With the help of a text analysis program, the researchers found that Christians tweet with higher frequency words reflecting positive emotions, social relationships and an intuitive style of thinking – the sort that’s gut-driven.
This isn’t to say that atheists don’t use these words, too, but they out-tweet Christians when it comes to analytic words and words associated with negative emotions.
Christians, they found, are more likely to use words like “love,” “happy” and “great”; “family,” “friend” and “team.”
Atheists win when it comes to using words like “bad,” “wrong,” and “awful” or “think,” “reason” and “question,” said Ryan Ritter, one of the students behind the study.
While not perfect – for example, this sort of word examination can’t account for sarcasm – word choices, Ritter and his colleagues argue, reflect something about a person’s mindset.
I would agree that it does reflect differences in mindset, but I would say that the biggest obstacle to interpretation isn’t sarcasm, but the researchers biases, which got heavily loaded into their conclusion.
The conclusion: When they are limited to 140 characters or less, these researchers say, believers are happier than their counterparts.
Well, yes, if you’re going to infer unhappiness from use of the words “think,” “reason” and “question,” atheists must be the most miserable, unhappy people in the universe. Or perhaps you might recognize in that “mindset” premise that perhaps atheists are people who find great joy in thinking, reasoning, and questioning. That we use judgmental words like “bad” and “wrong” might also be a consequence not of our unhappiness but of being a minority in a world dominated by happy clappy assholes — and that we’d be more unhappy to be one of them. You simply don’t get to make judgments about happiness from these kinds of analyses.
I speak with some authority now. I reconciled myself to the publisher’s title for my book, The Happy Atheist, despite the fact that it is largely about mocking the absurdities of religious belief and asking that we have a more profound appreciation of the wonder of reality precisely because I am so damned happy to be who I am. There is absolutely no contradiction between struggling rationally to create a better world and being happy.
We can interpret those results in different ways. Here’s my twist on those words:
Christians are superficial and unthinking seekers after acceptance and status from their communities. They lack confidence in themselves, and constantly seek reassurances from others that they fit in, are part of a team, are good people. This leads to a lack of substantial content in their communications; they are basically social groomers, their minds unengaged.
Atheists are confident and proud, and are willing to risk social capital by probing and challenging commonly held assumptions. Group cohesion is of lesser importance relative to making sure the group is progressing in a productive direction; they readily call out destructive or demeaning behaviors both within and outside the community. Their primary decision making strategy is by logical evaluation of consequences, rather than relying on tradition and the safety of aligning with the herd.
There. Much better.