About Rationally Speaking


Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fat Christians?

A study by Ken Ferraro of Purdue University, published recently in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (nope, that title is not an oxymoron!), found that 27% of Baptists and 20% of other fundamentalist Protestants are obese. Those figures contrast sharply with only 1% obesity among Jews, Muslims and secular people.

Of course, correlation is not necessarily indicative of causation, but Ferraro statistically accounted for obvious extraneous factors, such as geographical location (and therefore cultural variations on cooking habits), race, and the possibility that overweight people would be more likely to go to church to seek moral support. Even after all these adjustments, the main findings of the study held up. What's going on?

Apparently, food is being used by fundamentalist Christians both as a focus of social gathering (more so than in any other group) and as a substitute for other “vices,” such as consumption of alcohol. Commenting on Ferraro's results, Chicago Sun-Times journalist Cathleen Falsani reported (August 25, 2006) that she attended a conservative Bible wedding where the bride and groom toasted the guests not with wine (of course), but with a huge ice cream sundae!

Part of the problem, according to author Daniel Sack (Whitebread Protestants: Food and Religion in American Culture) is that Protestant denominations simply don't have dietary rules comparable to those of Catholics, Jews, or Muslims – except, of course, for the silly prohibition about drinking “Jesus juice,” despite the clear indication in the Gospels that wine was in fact drunk by Jesus and his disciples. Well, nobody ever accused fundamentalists of being too logical or consistent.

One welcome solution would be for more churches to cut down on coffee and donuts and offer vegetable platters and gym classes instead, but of course a secularist like me can't help wondering if a little more concession by fundamentalists to natural “earthly” pleasures (you know, a glass of wine a day, sex once in a while) wouldn't do a world of good – if not for their souls, at least for their cholesterol level.

29 comments:

  1. I grew up in a fundamentalist household and remained one myself until the age of 30 where, after a process of a few years, I now call myself an atheist.
    I feel then, that I am qualified to comment on this subject!

    I always thought it was strange that the xtians I grew up with, would place such significance on the "sin" of drinking, smoking, fornicating, etc etc.. but completely ignored gluttony!!! My family is still all deeply religious and 80% of them are overweight, 40% dangerously so...

    How many pastors themselves are overweight???

    Ah yes... but they're sinners aren't they.. not perfect, just forgiven ... excuse me now while I throw up...

    myvoice@aussiemail.com.au

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  2. I read many athiest blogs and thiest blogs (there are 3 athiest that I always keep up on including yours). Its kinda strange that all three athiest bloggers write more posts about religion then they do science, or at least a comparable amount. It seems they will go almost anywhere to critisize the religous. Its getting to the point now where I joke with fellow Christians to see the new lows the left will go to in order to make the religious seem irrational. "Fat Christians?" ???? Very important stuff. I hope they didn't spend too much money on this study. Of course you scientist perhaps view it as not a dollar waisted. Not exactly like its an independant source of the study, is it? Perhaps they should do one on Ugly Christians, combine the data and prove beyond a doubt that Christians are more fat and ugly then the rest of the logical population.

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  3. My dear Jim,

    we atheists spend so much time criticizing religion because there is so much religion, and so much of it deserves criticism.

    As for "wasting" money studying obesity in religious communities, it would seem to me that you ought to be concerned about the health of your fellow Christians. Obesity isn't anything to laugh at.

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  4. margot,
    Why do people who claim to want to follow God still mess up? All believers are in a process of what some will call "sanctification".
    Sounds like a big, complicated word, but it just means this:

    "Sanctification can be described as an inward spiritual process whereby God brings about holiness and change in the life of a Christian by means of the Holy Spirit. The effects of living in a fallen world have harmed everybody differently. We all face different issues, struggle with sin, and past hurts of varying degrees, hindering our ability to live the life God desires for us. Once we accept Jesus Christ into our lives, the Holy Spirit enters our life to start a transformation process (progressive sanctification). He convicts us on areas that need to be changed, helping us to grow in holiness. We begin to view the world, people, and personal difficulties from a more biblical perspective. Our choices begin to be motivated by love and truth and not selfishness..." (for entire article)
    http://www.allaboutfollowingjesus.org/sanctification.htm

    And that means that there will be some people will who will consider certain vices less (and or greater) than others because they are in a different phase of a process God has going on in their lives. Some Christians might merely rate eating in the category of things that does have a minimal impact on other people, so they consider it a lesser issue.

    It's not healthy be extremely overweight. But I'm not sure that there is any particularly good reason to hold Christians as more responsible for consumerism than other people.

    best,
    cal

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  5. Cal,

    Massimo made no claim or even implied inference that christians are more afflicted with consumerism than other groups. As I read it, he was simply taking note of an interesting fact--fundamentalist christians as a group cling to the vice of gluttony more than other groups.

    But then, many of the more right-wing conservatives love to criticize rationalist for saying things they never actually said in the first place.

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  6. we atheists spend so much time criticizing religion because there is so much religion, and so much of it deserves criticism.

