Is there a correlation between mental health and atheism?

I'm a psychology teacher with a keen interest in both mental health and atheism and I think I have spotted a link between the 2. Of the atheists I chat to regularly, a significant number of them have mental health issues and I believe there is a negative correlation. I would like to know if a) the same applies to you; and/or b) if you are aware of any studies that have investigated this link.

So far I have not unearthed any and the study being conducted by Sam Harris is looking at a positive correlation. I am considering a study of my own but it is most definitely just an idea at the moment. I would appreciate candid responses, but recognise it's not necessarily a subject people want to talk about.

I have my own theory as to why this link occurs, but I will keep it to myself for now. Many thanks to those who feel they want to and can respond.

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oops and

I was involved in christian counseling for some years and in a support group aimed at helping gay people not 'fall into sin' ehem for which I repent. I have to say that I found most christians to be unhappy on many levels and certainly the divorce rates, rates of drug abuse, child abuse, infidelity, teenage pregnancy etc don't seem to validate some peoples perceptions of christians as 'overly happy'. Since god doesn't actually help christains there is no reason for them to be better off than anyone else so the differences in healthy living, lifestyle, community involvement and self care would cover any differences in my opinion.
This study is depressing me
I think that there are actually two populations of atheists. There are those who in their youth received religious instruction but, for one reason or another, came to reject their early indoctrination. There are also those, like me, who were raised with no religious instruction and have never "had the faith". Of the two populations, I suspect that the individuals who have had early religious instruction may have some internal conflict arising from rejection of early indoctrination. On the other hand, those who have never received religious instruction may be a lot more comfortable with their non-theism because they have never know anything else.

I really don't think that I have any mental health issues and don't believe that I have ever had any. I have been happily married, to an Episcopalian, for fifty years. I am considered by some to be even-tempered, self-centered, arrogant and opinionated. I am definitely impatient with ignorance and foolishness. Other than that, I'm a nice guy.
Less agreeable, yeah I think I mentioned something along similar lines, down below. Perhaps I'm just too nice.
Yeah, I think I read that as well. Was it The Reason Project or something else, hmm... can't remember. But yeah, agnostics came out badly in that, fence sittings bad for you mental health. To link it to what I've said about confidence below: how can you have confidence in a position you're not certain about?

You can be confident of the fact that your uncertain, but I don't think that could possibly help much. That's why, when Mormon's and Witnesses ask me: "How can you be certain their isn't a God." I just say: "I'm not, I'm just certain you're wrong." (The jokes on them of course, because I am - beyond any reasonable doubt - certain that god does not in fact exist; I just say it to rile them. >:-] tee-hee-hee.)
Waffling seems to make people unhappy

I wonder if indecisiveness on other issues relates to happiness. Would black and white, concrete thinkers be happiest?
OCD and Depression run in my family, but my uncle and I are the only atheists in what is a VERY large family. Based on my own experience, I don't see a link...

However, I do think that atheists tend to be more intelligent and scientific and more questioning than most and may also be more willing to accept that there is a mental health issue happening and to get help for it. Many theists tend to be more 'old-fashioned' in their thinking and there may be a higher percentage of theists that don't put any stock into 'all that mental illness mumbo-jumbo'.
That might be true. There is still a lot of traditional opinion concerning mental illness and religion is all for tradition. I wonder how many religionists actually do hear god talking to them inside their heads, yet manage to disguise it in everyday society? It's a disturbing thought.

If we assume that mental illness is equal both for atheists and theists, then might their not be a lot of mentally ill people who simply go unaccounted for? Religionist do tend to be less forthcoming where statistical analysis is concerned, they believe they have something to protect.

I remember a Richard Dawkins interview where he recounted having a brain scan a long with some other person, a vicar or something. As fair as their personal accounts of the experience were concerned they were both the same. But the results told quite a different story. Clearly there was something different going on, either in Dawkins's head or the vicar's that made some noticeable difference. If only I could remember where I'd seen that, I'd post it.
I read this post a while back and thought of it the other day. I have a near panic attack type fear of death and the death of those around me b/c I believe when we die we are truly gone. I had a flittering thought of death that I expertly dodged from years of practice and then at the same time wished I were either mentally retarded and couldn't grasp the subject or that I was another sheep in the herd that believed in heaven and such. I have been told on occasion that I need to seek counsel on a fear that is justified and based on my "non' religion.
Wow. That's really taking the whole personal awareness/responsibility stigma to a new level. I think I feel quite the opposite, death seems quite appealing to me.
I have two mental illnesses. Bipolar and BPD. As you know, very hard to live with.

My life experience has shown me that our reality comes from our brains, nature or nurture, and nothing else. The abuse I experienced as a child left me to think "If there is a god, how could they let this happen," which led me to become an athiest at age 12. However, the more education I received the more the conclusion of there is no god became more reasonable.

I think it could, this is a huge generalization, be true that people who have mental illness have more experience evaluating their brain and realize how powerful it is. That's about where I am.

I believe that religion is nothing but civilizations explanation of the world around them. The ones that made it big happened to be developed in the areas they were and spread. There are many similarities because, basically, we are all the same. We want food and shelter. Differences stem from culture which came from surroundings when civilizations began.

Anyway, I agree there is a correlation but I don't think that one begets the other. I know plenty of persons with disorders who have a strong faith. My older sister, for example. We went through very similar childhoods, similar biology. She believes and I don't.

Good luck with your research!
Ah so mental illness was the cause of atheism in your case? That's an interesting thought, I hadn't considered that, though it seems obvious enough.

My unbelief is an extension of my introspective tendencies. Makes sense.

Why should anyone really think that atheism is the cause of depression, when its just as reasonable to think that depression is the cause of atheism?

I was blind but now I see, that is an amazing cognitive flip for me. Thanks!



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