Psychology, obesity, religiosity and atheism

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Obesity is positively associated with impulsiveness, lower self-discipline and neuroticism.[1][2][3] In addition, many people overeat in response to negative emotions such as depression, anger, anxiety and boredom (see also: Atheism and depression).[4][5][6]

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.

Concerning atheism and mental and physical health, there is considerable amount of scientific evidence that suggest that theism is more conducive to mental and physical health than atheism (see also: Atheism and obesity).

The prestigious Mayo Clinic reported 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.[7]

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.[8]

Duke University has established the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health.[9] 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.[10] In respect to the atheism and mental and physical health, the center offers many studies which suggest that theism is more beneficial than atheism.[11]

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.[12][13]

Atheists have higher rates of suicide than the general population. Please see: Atheism and suicide

Contents

Atheism, obesity and self-esteem

See also: Atheism and self-esteem and Atheism, obesity and self-esteem

There are preliminary studies indicating that individuals who reject Christianity in Western cultures have lower self-esteem than the Christian population.[14][15] In addition, obese individuals can have lower self-esteem related to their obesity.[16] In the United States, obese people are often stereotyped as being "lazy, lacking self-discipline and being mentally slow".[17] In March of 2011, USA News and World Report declared that an Arizona State University study suggests that fat stigma has gone global.[18] In addition, parts of the world that once viewed being overweight favorably now hold negative views concerning having extra pounds and also hold negative views concerning overweight individuals.[19] Poor self-esteem has been linked to an increase in suicide attempts and atheists have higher rates of suicide than the general population.[20][21][22] Obese atheists likely have higher rates of suicide than the general public.

New Atheism leadership's problem with excess overweight

See also: New Atheism leadership's problem with excess weight

PZ Myers

(photo obtained from Flickr, see license agreement)

New Atheism is a form of militant atheism. The term New Atheism which first appeared in the November 2006 edition of Wired magazine, is frequently applied to a series of six best-selling books by five authors that appeared in the period between 2004–2008. These authors include Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger and Christopher Hitchens.[23] The New Atheist leaders claim to be pro-science, 3 out of 5 of these atheist men have had issues with being overweight as can be seen HERE and HERE and HERE PZ Myers is also a leader within the New Atheism movement who has a blog entitled Pharyngula. Myers has had problems with being overweight as can be seen HERE.

According to medical science, there are a significant number of physical and mental health related problems associated with being overweight. In the late 1990s, Dennet had coronary artery bypass surgery (coronary artery bypass surgery reroutes blood around clogged arteries to enhance blood flow and oxygen to the heart).[24][25] In 2010, PZ Myers had health problems related to his heart.[26]

Hippocrates was an early advocate of the health benefits of exercise and nutrition (see also: Nutritional science).[27] On the other hand, PZ Myers and a significant amount of other New Atheism leaders, seem to lack a full appreciation of the worthiness of nutritional science, exercise science and the latest findings of medical science (see also Atheism and obesity}. As of May 2011, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have not publicly commented on the significant problems the New Atheism leadership has experienced in terms of overweight members.

New Atheists are known for their vehement advocacy of the evolutionist pseudoscience. Also, given that being overweight causes brain impairment and that Daniel Dennet has had issues with being overweight, it is ironic that Dennet's book Consciousness Explained is beloved by those who deny God in favor of a pseudoscientific naturalist philosophy of the mind.[28] [29][30]

There are a number of plausible explanations for the significant problems that the New Atheism leadership has had with the issue of being overweight some of which are psychological explanations (see: Psychological explanations for New Atheism leadership obesity).

Atheism and suicide

Concerning atheism and suicide, although there are recent studies relating to atheism being a causal factor for suicide in some individuals, an early proponent of atheism being a causal factor for suicide in some individuals was the Reverend Dr. Robert Stuart MacArthur.[31][32][33]

In 1894, the NY Times declared regarding 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.[34]

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.[35]

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.[36]

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."[37]

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.[38]

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.[39]

Overcoming obesity with the aid of Christian faith

See also: Overcoming obesity with the aid of Christian faith and Ex-homosexuals

Although effective diets, exercise, or medical interventions can rid a person of excess weight, often merely having effective methods available to lose weight is not enough - very frequently, it takes self-discipline as well.

