Thursday, March 1, 2012

Religion and Health

Religion is often defined as “a set of beliefs explaining the world and the universe”. However for many, religion and spirituality mean a substancial amount more.
America is a religious nation with the vast majority professing a belief in God.
 Today’s health and beauty buzz is on how religion can impact health and our lives.
I know that I am entering dangerous waters with religion being one of the most controversial topics of discussion that exists.
It is not my intention to be scathing, make fun of or disagree with the choices of others. We all have the right to freedom of religion.
The number of religions in the world is unknown.  The list below includes most of which have been classified as “major world religions”
Christianity:- 2.1 billion      
Islam:-  1.5  billion                                
Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist:- 1.1.billion 
Hinduism:- 900 million
Chinese traditional religion:- 394 million 
Buddhism:- 376 million
Primal-indigenous:- 300 million
African traditional & Diasporic:- 100 million 
Sikhism:- 23 million 
Spirit ism:- 15 million
Judaism:- 14 million  Juche:- 9 million   Baha'i:- 7 million                                                                Confucianism:- 6 million         
Others include Jainism, Shinto and Cao Dai:-  around 4 million followers each.
Zoroastrianism, Tenrikyo:- 2 million each.
Neo-Paganism, Unitarian-Universalism, Rastafarian ism and Scientology: – under 1 million each.

Many people reach out in prayer for help when faced with a grave illness or an insurmountable problem. Many make contingent promises in the hopes that their prayers will be answered. We often ask the question " why do bad things happen to the good, the kind and the innocent?"
My husband was diagnosed with a terminal disease in 2004 in a routine physical exam. He had no signs or symptoms of illness. He was given a year to live by the oncologist we initially saw. Our children were young and words cannot begin to describe my anguish. Why? After undergoing extensive treatment, he remains in complete remission with no sign of disease. Why was he the only patient in that trial to achieve success against all odds?  The world famous thoracic surgeon who removed 4 ribs and rebuilt his chest cavity in a 12 hour surgery, refers to him as "His Miracle Man".  My father recently inquiring about his latest test results muttered under his breath, "just shows you the power of prayer". Was there a divine intervention? I don't know. I think that perhaps there just might have been.
                                                The Advantages of religion:-
  • Research has shown that faith can give one the strength to cope with an illness. There is a correlation between better mental health and religion. It has been found that religious people tend to have better general health.
  • Living in a community with a religious environment improves mortality rates according to a study conducted at Louisiana State. The community is more likely to take care of it's members and provide a strong social network.
  • Certain religious beliefs encourage healthy behaviors.
  • There are many social and cultural advantages.
                                              The Disadvantages of Religion:-
* I stress that these are acts of individuals who might be members of certain religions and not necessarily religion itself.*
  •  Demonizing other religious beliefs.
  •  Vilification of sexual lifestyle choices.
  •  Degrading and cruel behavior towards women.
  • Refusal to accept medical help resulting in the death of a child.
  • Genocide and inflicting unimaginable pain upon others.
                                                       Doctor’s take on religion:-

Although this is still a very controversial topic, the influence of religion on health is being more openly discussed in the medical profession. In a survey, 54% of doctors said that miracles do happen and they believe that a higher power has intervened. 33% said that religion can prevent heart attacks and infections. Obviously these responses are related to the physician’s own personal beliefs.

Religious traditions can be enormously important to families. Instead of allowing it to cause a rift, it is important to work out a compromise. Participate in the "grace" said before shared meals if this is important to family members. Attend the Christmas, Easter or other special services at their place of worship.

We are all entitled to our own personal beliefs and none of the positive family values which are necessary to raise healthy, happy and well balanced children are undermined by being “godless”. We have all met people with great character who are not religious and we have all met lowlifes who are. It is my personal belief that people can lead moral and ethical lives without any religious guidance. We instill values in our children throughout their childhood and possibly into adulthood.

 I attended an all girl’s boarding school for 5 years where daily chapel and church on Sundays was mandatory. My religious beliefs were not influenced by my teachers or by my peers but by my parents who accepted the same beliefs as each other.
I consider myself to be spiritual. Spirituality is defined as “something internal” Being aware of yourself and understanding your karma without being attached to any one type of religion. It is individual and unique. Many people label themselves as being spiritual when they have the belief in a “higher power” but not a defined one. Having the deep belief of “something greater” than us and the need to respect it.

Tip of the day:-

Do not force your religious beliefs upon others. Respect the opinions of others.  Try to be kind showing compassion and understanding. You may never know the impact you may make on someone else's life by your actions or lack thereof.

Stay happy, healthy and safe whatever your beliefs may be.

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