Wednesday, August 20, 2008

1 in 2 believe prayer can save lives

msnbc link

AKA just over half the population is deeply superstitious and believes that a spirit-being will reverse a terminal prognosis.

I understand that death is a very sensitive subject, but I think how we're raised to deal with death and dying is fundamentally misguided.

Someone's watching a family member slowly die - a medically hopeless case. They're hoping that if there's even the slightest chance of survival, their family member will survive. And they're willing to take a chance on anything that might help, including asking God to intervene. So that's what they do, they try to pray away the cancer or the heart attack or whatever is wrong. But it doesn't work - it doesn't regrow limbs or regenerate brain cells, it doesn't repair heart valves or replace T-cells. And slowly, the patient dies, perhaps kept on the verge of death a little longer with the aid of feeding tubes and ventilators.

And that's the problem, religion offers us a false hope; a way to hold our hands together and seriously believe that wishing will make it so. We spend so much time denying the inevitable and clinging to false comforts when it would be much better spent accepting reality and trying to make the best of it while we can.

I'm reminded of a quote from Epicurus:

Accustom yourself to believing that death is nothing to us, for good and evil imply the capacity for sensation, and death is the privation of all sentience; therefore a correct understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not by adding to life a limitless time, but by taking away the yearning after immortality. For life has no terrors for him who has thoroughly understood that there are no terrors for him in ceasing to live. Foolish, therefore, is the man who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer.

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