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I’m very happy to piss you off

It’s been “scientifically” shown that Christians are happier than atheists.

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.

Comments

  1. scottrobson says

    Absolutely. How did this paper get past peer review? The conclusions are extremely week and poorly, or simply not, justified.

    Whoops, I wonder if “peer review” is another expression that will be used to judge me as a miserable arsehole!

  2. Trebuchet says

    As always, it’s better to pissed off than pissed on.

    From the author of the study, in response to criticism:

    “This is not an assumption; this is the pattern we observed in the data.”

    Right. So “think”, “reason”, and “question” are scientifically proven to be unhappy words.

  3. Pteryxx says

    So by the magic! of text analysis, Republicans really ARE concerned with women’s health and safety and saving babies. Never mind that they won’t use words like “vagina” or “maternal death”. That would cause sadface!

  4. anteprepro says

    It seems, based on the words chosen, that Christians like to talk about groups and feelings more than atheists, and atheists like to criticize more. It makes some sense. Christians are a majority defined by group dynamics (church) and emotion (“faith”) trumping logic. Atheists are a minority defined by how they apply logic to religious beliefs and are thus considered outsiders. But I find that the results sound a little too clear cut, and based off of too little, to really reinforce this Common Sense view.

    It is interesting that they assume criticism and happiness are mutually exclusive, assume that publicly talking about happiness is proof that you actually are happy instead of feeling pressured to pretend that you are, and assume that “team” and “family” are inherently positive words. Also, interesting: I wonder if atheists “win” when using “bad”, “wrong”, or “awful” because Christians would use words like “ungodly” or “sin” in addition to those words, if they were themselves being critical. I also wonder if the word “doubt” was not observed because atheists don’t use it as often as “question” and because Christians might’ve used that word more than atheists (even if just to chide others for having it).

    Bottom line: I wonder just how much cherry picking was done here. I wonder just how much the scope was limited in order to reach pre-determined conclusions.

  5. scottrobson says

    Also, how did they differentiate believers from non believers? Was it based on a very select group of people who make their opinions well known on twitter? Would this mean their “results” can not or should not be generalized to the public at large?

    I see this was published in “Social Psychological and Personality Science” by two doctoral students. They have failed at the most important aspects of science as far as I can tell. There should be an effort to get such sloppy research retracted.

  6. raven says

    and an intuitive style of thinking – the sort that’s gut-driven.

    Why is gut driven, intuitive thinking happier or better than say, real thinking?

    It’s not.

    Intuitive thinking gets people in trouble or killed all the time.

    These kooks chose their conclusion first and worked backwards. It’s basically a form a lying, the main sacrament of fundie xians.

  7. anteprepro says

    Whoops, I wonder if “peer review” is another expression that will be used to judge me as a miserable arsehole!….

    Right. So “think”, “reason”, and “question” are scientifically proven to be unhappy words.

    Scientists: The Unhappiest ™ of all professions, as proven by Science.

    And I assume, based on the goodness of the words “friend”, “love”, and “team”, that the happiest and most social people in the world are the people who come up with the titles for internet porn videos.

  8. says

    I haven’t figured out how to use comic sans.

    This is their definition of Christian and atheist.

    The team identified subjects by finding Twitter users who followed the feeds of five prominent public figures. In the case of Christians, those select five were Pope Benedict XVI, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, conservative political commentator Dinesh D’Souza and Joyce Meyer, an evangelical author and speaker.

    In the case of atheists, the five followed feeds included Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Monica Salcedo and Michael Shermer – the latter two respectively being a self-described “fiercely outspoken atheist” blogger, and a science writer who founded The Skeptics Society.

    In other words, people who follow Joyce Meyer and Rick Warren are more likely to tweet words of the sort oft-used by Joyce Meyer and Rick Warren.

  9. says

    The smile behind which no kindness lies has shown up on Twitter. Not surprised.

    I’ll also note that most Christians are taught that happiness is a blessing from God, therefore, the more you look/sound happy, the more your fellow Christians will think that you have the imprimatur of the Big Guy in the Sky.

    In my experience, mormons in particular are adept at faking it. In fact the fake-it-until-you-make-it tactic is approved for missionaries.

  10. says

    Happy in their delusions;
    In love with falsity.
    Rejecting all intrusions
    Of reality.
    Their family’s their group alone
    Their love has hatred’s smell
    What they don’t do, they won’t condone;
    But smirk at thoughts of you in hell.

  11. raven says

    So xians are claimed to be happy idiots. Whatever.

