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Religion, Rituals, and Health

Chapter 4 Religion, Rituals, and Health Overview of Chapter Topics • Introduction: Religion, spirituality, and ritual • Religion in the U.S.• Religion and health behaviors – Effect of religion on health-related behaviors – Religion and health outcomes – Religion and medical decisions • Rituals in relation to health practices • Case Study: Cystic fibrosis in a Hasidic Jewish patient Religion, Spirituality, and Ritual • There is considerable overlap between religion and spirituality.

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Religion: a belief in and respect for a supernatural power or powers, which is regarded as creator and governor of the universe, and a personal or institutionalized system grounded in such a belief or worship • Spirituality: the life force within each of us, and it refers to an individual’s attempt to find meaning and purpose in life Religion, Spirituality, and Ritual • Religion is more associated with behaviors that can be quantified than the more inchoate term, spirituality. • Religion can be categorized by denomination, so there is more agreement about the meaning of the term, and it can be more easily quantified (i. . , place of worship) • Similar overlap exists between religion and ritual. – Religion may include established rituals, but not all rituals are associated with a specific religion. – Consequently, this chapter examines the relationship between ritual and health separately from the relationship between religion and health. Religion in the U. S. • In 1999, 95% of population in U. S. reported a belief in God or higher power. • In a 2005 study, 57% of those queried stated that religion is very important in their lives, while some 28% stated that it is fairly important. Since 1992, studies have found consistent rates of attendance at religious places of worship. • Religion and ethnicity may be loosely linked, but a person’s religious affiliation should not be assumed based on his/her ethnicity. Religion and Health Behaviors • Lifestyle is single most prominent influence over health today. • People with religious ties have been shown to follow healthier behavioral patterns than the nonreligious related to – Wider networks of social support than does a strictly secular life – Social networks are often key to coping with life stress so improved coping mechanisms – Proscribed behaviors (i. . , no alcohol consumption or premarital sex) Religion and Health Behaviors • Dietary practices with possible effects on health – Prohibition or restriction of consumption of animal products and beverages – Fasting – Prohibition or restriction of use of stimulants and depressants because of addictive properties • Some religions incorporate the use of stimulants or depressants into their ceremonies • Religious practice may correlate with positive health behaviors generally, as well as with reduced rates of depression and higher rates of marital stability Religion and Health Behaviors Religion thought to correlate to positive outcomes with respect to: – – – – – – – – – – – Hypertension Mortality/longevity Depression Suicide Promiscuous sexual behavior Drug and alcohol use Delinquency General feelings of well-being Hope/purpose/meaning in life Self-esteem Educational attainment Religion and Health Outcomes • Religion also can harm health – Sometimes used to justify hatred, aggression, and prejudice – Can be judgmental, alienating, exclusive – Can cause feeling of religious guilt or feeling of failure to meet religious expectations – May restrict health care services because belief that health is in God’s hands

Religion and Medical Decisions • Beginning of life decisions – Abortion: Opposed or strictly limited by many religions (i. e. , health of the mother is at risk if pregnancy continued; child would be born with a disability that will cause suffering; rape; incest) – Birth control usage: Varying methods approved or strongly opposed by certain religions; some religions permit hormonal methods but not the methods that block or destroy sperm Religion and Medical Decisions • End of life decisions – Religious belief may influence decisions to accept/reject optional treatments to prolong life at the end i. . , respirators, organ transplants, feeding tubes Religion and Medical Decisions • End of life decisions • Organ donation: perspective is changing— some now view it an act of compassion; related to belief in resurrection • Euthanasia: the act or practice of ending life of someone who is suffering from a terminal illness or incurable condition by lethal injection or suspension of medical treatment – Opposed when viewed as murder or suicide or that it will damage karma (states that one must show respect for preservation of life) – Some see as an act of compassion and concern for dignity

Religion and Medical Decisions • End of life decisions • Use of advance directives for end of life care • Advanced directives are legal documents that enable a person to convey his or her decisions about care ahead of time • Include information about use of life-sustaining equipment, artificial hydration and nutrition (tube feeding), resuscitation, organ donation, comfort care • Concerns related to appointing one person as the decision maker in collectivists cultures, person undergoing needless suffering, and if you discuss it, it will happen

Ritual in Relation to Health Practices • Ritual: a set of actions that usually are very structured and have symbolic meaning or value • May be performed on certain occasions, at regular intervals, or at discretion of individuals or communities; held in private or public • Tied to numerous activities and events i. e. , births, deaths, holidays, club meetings, etc. • Many rituals in health care settings i. . , being on time for appointments, how people are addressed, where patient’s sit Ritual in Relation to Health Practices • Objects as rituals (i. e. , amulets, bracelets, statues, crosses) • Importance of shrines in ritual activities (many are for health and healing) • Rituals involving animal sacrifice (done to build and maintain personal relationship with a spirit) • Birth rituals (i. e. food restrictions, silent birth, how placenta is discarded) • Death rituals (how and when the body is disposed of, prayer, dress, use of flowers) Summary • Religion and spirituality play a major role in people’s lives and in their health decisions and behaviors. • It has been shown to improve health, but also can contribute to health problems • Impacts medical decisions • Many rituals are related to health and some are tied to specific religions .

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