Integrating Objective Measures and Subjective Assessment of Online Religious Activity
Both pain and religious rituals are complex phenomena. On the one hand pain is often understood as an object for natural science, but on the other hand pain is always defined as a psychological and subjective experience, leaving room for psychology and the humanities. Rituals, like pain, are framed by biological, psychological, social and cultural factors, which indicates that a bottom-up and a top-down approach in the study of pain and religion should interact instead of co-exist. This paper presents the initial framework of an interdisciplinary study of pain and coping in the religious mind. Understanding the online religious activities and experiences of people participating in stressful and painful rituals calls for a methodology integrating objective measures and subjective assessment. This research project involves functional imaging technology (fMRI), measures of physiological processes (EKG, blood pressure, cortisol levels) and objective and subjective measures of pain (pain tolerance, questionnaires and interviews). Furthermore, the social, cultural and historical context of these rituals is expected to play an important role in setting the frame and interpreting the results.