    What is true is that fundies score lower on intelligence and education than the general population.

    This has been found in many studies, Dennett references 46 of them in one of his books.

    Fundies also score high in any social problem you care to name, teenage pregnancy, child sexual abuse, low socioeconomic status etc.. It costs a lot to be a happy idiot.

  12. anteprepro says

    Those are some sweeping generalizations, PZ.

    I could be wrong but I think that’s the point.

    Live by the spin, die by the spin.

    (And hopefully I’m not missing your point and having some form of snark flying over my head!)

    The team identified subjects by finding Twitter users who followed the feeds of five prominent public figures. In the case of Christians, those select five were Pope Benedict XVI, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, conservative political commentator Dinesh D’Souza and Joyce Meyer, an evangelical author and speaker.

    In the case of atheists, the five followed feeds included Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Monica Salcedo and Michael Shermer – the latter two respectively being a self-described “fiercely outspoken atheist” blogger, and a science writer who founded The Skeptics Society

    Wait, seriously!? That was their method? They hunted down Christians who follow religious public figures known for vomiting out feel good tripe (I suppose D’Souza is the big exception there and the Pope is a partial exception) and remark at how the conversation is all about how good they feel. Then they get a bunch of atheists known for criticizing religion, and then remark at how much criticism is involved in the conversation.

    I wonder what would’ve happened if they looked at how these two groups talked about gay people, for instance. I doubt everything would look so lovey-dovey hunky-dorey at that point.

  13. Al Dente says

    scottrobson @6

    Also, how did they differentiate believers from non believers?

    According to the CNN article linked in the OP:

    The team identified subjects by finding Twitter users who followed the feeds of five prominent public figures. In the case of Christians, those select five were Pope Benedict XVI, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, conservative political commentator Dinesh D’Souza and Joyce Meyer, an evangelical author and speaker.

    In the case of atheists, the five followed feeds included Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Monica Salcedo and Michael Shermer – the latter two respectively being a self-described “fiercely outspoken atheist” blogger, and a science writer who founded The Skeptics Society.

    The selection criteria is rather iffy, to say the least.

  14. sirbedevere says

    A recent survey of drunk people found they reported themselves, on the average, to be much happier than sober people.

  15. jimsnider67 says

    Surprised no-one’s referenced the Shaw quote, “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point then the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.”

  16. says

    Shock news!

    “We surveyed one hundred people who like to prattle to anyone and everyone about how much The Invisible Man In The Sky loves them, and found that they mentioned the word “love” a lot more than one hundred people who tend to talk about the love of actual people when talking in private to the actual people they love.”

  17. anteprepro says

    From the abstract:

    Analyses reveal that Christians use more positive emotion words and less negative emotion words than atheists. Moreover, two independent paths predict differences in expressions of happiness: frequency of words related to an intuitive (vs. analytic) thinking style and frequency of words related to social relationships. These findings provide the first evidence that the relationship between religion and happiness is partially mediated by thinking style. This research also provides support for previous laboratory studies and self-report data, suggesting that social connection partially mediates the relationship between religiosity and happiness.

    So, this does make a bit more sense of things:

    – The words relating to thought and criticism aren’t considered inherently negative, but are rather associated with an analytical thinking style which apparently correlates with less positive emotion/more negative emotion.
    – The article isn’t one of those brilliant works that simply leaves the discussion at “religious happy, atheists unhappy, religious win!” It is also apparently interested in how thinking style and social
    connection create that happiness. It does, however, seem far more preoccupied on the negatives of analytic thinking and the positives of intuitive and doesn’t seem to spend nearly enough time dealing with stigma as a confounding variable (though it does allude to it).

    So, the abstract makes it all make slightly more sense. Still seems like sloppy methodology though.

  18. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    anteprepro #15: My reading comprehension seems to be a little off today. Apologies around.

  19. Larry says

    If these PhD students are successful in making research their career, I foresee a whole lot of tap dancing around this article in the future trying to pass it off to youthful indiscretion. However, if this is indicative of the quality of their work, this probably isn’t going to be an issue.

  20. RFW says

    The authors of that study appear to have committed an unjustified leap of faith. They assume that the use of happy words implies happy minds, which ain’t necessarily so.

    The only valid conclusion is that self-designated “Christians” (note, btw that the study is also afflicted by self-categorized subjects in this sense) use more happy words than others. This wouldn’t surprise me. I used to work with a woman who was a little bit of a bibble thumper (her desk was crowded with flat rocks painted in bright colors bearing inspirational messages), and the forced happiness and joy she routinely expressed rang totally false.

