering from spinal cord injuries revealed how becoming debilitated strengthened their convictions, and their convictions strengthened them. "It doesn’t matter so much what a person believes in," she says, "but how consistent and cohesive their worldview is."


One of the banner carriers for the new research is Zuckerman, the Pitzer College sociologist. His new book, "Society without God," offers a revealing portrait of irreligion in Denmark and Sweden, countries where paltry levels of church attendance coincide with economic prosperity, low crime, and abounding quality of life. These nations challenge the claim that piety is a prerequisite for a healthy society, but Zuckerman also takes care not to go too far in the other direction. "People think I’m arguing that secularity causes good social outcomes, and that’s not necessarily the case," he says.

Too bad the article doesn’t mention the bogus ‘prayer at a distance’ studies the religionists love to lie about. Kind of in the same category as those bogus human footprints alongside dinosaur footprints they love to brag about. What is it about religion that encourages practitioners to lie and deceive when it comes to promoting their delusions? Maybe it’s the only way they can create a ‘consistent and cohesive’ worldview?

One would expect atheists to live better lives than religionists. Atheists aren’t encumbered by unprovable, untestable beliefs in massive contradictions and deceptions, nor need they worry about being judged by some narcissistic, arrogant psychopath now or after death. Let’s see, should we choose to live in reality, or should we choose to live a neurotic delusion? Getting god(s) out of your life is like cleaning out the attic, the basement, and the bedroom closet all at once.

Anyway, score one for the atheists. At least the psych and sociology boys are doing some serious studies.

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13 Responses

  1. Like I always tell my Christian acquaintances when they point to my depression as a reason I should become religious – you can’t just atheism by a single atheist. Most are as well adjusted (if not more) as anyone else. And usually smarter.

    Besides, I can no more “believe” just because it might make me feel better than I can enjoy the taste of cilantro just because it’s healthy. No, I stick to anti-depressants, thank you very much.


  2. One of my friends in elementary school was a Navajo. His uncle (I think, I still can’t keep clan relationships (born-for, born-to, etc) straight) had died (possibly suicide, but, hell, we were in like 4th grade). He said that his uncle could never decide in which world he should live — the world of the dinee (the people) or the world of the white. His parents were, quite happily, fully assimilated in the European-American milieu. He knew other family members who lived totally within the traditional world — the world of internal and external balance, spirits, and a traditional religious view. Since then, I have, in disparate sources (including Hillerman’s books) run across the same idea that those who live between the worlds have the most difficulties within Native American societies.

    It really doesn’t surprise me that a fully coherent worldview — either traditional, no nonsense totalitarian and literalist Christianitiy or fully realized rationalism — have the least difficulty in merging the objective world with the internal mental world. ‘Liberal Christians’, those who try to bring together the teachings of scripture with the modern scientific world must hold so many mutually exclusive ideas that, I would think, susceptibility to depression would be the least of the mental problems.

    I have, in the past, suffered from clinical depression (though I was a universal deist at the time (really weak atheism)). That had to do with incomplete mourning and, after a spell of Prozac and some therapy, I’m a normal, well adjusted, productive human. Well, not normal, but, you know.

    I will say, though, that some of the unhappiest people I know are also the Bible-thumpiest people I know. And treatment? Screw that. Shrinks are for crazy people. Just pray harder.

    Sorry I’m rambling here. Go BoSox!


  3. • “the most pious Christians and the convinced atheists”

    • “becoming debilitated strengthened [atheist’s] convictions, and their convictions strengthened them”

    Alright, I take issue with both of these statements. For the first one, why is one “pious” and the other “convinced”? Why aren’t they both convinced? Why the distinction? Now if you want to make a distinction, perhaps you could say “the most faithful Christians”, for that then would indicate the true distinction between the basis of believer/nonbeliever thinking, that of faith versus reasoning. I object to the use of “pious” for it carries an implication of good. Yes I know the word is associated with religion, but it commonly is used to denote good or worth, often synonymous with “noble”. So not only does the author mistake what the basis of distinction is between believer and nonbeliever, but also implies a value judgement.

    That next line is pure bullshit, like being debilitated has fuck to do with whether god claims are nonsense or not. Well hey, Nate there clearly didn’t get there’s a difference in how believers and nonbelievers think, so why expect him to know better than to write this crap?


  4. pc –

    Good catches. The writer also apparently missed a common meaning of pious as ‘hypocritically virtuous’.

    More generally, I’m convinced that most reporters aren’t up to the job of writing articles like this. They may have graduated J school, but the apparently steered well clear of courses in logic and critical thinking. (I’m also not sure that a lot of them didn’t skip the classes in grammar…)


  5. ()-

    BoSox? What’s that? Some arcane Pennsylvania reference to a weird disease?

    I think the bit about holding a coherent worldview is the key. But the insanity seems to be that it doesn’t matter what that worldview holds relative to reality. An insane man can have a perfectly coherent worldview in which he lives quite comfortably, at least until the guys in the white coats rattle his cage.


  6. Yes, well also if they happen to be one of those “pious Christians”, it’s no wonder they’d see things and then write them that way, proper education or not.


  7. evo –

    And cilantro is depressing. Pretending to be parsley. Way too much pretense in the vegetable world these days. Dead animal flesh and tubers is the only way to go. That protein perks the brain right up, makes it pay attention. Yowsah!


  8. pc –

    I recall reading somewhere some while ago that the fundos were encouraging their young victims to enter the journalistic trades in order to push their point of view and fight back against the godless, evil empire of modern journalism. Some big mucky-muck was pushing the idea.


  9. That’s been their strategy for some time now, hasn’t it? If things aren’t going your way, infiltrate, infect, and eventually control the means to bring about what they want. That’s been the story of the Republican party for the last 50 years or more, right? They’re like a virus.


  10. pc-

    More like the plague, I would think. Or the result of a plague virus or bacterium – death, rotting, putridness, destruction, smelliness.


  11. evo –

    Of course, you understand that part of the reason why people like us get depressed is because we ignore the essential goodness of human beings… oh, crap, shoot me now, I’ve been infected.


  12. I object to the use of “pious” for it carries an implication of good.

    I’m with Ric’s definition. The first thing that comes to mind for me is someone hypocritically feigning deep belief. That said, there are other ways of looking at, and the author (as Philly points out) seems to have a agenda.

    BoSox? What’s that? Some arcane Pennsylvania reference to a weird disease?

    No, isn’t it that stuff women shoot into their lips to make them fuller?


    • evo –

      No, that’s LardTox.


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