Letter to the Editor: 4.27.12

Steve Herr
assistant professor of education

To the best of my understanding, one of the hallmarks of enlightened thinking is a willingness to broadly engage the topic at hand, which is why I was surprised that Professor Bill Zingrone’s recent missives have focused on the shortcomings of religion but made no mention of its virtues.

Within the acadmic community, even within the field of psychology, a good deal of study has been done regarding the benefits of religion. For example: Profressor William R. Miller, department of psychology at the University of New Mexico, and Professor Carl E. Thoreson, School of Education and department of psychology, Stanford University, wrote an article about spirituality, religion, and health and they concluded, “(s)ubstanial empirical evidence points to links between spiritual/religious factors and health in U.S. populations…”

A recent article by Chiung-Yu Huag, Ph.D, RN, Department of nursing, I-Shou University, Mie-Chi Hsu, PhD, RN, Department of Nursing, I-Shou University: Tai-Jui Chen, MD, department of psychiatry, Kaohsiun County, Taiwan noted that “[r]eligious involvement can provide an alternative treatment method for those who had health problems. The findings of this study suggest that religion or religious involvement has beneficial implications on individual’s mental and physical health.”

And Jeff Levin, PhD. MPH; Linda M. Chatter, PhD; and Robert Joseph Taylor, Ph.D, wrote in the Journal of the National Medical Association, “…religious participation appears to be a potentially powerful, salutary resource in the lives of many people, notably African Americans.” The work of these indviduals seems to be worthy. It also seems that the study of religion can be enlightening.

If the Enlightenment has taught us anything, I believe that lesson would be to not let our fears or our past control our future. And while we could spend a lifetime debating the shortcomings of the Saints, I know I could also spend a lifetime focusing on my own shortcomings but neither focus would lead to much good.

For me, the better question would be: What good can we find in ourselves and others as a foundation for the better lives we hope to live? The work of the individuals noted above seems to suggest that for many people, religion helps to provide that foundation.