    It’s a mess.

  21. Ogvorbis: Purveyor of Mediocre Humours! says

    Now, keep in mind that I’m an historian and haven’t taken a science course since my sophomore year of college, but, damn, I put together a better experiment than that when I was taking advanced bio my senior year of high school (went to every home room in the school; asked all students to do two things for me — Vulcan ‘livelongandprosper’ sign and roll their tongue; 99.7% of those who could do the Vulcan thing could also roll their tongue, 100% of those who could roll their tongue could also do the Vulcan thing; conclusion — possible linked gene).

    Can I has a PhD now?

  22. HappyNat says

    So if I tweeted, “I’m happy Joe got his by a bus. I’d love to watch his family rot in hell” I’d score pretty high on the “happiness” quotient? True, that thought might make me happy, but it would also make me a twisted fucking individual.

  23. Akira MacKenzie says

    The conclusion: When they are limited to 140 characters or less, these researchers say, believers are happier than their counterparts.

    So what? If given the choice, I’d rather be right than happy. Emotions are fleeting, fickle things. Facts are forever.

  24. Silke Suck says

    I couldn’t help but think of Ernest Hemingway: “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

    So, not pissed off at all, but nice try :-)

  25. cag says

    God is love, god is a genocidal, homicidal imaginary maniac. If worshipping god makes you happy, please stay far away from me with your “love”.

  26. says

    Maybe all the Christians are tweeting about how all their other friends are happy, while atheists are tweeting about how sad Christians make them!
    Anyway, I have no social relationships and am as happy as could be.

  27. cuervodecuero says

    I can’t help but link the ‘happy’ Christian words with all the pieces I’ve read about many sects of Christianity (eg: Quiverfull) enforcing the idea of ‘keeping sweet’, where, no matter what the individual might truly be experiencing emotionally, they are to obediently smile and make only ‘happy’ praise and statements because Christianity can’t fail people, only people can fail Christianity.

    Add to that the ‘public’ aspect of the tweet threads where people can be tracked and the performance aspect of the pronouncements which others can audit…but I don’t suppose sincerity is really what the study is after, only the public image of the believers and non-believers, gauged by some standard the analysts decreed.

  28. setec says

    This line caught my eye:

    Based on previous studies cited by these researchers, analytical thinking may “diminish the capacity for optimism and positive self-illusions that typify good mental health.”

    So positive mental health is not only compatible with but typified by being delusional?

  29. ck says

    “Why are atheists always so angry?”
    “Why do you atheists hate God?”
    “Atheists are miserable and live unfulfilling lives because of their disbelief.”
    [Atheists respond angrily to this constant bombardment of stupidity]
    <Study proves atheists are unhappy compared to Christians>
    “See? Atheists are always angry!”
    “See? Atheists hate God!”
    “See? Atheists are miserable!”

    I think we can file this under “self-fulfilling prophesy”.

  30. ck says

    HappyNat wrote:

    So if I tweeted, “I’m happy Joe got his by a bus. I’d love to watch his family rot in hell” I’d score pretty high on the “happiness” quotient?

    And you’d be scored high on the negativity scale if you said, “I think it’s awful that politicians are questioning sending aid to those hit by the hurricane.”

  31. says

    Ogvorbis #26; I can roll my tongue, and make the sign with my right hand, but not with my left. Crazy mixed-up genes!

    Now I’m off to go bother all my friends and family with the question. :D

  32. chigau (meh) says

    Ogvorbis
    I can vulcan with both hands.
    I can also do the opposite (middle and ringfinger touching, pointer and littlefinger spread (does this have a name?)) and alternate between them (with both hands).
    I cannot roll my tongue.

    If you had started your comment with “Hello, my name is Ogvorbis.” you would have had a better chance at the PhD.

  33. sharkspeare says

    I know that there are exceptions to this assumption, but people who constantly fill their social media with updates about how happy they are, how perfect their life is, and how much they love their partners are editorializing / idealizing their lives. In other words, they’re showing only the side of their lives that they want you to see. Of course, we all do that if we have even a modicum of tact–it’s pretty trashy to talk about all the fights you’ve been having with your partner in a given week or how much you hate your father-in-law. But people who post cheery stuff to excess are brandishing a big red flag.

    Signed,
    A Very Happy Atheist

  34. says

    I’m curious if their negative word list included “sin” or “Hell” or “abomination” or “perversion” or “judgment” etc.