On the other hand, besetting sins such as gluttony, sloth, homosexuality and drug addiction can certainly be more effectively conquered with the assistance of Christian faith and self-discipline. And of course, in the area of weight loss, through diet and exercise well. Peter LaBarbera is the President of Americans for Truth which is an organization which counters the homosexual agenda. Peter LaBarbera declared concerning Christian ex-homosexuals who reported being transformed by the power of God:

Another factor from my experience as a close observer of the “ex-gay” phenomenon is that many former homosexuals do not linger in “reparative therapy” programs, or participate in them at all. They attribute their dramatic and (relatively) rapid transformation to the power of God, and likely would not show up in a study of this kind. In fact, these “unstudied” overcomers would appear to be the most successful ex-homosexuals because they’ve moved on with their lives — as “reborn” Christians move on after overcoming any besetting sin.[40]
Homosexuality is rare in Orthodox Jews.[41]

In 1980 a study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry and eleven men participated in a study about men overcoming homosexuality. The American Journal of Psychiatry stated that eleven homosexual men became heterosexuals "without explicit treatment and/or long-term psychotherapy" through their participation in a Pentecostal church.[42] The results of this study are not surprising since Christian faith has shown itself to be effective in combating drug addiction. For example, Christian group Teen Challenge reported the following:

Teen Challenge claims of a 70% cure rate for the drug addicts graduating from their program attracted the attention of the U.S. Federal Government in 1973. Most secular drug rehabilitation programs only experienced a cure rate of 1-15% of their graduates. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, funded the first year of this study to evaluate the long term results of the Teen Challenge program.[43]

Teen Challenge has a number of studies that indicate the high effectiveness of their drug treatment program compared to other programs.[44] Studies indicate that consumers of secular counseling psychology for alcoholism receive hardly any benefit at all.[45][46] The Apostle Paul in a letter to the church of Corinth indicated that Christians were able to overcome being drunkards through the power of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 6:9-11).

Physical and mental health related problems associated with being overweight

See also: Atheism and health and Atheism and 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.[47] In addition, medical science research indicates that excess weight impairs brain function.[48]

Medical science research indicates that excess weight impairs brain function.[49]

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

Concerning the issue of depression, atheists do have higher rates of suicide than the general population.

Obesity and Alzheimer's disease

See also: Obesity and Alzheimer's disease

A PET scan of the brain of an individual with Alzheimer's disease reveals a loss of function in the temporal lobe.

In 2005, WebMD published:

People with diabetes are at particularly high risk of Alzheimer's disease. But now there's strong evidence that people with high insulin levels -- long before they get diabetes -- already are on the road to Alzheimer's disease.

As the body becomes more and more overweight, it becomes more and more resistant to the blood-sugar-lowering effects of insulin. To counter this insulin resistance, the body keeps making more insulin...

Insulin Triggers Amyloid Buildup

High insulin levels are known to cause blood vessels to become inflamed....

One dangerous effect of this insulin-caused brain inflammation is increased brain levels of beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloid is the twisted protein that's the main ingredient in the sticky plaques that clog the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.

"What was striking was the magnitude of the effect," Craft tells WebMD. "Inflammation can be a result of amyloid elevations but can also create an environment in which amyloid is made more readily. Inflammation can be both the result and cause of amyloid production."[51]

A 2009 health report on a medical study indicated:

They compared the brain scan of 94 people in their 70s who were obese & overweight. They found that the obese had lost tissue in the frontal & temporal lobes areas critical for planning & memory. Declines were also seen in areas used for attention & executive functions, long term memory & movement

A neurologist Professor Paul Thompson said, “That's a big loss of tissue and it depletes your cognitive reserves, putting you at much greater risk of Alzheimer's and other diseases that attack the brain. But you can greatly reduce your risk for Alzheimer's if you can eat healthily and keep your weight under control.”M[52]

Health effects of Alzheimer's disease

An animation of a human left temporal lobe (right is side similar).

(photo obtained from Wikimedia commons, see: license agreement)

Alzheimer's disease is "characterised by loss of neurons and synapses in the cerebral cortex and certain subcortical regions. This loss results in gross atrophy of the affected regions, including degeneration in the temporal lobe and parietal lobe, and parts of the frontal cortex and cingulate gyrus.[53] Some of the primary symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are: memory problems, mood swings, emotional outbursts, brain stem damage which impairs function in the heart, lungs plus causes disruption of various other bodily processes.[54]

An abstract of the medical study entitled Measures to Assess the Noncognitive Symptoms of Dementia in the Primary Care Setting by Brent P. Forester, M.D. and Thomas E. Oxman, M.D. inidcated "Noncognitive symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias include psychosis, mood disturbances, personality changes, agitation, aggression, pacing, wandering, altered sexual behavior, changed sleep patterns, and appetite disturbances. These noncognitive symptoms of dementia are common, disabling to both the patient and the caregiver, and costly."[55]

