Atheism, Health, and Well-Being

Karen Hwang

in The Oxford Handbook of Atheism

Published in print November 2013 | ISBN: 9780199644650
Published online October 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Atheism, Health, and Well-Being

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  • Religion
  • Alternative Belief Systems
  • Religion and Science
  • Sociology of Religion


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The last few years have seen a great deal of research on the association between religion, spirituality, and medical outcomes. This research has not been without controversy however, in terms of methodological and analytical issues. One particular under-researched area concerns the increasingly visible sub-population of individuals who identify themselves as ‘nonreligious’, a group that includes atheists, agnostics and individuals who believe in god(s) but do not identify with one particular religion. As a result, relatively little is known about the health and quality of life within this particular group, not only in comparison to religious individuals, but also within nonreligious populations as well. This essay covers three major issues: (1) a brief summary of the controversies concerning religion-health research; (2) what the current research does indicate about the nonreligious, particularly about affirmative atheists (as opposed to simply ‘nonreligious’); and (3) reasons for the neglect of nonreligious individuals to date and reasons for increasing attention to them.

Keywords: religion; spirituality; medical outcomes; religion-health research; under-researched; nonreligious; affirmative atheists; well-being; health

Article.  5818 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Alternative Belief Systems ; Religion and Science ; Sociology of Religion

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