For decades, scientists told us that religion makes us sick. Senior government researcher David Larson shatters the myth.

INTERVIEW BY CHRISTOPHER A. HALLChristopher A. Hall teaches biblical and theological studies at Eastern College in St. Davids, Pennsylvania.

Are religious people mentally and physically healthy? Or is religion a sign of neurosis, an ineffective coping mechanism employed by immature persons? The prevailing wisdom in the scientific community leans heavily toward a negative evaluation of the effects of religion on mental and physical health. Recently, however, a small group of researchers has begun to disprove that.

One of the leading religion-health researchers is David B. Larson, a senior government researcher in Washington, D.C., who for ten years worked with the National Institute of Mental Health. Larson, who is a Christian with evangelical roots, is also senior research consultant for the National Institute for Healthcare Research, a private, nonprofit institute devoted to producing and utilizing research to show the benefits of religious and family commitments. They do their work primarily through “systematic reviews,” where all relevant research data on a particular subject are collected and quantitatively analyzed to factor out biases and unwarranted conclusions. Larson contends that too often research on religion and health has been skewed by a bias against religious belief. Larson, who has published more than 130 articles, speaks and writes with passion and conviction that religion positively affects crucial social issues such as family life, volunteerism, divorce, suicide, substance abuse, and stress.

Is there openness among research scientists and medical professionals toward the value of religious ...

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