Is religion good for your health?

I sometimes come across the view that religion is damaging for human beings and should be removed from the world. There are some who would go so far as to say that teaching religious faith to children is tantamount to child abuse. That’s certainly the view expressed by the famous and influential scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins. The only problem is that the available evidence doesn’t seem to support this proposal.

A major survey in the American Journal of Public Health reported that those who hold religious faith are more likely to be happy, hopeful and optimistic as well as sensing a purpose and meaning in life. They also have higher self-esteem, cope better with bereavement, have lower levels of depression and recover faster when they are depressed. 

So, the evidence seems to suggest that religious faith is a very good thing in the world. Now that doesn’t of course excuse the horrific things that have been done over the centuries by those who hold religious faith, but it does point to the idea that as human beings we function better when we realise that we are here not by accident but by design. Our freedom and fulfilment as human beings doesn’t come from ditching God, but rather from desiring him.

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