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Yesterday’s Eye-Opener also raised some eyebrows.

It took note of a CNN report saying that “young, religiously active people are more likely than their non religious counterparts to become obese in middle age, according to new research. In fact, frequent religious involvement appears to almost double the risk of obesity compared with little or no involvement.”

The reason? Well, one theory is that churches rail against a lot of vices, but gluttony does not tend to be high up on the list (though it makes the top seven deadly sins). Another theory is that “more frequent participation in church is associated with good works and people may be rewarding themselves with large meals that are more caloric in nature than we would like." And a third theory is that churches tend to create a culture of eating, like with potluck suppers.

My comment:

I have long thought the problem with many people who think of themselves as religious is that they spend too much time on their knees, and too little time doing things with their hands and feet ... that the mark of real spirituality is converting those beliefs into action. And maybe even a solution to some small part of the nation’s obesity issue.

Let’s start with the folks who either thought I was wrong or who were offended by my comment.

One MNB user wrote:

I think it’s the other way around and that there may be an inverse relationship…I think the folks with a tendency towards obesity gravitate towards church as a place where they can be accepted without judgment.  Nobody holds them accountable there, even at the potluck buffet line.

From another MNB user:

Wow…a lot of people have way too much time on their hands!  I’m not religious but this sounds like anti-religion bull crap to me.  Why try to divide people.  I mean, really, people who practice religion are fatter than us?  I guess it got a reaction out of me but there has to be more important things going on!!

Another MNB user was brief:

You obviously know little about the work of the church.

Which church would that be, just out of curiosity?

MNB user Paul Anthony wrote:

Oh, bunk.  Shame on you for taking the chance to slap at religion.  And shame on CNN for the completely false analogy.  The two are only linked because rates of obesity and rates of church attendance are both higher for the poor (and higher in the South).  Come on, you know better – or do I need to explain to you what fast food and food deserts do to people?

“…spend too much time on their knees…”: oh, please.

Another MNB user wrote:
I had to write you about your “religion” study. You often state that you are trying to be unbiased but your eye-opener just go to proves that you are not. Talk about hypocrisy. To state that “the problem with many people who think of themselves as religious is that they spend too much time on their knees, and too little time doing things with their hands and feet” is a ridiculous comment and very offensive. Do you realize that most of the people helped in this country are helped by or through religious groups? Do you realize that a lot of religious people also help people who are not within the United States? If it was not for some of our religious groups, we would have to depend on an incompetent government that can take weeks/months/years to help people while most religious groups can get it done faster and with less red tape. Most of the time, you are quick to support the government and all their government programs they like to put in place but when it comes to hard working religious men and women, you have nothing but disdain for them. Our government is a slow moving monster who has more red tape and contradictory rules and regulations, that they have a hard time getting out of their own way so that can help anyone out.

So with that being said, I want to point out a couple of things. I am an overweight very religious person (Catholic to be exact) who actually gets out and tries to help people. I have cooked and feed the homeless meals. I have given rides to those who are having financial problems so they cannot afford car repairs. I have helped take of families who do not have a place to live and end up staying at our church for a short time while they get back on their feet. I volunteer at my church constantly. I would like to point out that I do this all while I am working full time and going to school full time. My weight has nothing to do with my religion and everything to do with what I choose to eat. Here is another study that wants to put the blame on something else (religion) than the individual but instead of you pointing out that it should be put on the individual (which I have seen you do in the past), you are quick to jump on the “religion” causes the problem band wagon. People need to take responsibility for their own actions and not find an “excuse” to blame it on. It does not help out the individual and it does not help out our society. Glad to see that you were quick to accept the “excuse” instead of pointing out the flaws in the study/thinking.

I sense a little sarcasm there...

I certainly did not mean to imply that everybody who is religious is guilty of the sin of inaction. In fact, I didn’t even say “everybody.” I said “many people.” “Some people” might have raised fewer hackles, but I’ll be honest ... I think my comment is defensible. Offensive to some, maybe, but defensible.

You sound like the living embodiment of what it seems to me religion ought to be about - an active, progressive way to help other people as a way of worshipping whatever deity you happen to believe in. And I’d be surprised if, in your heart of hearts, you did not agree that there are so-called “religious” people out there who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

MNB user Laurie Gethin wrote:

Kevin, I expect (and hope) that you will get a lot of feedback on your comment about religious people...very nasty and uncalled for, in my opinion.

Did you ever think that quite a few religious people focus on OTHERS rather than THEMSELVES - so they may not take the time needed to work out regularly within their limited discretionary time, but instead are volunteering at the food bank, or working at the local shelter, or spending one night a week at choir practice (such as myself)?  This type of use of one's discretionary time can be very rewarding...although it can come with a personal price.

It takes a lot of time focused on SELF to eat right and exercise...and sometimes people sacrifice that time to help others.  Just another theory to consider...

From another MNB user :

The Monday Eye-Opener is so far below the standards you've established for your blog that I was almost embarrassed for you. If it was a slow day for content in this daily feature, perhaps a "will return" like you occasionally post in the "Your Views" section was in order.

You've taken on religious topics countless times and it often touches some nerves and triggers some spirited debate. If this was another attempt to do so, it was just so weak. The results of the study are what they are. But the theories were really lame. Gluttony doesn't rank high enough of as a vice? Because people do good works they reward themselves with large meals? Churches create "a culture of eating?"

