Modern Medicine: The New World Religion
In talking with people about innovations in medicine that are not considered part of the conventional paridigm, I often get a irrational response of dismissal that is more like discussing the Hindu faith with a Catholic. People have fundamental convictions about medicine that are ineradicable, even though the scientific evidence shows it takes an average of 17 years for new clinical findings to find their way into standard clinical practice. This conservative approach can be helpful (in the case of snake oil salesman) or deadly, since the third leading cause of death in the United States is clearly medical error. See JAMA, July 26, 2000—Vol 284, No. 4, p. 483. An even larger number of deaths are caused by improper clinical protocols that do not follow currently accepted evidenced-based standards of practice. The number of deaths caused by alternative paridigms is vanishingly small and in many cases, it is difficult to document a single death caused by an alternative procedure like acupuncture, most herbal or nutritional treatments, electronic therapy with low voltage devices, or chiropractic care.
So it was with some interest that I read Olivier Clerc’s essay on medicine as the new world religion published at Dr. Mercola’s web site. The text first appeared in CONTINUUM Magazine and is the introduction to the book “Médecine, Religion et Peur; l’influence cachée des croyances” by Olivier Clerc. The book has been published with Editions Jouvence, 1999. France. Olivier Clerc has been working for 20 years in the field of alternative medicine, spirituality and personal development, as author, translator, journalist and publisher.
“When the Christian missionaries of the last three or four centuries were evangelizing so-called “primitive people,” they believed that they had only to destroy or burn the various cult objects of these people in order to eradicate their religions, superstitions and customs.
Centuries after the conquistadors tried to stamp out the Inca culture, or the Inquisition tried to stamp out the protestant ‘heresies,’ or the similar attempts to annihilate the Voodoo or the many African and Asian religions, we know that such arrogant high-handedness does not work. These beliefs still continue today, sometimes under different guises, long after the objects of worship associated with them have been destroyed.
This lesson from history is not only valid for primitive people and their religions. It can equally be applied — if not more so — to aspects of our own modern society. Indeed, even a superficial study of contemporary culture will reveal that the supposed secularization of present day society is just an illusion. Even though most people do not conform to the outward show of religious custom and practice — mostly Judeo-Christian in western culture — the beliefs and superstitions remain deeply embedded in their subconscious, influencing many aspects of their daily lives without them realizing it.
And as several sociology studies have shown, the superstitious beliefs that used to be attached to the formal religions have in many cases simply been transferred to other objects, persons or events. The daily evening television news bulletins, watched by millions worldwide in their respective countries, the stars of show-business and sport, humanitarian associations, cults and all sorts of other things in modern life have now become the new gods we venerate or fear, or the shrines at which we worship or curse, and where we still experience those primitive religious urges and feelings where we can believe without necessarily having to think or rationalize.
However, it is in the field of medicine that this unconscious transposition of the religious experience — and more specifically the Judeo-Christian ideology, myths, beliefs, expectations and hopes — seems to have had the greatest impact. The facts show clearly — for anyone taking the time to study them — that medicine today enjoys an astonishing degree of undeserved credit that is out of all proportion to its actual results or promises.
Real health keeps regressing while the great medical “miracles,” such as vaccines and antibiotics, are now clearly showing their limitations, which some had foreseen and warned of right from the start. This undeserved credit comes mostly from the fact that medicine and science have replaced religion as the only certain belief in an uncertain world… Almost imperceptibly medicine has taken on a saving or messianic role, the characteristics of which we must examine. Looking back through history, there is a sense in which medicine can be said to have displayed characteristics that have at various times characterized the Roman Catholic Church:
The control and manipulation of people
The destruction of heretics
The stamping out of individuality
All this, of course, has been done in the name of public health and the general good, just as the church acted for mankind’s salvation…”