The Social Ecology of Religion

By Vernon Reynolds; Ralph Tanner | Go to book overview

13
Religions and the Enhanced Risk of Disease

Infectious diseases need certain conditions in which to thrive. Most are not happy with very small populations. By and large, whether viruses or larger organisms are involved, they need big populations in order to survive, because in small populations one of two things is likely to happen: Either they wipe out the host population and hence themselves, or they produce immunity in the population and the population survives while the disease agents die out.

So infectious diseases tend to do best where they occur in large communities, especially where there is a shifting population, and in situations where individuals are moving around rather rapidly into new areas, where there are new people arriving and the disease agents can find new hosts. Therefore religious occasions which in any way bring people together are likely to promote conditions in which infectious diseases thrive, whereas aspects of religion which tend to cut people off from each other or close group frontiers are likely to be antagonistic to the entry from outside of infectious diseases.

Besides infectious diseases, there are diseases of other kinds -- deficiency diseases and genetic diseases. These too may be enhanced by religious practices. For example, the total vegan upbringing of young children by the Black Hebrew community in Israel1 was shown to have caused growth retardation and these children suffered a wide range of deficiency diseases. Similarly, the overall refusal of the Faith Assembly in Indiana to use medical assistance has resulted in significantly higher infant

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The Social Ecology of Religion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents *
  • Part I - Introduction 1
  • 1 - Why Religions? 3
  • Notes 18
  • 2 - Prior Approaches to the Study of Religion 19
  • Notes 28
  • 3 - The Challenge of Modernity 29
  • Notes 50
  • Part II - Religion and the Life Cycle 51
  • 4 - Conception and Contraception 53
  • Notes 75
  • 5 - Infanticide and Abortion 79
  • Notes 97
  • 6 - Birth and Childhood 101
  • Notes 126
  • 7 - Adolescence 131
  • Notes 147
  • 8 - Marriage 149
  • Notes 180
  • 9 - Divorce and Widowhood 185
  • Notes 197
  • 10 - Middle and Old Age 200
  • Notes 209
  • 11 - Death 211
  • Notes 230
  • Part III - Religions and Disease 235
  • 12 - Faith and Sickness 237
  • Notes 261
  • 13 - Religions and the Enhanced Risk of Disease 267
  • Notes 282
  • 14 - Religions and the Reduced Risk of Disease 285
  • Notes 300
  • 15 - General Conclusions 305
  • Notes 312
  • Index 313
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