Debates regarding health care have struck at the core of social and political imaginaries of what it means for both bodies and societies to thrive. As Obama’s health care reforms pointedly demonstrated, debate in North America about the respective roles of government and private interests in the administration of health care has been a catalyst of enthusiastic civic engagement, with different results on either side of the Canadian-American border. While much of this civic engagement rests upon a shared assumption that biomedical health care, based on Western scientific method, is the best kind of care for suffering bodies, the politics of health care is also shaped by a spiritual politics, divided along several axes.
Posts Tagged ‘medicine’
At the Times Literary Supplement, Lauro Martines reviews Cultures of Plague: Medical Thinking at the End of the Renaissance, a new book by Samuel K. Cohn, Jr., which explores how reliance on theology and the medical theories of antiquity gave way to new forms of epidemiology.
In an opinion piece at The Christian Science Monitor, sociologist Wendy Cadge shares findings from her research (with Elaine Howard Ecklund) on how physicians learn about and deal with their patients’ spiritual and religious beliefs. She concludes that a “holistic approach to medicine requires physicians to understand the complex role of spirituality and religion in compassionate patient care. The best prescription: Integrate these topics throughout medical education.”
A century ago, in “Religion and Neurology,” the opening chapter of The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James argued against a “medical materialism” that would reduce religious experiences to their neurological causes for the purpose either of dismissing them or confirming them. Since that time, many have tried to understand religion through the study of religious experience and, like James, many have given special attention to mysticism. New techniques for the study of the brain have brought great advances, but David Brooks’s New York Times column “The Neural Buddhists” and the work of Andrew Newberg, to whom he refers, stand squarely in the tradition James was criticizing. [...]
There is a sense among those who are watching that the ground is shifting in U.S. constitutional jurisprudence with respect to religion, particularly with respect to what is known as the “establishment clause.” Disestablishment is coming to mean less privatized pluralism through the separation of religion from public life and more a religiously pluralistic and inclusive public accommodation of religion, religion-in-general. Government funding and endorsement of religion, heretofore regarded as taboo, are becoming constitutionally plausible. [...]