Although the exact number is hard to pin down, an estimated 13% of the world identifies as atheist. While believing or not believing in a God is a complex personal choice, there is a growing body of evidence that points to certain benefits of being an atheist. Being a theist has its own great advantages, but here are some of the reasons being an atheist could be beneficial (not necessarily in order of importance):
Scandinavian countries tend to be the least religious countries of the Western world and yet are consistently ranked the highest in the polls that measure a happiness index. Many factors go into such ratings, like economics, life expectancy, healthcare, social safety nets, and the transparency of the government, but it’s hard not to notice a potential correlation between atheism and happiness.
Atheists tend to have higher IQs and have been shown to generally be more intelligent than religious people. Intelligent people also tend to spend more time in school, which in turn leads to greater success professionally.
3. BETTER JOBS
This follows from the previous reason – more intelligent people tend to do better in the workplace. The same studies that have shown higher level of IQs for atheists, also equated that with getting higher-level jobs and higher pay.
4. SELF-ESTEEM & SELF-RELIANCE
These are two sides of the same coin. Atheists are not being told that they are guilty and sinful, as is the case with many religious teachings. This leads to higher self-esteem and a feeling of control over life’s events. As atheists do not expect a deity to help them solve a problem, they will address it personally and directly. The increased self-reliance can have a positive effect on their own lives, but also on the lives of others. When there’s no wheel of life, reincarnation, heaven or hell, the responsibility for made choices lies with individuals.
Atheists tend to value scientific discovery more and are less likely to stand in the way of scientific progress as has often happened for religious reasons. An atheistic society is more rational and science-oriented.
Atheists believe in science and would not stand in the way of medical treatments on religious grounds. While there have been studies that showed the mental and physical health benefits of being a believer, there have also been recent studies that showed no significant difference in the mental health of religious and non-religious people. In fact, it can be argued that having strong self-esteem and better economic status would make atheists more healthy.
Atheists do not start wars or commit acts of terrorism for religious reasons, just to prove their deity is the correct one. On the other hand, Marxist-Leninist atheism at the core of communism has certainly given atheism a bad name, but it’s not necessarily an argument that it was atheism itself that led to the repressions and killings. There were complex historical, social and economic reasons for that. Atheists tend to not kill others for the sake of atheism.
Atheists are generally skeptical and tend to look at issues from a rational, often scientific standpoint that demands proof. For an atheist, elements of reality are observable and can be tested.
9. SOCIAL ISSUES
Atheists tend to be very involved in social justice issues. They do not believe in some higher power or order that could have pre-ordained a human’s lot in life. Everything is of this material universe and can be improved upon.
10. BETTER SEX
It wouldn’t be a worthwhile list if it didn’t talk about sex. There have been studies that showed atheists having better sex lives than religious people simply due to not feeling guilty about it. Guilt about sex is certainly a strong feature of some of the world’s religions and the political discourses they generate (particularly in the US). There are also studies out that show a greater satisfaction with sex among the believers, but as it’s also not something they should really focus on and discuss (according to religious tenets), it’s hard to know where their responses are coming from.
Do these reasons mean you should abandon your faith? You make the call. But being an atheist needs not carry any negative stigma in a world still dominated by believers. Professor of psychology Benjamin Beit-Hallahmiprofiled a likely atheist to be this person – “We can say that atheists show themselves to be less authoritarian and suggestible, less dogmatic, less prejudiced, more tolerant of others, law-abiding, compassionate, conscientious, and well-educated. They are of high intelligence, and many are committed to the intellectual and scholarly life.” That sounds like a pretty good person.
Michael Shermer of Sceptic Magazine explains how nonbelievers will eventually become the norm around the world.
There is evidence of the growing number of nonbelievers in the United States. According to research by the PEW Research Center,
“the religiously unaffiliated population – including all of its constituent subgroups – has grown rapidly as a share of the overall U.S. population. The share of self-identified atheists has nearly doubled in size since 2007, from 1.6% to 3.1%. Agnostics have grown from 2.4% to 4.0%. And those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular” have swelled from 12.1% to 15.8% of the adult population since 2007. Overall, the religious “nones” have grown from 16.1% to 22.8% of the population in the past seven years.”