sex and health

Holloway: Religion can be good to your health, depending on which statistics are analyzed

Meet Heather Iona Holloway, my little Scottish sister who’s just back from her latest edition of God camp this weekend. Facebook posts from her 1,000-plus friends about loving to pray flood my newsfeed.

I stare, aghast. I can’t quite take it. There’s too much love in this f*cking virtual room.

I grew up in a religious family. My dad was a trainee-minister when I was born, but it only took 14 years for me to fall off the God train. I had nightmares after being read the Good Samaritan at bedtime, Judas just sucked and when Jonah was swallowed by a whale — and survived — my mind was blown.

And with it, my belief.

As you head into the end of midterm week dazed, confused and somewhat sad about life, take stock – it’s time to start believing in something.

Because God is good. No, I’ve never met him. And yes, I’m an atheist.

But maybe I’m the fool. There’s a Bible’s worth of research on how religion is good for your health. Regularly attending church can add nearly three years to your life, according to research published in The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine in 2006.

For every single, non-religious person, there are nine people who believe in something. Of the approximately 7 billion people in the world, a third are Christian, a quarter are Muslim, 15 percent are Hindu, 7 percent are Buddhist, less than 1 percent are Jewish, 10 percent are non-religious and 2 percent are atheist, based on the CIA’s July 2012 numbers.

So many people — how many Gods? Who cares when God’s a cheap thrill. The same researchers who found that people can add three years to their life by singing some hymns also found that the health benefits of going to church nearly equal that of exercise, and are more cost-effective than cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Regular churchgoers also have a 25-percent lower mortality rate, according to research by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. What’s the point of worrying about the afterlife if you’re not going to die?

God is not a miracle-worker, but he’s got some tricks up his robe. Some doctors even think God should be prescribed, wrote Nigel Barber, an evolutionary psychologist, on the Psychology Today website.

As my sister’s social network attests, religion promotes sociability. Weekly attendance at a religious gathering is associated with a significant reduction in smoking, increase in physical activity, lowered depression and increased potential for relationships and marriage, according to research published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

In a study on 168 patients with chronic health conditions, those who were religious had better mental health, researchers at the University of Missouri found in 2011.

But for the Frankies that just don’t get God, relax. I don’t get it, either. There are so many ways religion is manipulated for control, there’s a little too much objectification of women, and the Catholic Church needs to buck up its ideas about contraception and gay rights.

So start your own f*cking religion. I can’t promise you’ll be as popular as my sister, but at least you’ll be happy.

Iona Holloway is a senior magazine journalism and psychology major. Her religion’s got three holy ghosts: Fatso, Stinky and Stretch. Email her at, follow her on Twitter at @ionaholloway and visit


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