For decades religion has been the so-called "forgotten factor" in health and healthcare research. Within the past 15 years, however, interest in the relationship between religion and health has continued to mount among lay readers and scholars alike, as demonstrated by the flow of research papers, conferences, and publications. A major catalyst for this development has been The Templeton Foundation, whose press has published Chamberlain and Hall's informative work.
The authors present a readable chronicle describing the relationship between religion and health that begins with an attempt to clarify the two terms found in the title - realized and religion. Although they were unable to provide an answer for anyone seeking the essence behind the illusive concept known as religion, they were able to proceed with their discussion by modifying the main term. Realized religion refers to a process of making the essential elements of religion "objective". Scores of researchers have attempted to "realize" religion and its relationship to health, causing Chamberlain and Hall to conclude "that scientific evidence supports the contention that religion is good for human health."
Following this introductory chapter, the authors move into a discussion of the relationship of realized religion to prayer and healing. Chapter 1 provides a good overview of the research on the effects that types of prayer and prayer experiences appear to have on health and healing. The much shorter second chapter (reflecting the dearth of research on this important topic) discusses faith healing, largely in the American Pentecostal/charismatic subculture.
Part Two explores the relationship between realized religion and general well-being. Chapters include mental health, life satisfaction, mental disorders, marital satisfaction, suicide, and alcohol abuse, paralleling summaries found in other books on the topic. As do the chapters in Part 1, the chapters in Part 2 present an extensive bibliography of relevant articles and books. The closing section on "The Relationship of Realized Religion to Future Research" explores some of the problems in existing research where "religiosity" and "religion" have been measured too simplistically. Religion is a complex, multidimensional concept that requires better measures than are commonly used. The authors also point out the problems with the "anti-religious bias" that may be blinding some researchers from a better understanding of religion's complexity, including differences among faith traditions. The final chapter presents a faith-specific model in considering the relationship between Christianity and health research. Realized Religion provides a good overview of research on religion and health for anyone not already familiar with the basic works on the topic. With its clear presentation of what is known about the relationship between religion and health, it would serve as an excellent supplemental text for related social science courses.