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Thread: Is religion good for your health?

  1. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruv Draba View Post
    In fairness, the original article made no magical claims. When these claims are made it's typically not by scientists, but rather by evangelists trying to make political points, often drawing on science or pseudoscience in poorly-understood ways.

    But if you wanted to demonstrate miraculous behaviour convincingly then I think you need a miracle that's predicted, specific (in time, place, person or objects involved), dramatic, contra-indicated (i.e. it's the opposite of what we'd expect), repeatable (so you can test what causes it), reliable, independently verifiable and only invoked in response to prayer, ceremony or genuine religious affiliation. There's a fairly good discussion of this here and here.
    I'm not asking for a miracle. I just want a decent protocol. If my research group got the funding we could figure this stuff out pretty fast. For example: dosage. Okay...what is the most powerful form of religious health-induction? Is it lethal at those high dosages? Can we get that at a much lower dose? Is it detectable as being present at that lower dose? I mean you need to be able to calibrate the dosage or how can you even start? We know from early sources that if you just found the Ark of the Covenant just sitting around you would instantly receive a lethal dose of religion (this is after the Ark escaped under its own power from the Temple of Dagon the Fish God). Maybe Religion is better calibrated from Temple of the Fish God levels.
    If we had two temples (one of Dagon and one of the God of Placebos) and we had healthy subjects offer sacrifices in each one and we could detect a dose of religion that was different in the two groups then we would be on our way to pinning down the effects of religion on health. If it turns out that it doesn't matter which temple you were in then...we're coming up empty on where to start.

  2. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Higgins View Post
    I'm not asking for a miracle. I just want a decent protocol. If my research group got the funding we could figure this stuff out pretty fast. For example: dosage. Okay...what is the most powerful form of religious health-induction? Is it lethal at those high dosages? Can we get that at a much lower dose? Is it detectable as being present at that lower dose? I mean you need to be able to calibrate the dosage or how can you even start? We know from early sources that if you just found the Ark of the Covenant just sitting around you would instantly receive a lethal dose of religion (this is after the Ark escaped under its own power from the Temple of Dagon the Fish God). Maybe Religion is better calibrated from Temple of the Fish God levels.
    If we had two temples (one of Dagon and one of the God of Placebos) and we had healthy subjects offer sacrifices in each one and we could detect a dose of religion that was different in the two groups then we would be on our way to pinning down the effects of religion on health. If it turns out that it doesn't matter which temple you were in then...we're coming up empty on where to start.
    I guess it would be nice to have some idea of safe dosages from animal testing. On the other hand getting funding to test religion on animals might be even harder than getting funding to invent a convincing god to use as a placebo in human testing.

  3. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Higgins View Post
    I guess it would be nice to have some idea of safe dosages from animal testing. On the other hand getting funding to test religion on animals might be even harder than getting funding to invent a convincing god to use as a placebo in human testing.
    By now I think there's plenty of statistical evidence to show that human religions are pretty unhealthy for animals. Animal healings don't feature much in religious lore, while animal sacrifice, curses, blame-shifting, disease-shifting are rife, not to mention using animal bits for spells. Even the sacred animals don't get such a great deal. For every cat favoured by Bast, there are probably dozens more being thrown live into boiling water to make magic mojo bones.

    In terms of inventing a placebo-god as control, I wouldn't go to the effort. All that mythology and custom to build up... plus you'd need to find a congregation indifferent in prayer, yet dedicated enough to turn up to regular services (perhaps scour the bingo halls?)

    A more efficient alternative might be to rent out faith from a religion who are really only in it for the tax breaks anyway. I won't name names, but I suspect you might get interest from a few televangelists. Alternatively, you could try using a Real Deity as a placebo and only get excommunicates, apostates and the Irretrievably Damned to do the praying. I suspect that there'd be no shortage of gay, divorced, and birth-control-using Catholics say, who'd love to find a practical use for their abundant yet unwelcome faith. There'd be no dearth of female Catholic priests to lead them inappropriately too.

  4. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruv Draba View Post
    By now I think there's plenty of statistical evidence to show that human religions are pretty unhealthy for animals. Animal healings don't feature much in religious lore, while animal sacrifice, curses, blame-shifting, disease-shifting are rife, not to mention using animal bits for spells. Even the sacred animals don't get such a great deal. For every cat favoured by Bast, there are probably dozens more being thrown live into boiling water to make magic mojo bones.

    In terms of inventing a placebo-god as control, I wouldn't go to the effort. All that mythology and custom to build up... plus you'd need to find a congregation indifferent in prayer, yet dedicated enough to turn up to regular services (perhaps scour the bingo halls?)

