Religion as a factor in medical history

How has religion influenced the development of Medicine through time?

Religious beliefs have influenced the development of medicine in a number of ways. The Ancient Egyptians religious beliefs led them to develop their understanding of the location of the main organs in the body. They learnt this through their use of mummification. However the same religious beliefs limited the amount of knowledge that they could acquire from this process. The purpose of mummification was to preserve the body for the afterlife, not to learn about how the body worked.

Following the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans saw Religious beliefs aid the development of medicine. Religious cults such as the Cult of Asclepious provided medical care for people who otherwise would not have been able to afford treatments. Throughout the Middle Ages the church in Europe provided care via friars and the monasteries, and was the only organisation to provide training for doctors in Europe at that time. However religion can also be said to limit progress at this time. The church used the ideas of Galen and Hippocrates and for centuries nobody dared to challenge the errors in these teachings because the teachings of the church were considered to be the word of god. As a result, medical knowledge stagnated to some extent.

Throughout the Renaissance, Industrial Age and into the modern world religion has played a role in the development of medicine. Religious institutions are responsible for much that is good about modern Nursing and has continued to provide medical attention, food and shelter for those who are in the greatest need of it. Faith Healing and pilgrimage remain highly popular methods of dealing with ailments, and these, along with prayer, are often used alongside guidance from doctors.

See a detailed timeline of how religious and spiritual beliefs have affected medicine through time.