Atheism and anxiety

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Believing in God can help block anxiety and minimize stress, according to new University of Toronto research that shows distinct brain differences between believers and non-believers.[1] See: Atheism and the brain

Below is information related to atheism and anxiety.

Atheism and death anxiety

See also: Atheism and death and Atheist fear of death and Atheism and cowardice

Wink and Scott study: Irreligious and death anxiety

According to the researchers Wink and Scott, the irreligious fear death more than the very religious, but fear it less than the lukewarm/moderately religious.[2]

Death anxiety increases atheists unconscious belief in God

On April 2, 2012, Science Daily reported that Death anxiety increases atheists' unconscious belief in God.[3] In a 2012 Psychology Today article, Dr. Nathan A. Heflick reported similar results in other studies.[4]

(Under stress, the brain's processing works in a way that prefers unconscious thinking.[5]) See also: Atheism and the brain

For more information on death anxiety in atheists and other types of individuals based on brain research studies (including studies that examined the effects of stress), please see the article: Atheism and death

Existential angst

Jean Paul Sartre was a prominent proponent of existentialism.

See also: Existentialism and Atheism and meaninglessness

Existentialism is a philosophical system that originated in the 19th century, and grew in the 20th century, that focuses on the individual striving in a seemingly meaningless universe if one rejects the biblical worldview, and how (and if) one is able to come into grips with this (see: Atheism and meaninglessness). Existentialism, though denying an objective meaning to life, believes that we as individuals can create our own subjective meaning of life, which differs it from nihilism which believes in neither.

Existential angst (or existential crisis, existential despair), is one of the key concepts in existential philosophy, and it means the crisis that one feels when confronted with a seemingly meaningless Universe, along wth the realization that one has free will to make one's own choices. This is illustrated by one standing on the edge of a cliff, looking down, and then realizing that nothing is holding you back from jumping off. The emotions which arise from this revelation is called existential angst.[6]

Existential angst is much more likely to happen in gifted children.[7]

Brain study: Religious belief vs. non-belief - Anxiety/stress reduction

See also: Atheism and the brain and Atheism and brain function

Brain researchers have conducted a number of studies focusing on the differences between atheists and the religious. See: Atheism and the brain

According to the leading science news website Phys.org:

Believing in God can help block anxiety and minimize stress, according to new University of Toronto research that shows distinct brain differences between believers and non-believers.

In two studies led by Assistant Psychology Professor Michael Inzlicht, participants performed a Stroop task - a well-known test of cognitive control - while hooked up to electrodes that measured their brain activity.

Compared to non-believers, the religious participants showed significantly less activity in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a portion of the brain that helps modify behavior by signaling when attention and control are needed, usually as a result of some anxiety-producing event like making a mistake. The stronger their religious zeal and the more they believed in God, the less their ACC fired in response to their own errors, and the fewer errors they made...

Their findings show religious belief has a calming effect on its devotees, which makes them less likely to feel anxious about making errors or facing the unknown.[8]

Theophobia

See also: Theophobia and Atheism and hatred of God

Theophobia is a "morbid fear or hatred of God".[9] For more information, please see: Theophobia and Atheism and hatred of God

Atheism and fear of Hell

See also: Atheism and Hell

The journalist and ex-atheist Peter Hitchens and fear of Hell

Michelangelo, The Last Judgment

The journalist and ex-atheist Peter Hitchens, who is the brother of the late atheist Christopher Hitchens, said upon seeing an art exhibit of Michelangelo's painting The Last Judgment he came to the realization that he might be judged which startled him.[10] This started a train of thought within Peter Hichens that eventually led him to become a Christian.[11]

Child/teen atheist and fear of hell

A child/teen atheist wrote to the atheist psychologist Dr. Darrell Ray:

Dear Darrel,

I have recently decided that I am an atheist. The problem is that I am now much more anxious about my own mortality, and the mortality of the people I care about. It is scary to suddenly feel like there isn’t a God looking out for us, and that there will just be nothing after we die. Also I can’t help being afraid that if I am wrong I will go to Hell. How should I cope with these fears?[12]

Atheist/nonreligious and fear of conservative Christians

See also: Atheist fear of conservative Christians and Persecution of atheists

According to a Baylor University study, when it comes to various individuals who hold various religions/worldviews, atheists/nonreligious have the greatest fear when it comes to a fear that conservative, Protestant Christians will limit their freedom or cause them physical harm.[13] Atheists/nonreligious fear Muslims the second most when it comes to a fear they will limit their freedom or cause them physical harm.[14] See also: Atheism vs. Christianity and Atheism vs. Islam

According to 2013 FBI statistics, 6/10 of a percent of hate crimes were against atheists/agnostics.[15][16]

Prominent atheists being afraid/reluctant to debate conservative Christians

Richard Dawkins
The Oxford University Professor Daniel Came wrote to the New Atheist Richard Dawkins:: "The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part."[17]

As far as Christianity vs. atheism public debates, in recent years there have been a number of notable instances of atheists doing poorly in debates (see: Atheism vs. Christianity debates).

