Does being a skeptic make you more resilient?

When you are in recovery, you are bound to encounter the topic of “resilience”. It’s a certain toughness – an ability to bounce back from adversity. 

Not only am I in recovery myself, but I also spend a lot of time working as a peer supporter to help others. “Resilience” is the topic for a support group I’m going to facilitate. Obviously, I’m not going to bring up atheism or religion in the support group, but I thought it might be interesting to discuss here.

One of the ways I have overcome a lot of difficulty in my own recovery is by finding ways to stay grounded. As a person who has experienced psychosis, this can be especially difficult. Being an atheist grounds me. I know everything has an earthly explanation – even my psychotic symptoms. I am very aware of my illness which keeps me in treatment. I have seen my medications work so I choose to stay on them. The evidence presented in my wellness is key. 

Skepticism when it comes to my mental illness symptoms is crucial. I need the ability to question what I see, hear, and think. This also keeps me grounded and strengthens my resilience. It also lets me know when to ask for help.

Sometimes being resilient means keeping the bigger picture in mind. Knowing that a better life doesn’t exist after death reminds me to pursue the things I love and live with passion – right here and now. 

Are you resilient? Can the ability to question the world around you make you a little tougher in the face of adversity? I’d love to hear about your experiences.


  1. Katydid says

    It’s great you’ve got a support group around you. Keep them close and don’t be afraid to reach out when you need to.

    I’m going to thread-jack a bit.

    “Resilience” can be a cop-out when people don’t want to take responsibility for the harm they’re inflicting. For example; an employer that crams workers elbow-to-elbow in a pandemic, in an overheated, humid room with very little ventilation–“You’re resilient, you can find a way to cope while producing at peak efficiency!” And “We’re going to do nothing about the abusive jerk who’s traumatizing everyone he comes in contact with–you’re resilient and you can deal with it on your own!”

  2. moarscienceplz says

    I think one has to be careful to not conflate atheism with a pro-science mentality. I work in a large bookstore and while we do have a big religion section, we also have a pretty big section called “Self Transformation”. In there we put all kinds of books that would qualify as atheistic, or at least not monotheistic, but which I still consider to be woo-woo. We have books of spells for Wiccans. We have books about how different crystals will cure you of different ailments. Ancient (or present-day) aliens, Tarot cards, numerology. I think most people into that stuff would call themselves atheists, at least to some degree, but they are still living in Fantasyland in my opinion. And that doesn’t even count the antivaxxers and the flat-earthers.

  3. JM says

    Overall I see no reason to think religion makes people significantly more resilient. It is common for people to attribute it to religion but there are just as many who fail. It is a very complex thing to judge because some religious groups actively use personal problems and disasters for recruiting in addition to actual charity work.
    This has been studied a bit. Being religious or superstitious makes a person slightly more resistant to day to day minor issues but has no impact on major illness/accidents/disasters. The best theory for why that I have seen is that being able to provide some reason for the random problems of daily life helps people deal with the stress, no matter what the reason is.

  4. Katydid says

    @2; my genuine respect! I think I’m the last human to actually buy books, and going to a bookstore is often depressing because I remember when even tiny bookstores in the mall (remember those?) were jam-packed.

    @4, I agree. I also think it can be strengthened by use. The more crap you successfully navigate, the stronger your resilience.

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