According to the Center for Neuro Skills:

Kolb & Wishaw (1990) have identified eight principle symptoms of temporal lobe damage: 1) disturbance of auditory sensation and perception, 2) disturbance of selective attention of auditory and visual input, 3) disorders of visual perception, 4) impaired organization and categorization of verbal material, 5) disturbance of language comprehension, 6) impaired long-term memory, 7) altered personality and affective behavior, 8) altered sexual behavior.[56]

See also

External links

Notes

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18549987
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19433123
  3. http://www.wellspringcamps.com/obesity_research.html
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21174323
  5. http://www.obesitypsychiatry.com/id2.html
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17262813
  7. http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.com/content/76/12/1225.full.pdf
  8. http://www.scienceblog.com/community/older/2003/A/20037338.html
  9. http://www.dukespiritualityandhealth.org/
  10. http://www.dukespiritualityandhealth.org/about/
  11. http://www.dukespiritualityandhealth.org/publications/latest.html
  12. http://www.psy.miami.edu/faculty/mmccullough/Papers/Relig_self_control_bulletin.pdf
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19210054
  14. http://atheistwatch.blogspot.com/2010/10/rejection-of-christianity-and-self.html
  15. http://atheistwatch.blogspot.com/2010/10/atheists-and-self-esteem-part-2.html
  16. http://www.rcgd.isr.umich.edu/crockerlab/articles/2005_Crocker_Garcia_Self-Esteem_&_Stigma_of_Obesity.pdf
  17. http://www.rcgd.isr.umich.edu/crockerlab/articles/2005_Crocker_Garcia_Self-Esteem_&_Stigma_of_Obesity.pdf
  18. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/diet/articles/2011/03/31/health-buzz-fat-stigma-spreading-across-world
  19. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/diet/articles/2011/03/31/health-buzz-fat-stigma-spreading-across-world
  20. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20602903
  21. http://www.adherents.com/misc/religion_suicide.html
  22. http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/161/12/2303
  23. http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/battle.html
  24. http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/dennett06/dennett06_index.html
  25. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4484
  26. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/08/thats_not_a_heart_its_a_flaili.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+scienceblogs%2Fpharyngula+%28Pharyngula%29&utm_content=Google+Reader
  27. http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/pe/exs190web/exs190history.htm
  28. http://www.truefreethinker.com/articles/old-material-dennett-and-mind
  29. http://creation.com/brain-chemistry-and-the-fate-of-the-personality-after-death
  30. http://www.adherents.com/misc/religion_suicide.html
  31. http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/161/12/2303
  32. NY Times, September 17, 1894, ATHEISM A CAUSE OF SUICIDE.; Dr. MacArthur Preaches on the Sin and Cowardice of Self-Destruction
  33. NY Times, September 17, 1894, Atheism a Cause of Suicide.; Dr. MacArthur Preaches on the Sin and Cowardice of Self-Destruction
  34. NY Times, September 17, 1894, ATHEISM A CAUSE OF SUICIDE.; Dr. MacArthur Preaches on the Sin and Cowardice of Self-Destruction
  35. http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/161/12/2303
  36. http://www.adherents.com/misc/religion_suicide.html
  37. http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/05/26/the-unbearable-heaviness-of-being-in-a-world-without-god/
  38. http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=3213
  39. http://www.americansfortruth.com/news/landmark-study-change-for-homosexuals-is-possible.html
  40. http://www.conservapedia.com/Religious_Upbringing_and_Culture_Affects_Rates_of_Homosexuality
  41. E.M. Pattison and M.L. Pattison, "'Ex-Gays': Religiously Mediated Change in Homosexuals," American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 137, pp. 1553-1562, 1980
  42. http://www.acadc.org/page/page/2495014.htm
  43. http://www.acadc.org/page/page/2495014.htm
  44. http://www.spring.org.uk/2005/07/psychological-treatments-for-alcoholism.php
  45. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/5/75/abstract
  46. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/obesity/DS00314/DSECTION=symptoms
  47. Obesity and Alzheimer's: High Insulin Levels Linked to Alzheimer's
  48. Obese people are more at risk of Alzheimer’s
  49. http://www.news-medical.net/health/Neurodegeneration-in-Alzheimers-and-Parkinsons.aspx
  50. http://www.dementiacarecentral.com/node/559
  51. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC419385/
  52. http://www.neuroskills.com/tbi/btemporl.shtml
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