Take One Capsule of Religion to Relax

November 1999

"Religion" has been credited with fearsome pharmaceutical power. Communism calls it "the opiate of the people" -- brands it an addictive and debilitating drug. But our cheerfully consumerist society sometimes -- and in the oddest places -- welcomes "religion" as a possible minor remedy, akin to a tummy mint. For instance, a recent book on women's health has among its 400 pages a half-page on religion: In a chapter on "Stress," religion is offered as a stress reliever. It's well down the list, coming after "Flexibility" and "Decreasing Perfectionism" and "Sense of Humor" and "Education" and "Expand Your Leisure and Creative Activities." If those don't work, there is "The Importance of Religious Beliefs and Commitment." And what sort of belief and commitment are recommended for stress-busting? Two case histories are given: One lady volunteered to work at her synagogue and felt more involved; another wrote some goddess poetry and felt more empowered.

As the old hymn has it, "Amazing goddess poetry, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."

And when Jesus promised that the truth would make us free, did He mean wrinkle-free? The women's magazines and girls' magazines (Self and Seventeen, for instance) occasionally recommend meditation and prayer, much to the casual reader's surprise. The purpose, it turns out, is the preservation of epidermal smoothness: You meditate and pray, you relax, you don't scrunch up your face, hence you get fewer wrinkles.

"One day in thy courts, O Lord, is better than a facial."

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New Oxford Notes: November 1999

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