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Atheist = Depressed?

It seems to me that a relevant number of people i this community are depressed and/or suicidal. It seems the percentage over the total exceeds the average overall population. Do you think it’s true? If -like myself- you also believe it to be true, do you think lack of religion or spiritual fulfillment leads to higher chance of depression? Do you think lack of belief in a higher being leads to depression or the other way around?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Lucignolo 6 Oct 22
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104 comments

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0

I have no idea.

I am not, and never have been, clinically depressed.

I am rarely unhappy and enjoy my life. On days I experience what I consider to be negative emotions, I talk myself out of them. I focus on the positives and look forwards not backwards. It works for me.

I have always been an atheist, so cannot compare if I would have done things different if I had ever been a believer and I haven't searched to see if there is any research to compare mental health with religiosity, except that the more secular the country, the greater their societal health. The happiest nations are mostly the scandinavian countries where religiosity is lowest.

12

I've lived in & out of religion, & I'd say atheists are more open & sharing about negative feelings, while religious people live in denial of their doubts & feelings most of the time.

that's true, they live in their plastic fantasy world where everything is perfect even though it is not.

9

Correlation doesn't equal causation. Instead of agnostics being more depressed, maybe people who join social websites that are off the beaten path are more depressed than average. Maybe these smaller social websites are where people who typically frequent the mainstream social websites feel comfortable expressing depression/suicidal thoughts, because it's a much smaller level broadcast, and it's effectively anonymous (This one rings true to me, and is my best guess). In general though, I think you partly underestimate the prevalence of depression and suicidality across the population. In christian circles, they are reaching out to their pastors, youth directors, or friends... or, just as likely, suffering in silence because of the shame and lack of acceptance of the concept of depression and suicide in the face of the "good word." Here, there is no religious stigma against these statements, so people feel more free to express them. That's a good thing.

Lots of valid points. I appreciate your crisp perspective. Thanks

8

Religion has zero to do with it. Some deeper thinkers may get more depressed about the world condition. I didn't research it and I'm not sure there are numbers on it but I doubt that the number here is different than the norm--people here just express their feelings probably more than closet suicidal types.

lerlo Level 8 Oct 23, 2018

@lerlo True, I've always believed that behind every misanthrope is a embittered idealist.

7

Hahaha! Exact opposite! My religious friends are uptight, touchy and severely depressed! It's living with selfishness that does it, I think.

6

Theres a lot of anxiety and loneliness when it comes to being and atheist in a largely religious society that is trying to constantly gaslight you into thinking your either a lost soul or evil.

6

As a health care professional, I have no clue what you’re referring to. Anyone can create a false reality and become dependent upon that for support. Once that is removed, there’s a vacuum. A lot of people are not brought up in fantasy land to begin with. I left the church by myself as a child as it just isn’t logical. I find fulfillment in friends, family and my community. Mental health issues span every sex, race, color, creed, nationality and religion... because of these variables it would be difficult to pin point atheism as a reason for suicide even if that was the case.
There are no studies to back up your assumptions and I wonder why you are concerned with this issue.

6

Firstly, I would say "prove it lol", but then assuming it is correct then that correlation does not equal causation. An alternative way could possibly be that depressed/suicidal people prefer to chat to internet strangers regardless of belief system.

good point

6

IF there is a relationship, I would bet it's not the religious ideas, per se, but rather the sense of community often found in churches. Except for something like this site, there are really few equivalents (if any?) in the nonbelievers' world. There is plenty of evidence that for a lot of people social connectedness does help to reduce depression.

Maybe it will come with time, nature fills a vacuum and as religion fades...

That's very true my dear

5

I have read that religious people have been reported to live longer and to show fewer signs of stress than non-religious people. Investigations into the claim have shown that this phenomdnon appears to be true except that the effects are as true for those who attend some service regularly even if they don't believe in the religion. Humans are social creatures and the effects of being social, congregating with others, and having physical contact with other humans goes a long way in reducing stress and bolstering healfh, and apparsntly extending life. If non-believers are more depressed (which I don't necessarily accept out of hand) the reason could be that as a community of nonbelievers, we have fewer opporunities to have contact with other humans and have fewer opportunities to have the benefits of rubbing shoulders with our fellow nonbelievers.

4

Part of what leads atheists to be more susceptible to depression is the relative lack of community. I don't find the prospect of my eventual death to be particularly depressing. I simply accept it as a reality. My sense of depression stems from the lack of community and depth of familiarity with those I considered my friends before I came out as an atheist. (I've been an atheist all my life; just not "out" until relatively recently.) While I have a few atheist friends, none of them really qualify as close, since we only have our atheism in common. And FSM knows that most atheists would rather burn in a pot of boiling spaghetti sauce than be seen as conforming to any group dynamic, such as, for example, a political party for atheists. Being seen as a curmudgeonly individualist is more important than fostering friendships to many of us. Being a pathetically social beast, I get depressed over that reality.

4

I don’t believe disbelief equals depression. I just think we are more realistic and life can be shorty sometimes. We can’t blame the shorty times on God’s plan. So we probably feel things more. Just a thought.

Shitty....not shorty

4

I have read recently that the smarter you are, the more likely you are to be depressed. I haven’t ever heard of any studies done but I would suppose that the smarter you are the more likely you are to be atheist. No proving which are the causes and which are the effects but I could make my own predictions. Being an atheist forces you to look at the world the way it truly is. We also suffer from a lack of psychotic zeal which means we are also not usually the ones in power. So we watch hopelessly from the sidelines.

