Santa Clara University

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The Faculty-Staff Newsletter, e-mail edition
Santa Clara University, March 15, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 9

Spirituality, Science, and Health: What’s Going On and Why?

For example, he points out that people who tend to be religious often tend to avoid high-risk behaviors such as smoking, drinking to excess, or unsafe sexual practices. Since lifestyle factors contribute to half of all deaths in America, that alone may have a significant impact on health.

But well-controlled studies suggest that distance prayer can also improve health outcomes—even when the patient and health professionals have no idea they’re being prayed for and no connection to the people praying for them.

“Suppose for a moment that we weren’t talking about prayer, but were instead talking about some drug. With these findings, this would be the next Prozac, because the findings are pretty robust,” explains Plante. Which is not to say that all studies find the same thing. “But there’s something going on. So at this conference, we’re trying to get the best minds together from the different disciplines and trying to move this research as far forward as we can. We’re trying to figure out what aspects of spirituality and religious tradition can potentially be used to help people, regardless of their religious background or interest,” he says.

Workshops include “Mantram-based Treatment in Health Care,” “Comprehensive, Non-Sectarian Program of Spiritual Skills,” “Assessing Spiritual Factors in Practice and Research,” and “Forgiveness and Health.” “It’s a whole lot more complicated than what Pat Robertson is quoted in the newspapers as saying,” Plante comments. “It’s scientific.The people who are presenting at this conference are all academics, not televangelists. It’s all about the data. It’s all about the empirical evidence.”

For more information about the conference, visit