Religion and Medicine

“Religion is the opium of the people,” says Karl Marx (1818-1883). But Marxism is almost dead and religion has survived. Does that mean religion is healthy and well and good for the people?

Yes, says one reader of this column. She was responding to my question – should doctors prescribe religious activities for medical ailments as they prescribe antibiotics?

The lady (we will call her Mrs. A) says: I am almost sure that healthy spiritual life is directly connected to good mental health. And mental health is directly connected with physical health. It is proven that mental condition has direct influence on our immune system, hormonal balance, sleeping pattern and not to mention the impact it has on our social life. So yes, religion should be somehow involved in medical treatment.

Mrs. A says that the zealots are exploiting religion. She was brought up in a country where religion was not popular and there were many atheists. Atheism was more attractive because some religious leaders encouraged hate among people of different nationality and religion.

“That was the reason I was always happy not to be a part of it, no to be in all the mess. My opinion now is that religion/spirituality is important if it’s in the healthy dosage,” says Mrs. A.

Another interesting letter came from a lady (Mrs. B): Being a “religious” person myself, I feel that faith and medical practise go hand in hand. I have a great deal of confidence in medical science but believe ultimately that God is “the great physician”.

I think it is quite desirable for physicians to recommend that patients seek spiritual comfort from appropriate pastors and counsellors, but not that doctors have to give it – unless they know the patient well and mutually agree to discuss spiritual matters, says Mrs. B.

Mrs. B sent me an article which says that doctors are conducting major research project at the Duke University Medical Centre and the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Centre, Durham, NC to study the effects of prayer, imagery, and touch on patients who are about to undergo angioplasty, a procedure that removes blockages from coronary arteries.

The article says that the people in the Duke prayer group experience 50 to 100 percent fewer side effects from cardiac procedures than those who aren’t prayed for.

I also received a Chritian Science view from Mrs. C. She says: Christian Scientists rely exclusively on prayer for healing. A Christian Scientist may ask for help from a Christian Science practitioner, who is one who devotes his or her full time to the practice of healing prayer. Testimonials over many years appearing in the Christian Science weekly and monthly publications prove the efficacy of this healing practice. On a personal note, I had a small proof when, through prayer alone, a severely sprained ankle was healed overnight.

Mrs. C says: Christian Scientists have great respect for dedicated doctors. However, Christian Science treatment is not combined with medical practice because the two methods are inherently icompatible.

These are interesting views. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) says: there is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.

Whatever religious version we believe in, the ultimate force that creates an environment of well being is our faith. The faith may be in God, in our pastor, our doctor or any non-physician healer. If we don’t believe in something, then I doubt whether it will help us.

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