The Meaning of Religion in Relation to Health
The Meaning of Religion in Relation to Health
We human beings are always trying to get our lives in order. We make lists and hatch plans. In small and large ways we strive to bring harmony and significance to our individual and communal pursuits. Religion is the human recognition that there is an ultimate order and meaning within the mystery of our lives. A life-giving, satisfying order is a harmonious network of connections to environment and people and, perhaps, to God. The task of the religion is to give true meaning to the life. Religion has concern to the wholeness and well-being of a person there by maintaining harmony in the society. Therefore this paper is an attempt to bring out the meaning of religion in relation to health.
2. The Meaning of Health
The Word health comes from the Germanic root hal which basically means ‘whole’ and is the origin of the English words ‘whole’, ‘holy’, ‘hale’, ‘hail’, all of which describe the ideal conditions of a person. From this point of view, health is wholeness, the quality or condition of being whole, of being complete. This word in itself counters any understanding of health which is purely physical or which concerns only one aspect of someone’s total being; it introduces an idea which is often described as holistic. According to World Health Organization which was set up in 1948, Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. In one word, health is well-being in all areas of life.
In Latin salus means health, but it is also the root word for salvation, which explains healing as an integral part of mission. According to the Oxford English Dictionary the meaning of the word health is Soundness of body: that condition in which its functions are duly and efficiently discharged. Therefore in another word we may use to describe health is soundness which is in Latin word sanus. And other word which is used for health is harmony, which expresses the idea of health as a state of balance or equilibrium between the forces and functions of the human body or person.
3. General Understanding of Health
Health is a property of life. Only where there is life can there be that wholeness, integration and harmony of being, function and relationship which is the essence of health. Health is generally regarded as an individual who feels well, looks well, eats well and sleeps well, is well. It is in purely individualistic terms. In western thought health has no necessary connection with religion in general, or with Christianity in particular. Their idea is health is really a physical matter and not a spiritual one, and is as an end in itself. Later it’s called ‘healthism’. But this is not true for eastern religions especially Buddhism and yoga. For modern psychologists the study of religion is an analysis of the function of religion as fulfilling certain physical needs, often viewed as a positive value for growth and stability of personality and culture.
4. Health in Biblical thoughts
The Old Testament understanding of health is the word shalom, which occurs about two hundred and fifty times. The basic meaning of shalom is ‘totality’ which is translated ‘completeness’, ‘wholeness’, ‘soundness’, ‘well-being’, ‘harmony’ or ‘prosperity’; which are describe the state of the body and being of the human person as whole. The other word of the meaning of health is blessedness. A study of those verses, particularly in the psalms, which begin with the words, ‘Blessed is the man’ will add further dimensions to the concept of shalom in both theory and practice, and thus of health. When we do this we find that blessedness, shalom and health include trust in God (Psalm 40.4; 84.12), forgiveness of sin (Psalm 32.1), and obedience to God’s will (Psalm 119.1-2).
In the New Testament we see that there are more words used for health than in the Old, but they all derive from the different meanings of shalom which we found in the Old Testament. There is, however, one basic difference between the two Testaments that is, the Old Testament tells us more about health, while the New Testament is more concerned with healing. There are a number of words which are used in the New Testament to describe health and its various aspects. Three are the nouns ‘peace’ (eirene), ‘life’ (zoe) and ‘salvation’(soteria), and three are the adjectives ‘sound’(hugies), ‘blessed’(makarios) and ‘mature’(teleios). The fact that the New Testament more concerned with healing, which is the restoration of a health that has been lost, is seen in the use of the words such as life and salvation which imply a previous state of death or sin from which someone has to be delivered, and maturity which implies a previous state of immaturity.
In biblical terms, health is merely a quality of life, it is life itself regarded from the point of its wholeness and completeness. This is illustrated by the saying of Jesus in which he stated the purpose of his coming into the world as opposed to the motive of those who come to steal the sheep. ‘I have come in order that you might have life -- life in all its fullness’ (John 10.10 GNB). This verse is often taken to be a definition of health. In biblical terms, life is more than existence. It is life with the quality of eternity. This is why the Bible speaks of eternal life even though for the Christian believer it begins in the world of time (I John 5.11-12). It is the life of God himself infused into human beings, which produces that wholeness and fullness of life which is health.
