Thursday, February 25, 2010

A God who cares

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4, ESV)

My pastor served for many years as a chaplain in an assisted living facility. One of the inescapable facts about such places is that in them many people suffer and many people die. I once asked him what difference Christian belief made to the suffering or those close to death. He said it made all the difference. Research increasingly indicates that his experience is borne out:
.... The researchers compared the levels of melancholy or hopelessness in 136 adults diagnosed with major depression or bipolar depression with their sense of "religious well-being." They found participants who scored in the top third of a scale charting a sense of religious well-being were 75 percent more likely to get better with medical treatment for clinical depression.

"In our study, the positive response to medication had little to do with the feeling of hope that typically accompanies spiritual belief," said study director Patricia Murphy, a chaplain at Rush and an assistant professor of religion, health and human values.

"It was tied specifically to the belief that a Supreme Being cared," she said. .... [more]
Needless to say, such belief could be comforting even if not true — providing false hope. And it demonstrates the importance of belief in a "Supreme Being" who cares — not necessarily in the God who is. But it is a rather nice riposte to the "religion is evil" crowd and, of course, for those of us who do believe provides additional support for what we already know.

Studies: Belief in God relieves depression - Washington Times