Pharyngula

Keep your prayers to yourself, Nurse

A nurse on a home visit decided to offer her services as a personal intermediary to a deity and pray for her patient. The patient objected and complained to the health organization — after all, the patient may not like her nasty bronze age god, and may feel put upon that a presumed professional is proposing to waste her time on chanted magic spells. It’s also a matter of courtesy: when I’m teaching, I don’t hector my students on matters outside the course content, like atheism, and when I’m being treated by a nurse or doctor, I expect them to leave irrelevant superstitions out of the examining room.

Anyway, poor suffering Nurse Petrie, martyr of the Baptist faith, is currently under disciplinary review for springing hare-brained mysticism on a patient in her care. Good. I don’t think she should lose her job over one infraction (although apparently she’s done similar things before), but she ought to be disciplined and taught what is appropriate.

But no, that’s not enough for the deranged dingbat Melanie Phillips, who declares that “This is the way society dies“.

I am a Jew; but when my mother was in the last stages of her terminal illness she was cared for by deeply devout Christian nurses who regularly prayed for her. Far from being offended by this, I was touched and comforted by this signal that they cared so much about her.

They cared so much that they bowed their head and babbled to an imaginary being while doing nothing. If someone wants a litany of nonsense recited nearby, sure, go for it…but purveyors of such useless fairy-stroking wastes of time think they have the privilege of pushing it on others, they’ve got another thing coming. And then she plays the Muslim envy card.

Demonstrating ‘a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity’ apparently means that offering Christian solace to anyone at all, even if they don’t belong to another faith, somehow damages ‘equality and diversity’. Would the same action be taken, one wonders, against a Muslim nurse offering to pray for a Muslim patient?

First of all, “Christian solace” is only solace if you share a belief in the virtue of prayer; to rationalists, it’s all humbug and noise and not comforting at all. And secondly, yes, it doesn’t matter what religion the looney person is practicing. If they’re bowing on a prayer mat, ululating, waving burning incense over my head, sacrificing a chicken, clicking magic beads, or hollerin’ for god to come down and smite the devil in me, get them the hell out of my hospital room.

By the way, there is a poll on the odious Phillips’ screed.

Would you object to a nurse offering to pray for you?

Yes 11%
No 89%

Needs fixin’.


For those of you who think atheists are being too touchy, here are two additions.

  1. Put yourself in the position of the patient. You are sick and dependent on this person to help you get better, and she declares that your belief in her god is important. What do you do? There is an element of coercion here that should not be ignored.

  2. If the nurse were sincere in her faith, there’s something very easy she could do. Don’t ask, just go quietly off by herself and pray for the patient. The request is an unnecessary element that is little more than a ploy for attention, a declaration of her piety.

Comments

  1. #1 Greg
    February 3, 2009

    It’s so obvious from your posts that you’re a fair-minded, disinterested, objective observer on matters of religion. Your words inspire trust and confidence.

  2. #2 Richard Wolford
    February 3, 2009

    I am a Jew; but when my mother was in the last stages of her terminal illness she was cared for by deeply devout Christian nurses who regularly prayed for her. Far from being offended by this, I was touched and comforted by this signal that they cared so much about her.

    So, how did all that praying work out for her. Oh, she still died? Hmm, it’s like this god fellow didn’t really give a shit.

  3. #3 Fred Mounts
    February 3, 2009

    Ding bats, the lot of them. I wouldn’t want any prayers whatsoever, and the people helping me should be forced to respect that. What they do on their own time is their own business.

  4. #4 NewEnglandBob
    February 3, 2009

    I voted ‘yes’ about 25 times.

  5. #5 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 3, 2009

    I’d prefer if people are going to talk to themselves instead of helping me that they do it in another room.

  6. #6 tcb
    February 3, 2009

    It’s so obvious from your posts that you’re a fair-minded, disinterested, objective observer on matters of religion. Your words inspire trust and confidence.

    Oh, yes, absolutely, I see what you did there; very droll, ha ha.

    My own problem with PZ is that he’s far too moderate.

  7. #7 mr-zero
    February 3, 2009

    Yes! The chance to vote against that poisonous twit, Melanie P. Excellent!
    Yes 12%
    No 88%

  8. #8 mikecbraun
    February 3, 2009

    Greg, it’s so obvious from your post that you think the religious care about being objective. To wit, a nurse, a worker in the objective field of medicine and science, offering to pray for a patient. Prayer. A useless (in)activity that could actually stress a patient out even worse and that has no objective evidence in its favor. On the contrary, prayer has been proven worthless or worse in many a clinical trial. When they bludgeon objectivity over the head with their inanity, we become quite subjective about it.

  9. #9 The Real Greg
    February 3, 2009

    It’s so obvious from your posts that you’re a fair-minded, disinterested, objective observer on matters of religion. Your words inspire trust and confidence.

    This is why we like PZ. He has a totally rational approach to religion and other forms of social abuse.

  10. #10 Frimple
    February 3, 2009

    It’s the daily mail, the cause is hopeless. Another poll just below is currently 80% AGAINST gay adoption, what hope has an athiest attack on the morals of our great christian nation, all be it in poll form.

  11. #11 Holbach
    February 3, 2009

    My vote only kept it at a measly 12%

    Get your religion crazed brain away from me, and go and pray in front of a mob of muslims to convert them. Let’s see your imaginary god save you from being dismembered by a different set of insanity.

  12. #12 Brownian
    February 3, 2009

    I have to say I don’t really mind the offering. It’s the declaration that they’re going to do it whether I want it or not that makes me want to gnaw off their faces. (Of course, if someone offered to pray for me, I’d likely respond along the lines of “Of course not. I’d like you to do something useful, or get out of my face.”)

    Having said that, there’s a particular way Baptists have of offering such things that makes it painfully evident that they’re not praying for you as much as demonstrating their Christianness to you, as if all of society were in agreement that that’s a good thing and mad props to them for having the faith and conviction.

  13. #13 Alyson Miers
    February 3, 2009

    This is how a society grows the heck up.

  14. #14 CalGeorge
    February 3, 2009

    Sing it!

    Don’t pray for me, Caroline Petrie
    The truth is I can’t stand you
    All through my sick days
    My ill existence
    I kept my atheism
    You keep your distance.

  15. #15 FastLane
    February 3, 2009

    Note hoe the dipshit who wrote the article couched the bit of Muslim envy:

    Would the same action be taken, one wonders, against a Muslim nurse offering to pray for a Muslim patient?

    Now let’s make that into a more analogous situation:

    Would the same action be taken, one wonders, against a Muslim nurse offering to pray for a Xian patient?

    You bet your sweet fuckin’ patootie it would.

  16. #16 Dutchdoc
    February 3, 2009

    Similar thing (overly devout nurse) happened to me almost two years ago: http://claessen.com/blog/?m=200705

  17. #17 Joel
    February 3, 2009

    I wouldn’t mind the offering either, as long as they respected my polite decline.

  18. #18 Sastra
    February 3, 2009

    From the news story:

    Mrs Petrie, who carries out home visits in North Somerset, said she had asked the patient if she would like a prayer said for her after she had put dressings on the woman’s legs.
    The patient, believed to be in her 70s, refused and Mrs Petrie insists that she left the matter alone.

    Normally, I’d say that Mrs. Petrie did nothing wrong — she made an offer, the patient refused, and then she dropped it. You could put it in the same category as asking patients if they’d like to be read a story, or have a back rub.

    That’s what I’d say if Mrs. Petrie was a visitor, or perhaps a volunteer from a local charity organization.

    But once you bring religion into a professional relationship, you’re in a dicey situation. Nurse Petrie talks about how “absolutely delighted” her patients have been about her offer. But how does she feel — how would she feel — about those few patients who turn her down — once she’s systematically established to her satisfaction that praying together with her clients is one of the best and most rewarding part of her job?

    Suddenly, religion is an issue. Non-praying patients are going to be perceived as lacking something important, defective in some important way — compared to those who are grateful to her and God. Regardless of how else they behave, they’ll be classified as “difficult.” And care will reflect that somehow. How could it not?

    It’s easy to look at this as one single case. But imagine the impact if religion was routinely brought into the medical relationship, and patients separated into those who are receptive to God’s love — and those who are not? What’s hunky dory and lovely for the religious turns into an area where the non-religious are on the defense.

    And now the nurse (or doctor) are going to be looking for evidence that you would have been better off if only you believed in God and the Power of Prayer. They will be subtly expecting you to fail, or have problems, now that they know what kind of person you are.

    And no matter what your religious view is, you do not ever want to be placed in a position where a failure to heal or get better will increase your health provider’s faith in their God. That’s the down side to the warmer relationships with the other patients.

  19. #19 Bronze Dog
    February 3, 2009

    I’m thinking about intensifying my growing tendency to call this sort of prayer crap what it essentially is: Witchcraft.

    Of course, witchcraft doesn’t work, either, so I think the comparison’s fair.

  20. #20 Andrew
    February 3, 2009

    There’s another poll on the same page that’s doing badly, “should gay couples be allowed to adopt?” Perhaps while we’re all over there….?

  21. #21 Tulse
    February 3, 2009

    Why couldn’t the nurse have prayed for the patient on her own damn time? Is she churlishly withholding the miraculous powers of her god unless she can implore Him in front of the sick woman? If she genuinely believes in prayer’s efficacy, isn’t she essentially refusing to provide medical assistance unless the patient placates her god?

  22. #22 Julie Stahlhut
    February 3, 2009

    I really don’t care whether or not a doctor or nurse prays for me. I also don’t care whether my hairdresser can play the guitar. But my hairdresser doesn’t subject me to an impromptu recital every time I come in for a trim.

    And as for the first response:

    It’s so obvious from your posts that you’re a fair-minded, disinterested, objective observer on matters of religion.

    What the hell, Greg? Is this your first time using a computer? Do you even know what a blog is?

  23. #23 mikecbraun
    February 3, 2009

    To quote the great Brett Gurewitz:
    “Now everybody’s praying…Don’t pray on me.”

  24. #24 mr-zero
    February 3, 2009

    According to the background article in the Mail she has admitted that she has been warned about this behaviour before. This is yet another example of xians demanding special treatment for their ludicrous beliefs. Can I just point out again that Melanie Philips is a manifest loon and the mail is a poisonous, odious rag.

  25. #25 The Science Pundit
    February 3, 2009

    Yes 14%
    No 86%

  26. #26 DGKnipfer
    February 3, 2009

    Up to 13% and climbing

  27. #27 John H
    February 3, 2009

    Richard Wolford – you stole my thunder there. I was going to make a comment on the efficacy of prayer in curing terminal illness. Not very good is it ?

    Instead I will make a different point – obviously Christian prayers do not work for Jews. If Jews want to be saved by prayer they should get their own chants and pray to their own sky fairy. Why should Jews or Muslims get Christian prayers.

    Nurse Stupid is unfit to be a nurse. I wonder about deeply religious loons like her. You have to ask yourself what they really believe in – do they for example believe in rubbish like illness being the result of a good smiting by dog. If so are they happy to let dog get on with heavenly recruiting and not fuss too much about the meds.

    For those of you of an Americanist persuasion Mel P is a right wing loon in the manner of Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham (except she is a lot uglier). The Daily Mail is a newspaper of such unrelenting and bigoted right wing views that it makes Fox News look as if it is edited by Marx and Engels. It’s proprietors were good chums with Hitler (and I am not invoking Godwins Law here).

    s

  28. #28 Cyphern
    February 3, 2009

    Would you object to a nurse offering to pray for you?

    Would i object to the offer? Absolutely not. I would only object if the offer was not made, or if my answer of “no” was ignored.

  29. #29 dave
    February 3, 2009

    then she plays the Muslim envy card.

    How about a Muslim praying for a Christian or a Jew on their deathbed? Surely that would be appreciated just as much as a Christian praying for a Jew. Riiight.

  30. #30 JD
    February 3, 2009

    Myers gets it right concerning this issue in health care. I witnessed it firsthand during my internship in psychology and it is amazing how much time and resources are used up by this nonsense. It is only Chrisitan solace when it is shared. Brilliant. Hats off PZ.

  31. #31 Janine, Queen of Assholes
    February 3, 2009

    Posted by: Greg | February 3, 2009

    It’s so obvious from your posts that blah blah blah blah

    Only a couple of post and already you are tedious. I will explain this way. If I want anyone to pray for me, I can find any idiot to do it. This is because any idiot can pray. It I need medical care, I want people who are trained to do the job. If those people have to pray for me, they can do it away from me. I want their talents and their knowledge. And prayer is not an expression of their talents and knowledge. They can pray on their own time, not mine.

  32. #32 Marcus Ranum
    February 3, 2009

    I wonder how people would react if a nurse offered to interceed with satan on behalf of the patient? Or to perform voodoo sacrifices? Or acupuncture? They’re all equally effective.

    No more respect for bullshit, especially in medicine.

  33. #33 Zyzle
    February 3, 2009

    I agree with Frimple the Daily Mail is a lost cause. I seem to remember a couple of days back when one of their front page headlines was “Social Services forced us to give child to gay couple” Which we are supposed to be outraged about even though the child’s mother was a heroin addict and the grandparents were both elderly and in ill health.

  34. #34 BadSeed
    February 3, 2009

    I’m going back and forth on this. On the one hand, as misguided as it is, the nurse thinks she’s offering comfort. If she’s polite about it, then a simple ‘no thanks’ suffices. If she’s pushy (like Dutchdoc’s obnoxious, intrusive nurse) then “get bent.”

    I had surgery a couple of years ago and checked off the atheist box on the pre-admission papers, but still while I was recuperating in my room, a pastor showed up, introduced himself, settled in a chair (I said it was OK — I was on percocet at the time, and a day past general anesthesia & morphine, and really bored) and asked if I believed in the healing power of prayer. I said no. He said thanks, and politely left. I had a chuckle, but really, who needs the opiate of the masses when you’re already hopped up on actual opiates? So I guess I’m leaning to annoyed by it after all. At least it wasn’t the nurses prosyletizing.

    And I suspects the hospital staff doesn’t actually read those preadmission forms — I checked off vegetarian, too, and still they tried to bring me chicken soup.

  35. #35 DGKnipfer
    February 3, 2009

    Uhggg,

    Okay, it is up to 14% and climbing. Thought we were having a recession for a moment.

  36. #36 DiscoveredJoys
    February 3, 2009

    My mother in law recently died of cancer, after a long illness. She had a great deal of support and care from visiting National Health Service District Nurses (changing dressings), local council care workers (help with washing and dressing), McMillan (cancer charity) nurses and in the final weeks ‘Hospice at Home’ nurses. They didn’t treat my MIL as just a medical unit of work, they cared about her as a person too.

    At no time did anyone offer to pray for her (although she could have had pastoral care if she had wanted it). My MIL would have been very upset with people praying for her; she was old school and “didn’t want anyone to make a fuss.”

    She always thought that people praying were doing more for themselves (although kindly, perhaps) than for the “prayee”.

    I still miss her.

  37. #37 Tom
    February 3, 2009

    Sounds like a typical ‘Daily Fail’ story. This (news)paper caters to a particular market: people who are right between working class and middle class, who left school with some qualifications but are not graduates, who might reach junior management positions but go no further.

    They are often people with a chip on their shoulder. They object to younger people and (non English) people who have got further in life than themselves. They distrust intellectuals and almost every poltician after Maggie Thatcher. In short, they are a sad bunch who get one of their few pleasures from having their extensive prejudices confirmed by twisted old witches like Melanie Phillips and the rest of their stable of fringe-lunatic embittered old hacks.

    Anyone else from the UK agree with me on this?

  38. #38 MissPrism
    February 3, 2009

    Oi, John H #27. Melanie Phillips’ hatred and ignorance are ugly. No need to jump on the tedious let’s-call-a-woman-ugly train.

  39. #39 WTFWJD
    February 3, 2009

    If she’s done this before and was disciplined for it, then she knows it’s wrong, yet she continued to do it. They were right to fire her for insubordination.

    I’d ask her how she would feel if she were the patient and a Wiccan nurse offered to cast spells on her, or a Mormon would wait for her to die so he could baptize her by proxy and make an honest Mormon out of her, or a Satanist offered to send her to Hell, or a Hindu offered to pray for her to be reincarnated as a sacred cow.

  40. #40 Angel Kaida
    February 3, 2009

    15%. I’d be terrified if a nurse offered to pray for me.

  41. #41 AkJill
    February 3, 2009

    When my son died of SIDS, a nun came into the “family” room of the hospital. Being a Sisters of Providence facility, I thought she was an administrator and that she was going to review with me the steps that would happen before his body could be released to the funeral home. Instead, she launched into her little speech about god calling his children home, how happy my son would be in heaven, blah-blah-blah. I was stunned, and at the same time, it was all I could do not to slap her across the face. I told her to leave when she offered to pray with me. Twelve years later, I still get furious when I think of it.

