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Losing your religion may be unhealthy


Mr Skeptic
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http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100922155120.htm

People who leave strict religious groups are more likely to say their health is worse than members who remain in the group, according to a Penn State researcher.

 

The percentage of people who left a strict religious group and reported they were in excellent health was about half that of people who stayed in the group, said Christopher Scheitle, senior research assistant, in sociology.

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Perhaps the reason is that people sufficiently critical to leave their religion are also more perceptive, critical, and willing to call something bad when it is, so they are also more critical of and honest about their state of health. People who need religion so much that they remain in their beliefs may be the sort of people who are afraid of admitting that institutions are inadequate, even when they are, and so they are similarly reluctant to admit that their health is bad when it is.

 

Also, leaving a religion is stressful, even if it is ultimately the right thing to do, and stress can cause illness. Studies of stress show that positive changes like getting married or getting a new job can be stressful.

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THere is a lot of stress in leaving a religion. There is stress in accepting the unknown, and also in that you have to accept that you life is finite. But there is the more insidious stress in which former friends and family start to leave you out of their social circle.

 

As a social species, this "banishment" condition is extremely stressfull and can cause great harm to the individuals that suffer it.

 

It is not jsut people who leave a religion that have these health problems, but anyone who is rejected or is forced to retreat from social interactions (through medical conditions or such).

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The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe team talked about this 'research' last episode. Before the possible explanation as to 'why' this might be, they pointed out that the way the information was gathered is, in itself, flawed.

 

For one, it's self-attested health, which is already unreliable. I would check their methodology before I jump into conclusions and try to explain their results.

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Religion is not so much of the mind as it is of the heart or emotions. As an analogy, someone may love their spouse, even if at the rational level they are wrong for each other. If the choice becomes follow the mind or heart, it is a no-win situation. Since the heart is more ancient/natural/collective than the temporal cultural mind, a loss of heart might impact health more. It is possible those who leave the group liked the friendships of otherwise nice people, but could not rationalize their theory. They followed the mind and lost their heart. A bunch of intellectuals may not have as much open heart, beyond being cynical. This may satisfy the needs of logic, but this group may not give them the same sense of intimacy, since intimacy is irrational to the rational mind.

Edited by pioneer
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