That’s what a new Northwestern University study seems to find.
The study, which tracked 2,433 men and women for 18 years, found normal weight young adults ages 20 to 32 years with a high frequency of religious participation were 50 percent more likely to be obese by middle age after adjusting for differences in age, race, sex, education, income and baseline body mass index. High frequency of religious participation was defined as attending a religious function at least once a week.
While the result seems pretty conclusive, the causal connection between god and obesity is not clear. Matthew Feinstein, the study’s lead investigator suggests, “It’s possible that getting together once a week and associating good works and happiness with eating unhealthy foods could lead to the development of habits that are associated with greater body weight and obesity.”
I find that unconvincing. Is the food at these religious get-togethers that bad? In my experience, they are usually potluck events, with home-cooked dishes that are actually pretty good. Even if it is bad for you, eating it just once a week seems hardly sufficient to produce this effect. It seems more likely to me that that the desire for food and the desire for god both spring from the same source, a neediness that is never satiated.
Given Americans’ obsession with their weight and their propensity to rush out and adopt any and all kinds of diet programs, perhaps atheist organizations should adopt a new recruiting slogan: “Lose god and lose weight!”