Cultural Hemorrhage of Religion and Spirituality on Healthcare and Wellness

Cultural Hemorrhage of Religion and Spirituality on Healthcare and Wellness

F. Sigmund Topor (Keio University, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0522-8.ch015


As life approaches expectancy and senescence actualizes, the regenerative capacity of the vital organs and their functionality is reduced. Such a reality gives rise the need to identify with a better purpose in life. Religion and spirituality assume a central role in the wellness and healthcare in such circumstances. Although societies and civilizations differ in their religious and spiritual orientations, all peoples everywhere ascribe to some God or gods. The globalization of religion was initiated sometime between the late Bronze Age and late classical antiquity. The pivotal point was characterized by a conversion from polytheism, or primary religions as practiced by the Ancient Egyptians; Phoenicians; Babylonians; Greek; and Romans on the one hand, to monotheism—secondary religions characterized by the worship of one supreme God. Religion and spirituality has now become the one and remaining source of solace for the terminally ill.
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The term religion, as defined in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, connotes an institutionalized canonical orthodoxy. Religion is broadly and universally used by social institutions such as the Church (Fouka, Plakas, Taket, Boudioni, & Dandoulakis, 2012) for a variety of purposes. For example, religion facilitates ritualistic ceremonies to cope with death (Mantala-Bozos, 2003; J. M. Nelson, 2009; Sor-hoon, 2011; Zinnbauer, Pargament, & Scott, 1999), the establishment of rules for the preservation of authority (Watts, 2005) over congregants, and a physical place of worship. This is different from spirituality, which denotes the personal individualistic approach to religion. Spirituality is defined variously depending on the culture. Religion and spirituality have threatened the positivist methodology and created a chasm between qualitative and quantitative methodologies in research (P. C. Hill & Pargament, 2008). Kant (1785/1949, 1797/1964, 1793/2004) believed that science and religion are not mutually exclusive but rather complementary. Religion is not separate from science. Barbour (1997) cited McGaughey in his claim that Kant justified the role of religion and faith based on limitations to what humans can know through science. (See also Dickerson [2011]).

There is ample medical research connecting spirituality and health or wellness (Koenig et al., 2001); however, more research is needed in nursing (Narayanasamy, 2001). It is important to distinguish between spirituality and religion (van Leeuwen, Tiesinga, Jochemasen, & Post, 2007) as the two are different (Narayanasamy, 2001; Taylor, 2003). Van Leeuwen et al. (2007) argued that the spiritual aspect of patients is foregrounded as they contemplate their conditions and relationships when faced with the prospect of death or permanent psychical deformity.

Such increased emphasis on holiness and spiritual revival has progressively become a major ingredient in health care. Contempt for prayers is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, as modern medical practices fail to address the spiritual and religious needs of the sick (Meraviglia, 2004, 2006; Walton, 1999; Walton & Sullivan, 2004). Studies show a holistic evolution in healthcare, with more people finding solace in prayers even as they endure remediation with modern medical technology. A 2002 survey of 31,044 U.S. adults age 18 years and over found that 62% used some form of complementary and alternative medicine therapy including prayers for health reasons (Barnes, Powell-Griner, McFann, & Nahin, 2002).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Disunderstanding: Refusal to concede an idea. Unwillingness to acknowledge or attempt to understand a given concept, principle, act, or activity for fear that such understanding or acknowledgement is antithetical to one’s own principles.

Eschatology: The field of theology that is concerned with death, judgment, salvation, and the final destiny of humans.

Empiricism: Information or knowledge that is based on hands-on or practical experience.

Orthodox: Traditional, conventional, or mainstream.

Nirvana: The final goal of Buddhists, which is a state of perfection and enlightenment in Buddhism in which an individual is free from wants or desire.

Eleemosynary: Relating to charity.

Samsara: A Hindu and Buddhist conception dealing with a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth that is characterized by the imperfection of individuals in the material world.

Sin: An offense in the Christian faith by which individuals are required to repent or be condemned by God and be punished and/or deprived of salvation.

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