Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

It’s Not Religion That Promotes Health. It’s Certainty of Beliefs.

Placebo effect is one reason beliefs, religious and otherwise, improve health.

Published in
7 min readSep 3, 2021


For several decades studies have purportedly shown that religiousness enhances health. The studies that purport this have various methodological shortcomings, one of which is that there are so many ways to define and describe religion that it’s extremely difficult to say what characteristics of religion, if any, contribute to possible health benefits. In addition, studies that have claimed health improvements for religious people rarely concern themselves with who the non-religious are and if anything that secular people do or believe might impact their health positively or negatively.

Some recent health survey studies have begun including these non-religious groups and, in fact, found indications that people with strong religious beliefs and atheists with their own strong, non-religious beliefs show the best overall health measures. (Farias 2020, Baker 2018) Those with less certain beliefs like theists not affiliated with a particular religion or those who question their beliefs had lower overall health measures. Meaning strength of belief is likely a more critical factor contributing to salutogenic (health-benefiting) outcomes. If true, this means that religion, per se, is…



Author of Darwin’s Apple: The Evolutionary Biology of Religion, a new take on the function and purpose of religion.