Studies: Religion kills, heals, and gets you pregnant


The ongoing debate over how religion influences medical patients continues with a slew of recent studies. First, the bad news. "Certain forms of religiousness may increase the risk of death," says a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine. "Elderly ill men and women who experience a religious struggle with their illness appear to be at increased risk of death, even after controlling for baseline health, mental health status, and demographic factors." Bowling Green State University Psychology professor Kenneth I. Pargament and others found that if sick people thought they were being abandoned or punished by God, that Satan caused their illness, or that they were being abandoned by their church, they were more likely to die. (Pargament had presented much of the findings at the American Psychological Association convention in August 2000.)

The Japan Times uses the study as an excuse to beat up on Christianity: "More than 95 percent of the patients were Christian, mainly Baptist or Methodist Protestants," writes Rowan Hooper. "In these versions of Christianity, teachings are liberally spiced with depictions of Satan and the fires of hell, to which sinners will be sent for eternal torture if they don't embrace the Lord. It's no wonder that those who question their faith suffer mental anguish with images like that. Of course, those horrific images are put there in the first place to keep the flock in line, to stop people questioning their faith and to attract nonbelievers."

(An abstract of the study is free, but the actual article will cost you $9.)

Now the good news: Pargament's study is only one of many. Dr. Mark Su, a second-year resident from Tufts University, presented ...

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