  42. #42 Mike
    February 3, 2009

    When I was seeing an eye doc for a pre lasik consultation everything looked good, we set up a surgery date and I thought we were through. It was then that my doc offered to hold my hand and pray for good results of the surgery.

    Since I’d already paid $100 for the consult/screening and he was about to use lasers on my eyes, I let him pray for me. I didn’t think it would be wise to upset him at that point. If I hadn’t already invested $ into the situation I may have found a new doc.

    It was later that the full implication of the clinic’s symbol of an eye with a cross in the middle of it became clear to me.

  43. #43 Me
    February 3, 2009

    Another glorious triumph in the onward march of loony atheism! A nurse merely asks if her patient would like to be prayed for, and the nurse gets suspended without pay. In the brave new atheist regime of petty vindictiveness, let no act of kindness go unpunished provided that the actor is religious.

  44. #44 CalGeorge
    February 3, 2009

    “…and asked if I believed in the healing power of prayer. I said no. He said thanks, and politely left.”

    Is this person employed by the hospital?

    It’s very sad that an institution devoted to using science to heal the sick allows these idiots to wander the halls.

  45. #45 Amph
    February 3, 2009

    That poll is even more stupid than the average one. Most people coming to that site are Xians, why would they complain about being prayed for; they take it for granted that the prayer is not sent to Horus or Apollo. The makers are too dense to think of adding something like ?to a supernatural being which is not of your favorite flavor.?
    BTW, even the gay couples score better than the anti-prayer mob.

  46. #46 Chris Davis
    February 3, 2009

    These lots more to this than meets the eye. She was a temp or ‘bank’ nurse, hired when needed on a short-term basis.

    She already had another complaint against her, which I believe was for handing out religious tracts in contravention of the rules of the hospital and her employment.

    She wasn’t ‘suspended'; the hospital will simply not be hiring here again while the two complaints are investigated.

    See the hospital site for a statement:
    http://www.northsomerset.nhs.uk/default.asp

  47. #47 John H
    February 3, 2009

    MissPrism

    Sorry about that bit of blatant sexism. Consider my wrists duly slapped. I will change that to she does have a remarkably stupid haircut – which cannot be construed as haircuttist as he is in charge of her hair.

    Tom

    A reasonably good summary of the Mail and its readership. They are mostly the bitter, never quite going to make it, reasonably well educated but not enough to read the Guardian or the Times, resentful trolls who are only one step away from being lumpen proletariat, know it and blame everything on gay muslim immigrant adopters.

    And prayer is demonstrably rubbish as the good lord Camelot has never answered any of my heartfelt supplications. Bastard.

  48. #48 Louis
    February 3, 2009

    @ Tom #37:

    Agree with you? I most certainly do NOT agree. I don’t think you go far enough.

    I wouldn’t wipe my arse with the Mail for fear of the newsprint coming off on my anus and being transmitted up to my brain via some hitherto undiscovered arse/brain bigotry transporting system.

    Vile doesn’t even begin to cover what the majority of the Mail publishes. It’s symptomatic of the bitterest dregs of humanity.

    Louis

    P.S. Hmmm In the above I may have been mildly equivocal about the Daily Mail. I don’t like it. Clear?

  49. #49 SeanH
    February 3, 2009

    Just FYI for poll crashers: In the frame on the right there’s also a “Should gay couples be allowed to adopt” poll that needs crashing.

  50. #50 Armchair Dissident
    February 3, 2009

    Mrs Petrie says that she has taken advice from the Christian Legal Centre, which aims to protect the religious freedom of people who follow the Christian faith.

    I would be prepared to be that there’s a lot more to this than meets the eye. The Christian Legal Centre have been recently involved in a spate of highly publicised “christian concious” type employment challenges where Christians have been trying to force their religion into their workplace. It sounds, from other sources, that she’s done this a lot, and I don’t think she’s been as subtle about it as she claimed to the BBC.

  51. #51 Dave Wisker
    February 3, 2009

    If a nurse offered to pray for me, I’d accept politely, but ask that when she does, could she please also pray for the wisdom not to talk to a nonexistent entity.

  52. #52 DF
    February 3, 2009

    @ Marcus #32: Your mention of Satan reminds me of that Voltaire quote. When asked on his deathbed to forswear Satan, he supposedly replied: “This is no time to make new enemies.”

    It always made me chuckle.

  53. #53 Newfie
    February 3, 2009

    Bronze Dog #19

    I’m thinking about intensifying my growing tendency to call this sort of prayer crap what it essentially is: Witchcraft.

    This might actually be a good idea. Start referring to prayers as “spells”. If nothing else, a few will get the message to STFU about their invisible friends.

  54. #54 Dave Wisker
    February 3, 2009

    Or he, if that was the case.

  55. #55 faouloki
    February 3, 2009

    #37 – Tom
    Yep, totally agree with you. Their entire content is comment, not news reporting, and it is filled with bile-spitting right-wing loonies like Phillips. Any sane person in the UK stays clears of the whole messy publication. Same goes for the Telegraph.

  56. #56 hje
    February 3, 2009

    One thing is for sure — after the prayer, the nurse felt much better. And now. as she awaits her impending “martyrdom,” I’m sure she feels morally superior.

  57. #57 Candido.H
    February 3, 2009

    Due to the wording of the poll I find myself having to vote no. I would have no problem with a nurse OFFERING to pray for me as long as he or she continues to provide the same level of care after I respectfully decline the offer.

  58. #58 John Phillips, FCD
    February 3, 2009

    The Daily Mail, the paper for largely misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, fascistic xian loons.

  59. #59 Teleprompter
    February 3, 2009

    I have also voted.

    Now it’s up to 18%.

  60. #60 Petursey
    February 3, 2009

    the Mail in the Uk is the equivalent of a baptist/republican rag in the US.
    They’re a bunch of old fashion fuddies ..Conservatives in the old sense with a capital C… and they love stuff like this…. the good thing is their average reader is over 60…so not long until all their readers are tree fodder.. or their cases upstairs with their sky fairies

  61. #61 catgirl
    February 3, 2009

    The problem is not about her praying for the patient. The problem is that she insisted on doing it against the patient’s wishes. This isn’t about religion or freedom; it’s simply about nurses respecting their patients.

  62. #62 Chiroptera
    February 3, 2009

    Me, #43: A nurse merely asks if her patient would like to be prayed for, and the nurse gets suspended without pay.

    Except the nurse was already warned against promoting her faith on the job, so this sort of puts the incident in a different light, yes?

    Some people don’t want to be prayed over, especially by a professional who is meant to do her job according to accepted standards and ethics

    I bet your American? ‘Cause only in America, it seems, would an offer by a trained professional to engage in prayer be considered ordinary.

  63. #63 Sherry
    February 3, 2009

    I’d say please don’t pray for me, donate money to a spay-neuter fund if you want to do something to lift my spirt.

  64. #64 Norman Doering
    February 3, 2009

    If some nurse or doctor wanted to pray for me, I’d let them. It’s not a good idea to piss off people who might have the power of life and death over you.

    However, in the back of my mind I would be worried about whether they were competent and try to find out if I have better options for getting more competent care.

  65. #65 Lirone
    February 3, 2009

    Wasn’t there a study that found out that people who knew they were being prayed for were actually less likely to get better than those who didn’t know whether or not they were being prayed for?

    If so, an appropriate response might be to say “I’d rather you didn’t pray for me as evidence suggests it has a negative effect on recovery.”

  66. #66 Arturo S
    February 3, 2009

    With patients at the hospital, I keep my atheism to myself and even pretend to be Catholic with the more superstitious patients if I think that will help the doctor-patient relationship (“Of course your prayers helped, the antibiotics don’t work if God does not intercede…”). I don’t think it is too much to ask for religious people to behave the same way.

    Unless a patient brings up religion and prayer first, health care providers should not mention it at all.

  67. #67 Coel
    February 3, 2009

    [If they] think they have the privilege of pushing it on others, they’ve got another thing coming.

    Ughh. Please PZ, another think coming! Please don’t propagate that ugly, meaningless “thing” variant when you can use the witty original! Ta!.

  68. #68 Chappy
    February 3, 2009

    62 Chiropera:

    “‘Cause only in America, it seems, would an offer by a trained professional to engage in prayer be considered ordinary.”

    This is a bloody good point. “Only in America” is overstating it, but the point is made. If you take your car to the garage and they pray for your oil filter, even a theist might spot the ripoff in that. How about praying for your teeth at the dentist?

    But just in case…


    Dear G/god(s), please fix my astigmatism

  69. #69 Gold Dragon
    February 3, 2009

    This reminds me of a conversation I had a few year ago with a 7th Day Adventist. It had been a perfectly nice and civil conversation, even with me making it very clear early on that I’m an atheist, that is until he offered to pray for me and couldn’t understand when I, very politly, said no thank you. It got very cold after that and he really took offense and left at the first oppertunity.

    As to the Daily Mail. It’s a hatefilled rag and here in the UK it and its readers are pretty much dispised. It jumps on it’s little hobby horses and blows things out of all preportions to up it’s sales. This is after all one of the rags that tried to push the fake link between MMR and autism.

  70. #70 Catharine Zivkovic
    February 3, 2009

    Ha! You have no idea! I’m a critical care nurse so there is a shitload of praying going on where I work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been *asked* to pray or “join in prayer” for a patient by families who are tearful and earnest. Believe me, it is awkward to find a graceful exit. As a result, several times families have demanded that only “Christian” nurses care for their loved one. Admittedly, most of my colleagues are religious wackaloons, but I have never heard one make a specific offer to pray for a patient. I have, however, many, many, many times heard physicians tell families that all “we/they can do is pray.” It’s disgusting. Physicians, at least, should know better. BTW, we are *required* by hospital policy (and this is a state institution) to call the chaplain every time a person dies. I often don’t do it — and get dinged for it! I guess my point is that it is immeasurably more common for families/patients to ask their nurse to pray than it is for a nurse to offer. Very awkward, very inappropriate. (For more unrelated information, visit Coturnix’s blog.)

  71. #71 T_U_T
    February 3, 2009

    this is too ridiculous for me. Did this nurse pray instead of doing her job ? No ? So what. No harm done.

  72. #72 chancelikely
    February 3, 2009

    OK, she’s female, British, and a nurse, but the first thing that went through my mind reading the article was John Freshwater – someone else abusing their position in order to annoy real people and score points for their god.

    (Bonus parallel: the news source missing the point. “It’s all about the Bible on his desk!” “Muslim nurse/Muslim patient!”)

  73. #73 Bobber
    February 3, 2009

    Harm is in the eyes of the beholder – in this case, of the person who was in the care of the nurse. The patient objected; therefore, harm – in these circumstances – was done.

  74. #74 Knockgoats
    February 3, 2009

    I’d say “No, but if you could sacrifice a goat to Satan for me, that would be much appreciated.”

  75. #75 TheWireMonkey
    February 3, 2009

    When I went for throat surgery a couple of years ago to have a tumor removed I was asked at several stages of the intake what my religion was or if I wanted a clergy person contacted in case things didn’t go well. I repeatedly said, “I am an atheist and would much prefer if you allowed only trained scientists around me while I’m here.” One nurse laughed and said, “well, I would hope so too”, another did not and looked really offended (but did not say anything).

  76. #76 Armchair Dissident
    February 3, 2009

    T_U_:

    No ? So what. No harm done.

    She was in breach of her duties of professional care. She would have been similarly disciplined had she handed out advertising literature for Amway.

    It is also not entirely clear yet whether she simply offered to pray, or whether something else entirely happened. Thus far we only have her word for it that this was all that happened. As a complaint was also made against her – by her own supervisor – in October, and that she was told there would be consequences for a repeat performance, and that she is being supported by the Christian Legal Center, suggests to me that her initial reports are not the whole truth.

  77. #77 Sastra
    February 3, 2009

    Norman Doering #64 wrote:

    If some nurse or doctor wanted to pray for me, I’d let them. It’s not a good idea to piss off people who might have the power of life and death over you

    And this is a point that medical professionals who are religious might wish to consider. They get so caught up in the wonderful benefits of religious belief that they forget that when they approach people they don’t know and ask them if they “want to pray,” they’re actually creating a coercive situation.

    Even when people agree to the prayer, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re grateful for the opportunity. They may feel as if they’re being forced into a situation where they either have to go along with the ritual — or risk pissing off someone “who has the power of life and death over you.” So they fake it.

    People who genuinely value and respect prayer would not — or should not — cheapen what should be a voluntary shared moment of faith and worship by using it in a way that intimidates others and leads to hollow caricatures. It’s so easy to think “oh, they can always say ‘no’ if they don’t want to pray, and I won’t mind” — but do they really know you “won’t mind?” And are you sure you really won’t?

    It opens up a can of worms. I’d probably turn down the offer to pray — but I can’t be sure. If I’m feeling weak and helpless, if I’m in terrible pain and fear — and then think that lack of religious enthusiasm on my part might lead to substandard care — I might be scared enough to lie and fake it. An empty moment of show induced by personal fear of the devout. Is that what they’re looking for?

    I think an argument against what this nurse did — the ‘harmless’ little request — can be made even from the standpoint of piety and faith. It might even be stronger.

  78. #78 Anon
    February 3, 2009

    “Can I pray for you?”

    “How about you knock a percentage off my hospital bill instead–how much would you figure that prayer is worth?”

  79. #79 Andrew
    February 3, 2009

    Is it just me, or is this an imagined insult? Are we really descending to level of taking legal action over what people do on their own time, especially an action with good intentions? She is misguided, but she is hardly deserving of what is happening here.

    If care was neglected, or the patient was abused, then punish the hell out of her. Otherwise let her be.

  80. #80 Julius
    February 3, 2009

    Urgh, Mel P is appalling. A few links away from that article is the one about “Why do Green zealots think they can dictate how many children we are allowed to have?” (With a proper Godwin in it, no less.) Other linked articles too – the Mail scares the fuck out of me, or rather the thought that significant numbers of people in this country believe that hatemongering drivel.

  81. #81 Knockgoats
    February 3, 2009

    It’s proprietors were good chums with Hitler – John H.

    Indeed, They had a famous headline in 1934: “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” – the latter being the British Union of Fascists. The article was written by the proprietor, Lord Rothermere, and praised Oswald Mosley, the BUF leader, for his “sound, commonsense Conservative doctrine” – africangenesis and any other idiots claiming fascism is left-wing, please note.

  82. #82 Terry Shull
    February 3, 2009

    I just found your blog and started to breath free again. Went to the poll – 24% now. :)

  83. #83 Valis
    February 3, 2009

    Last year, when being admitted to hospital, I was asked: “What religion are you?”. I answered: “I’m an atheist.” Later I had a look at the admission forms, they had written “Atheist Church”.

  84. #84 Holbach
    February 3, 2009

    Andrew @ 79

    No, she should be told to let us be, without her intercessionary illogical intrusion.

  85. #85 Chiroptera
    February 3, 2009

    T_U_T, #71: Did this nurse pray instead of doing her job ?

    Well, if her job includes not doing anything that could be construed as imposing her religious beliefs on her patients, then, yes, she did fail to do her job properly according to accepted standards.

    Next question?

  86. #86 chuko
    February 3, 2009

    ‘all we can do is pray’ – and here I thought that was just an expression meaning ‘there’s nothing we can do’.

    I also don’t really see anything wrong with the offer, if offered politely and quickly withdrawn on refusal. It would be nice if this kind of nonsense didn’t exist in the world, but I don’t see that it hurt anyone.

    I do wonder if there’s more to this story. It’s a little too neat, and the writer swallowed the nurse’s story without questioning the events at all. Odds are she did more than politely offer.

  87. #87 Interrobang
    February 3, 2009

    A friend of mine who spent some serious time in the burn ward at a couple of major NYC hospitals has horror stories about mistreatment at the hands of snotty fundamentalist Christian nurses, who were actively trying to get him to convert (especially when it looked as though he was going to die) and were actively abusing him because he refused.

    At the other extreme of medical interactions with visibly religious people, the only phlebotamist at my clinic I trust to get blood out of my quasi-alien carcass is a hijab-wearing Muslim lady named Khadija.

