90% of teenage girls believe they are overweight, according to a recent survey. That’s something to worry about — there’s the reality, that a lot of us are overweight, but there’s also the perception problem, that many girls are convinced that they must lose weight when they really don’t. There’s an article that speculates on the cause of this problem, whether it is an obsession with celebrity, peer pressure, or pressure from the diet industry, but it comes up with a strange explanation:

It is, in truth, all of the above. But there is another profoundly important yet little noticed dynamic at work in the anxious, achievement-oriented lives of perfect girls: they have a sometimes deadly, often destructive, lack of faith.

I don’t quite get the point—so atheists are driven to be leaner? Religious people tend to be less concerned about their bodies? I have never noticed a correlation between body weight and theism/atheism, I’m afraid. I wish I could say that all atheists are beautiful, but it just isn’t so; we have the same range of body types and appearances as believers, and you can’t tell us apart by looking at us—the differences are all in our brains.

Maybe the author has some data, though. Perhaps there is some kind of valid statistical difference.

Overlay our dearth of spiritual exploration with our excess of training in ambition and you have a generation of godless girls.

We were raised largely without a fundamental sense of divinity.

In fact, our worth in the world has always been tied to our looks, grades, and gifts – not the amazing miracle of mere existence.

Thinness and achievement stand in for qualities of kindness and humility.

We think that our perfect bodies – not God’s grace or good works – will get us into heaven.

We have no deeply held sense of our own divinity, so we chase after some unattainable ideal.

Perfect girls, as a result, feel they are never enough. Never disciplined enough. Never accomplished enough. Never thin enough.

Hmmm … no evidence there at all, but what an impressive amount of handwaving. I don’t see any evidence that we can make this sweeping argument that American girls are particularly godless, or any association between atheism and body weight. I have never heard an atheist suggest that being thin is a substitute for kindness.

Does anyone believe that going to church is a useful treatment for anorexia?

That article is a perfect example of an apologist making what she thinks is a rational argument for religion — and when it’s examined, there isn’t a shred of evidence presented, and it’s nothing but a collection of excuses built on a foundation of unwarranted assumptions.

(via ERV)


  1. #1 Martín Pereyra
    April 30, 2007

    While the “I’m not thin enough” cannot be linked to godlessness, it can be fairly linked to Christianity:

    I’m not virtuous enough.
    I don’t pray enough.
    I don’t proselytize enough.
    I don’t go to the church enough.
    I don’t read the Bible enough.
    I don’t make enough sacrifice.
    I’m not charitable enough.
    I don’t have enough faith.
    I don’t love God / Christ / whatever enough.

    (I remember there was a joke in The Simpsons like that: Ned Flanders calling Reverend Lovejoy and saying: “I’m humble, but I think I could be humbler” or something like that.)

    At least, similar expressions of self-humiliation are common in the most fanatical brances of Catholicism.

  2. #2 Torbjörn Larsson
    April 30, 2007

    One could as easily claim that a religious outlook is required to sustain an obsession.

    And that atheism or more specifically skepticism at large at least means a leaner, hungrier and more active consciousness. :-)

    In America, IIRC, obesity is more common in the Midwest and South, and among the poor; so is religious belief. I’d expect that alone to produce a positiv correlation.

    I expect the same. We have also positive correlations education-atheism and education-fitness that supports this expectation within a specific population.

    Swedes are not particularly religious or very overweight

    The overweight trend is hitting Europe as well as other continents. There is a time lag between populations, different for different phenomena.

    Here AFAIK it seems to be about 20-30 years, or a generation, before particularly sedentary habits become popular. (The root causes may be unknown or unverified, but personally I think this hints that inactivity may be the root cause.)

    The good news is that there is still time to be proactive. IIRC, in UK they have successfully tested programs where they teach adolescents how to eat (basically, regular and prepared meals) and the difference between food and junk. (Since their parents doesn’t know, or doesn’t know how to teach them.)

    That seems to help, but I wouldn’t expect them to help fully if they don’t get to all of the root cause(s).

  3. #3 Torbjörn Larsson
    May 1, 2007


    isn’t it a bit irresponsible of a corporation to support adding another meal to the menu?

    Many fitness programs (i.e. based on regular training) suggest eating more often, say each 3-4 hour, to even out blood sugar load and provide steady nourishment, so maximizing recovery from hard training.

    It is unclear to me if there are any measurable effects. But if there is, perhaps a less rigorous training regime also benefits from this, it could put less stress on the organism.

    This must be balanced by eating smaller portions of course, and that would presumably preclude junk food – it wouldn’t be enough bulk to stop the hunger.

    One should also consider the allegedly measurable fact that eating more than 4 or 5 times per day gives more wear on teeth, brushing or no brushing.


    payments to the church are still an integral part of the tax system.

    Only for those who still are members, and this for practical reasons. In law, state and church is now separate. (Except for the formality that the former state church still has the privilege of keeping the name ‘Swedish Church’.)

    The fact that a majority of people still believe in “something” suggests to me that you can’t really call this an atheist society.

    I have looked at, and criticized, the statistics in earlier comments to Pharyngula. The problem is that inconsistent and leading questions makes numbers very different in different studies. Comparing with other european countries within the same studies, swedes seems to be among the less organized religious and most atheist.

    I think we need better studies to draw more definite conclusions on absolute numbers. It was easier when everyone went to church. :-o