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Leung 3

Historically, the Western tradition of medicine has been very intertwined with religion. It

is from the Jewish “religious obligation to care for their fellow Jews… occasionally [including]

medical treatment” leading to a tangible and permanent form” of medical care provided to

travelers by AD 60, that the precursor to hospitals as we know it now came (Conrad, et. al., 73).

Religion helped to place an early emphasis on helping the sick and on developing new ways to

treat illnesses. The values of Galenic and Christian medicine were similar and compatible

religiously. Therefore, medicine as developed by the Greeks was able to integrate within

Western culture easier; in fact, the patron saints of medicine, S.S. Cosmas and Damian

“thoroughly mastered the healing of Hippocrates and Galen” (Conrad, et. al., 75). By 400 AD “a

community without a healer was, in Jewish law, no proper community” (Conrad, et. al., 73). The

Koran assured that “there is no fault in the lame (Conrad, et. al., 96) and Muslim “quests of

learning” in the ninth century led to further encouragement of medicine (Conrad, et. al., 98). On

the other hand, religion has also restricted medical exploration.

Religion was often very conflicted in its attitude toward medicine and its development. I

am personally agnostic and am often confounded by ways in which religion can restrict scientific

and medical development and implementation: that some countries and not others will research

stem-cell technology fully, that abortions are still being challenged and denied to women who

need them. I believe that the best medicine should be used, not the best medicine as restricted by

religious ideals, as in the selective translation of medical texts that agreed with Islamic ideals

(Conrad, et. al., 97). In Christianity, though St. Basil agreed that “God had put medicines and

herbs in this world for human us…[there was a belief in the fifth century and likely now] the

truly religious should not need them” (Conrad, et. al., 77). The idea that “disease and sin were

closely linked; illness was a consequence of mankind’s fallen nature” was rampant (Conrad, et.

Leung 3

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