    Funny how that works, isn’t it? Members of the religious majority (that has the persecution complex) in groups make people’s lives miserable…

  88. #88 dvizard
    February 3, 2009

    Actually, I wouldn’t object if a nurse offered to pray for me, or feel offended. I’d tell her that she could, if she really wanted to, but if so, not in my direct presence, and that she should feel no obligation.
    I’d expect a similar answer from an “enlightened” Muslim, or from an “enlightened” Christian if a Muslim offered to pray for him.
    But feeling offended? The woman offered to pray for the patient. She didn’t force nothing on nobody.
    It was once said, by PZ I think, that religion should become like knitting. Would you be offended if a nurse offered to knit a shirt for you? Or offered to play a song on her guitar? Astonished, perhaps, but not offended…

  89. #89 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 3, 2009

    I do wonder if there’s more to this story. It’s a little too neat, and the writer swallowed the nurse’s story without questioning the events at all. Odds are she did more than politely offer.

    Previous complaints most likely, which also leads me to wonder how pushy she is, or even if she just started praying without asking.

  90. #90 Bridget
    February 3, 2009

    This one is hard for me. My grandfather passed away at a Catholic Sisters of Mercy home five years ago, and the care he received was superb. He’d always say, “All those pretty young (65, young to his 80) things praying for me…it’s rather comforting.” I’m okay with that – and apparently you do file your religious preferences at the door and NO ONE is turned away from their services whatever their choice of religion is – and there lodgings are changed to match (as in, the crucifix is taken down from the wall). At the same time, this woman was out of line. No means no.

    On the other hand, whenever people say “I’ll pray for you” I get super-uncomfortable, but at the end of the day it’s their choice. Whenever anyone asks me to pray for them, I say “You will certainly be in my thoughts during this difficult time.” Usually no one notices, especially on the family side of things (my grandmother’s pretty Catholic, and she’s hell-bent on getting me married in a church. By a priest. The first one I can do…but the second? Nope)

  91. #91 Inquisitor Numad
    February 3, 2009

    “She was in breach of her duties of professional care. She would have been similarly disciplined had she handed out advertising literature for Amway.”

    Presenting the issue that way reminds me of the 1999 movie The Big Kahuna.

  92. #92 Kate
    February 3, 2009

    I would be quite offended of someone assumed I wanted to be prayed for. Prayer has nothing, I repeat, NOTHING to do the practice of medicine. It’s a waste of time. Time that should be otherwise spent healing or helping the patient.

    Unfortunately, this nurse is just another in a long line of woo-minded twits in the medical profession. Getting rid of her hasn’t done anything except give those idiot religionists another “martyr”.

  93. #93 Qwerty
    February 3, 2009

    The nurse could have silently prayed for the patient without asking.

    Why is it so many Christians have to make a big show of their beliefs?

  94. #94 Brain Hertz
    February 3, 2009

    Melanie Philips doesn’t bother to read her own articles:

    Apparently, Mrs Petrie previously received a warning about promoting her faith at work after she offered to give a prayer card to an elderly male patient.

    Immediately following paragraph:

    Now there may be a valid point here about professionalism. Offering prayer cards comes close to touting one?s faith, which might well be thought inappropriate on the wards. But even so, one would have thought that a quiet word in the nurse?s ear would have been all that was necessary.

    Yes, you would, wouldn’t you?

    Instead, Mrs Petrie was packed off to an ?equality? course for some diversity training.

    …because she didn’t get the message the first time.

  95. #95 CalGeorge
    February 3, 2009

    If I am in hospital with a serious illness and a nurse offers to pray for me, I might come to the conclusion that the nurse considers my condition to be hopeless. I might interpret the offer to mean: “the only thing we can do now is pray…”

    It’s not appropriate.

  96. #96 Greta Christina
    February 3, 2009

    Religious extremists sure like to think they’re being thrown to the lions. Ms. Phillips is trying to turn this into a question of religious oppression, when it’s nothing of the sort — it’s a question of professional conduct, and whether people have a right to not be subjected to other people’s religious proselytizing and practices when they’re simply seeking out professional services.

    Note the other examples she cites of supposed anti- Christian persecution: a counsellor who was sacked for refusing to give sex counselling to homosexuals; and a woman who was forced to stand down from an adoption panel because she disapproved of gay adoption. That’s not persecution of Christians. That’s expecting Christians to adhere to professional standards, and to keep their religious beliefs out of the workplace.

    And the point Sastra and others make is very compelling. It’s bad enough if, say, your hairdresser tries to practice their religion on you against your will. It’s much worse when it’s a doctor or a nurse — someone who has power of life or death over you.

  97. #97 jkhdfk
    February 3, 2009

    pz, you do realize that reading uk newspapers is one of the major causes of atheism? no wonder you’ve been so terribly afflicted!

  98. #98 CyberLizard
    February 3, 2009

    My father-in-law recently had a similar experience. What I find most offensive is the taking advantage of the inherent power imbalance between patient and caregiver to proselytize.

  99. #99 Graham
    February 3, 2009

    Gosh, you atheists are as intolerant as the fundamentalist Christians I’ve met!

  100. #100 Silver Fox
    February 3, 2009

    “Mrs Petrie was packed off to an ?equality? course for some diversity training.”

    “This Orwellian response has now been followed up by the draconian action of suspending her with the possibility of outright dismissal from her job simply because she offered to pray for another patient.”

    Yes, a simple “no, thank you” would have been adequate. Diversity Training?? Ah, yes, by all means. Societies do not die because of prayer cards; they die by diversity – they simply fragment and evaporate.

    Move on to the next patient, Mrs. Petrie, and leave the Godknockers to the Sky Giant.

  101. #101 Janine, Queen of Assholes
    February 3, 2009

    Graham, congratulations! You have no idea what you are talking about.

  102. #102 Monado
    February 3, 2009

    Especially since people who know that they are being prayed for do worse, by peer-reviewed study.

  103. #103 elgarak
    February 3, 2009

    “May I pray for you?”

    “You can do whatever you want in your spare time”

  104. #104 Chris P
    February 3, 2009

    Graham

    Being tolerant of fundamentalists got us into this problem in the first place. Now we have to over compensate.

    They need to be fought back into their fox holes and stop influencing public policy.

  105. #105 alextangent
    February 3, 2009

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16569567 is the famous (if with a rather longwinded title) “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: a multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer.”

    Result?

    CONCLUSIONS: Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.

    In other words, prayer had the opposite effect. Nurse Petrie is killing her patients with prayer.

  106. #106 Bullet Magnet
    February 3, 2009

    Uh, that Melanie Philips. Did anyone see the link from that page to the one snubbing the greens for suggesting people have no more than two children? Suddenly the suggestion dehumanises children and reeks of eugenics. With any luck they’ll clear my comment in which I teach Mrs Philips all about superfecundity and infant mortality.

  107. #107 Greta Christina
    February 3, 2009

    #93:

    The nurse could have silently prayed for the patient without asking.

    Why is it so many Christians have to make a big show of their beliefs?

    Matthew 6:5-6: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

    Of course, in just the previous chapter (Matthew 5:14-16), he tells people not to hide their light under a bushel, and let their light and good works shine before men. So I can see why they’d be confused. It’s really hard to follow such a slipshod narrative. Clearly the copy editor was asleep on the job.

  108. #108 JackH
    February 3, 2009

    “Posted by: Bronze Dog | February 3, 2009 12:49 PM
    I’m thinking about intensifying my growing tendency to call this sort of prayer crap what it essentially is: Witchcraft.
    Of course, witchcraft doesn’t work, either, so I think the comparison’s fair.”

    ‘voodoo’ is a good one too! as in: “don’t you dare come near me with your voodoo hoodoo , freak!”

  109. #109 Kryth
    February 3, 2009

    This falls under the ‘Do your frelling job’ category. You’re a nurse not the hospital, not the hospital chaplain. While your busy with the sky pixie shit, some other patient is waiting for their pain medicine or an IV. Do your frelling job.

    While there is nothing wrong with ‘offering’ to pray with a patient, if they(the patient) ask in the first place. Offering without being asked in the first place is inappropriate, even if it’s well meaning. It has the stink of preying on the ‘sick and weak’ that religions seem to do so well at.

  110. #110 Steve_C
    February 3, 2009

    Hey Silver…

    How would you like a doctor to tell you on your deathbed… hey there’s no god so don’t worry about going to hell…

    That’s positive. Right?

  111. #111 Armchair Dissident
    February 3, 2009

    Andrew:

    Is it just me, or is this an imagined insult? Are we really descending to level of taking legal action over what people do on their own time,

    It’s not entirely clear whether, in this instance, a complaint was made. What we do know is that a patient mentioned the incident to another nurse. We don’t know whether the patient complained or not, and we don’t know what the nurse’s actual actions were.

    We also know that a supervisor in October saw similar behavior, and she was advised that her behavior was inappropriate, and that any repeat of that behavior – whatever that actual behavior was – may result in disciplinary action.

    It’s also worth noting that no patient is currently taking legal action over this person’s actions. The NHS Trust has suspended her without pay while an investigation takes place. This is currently a disciplinary issue, not a a legal one. I strongly suspect that the role of the Christian Legal Center is currently surrounding promoting this woman’s version of event prior to any potential employment tribunal proceedings. Recent cases in the UK strongly suggest that the CLC is a PR company first, and a legal one second.

    especially an action with good intentions?

    Not to hammer the point too far home, but we don’t actually know this either.

  112. #112 Catharine Zivkovic
    February 3, 2009

    You’re wrong #86. Physicians never say “there’s nothing we can do,” even when it’s true. Perhaps I wasn’t clear, but when I hear physicians talking to families and using the word “pray” they are 1)accommodating the family, 2)trying to gain trust or 3)true believers who will actually pray for the patient. Dishonest, dishonest, stupid; inappropriate. Us nurses are usually too busy cleaning up shit to pray.

  113. #113 Helfrick
    February 3, 2009

    Prayer= 29%
    Gay adoption = 21%

    The good news is that 68% of them managed to make it to work on Monday.

  114. #114 catgirl
    February 3, 2009

    You’re all missing the point. It’s perfectly fine if she prays for people who want to be prayed for; it’s supposed to be a free country. The problem is that she didn’t respect the wishes of the person who told her not to pray for them. It doesn’t matter if you personally would or would not like to be prayed for. The only thing that matters is that a patient didn’t want her to do something, and she did it anyway.

  115. #115 deep
    February 3, 2009

    Be sure to help fix up the poll “should gay couples be allowed to adopt?” while you are there. It seems that either the British must have some AMAZING orphanages or that a bunch of bigots would rather have a bunch of homeless children than well-adjusted families formed by homosexual couples.

  116. #116 Jackylhunter
    February 3, 2009

    Tom #37,

    Yep you’re right, The Mail for all those sad, lonely people who need a personality transplant.

    Poll upto 24%

    Just mention that Ms Petrie had already been warned about this, and therefore a slap on the wrist wasn’t on the cards. If she didn’t agree with her employers warning maybe she should have appealed against the decision or sought advice from her union. But I guess she just prayed it would be ok…

  117. #117 Rob Bos
    February 3, 2009

    If someone offered to pray for me, I think I’d be touched about their concern, and I would try to graciously let them know that it’s neither necessary nor wanted.

    I find that simple tact in matters like this is important. It costs you nothing to let them have their beliefs.

    Now, if she insists that she will pray for me whether I want it or not, then that’s another matter entirely.

  118. #118 Brownian
    February 3, 2009

    Graham, I’m going to sacrifice one of your loved ones to Xipe Totec this coming Tlacaxipehualiztli in supplication of good rains.

    I know you won’t mind.

    Don’t you dare come near me with your voodoo hoodoo, freak!

    It’s the perjorative ‘freak’ at the end that sells this. But I know in my heart of hearts through the love of C?hu?tl?cue that Graham would never say anything so rude as this to me, no matter what rituals I ask him to take place in while he’s infirm.

  119. #119 Robert W
    February 3, 2009

    Yes 29%
    No 71%

    Need some more traction on this poll.

  120. #120 AnthonyK
    February 3, 2009

    Do you think it would be inappropriate if, presented with a pretty young lady as a patient, I offered to have a wank for her?
    I bet it wouldn’t. It’s policital correctness gone mad!

  121. #121 Qwerty
    February 3, 2009

    Sastra @ 18
    Great comment Sastra as I didn’t think of the possiblity
    that turning down a prayer may tick off the overly religious nurse which in turn could lead to lax or negligent nursing.

  122. #122 Quiet_Desperation
    February 3, 2009

    I honestly have to say I wouldn’t give a damn. In fact, if a nurse offered, I’d say go ahead on the idea that maybe it makes the nurse feel better. I’m a giver. ;-)

    Physicians never say “there’s nothing we can do,” even when it’s true.

    There’s always *something* to be done, even if it’s just relieving the patient from their pain.

  123. #123 Holbach
    February 3, 2009

    Graham @ 99

    There is a difference between intoleration of atheists and the same in christians. Atheists’ intoleration for unreason is correct; the christians’s intoleration for reason is incorrect and intolerable. Simple as that.

  124. #124 Jadehawk
    February 3, 2009

    sastra is a genius.

    originally when I read about this (yesterday I think), I thought it was a strange reaction, especially since apparently the patient didnt so much complain about it as mentioned it to another nurse because she thought it was weird (plus, the patient said she was christian).

    but now after reading this thread, and especially sastra’s original explanation, I think I gotta agree that the reprimand was well earned. Being asked about such things by someone who holds your health in their hands is extremely awkward, to say the least. I had a similar experience when I went to a clinic in Bismark to have my girl-parts looked at, and the nurse who was about to poke around in my vagina asked me if my boyfriend and I were going to get married. Awkward moment, because the answer is “no, unless we decide to move to Germany permanently”. I just shrugged, because I didn’t feel like explaining the situation, just in case.

  125. #125 gypsytag
    February 3, 2009

    But that’s the point Rob Bos, they aren’t concerned for you at all. The vacant stare and phoney evangelical smile aren’t just for show. Its a brainwashed response.

  126. #126 Holbach
    February 3, 2009

    Querty @ 121

    And perhaps in a really rabid religious nurse, a crimped feeding tube. Horrors, what I would not due for jeebus!

  127. #127 Ulairion
    February 3, 2009

    Correct if I’m wrong, but as far as I know prayers have long ago been proven, not only useless in medical recovery (not a surprise there), but also even harmful: it makes the patient think “damn, I must be REALLY fucked up if so many people are praying”

    Just saying

  128. #128 Chiroptera
    February 3, 2009

    Graham, #99: Gosh, you atheists are as intolerant as the fundamentalist Christians I’ve met!

    Yeah, we sure are! Imagine wanting a professional to do her job without butting into our personal business! That’s the kind of wackaloons we are, I guess.

  129. #129 Doug Sharp
    February 3, 2009

    In the last week of his life a nurse asked my Dad if he’d like to pray with her. He could hardly get out a word but he told her clearly, “I don’t believe in god.”

    She told us about it later that night as if it was a sign that Dad was losing his marbles. We knew it was a sign that he was still very much his hard-core skeptic self.

  130. #130 Epinephrine
    February 3, 2009

    Glad someone mentioned the STEP paper – asking a patient if you can pray for them is akin to worrying them that they “need prayer”. It’s irresponsible and dangerous, as shown by the significantly greater number of complications that those who were aware that they were being prayed for experienced in the STEP study.

    At my work we were just given a copy of a Business Continuity Plan, and I’m debating bringing an objection up – it includes a section about operating after “Acts of God”. I get that it’s a term used in legal documents, but seriously? Can’t we just say “natural disaster” or something?

  131. #131 Glen Davidson
    February 3, 2009

    I really don’t have any objection to an offer of prayer at all. For many people, it’s just a way of saying that they really care, whether or not they do.

    As long as they graciously take “No,” or some equivalent, as an answer, I’m fine with it.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  132. #132 Armchair Dissident
    February 3, 2009

    Rob Bos:

    If someone offered to pray for me, I think I’d be touched about their concern, and I would try to graciously let them know that it’s neither necessary nor wanted.

    You might want to re-read this comment from the nurse in question as quoted by the BBC:

    “The woman mentioned it to the sister who did her dressing the following day. She said that she wasn’t offended but was concerned that someone else might be.

    It may be true that you would not have a problem with a nurse – acting in her professional capacity – asking if you’d like to be prayed for. You, however, were not that patient, and you are most certainly not all NHS patients in the UK. Bear in mind that the statement above is the one made by the nurse in question: the nurse herself would appear to recognise that some people may take offense at her request, and did so anyway.

    I would also add that it is not entirely clear what is meant by her suggestion that she pray for the patient, and it is most certainly not being made clear that it is not just atheist patients that may have a problem with being prayed for by Christian nurses.

  133. #133 Rrr
    February 3, 2009

    “Keep your prayers to yourself, Nurse”

    I’ll second that. And the same goes for a Swede, Dane, Brit, etc.

    Oh wait.