5. Christian Understanding of health
Health consists of the wholeness of the whole being of a person in all his or her relationships. Because of this emphasis on wholeness, the Christian view of health is often described as ‘wholistic’ or ‘holistic’. As we have already seen in our discussion, there is different fact of wholeness; one particularly significant word for the Christian understanding of health is the word ‘salvation’. In the Gospels the verb soza, to save, is used equally of deliverance from physical disease or danger as of spiritual salvation. Thus we find Jesus saying to both the woman with the chronic haemorrhage and the woman who was a sinner, ‘Your faith has saved you (sesoken se); go in peace’(Mark 5.34 and Lk 7.50) This is a reminder that in Christian terms the healing of the body is never purely physical and the salvation of the soul is never purely spiritual for both are combined in the restoration to wholeness of the whole person. In his first letter to the Thessalonians Christians the apostle Paul gives a description of the nature of health when he prays for them in the following words: ‘May God himself, the God of peace, make you holy through and through, and keep you sound in spirit, soul and body, free of any fault when our Lord Jesus Christ comes’ (I Thes. 5.23). In Christian understanding health, like life and salvation, is not a right but a gift – the gift of God. Health, whether essentially present or regained through recovery from disease is a dynamic process, the gift of God.
The biblical view is that health is not an end in itself but a means to an end. It is a by-product not an end-product. The end or the purpose of health is the glory of God and the happiness of humans. If we love God and live to his glory then we shall find health.
6. Theological Understanding of Health
Human being has three-element nature-the body is the temple of Holy Spirit, the spirit the energizing and transcending force, the mind the clarifying and defining part. In the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, the integration of spirit and body is based the link between health and salvation. These are twin concepts, signifying individual and global wholeness in relation to God. The Greek sozen is often translated as ‘to save’. Originally it was more inclusive, meaning ‘to make whole’, 'to heal’, ‘to save’. God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ clarifies the relation between health and salvation by an expanded notion of humankind. Jesus’ title, ‘Saviour’ , also means ‘healer’ Contrary to the tendency to denigrate the flesh, St Paul referred to the body as ‘the temple of Holy Spirit’ (I Cor 6.19). His doctrine of the resurrection of the body reflected an understanding of salvation that addressed and comprehended the whole person (Rom.15:35-58). Health and salvation are related but also distinct concepts. Salvation includes the indispensable additional element of God’s grace, which results in our faith in Jesus Christ. Health, on the other hand, is not free nor does it necessarily result from a strong faith. It requires active personal responsibility for its fullest realization. Health and salvation also distinguished by the fact that complete health always includes physical well being, whereas salvation does not depend upon one’s bodily condition. The understanding of the relation of religion to health as found in the Bible rests on the understanding of man in his relationship to God. From one point of view, the Bible is the record of God’s increasing revelations of himself and his nature and consequently of the nature of his creature man, culminating in the revelation of Christ. From another point of view, it is the record of man’s increasing insight into the nature of God and into his own nature as a creature of God.
Health is the fullness of life; it is the will of God for humans. The Bible is clear that God created human beings for fellowship with himself. This is why he created them in his own image to be like himself (Gen 1.26).They were created healthy as He is healthy. They did not however remain healthy but rebelled against him, and their fellowship with their Creator had disastrous spiritual, physical, social and environmental consequences. However, God did not leave them to be the victims of their own sin and rebellion, out of fellowship with Him and out of tune with the rest of creation. He redeemed them from their sin by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, do die on the cross so that their fellowship with Him restored. It is in their fellowship with God that human beings find their true health and destiny. Their health is not based on any human ‘right to health’, but on the desire of God to provide them with fullness of life and wholeness of being. This He has done through Jesus Christ, His Son. In the Bible, health is a quality of the whole human being. Health extends to the whole of a person’s being – body, mind and spirit.