    A more efficient alternative might be to rent out faith from a religion who are really only in it for the tax breaks anyway. I won't name names, but I suspect you might get interest from a few televangelists. Alternatively, you could try using a Real Deity as a placebo and only get excommunicates, apostates and the Irretrievably Damned to do the praying. I suspect that there'd be no shortage of gay, divorced, and birth-control-using Catholics say, who'd love to find a practical use for their abundant yet unwelcome faith. There'd be no dearth of female Catholic priests to lead them inappropriately too.
    You're assuming prayer gives a significant dosage. Historically there's no evidence of that. On the other hand, unprotected exposure to the Ark of the Covenant is instantly lethal -- a very high dose of religion. Of course it might be that spending the night in the Temple of Dagon among the Philistines might make any Ark lethal...all the more so when it gets lose under its own power. I suppose you could make an Animal Covenant Ark (but remember Dagon is a Fish god so maybe mammals are more likely to metabolize religion in lethal amounts). All-in-all starting from a lethal dose and working back to a detectable but not dangerous dose seems like a better approach. At least you have a baseline. Constructing say 20,000 different Arks and leaving them each overnight in the Temple of Dagon and then exposing mammals of different sizes at different distances should give you some idea of how to get a safe and controlled dose of religion. And perhaps there's some kind of shielding. Maybe prayer actually acts more like a shield than a dose enhancer for example.

  5. #30
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    I suppose that there's some evidence of prayer as shielding. Passover, for example (again, healthier for humans than lambs, say). The example of Lot's wife suggests too that physical distance isn't the only factor -- orientation matters too. Australian soldiers used to know how to properly shield themselves from cataclysmic events... you have your back to the blast until after the hot wind blows over you. Then the worst you get is sunburn. Sadly, Mrs Lot didn't have their training.

  6. #31
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    [QUOTE=Ruv Draba;3835732]. I suspect that there'd be no shortage of gay, divorced, and birth-control-using Catholics say, who'd love to find a practical use for their abundant yet unwelcome faith. QUOTE]

    Actually out here in the real live world (and even in the small town where I live) I know many Catholics who are gay or divorced or use birth control who are active Catholics. There's no blanket "you're not welcome" statement handed out to those who are any of the above.
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnnysannie View Post
    Actually out here in the real live world (and even in the small town where I live) I know many Catholics who are gay or divorced or use birth control who are active Catholics. There's no blanket "you're not welcome" statement handed out to those who are any of the above.
    Sorry for being unclear, J-A. I wasn't talking about the real live world. I was talking about the infallible views of the Primate about what the Catholic God's preferences are.

    In my real live world, I know two (covertly) gay Catholic priests and have numerous Catholic friends who use contraception. They're welcome in their own communities and of course in mine. And if my atheism gets me to Hell before their sexual expression does, I'll be sure and welcome them there too.

  8. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruv Draba View Post
    Sorry for being unclear, J-A. I wasn't talking about the real live world. I was talking about the infallible views of the Primate about what the Catholic God's preferences are.

    In my real live world, I know two (covertly) gay Catholic priests and have numerous Catholic friends who use contraception. They're welcome in their own communities and of course in mine. And if my atheism gets me to Hell before their sexual expression does, I'll be sure and welcome them there too.
    None of that will work in a decent protocol. I'd like to know how you expect to measure the health side of "alive after you are dead" (is that a health issue?) and "tormented forever" (very low quality of life, but you live after you are dead forever -- could be healthy, its hard to say).

    I suppose one question is:

    Which person seems more threatening:

    A) one that says "I'm going to punch you in the nose."
    b) one that says "I'm going to beat you up after you are dead."

    A seems like a health issue of some kind for you, B seems like a problem for those individuals that take out their aggression only after those triggering the aggression are dead.

  9. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Higgins View Post
    None of that will work in a decent protocol. I'd like to know how you expect to measure the health side of "alive after you are dead" (is that a health issue?) and "tormented forever" (very low quality of life, but you live after you are dead forever -- could be healthy, its hard to say).
    I think an economist would have an answer for this... I believe he'd create a Futility function F and calibrate it against all our Pointless and Disagreeable experiences, like so:

    F(1 hr of Leonard Cohen) = 43
    F(1 hr of Leonard Cohen tribute artist) = 44
    F(1 hr of Cher with another facelift) = 65
    F(A full rerun of I Love Lucy) = 247.

    We can thus rate the Pointlessness and Disagreeability of Everything on a rational scale.

    Then it's a matter of seeking to minimise the Futility function against the Utterly Unknown Yet Still Conceivable using Pascal's Other Wager: that (for example) the Probability of F(Nasty Afterlife) > F(Being stuck in a nuclear bunker with Ann Coulter, eating baked beans and rollmops while watching Dance Your Ass Off for X hours) approaches zero as X tends towards 1.

