Is a connection between religion and medicine important, helpful and possible?
To examine this topic we need to first find out why the divide in religion and medicine has become so wide, mainly in western religions rather than eastern. There is a vast range of views on this, but all need to be considered to totally understand the problem.
One stance is that eastern religions are far more grounded and they developed with a holistic view towards life, mostly started from Confucianism. Western religions originally had a holistic approach to health with many herbalist and alchemist around, but soon surgeons began to gain control over healing methods. The surgeons had understanding of why problems occurred and how they could heal them. Herbalist also had understanding, but it was a spiritual understanding, and this was not accepted. With understanding came power, and since most herbalist and alchemist were women, while the surgeons were men, the surgeons eventually dominated the healing methods and hence scientific medicine came about. Most herbalists and alchemists were woman and midwives and many were considered witches and were burnt on the stake during Pagan times. A loss of knowledge resulted from this, and greater power in the surgical community arose. At this time western healing took over – herbalists who tried to strengthen the body against disease had power taken from them by surgeons who developed ways to kill diseases.
Another view is that the western society was fascinated with science, and therefore understanding. This led to a non-acceptance of “mystical things” such as alternative healing. Ancient beliefs were no longer incorporated into society and there was less and less recognition of a greater being. The western world became arrogant and didn’t acknowledge religion as much whilst fascinated with science and technology. It also became a world devoted to material possession and this came at the “expense of spirituality” – Naturopath.
While another reason for the divide is that western society had become economically stable and therefore they could rely on scientific methods to treat health. In doing so there was a no room for spirituality, as we focused on trying to live forever – no acceptance of outcomes (fate). In the eastern world money was not and is not as available/excessive and therefore the science based health resources are lacking. This means that people will turn to spirituality rather than science, and if problems still arose the grounding of eastern society meant that there was an acceptance of these outcomes. Fate was acknowledged unlike in the western society.
To have religion and medicine coinciding together is extremely important. A Hypnotherapist & Reiki practitioner states, “all three need to be considered” being mental, spiritual and physical in order to heal someone. The Naturopath said that they should work together in order to have holistic healing. While an Orthopaedic Surgeon believes that it is important for them to work together, as many people need to find inner strength/willpower to help the body through tough times. Though he also believes that the actual art of medicine should be scientifically based. In other words medicine shouldn’t exclude religion, but it still essentially needs to be scientifically based.
It is recognized more today that a holistic approach to health should be taken. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognized this fact, and in their new public health approach they have taken a holistic view on health, recognizing the influence of individual behaviours as well as environmental factors. The approach before this was solely focused on the individual while the new public health approach has been made to cater for the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health.
Having medicine and religion working together is extremely helpful as it leads to holistic healing. Without holistic healing, an individual is unable to heal the essential parts of a “being”. For example if someone tries to commit suicide, it is easy to fix whatever damage they have inflicted on their body. But if that is all that is fixed the person will not be totally healed. They must have had contributing factors to make them commit such an act and therefore their mental, emotional and spiritual health needs to be examined and catered for; this is where alternative healing can play its part, as many types of alternative healing are based on being at one with oneself (healing of the mind and soul).
The possibility of religion and medicine working together has mixed views associated with it. Whilst most people want them to work together in order to achieve total holistic healing, some remain sceptical about how they will coincide. A Hypnotherapist & Reiki practitioner stated that it is humans who created the division between the two, and that science is simply “mysticism explained”. When talking about science and religion we can look at the Creationists vs. Evolutionist debate. Creationists say that the world was created over 6 days, while Evolutionists say it was created over millions of years. But who defined a day? Who defined time? Humans did, and it was humans that therefore created the divide. These two groups may actually be talking about the same; the 6 days of creation may have actually taken millions of years. While society remains not to acknowledge that humans created the divide, there will always be one between the two.
Though the Hypnotherapist & Reiki practitioner would like the two to work together she believes that bridging the divide might be hard, as there is different methodology in the two. Religion is based on acceptance while science is based on explanation. This would mean that science would have to accept some things without explanation, which is why the divide was created in the first place (herbalist vs. surgeons) therefore bridging this divide could prove difficult.
A Naturopath and an Orthopaedic surgeon both hope that the existence of both in the medical world will come about and will be possible. A Naturopath stated that society has taken a holistic turn already, and this is backed up by the WHO’s new public health approach, and the recognition the western world now has to the vast amounts of damage they have caused to the environment. He believes that it still could take 200-500 years to happen. An Orthopaedic surgeon also believes that the possibility of these two things coinciding could happen, though he believes that in many eastern countries religion is seen as an alternative way to seek healing while scientific resources are not available. Therefore if resources are made available will spirituality be pushed aside? I believe that this will not be the case as the grounding of these religions is so deep that they will continue to be at one with oneself, whilst still being able to receive scientific based healing. By making a bridge between medicine and religion could it also bridge the gap between the western and the eastern world?
One problem that could contribute to religion and medicine not coinciding may be the vast number of different religions not working together to bridge this gap. But as the Hypnotherapist & Reiki practitioner says, if all these religions realise that they are in essence all speaking and preaching about the same thing – energy, then this problem shouldn’t arise at all. In order for religions to coincide to aid the bridging of this gap they all need to remember: “Religion is cultures expressing the same thing in different ways” – Hypnotherapist & Reiki practitioner.