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Saturday, 25 September 2010

Religion = good habits?

So abandoning “faith” leads you into bad habits, and therefore sends you on a downward spiral towards being an unhealthy wreck? Hmm.

Well this is a “finding” of a study reported in Christian Today.

“The study was conducted by Christopher Scheitle,” the online outlet says, “a senior research assistant in sociology at Penn State University, and is published in the latest issue of The Journal of Health and Social Behavior.”

This is what he says: “Strict groups typically require members to abstain from unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol and tobacco use.

“These groups also create both formal and informal support structures to promote positive health.

“The social bonds of belonging to the group might be another factor for better health.”

So far, he’s talked of groups – not religious groups. OK, he goes on to describe two cults – the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses – as strict religions. But so far – according to this Christian Today report, anyway – he hasn’t said that a strict group that keeps people on the “straight and narrow” has to be a religious strict group. Just a strict group.

The fact that there may not be many nonreligious groups that insist on no smoking, no drinking, no other potentially unhealthy activities is neither here nor there. The implication here is that it’s religion that’s holding people together when it comes to living “safe” lives (just how boring those lives may be isn’t mentioned). It’s not. It’s adherence to a code.

Anyone could adhere to a code. It helps if you belong to a group, and have peer pressure and peer support.

There are, of course, groups that deal with individual behaviours, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and various drug-dependence help organisations. Maybe there are secular groups – here in the UK and in the USA, where this study came from – that are designed to keep people off all potentially harmful substances, legal or otherwise.

But it’s nothing to do with religion, as the Christian Today says later:

“The sociologist said more studies need to be conducted to determine the correlation between leaving a religion and health. He emphasised that the study does not show that leaving a religion directly results in bad health.”

Oh, well there’s nothing like leaving the salient bits till last, hoping no one will read that far, is there? Most readers of this story will go away thinking it’s religion wot does it.


Stuart Hartill said...

One little known faith-based 'health problem' that deserves further investigation, perhaps even by this gent.
Was the strange orange complexion of The Osmonds caused by bad stage make-up, fake tan or perhaps over-indulging in carrot juice?
I remember interviews from their hey-day in which they boasted about drinking the stuff by the gallon rather than the alcohol preferred by other rock stars. If this causes a freak health problem only experienced by practicing Mormons I think we should all be told!

Anonymous said...

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