Why is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Supposed to Work?
The introduction explains why it is important to ask not just whether CAM works but also why it is supposed to work. By contrast to the materialistic assumptions of biomedicine, religious vitalism is a central assumption unifying diverse CAM practices. Practitioners presume the existence, and possibility of manipulating, universal life-force or vital energy—variously termed qi, ki, prana, animal magnetism, vital force, biofields, or Innate Intelligence. Spiritual energy is made acceptable to popular audiences by describing it with language that sounds congruent with science, especially quantum physics and neuroscience. It is paradoxical that evangelical and other theologically conservative Christians embrace CAM because evangelicals seek to avoid religious pluralism. Yet the myth of a Christian America, and narrow definitions of religion that focus on intellectual beliefs instead of bodily practices, obscure evangelicals’ unreflective therapeutic pluralism, which ironically leads to theological pluralism as Christians make unpremeditated shifts in religious beliefs and worldviews.
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