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Religion versus Spirituality

Religion is associated with a system of convictions, while spirituality is simply an awareness of the supernatural force that forms the core of how one relates to different contemporary issues in life. Religion is more physical and encompasses systems that can be analyzed to include behavioral patterns, activities and even images used to signify a relationship with God. Spirituality, on the other hand, involves the search for answers to life questions from a supernatural point of view, seeking the inner meaning and core of our livelihood, having an deeper understanding of the world we create when we respond to our thoughts, emotions and feelings towards situations and circumstances in life and the awareness of the existence of a inner world (Ecklund, 2007). In this context however, we are going to discuss how religion and spirituality affect a person’s response to medicine and illness and how a medical worker should approach that.

Understanding Illnesses

It is important for health practitioners to understanding the manner in which a patient’s religious beliefs contribute to their understanding of illness (Anandarajah & Hight, 2001). First of all, illness is often associated with sin and viewed as a punishment from God, while often that is not actually the case. Some illnesses are caused by deficiency of nutrients in the body and may have nothing to do with sin. Some patients do not believe that their illness is a sign that they have drifted away from God. In such circumstances, they always tend to try to draw back to God in prayer with faith and disregard any medical efforts to provide a cure to their illness. Prayer is solution and it works but taking medicine is the way to the relief. In the Hasidic setup where Rivka Cohen comes from, the rabbi is first consulted to assess the situation since he is closer to God than the medic. The understanding of God’s will for one in life also contributes greatly to how one understands illness. They believe that being healthy or ill is a choice in one’s life that only God can make. This affects how a patient will respond to persuasions to seek medical attention (Baroody, 2003). They conclude that since it is God’s will that they are ill, he is able to heal them at the right time when God wants to give them good health. They above all believe that God is willing to give them health.

Understanding Various Religions

As a trained health practitioner, one should put various factors into consideration when dealing with a patient. Most importantly a medical employee should consider  the meaning of good health from their religion. While physicians define health in strict biomedical terms, a patient defines the same by how he/she feels, or if he/she is able to get by, as in the case of a minor cough or whether to attend regular medical check-ups. A professional should also seek to understand the kind of stigma associated with an illness based on the religious beliefs of the patient. For example, a disease may be viewed as a punishment from God hence one should be able to work on mechanisms to create an environment of confidentiality or else expose the patient to rebuke and rejection by members of their religion. A medic should put into consideration what the patient feels is the cause of the illness and how their religion views the specific illness (Anandarajah & Hight, 2001). This is instrumental in making critical decisions concerning the patient. These include application for health insurance and also whether to consult a religious leader or not. For example, to some patients, taking a health insurance shows a lack of faith in the power of God to heal them.

The understanding of religion and spirituality seems to overlap and the two words have been used severally to mean the same thing. It is evident that they are not the same; simply put, religion points us to spirituality. From the example of the Hasidic practices and their view on illness which forms the basis of this essay, as a professional, one should strive to understand the patient and be able to offer the services in a manner that will not violate their belief systems.

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