W3: Religious healing in a modern world

Illness and healing are subjects that can be focused on through different viewpoints. It is common knowledge that Western medicine, or the biomedical approach to illness, focuses on healing through science and is typically used in the United States. With that being said, there are also many different approaches to healing that can be used, such as healing through spirit or religion. This is not something that is as accepted or thought of in the biomedical practice, but these approaches can be just as effective, if not more effective, than the drugs used in Western medicine.

When it comes to the relationship between science and healing, Western medicine doctors are taught to think of treatment and healing as a way of balancing out chemicals in the body that have been “imbalanced” through illness, as stated through our lecture material this week. The Western medicine of the United States tends to separate mind and body, and only focus on the “body” aspect, when really these areas go hand in hand.

A different approach to healing, dealing with religion and spirit, focuses on healing both the mind and the body. This viewpoint of healing was originated centuries ago and is sometimes considered “traditional” healing. In a clip that we watched through this week’s class material, we meet a man named Tsitano Muburunyara, who is a traditional healer of the Tsaukwe clan of the San people of Botswana. The main way that he heals people is by doing the “healing dance” with them, along with giving them some simple herbal medicines (Lee, 2012). The main focus here is the “healing dance,” since this is something that was passed down through their own heritage, and is still thought to work today. According to their beliefs, this healer was chosen by God. A higher spirit came down to Tsitatno while he was sleeping and bestowed him with the power of healing (Lee, 2012). Once this happened, he then knew that he could help his tribe by being their healer and leading the healing dance. In their religion, it is very important for the traditional healer not waste his gift, but to rather use it to help his people in any way he can. The healing dance lasts for hours and during this process, the traditional healer goes into a trance and his spirit connects with his ancestors (Lee, 2012). His spirit then returns to his body around the fire and the dance, and implements healing through procedures like massages (Lee, 2012).

Based on an article that I encountered, titled “The Influence of Religiosity on Health,” it has been found that “religion seems to be a psychosocial factor and biological benefit in the recovery of physical and mental illness” (Alves, Alves, Barboza and Souto, 2008). This proves that religious and spiritual healings can have an impact on one’s health. This is an aspect of healing that more people need to be open to, because it has also been found that this facet of health and healing is becoming more and more obsolete. This occurring both because it is not being as respected as biomedicine, and it doesn’t have the listeners and believers that it once used to have, in the more traditional world.

Lee, Ton Van Der, dir. “Part 1: The San People of Botswana.” In Spirits of Africa: Preserving Africa’s Spiritual Heritage. 2012. February 3, 2012. Accessed July 21, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyLF3y1YJKA.

Alves, Rômulo Romeu Da Nobrega, Humberto Da Nobrega Alves, Raynner Rilke Duarte Barboza, and Wedson De Medeiros Silva Souto. “The Influence of Religiosity on Health.” Scientific Electronic Library Online. May 1, 2008. Accessed July 21, 2016. http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1413-81232010000400024&script=sci_arttext&tlng=es.

8 thoughts on “W3: Religious healing in a modern world

  1. Hi Emily!

    You brought up some very good points regarding illness and health. I really like how you said that Western medicine mainly focuses on the mechanical side of science like the body and that other religions or cultures may use a different approach like praying or spiritually healing themselves. There are many religions and cultures that may also use an herbal remedy along with a spiritual or religious healing, combining the two. And you are right, an herbal remedy with a spiritual or religious healing is something that is not accepted by the biomedical practice (Western medicine). From the lecture this week we learned that the Ju | ‘hoansi of Botswana and Namibia would gather together once a week and have a healing dance that lasts all night until they feel the nom enter their body which enables them to reach to an altered state where they can then go around touching everyone which ends up healing them from selfishness and other health concerns. If we were to mention this type of therapy to a doctor or physician, they would probably think that you were crazy. But, the mind has a substantial influence over ones health. There have been several studies that have investigated the placebo effect and end up finding significant results, which indicates that the mind is very powerful, perhaps more than one could imagine.


  2. Hi Emily, I enjoyed reading your post and found it to be very informative. In Western culture, we definitely do tend to take a very scientific approach to medicine and to patient care. We do focus more on the body aspect rather than having the mind and body go hand in hand as they should. More importance really needs to be given to emotional health and also to spirituality. I think it was interesting that religion and spirituality aid in the recovery of mental illness. I think this is a great example of how having belief in something and being spiritually connected can really help a person overcome disease and give them the strength to move forward. I think it’s sad that medicine which combines the mind and body is becoming more and more obsolete. Western countries should really try to adopt some of this logic as it has been shown to be beneficial in many cases. I feel that we put too much focus and energy into biomedical aspects of medicine and really don’t pay attention a patient’s mind and emotional health. I really think doctors should learn to integrate patients’ beliefs and spirituality and learn to respect them. Overall, I enjoyed your post and learned a lot from it.

  3. I found reading your post to be very enjoyable and informational. The information you gave was very interesting. It highlighted that there are good things about taking a holistic approach but there are also good things about biomedical approaches. However, I think that it is unfortunate that the United States is so focused on the biomedical approach that they do not even consider integrating anything from a more holistic approach to help people become healthier. I agree with your statement that people need to be open to religious and spiritual healing because it has been proven to have a positive impact on the health of individuals. It has been shown that society and family have a great impact on the physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing of an individual. With that being said, I wonder why biomedicine would not include at least some aspects of holistic medicine.
    I also found it interesting that you brought up the issue of a dwindling number of people listening and believing in traditional medicine. I think that this is a very valid point. A lot of people believe in and trust the biomedical method of medicine, so it is very successful and widely used in the United States. However, there is very little knowledge about holistic medicine in the West, so it is not widely accepted or used, even when it would be affective.

  4. I really like all of your points that you made in your post! Traditional medicine is something that is definitely overlooked here in the United States. I mean look at all the trouble that were having with people that are wanting to use marijuana as a medicine but it is still an illegal substance. I am neither for or against it but I have seen the studies and the effects from it and clearly it works but politicians don’t see it this way, but I guess it just takes one group of people to ruin it for the thousands that would benefit from it.
    I think that if doctors were to start using more advanced medical techniques or use both methods to help treat diseases it would be more beneficial because there would be less side effects and it would be less harmful for the person with the disease. Overall great points! I enjoyed reading your article.

  5. Emily, great post! I totally agree with your point validating that different approaches are very effective and sometimes even more so than the methods of Western medicine. People sometimes take these anthropology classes and feel anger towards the professors teaching because they think the class is trying to turn them away from the United States medical methods. Although the class highlights how different cultures approaches are very beneficial, clearly our Western scientific ways are effective, too. Our culture teaches society that science is the answer. We believe in this, which is why we heal with the prescriptions and antibiotics. Other cultures don’t have a science biochemical outlook on medicine so therefore these people would not heal as well with these same drugs. Just as in the video on the African dancers, we learned that those people believe in religious and spiritual healing. This is why their spiritual dancing and gifted healers are so effective. The people don’t think the problem is a chemical imbalance within the body, they think that the problem is because of evil spirits or social unjust. Neither religious healing nor scientific healing is right nor wrong, just different. You did a great job of defending these stances with great examples of evidence! Good work Emily.

  6. I think that we as Americans do not approve as much of religious healing techniques because we are so used to our own views of healing which has to do with science and medicine. We are so used to going to the doctors when were sick and being prescribed some type of medicine instead of finding spiritual or holistic ways of healing so when people do something that’s different from us we think it is wrong. I do agree that the mind a body go hand in hand in the sense that your mental state and thoughts can have an impact on an illness. For example one of our lecture videos talked about how when people in pain were given basically a fake drug (pacebo) that was supposed to relive the pain, acted like the pain had actual went away or reduced after taking the placebo. This is proof that the mind plays a large role when it comes to illness or pain within the body. Also because the way a person thinks of and views their own illness plays a large role in how they want to be treated for it so it’s important for doctors to understand not only a person’s physical symptoms but there mental state as well.

  7. Hey Emily! You did a really nice job with this entry. I agree on what you said about there being many approaches in understanding healing. All around the world different things affect people thought processes. Because of that, many different theories of healing arise. There is all these ways of healing, but no one knows which is the most effective. I really enjoyed watching that clip and though of the “healing dance” as a very interesting method for healing. I wonder how they came about believe that this ritual would actually cure people of their individual problems. Another very controversial way of healing that was mentioned in a few of this week’s class materials was acupuncture. The use of “healing dances” and acupuncture really can relate people neither is proven scientifically and neither is really idealized by western world doctors. Sometimes I think that if these forms of healing wear actually proven by some higher authority, would they become more famous in the United States, or would it take time for people to get rid of the old way and bring in the new? I feel like people like Tsitano are very strong believers of these different ways of healing. As I watched the clip, I thought about why this was happening? I mean I know that God came down and bestowed this power on to him, but how did he actually get people to believe this form of treatment to be medically correct?

  8. Fantastic post! And I find it interesting what your outside source says of religious healing. The question here is what exactly is religious healing? Is it real? Superstition? Placebo? Hoax? Who knows? All I know is that there’s this entire other side of medicine that is being overlooked, and I agree that more attention here in the states needs to be directed to it. Probably the biggest issue with doctors believing in and using traditional/religious healing methods is the fact that there isn’t any proof that it works 100% of the time. Not that biomedicine necessarily works 100% of the time, but it comes off to them as luck. Human life isn’t something that you want to play statistics with, especially mental illness. However, when you’re in the realm of incurable diseases or very serious mental illnesses antibiotics and surgeries are only going to do so much. My opinion isn’t that we completely shift focus to spiritual healing, but learn to incorporate it into western biomedicine. It may come off as voodoo, sure, but for the logical mind there’s plenty of research out there showing how it does in fact help with certain illnesses. For example, the Chinese acupuncture is an easy instance to note from this week. There isn’t really anything scientific about it, per say, but for what the patients want out of their treatments, it seems to work for them. So in the end, the patient really decides what kind of medicine is used for treatment, and that’s why we should look into more traditional methods of healing. What we get from accepting other forms of healing is actually learning how to accept other types of people into our society. Thanks for sharing!

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