WHY RELIGION DESERVES A PLACE IN SECULAR MEDICINE

Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics (British), Nigel Biggar from the theological faculty at Oxford University argues that ‘secular medicine’ should not exist, at least in the way that the term ‘secular’ is often used today. Secularity does not necessarily mean a religion-free space (as often interpreted within mainstream medicine), but rather a ‘forum for the negotiation of revial reasonings.’ Biggar explains that religion is not simply ‘irrational.’ As an example, he argues that Christianity offers reasonable views of human beings that bear upon medicine and that such views should be tolerated and heard. These views provide considerable support for a humanist view of human dignity, the importance of social obligation, and a special concern for the weak and vulnerable. 

AbstractAs a science and practice transcending metaphysical and ethical disagreements, ‘secular’ medicine should not exist. ‘Secularity’ should be understood in an Augustinian sense, not a secularist one: not as a space that is universally rational because it is religion-free, but as a forum for the negotiation of rival reasonings. Religion deserves a place here, because it is not simply or uniquely irrational. However, in assuming his rightful place, the religious believer commits himself to eschewing sheer appeals to religious authorities, and to adopting reasonable means of persuasion. This can come quite naturally. For example, Christianity (theo)logically obliges liberal manners in negotiating ethical controversies in medicine. It also offers reasoned views of human being and ethics that bear upon medicine and are not universally held—for example, a humanist view of human dignity, the bounding of individual autonomy by social obligation, and a special concern for the weak.

Biggar N (2015). Why religion deserves a place in secular medicine. Journal of Medical Ethics (British Medical Journal) 41:229-233

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