Thursday, August 30, 2007

Does Jesus make you fat?

Does Jesus make you fat? Apparently so.

Here is an obesity map of the United States from the Centers for Disease Control. The darker the read the higher the percentage of obese residents in that state.

When I first saw the map it immediately struck me that the fat states are the Bible-belt states. Bible-believing Christians like to argue that the body is the temple of God. And they love megachurches so I guess it follows that they love megabodies as well.

Of course the red states in the fat map are also the “red states” on the political map since America has divided itself political on religious grounds with the Republicans being dominated by an American version of the Taliban and the Democrats being secularists for the most part. Libertarians were once proudly secular but these days one has to wonder.

Compare the fat map to the Jesusland USA map that was circulated after the last presidential election.

There is lots of overlap. Certainly the Bible-belt states tend to be the fat states. This is no surprise actually. The Bible-belt states tend to be dysfunctional is dozens of ways. They are more crime prone, less educated, have more poverty, more venereal disease, higher teen pregnancy rates, higher divorce rates, more homicides, shorter life spans, etc. See here,

I previously identified the most fundamentalist states in America as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Every one of these states have obesity levels exceeding 25% of the state’s population.

At the same time I identified the US states that were the least religious. Those were California, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming. Everyone of these “secular” states had obesity rates below 20%.

Religiosity and obesity seem to go together.

I don’t purport to prove that religion causes people to be fat. I actually don’t believe that. Nor do I think that religion causes them to have higher divorce rates, higher VD rates, higher crime rates, etc., even if all those connections are there. In reality I suspect that religion, and other forms of dysfunctional behaviors and attitudes, come from a common root: a lack of intelligence.

There is a clear correlation between crime rates and intelligence. The less intelligent people are more likely to commit crimes. But lower intelligence is positively correlated with all sorts of dysfunctional attitudes and actions. The reality is that people aren’t stupid because they are fundamentalists -- they tend to be fundamentalists because they are stupid. And this level of dumbth, as Steve Allen would describe it, is responsible for lots of other social problems. Dumb people tend to be fatter, more criminally prone, more likely to contract VD, more likely to have children out of marriage, more likely to be drug addicts, alcoholics or exhibit a myriad of social problems.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

If prayers worked then why the pacemaker?

Conservative, fundamentalist Christian, Ron Paul, who is campaigning in the Republican Primary was recently in Iowa. Paul's wife, Carol, has had heart problems and was taken to the hospital on the day of the comedic Ames Straw Poll. And the next day a pacemaker was inserted.

Paul, who converted from mainstream Christianity to one of the fundamentalist Baptist sects, sent out a message to his disciples. He told them about the pacemaker and said "we are both so grateful for all your good wishes and praysers. They worked."

And while I'm glad Carol is doing well after the operation (she is a nice woman) I have to wonder about Paul's remarks. They are so typical of the magical mind that infects so many believers. He reports that Carol got a pacemaker inserted but says it was the good wishers and prayers that "worked". If prayers and good wishes worked then why the pacemaker?

And, while I wish her no ill will, I would wonder what would be said if the pacemaker didn't help? Would we hear the statement: "The doctors did all they could"?

Failure is often attributed to man and science. When man and science do their job well the results are attributed to a deity and religion. Yet rarely do these religionists only seek the help of religion. Paul was a physician himself and knows the science of his former profession -- now he is a full time politician. I would have thought he would have thanked the surgeons, and the nurses, and the men and women whose dedication to science made the pacemaker possible. Instead, non-contributing individuals who chanted words to a deity were thanked for their prayers which "worked".

Of course I'm a skeptic. I tend to think the prayers did nothing. Absent the pacemaker the prayers would not have been nearly as successful.

While I'm no supporter of Ron Paul I am glad Carol is better. But I do think this sort of magical thinking is insulting to the real people who helped make her better. Instead of pandering to his disciples and attributing Carol's recovery to their prayers Paul should have been loyal to his former profession and publicly thanked the doctors and the pacemaker. It was science and medicine that help not religion and prayer.


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