Before taking this class, I have thought about the relationship between science, religion, and healing. In my life, and probably along with most others, I have a good balance of those who believe strongly in the relationship and those who strongly appose it. Living in the United States, western medication primarily focuses on the biological reasons for sickness and cures (Gabriel, 2016). However, there are other cultures that believe that integrating religious practices can also cure sickness. For example, in one particular African culture, the “Ju’hoansi will gather together and have a healing dance” (Gabriel, 2016). The healers that participate in the dance eventually reach a state that allows them to go around everyone in the circle to be touched and healed. This healing happens at different levels, including the spiritual, emotional and psychological, and bodily levels. When asking them about the causes of illnesses, individuals in this culture could relate the illness back to social problems. The healing dances performed are a solution to fixing some of these social problems (Gabriel, 2016).
As seen from the ritual of healing dances, it can be understood that there is a spiritual element to the healing process in the Ju’hoansi culture. This is vastly different from that of an American standpoint that views all sickness as only curable by biomedicine and methods relating to the sort. In conjunction, “The Western approach to medicine clearly divides health from disease and the main emphasis is on the individual body…Physicians are trained mainly for the care of acute phases of disease, that is, disease detection and therapy” (Tsuei, 1978). In my own personal experiences, I have seen how this is absolutely true. When an individual is sick in American society, they go to the doctor’s office. However, as mentioned in the source above, doctors are primarily trained to treat an illness from a biomedical perspective, not a social or cultural one. Finding this kind of treatment is rare and must be sought out by the sick individual his or herself in America. Primary physicians will not give this kind of care.
So, instead of exploring the relationship between science, religion, and healing as a whole, it would be better to explore the relationship in different contexts. What one culture believes about the relationship will not be the same as what another believes. It also does not make one culture right and one culture wrong, just different. I believe that a lot can be learned from each other and taking the time to understand each other’s views about the relationship between the three will lead to a more holistic view of how to cure individuals and ultimately be the most successful.
Gabriel, Cynthia. “Cartesian Duality, Biomedicine, and Spirit.” Presentation for the course ANP 370: Culture, Health, and Illness, 2016.
Tsuei, Julia J. “Eastern and Western Approaches to Medicine,” West J Med 128 (1978): 552.