Is Religion a Threat to Your Health?

It is always interesting to hear people discuss their perception of what religion does to or for a person. From the time of Marx at least, there has been the claim that, "Religion is the opiate of the masses." Religion in this view is an imaginary crutch with no real value or purpose--just an illusion to make people feel better. The Bible itself claims that a strong working relationship with God leads to fulfillment and success in all things. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16).

Atheists delight in pointing out all the negative things that have been associated with religion over the centuries--everything from David Koresh to molestations of children, from war to the Ku Klux Klan. It is certainly true that bad things have been done in the name of religion, but there is a difference between what people do and what the religious system teaches. Christianity urges its adherents to turn the other cheek, love your enemies, do good to all men, etc.--just the opposite of what people have sometimes done in the name of Christianity.

More to the point has been the affect of Christianity on the daily lives of the scores of people trying to follow at least some degree the things Christianity teaches. The National Institute for Healthcare Research has accumulated hundreds of studies on the correlation between religious commitment and health. Mary Greenwold Milano and David Larson recently listed some of these in an article in Science and Spirit, Summer, 1996, pages 10-11.

Here are some of the startling results they list:

The studies also find greater overall life satisfaction, lower rates of depression, lower stress levels and fewer adverse psychiatric consequences of stress, far less frequent engagement in health compromising behaviors, (such as alcohol, tobacco, and drugs), fewer personal injuries, and more frequent engagement in health-enhancing behaviors (exercise, stress management, nutrition, etc.).

Those who attempt to portray Christianity as the producer of war, greed, exploitation, prejudice, and abuse are not looking at what Christianity stands for, but rather at those who use Christianity as a false front for their acts and behavior. In addition to the studies that Milano and Larson have cited, comes the obvious point that sexually transmitted diseases would be unknown in practicing Christians, Christianity promotes good health and endorses healthy practices, it is not the cause of poor health.

                            --John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, Sep/Oct97.