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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Personally, I was way more depressed as a theist. I didn't much confidence in myself, and I believed I was destined to be miserable. I had an epiphany and finally woke up and smelled the coffee and took personal responsiblility for myself. I don't think I can function without a realistic view of the world. The guilt trips were too too much for me.
Actually I find the reverse, in a sense, I have mental health problems but they have lessened since I adopted Atheism. I would say that religion was, at least in part, the cause of my mental problems.
I think religion causes certain mental problems, but most likely not depression , or at least until the last stages of being religious. I think depression is one contributing factor for some to think twice about some of the religious dellusions
you know, the whole the world is kind of shitty, how could there be a loving god in play then?
I've always been atheist and always had depression. I'm more inclined to think that it's due to my analytical mind and atheism causing me to be disconnected from 95% of those around me. I'm not a loner by nature but I've been kinda forced into the role. It's an acceptable trade for me. I don't dwell on it. I would rather be mediocre in reality than ecstatic in LaLa land.
for me there is a difference between a mental health issue and a mental health problem. are we talking about something like postpartum or something like bipolar?
I should think it will be important to control for the religiosity of the person who is doing the evaluation of the mental state of the subjects. It could well be that some of the propensity for atheists to be classed as having mental issues can be explained by prejudice. Similarly, if subjects are having issues with relating to others, this may be a problem not originating in the subjects but in the behavior of the people in their lives.
I belong to an extremely tight-knit group of atheist/agnostics, there are about 90 of us. We've done polls on everything we can think of and have found no stronger correlation between atheism and anything else than any other portion of the population. The only thing that stands out just a tiny bit is that the group seems to have more extended education than average. We aren't convinced that this is anything though.
It's unfair to correlate the happiness and depression rates between the religious and atheists.
To draw a proper analysis between the two groups, both would have to be sane. The religious are clearly mentally ill to begin with.
There are several theories that I feel support this post…
1. I know that some people might have mentioned this as being a main cause of depression in Atheists; segregation and fear of persecution. It is never a relaxing position to be in; always in fear of being who you really are. If you have to constantly hide in plain sight you will definitely have a higher disposition for mental disorders (that being a relative term which really holds no weight).
2. “Ignorance is Bliss” Being a Theist basically means that you live in a fairytale. And I would love to live in a world that basis itself on Disney than accepts reality.

And some that do not…
1. Living in constant fear that you will go to a place and be tortured for all eternity is not exactly good for one’s mental being.
2. Having to abide by all the silly rules of ancient scriptures that don’t even apply to today can be taxing… no meat on Fridays, no work on the Sabbath, which object should I beat my wife with, etc. And on that note; trying to pick and choose what I should follow and shouldn’t, it has to be hard to make shit up as you go constantly.
3. Living on a moral high ground is kind of stressful.

And there are probably more… but keep in mind that a good scientific study consists of a diverse control group and if it truly is diverse, I feel, you will more than likely find a 50/50 split on a subject like this. But it is all relative anyway, even some statistics are relative.
Perhaps atheists are simply more honest about their feelings?

In my experience, the very religious feel a great deal of pressure to "put on a happy face". In the cult that I was a part of, we were repeatedly reminded that we were the happiest people in the world. If one were to admit to depression or feelings of emptiness it would be viewed by many as the sign of some failing or even secret sin that was blocking divine blessing. As a result, many suffer in silence.

Yet others enjoy a kind of psuedo-happiness as a result of involvement in an endless parade of religious activities. When sickness, burn-out or other changes in circumstances cause a cessation in the routine, there is opportunity to pause and reflect. It's only at such times that some realize just how dissatisfied they may really be.
Love what I am hearing here, what a diverse bunch. K I am doing a psych degree and have a great interest in the construction of world views. We all construct our own, religious or not. Love the post on personalsing everything. All gods are created in our own image and there are 6 billion of those. Likewise we all 'hear' the words of the gods through our own noise so there are also 6 billion versions of the religious text. How's that for debunking the idea of absolute truth!

I think your study would have to include the early development of the people involved, were they brought up in a religious context or not, that will greatly affect their thinking as aetheists. Was their religious experience a largely positive or very negative/abusive one , this affects their mental health as adults. Personally I was a depressed christian and am a very much more stable and happy aetheist though still on SSRI's. I believe that the depression now stable and treatable which I have now is the result of physical malfunctions in my brain whereas the depression I was experiencing as a christian was largely emotional and may have caused the changes in my brain. The old chicken and egg story. The emotional stuff was much easier to deal with as an aetheist because I felt I had some control and value as a human being which I lacked as a christian. I believe the teachings of original sin 'all people are born bad and can never be 'clean'' is devastating to the psyche. The only hope of acceptability one has as a christain is to hide behind the blood of Jesus and hope that god will see you as ok coz he can only vaguely see you through the bloody mess. The other end of the picture I believe is just as damaging, the apocalyptic mindset. Christians believe that the world will get worse and worse less and less godly until jesus comes again. I read that as saying no matter how much energy we conserve, how much we recycle how much we fight injustice etc., god has already decided we will fail, the effort is hopeless, doomed. What a depressing religion to live! People within the fantasy will not 'see' those contradictions but the incongruity will gnaw at them constantly. How about the idea that I must do god's will only not my own, for me that meant I should have no hopes or dreams that were not given directly by god, not confirmed by the witness of the holy spirit to me or others. Including my choice of husband, having children, where to go on holiday and which country to live in. If god did not guide me, move me on as in the pillar of fire and smoke in the desert did with the children of Israel then I was not to moved. Needless to say my life stalled and my mind with it.

The positive side of christianity, in a healthy church community, is the sense of purpose people perceive in doing god's work and the support of a like minded community. The security and validation which stems from living in that bubble is significant, as I say in a healthy community! The positive influence of prayer in the lives of believers is scientifically proven and so is the actual ineffectiveness of prayer. It is a great study to read up on. A hospital was chosen and certain people there were prayed for. Some knew they were being prayed for some didn't and some were not prayed for. The group who knew they were being prayed for had the worst outcome. Hehe love that!

My personal experience of 35 years of devotion is that 'community worship' was extremely cathartic for me. It was a full hour of dancing singing writing and reading god's word in a very unstructured way. The church I was at is not typical of every church mind you. The lighting was low people were aware of others in distress and would come over and hug and support someone who appeared in need of it. I personally was freeer in the expression of worship than most people and I would cry, write and dance as my intuition, then regarded as the holy spirit led me. In those times I would sit very quietly and listen to 'the voice of god' now seen as my own inner/subconscious wisdom and find answers and guidance, support and peace. The words of the bible could be read as support, censure, validation or condemnation depending on how I was feeling about myself at the time and, I believe, on what my psyche needed. My daily prayer time was a similar experience but quieter. I would write sing listen and resolve issues for myself each day. Now science has proven that meditation contributed to good mental health and physical health for that matter. If everyone put that amount of time and dedication into getting in touch with their own inner centre and listening to their own sources of conflict, their own answers to problems I believe anyone would be healthier for that. Unresolved issues build up and cloud our judgment and eat away at our insides. Times of reflection help to prevent that backlog from becoming damaging. Now that I have discovered more about hypnotherapy I believe that prayer and that kind of worship is essentially self hypnosis a quieting of the chattering mind which allows the subconscious or perhaps suppressed emotion and thought to be heard and resolved.

I have really gone on and on here I hope that this reply will enlighten some aetheists about some kinds of christians some and be of use to you Anne.




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