Sunday, December 5, 2010

Angry Atheists Revisited

A while ago I posted a few thoughts on the oft leveled accusation that atheists are angry trying to make the point that our perceived anger is a result of the way we are treated.

Recently a study was published that indicates I was correct about the fact that perceptions of anger in atheists are a direct result of their social ostracism.  The study indicated that atheists don't suffer any more emotional disturbance than other people when they are accepted socially.  Here is a link to a brief article describing the study in a more digestible form on one of my favorite websites "Epiphenom".  If you haven't visited Epiphenom, you really should.  Bookmark it while you are there.  It is one of the most informative sites on the web.

The Epiphenom article contained a link to an article concerning a study about the relationship between religion and happiness.  That study showed that there was not a direct correlation between the two as is often assumed.  Rather, the correlation varied with the certainty with which the person viewed his or her beliefs.  The same was true even if that "belief" system was atheism. 

Here is a quotation from the abstract of the article:

"A curvilinear relationship was found such that those with higher belief certainty (both confidently religious and atheists) have greater well-being relative to those with low certainty (unsure and agnostics). Multiple regressions controlling for social and demographic variables reduced, but did not eliminate this curvilinear relationship. Mechanisms of well-being may involve a confident worldview rather than religious beliefs themselves."

These studies taken together confirm something that I have maintained for a long time:  What people need isn't religion; they need social acceptance, social structure, and a confident worldview.

The studies also indicate that religion isn't necessary to provide these things.  One often hears or reads of debates concerning what might replace religion in this regard.  Many atheists offer science as a substitute.  Those who argue against this point out that science is unable to answer the big questions in life.

I think a slightly different system should be offered:  The philosophy of science.  That philosophy provides confidence and reassurance regarding even those questions that science cannot currently answer--and may never answer.  What matters is that sense of confidence because it gives us the sense of control for which we feel an emotional need.  The religious use their beliefs to quiet their unease over their sense of not being in control but those beliefs are delusions and come at a steep price--the loss of an accurate worldview.

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