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Editor's Correspondence |

Research and Religion

Joseph K. Neumann, PhD
Arch Intern Med. 2002;162(12):1421. doi:.
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Chibnall and colleagues1 are to be congratulated for many points made and supported in their recent commentary concerning research on distant intercessory prayer. The lack of a comprehensive model, the explanatory relevance concerns, and the testability issues are all notable. However, I am concerned about their comments and implications in 2 areas, (1) syncretism and (2) encouragement of future research.

Comments on pages 2531 and 2535 of their article1 (eg, Would anyone "dare" to study differences as a function of specific theological belief systems?) support religious syncretism. That is, the authors support the general notion that all value systems are somehow basically alike, and research into differences between specific systems is inappropriate. Faith systems such as orthodox Judaism and Christianity make some rather exclusionary statements (eg, Exodus 20:3 and John 3:16). While we need to work together in publicly supported institutions, claims of equality among religious systems seem to be driven more by political correctness than data-based research. For example, research has repeatedly found that conservative Protestants tend to be more approving of medical training in-services from a variety of religious value origins relative to liberal Protestants, agnostics, liberal Catholics, and others.2 Exploration of any methodological concerns as well as correlates and causal factors should be encouraged, not shunned as too controversial.

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