7. Meaning in other Religions
For Islam the order of the world is revealed by God. For them submission to God and proper relationship to neighbors are fundamental. According to Islamic insight their law which brings order and meaning to the life or world. For Muslims, religion has strong implications for morals. They believe in compassion and forgiveness, and have a special concern for the poor, the weak and the sick. They believe that moral principles are knowable by reason, and believe in reward and punishment after the last judgement. This religion emphasizes its concern with the whole of secular life, which should be conducted in certain way, turning from ‘human self-centeredness to an individual and communal life in obedience to God’s commands’. There are still ‘fatwahs’ in which individuals thought to have been disrespectful to Islam are condemned to death.
In Hindu traditions, there is religious and moral law, called dharma, governing all of life. Dharma is a principle of ultimate order, and those who attune themselves to it will realize their relationship to Brahman and their mode of participation in the life of the cosmos. To attain rebirth or moksha, they need to be follow their moral law(dharma) such as carrying out of duties related to one’s class and status, which are dependent upon one’s action’s in previous lives. Liberation from rebirth in three paths; karma marga, the path of work; jnana marga (with light interpreted as true knowledge); and bhakti marga, the path of love (with love interpreted as devotion to the divine). Hinduism provided religious support for morality, and proclaimed the ethical behavior is the way to spiritual perfection. Believing in the oneness of God and of all humanity leads to the ethical requirements of giving, compassion, humility, etc., and the belief that those who benefit others will go to heaven.
In Buddhism morality is based on the ideas of co-operation and brotherhood, which would lead to nirvana, so there is spiritual reward. Egoism can be suppressed by spiritual exercises such as meditation. For a monk in Buddhism meditation, spending time just feeling or being in the presence of God is religion yoga, using controlled breathing or deep relaxation. Transcendental meditation uses repetition and the focusing attention on a mantra and passive opening of the mind to thoughts, which come and go and aim for detachment and emptiness. To attain spiritual reward and enlightenment they should follow four noble truths and eightfold path, which terminate the desire and allows one to do right action with right intention.
In Jainism man should use every opportunity to pursue the way of salvation by squiring three jewels: Right knowledge through Jain Creed, right faith through being in it and right conduct through following it.
7.5. The Rajneesh community
Hare Krishna, the ‘Sidhi’ movement practiced transcendental meditation. Claims are made of the benefits for physical and psychological health. There was large number of people meditating; crime and other human ill, such as wars and traffic accidents will disappear. Bhagwan Rajneesh used ideas from psychology, such as discouraging repression hence the emphasis on sex, ideas from Buddhism, such as egolessness, which can be helped by giving away possessions, preferably to the ashram.
8. Yoga Concept of Health
The purpose of yoga is self-realization. The Method used is psychosomatic and spiritual. Yoga considers health as the prime factor. So yoga proposes different ways of keeping oneself healthy. Health refers not only to the absence of disease, but to mental, social, physical and spiritual health. In yoga health is not freedom from disease or just getting rid of symptoms. Rather, health is to understand and enjoy life in its totality. Physical health is vital to the well-being of the person and is considered to be a requisite towards spiritual growth. One should enjoy a certain level of physical well-being to carry out his or her role in society. Spiritual health is the ultimate aim of being in the body as such health would lead man to liberation. Spiritual health is a response to the need to relate to something higher than man. it is the result of the human search for self-transcendence. Yoga plays an important role in making man a body-mind complex. Because health is important in fulfilling our purpose of existence.
9. The purpose of Health
The purpose of health is to enable us to worship and serve God so that we may glorify him by manifesting his glory in our lives and that we may enjoy his fellowship and his blessing. We do this because we love God who first loved us and sent his Son to reveal his love to us that we might respond is worship and service. The purpose of health is to live; the purpose of living is not primarily to be healthy. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians he speaks of ‘the whole man’ (aner teleios) as one who has attained to ‘mature manhood, measured by nothing less than the full stature of Christ’ (Eph 4.13), and this maturity is reached through a common faith in, and a full knowledge of, the Son of God, and in the context of the church which is mean to the body of Christ. One function of the religion is to provide individual with the menace through which they can experience purpose in their lives and one of the other core benefits of religious experiences might be the extent to which religion gives people a sense of meaning and coherence about ultimate truths. Thus religion – which concerns pursuit of the sacred or holy in the context of a faith community – appears likely to provide the opportunity for the people to discover the purpose or meaning in their lives. So those who characterize their lives as high in meaning believe that their lives are significant purposeful and comprehensible.