  134. #134 mk
    February 3, 2009

    Hmmm, just voted. It’s now 30% Y and 70% N. The Pharyngulating force doesn’t seem to be as strong today.

  135. #135 Mike V
    February 3, 2009

    I wouldn’t be offended, but it might lead me to be concerned about what might happen were I to say ‘no’. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to have to argue with my caregiver or deal with proselytizing from someone I’m essentially stuck with who has control of my pain medications.

  136. #136 Norsk
    February 3, 2009

    We had a similar, and somewhat worse, incident here in Norway recently. A woman during childbirth cursed due to the pain, somewhat along “Satan in hell, this hurts”, the English equal would be “God damn”. The birth nurse told her that she deserved a painfull birth because she was calling satan into the room and that she should pray for forgiveness.

    Needless to say, the health authorities are now looking into it and will most likely reprimand the nurse. Her colleagues has even told her to apologize.

  137. #137 heliobates
    February 3, 2009

    Please don’t propagate that ugly, meaningless “thing” variant when you can use the witty original! Ta!.

    He was quoting Rob Halford.

  138. #138 Brownian
    February 3, 2009

    If someone offered to pray for me, I think I’d be touched about their concern, and I would try to graciously let them know that it’s neither necessary nor wanted.

    Hang around here enough and you’ll see how often the claim “I’ll pray for you” is an indicator of contempt, not concern.

    However, as I noted way above, a simple offer of a prayer which is not pushed when declined certainly wouldn’t get my hospital gown all bunchy.

    The article leaves much to be desired in terms of detail.

  139. #139 DaveL
    February 3, 2009

    I would not be offended at all if a nurse asked me if she could pray for me. She can pray for me, at me, or even to me, for all I care. I do have one important rule, though: Don’t interrupt my sleep, or my reading, or my television program, or my crossword puzzle unless you can offer a superior entertainment value. Fall on the floor and speak in tongues. Light some candles and dance naked. Pray in limerick form (“There once was a man from Judea…”). If you’re just going to sit there mumbling foolish platitudes, do it on your own time.

  140. #140 WRMartin
    February 3, 2009

    Prayer?
    Why isn’t it ever something useful, like a beer or a blowjob?
    If I’m on my deathbed or simply feeling a little under the weather either (or both) would be much preferred over Mumbles for Jebustm. Now don?t get me wrong ? a full-on voodoo ceremony with the beheading of chickens and the drums and torches (the ceremonies are just like in the movies, right?) would be totally cool too.

    A long time and many beers ago I had my adenoids removed at a St. Mary’s hospital. I had been to the hospital before when my younger sibling was born and I remembered seeing all the nuns. Being a small child I was very upset at the thought of being operated on under general anesthesia. I expressed my concerns to my parents and they very calmly explained that if something went wrong the doctors would be there to take care of me and that I shouldn’t be worrying that all they would do is pray.

  141. #141 PaulH
    February 3, 2009

    @113. Yeah, we had our annual surprise snow shower, and as it affected London, it becomes news. As they don’t appear to have bothered gritting the roads, it was much simpler for Transport for London to make sure that no bus left its depot and for the train operators to stop all services. If you wanted to get into central London on Monday, it was drive, or walk.

    On the subject of the poll, I’ve put my vote in, and would just like to disown the Daily Fail on the behalf of all brits everywhere.

  142. #142 Michelle
    February 3, 2009

    If she wants to pray for me she can do it while I’m not paying for her services. I’ll appreciate the thoughts THEN. In the meantime, actually heal me.

    To them freakos it’s like the ultimate “i care” for some reason. So I guess it IS nice of them to pray when someone is suffering… If they truly care. It’s just too bad that they think this evil guy up there wants our good.

  143. #143 Dahan
    February 3, 2009

    31% now. Must be a lot of action on that poll. Normally we can take these out easier than this. I’ve already voted three times, personally.

    I agree with some other comments made here. If they want to pray for me, fine. Do it somewhere else though. I hate listening to people talking to themselves. Always kinda weirds me out.

  144. #144 Mu
    February 3, 2009

    Guess I’m the odd man out again, I’m not offended by anyone offering to pray for me. As for if it’s good professional conduct, if you take out the “obvious” cases of non-Xian fate (aka race or name suggests strongly a different cultural background) the nurse probably establishes great feedback with about 80% of her patients, giving them a feel of “that nurse really cares”. For a one-sentence statement, that’s a pretty good success rate.

  145. #145 plum grenville
    February 3, 2009

    Her employer ought to be upset about this too. When I was a boss, I wouldn’t have been very happy with an employee who wanted to pray instead of mopping the floor (and expected to be paid for it too!).

  146. #146 Riman Butterbur
    February 3, 2009

    #64, #121 and others:

    turning down a prayer may tick off the overly religious nurse which in turn could lead to lax or negligent nursing.

    Has there been any double-blind testing on this?

  147. #147 Armchair Dissident
    February 3, 2009

    Mu:

    the nurse probably establishes great feedback with about 80% of her patients, giving them a feel of “that nurse really cares”. For a one-sentence statement, that’s a pretty good success rate.

    That’s an assumption not necessarily supported by the rate of religiosity in the UK. And, once again, you are assuming that it was “a one-sentence statement” based purely upon the statement of the suspended nurse.

    And where did you get that 80% figure from?!

  148. #148 Chiroptera
    February 3, 2009

    Riman Butterbur, #146: Has there been any double-blind testing on this?

    Maybe as much as on whether people actually gratefully feel that an offer of prayer is a sign of concern.

  149. #149 Simba
    February 3, 2009

    I don’t think I’d like someone to pray for me without my knowing about it- aside from any possible negative effect of prayer, I’d prefer to be consulted. If they asked me if I wanted a prayer or a goat sacrifice or whatever I wouldn’t be offended, if they accepted a refusal and respected the patient’s wishes.

  150. #150 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 3, 2009

    Guess I’m the odd man out again, I’m not offended by anyone offering to pray for me. As for if it’s good professional conduct, if you take out the “obvious” cases of non-Xian fate (aka race or name suggests strongly a different cultural background) the nurse probably establishes great feedback with about 80% of her patients, giving them a feel of “that nurse really cares”. For a one-sentence statement, that’s a pretty good success rate.

    I’m not offended either. I’d just rather she focus on her job.

  151. #151 Fred Mounts
    February 3, 2009

    Greta Christina

    Of course, in just the previous chapter (Matthew 5:14-16), he tells people not to hide their light under a bushel, and let their light and good works shine before men. So I can see why they’d be confused. It’s really hard to follow such a slipshod narrative. Clearly the copy editor was asleep on the job.

    Speaking of copy editors… I had already read one of his books, but I want to thank whoever mentioned Bart D. Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus – Who Changed the Bible and Why.” I enjoyed reading it, and have much more fuel for the fire that is my hatred of religion.

  152. #152 John H
    February 3, 2009

    As ever, cectic got there first.

    Check out:

    http://cectic.com/014.html

    Check out all the others as well. He provides the visual back-up to PZ, Orac etc.

  153. #153 Helfrick
    February 3, 2009

    @PaulH

    It took me a minute to figure out what that poll was referring to. I’m pretty sure the super bowl doesn’t draw quite the crowd over there, and I didn’t think brits were that lazy that making it to work was a big production. The cold weather does suck though. It is supposed to get all the way down to 34f here in sunny FL tonight. bbbbrrrr :)

  154. #154 Ouchimoo
    February 3, 2009

    Makes me wonder if this would be the type of nurse who refuses plan B to a rape victim.

    Is that too harsh?

  155. #155 CG
    February 3, 2009

    Yes is at 34% as of my clicking

    I’m really kind of indifferent to the topic, but I will support my fellow atheists :)

  156. #156 Zach
    February 3, 2009

    I voted yes because I do not want to die of boredom.

  157. #157 michel
    February 3, 2009

    from the comments on the daily mail site:

    “Over the last few years, there has been plenty of research confirming the health benefits of prayer for those who are sick. The suspended nurse can therefore be reassured that she is offering a form of care that has been proven to be effective. Are the accusers malicious or just ignorant of this?

    John Battley, Jerusalem, 03/2/2009 19:13″

    he’s got a point there… no point, to be more specific.

  158. #158 AdamK
    February 3, 2009

    When my atheist mother was dying, the hospital chaplain, a Catholic priest, offered to pray for her. She was unconscious and couldn’t speak for herself, so I asked him not to. As she would have wished.

    Respect the beliefs of others, right?

    That made him all nervous. So he offered to pray for me. Feeling sorry for his useless ass, I said he could.

    So he started in, as I respectfully held my tongue. And don’t you know, he snuck in a prayer for my mother, too, against her wishes and mine.

    Give these assholes an inch and they go hog wild.

  159. #159 eric
    February 3, 2009

    Demand the nurse be fired for malpractice, and see how she responds. If Nurse Petrie claims that she thinks prayer is useful or effective, then she’s guilty of conducting a procedure she believes to be a medical intervention against the express wishes of the patient.

    She can of course avoid a malpractice claim…if she’s willing to state that prayer is a completely ineffective, medically-irrelevant procedure. :)

  160. #160 Knockgoats
    February 3, 2009

    Societies do not die because of prayer cards; they die by diversity – they simply fragment and evaporate. – Silver Fox

    For example?

  161. #161 Glazius
    February 3, 2009

    Okay, let’s stick this in the mirror for a second: when the nurse is changing the bandages, the patient asks “could you pray for me?” The nurse demurs and the patient makes no more of it.

    And when the nurse talks about this before leaving for shift the next morning, NHS sends a couple of presenters from the diversity seminar over and the patient can’t receive medical care until they complete a training course.

    Of course those situations aren’t equivalent. I’m not trying to present them as such. If your hackles were raised by my mirror situation, it’s because the patient is in a position of weakness and the NHS, in a position of strength, is trying to force their beliefs on her.

    And that’s why the nurse is at fault here. Even though she may not think of herself as in a position of strength, she is.

  162. #162 woody
    February 3, 2009

    I posted a comment on the Mail site. They said it would be “moderated.” Several posts that went up after I posted have gone up, but not mine.

    No, I wasn’t obscene, just skeptical…

  163. #163 CG
    February 3, 2009

    chuko@86 has a good point I mean there is a line there shouldn’t be crossed, for sure. I don’t have a problem if someone politely offers to pray, but I would tell them not to bother. If they then proceed into some fire and brimstone pulpit talk, that is way over the line. Obviously if the kooks are being arrogant or obnoxious about I retract my indifference.

  164. #164 John Sherman
    February 3, 2009

    Hey! The poll is 41% YES and 59% NO. That’s better!

  165. #166 Lynna
    February 3, 2009

    Prayer made my mother worse. As she was headed down the Alzheimer’s Disease drain, she fell into the habit of negative spin. She had plenty of BAD to complain about, but most of the real stuff was beyond her ken. She complained instead about everything else, including the good stuff. Sunny day? It’s too hot. Friends come to visit? No doubt they’re just here to steal something. She loved it when the preacher came by for a visit and joined her wallowing in negative spin. This world is entirely awful, and therefore we should look with rejoicing toward heaven. The more they prayed about going to heaven and joining the heavenly father, the more my mother took perverse pleasure in wallowing in misery. She invented misery where no more was needed. It struck me that the preacher was doing the same thing, though he wasn’t ill. No excuse for that crap, and it certainly made it harder for me to see my mother through her last days.

    The hospice workers assigned to my mother were just as bad. Looked like praying/preying on the weak to me.

  166. #167 Rey Fox
    February 3, 2009

    “Please don’t propagate that ugly, meaningless “thing” variant when you can use the witty original! Ta!. ”

    Seconded.

  167. #168 plum grenville
    February 3, 2009

    Posted by: Mu | February 3, 2009 3:46 PM

    Guess I’m the odd man out again, I’m not offended by anyone offering to pray for me. As for if it’s good professional conduct, if you take out the “obvious” cases of non-Xian fate (aka race or name suggests strongly a different cultural background) the nurse probably establishes great feedback with about 80% of her patients, giving them a feel of “that nurse really cares”. For a one-sentence statement, that’s a pretty good success rate.

    What do you mean by non-Xian “fate”?

    How exactly do you detect someone’s religious beliefs from her name or the colour of her skin? Non-Caucasians or people with funny-sounding names are not Christians? That rule of thumb may not work too well on Koreans or Philippinos.

    Caucasians are assumed to be Christian unless they have obviously Jewish names? That might not work too well in Britain, where Nurse Petrie works, and where a substantial percentage of the population doesn’t even believe in god.

    Even if your racial profiling were accurate and 80% of the recipients of your offer of prayer were pleased by it, that still leaves 20% who are annoyed. Don’t they count?

  168. #169 John H
    February 3, 2009

    Some loon above referred to how fundamentalist all us atheists were. You have to admit that he/she has a point.

    It is presumably all us fundamental atheists who either ban or want banned:

    – abortion
    – stem cell research
    – equal rights for homosexuals (including adoption rights)
    – contraception

    And our policies are just plain dreadful in terms of:

    – firebombing abortion clinics
    – shooting doctors inviolved in abortion
    – beheading so-called apostates
    – stoning girls to death for having the temerity to get gang raped
    – pushing walls onto women who are accused of adultery
    – mass murdering our loon followers

    Neither list is anywhere near exhaustive.

    We should be ashamed of ourselves.

  169. #170 Tom L
    February 3, 2009

    Has it never occurred to the prayerful that they are basically telling God that the current circumstance represents an instance of casters-up in His Grand Plan For the Universe?

  170. #171 Chas
    February 3, 2009

    What a breach of professionalism. The company has every right to do as they please to the woman because she is their worker! The company’s job is to serve their clients and if their workers are doing a piss poor job of doing that, then the company has a liability to do so. How is this even news worthy?

  171. #172 Leanstrum
    February 3, 2009

    I’ve got to admit, I wouldn’t be offended if a nurse offered to pray for me. As long as everything else that can be done is being done, I don’t see a simple offer (and that’s all it was) is in any way trying to force your belief on someone.
    Perhaps it’s because I had an evangelical upbringing, but I think it’s important to realise that they genuinely think it might help, whether or not you believe in it, and whether or not it’s likely to convert you. It’s done with the best of intentions.

    That being said, I still find the concept of having to petition the higher power to get up off his arse and do something rather abhorrent. But like I said, they don’t see it that way. She certainly shouldn’t lose her job over it, at least.

  172. #173 Dave
    February 3, 2009

    Why should I object to a nurse *offering* to pray for me, which is what the poll is?

  173. #174 CrypticLife
    February 3, 2009

    Demand the nurse be fired for malpractice, and see how she responds.

    Oh, awesome plan Eric. Next time I’m hospitalized with some terminal disease and a nurse offers to pray, I’m definitely going to do this.

  174. #175 Ole T
    February 3, 2009

    47% yes, 53% no at the moment. :)

    I wounder if the nurse would be offended if the patient aked her to sacrifice a cockerel to Asclepios (Aescylos) instead?

  175. #176 CrypticLife
    February 3, 2009

    Why should I object to a nurse *offering* to pray for me, which is what the poll is?

    She’s raising the price of medical care with useless actions.

  176. #177 Dave
    February 3, 2009

    @CrypticLife #176: Uh… right. I’ll eat the 5 seconds of billing and just say no.

  177. #178 adam
    February 3, 2009

    Come everyone vote. up to 49% The Daily Mail is a Crap newspaper very right wing anti science anti MMR full everyday with story how poor Christians are been picked on.

  178. #179 Michael from Idaho
    February 3, 2009

    In September, I suffered an intertrochanteric fracture of the proximal femur and was in the hospital for surgery. Before I was rolled in to the OR, my True Believing Mormon mother asked if I would like a “blessing” – men holding the “priesthood” put this oil on their hands and mumble something to the Big Guy in the Sky, supposedly currying favor on your behalf. While I wasn’t offended by the suggestion (it’s my mother – I cut her a lot of breaks I wouldn’t cut other people), I think she may have been offended by my incredulous response of, “*snort* Mom, I’m surrounded by doctors. I’ll be OK.”

  179. #180 Brian Coughlan
    February 3, 2009

    @CrypticLife #174

    Oh, awesome plan Eric. Next time I’m hospitalized with some terminal disease and a nurse offers to pray, I’m definitely going to do this.

    Hey, what’ll you have to loose? What with being terminal and all …

  180. #181 John H
    February 3, 2009

    Guys/Gals

    Re posts 176, 177 etc.

    This took place in the UK. There is no cost, fee or billing associated with hospital treatment. It is free at the point of delivery.

    An odd concept but curiously one that seems to work.

  181. #182 Alex Deam
    February 3, 2009

    SUCCESS!!!

    51%!!!

    Crashing Daily Heil polls FTW!

