(Does Religion Make You Fat?)

The most religious state, Mississippi, is also the most obese.  Similarly, the second
most religious state, Alabama is the second most obese.  In fact, nine out of ten of the
most religious states are also the most obese: Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina,
Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Kentucky all fall
within the top ten in the religiousness and obesity ratings (see chart at the end of this
media release).

Using obesity statistics from the Calorie Lab and religiousness statistics from Gallup
polls, author Tim Covell raises the possibility that religion may be bad for your health in
his new book, Born Atheist.   “The religious promise of a new body after death,” Covell
says, “may lead the faithful to neglect their bodies here on earth.”

The link between obesity and religion is undeniable, Covell says, but he acknowledges
that whether religion causes obesity is an unanswered question.  It is also possible
that poor health leads to more interest in religion, Covell admits.

In further support of his hypothesis Covell points to a multi-million dollar study funded
by the pro-religious Templeton Foundation.  That study hoped to find that prayer
helped heart surgery patients heal.  It divided them into three groups, one that did not
receive prayer, one that did but did not know it, and finally, one that received prayer
and knew it.  The only group with significantly poorer health outcomes was the group
that received prayer and knew it. “That group,” Covell says, “thought God would take
care of things for them and therefore took poorer care of their health.”

In a country where 80% of the people are religious, Covell says, the general
assumption is that religion is at worst harmless and at best beneficial.  But, Covell
says, his analysis opens the door to another possibility, that religion is bad for your

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A chart showing that nine out of ten of the most religious states are the most obese