New Atheism leadership's problem with excess weight

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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.[1] 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. On June 1, 2011, Myers posted a picture of himself and others on his blog and Myers appeared to no longer have issues with being overweight.[2] For more information please see: Atheism and obesity.

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).[3][4] In 2010, PZ Myers had health problems related to his heart.[5]

Hippocrates was an early advocate of the health benefits of exercise and nutrition (see also: Nutritional science).[6] On the other hand, PZ Myers and a significant amount of other New Atheism leaders, seem to have demonstrated a lack of a full appreciation of the importance of nutritional science, exercise science and the latest findings of medical science (see also Atheism and obesity}. As of June of 2012, 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.[7] [8][9]

Unhealthy lifestyle of the late, New Atheist Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens was a leader in the New Atheism movement. A picture of an overweight Christopher Hitchens can be found HERE (see also: Atheism and obesity).

Hitchen's heavy drinking and chain-smoking and esophageal cancer

Christopher Hitchens was known for having a history of heavy drinking and chain-smoking.[10][11] Christopher Hitchens was being treated for esophageal cancer likely caused by drinking and smoking up until his death on December 15, 2011.[12][13] Despite his esophageal cancer, when asked by interviewer Charlie Rose if in retrospect he would have engaged in heavy drinking and smoking knowing his present cancer condition, Hitchens said he think he would have done things the same.[14]

Hitchen's excess weight and increased risk of esophageal cancer

As noted above, Hitchens also had problems with being overweight during his life (see also: Atheism and obesity).[15] According to the National Cancer Institute, "obesity is associated with increased risks of cancers of the esophagus."[16]

Theories of New Atheism leadership's problem with being overweight

See also: Theories of New Atheism leadership's problem with excess weight and Irreligion and superstition

Two of the major risk factors for becoming obese according to the Mayo Clinic are poor dietary choices and inactivity.[17] According to the Gallup Organization, "Very religious Americans are more likely to practice healthy behaviors than those who are moderately religious or nonreligious."[18]

(photo obtained from Flickr, see license agreement)

According to the Gallup Organization, "Very religious Americans are more likely to practice healthy behaviors than those who are moderately religious or nonreligious."[19]

Gallup declared concerning the study which measured the degree to which religiosity affects health practices: "Generalized linear model analysis was used to estimate marginal scores all five reported metrics after controlling for age (in years), gender, race/ethnicity, marital status, education (number of years), log of income, and region of the country... Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey Jan. 2-July 28, 2010, with a random sample of 554,066 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling."[20]

The Gallup study gives some insight into the above average health habits of the very religious and not necessarily the health habits of atheists. The reason is that the Gallup organization defines a non-religious as a person where "Religion is not an important part of daily life and church/synagogue/mosque attendance occurs seldom or never. This group constitutes 29.7% of the adult population."[21] While many Western atheists are non-religious, not all non-religious people are atheists.

Gallup further declares:

Very religious Americans make healthier choices than their moderately religious and nonreligious counterparts across all four of the Healthy Behavior Index metrics, including smoking, healthy eating, and regular exercise. Smoking is one area of particular differentiation between the very religious and less religious Americans, with the nonreligious 85% more likely to be smokers than those who are very religious.[22]

From a medical perspective, an obese person has accumulated enough body fat that it can have a negative effect on their health. If a person's weight is at least 20% higher than it should be, he/she is generally considered obese. If your Body Mass Index (BMI) is between 25 and 29.9 you are considered overweight. If your BMI is 30 or over you are considered obese.[23] The term obese can also used in a more general way to indicate someone who is overweight.[24]

Two of the major risk factors for becoming obese according to the Mayo Clinic are poor dietary choices and inactivity, thus given the above cited Gallup research, it appears as if non-religious are more prone to becoming obese than very religious individuals.[25] The Bible declares that gluttony is a sin.[26] Furthermore, the Bible declares the physical body of Christians to be temples of the Holy Spirit.[27] Another example of strongly held religious beliefs affecting behavior in terms of the avoidance of sins and health problems is that religious upbringing and culture affects rates of homosexuality and there are a number of diseases which homosexuals have higher incidences of. For example, homosexuality is rare among Orthodox Jews and even the liberal researcher Alfred Kinsey noted the rarity of homosexuality within the Orthodox Jewish community.[28] Therefore, it is not surprising that many very religious Christians and other religious groups which incorporate healthy beliefs and practices within their religion would leave healthier lives.

The Apostle Paul wrote that in the end times, men would be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4). Many Christians believe a hedonist lifestyle is a causal factor of atheism (see: Causes of atheism).[29] In addition, the Christian conservative martial artist Chuck Norris declared that the most common cause of obesity is a hedonistic lifestyle (see: Chuck Norris on the topic of obesity).

