It’s not hard to notice the negative stereotype which secular warriors project about Christian faith these days. In fact, it can be downright nasty. This should not surprise followers of Jesus. He said if his detractors hated him, they would also hate his followers.
The now somewhat discredited Freud once baldly declared that belief in God was “a universal obsessional neurosis.” Today, much secular dogma proclaims that religious faith is not just harmful to mental health, but even pathological.
And not only that, the new atheists proclaim that Christians, with their dogmatic belief in a risen Christ who demands total allegiance, are a threat to democracy, for there cannot be two conflicting ultimate authorities, the state, and God. And since God is a figment of our imagination, Christian doctrine must be delivered to the ash heap of history.
How ironic then that multiple studies in recent decades have turned the tables on the subject of religion and health, putting the lie to the once-settled stereotype that religious belief is associated with mental illness. In fact, the facts point to the exact opposite conclusion.
As a graduate student in psychiatry, the late David Larson extensively researched the relationship between religion and pathology and found that subjects who were more religious actually tended to show up in the healthy groups, not the sick ones.
Scores of studies now confirm that religious belief, which generally means Christianity in North America, actually correlates with better mental health. What a surprise! Religious people have lower rates of depression, suicide, family instability, drug, and alcohol abuse.
And religious belief also correlates with better physical health…with lower rates of virtually everything from cancer to hypertension to cardiovascular disease. And when religious people get sick, they recover faster and live longer. The simple fact is that people who attend church regularly are happier, healthier and have lower mortality rates.
Research on religion was relatively unheard of in academia decades ago. But today even non-Christian researchers are recognizing the correlations. In her book, Total Truth, Nancy Pearcy quotes Herbert Benson from Harvard, who claims no religious faith, who said our bodies simply function better when we believe in God. In his catchphrase, “We are all wired for God.”
Guenther Lewy, another non-Christian, set out to write a book on why America does not need religion, but persuaded by the overwhelming weight of evidence changed his stance 180 degrees and wrote Why America Needs Religion. In his own words, his original book idea was going to be “a defense of secular humanism and ethical relativism.”
But he ended up proclaiming that religions, particularly Christianity, correlate with lower rates of multiple social pathologies, such as crime, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and family breakdown. He concluded, “Freeing people from the shackles of traditional religion does not result in their moral uplift. No society has been successful in teaching morality without religion.”
So we can be blunt without apology. Biblical truth and principles for living work in the real world. Science confirms with strong evidence that they are true.
What’s the takeaway?
First, let’s thank Jesus that when he said, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly,” he knew what he was talking about. Didn’t he say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”? (John 14:6)
Second, let’s appropriate this truth about “abundant living” for ourselves, leaning into God each day and embracing everything that his truth implies for us, and in so doing become an attractive “fragrance of life” to those around us.
Third, let’s not shrink back from respectfully and confidently declaring to those who may disagree with us that God’s ways work. The Bible describes the way God intended us to function, and when we live that way we are all healthier and happier… because our living lines up with the objective structure of reality as God created it.
This is all good news, really good news. We should live it with smiles. We should trumpet it with joy. We should celebrate that our God is a good God who has always had our best intentions at heart.
Of course, Christians, including Corpath members, can screw up, individually and collectively; and when we do, the good and beautiful life that God intended for us drifts away.
But when we embrace God’s truth and live integrated, holistic Christian lives that bear credible witness to our Lord…well, there’s no life like it!
That’s why the Apostle John wrote these poignant words to his friend, Gaius:
“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. (1 John, 2)
So smile, and feel good about your faith!