    Now let’s take care of the gay adoption one, and after that, if people want, take ownership of the “British jobs for British workers” one too.

  182. #183 Brownian
    February 3, 2009

    It’s done with the best of intentions.

    I’ve met few people who didn’t have the best of intentions, and yet….

    Don’t get me wrong; I’d rather meet a well-intentioned fool than a malicious one, but at the end of the day they’re still fools.

    I betcha any number of Daily Mail readers would object to a well-intentioned nurse coming up to them while they were having a smoke or a drink and asking if she could toss it out for them.

  183. #184 David Wiener
    February 3, 2009

    Fixed!

  184. #185 H.H.
    February 3, 2009

    Again, religious precepts are so ingrained in the culture that most people have trouble seeing them for what they are. What’s the harm in a little prayer? I wonder if they would have the same reaction if instead of “prayer” a more accurate description was used: “Nurse Petrie offered to guide an elderly patient through psychic communication with disembodied spirits with whom she claims personal affiliation.” Now that seems a little more insane and inappropriate, wouldn’t you say? My fear is some people still wouldn’t agree.

  185. #186 Alex Deam
    February 3, 2009

    John H described free Universal Health care at the point of access, as “An odd concept but curiously one that seems to work.”

    It’s not odd, it’s practiced by basically every developed country bar the US. It is the US system that’s the odd one.

    Unfortunately, with Tom Daschle pulling out of working for the Obama administration, the US may continue to be odd for some time to come.

  186. #187 John H
    February 3, 2009

    CrypticLife

    How many terminal illnesses have you had to date ?

    Idaho Michael

    If lots of big men hold their priesthoods and rub oil into their hands be afraid, very afraid.

    All

    The Mail is toilet paper (used). Every issue tries to divide all materials/food/etc into two categories. They either cause cancer or cure it. No grey areas.

  187. #188 John H
    February 3, 2009

    Alex @ 186

    Obviously I agree with you.

    I think my comment was litotes.

  188. #189 Tom L
    February 3, 2009

    If a home visit nurse ever offers to pray for me, I think I’ll offer her a couple of feathered cat toys to wave around and a bongo drum. Let’s see if she is so eager to pray to MY god, according to MY god’s strictures. The prescribed chant is:

    “Ohwa…taru…bhaiyam…Ohwa…taru…bhaiyam…”

    If she’s truly interested in my recovery, isn’t that the most direct path?

    (Okay, one could argue that my god doesn’t listen to infidels like her — and one would be absolutely right about that, as my god doesn’t exist — but that’s not the point, is it?)

    I also like this quote from Ms Petrie: “My faith got stronger and I realised God was doing amazing things in my life.”

    Like smiting all those people with illness and injury, so she’ll have a steady income?

  189. #190 Anne
    February 3, 2009

    I have to offer some support for Graham, post #99

    “Gosh, you atheists are as intolerant as the fundamentalist Christians I’ve met!”

    My sentiments exactly. I’m a scientist, and I believe the Bible belongs in the religion classroom, not the science lab. I have been hurt when fundamentalist Christians, including a family member, have made it clear to me that I’m damned because I don’t believe the same way they do.

    But I think the hatred in these comments is over the top, too. I am wholly unconvinced of its necessity or its justification. Rational scientists? I’m not so sure about that. You look like a bunch of whiny kids to me.

  190. #191 Alex Deam
    February 3, 2009

    Fair enough John, lol.

  191. #192 Peter Ashby
    February 3, 2009

    My wife says I am crabby as hell on morphine (n=2, so a trend at least). Anyone trying to pray around me while I am on morphine is in danger of a serious tongue lashing.

  192. #193 Chiroptera
    February 3, 2009

    Anne, #190: But I think the hatred in these comments is over the top, too.

    Have you actually read the comments? What about the ones comparing this incident to offering to conduct a seance to ask the spirits for their help? If we were to go on about how inappropriate that would be, would you still be calling it hatred?

  193. #194 Fred Wollam
    February 3, 2009

    This nurse’s intentions may very well have been anodyne in her glazed-over eyes, but what about others in the profession? Unless this kind of nonsense is reined in, or worse, goes unchallenged, it opens the door, wide, for a few too many health care professionals to give short shrift to patients who decline such an invitation (“If you’re going to turn up your nose at divine intercession, dearie, what can I, a mere mortal, hope to do for you? You’re a lost cause, I’m afraid….”).

    And, come to think of it, doesn’t this whole discussion point up the fact that prayer for intercession is rather arrogant in the first place? “Hey, up there… sorry to wake you–and not telling you how to do your job or anything–but I do think I should call this problem to your attention.”

    It’s a good thing, really, there is no god, or it’d be near the boiling point by now, all these people telling it it’s falling down on the job, busy as it is hiding bones in Montana hillsides, or whatever.

    By the way, y’all… this story is getting ZERO coverage over here on the US elgooG news page. Email a link to your acquaintances over here, that they may partake. Ah, to be in England!

  194. #195 karen marie
    February 3, 2009

    the objectors to being prayed over are in the majority at approximately 5:30 pm.

  195. #196 CalGeorge
    February 3, 2009

    I also like this quote from Ms Petrie: “My faith got stronger and I realised God was doing amazing things in my life.”

    Yeah, God was doing amazing things in her life.

    Like killing her mother.

  196. #197 Dave
    February 3, 2009

    @John H #187: Not relevant.

    While I don’t have any objection to someone *offering* to pray for me, I wouldn’t want them to do it in front of me. It’s voodoo, and a little embarrassing. If they want to pray for me out of my sight, or silently, whatever–not like I could stop ‘em.

    No matter how many terminal illnesses I have I’d rather people spent their time doing something more useful.

  197. #198 Sastra
    February 3, 2009

    Anne #190 wrote:

    But I think the hatred in these comments is over the top, too. I am wholly unconvinced of its necessity or its justification.

    Because religion is such a volatile topic, there’s good reason to try to keep it out of professional relationships where the patient is dependent on the caregiver. When the nurse or doctor asks the patient if they’d like to pray, they put the nonreligious patient in a difficult situation.

    If they say “no” — will their care still be the same? Will the nurse or doctor be offended, or amused, or scornful? Will the medical professional now have “expectations” that the person who doesn’t pray won’t do as well as those people who do, or must have some other kind of personal defect that needs to be watched for?

    If that’s a real possibility, is there then a felt obligation to go along with it, to avoid potential problems? One person is dependent on people they don’t want to piss off — people with pain medication, and catheters.

    Don’t get so hung up on “tone” that you fail to see that there is a valid issue here. The fact that you think some of the atheists are “over-reacting” might even be additional evidence that bringing religion into health care — even in “benign” fashion — is opening up a sensitive area that’s better left to the patient’s initiative. Not the nurse’s.

  198. #199 SimonG
    February 3, 2009

    I’m delighted to see that she won’t be used again. Not so much because of the praying, but because my sister will be looking for a nursing job in that locale soon.

  199. #200 H.H.
    February 3, 2009

    Anne wrote:

    But I think the hatred in these comments is over the top, too.

    I don’t see any “hatred” here. I only see well-justified disgust.

    I am wholly unconvinced of its necessity or its justification.

    Well, then it’s a good thing you’re here to remind us of what constitutes an appropriate reaction.

    Rational scientists? I’m not so sure about that. You look like a bunch of whiny kids to me.

    Tsk, tsk, tsk. Such hatred. You know, you really should work on that before you go around reprimanding others for the same behavior or just you might come off looking like a hypocritical ass. Makes people think it isn’t our tone you have a problem with, but at whom it’s directed.

  200. #201 rnb
    February 3, 2009

    #154

    “Makes me wonder if this would be the type of nurse who refuses plan B to a rape victim.

    Is that too harsh?”

    Wondering the same thing……..

  201. #202 Stardrake
    February 3, 2009

    60% Yes, 40% No!

    Go Pharyngulites!

  202. #203 Crystal D.
    February 3, 2009

    This is a real problem for us, many hospitals are religious and offer no alternatives to sick or dying people other than religious council. Where we live, which has a fairly significant population, the only hospital is catholic. I think we need to consider making a serious effort in having atheist/humanist council available to those in need of some comfort. I know I wouldn’t want someone praying for me…

  203. #204 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    P Z Myers,

    I do not have your certaintly in the face of death. I agree with you – I think we’d agree – that praying to a diety is probably a complete waste of time. But, doing it in the face of death is probably just the same as throwing over the last card. It is not going to work, it is probably a waste of time, it is probably illogical, but, where’s the harm, exactly?

    The person you are praying for is probably already terminal. They are probably going to die anyway. So, why not turn that card over and see how it falls?

    You could, reasonably, say that the continual failure of praying to work should make it redundant. But, it is not for the dying, I think. It is for the people left behind. That is the point of it, for us to rail against our coming darkness.

  204. #205 rasteri
    February 3, 2009

    I don’t mean to be a dick (normally I appreciate this blog’s poll crashing) but I think the question, as phrased, calls for a “no” answer. I wouldn’t mind someone offering to pray for me, I’d just politely decline.

    The key difference in the story is that the nurse didn’t OFFER to pray, she did it AGAINST the will of the patient.

  205. #206 Nerd of Redhead
    February 3, 2009

    Douglas Clark, good old Pascal’s wager. We’ve heard it before from apologists like yourself. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter. The imaginary god doesn’t exist. Besides, if you have actually read your bible, you would understand what a terrible god Yahweh is. No need to pray to that arrogant bastard. Unless you are Jewish, and one of the 144,000 of his chosen people, you won’t get into heaven.

  206. #207 Walton
    February 3, 2009

    The key difference in the story is that the nurse didn’t OFFER to pray, she did it AGAINST the will of the patient.

    Erm, no. She simply offered to pray. Read the actual story, rather than making stuff up.

    I also note that the patient did not actually make a complaint, and has said publicly that she does not want the nurse to be dismissed.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/4427912/Prayer-nurse-should-keep-job-says-patient.html

  207. #208 AlisonS
    February 3, 2009

    I had an unsettling experience following almost dying during surgery in Toronto. I had specified atheist as my religion on my record. One day an unknown man came into my room. Being very weak and not my usual sunny self, I asked ‘and who are you?’. He replied that he was the hospital chaplin. My response was ‘what the hell do you think you are doing in my room?’ He mumbled something and I told him to get out and he should have read my record before coming to see me.

    I was very upset by the incident, probably aggrevated by my condition. I doubt that he was there to be actively obnoxious (he looked very mainstream and rather unnerved by my attitude) but regardless, he should have respected my ethical position and not tried to offer up his religion in any way to someone in a vulnerable state.

  208. #209 Sastra
    February 3, 2009

    douglas clark #204 wrote:

    The person you are praying for is probably already terminal. They are probably going to die anyway. So, why not turn that card over and see how it falls?

    Because, to someone who places a very high value on reason and consistency — and sees their philosophy as one that has been hard won through discipline and honesty — praying “just to see how it falls” will not be comforting. It will feel like a violation of the principles one has lived by, a retreat into weakness and irrationality.

    And we have developed other ways to deal with death, more effective for us than denial.

    But, it is not for the dying, I think. It is for the people left behind. That is the point of it, for us to rail against our coming darkness.

    No doubt it comforts many believers. But if you read the post and follow up comments, that wasn’t the question. It was whether health care professionals should initiate a request for prayer — or whether that unnecessarily precipitates an uncomfortable situation for a nonbeliever who is dependent on this person for health care.

  209. #210 davem
    February 3, 2009

    this is too ridiculous for me. Did this nurse pray instead of doing her job ? No ? So what. No harm done.

    That rather depends. If she prayed during her watch, then, yes, she was replacing care with prayer. If she did it in her spare time, no problem. If she wants to pray for patients, why not just do it anyway, in private, without asking. I’m sure that that will be just as effective.

    As to me, if I was asked, I’d freak out and ask the doctors what was really wrong with me, if medicine’s only resort was praying for me.

    PS I always mark the religion section on consent forms as ‘None’ rather than ‘Atheist’. Makes the point without freaking the religious out.

  210. #211 Otto
    February 3, 2009

    I think the suspension is a bit harsh.
    If I were asked if I wanted to be prayed for
    I would most likely say “Sure, go ahead if it
    makes you fell better.
    But do it where I don’t have to listen and
    do it on your own time.”

  211. #212 Alex Deam
    February 3, 2009

    For those that aren’t familiar with the Daily Mail, this story (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1133142/New-BBC-taste-row-police-probe-Jonathan-Ross-stand-Jo-Brands-anti-BNP-joke.html) is just about the stereotypical Mail story.

    It’s anti-BBC, anti-Jonathan Ross, pro-BNP, anti-Labour, anti any slight obscenity (even if it is the word “poo”), pro-stupidity (“The BNP is technically an ethnic group” – say what now??).

    Plus look at the comments. Any comment there that is even the slightest anti-BNP has been marked down by hundreds, whereas any comment pro-BNP has been marked up by hundreds. The most prominent is by “Cllr Chris Cooke, Tamworth, UK”. He is well known for his ties to the BNP (though he says he’s an independent).

    It makes me sick to be British.

  212. #213 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    Nerd of Redhead,

    Point. But you are failing, as I think Mr Myers is too, to recognise my point. Folk do not pray for the dying, they are praying for themselves. They are praying for an agency that they do not have. I doubt even you, Nerd of Redhead, actually wanted any loved ones to die. The ridiculous desire to fight back against reality, for that is what it is, is buried deep inside us.

    I know this is probably uncomfortable for you and I apologise for that, but close up grief is not an easy thing to deal with. People are irrational in that situation. They will take Pascals wager, on behalf of folk that might not.

  213. #214 Fred Wollam
    February 3, 2009

    Comfort… yah, I’d like some of that, such as the right to specify, just as I have specified DNR, that 100% of my care come from atheist/humanist caregivers, right from the moment the ambulance pulls up to the house.

    In the US, we’re having a similar problem with pharmacies’ (chemists’) refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control and morning-after pills, among other things that outrage certain proprietors’ superstitious sensibilities.

    Patients’ rights… ah, we may not stand a prayer.

  214. #215 CJO
    February 3, 2009

    It’s so infuriatingly infantilizing, is what it is. “Poor dear. Would it make snookums feel better to talk to my imaginary friend?”

  215. #216 sundevil
    February 3, 2009

    So, praying is mutually exclusive from trying to help someone in all other ways? The attitude of some people on this site is rather frightening I must say. This attitude wreaks of totalitarianism where everyone must all believe (or not believe) in the same thing for ideological reasons.

    I’ve got news for you, the world will never come to agreement about these matters. A religion-free “Utopia” isn’t realistic, so why not latch on to reality and account for the fact that some people may have beliefs which you do not share. That just makes them different more than right or wrong.

  216. #217 Nerd of Redhead
    February 3, 2009

    Douglas Clark, you are truly delusional if you think either PZ or myself would pray to imaginary deities. Either they show themselves with physical evidence that can convince scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers as being of divine origin, or they don’t exist. What is your problem?

  217. #218 Ms Constantine
    February 3, 2009

    Once upon a time I was touched that my catholic family would pray for my illness (crohns disease) to be better/gone, and was amazed to learn that family I’d never met had prayed for me at some famous wall or statue or something. But looking back on it now I find it presumptuous and a waste of time.
    It’s an incurable disease, what are people praying for exactly?

  218. #219 Sastra
    February 3, 2009

    sundevil #216 wrote:

    So, praying is mutually exclusive from trying to help someone in all other ways?

    Of course not. And we are not saying that people can’t request a prayer from a nurse they have good reason to believe is religious — or that a nurse who is religious shouldn’t offer to pray with people whom she has good reason to believe are as religious as she is. We’re not saying that prayer makes a lot of sense, but no skin off our noses.

    But a nurse or doctor asking — out of the blue — if the patient wants them to pray with them — is unprofessional, and opens up a can of worms if the honest answer from the patient is “no thank you.” Or “HELL NO!”

    Sure, the nurse/doctor may be perfectly understanding and respectful of someone who doesn’t pray — but, because they brought it up in the first place, the implication is that the patient ought to want a prayer. And the situation is dicey, one where someone depends on someone else — and may now risk offending their religious sensibilities.

    Not good.

  219. #220 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    Sastra,

    I do not think there is a higher being worth praying to. When I go, I’d have thought the prayers were a waste of time. We are all corporate, after all.

    Which was not my point.

    You and I would prefer to have the right over life and death. It is probably the most shocking thing you ever learn as you grow up. That your parents will die. The folk that cared for you, nurtured you and all that stuff. It is, in fact, understandable that we – as a sentient species – make up myths about an afterlife.

    It is obviously rubbish, but it is understandable. Health care professionals are not immune to it.

