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According to Bhagwat, Ormsby, and Rutte (2011), the majority of the world's population is dominated by religion and the belief in the presence of a divine entity, such as God among Christians. Recognizing that faith and values are an integral aspect of a person's life on Earth provides the essential framework for understanding why science and religion collide. It is also important to remember that both science and philosophy play an important role in the universe of attempting to explain the different phenomena that exist to humans, both spiritually and scientifically. Uniquely, different religions in the world are characterized by varying beliefs and practices, and often people are inclined to choose the religion that suits them best. Medical science offers help to the individual in need suffering from ailments based on the real diagnosis of the problems and providing the proper assessment on the best treatment course through the use of medicine. Religion, however, works on the belief that a supreme being will be able to heal the ailments of a sick person if they believe and pray to the spiritual healer. Being a healthcare provider ethically requires that one should at all times respect the religious beliefs of a patient and follow their course of action that they decide to take despite the consequences to their lives. Religion has considerable influence in the life of an individual since it has some beliefs and practices that people tend to follow throughout their life and it should be considered in medical decision making.
Johnson (2012) points out that Christianity is the most followed religion in the world since it covers virtually every corner of the earth. Christianity was founded and rather based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, believed to be the son of God that took place about 2,000 years ago in the world. The name Christian was coined to mean a follower of Jesus Christ, with most Christians being dominant among the western cultures and a majority of them occupying Europe and Americas. According to McGrath (2016), Christian beliefs centre around the life of Jesus of Nazareth as well as the teachings of the Old Testament that explain what took place before the coming of Jesus Christ and early from the point of creation of the world. Jesus of Nazareth, considered the son of God, is hailed as a teacher and healer who lived in the first century Palestine. Jesus’ teachings also focused on the themes of God's love for humankind, encouraging people to love their neighbors and one another as well as telling of the marvellous afterlife for those who repent in the kingdom of God.
Christians are believers in the book called the Bible, which is considered as divinely inspired book that was written by those chose by the power of the Holy Spirit that was given by God, and it helped them write the books in an authoritative manner to be followed and provide teachings to mankind after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (McGrath, 2016). The Bible contains instructions, laws and commandments that govern how a Christian should carry themselves according to the teachings of the Bible and any less will make the Christian fall short of obtaining the salvation of getting into the kingdom of God. Christianity has its division which has taken place over time with other religious factions branching out from the Roman Catholicism that is headed by a Pope as their leader. There are also the protestant groups that make up the numerous denominational groups that fail to acknowledge the authority of the Pope and reject most of the beliefs and traditions of the Catholic Church (Deneulin & Rakodi, 2011). These protestant groups include; the Anglicans, Pentecostals, Methodists, Evangelicals, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Baptists among others, which defected from the Roman Catholic Church.
On the other hand, Buddhism is a religion that hails its origin from India about 2500 years ago, inspires by the teachings of the Buddha, which means an enlightened fellow (Aich, 2013). There is a significant amount of followers of this religion especially people from the Eastern parts of the world whose beliefs are imprinted on the teaching of Buddha that nothing is permanent. Buttle (2015) notes that the Buddhism religion is based on the practices of mantras, meditation, mandalas among other prominent practices of the religion that is common among the followers. The teachings of a young Indian prince Siddharta Gautama who lived around 500 BCE, who left his lavish lifestyle in search of answers after seeing the suffering from his palace walls. Buddhism has taken various forms over time, with some putting emphasis on rituals and worship of deities, while others only believe in meditation practices. However, the common aspect of Buddhism religion is that all its followers respect the teachings of the Buddha and believe that their purpose on earth is to end suffering and the cycle of rebirth. Buddhists believe that the Buddha taught the ways to eliminate suffering in the world and it was only possible by understanding the true nature of the world and all who live in the world (Aich, 2015).
Religious views on Euthanasia
The common thing that can be seen in both Christianity and Buddhism is that they all believe in healing for the Christians and ending suffering for the Buddhists. The belief that disease can be cured by their religious faith is common among these two mentioned religions that have many millions of followers. For the case of George, his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) condition is medically incurable due to the effects to the nerve endings that take place, and the after-effects that follow are deeply traumatizing. Christians view terminal illness as a condition that results from sin that has led from the sins of the person being affected or the earlier lineage of the individual that has been passed down to the victim. However, there is faith that through prayers to the almighty creator and Jesus Christ, that one may be healed despite the medical assessment of the condition since nothing is impossible with God. The Bible gives stories of individuals who were terminally ill and yet were healed by Jesus Christ and the belief that it could be done on George exists.
