Sunday, March 15, 2009

Atheists, gays, and depression: I finally got around to seeing the movie Milk. One theme that emerged is that many homosexuals are suicidal. Mr. Milk said that most of his lovers had thoughts of killing themselves because of how society rejects gay men.

Reader Jason Malloy suggested in the comments section of previous post that atheists might be more depressed than believers. I'm a relatively happy person, but my dreariest times were certainly the years when I was an atheist. Anyway, let's tackle the depression issue for both of these groups at the same time.

GSS respondents were asked how much they felt down and blue in the past month. Answers ranged from "all of the time" (=1) to "none of the time" (=6) so the higher the score, the more depression-free the person.

Mean lack of depression score

Straight men 5.04
Gay men 4.86

Doesn't believe in God 4.91
No way of knowing 4.86
Some higher power 4.92
Believes sometimes 4.54
Believes but has doubts 4.95
Knows there is a God 4.90

Gay men do suffer from more depression than straights, although the two-tenths of a standard deviation difference is not large. Milk probably exaggerated the problem, although there was more homophobia in the 70s than in 2000 when these survey questions were asked.

Belief, on the other hand, seems to be unrelated to depression. The only group reporting greater sadness is "believes sometimes." We saw in the last post that atheists suffer less from mental health problems overall; it is probably the case, as readers have suggested, that it takes a strong mind to be an atheist, so there might be few non-believing psychotics. Some of those folks even think they are God, right?


Anonymous said...

Don't you think the movie should've been titled (Ass)Milk?

Anonymous said...

"Milk probably exaggerated the problem..."

Of course homos exaggerated that(as well as all kinds of other stuff) sort of thing. They are overly emotional and drama queens.

Anonymous said...

If someone is truly an atheist, and believes in no afterlife; then the prospect of ageing really is a painful consideration. I mean for a atheistic hedonist who lives for sensual pleasures for instance......what is left in life after 50 or so? Youre just an ageing ape then.

Religion may be the opiate of the masses, but telling people that they will have "incorruptible spiritual" bodies and live forever at some great feast where lions and lambs are tame and all that jazz is such a good hook, that its easy to see why it still sells like hotcakes even today. An athiest has dinosaur bones and the possibility of planets so many light years away that we will never be able to physically get to them to sell you. One certainly trumps the other. Nobody wants to die.

Jason said...

How dreary and pointless life must be for those who believe it's only heaven's waiting room. A mere eyeblink full of caustic grit preceding an eternity of bliss. No wonder there's a prohibition against suicide in most religions. The temptation to promote one's self to a higher state of being would be inescapably strong without it.

As for this atheist, I had a bone-in filet the other night, and it was not salted with my own tears. I did not dread the end of that transitory experience. Indeed, its very impermanence is what lends it flavor. Even meat so tender it flakes at the touch of a butter knife would become tiresome if I were forced to eat it for every meal.

Oddly enough, none of the believers I was with cried over their meals either. When it comes right down to it, they live as much by Ecclesiastes 9:10 as I do.

Anonymous said...

Jason, you wrote:

"I had a bone-in filet the other night, and it was not salted with my own tears."

So I presume you mean that you didn't cry while you were getting boned in the ass?

"I did not dread the end of that transitory experience."

So I presume you mean that you like assmilk? The end of that transitory experience being assmilk.

Jokah Macpherson said...

"I'm a relatively happy person, but my dreariest times were certainly the years when I was an atheist."

Ron's a fair-weather believer.

Anonymous said...

"I'm a relatively happy person, but my dreariest times were certainly the years when I was an atheist."

Correlation is not causation.

If I recall correctly, Ron abstained from gay butt sex when he was an atheist. This seems much more likely to be a causal factor. After all, Ron does have a powerful thirst for warm, frothy assmilk that's been violently expelled from a man's gaping butthole. Cumfarts, anyone?

Jason said...

Ah, I see we have a Catholic priest in the audience.

Chuck said...

I'm an atheist instead of a believer. I've found that I get depressed more when I think on things. Atheists tend to think more than believers, therefore they have higher levels of depression. That's my simple hypothesis.

John said...

"Anonymous" wrote:

"... gay butt sex ... frothy assmilk ... gaping butthole ... cumfarts."

Anyting in the GSS about the demographics of Tourettes?

Anonymous said...

Jason and John,

As I'm sure Ron would agree, "once a philosopher, twice a sodomite."

Anonymous said...

Hedonism is damaging to inner human dignity and the capacity for love (i.e. the capacity to accept strangers despite differences).

The world is a mirror for the soul. People who actively construct a lifestyle around the rejection of love find themselves unloved and unaccepted.

As for aging and death. People who wed themselves to the Abyss fear the Abyss because they know it is waiting for them.