While faith can have positive effects on health, it can also have negative effects. Although religious beliefs are a source of comfort and support for many people, for others they are a source of stress and emotional turmoil.
In one large study of hospitalized patients, the researchers looked at those who believed that
- God was punishing them;
- God had abandoned them;
- God didn’t love them;
- God didn’t have the power to help; or
- their church had deserted them.
People who held these beliefs had a 19 to 28 percent higher death rate in the two years after being discharged from a hospital. This effect was statistically significant and independent of physical health, mental health, and social support.
Another potential negative effect of religion or religiosity is crippling guilt that can arise from a misunderstanding of the connection between faith and health.
Sincerely religious people can come to believe that their faith will protect them from illness and suffering, a belief reinforced by pastoral professionals and others who proclaim that God will heal them if they have enough faith.
Some hold that illness and suffering are a result of sin, and if they become ill, God will heal them if they have strong enough faith. When they aren’t healed, they believe this means their faith is weak or they have sinned in some way.
The result can be excessive guilt or anger at God, leading to a loss of faith and trust in God. This can have tragic consequences. For these reasons it is vital that we understand what the Bible actually teaches about faith and healing.
In my next post, we’ll examine the topic “What Causes Sickness (Sickness and Sin)?”
You can read more on this topic in my book, Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook.
Also, citations to all of the studies quoted in this blog are found in the book.
- Part 1 – What does the Bible say about health?
- Part 2 – What Value Should We Place on Our Health?
- Part 3 – Devout Faith Helps but Does Not Guarantee Good Health
- Part 4 – Can Faith be Unhealthy?
- Part 5 – What Causes Sickness?
- Part 6 – Why God’s Response Isn’t Always to Heal
- Part 7 – Not All Healing is From God
- Part 8 – Illegitimate Spiritual Practices
- Part 9 – Life Energy and Medical Magic
- Part 10 – Medical Characters Condemned for Pursuing Certain Forms of Healing
- Part 11 – Look to the Bible, Not Inner Voices, for Guidance
- Part 12 – Biblical Principles on Which to Base Medical Decisions and The Power of Faith
Additional Blogs on Faith-Based Health and Healing: