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Social Structures Separating Medicine and Religion 

Social Structures Separating Medicine and Religion
Social Structures Separating Medicine and Religion

Michael J. Balboni

, and Tracy A. Balboni

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date: 28 October 2020

The reasons that medicine and religion appear to be rightly separated are reinforced by plausibility structures, unstated cultural assumptions that legitimate socially held beliefs and practices, and socializing patients and medical professionals to keep medicine and spirituality discrete. Plausibility structures include the now-accepted belief that hospitals are spaces set apart for advanced technological interventions; that physicians are primarily scientists whose social authority to act is grounded primarily in the scientific method; and that the cultural repression of dying is in tension with religious sensibilities. The ethos within medicine striving to restore health and extend life is incongruent with the message of the world’s religions, which fundamentally acknowledge human mortality. To the degree that medicine is collectively controlled by ambitions to forestall death, it remains ambivalent toward social understandings that highlight either its limitations or the unavoidability of death. These widely accepted beliefs undergird a general acceptance of medicine’s separation from religion.

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