Sunday, September 18, 2011

Who Knew? Atheists & Agnostics Live Shorter, Unhappier Lives

According to this story, research from a variety of different research journals has shown that atheists and agnostics
…suffer, on average, higher rates of physical ailments, depression, suicide, alcohol use and drug addiction. They have greater marital instability, weaker parent-child relationships, lower lifetime earnings, lower educational attainment and higher rates of criminal activity.

Also according to the story, religious kids tend to behave better and are more well adjusted. 
If you still can’t be a believer, raise your kids to be, if you have any. While it’s no guarantee, chances are that it will help them live longer and be happier.
And, as predicted based on the magic princess example above, religious kids are more likely to be better behaved and adjusted, according to a study. (Although the opposite could happen if parents regularly argue over their faith at home, the study found.) Another study concluded that religious children have higher self-control and lower impulsiveness, and do better at delaying gratification and social adjustment. 
Non-religious people often say they’ll let their children decide whether to be religious when they get older. But if you’re not instilled with religion when you’re young, it’s a lot harder to become religious later on. Better to instill it in them first, and then let them decide.
What I wonder with this last paragraph though is what’s the difference between instilling a child with religious/spiritual beliefs and indoctrinating them into a specific religion?  My kids are very well behaved and seem to be well adjusted but we are not a religious household.  We are however a spiritual household and often talk about spiritual issues.  And even though we don’t go to church, our kids have attended various churches with their friends (and often afterwards we’ve discussed the things that were taught in the churches).  I am raising my kids to be spiritual and to live life by the Golden Rule but I am not telling them which religion or faith to pick, so where does that leave our family in regards to this research?  It’s certainly something to think about.     

Being someone who is spiritual but not a follower of any specific religion (though I’m darn-near a Buddhist) I find this research fascinating and somewhat unsurprising.  In my experience, people who are atheists (more so than agnostics) are quite often angry at much in the world.  That anger leads to stress and stress takes its toll on the body.  This is not to say that those who are religious aren’t stressed (lord knows that I am) but they often have outlets for said stress (prayer, meditation, yoga, etc.) and are possibly able to cope with it better than those that have no belief in the supernatural. 

Since the beginning of humanity, we have looked to the stars and sought answers to the things that we don’t understand from the supernatural.  Even if the atheists are right and there’s nothing out there, it seems to be in our nature to want or need to believe that there is something out there that is bigger than we are and that gives meaning to the world. 

Interestingly, I find myself in the position of defending the believers to the non-believers and vice versa.

In other atheist news, a group in California called the Backyard Skeptics has scheduled an event during which they will tear specific pages out of the Bible. 

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