If Religious, Will One Live Longer?

The February 26, 2018, issue of Time magazine featured several articles on the theme of how to live longer better. One article entitled “You Asked: Do Religious People Live Longer?” insinuated that going to church might increase longevity.

My last book, Cramming for the Finals, was dedicated to a Roman Catholic priest, Father Tom Schutter, who died at sixty-eight. Tom was deeply religious, so he should have lived at least twenty more years. But he died at a relatively young age.

I have other friends in their late nineties who have never darkened the doors of the church and don’t consider themselves religious. Obviously, religion is not why they are enjoying long lives.

In 1958, I was broadsided by a fire engine. My buddy who was with me was killed instantly. Both Brad and I were religious. Isn’t living longer just the luck of the draw?

I’ve been fired from two churches and asked not to attend four others. The bishop of Los Angeles told me that I could not perform any priestly duties in his diocese but would never tell me why. Another bishop wanted to defrock me because I refused to fill out a silly document telling the church how many sacerdotal duties I performed every year, even though he knew full well that I couldn’t perform any where I lived. All the above actions fall under the umbrella of “religion,” but I don’t think any them were conducive to helping me live longer.

Despite the actions of the institutional church, I’m in my eighty-sixth year of life and expect to be around for many more—unless my luck runs out, which could happen tomorrow.

I still contend that longevity is mostly due to that “luck” stuff! On the other hand, I think certain attitudes toward life can help to ward off death.

My most important tip for living a long life is to see the proverbial glass as half full. I try to remain positive no matter what happens. Life is full of caca, and I believe I have the tools to deal with any caca that comes my way. My most important tool is called agape (the highest form of love), which has helped me through a long list of challenges.

When I was in the hospital after the aforementioned collision with a fire engine, I was told my in-hospital recovery would take two months. I shared this depressing news with a priest, who reminded me that 90 percent of all healing is in the head. I was out of that hospital in ten days. That idea that health is 90 percent mental is now part of my daily living.

Being married to my best friend for fifty-seven years has also benefited my longevity. Annie and I love living life together! And she feeds me very well, with good health always of foremost concern.

Being involved with a supportive group is another key factor in living longer and better. Meeting with a group of like-minded, thinking, progressive, caring, involved people once a week is extremely important to me. I call it my church group, but it could be any gathering that includes folks who possess the above qualities.

It doesn’t hurt that daily exercise is an extremely important part of Annie’s and my routine.

Annie and I like to be around people from diverse backgrounds and cultures all over the world, so travel is another factor in our longevity. (We’re in Cuba as I write this blog post.)

Sharing our gifts with the less fortunate keeps us tutoring inmates in jail, sponsoring children from poor countries, and marching in demonstrations. Volunteering gives one a sense of worth and self-esteem—another important ingredient in living a long, healthy life.

Annie’s and my favorite strategy for living a long life is probably our daily wine time.

I still contend that the deciding factor in longevity is the luck of the draw—not being religious. But I still like being “religious,” whatever that means.

What are your tools for longevity?


Image courtesy of moyerphotos (CC BY 2.0)

4 thoughts on “If Religious, Will One Live Longer?”

  1. I have no idea what my life span will be. I do not think about it. My secret to life is exercise, tai chi and qi gong, being open to new ideas and exchanging ideas with others, trying to live life to the fullest, trying to do something meaningful to myself as well as something directed at helping others each day. Sometimes the best thing I can do for myself and others is to sit back, pick up a good book and relax. I must admit that I am not good at sitting back and relaxing…I should do more of that.

  2. Besides all of the things you mentioned, I think one of the best things I am doing in my life is to not worry. I simply have let that go. It is amazing how much more calm I feel. I am thinking that that will help me with my longevity, whatever that might be. At least, I will enjoy my time. Love your thought provoking blog.

  3. I think longevity is something of a combination…good genes help. I lost my great aunt in 2007 at 104. She was my grandmother’s youngest sister. Exercise also helps, staying interested in and helping others also is a factor. Not smoking also helps. My mother died of pulmonary fibrosis and my stepfather died of lung cancer. Both were smokers. Probably the best and most important factor though is… good luck.

    One can do all the other things well and still get killed as your dear friend was.

    Although I believe in God and attend church regularly, I do not believe God is in control of this world. If God was and was anything but only persuasive and not coercive, the holocaust would never happened and wars would not either. Those things happened because the choices of evil men.

    Also, children and other innocents would not die of cancer and worse if God interfered in our world. So, no, I don’t believe just being religious helps.


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