Let’s Stop Insulting Doctors, Shall We? by Christina Knowles

Two hands praying In light of recent headlines such as this one that appeared in the June 3, 2016 issue of the Colorado Springs Independent, stating, “Parents prayed for two hours as their son lay dying before calling ambulance, court hears” (2016), referring to the Canadian couple charged with the murder of their 15 year old son, maybe it’s time to get real for a minute. Medicine works, prayer does not.

And let’s stop insulting doctors, shall we? Let’s give credit where credit is due. Every time you say, “It’s a miracle,” or “God showed up,” you are diminishing the years of hard work that a doctor or scientist put forward in finding a cure, practicing how to save people, perfecting treatments, etc. If God was going to show up, why didn’t he do it before you lost your house because of medical bills, before you destroyed your body in chemotherapy treatments, before you had triple-bypass surgery? Why would God need triple-bypass surgery to fix you anyway? Every cure attributed to God, undermines truth, reality, common sense, innovation, and hard work.

Every disease that has ever been defeated has a natural explanation. In addition to the expert hands of wonderful physicians, it is a well-known fact that our bodies have amazing self-healing abilities. You know what the human body can’t do? Re-grow limbs. When is the last time you prayed over an amputee, and their limbs grew back? Right, because medical science can’t perform that little miracle, and evidently, neither can God. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

There are examples of spontaneous healing, though rare, and these examples span the religious and the non-religious, and do not depend on whether or not anyone was praying for these people. For most, eventually the reason was validated with medical science. For the rest, a solid non-supernatural theory is in play. Although spontaneous remission happens, it is quite rare, much more rare than prayer for the ill. If prayer worked, you’d think it would have a much higher percentage of success. But, you can always say, “God works in mysterious ways” or “It wasn’t his will.” Either God takes a lot of days off, he doesn’t have the will to heal very many people, or this is just another escape clause believers perpetuate to let God off the hook for doing nothing to intervene in, apparently, almost anyone’s life.

According to an article in Science-Based Medicine, so-called spontaneous cures for cancers are usually discovered to fall into one of a few categories and “most alleged cancer cures are [explained by]:

  1. The patient never had cancer. (Was a biopsy done?)
  2. A cancer was cured or put into remission by proven therapy, but questionable therapy was also used and erroneously credited for the beneficial result.
  3. The cancer is progressing but is erroneously represented as slowed or cured.
  4. The patient has died as a result of the cancer (or is lost to follow-up) but is represented as cured.
  5. The patient had a spontaneous remission (very rare) or slow-growing cancer that is publicized as a cure” (2010).

But what’s the harm in believing God heals? Doesn’t belief act as a placebo effect if nothing else? To this, I would say that belief does much more harm than good. Even if you don’t have radical and dangerous ideas about killing those who disagree with you because of something men wrote a couple of thousand years ago, there are more common dangers. On a daily basis, Americans (and not just the extreme cases as in the Independent article) refuse treatment or wait too long to get treatment because they believe God will intervene. When God does not show up, not only do they suffer emotional damage, but often they or their innocent loved ones pay the price through a sickness that has been left too long untreated. If they get lucky enough times, they rely more heavily on prayer or faith healing, and sooner or later they won’t be lucky when it really matters.

According to Carrie Wiesman from Alternet.com, there are numerous examples of children dying due to faith healing beliefs, wherein, timely medical attention was foregone in lieu of prayer, and rationalwiki.com cites numerous cases as well, stating,

“The organization Children’s Health Is a Legal Duty (CHILD) estimated that around 300 children have died in the US since 1975 due to people putting too much faith in faith healing. CHILD identified 172 cases between 1975 and 1995 in which a child died and evidence suggested medical care was exempted for religious grounds; of these, CHILD estimated that 140 would have had a 90% survival rate with medical intervention and an additional 18 would have had a 50% survival rate “(updated May 9, 2016).

And these are just the known cases with more and more popping up with greater and greater frequency. What about the ones whose parents did not admit that they had known the child was sick? What about adults who die quietly without ever telling anyone that they were counting on God?

At the very least, we stand by uselessly when we offer prayers for the ill, and believe we have done our part, rather than taking physical action or even giving useful advice. As Madalyn Murray O’Hair said, “Two hands working can do more than a thousand hands praying.” The same could be said for any situation, problem, or tragedy. Why sit around talking to an imaginary being, who, if he does exist, does not seem to be in any hurry to help us out, instead of actively doing something when it is clear that this God is not willing to help, is not capable of helping people, does not act equally among people, or most likely, just does not exist?