10. The source of Health
The source of human health is in having a relationship to God, to oneself, to our neighbors, and to our environment. The primary source of Health is God and it is in a right relationship to God that humans find health and wholeness. In Bible the right relationship should be one of faith and obedience; faith in God as the source of health, and obedience to his laws whether physical, moral or spiritual. The word which the Bible uses for this right relationship to God is ‘righteousness’ and the prophet Isaiah assures the women of
Health finds expression in human life arises from our relationship to God. If we have right relationship to God it results in holiness of character and uprightness of living. It enables person to obey divine command to be holy as God is holy. Health brings peace to body, mind and spirit seen as serenity and freedom from anxiety as we find in Isaiah 32.17 ‘the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence for ever’. The characteristic is strength which is meant not only physical strength, but also strength of mind and spirit, strength of whole person. Then fourth is health finds in human life is harmony which is between God and humankind, within a person’s being, between people, and the rest of creation. Finally it is prevention or removal of disease. (Exodus 15.26 & 23.25-26).
11. Relationship between Religion and health
There are historical links between religion and health. Disease was rife on this earth before man came into existence and it has continued ever since. It is quite false to suppose that disease only appeared with man and is wholly attributable, as some, to man’s sin. As soon as man appeared, he began to deal with pain and illness, from the earliest times, long before the Christian Era and long before anything that could be called medical science was born, men were healed of their diseases by non-physical methods directed towards their minds rather than their bodies. They sought integration or wholeness of personality, and found it through processes of the mind and spirit. Because In earlier times and in primitive societies there were no doctors, but there were many healers, most of them using religious methods, including sacrifices, trances and other rituals. It was religion which first attacked the misery of disease and tackled the problem of suffering. In Modern society there are many for whom medicine has failed to work, and who seek alternative, often religious, forms of healing. We have seen that such healing is successful in increasing subjective health, which includes a positive attitude to life. Carl Jung, (1875-1961) throughout his travels and study of the indigenous people of
In all human community the religious beliefs and practices of the society are passed on to children by various kinds of instruction. There is evidently a strong effect of the surrounding culture on religious beliefs and behavior. This is brought by social learning in the family and in churches, Sunday schools and religious schools. The effects of these influences are powerful but not always successful. Then In all communities the young are instructed in matters of religion or doctrine for the necessary for the survival of society or for the good for their soul. Sudden conversions are more common in individuals who are in state of distress; this includes those who join small sects and cults. There are people whose conversions take place over a period. By conversion is meant a change towards more religious belief, behavior and commitment. In the classical paradigm’ of conversion research it was assumed conversions were sudden, such as those produced by early revivalism, and that those concerned were ‘born again’, with a radical change in the self, on the model of
12. Health in the Christian Medical Commission
The Christian Medical Commission (CMC) of the World Council of the churches was established in 1968 to promote innovative approaches to health care and eradication of deceases in developing countries, and to assist the church in the search for a Christian understanding of healing and health care. CMC was charged to address more fully the needs of the whole persons through engaging in theological reflection on the Christian underst6and of life, death, suffering, and health. In 1990, CMC published the findings of its study in a document called Healing and Wholeness: The Church’s Role in Health. It found a very clear challenge for the church today as well as concrete suggestion for how churches can respond.
- Health is a justice issue – because poverty is the number one cause of disease. Poverty itself is the result of oppression, exploitation, and war. Health is peace.
- Health is a peace issue- because death due to armed conflict and other political violence is a reality for thousands in a world where torture, imprisonment and other forms of human rights violation have made wellness of mind, body, and spirit impossible.
- Health is connected to the integrity of creation- in industrialized nation where modernization as introduced addicting drugs, new diets, and disdain for manual labor, as much as 80% of illness and death is due to self inflicted destructive life style. Nuclear waste and pollution produced by material greed and the struggle foe the national supremacy or threatening the health of the planet itself.
