Academic journal article Family Relations

God, Faith, and Healing

Academic journal article Family Relations

God, Faith, and Healing

Article excerpt

Levin, J. (2001). God, Faith, and Healing. New York: Wiley. 256 pp. ISBN 0-471-21893-6. Price $14.95 (paperback).

This book takes a refreshing and needed approach to examining the connection between spirituality, faith and religious observance, and individual health and healing. The author acknowledges the bias against the spiritual dimensions of health that has existed in the past and that health professionals have only recently begun to shed in the face of growing public interest on the topic. In his text, Levin references more than 200 studies undertaken since the 1950s that address spiritual links to health and argues that the spiritual-healing connection can no longer be ignored or marginalized and must be recognized as a legitimate field of study. He labels this the "epidemiology of religion." He acknowledges the limitations of this epidemiology (i.e., sweeping generalizations, on average, across populations, etc.) while also making clear the benefits of such research to the medical and psychological communities.

The book is divided into three parts and seven principles, and each part addresses an element of the link between religious participation and spirituality and its effects on overall impact on health and healing. In presenting the seven principles of "theosomatic medicine," the author offers possible explanations for spirituality's positive effect on health, as well as a model for physical and mental health for practitioners to follow in assessing the spiritual needs of their patients or clients. Part 1 addresses the benefits of the behavioral and social functions of religious expression (e.g., affiliation, membership, attendance) and how these function to prevent illness and promote a healthy lifestyle. To this end, the first two of seven principles of theosomatic medicine are presented. Principle 1 states that religious affiliation and membership benefit health by promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles. Principle 2 states that regular religious fellowship benefits health by offering support that buffers the effects of stress and isolation.

Part 2 speaks to the psychological effects of religious observance on the promotion of good health and the alleviation of symptoms of illness and disease. In an easily accessible format, Levin assists readers in understanding how private expressions of spirituality engender emotions and beliefs that promote good health. The corresponding principles for this section are as follows: Principle 3 states that participation in worship and prayer benefits health through the physiological effects of positive emotions; Principle 4 states that religious beliefs benefit health by their similarity to health-promoting beliefs and personality styles; Principle 5 states that faith benefits health by leading to thoughts of hope, optimism, and positive expectation. …

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