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Can faith reduce pain?

Can faith reduce pain?

Smithsonian Channel’s new video proposes that religious faith can reduce pain:

Fighting through intense pain and miraculously recovering from her wounds, Joan of Arc led the French army to numerous victories in the 100 Years’ War. How did she do it? Was she driven by God, an incredible strength of mind, or was it a brain disorder? Scientists, historians and religious psychologists study the extraordinary life and deeds of this French heroine. Using modern technology and ancient evidence, they attempt to explain how a 19-year-old managed to overcome many hardships and obstacles to become a legendary saint.

Watch video here.

h/t to Facebook friend Matt Paco.


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There are good studies noting correlation between religious practice and health practices and experiences. (And part of what I mean by “good studies” is that the method is good and the researchers are clear about correlation and cautious about causation.) For anyone interested, I would recommend the work of Harold Koenig, MD, and the folks at the Duke University Institute for Spirituality, Theology, and Health.

Marshall Scott

Erik Campano

Jeanne d’Arc, that is.

Erik Campano

So people who like religion also feel less pain when they’re looking at an image of the Virgin Mary. People who like chocolate may also feel less pain when they’re looking at a picture of a Hershey’s bar.

Pain perception and religious experiences are both *way, way* too complex phenomena to be understood in an MRI. Trying to use all that to explain Jean d’Arc is just plain fou.

Erik Campano

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