After the posts and comments of the last couple of days, I have been thinking.
We often hear of the Nanny Staters referred to as "fanatical" and "zealots" and relying on faith over substance, which when you think about it are terms more usually applied to religion. So my question [to myself] is just how close is the health fanaticism become an actual religion?
For a start, both Puritanism and Religion have the concept of eternal life in common. While Religion applies this to spiritual eternity, the Puritans seem to believe in physical eternity. Religion promises that if we obey the tenets of the belief that we will live forever in Heaven, while the Puritans tell us constantly that by not obeying their tenets, we will die physically, often with painful and debilitating consequences which presumably is their concept of Hell.
Religion relies on pure faith. There is no scientific proof that God exists but equally there is no scientific proof that he doesn't. Puritanism however is dealing with more physical aspects of life and here they have a problem – people can see smokers, drinkers and the overweight and as physical entities and thus they are subject to examination. Their way around this little problem is to create a perception in the public's mind that they are the experts and that by providing their own "proofs" they convince the public that theirs is the Devine Word.
The modern version of Puritanism started simply enough. A small group with a personal distaste for smoking started spreading the word that it was evil. As soon as they convinced people that it was a "killer" then other acolytes easily joined the movement [“my father died of a heart attack and he smoked so the smoking must have killed him.” The fact that Dad wes 20 stone overweight was irrelevant]. As the movement grew, so did the power of the Puritans to the point where the science became almost irrelevant and faith alone was sufficient to get people to conform. The "science" they issue forth these days bears no resemblance to real science but this is irrelevant as the faithful will believe, no matter how ludicrous the "reports".
The success of the Puritans is visible everywhere. It is impossible to open a magazine these days without seeing someone promoting their own "healthy lifestyle". Food is advertised as a "healthy alternative". Joggers and cyclists are everywhere. Health really is the new religion
Like any religion, once it has gained a sufficient following it can spread its wings. The problem now is where it is heading. Having already demonised [and I use the word advisedly] tobacco and is encroaching heavily into the areas of food and drink, what will be next on the target list? Are we to see compulsory physical exercise? Will game consoles be outlawed [promoting laziness and God knows what they do the minds of cheeeldren?]. Will they go for the Big One and call for the abolition of the internal combustion engine?
Will they ultimately decide they are a de facto religion and join forces with the Amish so we live without electricity and drive horse and buggies everywhere, promising eternal life in this world and the next?
Thank God I won't be around then!