    It's all Utterly Scientific, I promise you.

  10. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruv Draba View Post
    I think an economist would have an answer for this... I believe he'd create a Futility function F and calibrate it against all our Pointless and Disagreeable experiences, like so:

    F(1 hr of Leonard Cohen) = 43
    F(1 hr of Leonard Cohen tribute artist) = 44
    F(1 hr of Cher with another facelift) = 65
    F(A full rerun of I Love Lucy) = 247.

    We can thus rate the Pointlessness and Disagreeability of Everything on a rational scale.

    Then it's a matter of seeking to minimise the Futility function against the Utterly Unknown Yet Still Conceivable using Pascal's Other Wager: that (for example) the Probability of F(Nasty Afterlife) > F(Being stuck in a nuclear bunker with Ann Coulter, eating baked beans and rollmops while watching Dance Your Ass Off for X hours) approaches zero as X tends towards 1.

    It's all Utterly Scientific, I promise you.
    There is a Quality of life scale that runs from 0 (dead) to 1 (fine and dandy)...negative values are allowed for things that are worse than being dead. But a broken wrist puts you at .98 and a broken hip puts you at .6

    And it is Health Economists who use the scale.

  11. #36
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    I'm coming late in on the discussion, sorry.

    I think it is 'good for your health', emotionally, mentally, and that probably overlaps to physically, for example, if what you believe encourages you to take care of your body. I think it grounds you, helps you get through the day, gives you meaning and purpose.

    However, if a religion is harmful- I suppose if it's more of a 'cult' than an actual religion, for example, one that encourages you to abandon family and friends, isolate yourself, one that makes you feel threatened, pressured or stupid, one that requires you to hand over your entire life savings- then I don't think it's good for your health.

    People will disagree with this, but hey, just my two cents worth.
    Last edited by orangejuice; 12-07-2009 at 03:24 PM. Reason: Spelling! Whoops. ^_^

  12. #37
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    A study of 21,000 adults showed that persons who never attended any religious exercises at all had a 19-fold higher risk of death over the 8 year period of the study.
    19-fold? How can that possibly be true?


    With regards to the aggressive health care when they're on deaths door, I think that might have a lot to do with religious views on suicide and euthanasia. That if you don't shove a feeding tube down this old womans throat then you're ending her life

  13. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhys Cordelle View Post
    19-fold? How can that possibly be true?


    With regards to the aggressive health care when they're on deaths door, I think that might have a lot to do with religious views on suicide and euthanasia. That if you don't shove a feeding tube down this old womans throat then you're ending her life
    Is this the 1972 study that's been completely discredited? I found one from 2008 that got 20% fewer deaths in the attending group.

    The problem with the earlier study (and all the later ones that show the same thing) is that they neglected to account for people who wanted to go to church but who were just too sick to get out of the house. When the study was redone correcting for sick people, there was no positive effect. Oddly enough, this doesn't keep people from repeating the same mistakes.

    The real problem here is that you have to follow people for quite some time to get a significant number of deaths, and a small number of ill people can really trash the results.

    There's also plenty of evidence that people who have strong social networks are healthier, which is really just common sense--if you don't have anyone to drive you to the doctor, you may be in trouble. But I've yet to see a study that accounts for the sick people and compares social non-church attenders to social church attenders, and shows any sort of correlation between health and church attendance (outside of its function as a social activity).
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  14. #39
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    In 1994, during a visit to the ER because my mother couldn't breath, (asthmatic and had pneumonia) after drawing an abnormal looking fluid from her lungs so she could breath, they biopsied it to find cancer cells floating in the fluid of her lungs. A CAT scan revealed she had two tumors on one of her ovaries.

    She was scheduled for surgery 36 hours later and I flew out to see her. The surgery was short. They knew the cancer had spread but not to the extent that they thought. The surgeon closed her up and came to us with the news that he could not operate. It was all through her abdomen as well. He said it was pressing against her colon and gave us a prognosis of 3 weeks to 3 months. When I asked him if I had time to get my family to South Dakota, he told me to leave immediately and bring them back.

    He was completely convinced she had so little time left. But he didn't tell her that. I flew home, gathered up my husband and children and we drove from Utah to South Dakota. In that time, they were prepping her for Chemotherapy which I assertively complained against as I felt it torture for someone who they were sure it wouldn't work for.

    I remember standing in her room, (they'd brought in a hospital bed) and was talking to her and being my light and usual supportive self when she reached over and took my arm.

    "Kim Marie, I'm not done here, yet." She said.
    "What do you mean?"
    "Oh don't give me that look. Of all my kids, you can't hide what you know. They might tell me it's all going to be fine but I can tell they handed you my death sentence."
    "Mom--"
    "No, you listen. The Lord isn't done with me yet. He's got way more work for me to do and I'm going to beat this. You watch." She smiled and winked at me in her mid-western way. "I believe and so should you."

