Friday, March 06, 2009

Religion and Anxiety ... Another Theory

The more conservative and religious you are, the more likely you are to subscribe to online pornography.

There's a pretty straightforward bar graph there that demonstrates the results of the survey, putting Utah at the very top of the list for per capita online porn consumption.

This leads me back to yesterday's announcement of a study that indicated religious people are less anxious when they undergo stress testing. The theory is that religion provides a certainty about life that reduces your stress levels.

I have another theory.

Of course they're more relaxed! They just finished masturbating.

It all comes together.

h/t Galloping Beaver

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Religion Prevents Anxiety?

I suppose that might be a comfort to a religious person, that his beliefs make him calmer. It would be hard to explain, I suppose, if religious people were more agitated. Why does your god want you be so frazzled all the time? I'm sure they would have an excuse.

The headlines are a bit over the top:
Religious brains more calm in face of anxiety: study
Religion protects against stress, study suggests
Believers stay calmer than atheists in trying situations, study suggests

That last one comes closest to the truth, in terms of headlines. From the conclusion of the actual study, which you can find here.
Our results indicate that religious conviction is associated with reduced neural responsivity to uncertainty and error on a generic decision-making task.

So, yes, religious people are less anxious. I don't know how far to take the significance of the results when the sample size is 28 people and only four are "non-religious", but I'll point this much out anyway: the anxiety they're measuring is the anxiety experienced after making a mistake.

Yes, you read that right. The primary and most significant conclusion of the study is that atheists and other non-believers experience a sharper pang of anxiety or stress in the milliseconds following an error.

Frankly, I find that disturbing but not surprising. It means that religious people make mistakes and don't seem to care about it as much. If you've ever studied any history, you certainly won't find it hard to believe that religious people gloss over their mistakes more easily than others.

Maybe it just takes practice. After all, if you can read all four Christian gospels with their accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ without feeling anxiety about all of the direct contradictions, I suppose you just build up an immunity to facts or something.

I'll take my anxiety over their certainty any day of the week - even Sunday

Update: A more thorough analysis The Neurocritic: Atheists Are Neurotic and Religious Zealots Are Antisocial

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Sigh and Grimace: 111

You can make a milestone out of anything, I suppose. It's only an accident of our numbering system that makes the year 2000 significant, the Unix time 1234567890 what it is, or the milestones of thousands or hundreds of deaths in war.

Warrant Officer Dennis Brown, Corporal Chad O'Quinn, and Corporal Dany-Olivier Fortin have the undeserved mark of bringing Canada's toll of blood to one hundred eleven. 111. If we were speaking in binary, it would only be seven.

War is a sad and stupid thing. If we can spend so much blood and money to bring people half way around the world to kill each other, why can't we spend a fraction of that to be at peace?

Even Stephen Harper, our intrepid Prime Minister, has admitted that we can't beat the Taliban by killing them. Not only are they entrenched and invisible amongst the populace, they also get recruits every time anyone from NATO kills the wrong guy. The level of precision required to kill more Taliban than are created is simply impossible.

But, in her grief, in her ardent desire to believe that the fighting, killing and dying - especially the dying - has not been in vain, the widow of one of the deceased wants us to go on. Even acknowledging that we can't beat the Taliban, she would have us go on anyway rather than give up.

I don't want to criticize a woman who has so recently been handed the news of a loved one's death. There's no need. It's what she says further on that gets to me.
Ms. Brown said she understands there are those who don't support the mission. “But you can support what they're doing. They're trying and they're working hard,” she told reporters in St. Catharines, Ont.

I know they're working hard. I've never been to war, never held a gun against someone come to kill me. But I know enough to know it isn't easy.

And no, as nasty as it sounds, I can't support what they're doing. They're following orders and I can hardly hold that against them. They've been told, and believe on reasonable grounds, that they're on a moral mission.

They've been misled, which I do not hold against them, but rather against two dishonest governments who have put them there, misleading both us and them.

Do I support the troops? Of course I do. I support them by demanding their withdrawal from a mission which is worth neither their noble service nor their blood. I support them by demanding that they be brought home.

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