Beginning in the latter part of the 20th century, there were a number of notable instances of prominent atheists being reluctant/afraid to debate (see: Atheism and cowardice).[18]

On May 14, 2011, the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph published a news story entitled Richard Dawkins accused of cowardice for refusing to debate existence of God.[17]

In The Daily Telegraph article Dr. Daniel Came, a member of the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University was quoted as writing to fellow atheist Richard Dawkins concerning his refusal to debate Dr. William Lane Craig, "The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part."[17]

Religion and the elimination/mitigation of anxieties

See also: Atheism and health and Atheism and negative emotions/thoughts and Atheism and mental illness

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.[19]

The Christian Post reporter Stoyan Zaimov wrote:Double-blind prayer experiments: where people pray for others with terminal illness. Habermas admitted that most such experiments have not worked, but the three that he knows of that have indeed worked were cases of orthodox-Christians praying for the sick.[20] See: Studies on prayer

For example, the abstract for the journal article entitled Religious comfort and anxiety in women with cancer: The mediating role of hope and moderating role of religious struggle published in the journal Psychooncology indicates: "Religion appears to protect against developing anxiety because it enhances hope."[21]

According to the American Cancer Society:

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 69% of cancer patients say they pray for their health. A recent study published in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, suggests a link between religious or spiritual beliefs and better physical health reported among patients with cancer.[22]

See: Atheism and cancer and Irreligion and recovery from illnesses

The Christian apologist Gary Habermas wrote: "Double-blind prayer experiments: where people pray for others with terminal illness. Habermas admitted that most such experiments have not worked, but the three that he knows of that have indeed worked were cases of orthodox-Christians praying for the sick."[23]

See: Studies on prayer

See also

Notes

  1. Researchers find brain differences between believers and non-believers, Phys.org, March 4, 2009
  2. Fear of death: worst if you’re a little religious?, World of Science]
  3. Death anxiety increases atheists' unconscious belief in God, Science Daily], Date: April 2, 2012
  4. Atheists, Death and Belief in God The Effects of Death Reminders on Atheists' Supernatural Beliefs, Psychology Today, Published on May 25, 2012 by Nathan A. Heflick, Ph.D. in The Big Questions
  5. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-existential-angst.htm
  6. http://www.sengifted.org/archives/articles/existential-depression-in-gifted-individual
  7. Researchers find brain differences between believers and non-believers, Phys.org, March 4, 2009
  8. Theophobia, Freedictionary.com
  9. Interview of Peter Hitchens - Video at Vimeo
  10. Interview of Peter Hitchens - Video at Vimeo
  11. Google cache of How do atheists handle the fear of death at: http://kidswithoutgod.com/teens/ask/how-do-atheists-handle-the-fear-of-death/
  12. Evangelicals fear Muslims; atheists fear Christians: New poll show how Americans mistrust one another, Washington Post
  13. Evangelicals fear Muslims; atheists fear Christians: New poll show how Americans mistrust one another, Washington Post
  14. 2013 FBI hate crime statistics
  15. Atheism: The Next Civil Rights movement, Vlad Chituc, The Daily Beast, 4-6-2015
  16. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Richard Dawkins accused of cowardice for refusing to debate existence of God, The Daily Telegraph, May 14, 2011
  17. Multiple references:
  18. Multiple references:
  19. Christian Apologist: 10 Reasons for the Fall of Atheism by Stoyan Zaimov, Christian Post, October 14, 2013
  20. Religious comfort and anxiety in women with cancer: The mediating role of hope and moderating role of religious struggle by Zarzycka B, Śliwak J, Krok D, Ciszek P., Psychooncology. 2019 Jun 19. doi: 10.1002/pon.5155.
  21. Study: Cancer Patients with Strong Religious or Spiritual Beliefs Report Better Health, American Cancer Society
  22. Christian Apologist: 10 Reasons for the Fall of Atheism by Gary Habermas