    We both know there is a little more to it than that. There are many things perhaps more worthy of Critisism (although perhaps not to the athiest) than religion.

    As for "wasting" money studying obesity in religious communities, it would seem to me that you ought to be concerned about the health of your fellow Christians. Obesity isn't anything to laugh at.

    This is not a study on obiesity, its a study on Obiesity amongst the religous conducted by an anti-religious group. Point being, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion is not looking for positive attributes to do studys on, they are stictly looking for negative attributes. If someone at the "Journal" heard that Christians may be skinnier and healthier than the average person, I wonder if they will run out and do a study to see what they are doing to help other obese people. But if they have a hunch Chirstians are more obese, time to do a real scientific study. Yeah, there is no bias there. C'mon Massimo, your a scientist! Do you think Doctors are going to start asking what religion you are to figure your risk for obesity, maybe they should, huh?

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  7. To anonymous

    And who are you? Possibly you forgot to sign your post.

    To be honest, I wasn't real sure what it was that the studies were suppose to indicate. I took several stabs at what Massimo meant by it in the course of my comment.

    And as for your last comment, is it better somehow to be accused of accusing others of being fat vs. being either affluent or not careful with resources generally? I tended to assume that one thing just flowed into the other. cal

    "Massimo made no claim or even implied inference that christians are more afflicted with consumerism than other groups. As I read it, he was simply taking note of an interesting fact--fundamentalist christians as a group cling to the vice of gluttony more than other groups.

    But then, many of the more right-wing conservatives love to criticize rationalist for saying things they never actually said in the first place."

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  8. "And as for your last comment, is it better somehow to be accused of accusing others of being fat vs. being either affluent or not careful with resources generally? I tended to assume that one thing just flowed into the other. cal"

    You're just way off the map. There is no "accusation" in stating that a study has revealed that there is a higher incidence of obesity in fundamentalist christians. And there's no flow at all to your subsequent assumption. Remember what happens when you ASSume anything.

    And yes, that was me. Sometimes I forget to sign my posts, when I'm in a hurry.
    gary

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  9. Bush, Ney, Robertson, Delay, Falwell, Santorum et al, undergoing sanctification? Where do these people come up with this gibberish?

    I thought M's "Fat Christian" post was rather amusing.

    Signed,

    A slightly (20 lbs.) overwight Athiest

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  10. I gained 20 pounds when I gave up smoking, and 20 pounds when I got married, and in the last 25 years I've lost 10 pounds, so I'm only 30 pounds overweight.

    Come to think of it, the 10 pounds I've lost has been recent- in fact, since I've been reading Massimo's blog. Perhaps it's the fear of hell?

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  11. suff,

    Why would Massimo's blog make you fear hell? I think he lives for just about the opposite.

    maybe you're joking? Suppose so.

    I must be a rather fortunate person. My husband claims he prefers that I'm not too thin. (he's probably just being nice, huh) Every time I do get real thin tho, (just randomly from activity, not dieting) I don't think that I feel so good either. Like kind of nervous most of the time.

    I don't know about 30lbs over tho. That might be a little on the edge.

    cal

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  12. Cal

    I was just joking.

    Something I saw on TV the other day indicated that men should beware of a waistline over 94cm., women should beware of a waistline over 88cm. By that standard I'm still OK.

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  13. suff,

    Men always think that they're "OK". ;)

    My husband was given cholesterol meds earlier this summer by the VA. And he's SUPPOSE to take this everyday, unless he loses weight. (he is really not obese at all to me. Maybe 20-25 lbs over.) But instead, he takes this med once a week, if that.

    What is hysterical is that I can always tell when he does take it. It changes his temperament. He becomes rather meek and agreeable, and that is so not like him. :)

    I had a theory that this med inhibits testosterone. Turns out, when I looked it up, it does.

    Not to tell you what to do but the alternative to not losing weight is one is eventually put on some kind of medication. And most of us would rather live without that, no?

    cal

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  14. "...indicated that men should beware of a waistline over 94cm., women should beware of a waistline over 88cm."

    Because I'm a not so metric savvy American, what does 88cm and 94cm amount to in inches?

    just curious

    cal

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  15. Cal

    94=37"
    88=34.65"

    I will do my utmost to avoid the meds.

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  16. suff,

    wow!

    That's about three inches per each gender bigger than I would have expected for it to be considered healthy. I've heard that women, 20-30 somethings at least, from days gone by routinely were in the mid to upper twenties in their waist size.

    thanks for that.

    cal

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  17. In Jordan, where I'm originally from, I noticed that religious Muslims tend to be overweight as well. But this is just a personal observation not based on any scientific (or even unscientific) survey. Taking into consideration how easily Muslims are offended, I don't see any such survey being conducted any time soon though.

