Saturday, February 20, 2010

Worship and Body Image

I’m reading some interesting articles by Bucknell psychologist Chris Boyatzis on the relationship between women's body image and religion and spirituality. One of the take-away points is that “Research has confirmed a healthy link between young adults’ religiosity and body image.” Now, why would that be?

I have often observed that nearly everyone worships something, although the object of their worship may not be immediately apparent. In the case of women’s body image, women with eating disorders are often striving for a “perfect” physical self. Now, perfection is one of the attributes of divinity, and for people of faith, one doesn’t have to be perfect because divinity is. People can participate in aspects of divine perfection, but perfection itself belongs to divinity. Thus, living a healthy life, a balanced life, a life of service, etc., are ways to approach participating in various aspects of divine perfection. If one is without faith in an object higher than oneself, living in a materialist world in which there is no higher power and no higher order than everyday life, then the self may become the embodiment of perfection--we are certainly bombarded with a certain version of feminine beauty--and, in the world of appearances, physical appearance can become the pinnacle of perfection. Thus follows disordered body-image and self-concept, with eating disorders and the other problems that accompany them.

For religious naturalists, a concept of divinity isn’t necessary to have a relationship with something higher than the self. Constructs such as nature as a whole, humanity as a whole, evolution, the genetic code, and the universe, will suffice to call one to relationship with a higher order of life in which one’s healthy self-image and lifestyle are important parts of that relationship.

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