Are they serious? That's the best they could come up with?

MNB user David Burgess wrote:

Cheap shot.  Sound more like your own Old Time Bigotry.  All the polls show that religious people donate more to charity and volunteer more time to their communities than their non religious brethren.  Sounds a lot like “don’t confuse my prejudice with the facts,” or maybe you were just bored and wanted to stir up the pot a little.  Not to toot my own horn, but I helped organize 750 volunteers on Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (yes, he was a pastor) and we’re planning another 500+ volunteer park clean-up for Earth Day.  And I know there are a lot of people like me around the country.  I really don’t mind you having a little fun at my expense, but I really don’t like you perpetuating a negative stereotype that doesn’t conform to the facts.

I loved this email from MNB user Rosemary Fifield, who makes some excellent comments about the study’s possible flaws:

My first thought on reading this is "Where are the most religious people located?" According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the top ten religious states are Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky, in that order. At the bottom are the six New England states, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and New York (from least to more so).

Looking at obesity statistics for 2010, the most obese populations occur in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arkansas, South Carolina, and North Carolina. From least obese upwards are Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, Utah, Montana, and New Jersey.

Is there a correlation? Definitely. How relevant is that correlation? I'd be more likely to look at what economic advantages the folks in the leanest states might have.

Excellent point.

Another MNB user wrote:

I bristle at the word “religious” as a term for those who are part of a faith community. As a Christian, I disassociate myself with that term because it can equally describe one who chooses to follow Jesus, and one that worships the planets, pets, or whatever is the object of their religion. But, as I read your piece, religious is defined as those who attend church.

What I find interesting is your comments: “I have long thought the problem with many people who think of themselves as religious is that they spend too much time on their knees, and too little time doing things with their hands and feet ... that the mark of real spirituality is converting those beliefs into action. And maybe even a solution to some small part of the nation’s obesity issue.”

Your opinion is that action is more important than prayer. My opinion is that you underestimate the power of prayer. I do agree that real spirituality is manifested in actions to serve others motivated by a thankful heart. Many Christians and Christian organizations that I see firsthand are compassionate and get their hands dirty in working to serve others (look at Samaritan’s Purse and their aide to Japan).

So, I’m not happy about the findings as it places me in the “propensity to be fat” category. But did you consider that maybe the reason behind this finding is that those young, religiously active people are actually focused on others and not themselves? I know many that would prefer to serve at a soup kitchen vs. attending a church potluck (how stereotypical can you get – potluck).

I see a living faith in many young people who give unselfishly to others and care less about their own needs. And I think that the world would be a better place if we had more like them, fat or skinny! (but why not caring and healthy!)

There were some folks who agreed with my analysis.

One MNB user wrote:

I don’t think I have ever thought you were “baiting” the readers but talk about pushing buttons!

I suspect the “too much time on their knees” comment will result in an inbox meltdown! By the way, extremely well put!

MNB user John Shelford wrote:

I am a follower of Jesus Christ and you are right on.  What about prayer and “fasting?”  What about discipline and self control of the lust of eating?  And what about one’s body being the temple of the Holy Spirit of those who are believers? 

I know not who you follow or worship but as one in the group target, the message is on target!  Preach it!!

From another MNB user:

Religion: Real Gutsy Comment! That should raise some interesting commentary.

I agree with you, BTW!

One man’s “gutsy” is another person’s “moronic.”

Listen, the “Eye-Opener” series is designed to get people thinking and talking, usually about issues that are somehow off the beaten path of our usual coverage. This would qualify, for better or for worse.

I actually sort of agree with the assessment that while this study’s results may be interesting, it may reflect more about geography and cultural preferences (where people live and what they have eaten for generations) than it does with how they spend their Sundays. And I wish I had made that connection in my commentary. But I didn’t think of it, not until it was brought up by a number of emails.

I also understand why some people would think I was taking a mean, unsolicited shot at religion.

But I disagree with that conclusion.

The opinion I expressed - the problem with many people who think of themselves as religious is that they spend too much time on their knees, and too little time doing things with their hands and feet ... that the mark of real spirituality is converting those beliefs into action - does not seem all that radical to me, nor is it an original thought.

Frankly, that’s what I learned from a number of Jesuits whom I found to be learned and spiritual people - that one can best worship God through one’s actions, not just through prayer. (Note to critics: I said “not just through prayer.”) It was a core lesson of my education at Loyola Marymount University - that thought and action and prayer together are more powerful than thought alone. Or even prayer alone.

At some level, isn’t that the message sent by the lives of people like Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Mother Theresa?

How many people in this country say they are religious, but act that way only on Saturdays or Sundays, and spend the rest of their week engaged in activities - both personal and professional - at odds with the prayers and sentiments uttered within the confines of their church, temple or wherever it is they worship?

I’m going to stop here, because, to be honest, I am swimming in intellectual and spiritual waters far too deep for a person of my limitations.

Does this have a connection to the obesity issue? Maybe only through my somewhat warped sensibility, and maybe only in the sense that it inspired me to remember a lesson about thought and action taught to me long ago.

I still think that my original statement is utterly defensible, and hardly can be construed as anti-religious.

It actually was anti-hypocrite.
KC's View: