We spend too much on medical care. Much of what we spend could be avoided if only people adopted healthier lifestyles.
When Safeway corporation decided to bribe its employees into improving their health, it made their health insurance premiums contingent on their fitness. Unsurprisingly, health care improved and health care expenses declined.
Most people know that the current health care crisis is a lifestyle crisis. One in which those who are healthy are being forced to pay for those whose bad habits have compromised their health.
People who are indolent and lazy, who indulge their appetites, who are constantly pursuing the latest trendy pleasure, and taking on imprudent risks… these people are far more likely to suffer illness. We are all in favor of fun and even pleasure, but a decadent, hedonistic lifestyle is bad for your health.
I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings.
Keep in mind that if we weren’t spending so much on avoidable health problems we would probably have plenty of money to treat those people whose illnesses are unavoidable.
But how are we as a nation going to persuade people to take better care of themselves? According to the New York Times-- yes, that New York Times-- the solution may lie in encouraging them to practice religion. Link here.
Yes, you heard that right. People who define themselves as very religious are more likely to refrain from smoking, to eat a healthy, balanced diet, and to do more exercise.
Perhaps the media and the intellectual elites of this country should spend less time bashing religion and more time encouraging people to practice their faith.
If you believe what you see in the media you will think that that religions are an oppressive, even a criminal force, that foster and condone: intolerance, child molestation, and ignorance. Considering the extent to which religion is routinely slandered, it should not be surprising that people who want to be on the side of the intellectuals are happy to declare their independence from such vulgar superstition and degenerate behavior.
It's strange, indeed, that people renounce religion because they want to be holier than thou.
According to the times, if you buy the anti-religious line, you are more likely to develop unhealthy habits and to get sicker sooner? And that is true even if you consider yourself spiritual but reject organized religion.
We give full credit to the New York Times here. While the paper is not reputed to be a bastion of godliness, it has done us all a service by reporting this information and for acknowledging the value of religion.
Regardless of whether or not you think that God is great, God is good for you.
As the Times reports, it is not enough just to believe in God. Good health is not conferred equally on all believers. Those who practice their religion receive more benefits than those who limit themselves to believing.
To gain the most health benefits you need to pray regularly, attend religious services regularly, and participate in religion-based community activities.
As we all know, atheism is very trendy. Calling yourself an atheist signals your intellectual sophistication. In some circles it is almost a password that will gain you membership in the intellectual elites.
It is very easy to criticize religion. Every imaginable horror has been committed in its name. Besides, you can make a good living trashing religion... especially if you are clever, witty, and strident about it.
In the interest of fairness and balance, we should note that nearly all of the greatest thinkers in Western civilization believed in God. Most of them were religious. Many of them also believed that their faith was perfectly consistent with reason.
In effect, one might even say that you have to be rather willfully blind to ignore the existence of metaphysical realities. Or to believe that scientifically provable truths comprise all that we can know.
For instance, most people believe that ideas exist. And yet, as Alexander Meikeljohn famously said, no one has ever seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted an idea. Thus, ideas are metaphysical entities.
Once you know that, ask yourself whether these ideas continue to exist if no human mind is thinking them? Did they exist before there were human minds?
If so, it makes rational sense to say that other-than-human minds exist. The pious call them angels or genies, but it makes sense to say that they exist. From there it does not seem like too much of a stretch to see these minds as aspects of a single greater mind.
If most of the greatest thinkers in Western civilization believed in God, why should He be thrown in the dustbin because a couple of itinerant intellectuals have found clever ways to mock Him.
It is easy to ridicule religious texts, and it is easy to get lathered up about the horrors that have been perpetrated in the name of God. But it also easy to find many sound precepts and principles in religious texts, and to enumerate the good deeds that have been performed in the name of religion.
Besides, if you want to run through the horrors committed in the name of religion, let’s be fair and make up an alternative list of the horrors committed in the name of atheism.
In the past century we have seen several governing systems that were built on an explicit rejection of God.
