Tag Archives: america

American Religiosity and Wellbeing.

I was perusing the Gallup website the other day and wandered across a very interesting four part post about a survey they conducted which correlated levels of religiosity with levels of wellbeing. (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) In summary, people across all faiths have consistently higher scores for wellbeing in all areas tested when they are “very religious” and consistently lower scores when they are “nonreligious”.

It’s a little bit more complicated than just that though, because one of the faith categories was “No Religion/Atheist/Agnostic”. I think that just by being included as a category we atheists have unknowingly thrown a wrench in the works for anyone who would say this is proof that religion raises wellbeing.

Overall wellbeing was determined under six categories:

  • Life Evaluation
  • Emotional Health
  • Physical Health
  • Healthy Behavior
  • Work Environment
  • Basic Access
The three categories of religiosity were defined as such:
  • Very religious — Religion is an important part of daily life and church/synagogue/mosque attendance occurs at least every week or almost every week. This group constitutes 43.7% of the adult population.
  • Moderately religious — All others who do not fall into the very religious or nonreligious groups but who gave valid responses on both religion questions. This group constitutes 26.6% of the adult population.
  • Nonreligious — Religion is not an important part of daily life and church/synagogue/mosque attendance occurs seldom or never. This group constitutes 29.7% of the adult population.
(More on their methodology here)
First of all, to the 30% of people who identify themselves under faith but already have nothing to do with it, let me just invite you on over to the dark side.  Critical thinking and reason and evidence are a great way to determine your world view and personal morality. And we have a lot less rules and a lot more fun. Give us a chance, we’ll show you a good time. It’s like the old saying goes: ain’t no party like a party without omnipresent thought police threatening you with eternal torture. But I digress.

As might be expected the atheists fall at the bottom of the religiosity list. What first confused me was why we appear on it at all. Clearly someone who identifies themselves as atheist would by definition be 100% nonreligious, right? Well I was forgetting, as I tend to do, that not everyone is exactly like me. In fact there are about 6.5 billion people out there and all of them are different from me.

There is certainly a subgroup of atheists, quite a few actually, who acknowledge their own lack of belief but continue to go to church for various reasons. Most notably would be that they are not out of the closet to their family, but I’m sure there are other reasons one might still attend religious services. They may just enjoy the people, or agnostics may try to glean the good bits they can from services, or maybe like me they just have a masochistic obsession with religion. But for whatever reason, there are very religious atheists who got polled, and they scored higher on overall wellbeing than nonreligious atheists. (ugh, my head hurts when I say that)

Now we’re seeming a little more legit as an option, but even though we come in third for overall wellbeing on this list, the nonbelievers who attend church services regularly clearly have a significant increase in wellbeing. That’s not the kind of wellbeing margin a rational mind would choose to ignore out of convenience. Of course I would love for nontheists to top every list, I’m sporting a chubby just thinking about it. But we aren’t, so now it’s our responsibility to figure out why and to fix it.

Now as far as I can see, the argument that belief in religion leads to better wellbeing (as far as this study is concerned) can be dismissed because the wellbeing benefit of religious attendance is shared by those who lack similar belief, or outright oppose faith altogether. So if the belief isn’t the key to wellbeing, then it must be a social aspect. There must be some part of human kind that fundamentally needs community and acceptance and a group to belong to. I think that’s the thing atheism is lacking right now. We need a stronger community.

So many of the atheists I have met, including myself, are headstrong individualists. We prefer to stand on the outside, to define morality and fashion and cultural norms on our own without anyone else’s input, thank you very much. But the very thing that makes an atheist strong when atheism doesn’t exist as a movement (the ability to be fulfilled leaving a group and standing alone) could be the worst thing for an atheist movement that is taking it’s first steps. I think we should be pushing for greater group involvement.

I’m not saying make atheist churches, that’s not at all something I would enjoy. Screw the format, it’s not an appealing one. But maybe we should recognize that religion has us beat in one major area, and then steal their success right out from underneath them by doing it better. Because I know you guys. I know what nonbelievers are like, what we’re good at, and we are fucking fun. I’ve never experienced any of the Lord’s faithful who could hold a candle to the kind of no-reservations, let it all hang out kind of atmosphere we heathens embrace all day every day. Look at the gay rights movement and what do you think of? Flamboyant style, outrageous public parades, scandalous club scenes. We could do all of that so damn well. Basically, in order to save the world from god, we’re going to have to party like hell, and we have to invite people to that party. If a social connection is something that religion does well, then we need to start connecting socially more often, and do it better when we do get together.

And now for some good news.

Overall we’re ranked number two baby! That’s for the overall wellbeing index score for each religious grouping. So clearly the Jesus bump (as I have affectionately nicknamed it) doesn’t really bring everything into factor, it merely reflects one aspect of overall wellbeing. I take extra pleasure in pointing out that protestants are losing to both mormons and muslims.

Second is quite good considering atheism as a movement is in it’s infancy, giving our counterparts in many cases a head start of several thousand years. In addition, I think we deserve a little pat on the back for holding our spot near the front of the pack despite the fact that we are persistently one of the most hated groups in America, which would almost certainly negatively affect our scores in emotional health and work environment, and arguably all our scores through less tangible prejudice.

Overall I would say this poll should give atheists a positive outlook on the present and our future, but also a new challenge in improving our own culture through self examination. Arguments, additional points, and tangents are encouraged in the comments. The internet is a forum, not a pulpit.