In the Buddhism religion, George’s suffering can also be cured if he performs a series of rituals and meditates. It is also believed that one must have wronged the higher powers or may not have adhered to the practices of the religion that were laid out by the Buddha thus their contraction of such terminal illness. If such is the case, Buddhists believe that taking the path of liberation from suffering is the best way to recovering from such conditions by going through religious rituals, devotion, meditation or combining these elements to the point that they are cured. If it does not work if the effects of ALS catch up with George and render him immobile, it is believed that the higher powers have not accepted his prayers to them and that he needs to accept his fate, which is also part of being liberated from the suffering he faces.
Religious Beliefs on Life
Life according to both religions is precious and need to be filled with happiness and joy before someone passes on to the other life. Niebuhr (2012) points out that Christians believe that life without diseases and suffering is a perfect life that a human being should live and the resultant diseases and suffering came to the world as a result of sin from the first people to be created by God. Life is important and valuable to Christians that they believe with George’s condition it is only God who can decide what to do with his life either take it or keep him on earth for a particular purpose. Buddhists believe that there is sickness and suffering that is available to the earth and only by following the teachings of the Buddhism religion is one assured of being safe from contracting the diseases. Buddhism would view George's suffering as a temporary condition that can be overcome so that he may resume life with no suffering. By practicing the ways of the Buddha and the ways of their religion, it is possible to overcome his ALS condition as life is not over till a person leaves the world when he dies.
Life holds importance in all these religions, and the option of voluntary euthanasia by George is considered a sin by Christians and a wrong choice by the Buddhists. Death is considered by Christians an act that involves life being taken from an individual and only God is said to have the power and authority to do it and should never be done voluntarily. McFarland (2011) writes that Christianity views it is a sin to take one's life since they are not the ones who gave it. Buddhism also does not believe in the act of a person taking their life due to the precious nature of life. Life is considered valuable and taking it away according to the Buddhism religion, taking it away is an act of suicide despite the suffering that they face since it is felt that one may lead to a less auspicious rebirth.
Morals in Religion
George needs to accept his condition and the fact that he still has the life since both religions believe that any situation is not permanent. George has the option to live his life despite the effects of ALS which will render him immobile and dependent on others for help. Christianity beliefs argue that God decides what to do with every human despite the situation that they may face, while Buddhism beliefs reason that through following the ways of the Buddha, an individual such as George may receive healing and if not will after their death at rebirth. Religiously, it is morally unacceptable to go through with euthanasia since it may be considered as an act of suicide by taking one's life. Medically, George's condition is fatal and will eventually result in his death; however, he can make a choice with his life since he is the person who has the disease and is considered to be at the right age to make decisions for himself.
Religion has considerable influence in the life of an individual due to the beliefs and practices that people tend to follow throughout their life, and it should be considered in medical decision making. Understanding religious beliefs and practices is a step in assisting healthcare providers to work within the moral confinement of their profession and also to act in the best interests of the patient should they decide what to do with their lives despite the conditions that they face. George has a terminal illness that will render him immobile and dependent on others; however, it does not mean he cannot enjoy the little pleasures of life during the time the effects of ALS persist. It may be emotionally and psychologically challenging, but it does not mean he will be useless to his family and loved ones despite his condition. Medically, ALS is untreatable, but there are cases of individuals who live for some time with the condition with the assistance of medical instruments that assist in performing functions such as breathing. Opting for euthanasia is comfortable for the patient but does not take to account the loss and hurt that the family and loved ones in George’s life will have to deal with. Personally, George should take his chances and live as long as possible; however, the choice lies with George, and not even religion should influence his decision making. Life is for the living and death is for the dead, yet death is not the opposite of life but just a part of it, hence the importance of appreciating life.
Aich, T. K. (2013). Buddha philosophy and western psychology. Indian journal of psychiatry, 55(Suppl 2), S165.
Bhagwat, S. A., Ormsby, A. A., & Rutte, C. (2011). The Role of Religion in Linking Conservation and Development: Challenges and Opportunities. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture, 5(1).
Buttle, H. (2015). Measuring a journey without goal: meditation, spirituality, and physiology. BioMed research international, 2015.
Deneulin, S., & Rakodi, C. (2011). Revisiting religion: Development studies thirty years on. World Development, 39(1), 45-54.
Johnson, P. (2012). history of Christianity. Simon and Schuster.
McFarland, I. A. (2011). In Adam's Fall: A Meditation on the Christian Doctrine of Original Sin (Vol. 29). John Wiley & Sons.
McGrath, A. E. (2016). Christian theology: An introduction. John Wiley & Sons.
Niebuhr, R. (2012). An interpretation of Christian ethics. Westminster John Knox Press.
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