New Atheism, being overweight/obese and psychological issues

See also: Psychological explanations for New Atheism leadership obesity and Theories of New Atheism leadership's problem with excess weight

Obesity is positively associated with neuroticism, impulsiveness, and lower self-discipline.[30] In addition, many people overeat in response to negative emotions such as depression, anger, anxiety and boredom.[31]

(photo obtained from Flickr, see license agreement)

Obesity is positively associated with impulsiveness, lower self-discipline and neuroticism.[32] In addition, many people overeat in response to negative emotions such as depression, anger, anxiety and boredom.[33][34][35]

New Atheism is known for its vitriolic and irrational denunciations of Christianity.[36][37] In addition, Wired magazine made the observation that atheists tend to be ""quarrelsome, socially challenged men" and a study of PZ Myers' Pharyngula blog participants indicated similar results (Please also see: Atheism appears to be significantly less appealing to women).[38] In 2010, the Christian apologist Mariano Grinbank wrote: "Scienceblogger Chad Orzel described the commentators on PZ Myers ' site Pharyngula, and other commentators, as 'screechy monkeys'.[39] In January of 2011, CNN reported: "People unaffiliated with organized religion, atheists and agnostics also report anger toward God either in the past, or anger focused on a hypothetical image - that is, what they imagined God might be like - said lead study author Julie Exline, Case Western Reserve University psychologist."[40] Of course, given the irrationality of atheism, it is not surprising that atheists are angry at God who is morally perfect.[41] Certainly anger cannot be ruled in terms of the high proportion of New Atheist leaders who have issues with being overweight.

In addition, Western World evolutionists and atheists often hold to irrational notions such as extraterrestrial life, exobiology, evolution and abiogenesis which are anti-biblical ideas that are that are not supported by sound science. [42][43] No doubt pseudoscientific and superstitious thinking in many cases is partly due to a lack of self-discipline as rigorous scientific and logical thinking requires disciplined thought..[44]

As far as anxiety being a possible explanation of New Atheism having a high proportion of overweight leaders, 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) declares:

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.[45]

Christian apologist Mariano Grinkbank charges that PZ Myers often engages in mere emotional arguments, admits to criticizing the arguments of his opponents without reading their major works, and often tackles strawmen of this opponents arguments rather than seriously tackling them. Grinbank also points out that PZ Myers has never written a scholarly work defending atheism. For details, please see: Militant atheism and the intellectual slothfulness of PZ Myers.

Peer relationships

See also: New Atheism leadership, excess weight and peer relationships

Studies show that peer relationships can have a significant positive or negative influence on a person's behavior.[46] This has been known for some time and the Bible declares "bad company corrupts good morals" (1 Corinthians 15:33). In addition, the saying "birds of a feather flock together" certainly has some validity. As noted above, two of the major risk factors for becoming obese according to the Mayo Clinic are poor dietary choices and inactivity which are certainly behavioral choices. [47]

In 2011, Christian apologist Vox Day had an individual complain about the notion that the atheist community has a problem with obesity (Please see: Atheism and obesity). As a result, on May 19, 2011, Vox Day released a blog post entitled Mailvox: now, who said atheists are fat? where 80% of the people taking a picture with PZ Myers were overweight and PZ Myers was overweight in the picture as well as can be seen HERE. The picture was originally posted on PZ Myer's blog Pharyngula by Myers on May 16, 2011 and an online argument quickly ensued concerning the appearance of the photograph's participants.[48] In addition, compared to the very religious it does appear as if the atheist community has a problem with obesity (see: atheism and obesity).

Physical and mental health related problems associated with being overweight

See also: Atheism and Mental and Physical 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.[49] In addition, medical science research indicates that excess weight impairs brain function.[50]

Medical science research indicates that excess weight impairs brain function.[51]

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."[53]

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[54]

Health effects of Alzheimer's disease

See also: Effects of Alzheimer's disease on the brain

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.[55] 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.[56]

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."[57]

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.[58]

Obesity, Alzheimer's disease and prevention

See also: Alzheimer's disease and prevention

Weili Xu, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, declared: "Our results contribute to the growing evidence that controlling body weight or losing weight in middle age could reduce your risk of dementia".[59]

For more information please see: Alzheimer's disease and prevention

See also

Comedy and Satire:

Other resources:


  10. Christopher Hitchens: Despite Cancer, I'd Drink & Smoke Again
  12. Why did Hitchens continue to smoke & drink during treatment? -CTV News
  13. Christopher Hitchens: Despite Cancer, I'd Drink & Smoke Again
  14. Picture of an overweight Christopher Hitchens smoking a cigarette
  15. National Institute of Health - Obesity and Cancer Risk
  28. Why do atheists hate God?
  40. On Scientific Thought
  46. Obesity and Alzheimer's: High Insulin Levels Linked to Alzheimer's
  47. Obese people are more at risk of Alzheimer’s
  52. Obesity in Middle Age May Increase Risk of Dementia