The Shmooze

Belief in Benevolent God Reduces Stress

By Michael Kaminer

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Are Jews more anxious because we believe in a vengeful God? A new study suggests that might be the case.

“Researchers at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital have found that those who believe in a benevolent God tend to worry less and be more tolerant of life’s uncertainties than those who believe in an indifferent or punishing God,” according to the Health24 web site. The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

The McLean Hospital paper reports data from two separate studies, Health24 reports. One questioned 332 subjects, including Christians and Jews, recruited from religious web sites and religious organizations. The trial found “that those who trusted in God to look out for them had lower levels of worry and less intolerance of uncertainty in their lives than those who had a ‘mistrust’ of God to help them out,” according to Health24.

In the second study, researchers tracked 125 subjects culled from Jewish organizations only. The subjects viewed materials that aimed to either “increase trust in God and decrease mistrust in God,” Health24 said. Participants in the two-week program reported significant increases in trust in God and significant decreases in mistrust in God, as well as clinically and statistically significant decreases in intolerance of uncertainty, worry and stress.

The point of the whole exercise? To “urge mental health professionals to integrate patients’ spiritual beliefs into their treatment regimens, especially for patients who are religious,” Health24 writes. “The implications of this paper for the field of psychiatry are that we have to take patients’ spirituality more seriously than we do,” lead author David H. Rosmarin, PhD, said.


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