    You might find this amusing, it is sound only, but it seems to me that you and I could both agree with the sentiments:

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ujUQn0HhGEk

  220. #221 CJO
    February 3, 2009

    A religion-free “Utopia” isn’t realistic

    No, but a majority-rationalist society where an offer to speak together with a magical sky fairy instantly makes one look like a grade-A nutter just might be.

  221. #222 Ompompanoosuc
    February 3, 2009

    Yes! I want you to find out why I’m in the dang hospital.

  222. #223 Fred Wollam
    February 3, 2009

    sundevil,

    Let’s come to a compromise, then. You do all your praying for me (and for any other atheist patient) safely in-advance, specifically to head off issues such as this and to not muddy the waters when you’re putting that needle in my arm or aiming that xray, and do it beyond earshot of all but your god, like maybe next time you’re in mid-commute or brushing your teeth or something, and I, in turn, will home church in my own fashion.

  223. #224 Vidav
    February 3, 2009

    Would you object to a nurse offering to pray for you?

    66%Yes
    34%No

  224. #225 Porco Dio
    February 3, 2009

    hhhmmmm…. she SHOULD be fired PZ… if she thinks a bit of praying is appropriate then she’d probably administer an enema for heartburn.

    and wot next? (said the actress to the bishop)

  225. #226 Janine, Queen of Assholes
    February 3, 2009

    Sundevil, if any medical personal must pray for me, they are free to do it in a room other than mine. Oh, how totalitarian of me.

  226. #227 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    Nerd of Redhead @ 217,

    Stop misquoting me.

    I did not suggest that either you, nor PZ Myers, nor frankly I, should or would pray.

    ‘Tis you that is delusional.

    Or simply looking for an arguement when there is none to be had.

    Explanatory stuff about how, I think, other people view the world is not the same as agreeing with them.

    Get a grip.

  227. #228 tony
    February 3, 2009

    de-lurking after a rest…

    Depending on my mental state – I may either be a perfect gentleman, and offer a gracious refusal to such an offer, or be a curmugeonly old bastard and tell then to take their prayers and their beads back to their parasitic old priests and stick them where the sun don’t shine.

    But mostly, I’d be nice. I think

    So long as the offer were gracious!

  228. #229 rasteri
    February 3, 2009

    Erm, no. She simply offered to pray. Read the actual story, rather than making stuff up.

    I’m sorry, but that’s the impression I got from this blog post and BBC news. I hadn’t seen the telegraph article, and made the rather foolish assumption that people wouldn’t be making such a hubbub about an issue as trivial as this.

    Offering to pray for someone shouldn’t be considered any more offensive than offering to make someone a cup of tea, provided the issue isn’t forced.

  229. #230 Sastra
    February 3, 2009

    douglas clark #220 wrote:

    It is obviously rubbish, but it is understandable. Health care professionals are not immune to it.

    Yes. Which is why it would be best to have specific professional standards in place that any offers of prayer should come from the patient, not the health care provider. After all, it is also understandable that religious people who believe in salvation and damnation would be tempted to try to convert the dying — and there is a bit more consensus (even among the religious) that this is a no-no. Even though they only want to ‘help’ (or not, perhaps.)

    Thanks for the link to the “Storm” video. PZ linked to it not long ago, and I know Orac did too. It’s hilarious. I hadn’t known Tim Minchin’s work before. One of the Pharyngula commenters was good enough to copy the entire thing out as a poem, and I cut n pasted to a file :)

  230. #231 Nerd of Redhead
    February 3, 2009

    Douglas, why Pascal’s wager then? Justify yourself.

  231. #232 Aquaria
    February 3, 2009

    Yes, the Muslim nurse asking a patient if she wants to pray for her is no big deal, right, Walton?

    Be honest.

    99% of Christians would fucking freak, and you know it. You’d be offended and upset. Shocked, even. Not only would you find it presumptuous but you’d wonder what, fuck-all, it has to do with your health care. And you’d wonder if telling her no might mean she might actively work against your recovery/treatment, given that she’s responsible for your care.

    Now you know how we feel when Christians offer to pray for us.

    Offering to pray for someone has no place in any professional setting that is secular, but especially not in health care. You don’t upset a patient unnecessarily. You don’t make them feel like they are coerced into going along with your personal hangups, just to fucking LIVE.

    As usual, it amazes me how so many theists have zero ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Selfish, self-obsessed sociopaths, every single one of them.

  232. #233 Sastra
    February 3, 2009

    rasteri #229 wrote:

    Offering to pray for someone shouldn’t be considered any more offensive than offering to make someone a cup of tea, provided the issue isn’t forced.

    In a perfect world, where declining to pray would have no more import and cause no more notice and concern than declining a cup of tea, you’d be right.

    That’s not this world.

  233. #234 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    Nerd of Redhead,

    It was you that raised the bet on Pascal’s wager, not me. I’d have thought that, in grief, in the moments before the death of a loved one, folk will resort to anything, what say you?

  234. #235 tony
    February 3, 2009

    douglas clark drooled:

    Nerd of Redhead
    It was you that raised the bet on Pascal’s wager, not me. I’d have thought that, in grief, in the moments before the death of a loved one, folk will resort to anything, what say you?

    Epic. Fail.

    That is Pascal’s wager, you idiot! Do try to keep up!

  235. #236 CJO
    February 3, 2009

    Offering to pray for someone shouldn’t be considered any more offensive than offering to make someone a cup of tea, provided the issue isn’t forced.

    But the issue of religion has been forced as soon as the offer is made. “Actual” praying would be only incrementally worse in the sense that it would probably last longer, because there’s nobody to hear and no actuality about it.

  236. #237 Nerd of Redhead
    February 3, 2009

    Douglas, Pascal’s wager is what you raised. The chance of a last minute possibility of redemption by acknowledging god versus dying naturally. This has been answered many time at this site. Which is why I was questioning your bringing it up.

  237. #238 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    Sastra @ 230,

    Sorry, didn’t realise Mr Minchin had gone that viral. He will take over the damn world soon enough. You might like this, it’s a bit rough, but it proves he can sing. And it’s got the word ‘Halleluiah’ in it which should be a no no on here. But the guy can sing:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSFCDhLhuB8

    On your point about deathbed conversions, the greatest calumny against Darwin is that he did just that. Which is just another lie:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/hope.html

  238. #239 Sastra
    February 3, 2009

    douglas clark #234 wrote:

    It was you that raised the bet on Pascal’s wager, not me.

    Maybe you didn’t — but you phrased your ‘generous understanding of the weaknesses of the religious who are but human after all’ in an ambiguous way which was open to that interpretation.

    The person you are praying for is probably already terminal. They are probably going to die anyway. So, why not turn that card over and see how it falls?

    On re-reading, I think you only meant to do a sort of “put yourself in the place of a religious person who is watching a loved one die.” But the unlucky choice of the word “you” here does make it sound like the infamous Wager. Which is why you’re being jumped on.

  239. #240 Nerd of Redhead
    February 3, 2009

    Douglas, you appear to be one of us, but not as experience. Sorry if I offended you.

  240. #241 Twin-Skies
    February 3, 2009

    Coming from a religious family, I’ve seen my fair share of prayers over relatives who were hospitalized. While I’m sure the prayers over them certainly didn’t miraculously cure them, they certainly helped the afflicted’s disposition, which in turn helped them recover faster, or at least in one case, helped them accept their imminent passing with solemn dignity. For them, prayer was a show of solidarity, a way of saying “we’re cheering for you to get better,” or “you’re not alone in this.”

    So I won’t knock prayer for its possible psychological
    merits (laughter is the best medicine as the saying goes), but for some sort of divine intervention to occur just because my cousins and uncles clasped their hands together? Now that’s silly.

  241. #242 Anne
    February 3, 2009

    Re: H.H., saying
    “Tsk, tsk, tsk. Such hatred. You know, you really should work on that before you go around reprimanding others for the same behavior or just you might come off looking … hypocritical … Makes people think it isn’t our tone you have a problem with, but at whom it’s directed.”

    Fair point, about the hypocrisy. My problem is indeed the tone of this discussion, and not the people (Christians) it’s directed toward. I’d be saddened to see any group of human beings targeted with such disdain. If I have a bias, it’s that I want to be able to trust scientists to be the cooler heads, to avoid the mire of spite that I see here. I count on scientists to stick with the science and keep their emotions in check, partly so I know their emotions are not overwhelming enough to bias data.

    I loved it when E.O. Wilson said, in the beginning of “The Naturalist,” that the power of an intellectual is in tightly held restraint. Does anyone remember exactly how he wrote it? I should look it up again — a real gem!

    My reaction is based in disappointment.

  242. #243 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    Nerd of Redhead,

    No it hasn’t. Not the way I put it anyway.

    It is a placebo for the people that are left. It has nothing to do with deathbed conversion saving your imaginary, immortal soul. When your dead, your gone.

    Only in the lives of those still living has it the slightest meaning. They think they have achieved something through prayer. It is that which neither you nor anyone else seems able to address. Comfort soup for a pained and gieving living person.

    I have never said it was real. All I am saying is that it seems necessary for a considerable fraction of humanity. It would be to deny the ability of the human imagination to trick itself to think otherwise.

  243. #244 Nerd of Redhead
    February 3, 2009

    Don’t worry Douglas, I think the Trophy WivesTM won’t be worrying about such comfort. As far as anyone else, they can pray in private as Jebus commanded in Matt. 6:6. If it helps them fine. Just stay out of our and our wives faces.

  244. #245 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    tony,

    You can now see me through the internet?

    I wasn’t drooling, and you are wrong about what Pascals wager actually is.

    It is a bet that you take, not someone else on your behalf, that there is a God, and that consequently belief is a safer option that denial.

    See here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_wager

    Nowt to do with other folk praying over you.

  245. #246 Renee
    February 3, 2009

    On a somewhat related note, this poll needs ‘a crashin’ too. Right now 94% of stupid, right-wing Christians don’t think the Federal government should extend benefits to same-sex couples. Please, Pharynguloids, make their heads explode. Vote!

  246. #247 Wowbagger
    February 3, 2009

    douglas clark wrote:

    Comfort soup for a pained and grieving living person.

    Why not give them some crack? Or speed? Or heroin? That’ll cheer them up no end. I mean, it’s all about making them feel better, right? Not about the bigger picture?

  247. #248 ennui
    February 3, 2009

    Is there no nail-head that cannot be buried by Sastra’s hammer of secular reason? ;-]

  248. #249 H.H.
    February 3, 2009

    Douglas Clark:

    Only in the lives of those still living has it the slightest meaning. They think they have achieved something through prayer.

    And they are wrong and no one should indulge them. You have no point.

  249. #250 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    Nerd of Redhead @ 240,

    I have lurked on here for a long time. I am Scottish, and surprisingly, perhaps because I live in a somewhat secular society, I find the degree of aggression that may be necessary to confront this sort of stuff in the US, difficult to handle.

    Mainly because I have come to see it as counter productive. I do not face the challenges you and P Z Myers do, but it is perhaps worth pointing out that religious folk may be wrong, they may even be using it for selfish or cultural reasons, but that the tide is going out for them.

    Least, that’s what I think.

    And, believe me, I can argue against religious belief with the best of them. I just don’t go looking for a fight.

  250. #251 damnedyankee
    February 3, 2009

    68% yes, 32% no. I think it’s safe to say that the poll has been entirely Pharyngulated.

    I’d offer a prayer of thanks to the FSM, but we done did it ourselves. ;)

  251. #252 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    H.H.

    No, sir or madam,

    It is you that has no point. It is a coping strategy.

  252. #253 Wowbagger
    February 3, 2009

    It is you that has no point. It is a coping strategy.

    Maybe we could give them all blankies to hold as well.

  253. #254 Sastra
    February 3, 2009

    ennui #248 wrote:

    Sastra’s hammer of secular reason

    Heh. Take a look at

    http://www.elsewhere.org/cgi-bin/jihad

    (I am Sister Immaculate Baseball Bat of Patience)

    This comes from Sean Carroll’s famous essay:

    “Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary…”

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/04/08/DDG27BCFLG1.DTL

  254. #255 damnedyankee
    February 3, 2009

    I loved it when E.O. Wilson said, in the beginning of “The Naturalist,” that the power of an intellectual is in tightly held restraint.

    Anne, I admire that sentiment, but it seems that we live in an age where an excess of restraint has encouraged the type of people whom H. L. Mencken termed “the witch burners” to attempt to leverage their particular view of the Universe into both society and common law.

  255. #256 currie jean
    February 3, 2009

    Another poll on the same page needs help! (Look down the right column)

    Should gay couples be allowed to adopt?
    Yes – 23%
    No – 77%

    ~ CJ
    http://www.helium.com/users/165611/show_articles

  256. #257 Slugsie
    February 3, 2009

    I don’t know if anyone followed the link on the Daily Mail website that leads here to a Richard LittleJohn article. He actually tries to claim that

    The power of prayer has long been acknowledged as part of the healing process. That’s why hospitals have chaplains and there are Bibles in bedside cabinets.

    Didn’t think it was possible, but the Mail has gone even further down in my estimations.

  257. #258 WTFWMD
    February 3, 2009

    “No thanks, my insurance does not cover experimental treatments”.

  258. #259 tony
    February 3, 2009

    Douglas Clark:

    I’m Scottish too. I now live in Northern Georgia, a bastion of intransigent religiosity, so my woo-filters are on hyper alert.

    I apologize for insulting you – but in my meager defense, it was in response to your immodest respose @ 200.

    Regarding the statement you made, that many of us took to be “Pascal’s Wager”.

    I do not have your certaintly in the face of death. I agree with you – I think we’d agree – that praying to a diety is probably a complete waste of time. But, doing it in the face of death is probably just the same as throwing over the last card. It is not going to work, it is probably a waste of time, it is probably illogical, but, where’s the harm, exactly?

    The person you are praying for is probably already terminal. They are probably going to die anyway. So, why not turn that card over and see how it falls?

    I still see what you say as that basic fallacy — to paraphrase: The potential loss is nothing, and the potential gain is infinite, so why should I not “turn the card”. From my perspective, the loss is of my integrity – I have accepted and condoned a “little white lie” where none was needed. I do not, and cannot see myself ever, accepting that particular “turn of the card”.

    Your argument boils down to: “Nothing to lose, but possibly much to gain”. That is indeed the fallacy of Pascal’s Wager. I worry for your logical ability if this is opaque to you.

  259. #260 rnb
    February 3, 2009

    I prayed when my mother was suffering amputations from diabetes and otherwise dying from it. Fat lot of good it did.
    Or was I not praying hard enough, or was it because I don’t
    really believe in God that it didn’t seem to have any effect?

  260. #261 SimonC
    February 3, 2009

    I may be over-applying the logic brush here but couldn’t the patient, you know, pray for herself? I mean, if prayer were a valid form of medicinal aid then the patient could just up and ask god for some healing. The nurse’s offer implies that the patient has a comms problem with god or that sick people don’t pray as effectively. Can we get a study running on the efficacy of prayer between ill and healthy religio-nuts?

    Or maybe god works like a democracy – more prayers equals better representation? I wonder if you could gerrymander a negative-prayer bloc .

  261. #262 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    Sastra @ 239,

    Nope.

    I never said this:

    ‘generous understanding of the weaknesses of the religious who are but human after all’

    Please don’t misquote me. Putting stuff in quotes suggests that that was what I actually said, when it was nothing of the sort.

    And it is only you Sastra that could take Pascals Wager on, not me on your behalf, nor anyone else. Please do not confuse yourself unnecessarily. That was – part of – the point of my original post.

    And you can all jump on me as much as you like. ‘You’ has the optional meaning of ‘any person in general’, which is how I used it.

    Stop nit picking and admit your wrong.

  262. #263 Nerd of Redhead
    February 3, 2009

    There has been real studies done on prayers. The one paper that showed a positive correlation was found to be falsified. All the authors but one retracted that paper. Other studies found prayer appear to work better if the patient is unaware of the prayers, which goes against a lot of the psychological explanations above.

  263. #264 Dave
    February 3, 2009

    @douglas clark: how do you choose which one to pray to?!

  264. #265 Mr Twiddle
    February 3, 2009

    Prayers don’t work and in fact they can have unintended consequences. I recently prayed for my sister-in-law when she had a hysterectomy. Unfortunately my prayer was deflected back to earth off an orbiting satellite and incorrectly struck a Nigerian man who can no longer conceive of children.

  265. #266 tony
    February 3, 2009

    Douglas

    You are the one who refuses to admit any wrong.

    You’ve jumped on people for impagined slights, refused to elucidate your argument regarding “the Wager” when at least four posters (including myself) interpreted it as such.

    You argue with great bombast, but with little efficacy.

