PETALUMA, CA, July 7, 2014 – Depending on your devotion to the Divine, it’s likely that by simply reading the headline of this column you’ve already decided on an answer. It’s also likely that regardless of any arguments that might be presented, your opinion won’t change. Perhaps the larger issue, then, isn’t whether you answer in the affirmative or negative, but whether you feel it’s a question worth asking.
Here, your response may have less to do with any religious interest and more with an innate curiosity about the nature of health.
Although those in the U.S. who believe in God constitute somewhere between 75 percent and 90 percent of the population, those who believe he can or should be relied on for their health are likely far fewer. Turning to the Almighty in times of need as one would turn to a friend is one thing. Seeing him as a catalyst for cure – exclusively or in tandem with conventional medicine – is quite another.
On the other end of the spectrum, those living in the U.S. who identify themselves as atheists make up about 2.4 percent of the population, according to a 2013 Pew survey. These numbers are a bit sketchy, however, since 14 percent of those who call themselves atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit; the implication being that at least a portion of the die-hard doubtful are willing entertain the question of a divine being or presence and, presumably, his or her or its relation to our health.
Of course without an agreed upon definition of God – far too broad a topic for this column – it’s unlikely that any answer, yea or nay, will have any real meaning except for the one offering it. This doesn’t mean, however, that we shouldn’t continue to ask the deeper questions, both of the existence and potential utility of such a being. Often the more you ask about something, the greater becomes your understanding of it.
Someone who was rather keen on asking just these sorts of questions was Mary Baker Eddy, a 19th century religious reformer who felt that a better understanding of God was essential to every facet of human progress. “The improved theory and practice of religion and of medicine are mainly due to the people’s improved views of the Supreme Being,” she said in one of her sermons. “As the finite sense of Deity, based on material conceptions of spiritual being, yields its grosser elements, we shall learn what God is, and what God does.”
Although Eddy figured out through her own experience that God or “divine Love,” as she referred to him, was indeed a reliable source of health, she never asked anyone to just take her at her word. Instead she encouraged those who were so inclined to ask their own questions about God and to consider the practical application the resulting insights might bring to their day-to-day lives, to really put it to the test.
Those who take up this same challenge today will likely find their opinions evolving, not only about the existence of God, but also about the value of asking good questions – of actively exploring and not simply ignoring something that could very well have a significant impact on our mental and physical well-being.
Eric Nelson’s columns on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @norcalcs.