Secularism and Health Care

June 4, 2014

Secularism is about more than keeping religious mottoes off our coins or crèches off the courthouse steps. Secularism insists that our public polices be based on reason and evidence, not religious dogma.

The Center for Inquiry and its affiliates, of course, firmly believe in the separation of church and state, and object to any government endorsement of religion by way of religious symbols on public property or otherwise. But at least equally important is the removal of religious influence from our laws and regulations.

This is one reason CFI has launched its campaign to Keep Health Care Safe and Secular. As our campaign website states, “Health care is critical for leading a productive, fulfilling life.” Religious interference with the delivery of health care services is a serious matter—in some cases, a deadly serious matter. By all means, getting God off our currency would be a good thing, but frankly, it’s more of a priority to get God out of our physicians’ offices and our hospitals.

Being secular implies a commitment to using science, not supernatural revelation, as a means of determining the most effective therapies.  In the context of health care, sound science implies evidence-based medicine. Sadly, despite the tremendous success of evidence-based medicine, too many individuals rely on pseudoscientific remedies. Here we see another threat to health care, one not derived expressly from religion, but one traceable to a similarly dogmatic mindset. Pseudoscientific remedies have flooded the health care system, whether it’s Reiki, homeopathic drugs, naturopathy, or any other sham therapy pulled from medicine’s back room of mysticism and magic. It’s scandalous that these quack therapies can be peddled with impunity. The Food and Drug Administration largely takes a hands-off approach, declining to test homeopathic drugs for efficacy, and major universities and medical centers push “complementary and alternative medicine” on patients at their clinics. It’s a lot easier to make a profit from “alternative medicine” than real medicine.

We need take control of our health care.  No church, no religious doctrine should be allowed to interfere with our heath care choices. Likewise, we need to insist that all therapies offered to the public be rigorously tested for safety and efficacy. We need to keep health care both safe and secular.