Most of them proclaimed themselves to be Communist countries. Most indulged in shameless idolatry of figures like Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. By now we all know they their singular achievement lay in destroying more people in a shorter period of time than any other governing system in the history of the human race. See: The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression.
When it comes to mass murder, religion cannot compete with atheistic Communism.
Your heart and your intentions might be pure as the driven snow, but if you are defending ideas, you should be able to defend what happened when real people put these ideas into political practice.
At the very least you should be able to explain why, according to the Gallup organization and the New York Times, atheism is bad for your health.
Unsurprisingly, there has been considerable speculation about why people who are more religious have healthier habits.
Is it that healthier people are naturally drawn to religion, or that the unhealthy would prefer to indulge their bad habits without feeling that they are being subject to any kind of judgment?
Perhaps people who have healthier habits look for a community where their values are shared. If that is true, then religious practice helps to sustain good habits.
Human beings always function better when they belong to a community, to a group. They need to have a place to go where people know them by name, and where they can participate in the rituals and ceremonies that bind them to their neighbors.
Human beings were not meant to go it alone. Too many of us worship at the altar of independence and autonomy-- closet idolaters that we are-- but these ideals are meaningless. As Aristotle once put it, there is no such thing as a human being living completely alone, isolated from human community.
How then to religious communities encourage people to be in good health? Does moral and communal sustenance make it less necessary to fill up your spiritual gap with Big Macs?
When you belong to a community you care more about how you look to other members of that community. And that involves looking your best.
While the therapy culture has told us that we should not care how we look to others, or how well we fit into society, people who care about how they look to others are surely more likely to want to look good and to look healthy. Very few religions promote decadence.
Of course, there’s more. People who are very religious are also more likely to pray. By now psychologists have discovered that prayer works. It de-stresses, it calms; it relieves daily anxiety.
Prayer is the original form of meditation. If meditation helps people who are suffering from anxiety disorders, why not recognize that most forms of mediation were created as part of religious practice.
But, that’s not all. People who practice healthy habits are, as I see it, more likely to respect God’s laws, as manifest in natural law, than are people who believe that natural laws are social constructs.
If you believe that there is no God, and that there are no universal truths, then you are more likely to believe that you can, by an exertion of will, exempt yourself from said laws.
If you respect the natural law that says that the human body cannot thrive on a diet of alcohol and nicotine, then you are more likely to design your lifestyle to honor that law.
If you feel that there are no universal laws, and that they are merely designed to entice the credulous and the childlike, then you might decide to eat and drink exactly what you want and even to forgo exercise.
After all, if the laws are merely relevant to believers, then they do not apply to you if you are an atheist.
Now, some will be ready to protest that I am ignoring science. You do not have to believe in God to know what constitutes healthy living. Science is at the ready, through the agency of medical professionals, to tell you how best to conduct a healthy life. And don't atheists rely on the authority of science to demolish religion.
If this is true, why do these same atheists not lead healthy lives.
In the end science does not really care whether you remain healthy or make yourself sick. Scientific principles can explain either one with equal facility.
It would appear that atheists refuse to obey a higher authority, whether that be the God of nature’s laws or the scientific evidence that confirms its existence,
It almost proves a point made by David Hume more than two and a half centuries ago. Hume declared that science can tell us what is, but it does not tell us what we should do.
In order words, science does not provide us with ethical bearings. People who rely totally on science may not have the moral capacity to go out and do what they should do.
There is a gap between knowing and doing, between conscious awareness and a plan of action. The health of our atheist friends has fallen into that gap.
As they say in 12 step programs, the first step to treating an addiction is the recognition that you cannot conquer it yourself. You can only overcome it through the intervention of a higher power.
2 step programs are based on religious principles. They were concocted by two alcoholics who sought help and guidance from religion.
If we compare their success rate, for those who participate actively in the program, with that of more scientifically-based forms of therapy, we will see that 12 step programs, existing outside of the world of science, have the better record.
All of which is my way of wishing you all a Merry Christmas, and a belated Happy Hanukkah.