Your correspondent Dr Fiona Underhill confuses atheism and spirituality in the rather arrogant way that ‘deists' often do – by implying that the two are necessarily mutually incompatible.
Not so. It is perfectly possible to possess – and to utilise in clinical practice – one's human spirituality without espousing any religious faith.
The practice of medicine lends itself to such possibilities as we are all, as Dr Underhill rightly cites, often called upon to deal with situations that have emotional and spiritual components.
I see no reason why an ‘atheist GP' wouldn't be just as capable as your correspondent of managing these situations ‘gently, sensitively and with respect for the patient's viewpoint'. How outrageous of her to imply otherwise – ‘believers' do not have a monopoly on such virtues.
In this world of so much religious conflict, inter- and even intra-faith intolerance, I can't help thinking how refreshing it would be if we could all adopt a non-religion-based spirituality based upon our common humanity rather than dependence upon any particular religious dogma.
It is my belief that it is the human spirit that is our common denominator and in my personal opinion, far from being enhanced by religious belief, that spirit is merely constrained by it.
From Dr Roger Clark
St Helier, Jersey