Why Have Faith? Health vs. Heaven
A recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal (August 9, 2013) asked the question, “Does faith make you healthier?”
The author, Ari N. Schulman, raised an interesting question that is often overlooked. There are lots of studies that show the positive consequences of having faith and being a part of a faith community.
Christians are seen as more content and happier, have a higher rate of optimism, and are less likely to be depressed. They even found in one very large study that the women who attended church regularly had a 20% lower mortality rate than those with no faith. In addition, church attendance has been found to be associated with less social isolation, lower risk of substance abuse, lower rates of suicide, and greater life satisfaction.
As people of faith celebrate these findings in the research focused on faith and being done by social scientists, Schulman serves up a warning. He quotes one sociologist who did not have any faith in religion who said he would prefer to live in a society where most people do believe. He argued that religious faith would control such factors as criminality and other social ills.
The problem the writer was trying to get at is that if we are not careful, people will believe simply for the social benefits with no thought of the reality of the need for salvation and the fact that the goal is heaven. Or what about that adage that the purpose of our faith is not to foster happiness, but for us to become more holy.
Schulman noted the warning of Ross Dothan in his book “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics,” that prominent spiritual leaders have developed a faith whose purpose is to lead to wealth, health, and inner peace. He is concerned that even such evangelical organizations like the Family Research Council have heralded the positive scientific findings as a way to make faith more popular.
I loved the quote the author gave from C. S. Lewis, who said, “Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop.” What happens when the goal of faith is oriented to this life only, And what happens when we learn to develop a better tool (faith) that is better at leading us to happiness and health–do we replace our current faith with the new one?
Question: What’s the focus of your faith–temporal or heavenly?