Are Religion and Health Connected?

I almost didn’t pursue chaplaincy. When I was introduced to chaplaincy almost ten years ago, I was told that I could try it for a year or so, but that Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) was the educational gateway. I did try chaplaincy out for a few months,then checked out CPE. That is where I almost put the brakes on. The CPE training that I was looking at was accredited by The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. The “Psychotherapy” was what almost stopped me.

Then I remembered James Dobson. The, James Dobson, Dr. James Dobson, Psychologist, of Focus on the Family fame. I thought that if Dr. Dobson is okay with the term psychotherapy, maybe I should take a closer look.

As a coincidence (or divine appointment, depending on your theology), at about that same time I had occasion to look up the word“soul” in my concordance.I “happened” to notice that the word for soul in the original language of the New Testament is “psyche.” Of course the word therapy means “to heal” (also coming from a Greek word). That said to me that psychotherapy is literally, “Soul Healing.” I could live with that. I started CPE in December, 2007. It was, in all honesty, one of the best educational experiences I have had.

Why was I so averse to psychotherapy? Could it be because of Sigmund Freud? He is still known as the father of psychoanalysis, and he kept no secrets regarding his disdain for religion, calling it infantile and unnecessary and could now be set aside in favor of reason and science.  To Freud, religion should be replaced by science, the science of psychology. Dr. Freud died in 1939. Seventy Seven years after his death, over a 100 since his estrangement from the religion of his parents, psychiatry is showing a tendency to shift away from Freud’s aversion to religion.

Last week I received an email with a small article from the World Psychiatric Association (WPA). A post from the WPA website dated February1, 2016 says,

“The WPA (World Psychiatric Association) has just approved the Position Statement of Spirituality and Religion that was proposed by the WPA Section on Religion, Spirituality and Psychiatry.

Based on surveys showing the relevance of religion and spirituality to most of the world’s population and on more than 3,000 empirical studies investigating the relationship between religion and spirituality and health, it is now well established that religion and spirituality have significant implications for prevalence, diagnosis, treatment, outcomes and prevention, as well as for quality of life and wellbeing.

The statement stresses that, for a comprehensive and person-centered approach, religion and spirituality should be considered in research, training and clinical care in psychiatry.”

Wow! “More than 3,000 empirical studies…” I have read synopses of some of those 3000 studies. They are studies done by people like Duke University Medical School, Harvard, Baylor, and a lot of others that I don’t recognize. Studies have been done in the USA, Great Britain, China, Trinidad, Kuwait, Africa…just to name a few. Around 75% of those studies say that religion has a positive effect on our health. If you are interested in reading about some of those studies, here is a link to take you to the Duke University site that has several.

Today’s answer to the question, are Religion and Health connected is yes, according to the World Psychiatric Association, they are connected.

The apostle John lived before Freud or the World Psychiatric Association, and he said it this way, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 2)