The future of religion

Grace Davie and Martyn Percy

in Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199571390
Published online August 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199665037 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Textbook in Public Health

The future of religion

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  • Public Health and Epidemiology
  • Palliative Medicine


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There is not one future for religion in relation to healthcare, but several. The European scenario is very different from the United States, and the developing world is different again. Each of these (and their internal variations) will be developed in the pages that follow. A second point follows from this. In all of these cases, the futures of religion are related to the futures of healthcare, remembering that the relationship takes different forms in different places: in some cases, healthcare ‘replaces’ religion; in others religion substitutes for healthcare. Contacts, moreover, can be formal or informal, mutually supportive or mutually suspicious, collaborative, or conflictual. The first section of this chapter will outline the futures of religion in Europe, the United States, and (skeletally) the developing world. For practical reasons, the discussion will be limited to Christianity. This is not to imply that other faith communities are not important in this context — they most certainly are. They present, however, a very different set of examples, which cannot all be discussed in a relatively short chapter. The second section considers these various futures in relation to healthcare concentrating on the subtle and continuing connections between the two spheres. Crucial to this discussion is the role of the state and the manner in which this entity is conceptualized. Both state churches and welfare states depend on how the state itself is understood. The third section is a little different in both content and tone. It looks at the significance of religion in relation to healthcare in terms of two concepts, which are central to both spheres: values and vocation, recognizing the changing role of religion in late modern societies that, at one and the same time, are both increasingly secular and religiously plural. The discourse in this section is philosophical (theological even), rather than sociological. Throughout, the authors of this chapter start from the position that in modern Western democracies religion should neither dominate nor disappear. How, though, should religious people and religious agencies play their part in debates that relate to healthcare in its broadest sense? And what happens if religious voices do not concur with the voices of other people, be they religious or secular?

Chapter.  6075 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology ; Palliative Medicine

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