Extra! Extra! In the Ideas section of today’s Boston Globe, I’ve got a new article. Read all about it!
RELIGION CAN BE good for more than the soul, a growing number of studies seem to say. Over the past decade, academic research on religiosity has exploded, and with it has come a raft of publications suggesting that spiritual beliefs and practices can add years to life, lower blood pressure, or keep at-risk kids on the straight and narrow.
As sociologists, psychologists, and physicians turn their attention to measuring the effects of religion, often fueled by grant money from private foundations, the results have percolated swiftly through weekend sermons and the popular media. Being nonreligious, one might conclude, looks more and more like a danger to your health.
That’s right. I’ve jumped cheerfully on the religion-and-health bandwagon. But don’t worry, it gets more interesting than that. Beginning in conversations with the sociologist Phil Zuckerman several months ago, I found a pretty wide spread of folks who are actively (1) trying to bring non-religious people into the focus of quantitative sociology and psychology and (2) trying to discredit claims that religion is good for your health. This article focuses mainly on the first group.
This trend toward the non-religious is a direct reaction to the return of religion to academia in recent years. Here’s a quotation from my interview with the leading sociologist of religion Christian Smith, which I wish had made it into the article:
In the old days, among people at universities, being skeptical or being nonreligious was more taken for granted. So that was a more invisible category. The more religion has had a resurgence, if you think it has, the more being not religious has become interesting.