01: There appears to be mounting evidence that some religious attitudes and beliefs can prolong or bring on rather than heal illness.
A recent study found that spiritual alienation and an emphasis on evil and the devil can increase the risk of death. The study, conducted by Kenneth Pargament and Harold Koenig, followed 595 men and women aged 55 and older who were hospitalized at Duke University Medical Center between 1996-1997. Spirituality & Health magazine (Winter) reports that after controlling for demographic and health variables, three beliefs were found to raise the patients’ risk of mortality: Feeling alienated from God, feeling unloved by God, or attributing illness to the Devil, all increasing the risk of death by 19 to 20 percent over the approximately two-year follow-up period.
The researchers speculate that such “negative religious coping” may depress the immune system as well as lead to anxiety and depression. It may also be that such spiritual alienation could mean that the patients are socially alienated from friends and family and other support systems.
(Spirituality & Health, 74 Trinity Place, New York, NY 10006)
02: A majority of Jewish Americans do not oppose intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews, according to a survey by the American Jewish Committee.
Forty percent of respondents said they were neutral about interfaith marriages, and 16 percent were positive about such marriages. Eighty percent agreed that “intermarriage is inevitable in an open society.” As might be expected, the opposition differed according to the Jewish denomination to which the respondents belonged, with Orthodox registering a 64 percent disapproval rating.
That number dropped sharply to 15 percent among Conservative Jews and just 3 percent among Reform. In a report in Christian News (Nov. 6). David Singer of the AJC says the survey confirms how “the taboo is broken” American Jews concerning intermarriage.
(Christian News, 3277 Boeuf Lutheran Road, New Haven, MO 63068-2218)
03: An Astrology web site has the largest audience among spirituality/religious sites, according to recent statistics.
Although no figures ae provided, data from the NetStats section (October 27) of computer publisher Ziff-Davis’ web site, finds that the web site astrology.com. brings in the most visitors. The other top web sites are the ESP-based 800predict.com and gospelcom.net, an evangelical site.
04: Although the elderly are often more religiously committed, a recent study suggest that this age group may not be a bulwark against the secular mood in Britain.
The Southampton Aging Project had tracked the attitudes of a group of people at least 65 years of age over a 20 year period (from 1978 to recently), with a sample group of 340 (though now down to 30). In 1977-1978 two-thirds of the group described themselves as members of a religious group, with women more active than men. Peter Coleman of the University of Southampton found that among the survivors two decades later, fewer than half described themselves in this manner.
That decline mirrors the proportion of respondents feeling that religion “means much” to them–down from 70 percent at the start of the project to 47 percent now. Only nine percent agreed religion was more important to them, while 37 percent said it was less important to them. According to a report in the magazine Touchstone (November), most repondents’ support for religion had declined during the 1980s.
05: Thirty percent of young practicing Muslims in Germany are willing to use physical force if the welfare of the Muslim community is at stake, according to a survey cited in the German news service Idea (Oct. 31).
The survey, conducted by the Central Institute of Islam Archives in Germany, intentionally sought out devout young Muslims and found that of the 800,000 children and teenagers in the German Islamic community (of three million Muslims), only 12 percent regularly visit mosques, prayer houses and youth centers. The 30 percent willing to forcibly defend the Muslim community said they would fight if faced with destruction, expulsion or persecution because of their faith.
Almost one out of seven respondents (13.5 percent) agreed that opponents of Islam should be eliminated. Only 2.7 percent consider the use of violence justified for the propagation of Islam.
(Idea, Postfach 18 20,D-35528 Wetzlar, Germany)