olivier clercs book

French philosopher, Olivier Clerc has produced a fascinating book about how beliefs influence medical dogmas and practices.  He explains how modern medicine has taken on the characteristics of Christianity.

Medicine, then, has become the new world religion. The specific myths, beliefs, and rites of Christianity have been unconsciously projected into medicine since Pasteur. As I explain in detail in the next chapters, we can establish very close parallels between Christianity and modern medicine. In brief:

  • physicians have taken the place of priests; 
  • vaccination plays the same initiatory role as baptism, and is accompanied by the same threats and fears;
  • the search for health has replaced the quest for salvation;
  • the fight against disease has replaced the fight against sin;
  • eradication of viruses has taken the place of exorcising demons;
  • the hope of physical immortality (cloning, genetic engineering) has been substituted for the hope of eternal life;
  • pills have replaced hosts;
  • donations to cancer research take precedence over donations to the Church;
  • a hypothetical universal vaccine could save humanity from all its illnesses, as the Savior has saved the world from all its sins;
  • the medical power has become the government’s ally, as was the Catholic Church in the past; 
  • “charlatans” are persecuted today as “heretics” were yesterday, and dogmatism rules out promising alternative medical theories;
  • the same absence of individual responsibility is now found in medicine, as previously in the Christian religion;
  • patients are alienated from their bodies, as sinners used to be from their souls.

He explains how, driven by our fears, we create a belief system and then rationalise those beliefs:

 “…fears found in the depths of our consciousness, which remain the hidden determining factors for most of our actions.  These fundamental fears — fear of death, mostly, but also fear of evil, fear of suffering, fear of separation, fear of solitude — have led humanity, at all times throughout history, to make up all kinds of beliefs in an effort to exorcise these fears. Then, with the development of science and the rise of intellectualism, mankind has tried to justify rationally these beliefs, hidden under the cloak of medicine and life sciences.

In other words, there are three levels inside us:


  1. a core of fears, from which we have learned to protect ourselves by covering it with
  2. a layer of beliefs, which make us feel safe (even though those fears have not disappeared), this layer being itself dissimulated under:
  3. an intellectual varnish , a rational façade which give us the illusion of having transcended superstitions and beliefs, and which shelters us from our fears, keeping us barricaded behind intellectual knowledge.

Fears and childish hopes are still manipulating us. We are still told that the source of our problems is outside of us, and that the solution can only come from the outside, as well. We are not allowed to do anything by ourselves and we must have the mediation of physicians-priests, the administration of drugshosts, and the protection of vaccines-baptism.

I though that was of particularly interesting given the current situation with the swine flu vaccine.