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  18. Cal

    I googled "88cm 94cm weight health" hoping to find the news release, came up instead with something called the aculaser institute (can't figure out if they are quacks, or what) But according to them, for men above 94cm an increased risk of disease, above 102cm a substantially increased risk. For women, above 80cm an increased risk, above 88cm a substantially increased risk. Don't know who's right, maybe the news item I saw was garbled, as frequently happens- I have yet to see a correctly reported story, when I have had personal knowledge of the subject.

    Anyway, I did not want to mislead, I really have no knowledge of the subject.

    By the way, divide cm by 2.54 to get inches.

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  19. Hi,

    Nice blog very informative. Hope you don't mind but i have bookmarked it.

    Financial Blog Home Business Blog Affiliate Blog

    ReplyDelete
  20. S: "Anyway, I did not want to mislead, I really have no knowledge of the subject.

    By the way, divide cm by 2.54 to get inches."

    Thanks. I did not in any way think that you were seeking to mislead. The info. was kind of a surprise to me too.

    Before kids and family, worked in dietician's dept in a senor nursing care center. So I'd like to think that I have pretty good idea of what it is going to take to balance out nutritional requirements. Not that I thought that the center always picked the best foods. A bit too much starch and canned foods for my liking. But some retired farming types will really gripe if they can't have their potatoes and white bread. ;)

    Since then, I've take up experimenting with certain recipes, to find combinations of common foods that really taste good but are also very much better for you.

    And altho the quality of food that one eats is obviously important. It is, in my estimation, portion size that really hurts most people.

    cal

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  21. Sex for purposes other than procreation?!? Blasphemy!

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  22. w: Sex for purposes other than procreation?!? Blasphemy!"

    October 02, 2006 12:44 AM

    The RCC doesn't represent the opinions of most of the world, w. Even the church world. But you're just too deep in the realization of outrage phase over what you've been taught most of your life to know this.

    (What ever on earth this has to do with church goers getting fat, I do not know)
    cal

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  23. Cal's sarcasm detector seems to be suffering a major malfunction.

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  24. "I'm not sure that there is any particularly good reason to hold Christians as more responsible for consumerism than other people."

    Sure there is. I'm not preaching day in day out that people are doing shit which isn't approved by some book which is sinning and bad.

    Eating too much food isn't like being hooked on heroin or alcohol. You can change it pretty easily if you really want to. But these people don't. They don't want to. They know it's a sin, but it's one of those inconvenient things about Christianity which is ignored. Kind of like that saying with camels and needles

    - Flemming

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  25. Sorry Jim, but I hate to disagree. The left doesn't degrade or bring down any religion. In fact their propoganda is absent of religion. And isn't that the way it's supposed to be? Our country is supposed to have separation of church and state. This is also a pretty interesting topic. I think it's worth looking into. Perhaps many fundamentalist Christians food as self medication with such a strict life style?

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  26. I'm an extremely devout charismatic Christian who is overweight and has been struggling up and down in my weight for decades. While underlying PCOS is a huge contributing factor, I still see other factors in the Christian community that contribute. I recall that before I became a Christian, drugs, dancing, and sex were my primary recreational interests and I actually had to remind myself to eat at times. I never thought about recipes, or the next meal. As soon as I became a Christian I started in on doughnuts before or after church, and lots of fellowship around food. Seeing who could make the pastor the best cake or bring the best pie to the potluck was an unacknowledged competition in our church.
    I recently "woke up" and noticed how many incredibly obese people are in Christian leadership. Wanting this to change, I decided to start working on myself and pray for others. Looking for insight, I came on this interesting blog. It's always good when someone points out the truth and there is lots of truth in these comments.
    As for me, I see my personal responsibility. I'm back on my exercise program and on a low carb diet which is the ONLY way my numbers budge on the scale. I would like to point out that, aside from religion or science, many naturally thinner people hold a lot of judgment and condescension toward the overweight, without ever understanding how severely difficult it can be, when metabolism factors are against you. Some of the comments just show contempt toward Christians in general and a widely-accepted prejudice against the obese. One thing I have enjoyed about my Christian faith, is a greater sympathy and compassion for others than I had before.
    I believe it is possible to become a normal weight, but it will take a level of exercise, deprivation, and discipline that most people who find it easy to maintain normal weight, will never have to approach. Can you be an atheist and be compassionate toward more than animal rights and the plight of those in Darfur? I'd like to see it here on this message board.

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  27. Linda,

    welcome, and thanks for the post. Actually, you'd be surprised how much I understand your plight. Not only I have very close friends who have been struggling with weight issues, but I have had to do the same all my life!

    Yes, you can definitely be an atheist and be compassionate to your fellow human beings, even those next door!

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  28. Fat Christians should look here - http://inval.wlgwprog.hop.clickbank.net/

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  29. You CAN stop overeating and have a more enjoyable relationship with food than you ever have, even if you've been struggling with overeating for a long time! True change is only found in the presence of God through faith.

    As we trust Jesus, He will bring purity to our hearts, clarity to our minds and obedience for our bodies for successful weight loss and better health. Consider having a Christian accounatabilty partner to help you through this challenging issue, go to http://www.BonnieMechelle.com

    ReplyDelete

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