Turns out, I may have jumped the gun on causation. Via Abandoning Eden, a new experiment shows that
the presence of a receptor that regulates general serotonin activity in the brain correlates with people's capacity for transcendence, the ability to apprehend phenomena that cannot be explained objectively. Scientists have long suspected that serotonin influences spirituality because drugs known to alter serotonin such as LSD also induce mystical experiences. But now they have proof from brain scans linking the capacity for spirituality with a major biological element.I take from this that there's a good chance that a common underlying factor may cause both increased religiosity and increased health and happiness.
The concentration of serotonin receptors normally varies markedly among individuals. Those whose brain scans showed the most receptor activity proved on personality tests to have the strongest proclivity to spiritual acceptance.
What does this mean for atheists? Well, for one, it means that even if we "found" religion, it might not bring with it the health and happiness benefits.
Second, ironically, it's just more confirmation that we're probably right about the whole God thing. Read the quote again. "The presence of a receptor... correlates with people's capacity for transcendence, the ability to apprehend phenomena that cannot be explained objectively." That's kind of a polite way to say that the presence of that receptor correlates with people's capacity to see things that aren't there.
That confirms previous research, summed up by psychologist Martin Seligman:
[T]here is clear evidence that nondepressed people distort reality in a self-serving direction and depressed people tend to see reality accurately.
Maybe religion is just a side-effect of a "reality distortion gene," which evolved to increase happiness and health, even at the expense of clear seeing.