Saturday, April 29, 2006

Health benefits of faith and church

The article “Church a way of life in Dixie,” (Page 1, Friday) cites a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study that found that regular attenders have lower rates of divorce and welfare dependency; it also could have cited a raft of studies pointing to health benefits.

Studies suggest, for example, that the elderly who attend church regularly have stronger immune systems. A study of older individuals found that those who attended church were only half as likely as non-churchgoers to have elevated levels of interleukin-6, an immune system protein involved in a wide variety of age-related diseases.

A study published by the American Psychological Association found that adolescents who view religion as meaningful and as a way to cope with problems are half as likely to use marijuana, compared to those who don’t view religion as important.

A Duke University study of nearly 4,000 North Carolina elderly, reported in the Journal of Gerontology, found that seniors with regular church or synagogue attendance had a death rate 28 percent lower than those who did not regularly attend services.

Doctors put stock in faith, too: In a survey of 1,044 doctors nationwide, 76 percent said they believe in God, 59 percent said they believe in some sort of afterlife, and 55 percent said their religious beliefs influence how they practice medicine.

Though data showing health and lifestyle benefits of faith and church attendance will hardly save our souls, at least the evidence should open our minds to the seamless link between our beliefs, our behavior and the quality of our lives.


Senior policy analyst

Christian Medical Association

Washington Office

Ashburn, Va.

FEMA needs better forecasting, not politics

Whether it’s called the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Department of Homeland Security or Emergency Action Control, one thing needs desperately to be added to the responsibilities of the agency that responds to disasters (“White House aide rejects proposal to scrap FEMA,” Nation, Friday): a better system of predicting disasters, which would include a better knowledge management system.

The current hype over global warming is a perfect example of what not to do. Critical funding is being diverted using “blink” logic to support consensus science and political agendas when it should be spent on developing a real means of forecasting disasters. Politicians, including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, are not scientists, and many have agendas — some even distort reality using their implied credibility to spread fear and get funding to promote their agendas.

What the government needs is a cause, effect and goal-related system of feedback to determine which programs are working and which are not. It would make it considerably easier to substantiate disbanding FEMA or any other government organization. Regardless of the political view, if we could better predict disasters, we could better manage them.


Peyton, Colo.

Reduce oil prices and terrorist funding

Columnist Cal Thomas uncharacteristically misses the mark with his analysis of energy costs (“Getting serious about energy,” Commentary, April 23) and turns the issue on its head.

As a conservative, Mr. Thomas should have given more credit to the fundamental efficacy of the free market and laws of supply and demand. Demand for petroleum has remained strong precisely because prices have remained relatively low by historical standards.

When fuel prices rise far enough, demand will indeed fall. However, reducing our demand (to keep prices low) isn’t the goal to be achieved by realizing that our oil payments help finance terrorism. Rather, it’s the other way around: Cutting off funding for terrorism is paramount and can be promoted by decreasing our demand and moderating prices. That would remain an imperative goal even if gas should return to $1.50 per gallon.



Politics and progress in Iraq

Before leaving the Palm Springs, Calif., area for Orange County on Monday to discuss immigration reform proposals in Irvine, President Bush made it crystal clear in a pep talk to Marines, sailors and families at the Air Ground Combat Center at nearby Twenty-Nine Palms that despite headlines — e.g., “Support for the war in Iraq dwindles,” and “Generals call for the defense secretary’s resignation” — “I’m not losing my nerve” (“Bush sees Iraq win as ‘blow’ to al Qaeda,” Nation, Tuesday).

Perhaps the ghost of Gen. George S. Patton was leading on Mr. Bush, as this is the same place where Old Blood and Guts established a desert training center in 1942 to train troops for upcoming service in the Sahara Desert of North Africa.

That the Republicans raised nearly $2 million at a fundraiser at a country club in Indian Wells, Calif., gives every indication, in spite of today’s negative polls, that the Republican Party is alive — and will be sufficiently well-financed to campaign successfully and retain control of Congress next November.

The wind was abruptly taken out of the sails of Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, who recently advocated an early pullout because of the Iraqi failure to establish a national unity government.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, facing reality that he was not going to be able to do so, stepped down and made way for a more effective negotiator, Jawad al-Maliki, to take over the reins as prime minister. Oval Office wannabe Mr. Kerry, belatedly recalling the seven years it took for an American government to be established after the end of the Revolutionary War, graciously conceded that he would allow the new prime minister a little more time.


Palm Desert, Calif.

Supreme Court is too serious for TV

In his column “Televise Supreme Court arguments” (Op-Ed, Monday), Nat Hentoff surprised me with his support of the notion that Supreme Court arguments should be televised. I expected more nuance in his judgment of democracy as our Founding Fathers defined it.

Television cameras in the Supreme Court would be a valuable educational tool, Mr. Hentoff argues. I think the founders would have been terrified by the notion. They would have had the foresight to comprehend the result as mob rule in the end. The public would largely ignore the show, and the demagogues would make hay with it to serve their political purposes. The justices, being human, would be influenced in the way they frame their questions for fear of the public emotion they might trigger. The whole experience might result in more drama or comedy but less jurisprudence.

The reality show “Judge Judy” is one thing, but this is serious stuff, and Mr. Hentoff, I thought, would have known better.


Fort Washington

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