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During the last few years, I have witnessed first-hand the increasing anti-religion movement upon which the United States was originally founded. With items such as removing prayer from schools to banning the public display of the Nativity Scene, and let’s not forget the person who wanted to sue congress for mentioning God in the Pledge of Allegiance, it would seem that quite a few Americans have developed a sour taste to the notion of a celestial god. Granted, my encounters of such behavior are more frequent since I currently reside in one of the most liberal states of America, nevertheless, the truth remains that religion seems to not be as important as it once was. The key word here is ‘seems’.
In August 2005, Newsweek Magazine published a survey that noted 519 million people believe in THE higher power. While “THE” is subjective to each individual, it falls within the many American melting pot religions that turn to divinity for comfort. Also noteworthy is a recent news story. One church managed to drudge its way past celebrity gossip, wartime casualties and disastrous weather forecasts right smack into the media spotlight. Looks like religion really does still exist since this particular church, Lakewood Church, out of Houston Texas just became what is called a “mega-church”. This title belongs to only a few in the United States, and to be deserving of such a label takes massive accomplishment. In this case, having a physical weekly congregation of approximately 30,000 people and claiming NBA’s Houston Rockets former coliseum as its new home. Further, if the number of parishioners is impressive to you, let it be known that preacher Joel Osteen inspires even more people across the country with his televised Sunday morning ministry, which can be found in competitive timeslots to your local Sunday morning service as well as late night hours throughout the week. But what does this mean to the health industry?
In 2005 after a two-year study on participants attending a weekly religious service, research indicated that a spiritual enthusiast actually experiences above-average health. This reduction in illness includes physical ailments as well as mental afflictions, such as depression. And even more interesting is that the mortality rate is lowered over measured periods of time, with one panel’s research showing a 25% lower rate of death in those attending a weekly religious service.
While some once-skeptical medical professors now support the notion that belief in God is associated to health benefits, other researchers excuse the better health as simply a less risky lifestyle of those who follow the faith. For instance, someone striving to be a good Christian may lower there alcohol consumption. In this case, it is possibly the lowered alcohol consumption that actually decreases the chance of illness. Another example would be a person intent upon living a moralistic lifestyle based on religious beliefs may have a lower involvement in casual sex encounters, thereby lowering the chance of contracting disease. And finally, the practice of prayer and meditation lowers the incidence of stress. The latter, a well known factor in many heart disease pre-cursor conditions.
While the proof of a divine higher being will remain a mystery all the days of our life, quite a few professionals agree that there are definite positive benefits associated with being a believer. Number one, we cannot control our lives nor everyone in them, no matter how hard we try. When the chips are down in these instances, what better way to turn the reigns over to another source and alleviate a moment or two of inner turmoil and angst. Number two, it is highly likely that the majority of people who attend church really do want and strive to be good people, no matter what their human tendencies may default to, post service. And finally, if and when we do arrive at that celestial set of white pearly gates, we will have walked the walk of faith and will promptly gain entrance with our well-merited one way golden ticket.