So, stop praying, and start supporting science and medicine, which has a proven track record in saving lives. God, not so much. And next time you want to say “sending prayers,” realize that your actions would be a lot more helpful and appreciated.—Christina Knowles

Sources:

Hall, Harriet. “Faith Healing.” Science-Based Medicine. 26 Jan. 2010. Web. 17 June 2016.

Samuels, Gabriel. “Parents prayed for two hours as their son lay dying before calling ambulance, court hears.” Colorado Springs Independent. 3 June 2016. Web. 17 June 2016.

Weisman, Carrie. “Shocking Numbers of Children Die in America When Their Parents Turn to Faith-Based Healing.” AlterNet.com. 28 Nov. 2014. Web. 16 June 2016.

Blessed? Aren’t You Special by Christina Knowles

blessed_1063_1280x1024I am so tired of hearing the constant gushing of ‘I’m so blessed because God . . .” Fill in the blank with all the nonsense people say was God’s gift to them—nice house, new car, health, a good job, etc. I don’t think they know how rude and offensive this is taken in light of the millions who are not “blessed,” such as the homeless, the sick and dying, the children currently being molested and abused. Yet, God chose to bless you and ignore them. Aren’t you special.

Sure, many people mean this just as a humble way of saying that they don’t deserve all they have received in life, but many people really do mean that out of all the suffering people in the world, they were chosen to get special treatment. Usually, they connect this to some behavior they have done to trigger God’s blessing. Disguised as humility, they are really saying that they do deserve this special treatment.         blessedThey often state it something like this: “God is so GOOD! Ever since I turned my life over to Him and followed his will, things have all been falling into place for me!” The other one that is popular is giving credit to other people for praying God into submission to their will. It goes something like this: “Sending prayers to you ASAP! We have all our prayer warriors on this!” implying that God will have no choice but to comply with “prayer warriors” fighting the battle for God against Satan. Apparently, God either needs permission to stop Satan from wreaking havoc, or he’s not capable of doing it on his own. Maybe he just needs the popular vote from his followers to decide that finding a missing child is worth his attention.

Of course, if things come out in their favor, yay God! He is soooo GOOD!!! Yeah? Well, what about everyone he didn’t rescue? They didn’t have enough Facebook “Amens” or “Sending prayers!” posted, I guess.

And what happens when after all this prayer, they are not “blessed?” They don’t get a new job, their car breaks down, they can’t pay the rent, and the doctor gives the worst news? Are they suddenly quiet? Ashamed that they must have done something to deserve this? Confused, wondering why God has deserted them? Or like, Job, do they give the standard, “Who am I to interfere in God’s plan? He gives and he takes away.”       Some have these reactions, while others continue the vigilant prayers, never wondering why they choose to worship such a capricious and cruel god, even though they would never treat their own children like this. Struggling to make meaning of suffering, they ignore the obvious conclusion. The things that happen to them are merely a result of a combination of random chance, coincidence, and the natural consequences of the choices they and those around them make.

Just as the ancient Greeks were desperate to explain the droughts and floods, the lightning in the sky, and the numerous uncontrollable aspects of their lives, we are desperate to make meaning of tragedy and chaos, so we too, invent myths to explain them and to comfort us. But they don’t comfort us. In fact, they are disgusting and harmful.

To those who believe in this god, is this myth you perpetuate, this god, the same god whom you think is going to send your child to live in everlasting flames merely for being unable to believe something for no good reason? Is this the god that would let a child be raped and murdered in order for those around him to learn some sort of twisted lesson? Is this the god that would allow free reign of ultimate evil for a time to separate the wheat from the chaff? Ask yourself, would a good parent let one child jump in front of a moving truck to teach the other child to look both ways? Would a loving parent let home invaders in to terrorize and kill just to see who finds the faith and strength to not give up? This is one twisted god you serve. And that’s what I think of every time you post how blessed you are.

