Medicine? Religion? Why not both?

There is no arguing that there is a relationship between science, religion, and healing. However, I think that some people would disagree on just how much of a relationship there is. I think in the western world we have a tendency to treat science and religion as very separate things. If you are sick you go to the doctor and you are treated with bio medicine and you go on your way. Doctors in the United States don’t take the time to ask about your more spiritual beliefs and that doesn’t affect the way that one is treated. However I feel that there is a connection between science and religion on and ways that it can be seen on both sides of the healing process. In the video clip we watched in class we saw how one man in Botswana uses spiritual dancing to help heal patients. (1) We also learned about how biomedicine (while useful) is not the only thing that can make people feel better and that a lot of healing can come from having a positive mental outlook. For instance, when we watched the video lecture about Cartesian duality and we learned about the placebo effect. The lecture discussed patients who had pacemakers put in, but then turned off and they still reaped the positive health outcomes that a pacemaker would have given them. (2) I think that the placebo effect works in a very similar way that spirituality can work toward healing in someone’s life. With the placebo effect, the patient truly believes that they will get better and they sometimes do. I think that religion can play the role of the placebo effect in a way. Religion gives the person a higher power to believe in. When I was looking for examples of religion and healing I found a guide with Jewish medical ethics. The guide talks about how biomedicine is very useful and should be used to help people, but that prayer should be “recognized as the most powerful tool for healing”. (3) This is one example of how religion and biomedicine can work together to heal a patient. Like class members have discussed in the past, this doesn’t mean that people should avoid using the resources that they have to treat things like meningitis. However it is foolish to rely solely on biomedicine as well when there are so many examples in the world of how the two can work together to enhance the health of a patient. There needs to be a balance between the two, but once a balance is found both can be a resource for healing.



  1. “SAN (Bushman) Healing Dance Botswana Africa.” YouTube. 2012. Accessed July 22, 2016.
  2. Lecture: 3.1. Cartesian Duality, Biomedicine, and “Spirit” (Or “What’s the difference between Medicine and Religion?”)
  3. Halevi, Harofei B., and Jay B. Lavine, M.D. “The Thirteen Principles of Jewish Medical Ethics.” Israel Science and Technology Homepage. April 15, 2008. Accessed July 22, 2016.

One thought on “Medicine? Religion? Why not both?

  1. The question in your title is very though provoking. When there are noticeable benefits to both science and religion, why shouldn’t they be used together? You made a comment using the phrase “Doctors in the United States.” I immediately questioned what it was about the United States that makes doctors here different from those around the world. Whether you go to medical school in the United State or overseas you are following the same course structure. Doctors learn the same practices (for the most part) everywhere in the world. The only thing that differs here in America is the notion that you cannot bring religion into certain settings. I believe that some doctors are afraid to ask about a patient’s religious beliefs because that may come across in the wrong way. A doctor is a professional in the medical field, however, they are not often leaders in the religious world. They may not feel comfortable talking about a subject that may be controversial. The diverse population of the United States and the fear of offending someone may be what is keeping religion and medicine separate in the healing process. Perhaps this is an opportunity for an anthropologist to figure out a way to incorporate the two in an appropriate way.

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