The Social Ecology of Religion

By Vernon Reynolds; Ralph Tanner | Go to book overview

for the rapid transmission of infectious microorganisms, suggesting that the practice might be dangerous if an infected person were to participate in the communion ritual. Tuberculosis could, for example, be transmitted in this way. The study by Hobbs and associates concluded that tuberculosis would not be a significant hazard except possibly if an excessively salivating individual were at the beginning of the communion line! Medical opinions are thus divided. We should recall, however, that virulent new strains of tuberculosis are making a comeback at the present time, so that vigilance remains essential.

In this chapter we have shown how religious practices, wholly accidentally, have spread and may continue to spread infectious diseases. There is far less evidence that religions can enhance the incidence of noninfectious diseases. One recent study which did show this deserves mention, however. In a survey of 28,169 Chinese Americans 49 it was shown that they died significantly earlier than matched white controls if they had one of the particular diseases associated with their birth year phase. Chinese astrology holds that a person's birth year phase makes him or her especially susceptible to death from certain causes. For example, if the phase is Earth, he or she is particularly susceptible to tumors. This study showed that such people did in fact die 1.3 to 4.9 years earlier than controls if they had "their" kind of disease. The explanation appears to be largely psychosomatic: that is, an element of fatalism or loss of the will to live speeds up the course of the disease.


Notes
1.
Shinwell E. D., and Gorodischer R. ( 1982). "Totally vegetarian diets and infant nutrition." Pediatrics, 70( 4), 582-86.
2.
Kaunitz A. M., et al. ( 1984). "Perinatal and maternal mortality in a religious group avoiding obstetric care." American J. Obstetrics Gynecology, 150, 826-31.
3.
McKusick, V. A. (1973). "Genetic studies in American inbred populations with particular reference to the Old Order Amish." Israel J Medical Science, 9, 1276-84.
4.
Leff G. ( 1967). Heresy in the later Middle Ages. Manchester University Press, Manchester.
5.
Cohn N. ( 1962). The pursuit of the millennium: Revolutionary messianism in the Middle Ages and its bearing on modern totalitarian movements. Mercury, London.
6.
Langland W. ( 1957). Piers Ploughman. W. W. Skeat. (ed.). Oxford University Press. Oxford.
7.
Ziegler P. ( 1970). The Black Death. Penguin, Harmondsworth, England.
8.
Amundsen D. W., and Ferngreen G. B. ( 1986). "The early Christian tradition." In Numbers R. L. and Amundsen D. W. (eds.). Caring and curing. Health and medicine in the Western religious traditions. Macmillan, New York, p. 96.
9.
Slack P. ( 1985). The impact of plague in Tudor and Stuart England. Routledge, London, pp. 30, 31.

-282-

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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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