Religion, Spirituality and Health: A Critical Examination
This course explores the relationships between religion, spirituality and health in the contemporary United States. We bring together research and thinking in epidemiology, psychology, sociology, chaplaincy studies and other fields to address three central questions. First we ask what the empirical evidence suggests about the relationship between religion and health at the individual level and what the mechanisms – social integration, behaviors, social regulation, psychological and emotional processes, etc. – might be for that relationship. Second we consider how people from a range of religious backgrounds draw from religious and spiritual resources when they are ill with attention to spiritual screening, spiritual struggle and the research about religious and spiritual coping. Third we consider how health professionals, including chaplains, influence people’s experiences of illness with particular attention to health outcomes and specific populations such as pediatrics and oncology. By the end of the semester, student will be able to: ● Parse the vast literature about religion and health into segments and speak about the questions researchers ask in these segments and the key findings and debates in these fields. ● Describe and analyze how religion, spirituality and health have been measured in many of these studies and what the strengths and weaknesses are of different approaches to conceptualization and measurement ● Analyze how religious diversity is addressed in many of these studies and how the findings about religion and health vary by religion, including for those with no religious backgrounds. ● Think practically about how the studies discussed through this course can inform the interpersonal and research work of clinicians including healthcare chaplains and public health practitioners.