Entries in faith (3)


Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Split Spotlights Scientology Divorce Rituals

George Pimentel/Getty Images for Creative Artists Agency(NEW YORK) -- The divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, both bold-faced names and members of the Church of Scientology, shines a light on one aspect of their religion.

For many of the world's religions, the rituals surrounding divorce are as structured as those governing marriage. Jews seeking a divorce must sign a ritual contract. Mormons married in the temple must undergo a "sealing cancellation." In some Muslim sects, witnesses must be present for a divorce, and in others a husband recites a formula of denunciation three times to end a marriage.

The Church of Scientology, however, is much clearer on the rituals and practices of marriage than it is on divorce, according to experts and the church's own official website.

Rather than focus on divorce, the church concentrates on improving couples' relationships through therapy.

"Church members believe that tension in a marriage comes from 'overts' and 'withholds,' unstated, undiscussed issues or problems," said Stephen Kent, a religion professor at the University of Alberta.

"Communication is therefore a good way to rebuild a marriage that's crumbling. Couples can take a course called How to 'Improve Your Marriage' and in dire situations auditors, or counselors, can lead couples through exercises," he said.

"There's no real annulment in the church. Many members have been divorced, even founder L. Ron Hubbard was married three times," Kent said.

The church does not allow members to have contact with disconnected, or excommunicated members of the faith, making divorce inevitable sometimes when one spouse wants to continue in the faith and another wants to leave the church, according to Kent.

"If one person wants to stay in church, he can't have contact with someone who holds doubts or criticism of the group. The doubter is called a PTS, potential trouble source."

Cruise has been divorced twice already. He was previously married to Nicole Kidman and to Mimi Rogers, an actress who became a professional poker player. Cruise and Holmes, who have been married for five years, have one daughter together, 5-year-old Suri.

Representatives for Cruise and Holmes would not comment specifically for this story.

"This is a personal and private matter for Katie and her family," Holmes' publicist said in a statement. "Katie's primary concern remains, as it always has been, her daughter's best interest."

"Kate has filed for divorce and Tom is deeply saddened and is concentrating on his three children," Cruise's publicist said in a statement. "Please allow them their privacy to work this out."

Cruise and Holmes were married in a Scientology ceremony in 2006 in France.

According to the church website "wedding ceremonies are performed by a Scientology minister with similar protocol to weddings in other churches: the bridal procession, the traditional role of the parents of the bride, best man, matron or maid of honor and the traditional seating of respective families and friends."

Couples can chose between "one of several different wedding ceremonies with varying degrees of formality. Each of these ceremonies includes traditional vows of loyalty and devotion," according to the website.

In one version of the ceremony, called the "Double Ring," a minister tells the couple "that through your love together, with your agreement upon its reality, and by your communication of these two beautiful truths, you have completed the ARC Triangle, and thereby consummated the only true marriage."

ARC refers to "affinity, reality and communication," according to the Church.

Before Cruise and Holmes were married, Holmes delivered the couple's daughter in a "silent birth" in which no one around the mother talks during the delivery.

"It's basically just respecting the mother, you know, and helping to be quiet -- not the mother. The mother makes as much noise ... you know, she's going through it," Cruise told ABC News in 2006. "But why have other people make noise? You know, you want that area very calm and to make it very special."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Religious Faithful Lack Logic, Study Implies

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A rare and controversial study merging science and faith suggests that analytic thinking, a process that favors reason over intuition, promotes religious disbelief.

Canadian researchers used math puzzles and “priming,” a technique that plants subtle suggestions in pictures and text, to persuade more than 650 believers and non-believers to think analytically. They then used surveys to probe religious beliefs, from faith in God to the power of prayer.

“If you can get people to engage in analytic thinking, whether it’s by looking at pictures or showing them difficult-to-read text, analytic thinking promotes religious disbelief,” said Will Gervais, a PhD student in psychology at the University of British Columbia and lead author of the study published today in the journal Science. “This indicates that analytic thinking is one of many factors affecting people’s religious beliefs.”

In the first of five tests, people who solved a math problem analytically rather than arriving at the intuitive answer were more likely to report religious disbelief. For example: A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? The intuitive answer is $0.10; the analytic answer is $0.05.

In the second test, subjects were randomly assigned to look at one of four images. Those who viewed Rodin’s “The Thinker,” which was previously found to prime analytic thinking, reported having weaker religious beliefs. The third and fourth tests used words like “think,” “reason,” and “rational” to prime analytic thinking, which was also linked to religious disbelief.

In the fifth test, 91 people who rated their religious beliefs on a survey in a hard-to-read font were more likely to report religious disbelief than 91 subjects given the same questions in an easy-to-read font. The difference in font is a subtler way to prime analytic thinking, Gervais said.

“If people find something hard to process, it engages analytic thinking,” he said. “It’s a neat manipulation.”

Intuitive thinking, a mental shortcut that bypasses reason, is linked to stronger religious beliefs.

“It’s largely intuitive processes that let people form religious beliefs,” said Gervais. “If you’re surrounded by a lot of other religious people publically demonstrating their faith, you’re more likely to develop those beliefs.”

The study does little to calm the culture clash between science and religion.

“Religion versus science; believers versus atheists; our evidence doesn’t say much about those debates,” said Gervais. “But it sheds light on one cognitive factor that may influence where people stand on those debates.

It also challenges the notion that religious beliefs are set in stone.

“People have this impression that they’re really core, central beliefs that don’t change. But we know people’s religious beliefs can vary across situations and across their lifespan,” Gervais said.

But devout believers may be shocked to hear their faith can wax and wane with tricky tests.

“I suppose some people might find it surprising,” Gervais said, “that really subtle experimental manipulations might be able to temporarily alter religious beliefs.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Faith and Fat: Religious Youths More Likely to Be Obese by Mid-Life

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(EVANSTON, Ill.) -- Americans who are religious are more likely to be happy, healthy...and hefty?

According to research from Northwestern University, youths of a healthy weight who frequently participated in religious activities were twice as likely to become obese by middle age than their less-religious peers.

Even when controlling for race, sex, education and income -- several factors that could independently be affecting likelihood of obesity -- this affect remained. Researchers drew on data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, which tracked weight and a number of physical and behavioral variables, including religious involvement, in more than 2,000 men and women over the past two decades.

"We had previously found that those with high religious involvement were more likely to be obese [as middle-aged or older adults], but we wanted to follow people over time to make sure that people who are religious are more likely to become obese, not that people who weigh more are more likely to turn to religion," said Mathew Feinstein, lead author of the study and an M.D. candidate at Northwestern University.

Several studies, including some of Feinstein's past work, have found an association between high religious involvement and obesity, but the studies didn't necessarily find an association between religiosity and negative health outcomes, such as markers of cardiovascular disease. Indeed, several studies link faith to an increased lifespan, more positive mood, and avoidance of unhealthy behaviors like drinking and smoking.

In the current study, for instance, the more frequently participants attended religious services, the less likely they were to smoke. The avoidance of such unhealthy behaviors may explain, in part, why religious people live longer, said Feinstein. But why they tend to put on more weight than their less-religious peers remains a bit of a mystery. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio