What happens when one’s religious beliefs clash with making healthy lifestyle choices?
If there’s one thing that most religions around the world agree upon, it’s the importance of respecting one’s body. Ranging from the Christian tenet that the body is a temple created in the image of God to the Buddhist belief that a healthy body enables us to live longer in order to benefit others, most religious practices emphasize that caring for your health can in fact be a spiritual act.
As an essential source of primary food, spirituality not only offers a sense of community and comfort, but it also often explicitly rejects unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, and overeating. Many studies show that religious people enjoy greater emotional and physical health than those who are nonreligious.
Yet clashes between religion and healthy behaviors can and do arise. A recent MSNBC article highlighted the conflict that some devout Christians feel towards yoga. Despite the exercise’s well-known physical, mental, and emotional benefits, there are concerns that yoga poses, interpreted as offerings to Hindu gods, are incompatible with Christianity.