Are Religious People More Depressed?
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For those of us who want to both help people leave religion and improve the public image of atheists, this understanding of why religion so often appeals to people is critical. Instead of being angry with religious people for believing, it’s useful to consider that the hope that religion offers might seem like a lifeline to people who are hurting badly, and ask if there’s anything atheists can do to offer similar kinds of hope.
Indeed, one major advantage atheists have on their side is that there’s no reason to believe that religion alone is actually helping people. After all, religious people have higher rates of depression, suggesting that while they may hope religion will make them feel better, it’s often not working.
Luckily, more atheists are beginning to take seriously the idea that atheist activists need to be talking more about mental health, and reaching out to people who have mental health issues and getting them the evidence-based help they need. Some atheists, like Greta Christina and JT Eberhard have opened up about their own struggles with mental illness. Instead of offering prayer and heaven as answers, they point their audiences to more proven methods for getting help, such as therapy and the use of medication under a doctor’s supervision. Indeed, atheists are uniquely able to speak to the issue of getting help for depression, because they can speak directly about the environmental and biological causes without getting bogged down in talking about spirituality.