Is Religion Good for Your Health?

Harold George Koenig, Author Routledge $100 (156p) ISBN 978-0-7890-0166-5
While folk wisdom has always taught that physical health is intimately connected to spiritual health, in the past year or so there have appeared books by doctors, notable among them Larry Dossey's Prayer is Good Medicine (1996), which have used scientific methods to measure and quantify the effects of Christian religious practice on health. Using a variety of polls and surveys, Koenig attempts to measure the effect that such religious practices as church attendance and spiritually based programs like Twelve Step programs have on the mental and physical health of their practitioners. In the first chapters of the book, Koenig proposes to offer an examination of the often mysterious relationship between religion and health. However, the book soon descends into a miasma of poorly applied statistics. For example, Koenig cites a number of polls whose scientific basis is lightly touched upon and which reduce the concept of religiosity to regular church attendance. Koenig's conclusions are often plagued by generalization, as when he cites on one page spiritual recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous as evidence of the benefits of religion and decries them on the next page as evidence of the simplistic character of New Age spirituality. While the book raises an important issue, it fails to do the issue justice. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 04/01/1997
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