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What Are the Psychological Effects of Losing Your Religion?

In terms of values and beliefs, the religious exiters increased more in “fate control” (believing that fate governs what happens in life, but that it is also possible to intervene in this process); and not surprisingly, they also showed a sharper decline in religiosity. The most striking difference between the groups was that those who lost their Christian Protestant identity showed much greater variation in their mental well-being over time. About half of the “de-converts” showed a reduction in depression and anxiety compared with the consistently religious group, and about half showed a greater increase in depression and anxiety, although within these broad strokes were further variations in their precise emotional “trajectory.” The de-converts as a whole also showed a greater improvement in their sleep than the consistently faithful. A key factor seemed to be the de-converts’ personality and psychological state prior to losing their religion.

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