Opening with discussion of the liberal health-care views of eighteenth-century American patriot Dr. Benjamin Rush and early Congregational-Unitarianism, Chapter 1 introduces the book’s key ideas and terms. In a world where some say 40 percent of global health-care services have a religious foundation, even people who don’t identify with religion but care about social justice and health equity may value a deeper understanding of how religion shapes health responses. Faith shapes factors such as: social determinants of health and health disparities; attitudes toward wealth, poverty, gender, and suffering; health policy; ethics and law as they relate, for example, to human rights and dignity; and cultural history and interpretations of wellness, disease, and contagion. Chapter 1 introduces the complex concept of interpersonal obligation—“being beholden to” others—that shapes the dominant tensions in these dynamics and discussion throughout the book.
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