Stop saying that when you do things right, or when you experience random good “luck” that God is blessing you. Stop saying that every time you have a good day, miss all the red lights, and find a parking space that God has blessed you. Stop saying that your expensive house, good job, and new car are the results of God’s goodness and love for you. Not only is it an affront to common sense, it’s cruel. How do you think that makes the abused woman feel? The starving child? How are they supposed to take it when you credit God for giving you a big house, a nice job, and lots of friends? If God would really do all that for you, why wouldn’t he throw this molested or neglected child a break? So that’s what some of us are thinking every time we read your ridiculous posts. Look, no one has a problem with you being grateful, but stop acting like you are chosen to miraculously be rescued from the suffering that God chooses to ignore in everyone else’s lives. Please.—Christina Knowles

Believe It or Not—Shit Happens by Christina Knowles

POSTER-BELIEVE-TROUBLES-LG-400x307Everywhere I look, everywhere I go, I am bombarded with the message to “Just Believe.” These encouragements do not always seem religious in nature, though at the heart of them, they really are. Phrases like, “Don’t be afraid, just believe” and “Believe in the magic” or “Believe in your destiny” all imply that either we have some control over the physical world merely by thinking something into existence really hard, or that we should accept something without any evidence, and in some cases, accept things that defy natural laws and simply cannot be true. Yet, those of us who identify as skeptics, who simply want some facts to back up the claims, are scorned as cynical, or as lacking imagination or some more “desirable” ability to regress into a childlike state of belief in fairy tales.

Why would this state of mind be lauded and sought after more than a mind that withholds agreement until the proof is in? I can only guess that it might be that belief makes us feel good, makes us feel we have some control, or makes us happier, thinking we live in a world where anything is possible, at least anything we want is possible. Maybe we just want to explain the chaos, give meaning to it.224312-Believe-The-Magic-Of-Christmas

But being a skeptic in a world where belief in the unknown is not only encouraged, but is praised as an ideal way of living, causes quite a few uncomfortable experiences. For example, when someone loses a loved one, and friend after friend offers up promises of prayers, encouragements of faith, comforting thoughts that a strong sense of surety will bring them through, what are the skeptics supposed to say? “I’m so sorry,” or “I’m thinking of you” pales in comparison. And when a friend tells a skeptic that if they just believe, everything will be all right, how should they respond? Saying what they really think will seem rude and most likely start an argument.

Just-Believe
We, as skeptics, may seem insensitive or even offensive if we explain that we would rather take real action than use our mental energy to make-believe help. Often, we can’t bring ourselves to offer up promises of words spoken to someone who is not there, no matter how comforting. It’s just too hypocritical when believing doesn’t do anything that matters to anyone but the person experiencing it, and even then, it’s simply a psychological placebo. And every time something good happens, faith in some magical experience is credited, but when the opposite of what is wished for happens, the answer seems to be that either the person just didn’t believe enough, or my personal favorite, “It just means something better will come of this.”

I am a compassionate person. I really care when something bad happens to someone, but I can’t pretend to believe that trusting in some magical rescue or that wishing, praying, or focusing on the positive is going to help, even if it makes someone feel better temporarily. I think we’d all be better off if we just dealt with things realistically, even if it hurts for a while.Miracles

So no, I can’t “just believe.” Could it be that we just have no control over some things? That some random things just happen and some things happen that are clearly cause and effect? You may believe that you are wishing your world into existence, but until someone can measure the brainpower affecting real change on the physical world, reproduce it in the lab, and explain it, I’m going to stick with “Shit happens.”—Christina Knowles

All photos via Pinterest

Reviled in America by Christina Knowles

ingodwetrust

via belief.net

Sure, being an atheist means being reviled by the general church-going public, but what’s it like being open about our lack of belief to people we care about? Of course, it depends on whom we hang out with, but even in the most accepting groups of believers, we have to face a measure of condescension. I’ve heard many times that atheists are viewed as condescending and think they are better or smarter than believers, but believers give off this impression as well.

For example, religious or spiritual people often think they are privy to special knowledge, chosen, understand “mysteries” that atheists do not, they often believe they are the only ones with morals, and they feel sorry for poor atheists because they are “deceived.” It’s true that atheists think believers are deceived as well, and after realizing the fallacies of belief in religion, atheists have a hard time understanding how anyone could ever believe in the tenets of any faith, often forgetting that they may have once believed themselves. However, personally, I know I didn’t get smarter when I became an atheist although I did shake loose of my conditioning and began to look at things more objectively, but it is definitely not the easiest way of living in our culture.

