Expert in the Spirituality-Health Connection Will Speak April 17 at Baylor University

April 15, 2013
pargamentKenneth I. Pargament (Courtesy photo)

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WACO, Texas (April 15, 2013) -- Clinical psychologist Kenneth I. Pargament, Ph.D., a leading figure in exploring the connection between spirituality and health, will lecture at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, at Kayser Auditorium in the Hankamer School of Business, 1428 S. Fifth St.

Through studies of groups dealing with trauma -- survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing, victims of natural disasters and the ill -- Pargament, a professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University, has identified many of the ways that religion can help -- and sometimes hurt -- people in crisis.

The lecture, sponsored by Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion, will be the first in the annual Rodney Stark Lecture in the Social Sciences and Religion series.

In an interview with the American Psychological Association, Pargament noted that "The old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes is not really true. Before, during, and after combat, we can find atheists who consistently hold to their orientation.

But "people often do turn to their faith as a source of solace and support in their most stressful moments," he said. "In fact, some groups such as the elderly and minority groups may be more likely to look to their faith for help than to family, friends, and the healthcare system . . . Empirical studies of many groups dealing with major life stressors such as natural disaster, illness, loss of loved ones, divorce, serious mental illness show that religion and spirituality are generally helpful to people in coping."

On the other hand, he said, "people may struggle spiritually with their understanding of God, with inner conflicts, or with other people. A growing body of research has linked these spiritual struggles to higher levels of psychological distress, declines in physical health, and even greater risk of mortality. Thus, it is important for psychologists and other health care providers to be aware of the dual nature of religion and spirituality."

Pargament is "a towering figure in the psychology of religion . . . the most prolific researcher in the field," said Jeff Levin, Ph.D., M.P.H., University Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health, and Director of the Program on Religion and Population Health in ISR. "A substantial focus of his work, for decades, has been on identifying religious factors that influence physical and mental health and well-being."

Pargament is Distinguished Scholar at the Institute for Spirituality and Health of the Texas Medical Center in Houston. He has designed and tested a number of spiritually integrated treatments for survivors of child sexual abuse, women infected with HIV, and patients with heart disease and cancer.

The Rodney Stark lecture series will honor the contributions of ISR Co-Director Rodney Stark, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences, and feature preeminent social scientists who have devoted their careers to scholarship on religion. "The aim of the lecture series is to encourage constructive and open dialogue and an exchange of ideas on vital and intriguing points of contact between the social sciences and religion," Levin said.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

ABOUT THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDIES OF RELIGION

Launched in August 2004, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) exists to initiate, support and conduct research on religion, involving scholars and projects spanning the intellectual spectrum: history, psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, epidemiology, theology and religious studies. The institute's mandate extends to all religions, everywhere, and throughout history, and embraces the study of religious effects on prosocial behavior, family life, population health, economic development and social conflict. While always striving for appropriate scientific objectivity, ISR scholars treat religion with the respect that sacred matters require and deserve.

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