Program on Medicine and Religion

Chicago Atlas of Religion and the Practice of Medicine

The Chicago Atlas names a body of research that carefully maps religion-associated variations in physicians’ clinically relevant attitudes and practices. Through a series of qualitiative and quantitative studies, some ongoing, Curlin and colleagues describe the impact of physicians’ varied moral traditions and commitments, religious and secular, on their practices of medicine in multiple clinical domains.

A series of patient-centered movements such as integrative medicine, holistic medicine, culturally competent medicine, narrative medicine and spirituality-and-medicine have collectively embraced the influence of patients’ histories, cultures, religions and spiritualities on their experiences of illness and their medical decisions.

Yet, medicine has generally preserved an idealized vision of physicians as more or less interchangeable representatives of the one profession, answerable to data and a unitary standard, and steeled against the influence of their own “personal values.”  When physicians’ practices seem to differ because of their different religious commitments, those commitments are often seen as a threat to, rather than as a resource for, quality medical care. As a consequence, the impact of religion on the practice of medicine often remains unarticulated, unexamined, and underappreciated.

This project uses state of the art survey research methods, complemented by qualitative inquiry, to conduct a series of mailed surveys of nationally representative samples of practicing US physicians. The surveys measure physicians’ religious characteristics and their associations with physicians’ attitudes and practices across an array of clinical domains (see side bar).  Ongoing and future studies will be added when completed.

Click here to read a brief essay arguing for the importance of this type of research.  Click on the links in the side bars to learn more about these studies, to view their method reports and questionnaire instruments, and to read publications from them.  For more information about any of these studies, or to inquire about potential use of the data for further analyses, please contact us at