Modern Medical Science and the Divine Providence of God: Rethinking the Place of Religion in Postwar U.S. Medical History
Abstract

Abstract:

Drawing on a large cache of letters to John and Frances Gunther after the death of their son as well as memoirs and fiction by bereaved parents, this essay challenges the assumptions of secularization that infuse histories of twentieth-century American medicine. Many parents who experienced the death of children during the postwar period relied heavily on religion to help make sense of the tragedies medicine could not prevent. Parental accounts included expression of belief in divine intervention and the power of prayer, gratitude for God’s role in minimizing suffering, confidence in the existence of an afterlife, and acceptance of the will of God. Historians seeking to understand how parents and families understood both the delivery of medical care and the cultural authority of medical science must integrate an understanding of religious experiences and faith into their work.