Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A destructive lifestyle choice

In "Atheism Kills" Walter Russell Mead notes that it is apparently not just atheist regimes that result in great loss of life. Atheism isn't all that good for atheists themselves — or for society:
If atheism were a commercial product like Happy Meals or cigarettes, there would be calls to ban it or at least tax it to the gills in the hopes both of discouraging it and offsetting its costs. We would see calls to ensure that films and books aimed at young audiences didn’t glorify and glamorize this destructive lifestyle choice. And surely if we are going to ban candy and soda pop from elementary schools across America we should make certain that the noxious poison of atheism doesn’t pollute vulnerable young minds.
The survey that inspired these observations:
This is simply a study that shows that the more religious you are, the more likely it is that you will have good habits that prolong life and promote health. Very religious people (as defined by Gallup) smoke less, eat more vegetables and exercise more than non-religious people do. Gallup makes no attempt to correlate these findings with life expectancy, productivity on the job or lifetime earnings, but it seems likely if the poll is correct that atheism costs the United States hundreds of billions of dollars every year in health care costs, absenteeism on the job and other costs. (On the other hand, like smoking, it saves us tens of billions of dollars when people die early instead of collecting social security for decades — but this is not the way most of us hope to solve the country’s pension funding problems.)

Given other studies showing that very religious people report greater life satisfaction, are less liable to depression, and seem generally more at home with themselves and the people around them, it’s becoming more and more clear that atheism doesn’t just make many atheists more likely to be unhappy, lonely and poor. It also costs the rest of us money. ....
Mead's not really serious blog entry elicited outraged comments from some who prefer to believe religion is the source of all evil.

Atheism Kills: Gallup Poll Reveals | Via Meadia


  1. There's another way to read this, though. It's that religion offers an evolutionary advantage in that it helps people face life in ways that are relatively productive and healthy (on average, of course).

    But this says nothing about its truth value. In fact it actually says that there's some bias here. If religion is actually false, humans have an incentive not to judge it false impartially. In other words, we have a jury tampering problem going on here!

  2. "But this says nothing about its truth value." Right, a religion is true or false regardless of its benefit.

    But Mead's main point has nothing to do with the truth claims of any religion, only with the possible benefits. And not even that, really. He is ridiculing certain liberal impulses.

  3. True but one question atheists contend with is if religion is false then why has it stuck around for so long? This study actually, then, works to their advantage. Why has it stuck around? Because it's easier not to get depressed, to go to work, and avoid becoming a slob or glutton or addict if you believe in an afterlife.

  4. The opposing argument would be one similar to one C.S. Lewis often made: that the need for something may well be an indication that it exists.

    But Mead wasn't trying to do an apologetic here.


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