01: Although the inflicting pain on oneself for spiritual purposes has decreased around the world, those who engage in the practice report a complex interplay between self-control, neurology and spirituality that accounts for its effects, says a recent study.
The study, conducted by Georgetown University professor Ariel Glucklich for his book Sacred Pain: Hurting The Body for the Sake of the Soul, found that regulated and controlled pain sends the nervous system into a frenzy, reducing the mind’s awareness and allowing a spiritual experience to take place. In interviewing mystics who engage in the practice, such as Catholics engaging in self-flagellation (hitting oneself with ropes), Glucklich finds that “They control their own pain, and the more they hurt, the more they become otherworldly.
They say they become empty, and something else floods in.” In an interview in Washington City Paper (Sept. 28), Glucklich finds the element of self control crucial, since torture does not bring the same sensation. The most common form of religious pain today is the pilgrimage, where participants have to walk on hot days with their bare feet.
02: Church attendance stimulates voting and political participation as congregations serve as vital meeting places where members can deliberate about elections, according to a study published in First Things magazine (October).
In an extended analysis of the 2000 elections, James Guth, Lyman Kellstedt, John Green and Corwin Smidt find that congregation participation both creates social capital, such as voter participation and wider political involvement, as well as reveals continued division between the Democratic and Republican parties. The authors confirm their earlier findings that the Republican Party is increasingly drawing more active and traditionalist elements — particularly evangelicals and conservative Catholics, while the Democrats now represent more secular voters, as well as black Protestants and other religious minorities.
But within all these religious groups, Guth, Kellstedt, Green, and Smidt find that attending religious services stimulated voting. Scholars have traditionally observed this pattern but have not been sure why this is the case. The authors find that attendance gives members the opportunity to discuss elections, particularly for the evangelical and mainline Protestants.
Political talk was less common for Catholics, though strong parish connections also stimulated political activities.
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