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More Like the Blowlympics

So my woman decided to write a post about how hating the Olympics doesn’t mean you aren’t patriotic, and since I haven’t felt very inspired to write anything for a few years or so, I figured I’d like to get in on that. Despite the fact that Torontonians apparently feel not supporting the Olympics is unpatriotic, I don’t know anyone around here who likes them. True, most of my friends are alcoholics, criminals, and white trash, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a legitimate representation of everyone in America. Let’s quickly review the basics shall we?

1) The Olympics are boring. Watching them is like watching reruns of CSPAN. I would rather do chores around the house wearing a suit of fiberglass insulation than watch the Olympics. I would rather listen to Rosanne and Fran Drescher argue about yesterday’s episode of the View than watch the Olympics.

2) Almost all Olympic sports, challenging as they may be, are not spectator sports. Everyone knows figure skating sucks. Ski jumping may be scary, but if you see one jump you’ve pretty much got the idea. If you’re a dick like me and you enjoy people wrecking badly, it almost never happens. (Too soon for a luger pun?) Even the relatively exciting sports of BMX or Karate are still way lamer than watching a non-Olympic version like the X-Games or the UFC.

3) What the hell is bandy? I realize I live in a warm climate and ice sports aren’t popular, but seriously? The same thing goes for basque pelota, korfball, and boules. I may be an ignorant American, but I would argue that sports shouldn’t even be considered for a world tournament unless they are popular in more than two countries. What’s next, life saving? Oh wait, that’s an Olympic sport too. Being a lifeguard is NOT a sport, I don’t care how many boobs were on Bay Watch.

So now that I have irrefutably proven that the Olympics generally blow, let’s move on to how that applies to me being patriotic. Let me first start by explaining that I’m not patriotic in the traditional sense of actually being loyal to my country. Here are just a few things I hate about America: everyone who runs it, guidos, Fox News, people who insist America is the best country in the world without knowing anything about the world, the fact that Top Gear is filmed somewhere else, and public service announcements. (Seriously, shut up Hollywood)

However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of great things that have come out of America that I enjoy taking credit for when talking to foreigners. So if you think I’m unpatriotic, well fuck you. Here’s a list of amazing shit I or someone related to me probably were responsible for.

Look at this guy!

Grizzly Adams: He tamed fucking bears. I can only assume he settled for grizzly bears in the absence of wild dragons. Also he owned one of the coolest coat-beard combos in the history of mankind.

Rock and Roll: While the debate over who technically invented rock and roll is one that will never be agreed upon, (see Beatles vs Elvis if you’re an idiot) the fact remains that America has contributed a lot to Rock and Roll over the years. And while lots of my favorite bands are not home grown, a whole lot of them are. Skynyrd, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Metallica, Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses, Disturbed, Green Day, Sublime, 311, Rage Against the Machine; the list goes on and on but I’m tired of copying crap from Wikipedia. The point is that without downplaying the contribution of the rest of the world, we’ve done some face melting rocking over the years.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship: I don’t give a flying crap where martial arts come from, the UFC is a great American institution. I was always bored with sports (like the Olympics) and never enjoyed playing or watching any until I experienced mixed martial arts in an octagon fence/cage. If you haven’t seen it and have a penis, please fix one or the other. That crap is the shit. Who doesn’t like insane men willingly (or unwillingly) jumping in a cage and beating the life blood out of each other? Pussies, that’s who, and pussies stink.

Suck it world.

Man on the Moon: Face it, it was a race, to the moon, and we won. I don’t care if the USSR cloned a dinosaur/minotaur beast and puts a damn army of them on the moon, we still got a man there first, and that’s damn cool. Next race, put a man on the sun. If any country can beat us there Niel Armstrong will look like Pauly Shore if he hadn’t made Biodome. (You know that shit was funny, don’t even lie. Unless you never smoked weed, and then it probably wasn’t funny, but that’s your own fault not his)

Porn: After a lengthy break from blogging I’m back to report the ol’ USA produces more porn than any other country on earth. (I didn’t happen across any provable facts during my break, so sue me) If Faith up there can’t give you a few great reasons why porn is awesome, then I sure as hell can’t explain it in a way you will understand. If that is the case think of it like physics, and then just understand I’m pretty much Einstein when it comes to this topic. (That’s why I’m on the internet instead of out there in real life somewhere.)

Anheuser-Bush: The number one seller of beer on the planet. Sure there are a lot of other companies and countries that make much better beer, but that doesn’t change a thing. They actually are the king of beers. For all you beer snobs out there, there’s a reason such watery swill is dominating the planet. Poor people like drinking too, and for the price they actually deliver a good quality beverage. Also a little known fact about Budweiser for all you Heineken fans out there: if you accidentally leave a Budweiser under your car seat in the middle of the dog days of summer for three days and it doesn’t explode from the heat, it tastes exactly like Heineken. It’s probably not safe to drink, but I did once and it was delicious once I got it chilled down.

As you can see America has a lot of great things I enjoy, unfortunately none of them are on the Olympics. While it is true that one great thing about our country is that everyone except the Tea Party people usually make room for other folks to enjoy things they don’t support, the fact remains that the Olympic Games are exactly like the state of the union address, no matter how important it’s supposed to be, it’s still not as good as the regularly scheduled programming. That’s what highlight reels are for.