Atheism and health

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The prestigious Mayo Clinic found that that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better physical health, mental health, health-related quality of life and other health outcomes.[1]

Concerning atheism and health, there is considerable amount of scientific evidence that suggest that theism is more conducive to mental and physical health than atheism [2]

The prestigious Mayo Clinic reported the following on December 11, 2001:

In an article also published in this issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Mayo Clinic researchers reviewed published studies, meta-analyses, systematic reviews and subject reviews that examined the association between religious involvement and spirituality and physical health, mental health, health-related quality of life and other health outcomes.

The authors report a majority of the nearly 350 studies of physical health and 850 studies of mental health that have used religious and spiritual variables have found that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes.[3]

The Iona Institute reported:

A meta-analysis of all studies, both published and unpublished, relating to religious involvement and longevity was carried out in 2000. Forty-two studies were included, involving some 126,000 subjects. Active religious involvement increased the chance of living longer by some 29%, and participation in public religious practices, such as church attendance, increased the chance of living longer by 43%.[4][5]

In December of 2003, the University of Warwick reported:

Dr. Stephen Joseph, from the University of Warwick, said: "Religious people seem to have a greater purpose in life, which is why they are happier. Looking at the research evidence, it seems that those who celebrate the Christian meaning of Christmas are on the whole likely to be happier.[6]

See also: Atheism and depression and Atheism and suicide and Atheism and alcoholism

Duke University has established the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health.[7] The Duke University Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health is based in the Center for Aging at Duke and gives opportunities for scholarly trans-disciplinary conversation and the development of collaborative research projects.[8] In respect to the atheism and mental and physical health, the center offers many studies which suggest that theism is more beneficial than atheism.[9]

Contents

Atheism and obesity

Obesity is positively associated with impulsiveness, lower self-discipline and neuroticism.[10]

See also: Atheism and obesity

According to the Gallup Inc., "Very religious Americans are more likely to practice healthy behaviors than those who are moderately religious or nonreligious."[11]

Obesity is positively associated with impulsiveness, lower self-discipline and neuroticism.[12] In addition, many people overeat in response to negative emotions such as depression, anger, anxiety and boredom.[13][14][15]

Please see:

Studies on religion and self-control plus diet/exercise and obesity

Two of the major risk factors for becoming obese according to the Mayo Clinic are poor dietary choices and inactivity.[16] In terms of physical activity/athleticism vs. slothfulness, please see: Sports performance: Religious faith vs. atheism and Atheism and hedonism and Atheist nerds

In the journal article Religion, self-regulation, and self-control: Associations, explanations, and implications, psychologists McCullough and Willoughby theorize that many of the positive links of religiousness with health and social behavior may be caused by religion's beneficial influences on self-control/self-regulation.[17][18] Furthermore, a 2012 Queen's University study published in Psychological Science found that religion replenishes self-control.[19][20] Also, numerous studies indicate that those who engage in regular spiritual practices have lower mortality rates.[21] [22]

For more information, please see: Atheism and obesity

Physical and mental health related problems associated with obesity

See also: Physical and mental health related problems associated with obesity

Some of the medical conditions associated with obesity include: type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, coronary artery disease (CAD), stroke, arthritis, cancer, sleep apnea, reproductive problems in women and varicose veins.[23] According to the National Cancer Institute, "obesity is associated with increased risks of cancers of the esophagus, breast (postmenopausal), endometrium (the lining of the uterus), colon and rectum, kidney, pancreas, thyroid, gallbladder, and possibly other cancer types."[24] In addition, medical science research indicates that excess weight impairs brain function.[25]

Medical science research indicates that excess weight impairs brain function.[26]

According to the Mayo Clinic some of the symptoms associated with obesity can include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Snoring
  • Sleep apnea
  • Pain in your back or joints
  • Excessive sweating
  • Always feeling hot
  • Rashes or infection in folds of your skin
  • Feeling out of breath with minor exertion
  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue

Other problems associated with obesity include:

