Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Atheists?

I didn't want to end my mornings blogging on a negative note, so I thought I'd post a link to this Slate article that I really enjoyed. It deals with a study that seems to indicate that American Christians are nicer than American atheists. This didn't sound quite right to me, but fortunately the author doesn't stop there.

He refers to Phil Zuckerman's research that shows the most godless societies are safest and most progressive. The difference is the community. In a mostly irreligious community atheists are not the denigrated minority. This could explain the results of the US study.


Tim said...

On the other hand, Norenzayan and Shariff are at UBC, so their results (it was a review article, so not all the results reported therein are theirs) are about Canadians rather than Americans, technically, and Vancouver is, I would guess (having lived there), even less religious than Seattle, which is one of the least religious of American cities. Canada is less religious than the US, at any rate.

I don't think Dr Laura or American religious culture generally probably had much to do with Norenzayan's results. And I do think the explanation referring to reputation maintenance is pretty plausible.

Bloom may be right in ascribing the self-reported happiness differential to religious community and exclusion from that community, but I don't think those considerations have any bearing on what Norenzayan et al report. The link that Bloom makes between the Norenzayan paper and happiness is a pretty dubious. Mostly it consists of the following quote: "Since giving to charity makes one happy, Brooks speculates that this could be one reason why atheists are so miserable."

Norenzayan et al don't really say that "American Christians are nicer than American atheists," but to the extent that they do (which is not much), they may be right.

By the way, Norenzayan et al is the paper I sent you a few weeks ago via email.

Iron Soul said...

Tim, thanks for the comment. That will teach me be in a hurry to write a post.

Tim said...

I think I once made a comment on either yours or Lori's myspace blog that was in response to a point you made about happiness and christianity in which you referenced some study or other. I glanced at the study then made some dumb, thoughtless comment and was squashed by Jim. God save us all from hasty posting.

Herb said...

You wiener-touchers!

[posted with great haste]