Religion makes you healthy, wealthy, and wise…..Well, except the healthy, wealthy, and wise parts. The myth that religion is good for you has become almost as popular as the idea that some smelly sand virgin conceived a god-child. The promulgation of this myth is part of an orchestrated effort by well-funded right wing pseudoscholars to help provide the pseudointellectual foundations for their theocratic wet dreams. But, most of the actual research findings are for minor league indicators of mood, very small effects on depressive symptoms, and associations with survival. Most of the associations are with indicators of public religious participation (gee, people who are well enough to get out and see their friends live longer and are happier, surprise, surprise). Some mood effects are also found for prayer and other forms of meditation. Frankly, I’ve become quite skeptical of most of the research in this area, particularly clinical type studies conducted by religious devotees (and it isn’t just Christians, there are Hindu and Buddhist nutters in spades). Yet another new article in ASR on this almost made me puke. It said nothing that couldn’t have been learned from Ellison, Gay, and Glass (1989, SF) and I can’t for the life of me see how it merited publication in ASR, except that the authors are religionists and heavily funded by Templeton–so they got hand-job reviews from other fundees maybe? ASA needs a policy on conflicts of interest.
I’ve been helping on a paper with Ben Moulton which shows some quite interesting problems with the “healthy” issue. What Ben’s findings show is that the positive correlation between survival and church attendance is only present among people who don’t have a college degree. Indeed, among college graduates, going to church kills you. You can see this in the graph of mortality risks above by church attendance and degree status. College graduates who went to church a lot were much more likely to die during a 10 year follow up than were college graduates who NEVER GO to CHURCH. This echoes similar findings on mental health outcomes from Scott Schieman, though you never see this issue amplified and Ben has had a very tough time with true believer reviewers at several journals. I was shocked to see a nice paper in JSSR showing that sectarian religious nutters have the highest mortality rates. Of course, this key finding is not presented in the abstract or amplified in the paper. I wonder how that one slipped past the Christianists? I’m sure if the author showed that sectarian christians have the lowest mortality rates it would have been a ringer for ASR.
Given the weakness and equivocality of the impact of religion on health in the United States, it’s interesting to see that the Division of Jesus in the United States Armed Forces has now been tracking the “spiritual fitness” of our troops. And, you gotta know that that their little spiritual fitness questionnaire was designed by some “social scientist”, right? After all, if our troops don’t believe in a great sky wizard, how will they have the will to kill them Muslims? I mean, there is no way a guy can do six tours in Iraqistan if he or she doesn’t believe in a higher power giving meaning and purpose to killing people for Halliburton! And, obviously, what the hack pseudoscholars really want to do is to prescribe jesus. You sick? Go to church! Pray to the lord Jesus! You don’t need Medicaid or Medicare or Obamacare or any of that godless communist moslem homosexual stuff, you need the lord jesus! Jesus makes you unhealthy, poor, and stupid. That’s what real research shows.