    And I wonder if their positive list contained “sex.”

  35. sharkspeare says

    The “study” assumes too that the content people generate on social media is honest and unfiltered. Heck naw. You put on a different face when you’re Facebooking or tweeting, in the same way you regulate your social behavior when interacting with strangers, professors, family members you don’t care for very much . . . I have yet to see a study (maybe someone can point me to one?) that says status updates = true feelings.

    Further depressed upon realizing that this “study” was undertaken at my alma mater.

  36. scottrobson says

    Al Dente @16

    Thanks for finding that for me. Wow!

    These criteria for believe and non-believer are extremely poor. Seriously, how did this get published with the stated conclusions still in tact?

  37. anuran says

    PZ, you need to preface some of your own remarks with your patented dumbfuck logo

    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.

    Stereotyping. Broadbrushing. Bigotry. Stupid little insults worthy of third graders. And why? Because someone out there has the absolute gall to not be a little clone of you and still be a happy person. It isn’t because you’re an atheist. It’s because you’re just fundamentally the kind of guy who says “Anything I like is everything I like. Anything I hate is everything I hate. And if you don’t like everything I like you’re a poopyhead!” It’s the same sort of cozy tribalism you get red in the face and stamp your feet at when the Blood Drinkers engage in it. The hypocrisy detracts from your many good qualities.

  38. David Marjanović says

    I see this was published in “Social Psychological and Personality Science” by two doctoral students. They have failed at the most important aspects of science as far as I can tell. There should be an effort to get such sloppy research retracted.

    Seconded.

    So positive mental health is not only compatible with but typified by being delusional?

    Yes! Only the depressed see this Crapsack World as it really is !!

    I think we can file this under “self-fulfilling prophesy”.

    That, too…

    I can vulcan with both hands.
    I can also do the opposite (middle and ringfinger touching, pointer and littlefinger spread (does this have a name?)) and alternate between them (with both hands).
    I cannot roll my tongue.

    I can do all three. What I can’t do is roll it the other way around, as some people can.

  39. anuran says

    And for those of you have called me a Muslim jihadist or a Christian or some other kind of god-botherer I’m afraid you’re doomed to be disappointed. I’m not. You’ll need to find another strawman to beat the stuffing out of.

  40. Ogvorbis: Purveyor of Mediocre Humours! says

    If you had started your comment with “Hello, my name is Ogvorbis.” you would have had a better chance at the PhD.

    But that isn’t my name.

    Odd.

    I interviewed 800 students and none, zero, zip, were one handed on the Vulcan sign.

  41. David Marjanović says

    It’s because you’re just fundamentally the kind of guy who says “Anything I like is everything I like. Anything I hate is everything I hate. And if you don’t like everything I like you’re a poopyhead!”

    The fuck he is. He’s just surrounded by Christians who actually fit his description, and generalizes.

    Christians over here are mostly not like that; “the smile behind which no kindness lies” is a rather American phenomenon, at least so far. But then, they’d come across as quite godless to the Christians that live where PZ lives.

  42. Sili says

    And for those of you have called me a Muslim jihadist or a Christian or some other kind of god-botherer I’m afraid you’re doomed to be disappointed. I’m not. You’ll need to find another strawman to beat the stuffing out of.

    I can’t exactly *one* comment between your two. Nice try.

    PZ, you need to preface some of your own remarks with your patented dumbfuck logo

    Jesus Fucking Christ.

    Here: LMGTFY.

  43. Ogvorbis: Purveyor of Mediocre Humours! says

    And for those of you have called me a Muslim jihadist or a Christian or some other kind of god-botherer I’m afraid you’re doomed to be disappointed. I’m not.

    Er, who called you a Muslim jihadist, Christian, or god-botherer? Where? You dropped a whine, got ignored, and then claim we are strawmanning you? Huh?

  44. says

    Happiness can be a disorder too. Here’s a little ditty that discusses 4 ways happiness can be bad for people that include:
    1. Too much happiness can make you less creative—and less safe.
    2. Happiness is not suited to every situation.
    3. Not all types of happiness are good for you.
    4. Pursuing happiness may actually make you unhappy.
    http://j.mp/FracturedHappyFaces
    Given the fact there’s not a whiff of evidence that Gods of any kind exit, it is hard to see how Christians using happy words can be a sign of anything other than the asylum inmates being good at aping cheery expressions. Probably from conditioning with chicken-fried beer rewards.

