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Mark Cobb

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date: 16 May 2022

Humanity exists in a rich environment of beliefs that shapes the people we become, evokes and sustains the ways in which we see and experience the world, guides our behaviour and the actions we take, and directs our sense of purpose and meaning. We are all believers, or more specifi cally we all have a mixture of beliefs and lack of beliefs, and this purposeful human faculty is entangled in the mind as much as in the body, in our thoughts as much as in our actions. Consequently, in considering belief in relation to spirituality and healthcare we have before us a vast field of subjects and disciplines making diligent enquiries into the nature and operation of beliefs. This chapter aims to provide an overview of some of the ways in which we have come to understand belief and to provide some conceptual spans across discourses and disciplines that customarily do not intermingle. In particular, we will follow a path beginning with ideas about beliefs in general, and moving into the domain of religious and spiritual beliefs. From here we will consider some of the scientific explanations of belief and look specifically at models that describe how beliefs operate in relation to health. This will bring us to one of the more creative and contentious intersections built around the idea of placebos. Finally, we will step behind the professional persona of healthcare professionals, and consider how their sacred and secular beliefs may affect their clinical practice and decision making.

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