Health and Religion: Insights from scientific studies

Presented by Revd. Dr Alison J Gray, Consultant Psychiatrist and Anglican priestAli G 2010

There were various questions on a wide variety of topics:

1. Prayer and ‘Healing of the Memories’.

Alison said that she had heard of this and certain aspects such as ‘writing therapy’ and burning of letters etc. were a commonly used practice.

2. Has the media distorted the facts?

Yes! The media often portrays religion as an unhelpful add-on to life, but this is not the true position. Rather being a practicing believer has very many benefits to body, mind and soul.

3. Is it religion or world any group do?

A book by Robert Putnam called ‘Bowling Alone’ showed that joining a bowling club did have some benefits, but nothing like as many as joining a religion.

4. How does this benefit come about?

We talked about various possible reasons for this benefit: having a hope for the future; having a ‘presence’ with us even when we are alone, but there is not sufficient study to say with any certainty.

5. What about the clergy in all this?

There is a lot of evidence to show that clergy are prone to burnout and depression and a significant number leave the ministry.

6.Most of this work has been done in America is it transferable to the UK?

This is a good question and the answer is that it isn’t completely transferable because there is much more churchgoing in America than in the UK or the rest of Europe.

7. Using this information shouldn’t we be promoting ‘good common sense’?

Yes! We should be putting more resources into prevention rather than cure. Sadly it is not easy to get the funding for these projects because it is not easy to measure the ‘outcomes’, which is where the funding comes from. Also some people think you are taking away their freedom of choice.

8. What should we be doing?

The church and the clergy should be setting a good example to the rest of the church and society in living a healthy lifestyle.

9. Is this an individual’s choice?

No! Wholeness comes most fully through community and it is the whole community which supports the individual. When this happens then the whole community moves into wholeness and health.

Alison Gray presentation

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