    Who gives a shit that they tweet happy chat if they are marching their young off to prison at rates 2,000 times those of atheist kids.

  45. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    They lack confidence in themselves, and constantly seek reassurances from others that they fit in, are part of a team, are good people.

    I resemble that remark.

    This leads to a lack of substantial content in their communications; they are basically social groomers, their minds unengaged.

    As a following of the former, I definitely resent that one.

    Those sweeping generalizations about Christians and atheists are both pretty stupid, you know.

    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.

    This is missing a /wistful thinking in the end.

  46. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Hm, cutting out the histrionics, anuran has a point about generalizations in PZ’s comment.

  47. Gregory Greenwood says

    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…

    …The conclusion: When they are limited to 140 characters or less, these researchers say, believers are happier than their counterparts.

    So, you either drink the theist groupthink kool aid in a major way, or you are written off as a bitter, angry misanthrope. How very Christian.

    Claiming that relgious belief makes someone’ happy’, when that term is not defined in any meaningful way, doesn’t tell you very much. It offers you no meanigful means of quantifying relative ‘happiness’. It doesn’t tell you if that supposedly superior state of undefined ‘happiness’ allegedly enjoyed by theists is actually good for the individual or society or not.

    This paper also fails to address all the psychologically harmful aspects of religion and how they impact notional ‘happiness’. When one’s religion demands that one behave in a certain way and adopt certain terminology – that is entirely arbitrarily linked to ‘happiness’ by the authors of this paper – with the threat (that one assumes is taken seriously by believers) of eternal hellfire and torment if one doesn’t play along, is that ‘happiness’? Or is it more akin to the rictus, artificial grin of a person who believes themselves in the power of a mercurial tyrant who might react with massively disproportionate violence if they don’t go on humouring their preferred delusion that the world is all wild flowers and unicorn flatulance? Is it more like a form of Stockholm syndrome, where believers grow to feel emotionally close to the source of their enforced submission?

    And even if they are ‘happier’ by some definition that isn’t simply sucked out of the author’s thumb, then what price is that ‘happiness’ worth? Is happiness worth the price of crushing ignorance and wilful self delusion? Is that not the happiness of the animal that doesn’t know it is going to slaughter?

    I would rather see the truth of the world, warts and all, then live in a blinkered state of pseudo-happiness, too oblivious to even be aware if the headsman’s axe is already hovering above my neck. That is what it measn to be a responsible, engaged adult, rather than a person who retreats into their fantasy of what the world should be, according to their favourite dogma, when things start to get tough.

  48. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Oh, was that sarcasm on PZ’s part?
    On a rereading, it still doesn’t look like sarcasm, but maybe my meter is broken.

  49. Ogvorbis: Purveyor of Mediocre Humours! says

    Beatrice:

    I took it as sarcasm, but I am notoriously tone deaf on the internet.

  50. says

    Jeezus, what terrible methodology. People who lie to themselves and/or others about science, sexuality, imaginary beings, etc. do not exactly make for the most reliable subjects for assessing happiness via their tweets. Fer chrissakes.

    I’ve long wondered about the much-touted correllation of happiness with conservatism (iirc generally and with respect to marriage specifically). I ain’t buyin’ it. Not unless someone can point me to convincing research that debunks my pet theory, i.e. that conservatives are highly motivated to appear happy. Would people who are actually happy themselves be so concerned about, say, other (enthusiastically consenting) adults’ sex lives?

    No. No, they would not.

  51. Anri says

    Ok, someone wants attention, so here we go:

    Stereotyping. Broadbrushing. Bigotry.

    Well, I’m convinced, with all of the examples you cited, such as…

    well, I’m sure you’ll get around to it.

    Stupid little insults worthy of third graders. And why? Because someone out there has the absolute gall to not be a little clone of you and still be a happy person.

    I must admit, I was terribly impressed when you showed all of those quotes in which PZ stated that he thinks everyone should be just like him.

    And by that, I mean I no doubt I will be oh just terribly impressed when you get around to doing so.
    Which, I feel fully confident, will be any time now.

    It isn’t because you’re an atheist. It’s because you’re just fundamentally the kind of guy who says “Anything I like is everything I like. Anything I hate is everything I hate. And if you don’t like everything I like you’re a poopyhead!”

    And the examples of this you cited were truly eye-opening!
    Or, something.
    Or, yanno, actually they were nothing.
    But that’s ok, you got plenty, really, really you do! I know it!