  • Negative effects on lung function/respiratory disease: According to Harvard University's School of Public Health: "Excess weight impairs respiratory function via mechanical and metabolic pathways. The accumulation of abdominal fat, for example, may limit the descent of the diaphragm, and in turn, lung expansion, while the accumulation of visceral fat can reduce the flexibility of the chest wall, sap respiratory muscle strength, and narrow airways in the lungs. Cytokines generated by the low-grade inflammatory state that accompanies obesity may also impede lung function."[28]
  • Feet/ankles problems: According to Stuart D. Miller, M.D.: "It is important for the public to know that obesity isn't just an aesthetic issue, but a contributing cause of musculoskeletal health problems, specifically with the feet and ankles."[32]
  • Lower levels of balance recovery and increased risk of falls: In her thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, entitled A modeling investigation of obesity and balance recovery, Sara Louise Matrangola writes in the abstract: "Obesity is associated with an increased risk of falls and subsequent injury. Previous studies have shown weight loss and strength training to be beneficial to balance, but knowing which is more beneficial will allow researchers to design interventions to maximize the benefits in terms of balance and reducing risk of falls."[33]
  • Increased morbidity risk.[36]

Atheism and its effect on societal cognitive abilities

See: Atheism and intelligence

Atheism and sexually transmitted diseases

Atheistic populations commonly have significant problems with sexually transmitted diseases (see: Atheism and sexually transmitted diseases).

Atheism and alcohol abuse

Alcoholism was a serious social problem in the former atheistic Soviet Union.[37] Between 1940 and 1980, the Soviet Union had the largest increase of the amount of alcohol usage in the developed world.[38]

See also: Atheism and alcohol abuse

The Barna Group found that atheists and agnostics in America were more likely, than theists in America, to look upon the following behaviors as morally acceptable: illegal drug use; excessive drinking; sexual relationships outside of marriage; abortion; cohabitating with someone of opposite sex outside of marriage; obscene language; gambling; pornography and obscene sexual behavior; and engaging in homosexuality/bisexuality.[39]

Soviet Union and alcoholism

Alcoholism was a serious social problem in the former atheistic Soviet Union.[40] Between 1940 and 1980, the Soviet Union had the largest increase of the amount of alcohol usage in the developed world.[41]

Binge drinking and brain damage

A 2012 study suggests that a habit of binge drink risks serious brain damage including increasing memory loss later in adulthood.[42][43]

Atheism, binge drinking and suicide

Binge drinking is a potent risk factor for suicide.[44] Atheists have a higher suicide rate than the general population.

Atheism and suicide

See main article: Atheism and suicide and Atheism and depression

Although there are recent studies relating to atheism being a causal factor for suicide for some individuals, an early proponent of atheism being a causal factor for suicide was the Reverend Dr. Robert S. MacArthur.[45][46][47] In 1894, the NY Times stated the following in relation to atheism and suicide:

Dr. Martin urged that a great cause of suicide was atheism. It was, he said, a remarkable fact that where atheism prevailed most, there suicides were most numerous. In Paris, a recent census showed one suicide to every 2,700 of the population. After the publication of Paine's "Age of Reason" suicides increased.[47]
Pitzer College sociologist Phil Zuckerman stated concerning suicide rates: "this is the one indicator of societal health in which religious nations fare much better than secular nations."

The same NY Times article quotes the Reverend Dr. MacArthur describing suicide in the following manner:

It is mean and not manly; it is dastardly and not daring. A man who involves his innocent wife and children in financial disaster and disgrace and takes his life and leaves them to bear the burden he was unwilling to bear, is a coward.[47]

In 2004, the American Journal of Psychiatry reported the following:

Religiously unaffiliated subjects had significantly more lifetime suicide attempts and more first-degree relatives who committed suicide than subjects who endorsed a religious affiliation. Unaffiliated subjects were younger, less often married, less often had children, and had less contact with family members. Furthermore, subjects with no religious affiliation perceived fewer reasons for living, particularly fewer moral objections to suicide. In terms of clinical characteristics, religiously unaffiliated subjects had more lifetime impulsivity, aggression, and past substance use disorder. No differences in the level of subjective and objective depression, hopelessness, or stressful life events were found.[48]
According to a study by the Barna Group regarding charitable giving:"The typical no-faith American donated just $200 in 2006, which is more than seven times less than the amount contributed by the prototypical active-faith adult ($1500).[49] A number of studies have confirmed that there is an inverse relationship to doing volunteer work and depression.[50] Please see: Atheism and depression

The website Adherents.com reported the following in respect to atheism and suicide:

Pitzer College sociologist Phil Zuckerman compiled country-by-country survey, polling and census numbers relating to atheism, agnosticism, disbelief in God and people who state they are non-religious or have no religious preference. These data were published in the chapter titled "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns" in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, ed. by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK (2005). In examining various indicators of societal health, Zuckerman concludes about suicide:

"Concerning suicide rates, this is the one indicator of societal health in which religious nations fare much better than secular nations. According to the 2003 World Health Organization's report on international male suicides rates (which compared 100 countries), of the top ten nations with the highest male suicide rates, all but one (Sri Lanka) are strongly irreligious nations with high levels of atheism. It is interesting to note, however, that of the top remaining nine nations leading the world in male suicide rates, all are former Soviet/Communist nations, such as Belarus, Ukraine, and Latvia. Of the bottom ten nations with the lowest male suicide rates, all are highly religious nations with statistically insignificant levels of organic atheism."[51]

Australian online opinion writer and lecturer in ethics and philosophy at several Melbourne theological colleges, Bill Muehlenberg, in his essay The Unbearable Heaviness of Being (In a World Without God) states the following:

Announcing, and believing, that God is dead has consequences. And it is we who suffer the most for it. We cannot bear the whole universe on our shoulders. We were not meant to. We must let God be God. Only then can men be men. Only then can we find the way forward to be possible, and the burdens not insurmountable.[52]

Ex-Christians, self-esteem and suicide

See also: Ex-Christians, self-esteem and suicide and Atheism and self-esteem and Ex-atheists

There are preliminary studies indicating that individuals who reject Christianity in Western cultures have lower self-esteem than the Christian population.[53][54] There are studies indicating that lower self-esteem is associated with suicidality.[55][56]

Richard Dawkins' book "The God Delusion" along with a community college biology class, have been linked to the tragic suicide of Jesse Kilgore.[57] Kilgore had several discussions with friends and relatives in which he made it clear Dawkins' book had destroyed his belief in God. This loss of faith is considered the cause of his suicide which is not surprising given that there is evidence which suggest that atheism can be a causal factor for suicide for some individuals.[58][59][60][61]

Jesse's father is quoted as saying "If my son was a professing homosexual, and a professor challenged him to read [a book called] 'Preventing Homosexuality'… If my son was gay and [the book] made him feel bad, hopeless, and he killed himself, and that came out in the press, there would be an outcry. He would have been a victim of a hate crime and the professor would have been forced to undergo sensitivity training, and there may have even been a wrongful death lawsuit. But because he's a Christian, I don't even get a return telephone call."

Jesse's blog remains online after his death.[62]

At the same time, there is a significant portion of the atheist population who suffer from excess self-esteem/pride issues (see: Causes of atheism).

Atheism, gender and suicide

See also: Atheism, gender and suicide and Atheism appears to be significantly less appealing to women and Atheism and suicide

Survey data and website tracking data of prominent atheists' websites indicate that in the Western World, atheism appears to be significantly less appealing to women (see: Atheism appears to be significantly less appealing to women).[63][64][65]

Science Daily reports:

Many studies have identified a strong link between suicide and diagnosable mental illness, especially depression. So because women suffer from depression at a much higher rate than men, they would seem to be at higher risk for suicide. But women actually commit suicide about one-fourth as often as men.[66]

Atheism, marriage and suicide

See also: Atheism and marriageability and Atheism and suicide and Atheism, marriage and suicide

Christian apologist Michael Caputo wrote:

Recently the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has published its mammoth study on Religion in America based on 35,000 interviews... According to the Pew Forum a whopping 37% of atheists never marry as opposed to 19% of the American population, 17% of Protestants and 17% of Catholics.[67]

Vox Day declared that according to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) "more than half of all atheists and agnostics don’t get married."[68]

According the website Marriage and Family Encyclopedia:

Marital status has a strong association with rates of completed suicide. Suicide rates are higher in the divorced and widowed than in single people, who in turn have higher suicide rates than married people. This protective effect of marriage on suicide is stronger for men than for women, although it is found for both men and women (Gove 1972).[69]

Atheism and European suicide in the 17th century

Chandak Sengoopta, in a book review of Georges Minois's work History of Suicide: Voluntary Death in Western Culture wrote:

Suicide became a prominent issue in England from the turn of the seventeenth century. The number of suicides, it was reported, had risen alarmingly and in the preface to his 1733 work, The English Malady, physician George Cheyne declared that he had been spurred to write it "by the late Frequency and daily Encrease of wanton and uncommon self-murders" (p. 181). According to Cheyne, the spread of atheism as well as the gloomy, melancholy-inducing climate of England were responsible for the rise in suicides; while his explanations were not always accepted, virtually nobody seems to have doubted that England had become the world capital of suicides. As Minois explains, there undoubtedly was a rise in the rates of reported suicides but, as far as one can tell from the available data, it was a European rather than an exclusively English phenomenon.[70]

Atheism, uncharitableness and depression

See also: Atheism and depression and Atheism, uncharitableness and depression

A number of studies have confirmed that there is an inverse relationship to doing volunteer work and depression.[71] The atheist population does less charitable works and volunteering per capita than the theist population (see: Atheism and uncharitableness).

Sigmund Freud's View of Religion

Sigmund Freud in his laboratory

Psychologist Sigmund Freud was a proponent of atheism who argued that theism was detrimental to mental health.[72] Oxford Professor Alister McGrath, author of the book The Twilight of Atheism, stated the following regarding Freud:

One of the most important criticisms that Sigmund Freud directed against religion was that it encourages unhealthy and dysfunctional outlooks on life. Having dismissed religion as an illusion, Freud went on to argue that it is a negative factor in personal development. At times, Freud's influence has been such that the elimination of a person's religious beliefs has been seen as a precondition for mental health.

Freud is now a fallen idol, the fall having been all the heavier for its postponement. There is now growing awareness of the importance of spirituality in health care, both as a positive factor in relation to well-being and as an issue to which patients have a right. The "Spirituality and Healing in Medicine" conference sponsored by Harvard Medical School in 1998 brought reports that 86 percent of Americans as a whole, 99 percent of family physicians, and 94 percent of HMO professionals believe that prayer, meditation, and other spiritual and religious practices exercise a major positive role within the healing process.[72]

Freud remains popular among postmodern literary academics, who use his anti-Christian pseudoscience as a basis for their own anti-Christianity and moral relativism, even though his theories were disproved decades ago.

Cause of Friedrich Nietzsche's insanity still a matter of speculation

Currently, there is an ongoing debate on whether atheism was a causal factor for Friedrich Nietzsche's insanity or whether it was caused purely through disease.

Currently, there is an ongoing debate regarding whether atheism was a causal factor for Friedrich Nietzsche's insanity or whether it was caused strictly by disease.[73] [74]

An article published on the Hong Kong Baptist University website offers the following regarding the cause of Friedrich Nietzsche's insanity:

Trying to explain what caused his insanity can only be a matter of speculation. Some people believe it was the result of a physical illness. Others interpret his suffering as that of a true prophet, almost as if he were accepting the punishment on behalf of those who could not see mankind's tendency towards self-destruction so clearly. Still others regard his final fate as a natural outcome of his philosophical outlook.[74]

The Russian-born psychoanalyst and writer Lou Andreas-Salomé, who had a brief and tempestuous affair with Nietzsche, believed that Nietzsche's philosophy can be viewed as a reflection of his psychology and that his madness was the result of his philosophizing.[75] In addition, the French historian René Girard asserted that Nietzsche's philosophy led to his insanity.[76]

See also

External links

Atheism and despair:

Notes

  1. http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.com/content/76/12/1225.full.pdf
  2. Religious Involvement, Spirituality, and Medicine: Implications for Clinical Practice
  3. The psycho-social benefits of religious practice by Iona Institute
  4. McCullogh ME, Larson DB, Hoyt WT. et al. (2000). Religious involvement and mortality: a meta-analytic review. Health Psychology. 19, 3. 211-222
  5. Psychology researcher says spiritual meaning of Christmas brings more happiness than materialism - Scienceblog and University of Warwick
  6. http://www.dukespiritualityandhealth.org/
  7. http://www.dukespiritualityandhealth.org/about/
  8. Research on Spirituality, Theology and Health - Duke University
  9. http://www.gallup.com/poll/145379/Religious-Americans-Lead-Healthier-Lives.aspx
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21174323
  11. http://www.obesitypsychiatry.com/id2.html
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17262813
  13. Causes of obesity
  14. Religion, Self-Regulation, and Self-Control: Associations, Explanations, and Implications
  15. Religion, Self-Regulation, and Self-Control: Associations, Explanations, and Implications
  16. Religion Replenishes Self-Control, Psychological Science, June 2012 vol. 23 no. 6 635-642, Kevin Rounding, Albert Lee, Jill A. Jacobson and Li-Jun Ji at Queen’s University
  17. Study finds religion helps us gain self-control
  18. Religious involvement and mortality: a meta-analytic review. McCullough ME, Hoyt WT, Larson DB, Koenig HG, Thoresen C., Health Psychol. 2000 May;19(3):211-22.
  19. The role of spirituality in health care, roc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2001 October; 14(4): 352–357.
  20. National Cancer Institute - Obesity and Cancer risk
  21. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/obesity/DS00314/DSECTION=symptoms
  22. Harvard University - School of Public Health, Health risks of obesity
  23. How obesity is linked to infertility
  24. Why are the years 2012 and 2020 key years for Christian creationists and pro-lifers?
  25. Globally the worldviews of atheism and non-religious (agnostic) are declining while global Christianity is exploding in adherents
  26. Survey Suggests Obesity May Cause Foot Problems
  27. Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, entitled A modeling investigation of obesity and balance recoveryby Sara Louise Matrangola
  28. Obesity and Alzheimer's: High Insulin Levels Linked to Alzheimer's
  29. Obese people are more at risk of Alzheimer’s
  30. Will China Defeat Obesity? By MARK BITTMANSEPT. 2, 2014
  31. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18245818
  32. Alcoholism in the Soviet Union
  33. http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/58-practical-outcomes-replace-biblical-principles-as-the-moral-standard
  34. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18245818
  35. Alcoholism in the Soviet Union
  36. http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/binge/a/aa000818a.htm
  37. http://www.scripps.edu/newsandviews/e_20121022/koob.html
  38. O'Connell, H; Lawlor, BA (October–December 2005). "Recent alcohol intake and suicidality--a neuropsychological perspective". Irish journal of medical science 174 (4): 51–4
  39. http://www.adherents.com/misc/religion_suicide.html
  40. http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/161/12/2303
  41. 47.0 47.1 47.2 NY Times, September 17, 1894, ATHEISM A CAUSE OF SUICIDE.; Dr. MacArthur Preaches on the Sin and Cowardice of Self-Destruction
  42. Religious Affiliation and Suicide Attempt
  43. Atheists and Agnostics Take Aim at Christians The Barna Update, 2007.
  44. http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/caring/caring-and-happiness-reviews/
  45. http://www.adherents.com/misc/religion_suicide.html
  46. http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/05/26/the-unbearable-heaviness-of-being-in-a-world-without-god/
  47. http://atheistwatch.blogspot.com/2010/10/rejection-of-christianity-and-self.html
  48. http://atheistwatch.blogspot.com/2010/10/atheists-and-self-esteem-part-2.html
  49. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21190929
  50. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20602903
  51. http://worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=81459
  52. http://www.adherents.com/misc/religion_suicide.html
  53. http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/161/12/2303
  54. http://www.adherents.com/misc/religion_suicide.html
  55. NY Times, September 17, 1894, ATHEISM A CAUSE OF SUICIDE.; Dr. MacArthur Preaches on the Sin and Cowardice of Self-Destruction
  56. http://users.newblog.com/Jkrapture/?post_id=17727
  57. http://www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/reports/NONES_08.pdf
  58. http://www.livescience.com/culture/090227-religion-men-women.html
  59. http://www.conservapedia.com/Atheism_appears_to_be_significantly_less_appealing_to_women
  60. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/11/981112075159.htm
  61. http://creation.com/atheism
  62. http://creation.com/atheism
  63. http://family.jrank.org/pages/1659/Suicide-Marital-Status-Family.html#ixzz1RJRmwSPF
  64. http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=3213
  65. http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/caring/caring-and-happiness-reviews/
  66. 72.0 72.1 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/march/21.36.html
  67. 74.0 74.1 http://www.hkbu.edu.hk/~ppp/top/top19
  68. http://www.amazon.com/Nietzsche-Lou-Salome/dp/0252070356
  69. http://books.google.com/books?id=x4qDrNKVC5gC&pg=PA61&lpg=PA61&dq=Ren%C3%A9+Girard+nietzsche+and+madness&source=bl&ots=DQFLJpqjJd&sig=mXNq_6J6_qTciP2vW-FHojwBn20&hl=en&ei=hv99Sp0Y2YG2B8Ogsf4B&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false
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