Religion and Beliefs Regarding Illness


The world has a diversity of religions with each having its own beliefs regarding illness. Healthcare professionals are obliged to consider religious beliefs when taking care of patients coming from different backgrounds. Religion plays a major role in healthcare and nurses ought to consider the patients’ religious backgrounds before making certain prescriptions. Research indicates that about 95% of Americans believe in the existence of a supreme being responsible for their health (Dossey & Keegan, 2008). Some of the common religious issues affecting healthcare revolves around gender, feeding, and spiritual interventions (Holtz, 2007). For instance, most Buddhists prefer being attended by healthcare professionals belonging to the same gender as theirs. However, in medical settings, the concept of spiritual healing is sidelined and most physicians disregard the spiritual needs of their patients. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare (JCHAO) has reported that religious beliefs contribute greatly to patient outcomes (Webb, 2005). Therefore, healthcare personnel ought to consider the applicability of religious beliefs, as they have been noted as key determinants for patients’ outcomes. This research paper will explore different religious beliefs and shed light on the effect of spiritual interventions in the outcome of formal medication. The paper will explore three famous religious faiths and assess them against the values of providing care from the viewpoint of these beliefs with that of the Christian perception.

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Buddhists are well known for their beliefs in meditations during sickness (Barritt, 2006). Buddhists believe that meditation is a central component in the healing process. The aspect of meditation is borrowed from the teachings of the religion’s founder, Buddha, who is believed to have resided in India about 2600 years ago (Holtz, 2007). The faith holds that Buddha was close to God and he spent about 45 years on earth preaching to his followers on the best way to interact with each other. According to the faith, Buddha taught three life aspects, viz. do no harm, do good, and meditate (Dossey & Keegan, 2008). In addition to the belief on meditation, the faith is gender sensitive in terms of health care provision. Contrary to their Christian counterparts, Buddhists prefer health care provided by physicians of the same gender. During the process of meditation, nurses and other healthcare providers should provide the patient with a peaceful and quiet environment since meditation involves the peace of mind (Engelhardt, 2000). The prayer sessions may be characterized by continuous loud chants and the family members may request nurses to light candles in the patient’s room (Holtz, 2007). This concern can be resolved through the provision of electrical light in the room.

In the light of the above discussion, nurses and other physicians should thus consider the importance of priesthood in healing amongst the Buddhists. The Buddhists’ belief in meditation during healthcare provision is congruent with the Christians’ belief in healing miracles (Barritt, 2006). Christians believe that their God has the ability to eliminate disease from the believers’ bodies. Christians base their argument on the New Testament where Jesus healed a number of people during his life on earth. Another controversial belief exhibited by the Buddhists is that the spirit of the dead remains within the body even after the death of an individual (Webb, 2005). Physicians should thus be careful when handling the dead and they ought to preserve the body in a quiet environment. Decision regarding organ donations is thus complicated and it is prohibited as per the religion (Dossey & Keegan, 2008). The Buddhists belief in performance of after death rites and the body of the dead must thus be availed for such rituals. Patients coming from the Buddhist religion are mostly vegetarian, and thus they may be opposed to consumption of drugs made out of animal products. In such cases, the physicians ought to offer drugs that fit their feeding style.


The Sikhs are of the belief that sicknesses coupled with other forms of suffering come due to sins and other wrongs committed by the affected (Barritt, 2006). Sickness, according to the faith, is one way that god punishes sinners. Through prayers, god can be persuaded to forgive the ill person, and thus cause healing. Prayers are thus an important component of healing within the faith. The prayer is meant to persuade Waheguru, their god, to forgive the sick and heal them (Engelhardt, 2000). Patients from the Sikh faith will have a tendency of listening to Gurbani, the religion’s sacred hymn, which is believed to be derived from their scriptures. Physicians should allow such patients to listen to such music since it is believed to give the patient strength and power, which presumably accelerates the healing process. Even though the Sikhs link illness with punishment from their god and believe in spiritual healing, they also take formal treatment (Webb, 2005). According to them, taking medication is one way to demonstrate their commitment and willingness to be healed.

The religion believes in prayers, and thus nurses should avoid interrupting the praying sessions. Physicians and other healthcare providers ought to observe privacy of patients from the Sikh religion. It is recommendable for healthcare providers to knock on the door before entering the patient’s room (Holtz, 2007). Contrary to Christians, the Sikhs are conscious of maintaining religious symbols or articles of faith. In addition, the Sikhs have their own style of dressing which must be respected at all cost. Followers of the religion cut their hair and they have a tendency of carrying a wooden comb commonly referred to as Kangha (Dossey & Keegan, 2008). Patients from the religion also carry a ceremonial sword by the name Kirpaan (Engelhardt, 2000). Physicians should respect the cultural and religious norms of the aforementioned group in order to facilitate their healing.

Bahá’í religion

The Bahá’í religion holds that actual health supersedes physical health (Barritt, 2006). In other words, the faith holds that emotional and spiritual stability is essential for the wellbeing of an individual. The followers believe in a strong bond between physical health and spiritual health. The faith links sickness with a supernatural power, which is capable of causing and at the same time eradicating illnesses. The religion recognizes the need to seek treatment from health facilities on top of seeking divine interventions. Healthcare providers ought to respect the beliefs of the faith and allow them to conduct the relevant rites. As opposed to Christianity, patients from this faith are opposed to opposite sex healthcare provision, and thus physicians must follow this rule.

Comparison with Christianity

Just like Christianity, all the three religions have one thing in common, viz. they all believe in a supreme power that has control over illnesses. All the faiths hold that God has the capacity to heal the sick through forgiving sins. Additionally, all the religions recognize the importance of human welfare, which explains why they merge to pray for the sick. However, the three faiths differ from Christianity as they attribute sickness to sins. Christians do not link illness with sins, and thus the religions differ greatly in this area. The other differentiating aspect between Christianity and the other religions discussed above is gender sensitivity. The majority of the religions described above prefer provision of care by physicians of the same gender. On the other hand, Christians do not have such provisions.

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Patients’ feeling

Health care providers should be aware of their own faiths before considering the special needs of their clients. At times, healthcare providers need to shelf their own religious believes in favor of their clients’ faiths. By focusing on the patients’ needs and allowing them to exercise their religious beliefs, the patients develop a positive attitude towards the nurses, thus resulting in better patient outcomes. Availing religious support to the patients as and when needed will boost fellowship, which leads to better patient outcomes. It improves patients’ confidence on the care provider and relieves stress.


There are numerous religions in the world with each having its own beliefs. The beliefs are influential at times of illness. Most religions attribute sickness to sins committed against god by the sick. In the recent past, religious beliefs have ignited heated debate between believers and other scholars due to lack of scientific evidence that can prove the perceptions by the believers. Due to the diversity in beliefs, healthcare professionals have to shelf their religious beliefs in favor of the patients’ beliefs. Different countries in the world have developed laws requiring healthcare providers to accommodate the interests of all believers.


Barritt, P. (2006). Humanity in Healthcare: The Heart and Soul of Medicine. Oxford, UK: Radcliffe Publishing.

Dossey, B., & Keegan, L. (2008). Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice. Boston, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Engelhardt, E. (2000). The Philosophy of Medicine: Framing the Field. New York, NY: Springer.

Holtz, C. (2007). Global Health Care: Issues and Policies. Boston, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Webb, P. (2005). Ethical Issues in Palliative Care. Oxford, UK: Radcliffe Publishing.

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