I have often thought of writing an article under the above title but I thought it might sound too pious.

However, I was inspired to do so from reading an article in the “New York Post” on February 5, 1996. The writer was Maggie Gallagher and that is all I know about her. She does not say to what religion she belongs and the article is simply a statement of facts based on a survey done recently on the effects which the practice of a religious faith has on society in general. The title of the article is, “Religion: The Ultimate Upper.”

Is God good for you?

Ms. Gallagher begins her article with this question. She says that until recently, the answer given to this question by the “cultural elite” has been a resounding “No.” Under the influence of thinkers like Freud and Marx, intellectuals have tended to view faith as a form of irrational superstition, a distraction for the oppressed and a crutch for weak. She feels that too often today religion is still routinely portrayed as a threat to our liberties rather than—as the Founding Fathers thought—the foundation of them. She quotes George Washington in his Farewell address: “Of all the disposition and habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

Washington was right

The writer then proceeds to give some of the results of scientific surveys, which suggest that “the Father of our Country had it right after all.” Religion is good for people and for poor people most of all,” she says, quoting from the scientific surveyors. Herewith a few:

“Regular religious practice generally inoculates individuals against a host of social problems including, suicide, drug abuse, out-of-wedlock births, crime and divorce.”

“Churchgoers are not only happier than the unchurched, they are healthier by far, with lower rates of depression, higher self-esteem and far less incidence of alcohol and drug abuse or crime. Frequent worshippers have, longer, happier marriages than their less religious counterparts.”

May I admit that this was news to me. Although it seems logical.

Blood pressure and strokes

“God,” she writes, “is even good for your blood pressure.” According to the survey results, regular church attendance reduces blood pressures on the average of 5mm—enough to reduce mortality rate by as much as 20 percent.” (And I always thought that my sermons put blood pressures up!) The survey goes on to say that among those who smoke, church attendance decreased the risk of early stroke by 700 percent.)

What Prayer can do

According to the article “one of the most unusual experiments in medical history” was conducted by a University of California cardiologist, He conducted a “random sample, double-blind study” of the effects of prayer, not by the patient but for the patient. The results given are as follows: “Those prayed for had noticeably fewer complications and less need for antibiotics.” I have no idea as to how such a survey could be carried out. Who knows who prays for whom?

But another and more credible survey comes up with the following results. It was done in “ongoing research in Manhattan’s De La Salle Academy.” The survey found that poor black and Hispanic kids who attend church are far more optimistic about their futures have better relations with parents, have more serious goals; see racism as less of an obstacle, and are far more serious goals, see racism as less of an obstacle, and are far more likely to view the world as a place where they can achieve. Maggie Gallagher concludes her article with these words.
“An active faith inoculates against despair. Marx had it all wrong. Religion is not so much the opiate of the masses as the amphetamine – giving the poor (like the rest of us) the faith, courage and optimism they need to fight for the good life – in both senses of the word.”