In December 2017, the average life span of Americans declined for the second consecutive year. Before that, the average life span of Americans has been increasing for 20 consecutive years. The main culprits in taking American lives include obesity, heart disease, cancer, stroke and dementia. However, mental health and physical health are never indivisible. So what influence does religion have in terms of per capita life expectancy?
The economy and religion have an inseparable relationship. The poorer the country, the more religious the people there are; when the material life of the earth is not rich enough, the more people seem to need to place their hopes in the afterlife. In developed countries, people are generally less enthusiastic about religion. Although the average lifespan of Americans has declined, the economic boom has spawned a large number of atheists.
Others believe that, from a social perspective, religion can make people healthier because they often participate in group activities. But other groups can also bring the same results. What really benefits health is social contact. Religion is a secondary factor.
In the Pew Research Center survey, non-sectarians (including atheists and agnostics) ranked second in length, behind Jews, and before Buddhists. Interestingly, people in these three groups are less concerned about supernatural things. They care more about community life and how to live better. Behind these three are other religions (fourth) and folk religions (fifth). The shortest average length of life is Christians (No. 6), Hindus (No. 7), and Muslims (No. 8). The three are more dependent on the afterlife and believe that the soul can still live after the death of the body.
The economic strength seems to be the most important driving force for longevity. According to the Vox website:
“In the United States, there is a group of people whose life expectancy is longer than any group in history: that is, the rich. Recently, the average life span of the poor and the middle class has been shortened, but the longevity of the rich has reached an unprecedented length.”
For people with faith, this is a terrible news, but it makes sense. If your basic survival needs are met, you don’t need faith anymore, because life is already good enough for you.
But if you live in a place full of malaria, drought, AIDS and floods, you will be more worried about your survival. Everyone wants to have something better, and the belief in the afterlife becomes a natural thing. Then, whether the economy affects religion or whether specific religious ideas will promote the formation of specific economic conditions? The former seems more likely.
This topic also involves an important ethical principle: humility. Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism are all different in regard to the afterlife. To abide by one of the doctrines of one, it must be considered wrong by the other two. Of these three, even the most tolerant religions are involved in this battle. If you truly believe that Jesus is the only savior, those who do not believe him can only go to hell. In the long run, this “you die” idea is not healthy.
So is it better to focus on the present than to look after the world to make us live better? From the data point of view, it should be. You can’t live in the future forever. Whether or not you gain health depends on what you do right now.