Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Religion and Medicine or the Spiritual Dimension of Healing

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Religion and Medicine or the Spiritual Dimension of Healing

Article excerpt

Abstract: This paper analyses the relationship between religion and the field of medicine and health care in light of other recent studies. Generally, religion and spirituality have a positive impact on disease. For patients diagnosed with malignancies and chronic diseases, religion is an important dimension of healing. From ancient times, God has been considered an inspiration for the physician's knowledge and healing resources. Some authors have proposed a brief history of spiritual and religious states that the doctor can apply to his patient. Religiosity and spirituality allow patients to receive better social support and to benefit greatly from resources provided by religious organizations (cultural activities, jobs, and health care counseling). The two terms "religion" and "spirituality" have different meanings but are always in connection. Many studies emphasize that people with greater religiosity and spirituality have a lower prevalence of depression and suicide, better quality of life, and greater survival. Additionally the article discusses the complementary health care benefits of religious fasting. Caloric and protein restrictions promoted by religious fasting were associated with improvement in control or prophylaxis of many diseases and with longevity

Key Words: religion, medicine, spirituality, divinity, transcendence, patient, well-being, self-esteem, self-concept clarity, religious fasting


The relationship between medicine and religion is one of the oldest approaches to healthcare, although its importance has recently been reconsidered. As Daniel Sulmasy stated, "Religion is the oldest form of medical practice," and in recent years there has been a great resurgence of interest in the healing potential of spirituality and religion.1 A number of recent studies indicate that religious practice was associated with some healthcare skills, such as discipline and persistence, that facilitate the intervention of preventive medicine. Religion and spirituality could have a potential positive impact on mental aspects of diseases and healthcare and could influence the quality and length of life. In practice, patients who believe in the healing power of religion can have a better prognosis of the condition treated. A multimodal approach to human health can help doctors and clinicians to assure the comfort of patients on multiple perspectives: biomedical, spiritual, philosophical, and sociological.2 Complementary and alternative medicine are more related to religion and spirituality, but there are not many studies regarding religious characteristics of alternative medicine practitioners.

Religion and spirituality are also important aspects of mental health. A psychological exploration of the variations in beliefs and expressions of distress in treated patients is important. The study of mind-body relations has begun to dissect the complex mechanisms by which the brain can influence peripheral biology and how the relationship between doctor and patient could influence the patient's psychological state.3 Being a major component of human communities, religions can be involved in providing recommendations (if not entire public policies4) on various modern treatments (e.g., organ transplantation, of which every major religion has stated a position), and it is preferable to entertain a dialogue between religion and medicine than to solve dogmatic misunderstandings of patients.5 Finally, religion has become an alternative for patients diagnosed with malignancies or for those emigrating to a new country and experiencing stressors like a new language, adaptation, finance challenges, and solitude, although more empirical studies investigating these correlations are needed.

Spirituality and religion - the terms

The terms "religion" and "spirituality" are not superimposable. Spirituality has a dimension conferred by the importance of ancestral origin, contained in human beings. …

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