I agree I can remember the study, but realist are more likely to suffer from depression. It seems that seeing things through rose-colored glasses is helpful for mental health.

Also there is a link between despression and anxiety and high IQ. The more you can think, the more likely you are to overthink about the bad things happening in the world. Some people can wipe that kind of thinking away and say it is not useful. Some cannot. See below :

[scientificamerican.com]

4

Many people use their church as a social club, and the lack of sociality tends to isolate Atheists. That's actually one of the reasons that I'm here.

4

I've seen some pretty desperate posts on here lately! Could be the change in the weather.

4

This community doesn't represent all atheists. I know people who can't be bothered with social networking sites.

Speaking as an atheist who has been diagnosed with clinical depression, I can list quite a few reasons for my depression, and being an atheist is not one of them.

I hear you. Do you think you have equally effective coping mechanisms as religious people to deal with your depression? Do you think faith would help or it would make things worse? How about lack of belief?

@Lucignolo I was ready to post a long response, and lost it. I'll try to get back to this.

4

I would think we would be less suicidal since we know there is no where to go.

That sounds simplistic, but I understand what you're saying.

nowhere to go? wouldn't that make it easier? at least we wouldn't have to worry about going to hell.

4

I don't personally feel my lack of belief in something after death makes me more depressed, but I do feel that being part of a disfavored minority can be isolating and have a negative impact.

Great point! Are we the new gays?

@Lucignolo No. Gays are still "the gays". 🙂

4

I think it has to do with the isolation from and rejection of those you love. Feeling as though I am disappointing them by not following the family religious traditions and expectations is a bit depression inducing. In their minds I am dying and going to hell, so it is difficult knowing that I am burdening them with those thoughts. Also in the area which I live, there are very few unclosetted atheists, so that also contributes to the isolation.

I’m sorry to hear you are surrounded by ignorance. It simply adds merit to your intellectual courage, your journey and your achievements

4

Depression to varying degrees, feelings of inadequacy, isolation, loneliness, disconnection from meaningful life, and even feelings of despair, are a characteristic of modern life. The reasons are complex, and explanations differ. But these feelings cut across all groups, religious and non religious alike. It's important to avoid the stereotypical thinking that somehow the religious are 'fulfilled' and happy because their deity or savour or cosmic duck 'loves' them. Newly minted weepy-eyed 'Jesus loves me' Jesus freaks aside, for their Jesus-self medicated 'joy' is temporary at best, they aren't. We are all in the same boat.

Yeah. A lot of truth in your words. Thanks for sharing.

4

I would think it's just the opposite. I'm happy knowing that this is it baby. Make it a great life.

Good for you!! ?

4

I am borderline depressed, but I am quite sure it has nothing to do with my atheism. I would find the idea of an interminable (they use the word 'eternal' which sounds nicer) Christian heaven very depressing indeed.

lol

4

Highly dependent on the individual , their pre- morbid personality type , and their life circumstances .Not believing is not going to result in depression...unless the fear of not believing is creating anxiety or fear ..which may in itself lead to depressive symptoms .

4

Correlation not causation for the most part. Same reason studies show pot smokers are depressed. We arent depressed because we smoke weed. We smoke weed cause we're depressed. Higher intelligence also correlates strongly with depression, as does poverty and several other major factors Im sure. Without belief we just have one less placebo at our disposal to help us feel better, but I don't think Im any more depressed than I was when I was a believer.

In fact, placebos have been shown effective even if you're aware of the placebo. So any one of us could test this with an occasional "thank you lord" etc. I think adopting certain rituals like a spirit of gratitude are bound to help, whether you believe youre actually talking to someone in prayer or just meditating unto yourself or the universe. We could all feasibly get the same benefits religion provides to mental health if we were more conscious about making some ritual habits.

"Higher intelligence also correlates strongly with depression"... Been combing through this thread looking for this. TY

4
3

I'd put a case for saying that 'depression' leads to anomie, and anomie makes room for a kind of passionless atheism, or apathetic atheism. Why such a preponderance of 'depression'? Well, in our society, so many people haven't learned to make do with (more or less) what they have. Most people feel under pressure to 'make more of themselves' - not just have a job and a modest career, but to be successful beyond their wildest ability. Ambition therefore succeeds ability. This leads to frustration and a sense of failure. And God isn't helping, either - where the hell is He in the scheme of things? There was a time when most people were happy with following in their father's footsteps; we are no longer supposed to be content with that; such 'apathy' is regarded by our society as lack of will, spirit, enterprise, and 'purpose'. So, we feel purposeless. - I'm not really talking about clinical depression, in this context. But, our too-high expectations of ourselves carry into our relationships - we expect too much of marriage, maybe even too much of friendship. If disappointed, we become 'failures' and 'depressed'. And again God remains mute. The priesthood seem preoccupied with its institutions, or celebacy, or finances, or whatever. They keep quoting Bible passages because they've lost their capacity of original, creative thinking. This adds to the anomie - we have a kind of spiritual anomie - unless of course you join a happy-clappy evangelical outfit and adopt their hyperactive awaiting of a Second Coming. - It's a vicious cycle: our depression leads to cultural anomie, and the anomie leads to aimless business.

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