Religion linked to reduced levels of stress hormones in young Ameri...

In 2015 Philly's HumanLight celebration fizzled out. There was never enough singing and emotional support, always too much lecturing. I'm not surprised.

Atheists' fear of music, and joy, of touch and ritual hold us back. Attending Christian (I assume) churches seems to reduce cortisol over the long term for African-Americans. We can't compete.

Compared with Whites, Black Americans have  high levels of an important stress hormone called cortisol circulating in their bloodstream.

Blacks in the USA are also more likely to be religious than Whites. Shervin Assari, at the University of Michigan, and colleagues, wondered if this might affect their cortisol levels.

They examined 200 black participants in the Flint Adolescent study. This was a 18-year study following Black, White, or bi-racial youth who were at high risk for substance use and school dropout.

In 1994, when they were about 15 years old, they were asked about their religious activities (how often they went to Church, etc). Then, six years later, the amount of cortisol in their saliva was measured.

On average, being involved in religious activities when young was associated with a major reduction in stress levels in later life. Religion was far more important than the other factors they looked at, such parental employment and whether the parents were divorced.

I suspect African-American churches provide a refuge from harassment and source of validation that our too-white too-narrow Atheism lacks. If Atheist cohesion rested upon diversity and true affirmation of  everyone's worth, instead of being mainly anti-theistic, we'd meet our needs better. In our current form, we aren't even a refuge from sexism and racism, though Atheist Nexus comes closer to that than some other Atheist institutions.

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The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality of happiness, and by no means a necessity of life.
-- George Bernard Shaw

I don't think it matters whether you're talking about ethanol or cortisol, the basic premise remains the same.

This was an 18 year study that measured cortisol, not a poll of "How stressed do you feel?" or "How happy are you?". Facts are facts, even when they don't suit us. If you had a study showing that 18 years of "happiness of credulity" had positive physiological impact, then long term "happiness of credulity" counts as a treatment rather than a placebo.

Ruth, I don't give a ripe dump if it was a 100-year study.  It still amounts to a de-facto endorsement of subscription to fantasy as a means of being happy.  It justifies lying and being lied to, and the worst part of the whole thing is that such lying en masse can actually be successful.

But here's the real question: is it the belief that does the work or the community?  Further question: how about one person on his own, without a religious community.  How much cortisol does he generate?

It's worth trying to find just what helped those young people have lower stress hormone levels years later, and how to do similar good without the lies/fantasy/superstition. (I see a parallel to folk remedies being studied and helping to advance evidence-based medicine.)

There are various nontheistic "unchurch" communities such as Ethical Culture groups and Sunday Assemblies. There are also solitary practitioners of theistic religions such as Wicca.

And I'll echo Ruth, below: "Why can't Atheists validate one another without fantasy? Belonging isn't necessarily about following crowds or being a sheep."

It's not hard to understand how religious beliefs and belonging to a supportive community could lower stress significantly and facing the realities of existence could raise them. However, not facing realities prohibits developing a realistic philosophy to cope with those realities.

The African-American community has suffered so much and their churches have been one source of comfort. It will be a long time before that changes and that is understandable.

Ridding ourselves of religious myths is an essential step forward in human progress. Finding better ideas is the only long term hope, but it is a slow and cumbersome process. I think there is reason to hope because I see most people's beliefs as much weaker than in the past.

Jeremiah Camara might argue that point a bit, Allan.  His recent film, Contradiction: A Matter of Faith, documents how the church may have less served the African-American community than vice versa.  I was introduced to this film at the 38th Annual FFRF National Convention, and it left a powerful impression
No doubt church community is a powerful mechanism toward the reduction of individual stress, but it comes with a price tag attached, and the maintenance of irrational belief systems creates a price we all pay.

And there are surely many people here who could testify to the stress that a religious family/community has imposed on them because they found belief difficult or impossible.

So . . . we need to start having bake sales? It would seem that the type of person who tends not to follow the crowd in his/her thinking would also tend not to follow crowds to brick and mortar events. Receiving validation via a fantasy held in common might well be comforting, but given the choice I think I'll take stress.

Why can't Atheists validate one another without fantasy? Belonging isn't necessarily about following crowds or being a sheep.

If bake sales, participating with others turns one on, go for it. If one finds comfort with others, get the phone book out and call a few. If one likes to debate, find a worthy foe for combat. If one finds validation in doing for others, there are lots of things one can do. One male friend goes to the hospital baby ward and holds babies who are long-term babies and he just sits, rocks, hums and then goes home feeling better. 

Oh, I forgot to mention the English thespian who went to Juvenile Detention and told them stories that shivered their livers. The kids loved him and he was their best advocate when it came time for release. 

And then, there is the woman who wears a big heavy belt and walks several dogs at a time because she doesn't have anything else to do. She connects their leashes to her belt and I am not sure i she walks them or they walk her. 

I have another interesting friend who makes clay houses. He has been battling cancer and the only way he can get his mind off his misery is when designing and creating these treasures. It turns out he is able to sell them and suppliment his pension.  

I'll send a few photos and they will make you laugh. 

BB, I'll make some pumpkin bread - organic home grown pumpkin, and free range chicken eggs in the recipe! 

I can also make a yummy apple pie, with vanilla-cinnamon in the filling.

That'll get your cortisol down!




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