Is atheism motivation to live a healthier life?

As an atheist, what is your attitude towards your health? 

Do you pay attention to what you eat or how much physical activity you get? Be honest — do you get a yearly physical? Do you go to the dentist?

What about mental health? Do you practice self-care? Do you get enough sleep? Do you show kindness and compassion to yourself and others?

Can “YOLO” push you to better health because you know this is it – there’s nothing after this life? Are you determined to live each moment to the fullest? Does “living to the fullest” always require a healthy mind and body?

As far as mental health goes, I feel atheism has given me a sense of clarity. I feel grounded knowing everything has an earthly explanation. This has been hugely beneficial to my recovery from schizoaffective disorder.

But right now, I kind of feel like a blob. I have a knee injury and spend a lot of time lying around the house. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to get better. I am seeing an orthopedic surgeon on Monday and hope to have some sort of resolution soon.

Despite my setbacks, I do believe knowing I’ve got this one life to live has been motivating, although I think I’ve shown that more through being ambitious rather than health-conscious. I’d like to change that or at least find some balance.

I am definitely a “YOLO” person and I hope I have a lot more life left to live.

Can you relate? What defines living life to the fullest? Is it ambition, health, both, or something else? Has atheism motivated you to live a healthier life?


  1. Katydid says

    Sorry to hear about your knee. This has not been your year. Something to consider: might there be any side effects of the medications you’re taking on your balance or your bone health?

    You ask an interesting question about belief and health/self-care. Based on the friends I know IRL who are atheists, I conclude there’s no obvious connection between non-belief and self-care. Some people I know are *very* health-conscious and practice good self-care, others less so. But this is just anecdata. A lot of people in my yoga classes are taking it for self-care…some of them describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious”.

  2. John Morales says

    I’m gonna be quite literal, but honest. Thing is, atheism is not an ideology, for me. It’s not a motivating thing in itself.

    Q: As an atheist, what is your attitude towards your health?
    A: I don’t think there is any causative linkage between my atheism and my attitude towards my health.

    Q: Do you pay attention to what you eat or how much physical activity you get?
    A: Yes.
    Q: Be honest — do you get a yearly physical?
    A: No.
    Q: Do you go to the dentist?
    A: Only when necessary.

    Q: What about mental health?
    A: I don’t worry about it.
    Q: Do you practice self-care?
    A: Not consciously.
    Q: Do you get enough sleep?
    A: Yes.
    Q: Do you show kindness and compassion to yourself and others?
    A: Only when I deem it appropriate. (Makes no sense to me to show compassion to myself)

    Q: Can “YOLO” push you to better health because you know this is it – there’s nothing after this life?
    A: It could, I suppose, if I were that type of person.
    Q: Are you determined to live each moment to the fullest?
    A: No.
    Q: Does “living to the fullest” always require a healthy mind and body?
    A: I doubt it. Surely it means doing the best one can with what one has. Sounds too much like hard work, to me.

  3. anat says

    I think my main motivation to live as healthily as I manage to do is from watching older family members develop health problems from their 50s and on, and realizing how each problem aggravates the others. My father had a heart attack at 57, as a result of smoking since his early teens. (He has since quit smoking and his cardiovascular health is pretty good, now in his 80s.) My mother developed blood pressure problems in her last pregnancy (at 38) which ended up causing long-term misery, including a series of strokes starting from age 57, eventually resulting in vascular dementia. Other family members developed other chronic conditions. Not fun. I want to live better than that. I don’t mind dying per se (especially now that my son is grown and managing his life on his own), but it’s the prolonged suffering leading up to it that I want to avoid as much as possible.

    I don’t think atheism mattered much for my health choices, as I never believed in the kind of god that can be made to manage a person’s life events.

  4. StonedRanger says

    My atheism has nothing to do with the way I take care of myself. Fear of dying before I have to is a much greater motivator. YOLO is not real. You only die once, you live each day so you live many times.

  5. brightmoon says

    Well I’m not an atheist and decades ago I took yoga . Yoga teaches you to pay attention to your body. And if I’m tired or hungry or I’ve over exercised or stretched too much ( I dance ballet ) I know that adequate rest , proper body mechanics and nourishment makes me feel better. I know some ignorant Christians think yoga is demonic and I just ignore them . One thing I’ve noticed is that some,(usually fundie) Christians think over stressing their bodies is somehow pleasing to God . Fasting for Lent comes to mind here . I won’t do that as I don’t think it’s healthy, wise or necessary

  6. Katydid says

    After giving the matter some thought, there are some patterns in SOME expressions of religiosity that would make it hard for the members to live a healthy life. For example; the requirement to tithe 10% of pre-tax income to the church. Around me, that would be the non-denominational mega-churches, the Baptists, and the tiny fringe churches that rent space in bigger churches. For middle-class or below, giving away that much money could be a real financial hardship that causes privations in other areas of their lives (nutrition, doctor/dentist visits, clothing, educational trips, etc.).

    Or there’s the example of the ones with the super-fertility fetish. The poster family for this were the Duggars with their 19 kids. When TLC found them, there were 11 kids and 2 parents living in a typical 3-bedroom starter home and eating tater tots at every meal because they were cheap and filling–but not nourishing (the Duggar daughters struggle with fertility, possibly because of being badly-nourished in childhood). By the time they got to 19 kids, the parents had no hope of spending 1-on-1 time with any particular child, and the children were raising and homeschooling each other.

    As pointed out above, atheism isn’t any particular set of beliefs, just a lack of belief in god or gods. There’s no requirement for an atheist to give away money they don’t have, or to spend every waking moment in a particular location, or to live any particular lifestyle.

    • ashes says

      I couldn’t imagine 11 kids and 2 parents in a three-bedroom home. My husband, daughter, and I live in a 950 sq. ft. three-bedroom home and space is tight. I just couldn’t imagine having more children here. My husband and I decided a while ago that we weren’t going to have more kids, mainly because we can’t afford any more. I would never purposely bring more kids into the world if I didn’t have the means to take care of them. I like just concentrating on my one because she’s pretty awesome. 🙂

  7. Katydid says

    My husband grew up in a family of four, with a stay-at-home mother and a middle-class working father. The birth control pill was not yet on the market when the last one was born. They lived in a 4-bedroom house (3 bedrooms for 4 kids) but money was so tight that the (now adult) kids can count the number of times the family ate outside the home on one hand. All the kids needed braces but the family couldn’t afford braces, so they didn’t get any. The only time the younger two didn’t have to wear hand-me-downs is Easter, when each child got a new outfit. They had a family garden that provided a lot of their food–to this day, my husband won’t eat potatoes because one year that’s all that thrived in the garden.

    That was with four kids. Eleven? Nineteen?

    There’s a sect that calls themselves Quiverfull that really insisted on women having all the babies their bodies would allow. There was a website for awhile where women who left that life could write in, and it sounds hellish. There also used to be blogs (LibbyAnn’s was one) written by children who had grown up in that religious system and left as adults. It sounds like the best they could do was to survive such a life–they were not thriving.

  8. brightmoon says

    My maternal great grandmother had 15 , her daughter (my grandmother) had one child. I guess grandma wasn’t enamoured with baby making especially since the great grandmother’s 3 daughters got stuck with the babies and small children because those great grandmother’s pregnancies made her sick each time. At that time, late 1800’s and early 1900’s , women couldn’t refuse sex with their husbands.
    My paternal grandmother died in childbirth after having my father and his sister.

    You better believe I don’t accept forced birth aka “pro life” especially since conservatives and/or fundies don’t care about either the women or the children. Women and kids are just property doncha-know.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *