I lament biblical illiteracy as much as anyone,
but I think surveys sometimes load the dice against scripture when illustrating
the public's unfamiliarity with the Bible. A recent example was noted by the
American Bible Society as it released The
Freedom Bible in connection with the 9/ll anniversary.
On a journey through North America, my wife and I
attended many churches. At one the pastor insisted repeatedly that "the meaning and purpose of life is to have a
personal relationship with Jesus." The claim irked me.
A study of HIV-positive men and women showed that those who engaged in spiritual practices had a two to four times greater chance of survival than those who didn’t. The researchers began interviewing people at the mid-stage of their disease. The researchers asked participants whether they prayed, meditated, went to religious services, were grateful to God for what they had, or believed that God could forgive them for wrongdoing. The findings showed that the way people focus on the meaning of life and relate to God can affect health, even in the case of HIV. Roughly one-fifth of the participants engaged in “positive spiritual reframing” of their disease, seeing it as a way God was using them, for example. These people had a survival rate four times greater than that of the others (Atlantic, May 6).