    It’s the same sort of cozy tribalism you get red in the face and stamp your feet at when the Blood Drinkers engage in it. The hypocrisy detracts from your many good qualities.

    Well, I’m all riled up now!

  52. Sastra says

    Anuran #42 wrote:

    Stereotyping. Broadbrushing. Bigotry. Stupid little insults worthy of third graders. And why?

    Why? Because it is a parody of what it might look like if an atheist used the same approach as the authors seem to have used when forming their conclusion. In other words PZ’s being deliberately biased in order to show that the data can be “spun” into many directions, including an extreme opposite. Context (see Sili’s link #48). It wasn’t meant as a genuine and serious analysis of What Christians Are Like.

    So, what would happen if the researchers decided to contrast Christians (who follow Pope Benedict XVI, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, conservative political commentator Dinesh D’Souza and Joyce Meyer, an evangelical author and speaker) with New Agers (who follow the tweets of Deepok Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Ramtha, Rhonda Byrne, and Oprah Winfrey.) I bet the New Agers kick the Christians asses when it comes to happy, positive thinking and “mental health.”

  53. says

    Someone thinks using twitter to ‘scientifically’ prove something is a good idea? Yikes.

    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.

    I’ve recently reread two of Carl Sagan’s early books, Broca’s Brain and The Dragons of Eden. Sagan was all about think and reason and question, and his passion, enthusiasm, curiosity and wonder leap off every page. It’s a pity the people who er, researched this didn’t look a teeny bit further to realize there’s a serious problem with people who are unable to find joy in thinking, reasoning and questioning.

  54. kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith says

    I’ve always found studies which pretend to mesure “happiness” to be inane, pointless as well as boring.

    Most use self-reported levels of an unmeasurable quantity which reflects more upon the cultural disapproval of visible expression of discontent than about said vague concept itself.

    This one uses a supposedly quantitative measure that is flawed by the cultural background and biases of the researchers themselves.

    Such are the “studies” which have promoted, for decades, the utterly bunk and harmful philosophy of “positive thinking”.

  55. says

    How many of the Christian tweets were standard expected platitudes like “Praise Jesus! God’s love is so great!!”?

    And how much that is from people desperately trying to ward off a lurking depressive episode? (Which you’re *not* allowed to talk about in public).

  56. Trickster Goddess says

    The way many Christians use the word “family” I think would qualify as a negative word.

  57. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    You know call me crazy but I use twitter for several reasons

    a) Jokes with casual friends
    b) news agitator and to help signal boost stories
    c) Venting and news

    By virtue of my use, vitriol==funnier than pleasure and news stories are likely to be upsetting or shocking, it’s going to be negative. Because I don’t feel the need to constantly bombard everyone with how fine and happy I am usually. If I’m really down then I might, because I could use a pick-me up. When I’m fine I don’t have need to announce it usually.

  58. justanotherguy says

    I have no doubt that Christians are happier, floating in a warm bath of delusion. But there’s a bit more to life than being happy. Clams are happy.

  59. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    There is also a fact that in many Christian cultures there is a cultural risk (for lack of better term) of admitting unhappiness. If you’re saved you’re supposed to be happy, admitting displeasure or even consistent depression or dissatisfaction is basically damaging your in-group cred. You can say you’re facing trials and need the prayers of your peers, but unhappy is slightly stigmatized.

    Note that by their search criteria a Christian that is actually saying how unhappy they are would be pinged as happy if phrased as ‘I really need the support of my family and congregation right now.

    I wonder why they don’t compare Christian and Jew twitter users, or other religions that don’t have a concept that their religion grants inner peace and all that.

    Also why don’t they have Happy and Sad as actual analysis terms? I think those would be more blatant

  60. Stacy says

    Anecdata: I have an acquaintance who uses lots of “happy” words online. She’s objectively one of the most unhappy people I know–we’re talking somebody who lives from emotional crisis to emotional crisis, and threatens suicide at least twice a year–but she’s emotion-driven and very social. The happy talk is social chatter, and I think it also serves as self-comfort of a sort. It doesn’t indicate true happiness.

  61. kosk11348 says

    Because they live in a blame and shame culture, Christians often like to pretend things are happy and perfect when in fact they are bloody miserable.