Being an atheist isn’t easy in a predominantly religious culture, even when there is no church state or legal ramifications for disbelief. After coming out as an atheist, the suggestions for readings start coming in—bible verses, apologetic arguments, even ridiculous movie recommendations like God’s Not Dead. I never understood that title, by the way, because to think he was dead, we’d have to first believe he was once alive. But, by far, the worst thing we have to endure as atheists, in my opinion, is people who formerly respected us, now seeing us as people with no morals, no compassion, or a group to be feared. Of course, this is ridiculous; we are the same people we always were. Often, we are even more moral since dogmatic views of religion are frequently immoral, and when we let them go, we can have a clearer view of what is harmful to others—but that’s another blog for another time.

And despite popular opinion, belief is not a choice. I cannot force myself to believe something I do not. Being an atheist is not a belief. It is a lack of belief. We do not claim to know there is no god, but we do not have any good reason to believe there is one.

When I became an atheist, I had to choose to come out of the closet and be open about it or hide it and pretend to accept what everyone around me believed in so strongly. This was very scary. Atheists who come out to families and friends risk all the most important relationships in their lives. Even if their friends and families accept them, they will likely look at them differently than before. In addition to this, we do not want to cause pain or anxiety in our loved ones. This is very stressful, but I feel that I need to be real, especially with those who love me, but family holidays may never be the same.

As atheists, we have to deal with people we care about thinking that we have no morals and that we are going to hell. We may pretend we aren’t offended when they think we have no morality and that we are influenced by Satan, whom we think is another imaginary creature. Atheists are not more immoral than any other group of people. We generally think that living morally for no other reason except that it is the best way to live is more admirable than being good out of obedience, the promise of reward, or the threat of punishment. We, generally, think that if we followed the biblical law, we would actually be much more immoral. We are also permanently responsible for our actions, rather than believing we can just ask for forgiveness or do penance.

Still, we are required to endure pity, offers of prayer, and reading suggestions to change our minds when we think our friends and families are the ones who don’t realize the truth. And even though we may understand our believing friends and families are sincere in their concern, that doesn’t make it any more comfortable to deal with. It would be so much easier to pretend. It’s even harder if keeping your logical reasoning to yourself is the only acceptable choice to keep the relationships you value.

As atheists, we have to face the reality that things don’t happen for a reason, and that we create our own purpose in life. We don’t have any higher power to lean on or any hope of some being coming to our rescue, but in the end, we feel like this is a better way of living. We don’t have to try to make sense out of random tragedies. We don’t have to try and reconcile a loving god with terrible things happening to innocent people. Things just happen. Some are preventable and some aren’t, but no one is up there making arbitrary decisions about it.

As atheists, we may have to be careful not to say what we really think when people give God the credit for the skill of doctors and scientists, and then give God a pass when a loved one dies anyway. We may have to ignore the illogical comments about blessings and miracles and prayers and keep our rational thoughts to ourselves. We have to be nice when people offer prayers and platitudes and think that if we had God in our lives, everything would be better, even though bad things happen to them too.

We have to gently tell them we have already read the bible, and that’s one of the reasons we are atheists. Sometimes we have to show them that we actually know more about the bible than they do. We have to patiently listen to the pretzel logic of re-interpretation they go through so that the bible is not really contradicting itself and God is really good after all, despite his heinous acts. We have to kindly refuse to go to church revival services, and remind them that we used to be Christians for many years. We then have to convince them that we really were Christians when they point out that we weren’t true Christians. This is extremely frustrating. I know how sincerely I believed, and no one else can logically claim to know my mind.

Finally, we have to point out the fallacies in the double-standards—that what they consider an infringement on their religious views is actually an infringement on our right not to have a religion, and that in America, Christians are not the persecuted group. We have to point out that this country was not based on Christianity, but founded on a secular morality that our forefathers feared the intermingling of church and state, and that trying to legislate based on religion is the opposite of what the United States was created to do.

So, clearly being an atheist isn’t the easiest path, and being open about it comes with a host of unpleasant realities. Fitting in with the millions of believers around me would be easier in so many ways, but I care about reality and what’s true and makes sense, so although sometimes it’s harder, it’s the best way for me to live a moral and intellectually honest life, and in the long run, it has made me a much happier and less conflicted person. So, I’ll try to be less condescending if Christians will too. I will try to remember that I used to believe if they will consider the possibility that maybe someday they won’t believe anymore either.—Christina Knowles