Religion and Medicine | The Tribune

By Rev. Canon B Sebastian Campbell, CM

“We are not human beings trying to be spiritual, we are spiritual beings trying to be human.” (Anonymous).

We are created in the image and likeness of God. (Genesis)

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” (Albert Einstein 1879-1952).

Ancient medicine has been practiced by religious and spiritual leaders throughout human history and shows a connection between mind and body. Early Hebrew culture focused on illness as punishment for disobeying or contradicting God’s law. In the New Testament, Jesus frequently used the term “Your sins are forgiven” when referring to healing. We continue to see the correlation between sin and disease like obesity, certain causes of type II diabetes, venereal disease, etc.

As science progressed through many centuries, a great separation occurred between science and spirituality. Great advances have been made in science, but science has lost its ancient connection with spirituality and religion. Health professionals must learn to integrate the fields of medicine, psychiatry, and spirituality to truly heal the human body, mind, and spirit.

Dr. Herbert Benson of the Howard Medical Schools states that “sixty to ninety percent of physician visits are in the mind-body stress domain.”

Research in America shows that more than fifty percent of hospitalized patients can “get up and walk”, if preventive care has been given, if they are spiritually guided. Research also shows that hospitals with an extensive pastoral care department see patients heal much faster than hospitals without one. Pastoral departments are growing rapidly in North America, Europe and Asia.

Based on the principle that humans are first and foremost spiritual beings, Richard Cabot (cardiologist) and Anton Boisen (psychiatrist) about 80 years ago in the United States experimented with a training program that eventually became known as name of Clinical Pastoral Education. Seminary students in their final year had to do a year of practical work in hospitals, they were assigned to certain services and worked as a member of the health care team. This course of study is now mandatory for ordination. This course is also now available to ordained and matured individuals from all faith groups. This course is also mandatory for those entering chaplaincy. (This will help weed out the “quacks” from the system).

Most doctors probably do not fully recognize the despair and pain that patients feel on a soul level. Medical science can successfully eliminate physical pain, but generally ignores deep soul pain – pain that can be far more destructive and debilitating than physical suffering. The spiritual integrative approach teaches one to turn one’s fear and anxiety into courage, hope and peace.

Spirituality is a complement, not a competitor to conventional medical therapy and has enormous potential to improve the patient’s life.

Everyone has a unique mind, just like we have a unique personality or genetic makeup. A patient in the presence of a person of faith can be more strengthened in such an environment. Here, the emphasis is on faith and not on religious confession. Everyone identifies with a religious group because everyone is spiritual.

In a 1952 poll in America, ninety-three percent of physicians thought they should consider the religious needs of their patients, but only seventeen percent of those same physicians admitted to having had religious discussions. important with their patients. The CPE would enable more health care providers to be equipped to care for patients spiritually. Another study of two hundred patients showed that forty-eight percent wanted their doctors to pray with them. However, it is rare for patients to express this desire. Why does this dichotomy exist between spiritual desires and medical practice?

Every human culture has used some form of religion or prayer during times of stress, illness, and health crisis. The healing of illnesses and diseases was closely linked to the religious beliefs of human culture, despite the fact that some of these cultures were located on opposite sides of the earth. Remember, there was no phone, television, email to connect these people, and there was no common language to enable verbal communication. Yet a common theme in these cultures was the ultimate connection between medicine and religion.

Cultures combined these two disciplines into one person known as Obeah-man, to whom people sought and were healed. Prescribed bush medicine will always be in our culture. In the Bible we see this happening in the priest. He had to certify a cure. He was the head doctor. This is why Jesus said to the purified lepers: “Go and show yourselves to the priest. In Luke 10, Jesus sends his disciples on a healing mission. He gave them the power to cast out demons and heal diseases.

The word medicine means mystery. When translated from their tribal languages, the practitioner of medicine was the mysterious man. The mysterious man used remedies including roots and herbs, but also dealt with mystery and charms. If the disease has not been cured and death has occurred; it was the will of the Great Spirit. All of these ancient cultures shared this common link between medicine and religion.

It is ironic that science has returned to religion – not to blindly accept its doctrine, but to scientifically investigate the nature of religious experiences, such as prayer and meditation. Do prayer and meditation evoke similar biological changes in the brain? Do measurable physiological changes occur in our brain during prayer, meditation, or mystical experiences? The answer, from experience, is a resounding yes. This study included Buddhists and Franciscan nuns at prayer.

Healthcare providers, such as doctors, nurses, technicians, etc. can best aid the healing process if they themselves are spiritual, thus making sense of the divine. Pray before and after a procedure, remembering that they depend on a greater power to succeed.

I ask that we help design well-established pastoral care in our public hospital systems to give more meaning to holistic health care. Pray that we catch up with more progressive health care institutions.

It is clear that the worlds of science and religion must unite in the Bahamas and achieve even greater scientific and spiritual progress in the future. The great divide must disappear, so that we can embark on a journey of spiritual transformation and discovery that could improve our delivery of health care.


  1. We must be attentive to religious rites. These are unique to each faith group and each denomination. The Religious Rite is the medicine of the soul and the body. It keeps a person in touch with the Divine. Some rites are: Holy Communion, Baptism, Anointing.

  2. The man of religion travels with a family long after the death of a loved one; his concern goes beyond the patient. Additionally, long after a patient is discharged, the person is supported as they move towards full recovery.

  3. Can you imagine a lifestyle center in the Bahamas where you can combine religion and medicine? Together we can fight many preventable diseases. The Bible teaches that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

  4. The Medical Evangelist – a proposed article. How can we train qualified people to take the message of healing and religion to flood our churches, schools, etc.? With a good education? (Please contact me for a working paper on this, to stimulate discussion).

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