    You are calling out Sastra for ‘misquoting’ you. He used single quotes for emphasis of a clause, since your actual words were already blockquoted in the same post. Would you rather he used some other typographical convention? If so – do let us all know!

    Again – your interpretation skills appear to be somewhat off kilter.

    Get off your high horse and debate honestly. You have been less that forthright in your statements. (As a Scotsman I’m almost tempted to call NTS, but I cannot!)

  266. #267 Sastra
    February 3, 2009

    Simon C #261 wrote:

    I mean, if prayer were a valid form of medicinal aid then the patient could just up and ask god for some healing.

    From what I’ve seen, most religious people insist that prayer is not to petition God for favors; instead, it is to align the believer towards calm acceptance of whatever happens — unless, of course, it looks like someone was actually healed.

    This is consistent with their acknowledgment that God is outside confirmation or disconfirmation through the scientific method — unless it looks like there’s a case for God to be made from cosmology or quantum or some other area; and the assurance that God is nothing at all like like a “man in the sky with a beard” — except when they call Him their Father in Heaven and seek to have a personal relationship with His son.

  267. #268 Brasidas
    February 3, 2009

    Shastra @254 (I am Brother Sword of Enlightened Wisdom) :)

    These guys can’t be real Unitarians can they? I thought Unitarians were people who believed in “at MOST one god.”

  268. #269 tony
    February 3, 2009

    Douglas

    One last point — ‘You’ in Scottish vernacular is equivalent to ‘one’ in formal english, which when used in a statement is identical to using the word “me” or “I”.

    Explain to me again how your statements were so significantly misconstrued by so many?

    I’m losing patience.

  269. #270 Sondra
    February 3, 2009

    As of right now the numbers are reversed with 82% yes! How’d that happen?

  270. #271 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    tony,

    For goodness sake! I didn’t even raise the issue of Pascals Wager. Why am I being expected to defend it?

    As far as I am concerned it is irrelevant to the subject under discussion. My point is merely that those that are about to lose someone they care about are not in the most rational frame of mind. What they want, the folk that are about to be grief stricken is that the event that is staring them in the face does not happen. And that they will turn to anything in circumstances like that.

    It is not logical, it is not rational, but it is human.

    On a related point, why the heck do you think we have fairy stories about eternal life beyond the grave? It is for the comfort of the bereaved, it has nothing to do with the dead. It is a psychological crutch.

    That was my point.

    Nowt to do with that gambling man.

  271. #272 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    tony @ 269,

    Try the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s about the third definition.

  272. #273 Kevin Haney
    February 3, 2009

    Book: Captain, do you mind if I say grace?
    Mal: Only if you say it out loud.

  273. #274 Sara
    February 3, 2009

    Douglas Clark, are you saying:

    1) People who are desperate will reach for coping strategies because dying scares the wits out of them.
    2) It is not the place of health care providers to offer religious comfort…
    3) …unless the dying person is asking for it.

    Or are you saying something else? I’m confused –> You’ll have to excuse me if I misunderstand, English is my third language.

  274. #275 Dubaarh
    February 3, 2009

    @ Tom #37 – Spot on. Couldn’t sum-up the Daily Hate’s readership any better myself.

    I made the mistake of going onto the site and reading some of the comments. Had to do it even if only to vote the worst ones down. Reminds me why I read The Guardian.

    Also disabuses me of any notion of cultural superiority I once may have felt regarding those bible bashing creotards in the States.

    If anything, our unthinking, hate-filled hordes are worse, it’s not just text-books they’d burn. And the Daily Hate will be there to encourage them all the way.

  275. #276 John Morales
    February 3, 2009

    tony, good posts. One thing, Sastra’s a she.

  276. #277 Wowbagger
    February 3, 2009

    douglas clark wrote:

    It is a psychological crutch.

    Good grief. How can it act as a crutch if people don’t believe that there’s a possibility it’s true? That’s what Pascal’s Wager is!

    Sheesh.

  277. #278 Sastra
    February 3, 2009

    douglas clark #262 wrote:

    I never said this:
    ‘generous understanding of the weaknesses of the religious who are but human after all’
    Please don’t misquote me. Putting stuff in quotes suggests that that was what I actually said, when it was nothing of the sort.

    Sorry, I know that wasn’t a direct quote, and didn’t mean it to be taken as one. I used the ‘ instead of ” because I thought it a paraphrase of your general approach, and I wanted to set it off as a complete thought, and putting – between the words as I usually prefer would make-the-phrase-too-long-and-unwieldy. But I’ll be more careful with stylistic punctuation markers, or whatever they’re called.

    I know Pascal’s Wager is only taken by the believer themselves, and not done as prayer-by-proxy or whatever. But in your original post at #204, it wasn’t clear what you were suggesting. It sounded at first like you were asking PZ ‘why not pray and see if it works? What have you got to lose?’

    That’s not what you meant, which you later clarified. So we were wrong, but I think it was a reasonable original interpretation — which is all I meant to say.

  278. #279 Big Mike
    February 3, 2009

    Would you object to a nurse offering to pray for you?

    * Yes73%
    * No27%

    Thank you for voting

  279. #280 Crudely Wrott
    February 3, 2009

    Would you object to a nurse offering to pray for you?

    * Yes72%
    * No28%

    Actually, I would not be offended. I would simply answer “no” while reflecting on the sincerity of the offer.

    If the nurse did not accept my simple answer to a simple question and tried to further persuade me, or went ahead and started praying anyhow, then I would be offended. I’d start mashing that nurse call button in a rapid staccato.

  280. #281 Rob
    February 3, 2009

    Mrs Petrie, who carries out home visits in North Somerset, said she had asked the patient if she would like a prayer said for her after she had put dressings on the woman’s legs.

    The patient, believed to be in her 70s, refused and Mrs Petrie insists that she left the matter alone.

    Assuming that’s accurate, what exactly is the problem here?

  281. #282 Big Mike
    February 3, 2009

    I have to echo 280’s answer. ok with the offer, but if it persists past that I’m pissed. I’ve actually held a patients hand while they prayed, didn’t need to do anything but monitor and if it made them feel better i was ok with it. she knew i was a non-believer but the back of an ambulance during a long transport can be scary for a lot of people.

  282. #283 Sastra
    February 3, 2009

    Brasidas #268 wrote:

    These guys can’t be real Unitarians can they? I thought Unitarians were people who believed in “at MOST one god.”

    No, it’s pure satire. Sean Carroll’s original column was a mock letter from the “Unitarian Jihad” — in which he tried to show what militant religious fanaticism would look like if it were done by what is probably the most tolerant and open liberal religious group around. He wanted to make the point, I think, that moderates should be more… aggressive … in promoting moderation.

    A couple groups liked the names so much that they made “Unitarian Jihad Name Generators.” If you google it, several sites come up. It was years ago, but a bunch of blogs were playing around with it.

  283. #284 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    Wowbagger @ 277,

    You really don’t understand the bet, do you?

    It is for you to make that decision, not for other people to make it on your behalf. Please, at least read the links I’ve given you.

    And I am not here to defend Pascal’s Wager. It is not the point.

  284. #285 Sastra
    February 3, 2009

    Rob #281 wrote:

    Assuming that’s accurate, what exactly is the problem here?

    As has been mentioned many times over, the question puts the non-believer on the spot, and they then have to mull over how best to answer, and whether there will be repercussions, and whether they should go along with it in case the religious person with the pain killers thinks they should pray. Will they now be treated differently than if they’d prayed together? Is the situation worse than is being let on? Is the caregiver into woo, and magical cures? Can of worms.

    Bottom line, there’s a lot of emotional baggage attached to atheism as well as religion. Many atheists don’t want the topic brought up when they’re sick and weak and dependent on the good will of the person caring for them. The relationship between medical care-giver and patient is not an even one. You don’t want to place yourself against their faith, and make them dislike you, or think that, because you have no faith, you’re to be pitied, and likely to do poorly.

    Or, if they’re very religious, they may now be emotionally invested in seeing you convert, or using you as an example of how horrible atheists are, or how weak, or needy, or something. They brought it up, and now it’s an issue.

    If the nurse is only a visitor, or Sunshine Volunteer, there’s not the same problem.

  285. #286 Carlie
    February 3, 2009

    If I were in the hospital in dire condition and a nurse asked if she could pray for me, I would be incredibly upset. If I were to let her, then I would have to endure several minutes of reliving my entire time in the church, with all of the attendant bad feelings and upset, not a good thing for a sick person to deal with. Yet if I said no, I would worry about getting substandard care from that nurse, as she would be offended that I rejected such a kind offer, and would also worry that her proselytizing efforts would double under the weight of knowing that I didn’t like her God as much as she did. For a lot of people it really isn’t a “no big deal” situation, and the nurse has no idea of knowing who he/she would trigger ahead of time, so it shouldn’t be done.

  286. #287 Wowbagger
    February 3, 2009

    douglas clark,

    I don’t think I’m the one that’s misunderstanding things here. And you didn’t answer my question, so here it is again:

    How can it act as a crutch if people don’t believe that there’s a possibility it’s true?

  287. #288 FrankieAvocado
    February 3, 2009

    Now at 74% for “yes” MWAHAHAHA

  288. #289 John Morales
    February 3, 2009

    douglas @284,

    My point is merely that those that are about to lose someone they care about are not in the most rational frame of mind. [...]
    It is not logical, it is not rational, but it is human.

    Had you said that in the first place, there’d likely be no issue. Now, however, you’re just defending yourself from having badly expressed yourself.

    Can’t you accept that what you initially wrote has an obvious interpretation that might not have been what you meant to convey, and move on?

  289. #290 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    Woobagger,

    Last time, I’m getting weary.

    Pascals Wager is a bet that you, yourself would have to enter into. It is like a pact with the devil, but in reverse. By agreeing to worship some god or another, he she or it will save your immortal soul. Because you believed. Pascals point was that there was no downside to that, if you believed and it was true – eternal life. If you believed and it wasn’t true – so what?

    But the belief was personal. It wasn’t about other people saying that you were good or anything like that. Belief, in Pascals world was about the personal. [It is also a bit of a cheat, but I'm not going there, work it out for yourself].

    Got that?

    That other people, who have a strong religious belief should pray over the terminally ill has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Pascals Wager. It is their belief that prayer might cause some deity or another to intervene in a miraculous way. Saving the persons life or some such.

    My point, which you are somewhat stubbornly refusing to address, is that prayer for the dying is a comforting thing for the religious folk that are left behind, who do think it matters. It is a psychological crutch to them, not the poor person whose life is about to end. Whether the dying person is religious or not.

    Do you understand what I am talking about now or not?

  290. #291 douglas clark
    February 3, 2009

    John Morales,

    Now, however, you’re just defending yourself from having badly expressed yourself.

    Not really.

    I’ve been a quite atheist for most of my days. I’m quite happy to move on. But you guys ought to lighten up a bit.

  291. #292 Nerd of Redhead
    February 3, 2009

    Douglas, I take back my apology. You are a dense idiot who deserves to be mocked. You have no real point. If other people wish to pray, they don’t have to do so in the presence of the sick. Period. End of Story. To do so against the sick persons wishes is an act of aggression. What part of that don’t you see? If they wish to pray the other people can take it to the closets of their soul as Jebus commanded.

  292. #293 «břnez_brigade»
    February 3, 2009

    Mewonders how Melanie Phillips would feel if an imam-by-night/nurse-by-day decided to cast a few magical spells over her (or a family member) whilst ill.

    Current results:
    Yes 75%
    No 25%

  293. #294 Wowbagger
    February 3, 2009

    douglas clark,

    I know perfectly well what Pascal’s Wager is – and the acceptable interpretation of it is that you might as well try something because you don’t know for sure that it won’t work, and if it does work then you’ll be better off.

    Prayer for sick people is an extension of that – they don’t know if it will work or not; they may not even think it will work – but trying it makes them feel better. To consider it within the same realm as the literal wager envisaged by Pascal is by no means unreasonable – except, apparently, in your eyes.

    Six of one; half-dozen of the other. Using your ridiculously obtuse logic you might as well argue that a person named Brian can’t make Pascal’s Wager because his name isn’t Pascal.

  294. #295 tony
    February 3, 2009

    Douglas

    I’m also tempted to take back my apology.

    you are being a dense cretin. And I mean that in the kindest sense possible.

    Your entire statement (as I re-posted and quoted earlier) was simply a formulation of Pascal’s wager. If your intent is simply to make the sick person feel good – give them a shot of morphine. But you intended something different, something spiritual and no amount of backtracking or weaseling can extract you from that. ‘fess up. It’s easy, and you’ll like yourself more.

    Lastly, regarding Pascal’s Wager. I hate to say this but you DID bring it at the end of post 213:

    I know this is probably uncomfortable for you and I apologise for that, but close up grief is not an easy thing to deal with. People are irrational in that situation. They will take Pascals wager, on behalf of folk that might not.

    In that statement you state quite unequivioally that a person can take Pascal’s Wager on behalf of someone else. You then berate everyone here for saying the same thing!

    again. ‘fess up!

  295. #296 John Morales
    February 3, 2009

    Douglas,

    But you guys ought to lighten up a bit.

    I quote: “Dude! this is Pharyngula!” :)

  296. #297 tony
    February 3, 2009

    typo: unequivocally

  297. #298 tony
    February 3, 2009

    Sastra

    I apologise for masculating you!

    I promise never to do so again!

  298. #299 Crustacean
    February 3, 2009

    Honestly, I wouldn’t object (so long as she didn’t make a point of pestering me with it), but I voted regardless for the sake of Pharyngulization.

  299. #300 John Morales
    February 3, 2009

    «břnez_brigade», thanks for that.

    That poll’s seems to have been Pharyngulated successfully.

  300. #301 Pat
    February 3, 2009

    As somebody who was involved a similar situation, you as a patient have no power, or very much will when you are desperately ill. Imagine you’re newly out of a near-coma state, disoriented, unable to walk, and somebody insists that they are going to help you.

    Then they do something like this.

    In your fragile mental and physical state, it is an assault.

    Replace “pray with you” with any unwanted physical advance or initiation rite, and you’ll start to get the picture. Imagine somebody asking people to say a phrase that, once invoked, binds them to their religion. Or a ritual that involves laying on of hands.

    Now, you are eighty-eight pounds and a lot of that skin, you’re barely hanging on to sanity long enough for a preference for Jell-O versus pudding to get by, and you require assistance to avoid soiling yourself. You are reliant upon the people who come by to help you eat, to have a bowel movement with a modicum of dignity, and to have enough fluid put in you so that your medications don’t dry out upon hitting your stomach, what there is left of it.

    This is not a hypothetical. This was my wife, and an evangelical attending who was responsible for administering her breathing treatments to make sure she stayed above a sat of 92% because of her previous pneumonia. Where she was, our son was prohibited from seeing her, yet some evangelical could muscle his way in holding the keys to her life and death and hold her hostage to his particular worldview.

    Now tell me I’m overreacting.

  301. #302 Kel
    February 3, 2009

    If a nurse wants to pray for me, so be it. My mother apparently does (although I don’t know to what since she’s into that new-age bullshit) and it hasn’t afflicted me with anything yet. Though in the interests of fair and balanced, I hope she prays to all gods – both living all dead, sacrifices a virgin or a goat (maybe a virgin goat), and consults a shaman to get rid of my affliction.

    Yahweh is only a theory, pray the controversy!

  302. #303 Crudely Wrott
    February 3, 2009

    @ Big Mike, #282. Thanks for the quick confirmation.

    I’d say that you, too, have attended to someone who was hurting deeply and in a position of helplessness. Possibly near death. In such a case it is difficult to not indulge them even if what they do, say, or act out seems irrational. I think that there is little argument against an act of simple human compassion and charity.

    Twice in my life I have attended to old, alcoholic men with no family and few friends nearby (or, if nearby, offered no help). Among the last things I ever did for them was to see that they had the comfort of a drink.

    This, while knowing that the alcohol was a major contributor to the state of their health. But also knowing that they were literally on the edge of dying and to deny them the comfort that they took in their cups seemed to me an act of callous disregard. It would only have increased their anxiety and discomfort. It was not in me to tell them that one more drink might kill them. Why, they were at death’s door!

    That is why, in a reverse sort of way, that I would not be offended by the offer of prayer, only the imposition of someone else’s will upon some delicate moment in my life. To them, it would be an honest attempt to provide succor and care.

    To extend the example, to have denied old John (whose physician father attended the birth of my step dad (who succumbed to MRSA ten days ago)) or Tony, the Dead Cowboy (who left his home in Wyoming only once, to fight in the Pacific in WW II (and could tell uproarious stories about my biological father)) the pleasure, the courtesy, of a wee tot in their final days and hours, would have been something that would have gnawed at my conscience all of my days.

