Gaining Insight Into Religion & Health

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Religion has an impact on every area of a person’s life, including on their health. The question is, what is the impact and is it a positive or negative one, or could it be a combination of both?

Statistics show that in the US, 73% of the population is Christian, 18% of the population has no faith, and 5.4% of the population belong to a non-Christian faith, including Islam and Judaism. Today, religion may not play as crucial a part as it did in the past, but for many people, it is still a vital part of daily life.

Religion has a big impact on the lives of many people in all sorts of ways, from impacting how a person dresses and what they eat to the medical treatments and procedures that they are able to undergo. Health limitations due to a religion can be both negative and positive. For example, some limitations, such as being unable to eat certain foods, can negatively impact a person’s health as it can lead to a lack of nutrition. Whereas, limitations such as being unable to smoke or consume alcohol, improve a person’s health.

How do different religions & health collide?

What is the impact of Christianity on health?

  • There are many forms of Christianity, each of which has its own distinctive rules and regulations about the link between religion and health.
  • However, most Christians believe in undergoing any medical treatment, including blood transfusions. The only exception being abortion, with their being a great deal of difference between how different Christian groups view abortion. For example, the Catholic church believes that all human life is sacred and that in almost any circumstance, abortion is wrong, as is using medicines such as ‘Plan B’ to prevent conception from occurring. Some Catholics are even against birth control.

What is the impact of Islam on health?

  • In Islam, Muslims are expected to seek the help of Allah during times of illness. They are expected to put their trust in him and pray to him asking for strength and forgiveness.
  • In terms of general Islamic health beliefs, Muslims tend to believe that abortion is wrong except for when the mother’s life is at risk. Muslim circumcision is recommended for all males and is universally practiced, and blood transfusions are allowed. IVF treatment is permitted, organ transplant is allowed, and genetic engineering is also allowed.
  • For Muslim doctors, caring for patients with sexually transmitted disease, including AIDS, is not allowed.

What is the impact of Judaism on health?

  • In Judaism, Jews are not allowed to refuse medical treatment and linking to this, Jews are not allowed to commit suicide or help another person to do so, euthanasia is also not allowed. People don’t own their bodies, they are a gift from God, and should be taken care of to the best of their ability.
  • Judaism does not sanction the use of treatments that are overly experimental. A treatment must be likely to succeed to be done. Nor does the religion allow its followers to use drugs recreationally, as this is seen as endangering their lives. Smoking, however, was praised until recently.
  • Jews are allowed to undergo all manner of medical treatments, including blood transfusions, as well as abortion. However, although abortion is not forbidden, it is only permitted for serious reasons.

The impact that religion has on health is a varied one and differs from religion to religion, as well as within smaller sectors of larger religious groups, such as within Christianity.

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