  62. Scaevola says

    This looks like a pretty standard sentiment analysis, which in itself isn’t a bad method to use. It does conflate textual expression of emotion with actual emotions, but real emotions are pretty darn tough to figure out through text, especially if you have to deal with a huge dataset like Twitter. I’d say the problem is more likely to lie with the reporting of the findings (lol CNN) rather than the findings themselves. I haven’t yet looked at the paper, but it’s not methodologically bad to say ‘those on Twitter who are, by network theory, in the christian follower network are more likely to express themselves using blatantly happier words than those who are in the atheist follower network.’ It’s when this gets generalized to ‘OMG spiritual people are happier than those dirty atheists so there!’ that you get problems.
    .
    Of course I could be wrong and their paper is actually generalizing this way, then its something entirely different.

  63. Lofty says

    My vain and selfish kitty makes me feel happy when it rushes around the room colliding with the furniture. I suppose worshipping a vain and selfish god who goes around randomly smiting stuff could make you feel happy too.

  64. michaelpowers says

    Even if it were true (which I doubt), it’s like saying that a drunkard is happier than one who is sober.

  65. says

    …I am embarrassed for the study authors. Statements made to an audience are not sufficient criteria to judge emotional state, especially not emotional stability and any lasting judgement like ‘more happy’. The most you could conclude from those tweets was that Christians tweet using more positive words. You could, if you had that evidence, conclude that Christians were more likely to use certain sets of words and perhaps were more likely to directly retweet certain kinds of texts–it’s more a portrait of the kinds of common schema.

    But statements made by someone are not a reliable indicator of their current emotional state, especially not when they are, in essence, performing for an audience. That would be why, if you’re being evaluated, there’s a therapist or other trained observer present.

  66. unclefrogy says

    what the fuck is happiness any way?
    this study is about as good as an internet pole in fact as far as conclusions based on results I do not see any difference what ever.

    some “dude” up thread wants to through insults around but does not want to engage much. What does that suggest?

    uncle frogy

  67. anteprepro says

    Regarding PZ’s generalizations, broadbrushing, etc.
    Yes, it is pretty clearly sarcasm/parody. I missed it on my first read. The key phrase is this:

    We can interpret those results in different ways. Here’s my twist on those words:

    PZ is only illustrating that one could just as easily spin one’s interpretations of the “evidence,” and the relative value one gives to certain traits, in the opposite direction to be more favorable towards atheists and less favorable towards Christians. I think that was his point. And considering that this study basically tried to make the result of “atheists are analytical thinkers” into a bad thing, I think it is a damn fair point to make.

  68. WhiteHatLurker says

    I am struck by the journal used – “Social Psychological and Personality Science”/ Social Psychology has had a difficult time of late. Practitioners, like star researcher Diederik Stapel have been caught committing fraud. The report on Staple’s misdeeds seems to indict the field as being less than rigorous.
    your field is now the poster child for doubts about the integrity of psychological research

    One would like to think that there would be more rigour in review in this field, to overcome the bad press.

  69. firstapproximation says

    The team identified subjects by finding Twitter users who followed the feeds of five prominent public figures. In the case of Christians, those select five were Pope Benedict XVI, Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, conservative political commentator Dinesh D’Souza and Joyce Meyer, an evangelical author and speaker.

    In the case of atheists, the five followed feeds included Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Monica Salcedo and Michael Shermer – the latter two respectively being a self-described “fiercely outspoken atheist” blogger, and a science writer who founded The Skeptics Society.

    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.

    Jesus. Judging people’s happiness based on words used on their Twitter account? Selecting the Christian/atheist samples by looking at followers of certain people?

    This would hardly be the first case of extremely sloppy research getting into a journal because its conclusions fit certain biases and stereotypes, but this is ridiculous.

  70. DLC says

    So, these dweebs trolled twitter feeds and made the assumption that if you follow the Pope (or any of those other witch-doctors) then you’re automatically a christian ? Um. . . logical fallacy much guys ?
    And if all you did was take words you selected for “happy” or “not happy” from context , here’s some samples :
    1) “I’d be really happy to kill off my entire family.
    2)”I think it would be greatfor my friend to watch me suicide.”
    3)”I See no reason to question my happiness this current state of affairs.”
    4)”I think it would be very bad to stop watching cricket”
    Those might be nice Christians or not-so-nice Atheists, or maybe just agnostics. You can’t tell, even with context supplied. Surely these two must have actually considered this ?
    Or are they just a pair of twits who can’t think past the result they want ?
    I add my voice in with the others — this paper should be withdrawn forthwith.

  71. says

    Christians, they found, are more likely to use words like “love,” “happy” and “great”; “family,” “friend” and “team.”