- Health is spiritual issue- those in loving harmony with God and neighbor not only survive tragedy best whatever their economic situation, but go stronger in the process. Not only does the Christian Gospel speak directly to the spiritual reality of health, but salvation through Christ is healing. Our body, mind, spirit can be broken by social injustice, misuse of power, unhealthy relationships and life style, lack of care for and abuse of the creation, individualism, materialism and false spirituality. Many people needlessly suffer. At times it seems that some people are born without any choice but to suffer. But our encounter with Jesus Christ, the healer, reminds us that the meaning and purpose of life are found in our ongoing struggle with the powers that deny God’s gift of life. This is a message for both the rich and poor.
The church can respond to the overwhelming need for wholeness in our world by being involved with organizations that empower communities who are fighting for health, human rights, and liberation. In this way we can fight the powers that deny God’s gift of life. The church can read the Bible with new eyes that lead to entering into the life and experience of the poor.
13. Rituals and Health
Ritual is a central feature of religion. Beliefs are often express through ritual, symbolic behavior like sacrifice and worship. Rituals express transcendent religious idea and feelings, and they do it symbolic bodily acts. Rituals use non-verbal signals (bodily signals) and they are used to show emotions and attitudes to others. They are used because they have much more impact on others than putting the message into words. Church services involve ritual symbolizing basic beliefs. Church services are successful in human terms in that those who attend them are happier and in better mental and physical health. The main reason is that church communities are very close and supportive. This may be their shared beliefs, or taking part in shared ritual may be the key to it, the participants will experience a sequence of shared emotions and actions which symbolize their beliefs and religious outlook, and this may create special bond. Pfster(1948 produced historical evidence, which showed that the Jewish-Christian community has become more ritualistic in times of stress.
14. Healing Through worship and prayer
Singing hymns, praising and expressing gratitude to God, hearing message, intercession, participating in the Eucharist in the church bring closer to God and leads to healthy life. A priest leads church in worship and rituals, caring out symbolic activities. The Turner and Hills found in their studies that, candidates feel deep sense of unity, love, equality and harmony and an absence of status divisions, concern for others, feeling part of a family. The reason for this strong cohesion is not known, but due to shared participation in worship and rituals. The Charismatic churches claim that the experiences through repetitive chanting, singing, dancing and laying hands brought great transformation towards holiness and healing of the lives of the people. Healing came to be an expected part of their religious life as in the apostolic church.
Worship and prayer leads participants to be happier, release from inner conflicts and confusions. Being at peace with God and contact with God makes being part of the family and being united with other people. Forgiving others leads to being forgiven by God. They lead the participants to be sound in moral and social life. Prayer has been called the most widely performed form of religious practice and is positively related to a number well- being markers.
15. Health of Religious Practice
Religious practices are not always good for health. In 1831 half of the pilgrims to
16. Religion and Medicine
Medically speaking health is absence of disease, but in religion health is fulfillment of the function of each part of the organism, not only physical parts, but the emotional, intellectual, social, and religious aspects of personality. The person is the center around which the experiences and interest of religion in relation to illness and health revolve. Religion interested in the person as a bearer of an ultimate destiny and is therefore concerned with immediate experiences which are either a threat to, or ultimate destiny and is therefore concerned with immediate experiences which are either a threat to, or impetus toward that destiny. Medicine deals more directly with disease process than does religion; the function of religion is to enable persons to find inner resources which give strength in the encounter with the disease process. This strength may or may not contribute cure. In dealing with destructive force both religion and medicine have had a common general goal, that of overcoming them. Religion talks about redemption and salvation; medicine attempts to create conditions which lead to cure.
We have come across different views on religion in relation to health. Health is the complete wholeness of person’s entire being in all aspects of body, mind and spirit. Health is the gift of God, given in order that men and women may love and glorify God in their being, doing and living. Religion is inseparable from health. It goes hand in hand. All religions believe that life is a gift of God and when we have a right relationship with God, with oneself, with others and with environment, and then only we can understand the meaning of religion in relation to health Religion.
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