    Her doctors and nurses called my mom the "Miracle Lady". Her GYN told her that first year when drugs and treatment that held no hope of working given her advanced stage, that he could only give the glory to God and tell her that it was her extraordinary faith that saved her life.

    She told him, "I'm just too damn ornry to die and the good Lord has seen fit to give me more time to do his work."

    My mother wasn't a church going woman (Presbyterian), well not after us kids were all grown. She went some before her onset but not tons. She just had a firm belief that God doesn't give us more than we can handle and so in her trusting, child like faith, she figured, it would all be okay if she hung in there and fought. It was brutal.

    I used to call her that first month, every day, sometimes three times day and this was before free long distance plans. We held on as hard as we could. She once told me, she would do this no matter how hard it got because maybe they'd learn something from her to help someone else the next time.



    In 2008, we buried her after a long and hearty 14 year battle against all odds. Against. all. odds.

    So you tell me. Faith? Science? Both?

    I can tell you, my mom was a fighter but she'd never had been that strong without her unwavering faith in a loving God.

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  15. #40
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    I can tell you the opposite. My mother fought just as hard and yet she died. Even when she was drugged up to the gills and so messed up she couldn't remember my name, she still fought on because she wanted to live and to see myself and my sister grow up. In the end she still died. God had nothing to do with it, for all the prayer and appeals to higher powers, and what not, she still outlasted the prognosis by a few months, but it was quick decline. My mom was a spiritual woman, and yet even all of faith and effort eventually didn't change the fact that the leukemia she was suffering from had effectively destroyed her marrow completely.

    What's my point?

    It's easy to pick and choose what we want to see. I always hear the stories of how a person's faith pulled them through, but you know what? I know a lot of faithful people who still died horrible deaths from cancer, or other ailments. It's easy to claim that God did this or God did that, when it meets our expectations for what we desire god to do. We always seem to pick the favorable things to lay upon god, and for those things that are less favorable, we try to either say it's a part of the "Plan" or it's the fault of Satan or some other bugaboo.

    I'm more of a believer in the power of the will to live. When a person truly doesn't want to shuffle off the mortal coil, and deep down makes the iron willed determination to do what ever it takes to survive, that's what keeps people going. My mom hung on through agonizing marrow transplants, through constant nausea, and total agony, just so that she could spend more time with us. WE were her motivation. She had faith in an afterlife for herself, but her reason for fighting was myself and my sister.

  16. #41
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    As I said, it was my mother's faith in God and that he had more in store for her that gave her the strength to fight on.

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  17. #42
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Higgins View Post
    I imagine that if you looked at a population that practiced Yoga intensely you would find they lived longer and better than most of mankind, even if they only have a BA and an excessive amount of cash. Anyway, that is my firm belief or at least my fond hope.
    .
    As someone who discovered Yoga when I was 18, I can only confirm this. The immediate effects of my practice (ie, within one month of starting) was that I stopped smoking, drinking and binge eating, and went from fat to thin in the blink of an eye.

    I later moved on to the more spiritual aspects of Yoga and I am in v. good health for my age (58). The only time I've seen a doctor in the last 15 years at least was about 4 years ago -- for a wart. I also have far fewer aches and pains; never had either menstraul pains nor PMS (PMT), had very easy and quick births, and no post-partum complaints; also, no grey hairs! There's no hocus-pocus to it; the science as to "why" is sound, and has nothing to do with faith. Yoga practice, whether physical or spiritual, keeps the body supple and healthy for longer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dommo View Post
    I can tell you the opposite. My mother fought just as hard and yet she died. Even when she was drugged up to the gills and so messed up she couldn't remember my name, she still fought on because she wanted to live and to see myself and my sister grow up. In the end she still died. God had nothing to do with it, for all the prayer and appeals to higher powers, and what not, she still outlasted the prognosis by a few months, but it was quick decline. My mom was a spiritual woman, and yet even all of faith and effort eventually didn't change the fact that the leukemia she was suffering from had effectively destroyed her marrow completely.

    It's a common fallacy among the faithful to believe that because so and so prays etc etc etc God is going to heal them. That's Santa Claus thinking. Prayer should be complete submission to God's will, which can and should include death. A person who dies in that spirit will welcome death as much as he or she welcomes healing; because finally death is inevitable for everyone.

    That said, I too have personally known several miraculous recoveries in people of strong spiritual practice, in a couple of cases recoveries that left the doctors baffled. And as in the case of Cass's mother, there are some who simply "know" that they are not yet going to die.
    Last edited by aruna; 01-16-2010 at 05:46 PM.
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