    Maybe it is a cultural background thing, but am I the only one to found it weird that the word “team” is thought to have an intrinsically positive connotation?
    If I ever agreed, all of 3 years of listening to office suits peddling it would have cured me.

    this sort of word examination can’t account for sarcasm

    epicest fail ever

    Also, http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/StepfordSmiler

  72. says

    I have spent a lot of time inside Christian communities, specifically the one around me is one huge Christian circlejerk of sorts.

    Case in point: a woman was describing her problems, and there were many which should have produced massive amounts of unhappiness, but made sure to always preface them (or postface, as it were) with something about how good god is. On the rare occasions when she didn’t, the people around her were quick to make quips encouraging her to be more positive, as god this and god that…

    I see this quite a lot and what I tend to take from it is simply that in the fundamentalist community, you are encouraged to mask your problems and woes with faith, because having problems and woes without attempting to mask them is letting ‘the enemy’ (satan) win.

    The community is so into self-congratulations because they don’t know anything about living without faith. There is a strong desire promulgated back and forth of maintaining one’s faith, and without that community, it would be almost impossible. These people don’t know how to develop emotionally – they are all stunted. They don’t know how to live without their faith.

    I have a lot of problems, okay? Transgender and queer in the south being prime amongst them! Can you imagine the kind of shit I go through on a day to day basis? These people can’t either. They don’t understand it. When I say it’s tough, I mean it is TOUGH. What I see in these people, though, tells me that they have spent years – decades even – masking their problems. They aren’t happier than me – not a single one! They are deeply unhappy people, and the reason they’re so in your face with the happiness and the joyous heart nonsense is simply that they are deeply unhappy but don’t want to appear so and don’t know how to deal with being deeply unhappy.

    That is what I have grown to despise most about religion. It makes you mask your problems instead of attempting to tackle them directly and grow emotionally, as humans are supposed to. It is an illusory type of happiness. The joyous hearts they claim come merely from the joy of having a community. Their heart of hearts (as they call it) have long ago been destroyed by the harshness of the world.

    I would be so lucky to say I only have 99 problems. I would be so lucky to say I’m a totally happy person. I would be so lucky. But I’m not. I’m just a person. A person with a pretty fucked up existence. My strength, as should be the strength natural to our side, is being able to take on these problems and sources of unhappiness head on. When I say I’m an atheist, I don’t weep around pretending to admire the religious (as one S.E. Cupp may!), I say it proudly: I am an atheist, I am strong, and I am at peace with these things I cannot control.

    Religious people may look down upon us or feel us deeply unhappy, but it is us who have the ultimate victory over our weaknesses.

    If only they could be so lucky.

  73. David Marjanović says

    We can interpret those results in different ways. Here’s my twist on those words:

    [...]

    There. Much better.

    That’s blatantly obviously at least half-joking sarcasm. I didn’t get the idea that anuran might have overlooked that, so I responded directly to what I thought he said instead…

    Twit science.

    Thread won.

    Maybe it is a cultural background thing, but am I the only one to found it weird that the word “team” is thought to have an intrinsically positive connotation?
    If I ever agreed, all of 3 years of listening to office suits peddling it would have cured me.

    TEAM = toll, ein Anderer macht’s = “great, somebody else does it”…

  74. scrawnykayaker says

    It really seems like the horde should be unleashed on Social Psychological and Personality Science in some sort of shaming campaign.

  75. Azuma Hazuki says

    “The fact that a believer is happier than a nonbeliever is no more to the point than that a drunkard is happier than a sober man” — someone very smart

  76. HappyNat says

    Stasi Stasi

    That is what I have grown to despise most about religion. It makes you mask your problems instead of attempting to tackle them directly and grow emotionally, as humans are supposed to. It is an illusory type of happiness.

    Fucking this. They see admitting a problem and attacking it head on as well . . problematic. It’s almost sinful to not sit back and let god take control. The lack of agency in many religious people I talk to leaves me shaking my head.

  77. howard says

    You know what, I think I WAS happier when I had a delusional belief that every problem in my life was just a sign that somebody was giving me a test, and that if I passed I would be a Man of High Character, blessed with Joy and Happiness for All Eternity.

    Nowadays when something that sucks happens, I just sigh and roll my eyes.

    Oddly, I don’t miss that happiness at all. Because it was nothing more than closing my eyes and wishing real hard that all the bad things in my life had meaning and wouldn’t hurt me, not really.

  78. Jim Vernon says

    Even the most miserable Christian will talk about how their joy is in the Lord.

    Atheists will just tell you the truth.