Modern Medicine: The Hidden Influence of Beliefs and Fears: Almost imperceptibly, medicine has taken on a saving, or messianic role, the characteristics of which we must examine.
When the Christian missionaries of the last three or four centuries were evangelizing so-called "primitive people", they believed that they had only to destroy or burn the various cult objects of these people in order to eradicate their religions, superstitions, and customs.
Centuries after the conquistadors tried to stamp out the Inca culture, or the Inquisition tried to stamp out the protestant 'heresies', or the similar attempts to annihilate the Voodoo, or the many African and Asian religions, we know that such arrogant high-handedness does not work. These beliefs still continue today, sometimes under different guises, long after the objects of worship associated with them have been destroyed.
This lesson from history is not only valid for primitive people and their religions. It can equally be applied - if not more so - to aspects of our own modern society. Indeed, even a superficial study of contemporary culture will reveal that the supposed secularization of present day society is just an illusion. Even though most people do not conform to the outward show of religious custom and practice - mostly Judeo-Christian in western culture - the beliefs and superstitions remain deeply embedded in their subconscious, influencing many aspects of their daily lives without them realizing it.
And as several sociology studies have shown, the superstitious beliefs that used to be attached to the formal religions have in many cases simply been transferred to other objects, persons or events. The daily evening television news bulletins, watched by millions worldwide in their respective countries, the stars of show business and sport, humanitarian associations, cults and all sorts of other things in modern life, these have now become the new gods we venerate or fear, or the shrines at which we worship or curse, and where we still experience those primitive religious urges and feelings, where we can believe without necessarily having to think or rationalize.