    As an ex-Christian, I am sure that something like this motivated the nurse in her desire to provide comfort and care. Not to excuse her behavior, but to put it in a human light.

    So, I frame the argument simply in terms of being Wise, Kind, and a little bit Blind. That last attributable to my step dad. And in honor of him. Hey, the lesson took.

  303. #304 A. Noyd
    February 3, 2009

    Here’s my take, which I’ve tried to add as a comment to two versions of the Mail story now (but can’t seem to get past the moderators):

    Sure the nurse is caring and sincere, but she’s also deluded by her religion to think that her prayers have an effect on a patient’s health. At the very least, she is showing she rejects science for superstition to such a degree she will indiscriminately offer her services as a faith healer. It’s entirely possible she might harm patients by interfering with or withholding working treatments (perhaps unwittingly) if she believes the power of prayer superior or sufficient.

    I go to hospitals to be treated by science. It would disturb me greatly to have a nurse offer to pray for me, however well meant. I would certainly demand that the hospital investigate such a nurse to make sure she performed all her duties properly and wasn’t leaving out anything a more secular-minded nurse would do. Maybe this particular nurse doesn’t skimp on the science-based care, but I wouldn’t like to take that on faith!

  304. #305 Satanist
    February 3, 2009

    May I torture a cat for your soul? Just tell me before I adjust your meds….

  305. #306 Terra
    February 3, 2009

    I don’t comment often, but just wanted to mention that I have two posts about a very similar situation. I went to have eye surgery. Had paid HUGE sums of money for it, was drugged up and the doctor THEN sprung it on me that he wanted to ask for guidance from his imaginary friend before he hacked into my eyes with lasers. You can read my account on my blog, if anyone is interested.

    Pat, you’re absolutely NOT overreacting. It is disrespectful and abusive, as, like you said, you are in a vulnerable position.

    One of my thoughts was, “If I say he can’t pray, will he not do as good of a job? Or, worse yet, purposefully muck it up?” Not a fun thought to be having right before surgery!

  306. #307 Crudely Wrott
    February 3, 2009

    Not to be misunderstood, I think that the nurse in question, having been cautioned against her actions, overstepped the limits of her job description and hasn’t a leg to stand on while crying that she has been discriminated against.

    I am equally convinced that she truly thinks that she was doing good. Dog’s will compelled her for she saw her compassion for “the halt and the lame” in terms of her faith in the old bastard’s demands. Nonetheless, to her, it was an act of humanity, and she probably felt an achingly deep sense of personal fulfillment whenever a patient accepted her offer.

    “It’s so hard being human, when the whole world’s uptight.”
    –The Byrds, circa 1970

  307. #308 John Scanlon FCD
    February 3, 2009

    78%!!

    Of course it’d depend on particulars but in principle, yeah.

  308. #309 NateL
    February 4, 2009

    I’ve never understood why the religious pray for recovery fom illness anyway.. the sooner they die the sooner they get to be with god.

    You’d think they’d all be chain smoking, base jumping, alchoholic race car drivers.. offing themselves in record numbers!

  309. #310 Pat
    February 4, 2009

    Just to be clear – this wasn’t a case, in my wife’s circumstance, of “can I pray for you.”

    It was “can I pray with you” with a nod from my confused and newly awake wife followed by about three minutes of “hold my hand” and “we thank you God that you sent your son Jesus to take away our sins, and we ask you now that you TAKE AWAY THIS ILLNESS and let her be healed oh Lord. Take it away and let her be whole.” Loud enough that a few of the other nurses came and looked in.

    I mentioned it to my wife just now and she had no recollection, and then got very angry. At the time she was so fragile that missing a meal put her in danger of rather severe agitation, and visitors were restricted so she wouldn’t have to be put on sedatives.

  310. #311 Peter Ashby
    February 4, 2009

    People are irrational in that situation. They will take Pascals wager, on behalf of folk that might not.

    Ah so the praying over the dying is all to make the living feel better and stuff what the poor dying sod might feel about the matter? I would say you have your sympathies directed in the wrong place in that scenario.

    Think about it, you are insisting that the last thing that someone dying experiences should be something that is an abnegation of everything they lived for so YOU can feel better. You are a sanctimonious shit.

  311. #312 Cannonball Jones
    February 4, 2009

    You’re really better off just ignoring Melanie Phillips’s columns, she’s a tad deranged and isn’t going to respond to any kind of rational argument. Just stand back and admire the level of stupid as if it’s a new art form and remember that if there is a hell, the only newspaper available there is the Daily Mail.

    (And always remember Mitchell And Webb’s fine sketch containing the line, “The Daily Mail leads with the headline, ‘Everything Is Fine: Fear It, Fear It'”)

  312. #313 Piltdown Man
    February 4, 2009

    John H @47:

    The Mail and its readership … are mostly the bitter, never quite going to make it, reasonably well educated but not enough to read the Guardian or the Times, resentful trolls who are only one step away from being lumpen proletariat, know it and blame everything on gay muslim immigrant adopters.

    Whereas the Guardian’s readers are mostly pampered, emasculated urbanites who consider themselves educated because they’ve got a sociology or media studies degree from some crappy provincial polytechnic. The older ones are meddling social workers, the more obnoxious younger generation are in advertising or the meeja. They have contempt for the rootless white working class whose traditional culture they helped destroy. They despise country-dwellers (ie the people who grow their food) because rural folk tend to be a bit more traditional in their outlook. And they’re all so dhimmified that they’ll roll in the dirt like a bitch dog in heat if a Muslim so much as glances at them – and anyone who doesn’t do the same is “xenohobic”.

    Kill them all, let God sort them out.

  313. #314 Heraclides
    February 4, 2009

    I believe India have a law that works to similar effect (nation-wide, or perhaps only in some states: I don’t know). Think it’s more aimed at different religions objecting, rather than atheists, though.

  314. #315 Feynmaniac
    February 4, 2009

    ** Backs away slowly from the computer after reading #313 **

  315. #316 Kel
    February 4, 2009

    ** Backs away slowly from the computer after reading #313 **

    **follows Feynmaniac** HELP, PILTY HAS A GUN!!!

  316. #317 Wowbagger
    February 4, 2009

    They have contempt for the rootless white working class whose traditional culture they helped destroy.

    You’d think, being rootless, they’d already have suffered enough that no-one would also want to destroy them. Why punish people just because they’re going through a dry spell? I mean, it might just be a confidence thing.

    Oh, you didn’t mean rootless in that sense? My bad.

  317. #318 Sitakali
    February 4, 2009

    I’ve agreed with pretty much every post I’ve read thus far, but this, in my opinion, is a bit superfluous. I really couldn’t give a damn if a nurse prayed for me if I was sick. Actually, I might find it sweet. I don’t like proselytizers or anyone who shoves their religion down my throat. But I just don’t see this situation in that way. Can you really look at someone who wants to pray for a sick person and see arrogance and self-righteousness? Because it seems like that’s the reaction some people are having.

    If someone wants to pray for someone who’s sick, it’s exactly what it looks like: they want to pray. They don’t want to save your soul; they don’t want you to start believing in their god; they’re not pushing non-scientific ideas into science classes. She didn’t push her patient any further and didn’t pray in the same room anyway?could I actually give a shit if someone prayed for me in the comfort of their own home? If a nurse did insist on praying in my room, that would annoy me. But that’s it. I’d be irritated.

    I assume she’s practicing medicine correctly? She’s not telling people they have to believe in her god or they won’t get medical treatment? Not refusing birth control or abortion advice to any of her patients?

    Instead of seeing it as simple superstition, couldn’t you just see it as someone wishing you well? I could argue that wishing someone well was superstition. After all, it’s “wishing.” I don’t make wishes, but I really wouldn’t hold it against someone if they did.

  318. #319 damnedyankee
    February 4, 2009

    @313: Awwww, notice how he sounds both batshit crazy AND terminally pathetic at the same time. That’s so adorable.

  319. #320 AllanW
    February 4, 2009

    The poll currently stands at;

    Yes 77%
    No 23%

    :)

  320. #321 Stephen Wells
    February 4, 2009

    @313: all that, and we are standing RIGHT BEHIND YOU. BOO.

  321. #322 Dubaarh
    February 4, 2009

    The nurse in question was just interviewed over the phone on TV (The Wright Show on Channel5 here in UK).

    Only caught a bit of it thankfully, but the bit I did hear sent shudders down my spine.

    She proceeded to trot out the sham snake-oil line that there are ‘three components’ to a persons health… physical, mental and spiritual. And that she felt it important to address the spiritual one as much as the previous two.

    It’s wonderful for her that she’s decided to develop her own school of prayer based medicine with no basis in reality, and equally wonderful that her colleagues sought to root out that mendacious witch-doctory from their ranks.

    She really had no idea that what she was espousing was incompatible with medical science. I bet they’ve been after her for ages and this was all the ammo they needed to help her towards the door.

    What if she believed in crystal healing instead? Methinks there would be a slightly different tone taken in the media.

  322. #323 Brett
    February 4, 2009

    Let’s not get carried away here. I wouldn’t want her to pray for me, but if she simply asks, a simple ‘No thank you’ would suffice. I would realize she is well-intentioned, but decline her offer and move on. This isn’t that big of deal.

  323. #324 heliobates
    February 4, 2009

    Okay, who mentioned “strawberries” to Pilty?

  324. #325 Jonathon
    February 4, 2009

    Any “Christian” worth her salt would know better. Jesus himself had instructions for her:

    Matthew 6:5 – “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” (King James Version)

    Besides, non-private and petitionary prayer is just plain wrong, according to Jesus:

    Matthew 6:6-8 – “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” (King James Version)

    So…. what is so hard to understand? Jesus was very clear in his instruction. Have Christians so strayed from the teachings of Jesus that they don’t care about them anymore? Why is it that someone like me – who doesn’t label himself as a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, etc. – knows more about their scripture than they do?

    Is it really going to be up to non-Christians to teach Christians their own religion?

  325. #326 Bruce Gee
    February 4, 2009

    I’m with PZ most of the time, but I’m going to have to depart with this one. Strip away the religion and superstition, and what you end up with is “A woman tries to do something she thinks is kind, and the recipient tries to get her fired.”

    This sounds exactly like any other group that loses sympathy when it starts screaming about victimhood — like the peanut-allergy parents who try to get peanuts banned from school cafeterias for everybody. If your goal is to reinforce the popular conception that atheists are bitter, spiteful, mean-spirited, intolerant, puppy-kicking jerks, then it seems to me this is the way to go. Otherwise, I was taught that a “no, thank you” is always the polite response when someone offers you something you don’t want.

  326. #327 Bosch's Poodle
    February 4, 2009

    I had a similar situation happen to me. I was at my mother’s bedside in Hospice when she passed away. The attending nurses held hands and said a quick prayer.

    I had very mixed feelings. Neither my mother nor I were religious. In fact, not soon before my uncle stopped by and attempted a prayer circle and my mother nearly strangled him. I decided to accept the gesture as well-intentioned and harmless, an expression of significance for those nurses. I find witchcraft and voodoo generally intolerable, but common sense requires us to also, to a certain extent, accept the world as it is at times.

    I’m not sure why, but my uncle’s presumptuousness was deeply offensive and irritating, and the nurses’ was not. Perhaps because the nurses had gone to heroic measures to ensure my mother’s comfort and because Hospice had done such a good job provided end-of-life care. Also, my uncle had barged into my mother’s home to hold his little prayer circle, vs. at Hospice where the thing with the nurses happened.

    If the vast majority of Americans engage in this kind of behavior, I think we have to have a little (just a little) tolerance for well-meaning Christians who make assumptions. My Jewish friends, of course, adamantly disagree.

  327. #328 Endor
    February 4, 2009

    “Strip away the religion and superstition, and what you end up with is “A woman tries to do something she thinks is kind, and the recipient tries to get her fired.”

    Well, reading the post and the article might help. She didn’t so something she thought was kind, she deliberately did something she’d been warned not to do before. She wasn’t fired -she was a temp worker that simply wasn’t hired again because she has not ability to follow the rules of the employer.

    “If your goal is to reinforce the popular conception that atheists are bitter, spiteful, mean-spirited, intolerant, puppy-kicking jerks, then it seems to me this is the way to go.”

    If you’re goal is to build a house of strawmen, here’s how you start – don’t read the article, make up stuff as you go and then pretend that’s the fault of other atheists.

    Logical fallacy fun for the whole family!

  328. #329 Bosch's Poodle
    February 4, 2009

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one here who sees this as a bit of an ungracious overreaction. If the nurse were insistent, or allowed her prayers to interfere with care, or ignored any stated preferences from the patient, that’s one thing. But a prayer is sometimes no more than an expression of concern and love, regardless of its basis in truth.

    Excessive militancy and rudeness will gain us nothing.

  329. #330 A. Noyd
    February 4, 2009

    @ Bosch’s Poodle (#329)

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one here who sees this as a bit of an ungracious overreaction. If the nurse were insistent, or allowed her prayers to interfere with care, or ignored any stated preferences from the patient, that’s one thing. But a prayer is sometimes no more than an expression of concern and love, regardless of its basis in truth.

    Excessive militancy and rudeness will gain us nothing.

    Well, that’s just it, she was a bit insistent. But even if she wasn’t, patients shouldn’t have to specifically state they do not want their nurses to offer to pray for them. While prayer, in the mind of the person offering, might be an “expression of concern and love,” it’s not the job of a nurse to provide this sort of care. A nurse’s job is providing medical care with a basis in reality. And if a patient needs further comfort and reassurance, it should not come packaged in religion unless specifically requested.

    I find it entirely reasonable to be outraged by this nurse’s behavior. I’d be worried that a nurse who fancied herself a faith healer might (intentionally or otherwise) fail to provide adequate reality-based care. And, as Sastra brought up several times, it can create a situation where the patient can feel anxious over the sort of care s/he’ll get after declining. It’s an abuse of power.

    There’s no excessive, ungracious overreaction in demanding that people be allowed freedom from religion at times when they are likely to be feeling especially vulnerable. We should not give a pass to this sort of thing just because it comes wrapped in good intentions and refusal might make us seem rude.

  330. #331 Geoff
    February 4, 2009

    A really great local garage used to help me keep an old VW on the road for years. They always did a good job and were fair with bills; they were also Hindu and I would come across small icons of Ganesh tucked away in the car, presumably where I wasn’t supposed to find them. I found this quite touching at the time.
    The case of a nurse offering prayer to someone in a vulnerable state is quite different though. I would find it threatening and I would be anxious about the effect of my declining the offer. I really don’t trust evangelical fundies at the best of times and I’d hate to be in the hands of one when really ill.

  331. #332 Monado
    February 4, 2009

    John H., “free at the point of delivery” does not mean without cost. Health care in the U.K. is paid for by taxpayers, and anything that makes it less efficient, including medical personnel stopping work to ask patients about prayer, or praying for them, or ignoring their needs because they didn’t want to be prayed for, is a waste of money.

  332. #333 Bosch's Poodle
    February 4, 2009

    A Noyd: While you and I probably agree on our metaphysics, the difference between us is that you think it’s better to make a big fucking federal case over every petty discourtesy, and I think it’s not.

  333. #334 Pete R
    February 4, 2009

    I’ve never tried to get anyone sacked for being Christian; for that matter, nor have any of my atheist friends. Bruce is right:

    “If your goal is to reinforce the popular conception that atheists are bitter, spiteful, mean-spirited, intolerant, puppy-kicking jerks, then it seems to me this is the way to go.”

    Come on guys, the world is big enough to cope with diversity of belief. She seems like a kind, caring, nurse. There’s no suggestion that she ever went even a little bit cold with anyone who didn’t want her to pray for them. I’d be happy to be treated by her.

  334. #335 Alex Deam
    February 4, 2009

    Monado said:

    John H., “free at the point of delivery” does not mean without cost. Health care in the U.K. is paid for by taxpayers, and anything that makes it less efficient, including medical personnel stopping work to ask patients about prayer, or praying for them, or ignoring their needs because they didn’t want to be prayed for, is a waste of money.

    What was the point of that comment? John’s comment was explicitly referring to two other comments which suggested that we in the UK pay bills for our health care. Which we don’t. John’s comment mentioned nothing about not paying AT ALL. Hence why he qualified “free” with “at the point of delivery”.

  335. #336 Steve_C
    February 4, 2009

    Yeah because forcing your belief system on a audience that has no real choice is so caring.

    Uhg.

  336. #337 Alex Deam
    February 4, 2009

    Pete R said:

    Come on guys, the world is big enough to cope with diversity of belief. She seems like a kind, caring, nurse. There’s no suggestion that she ever went even a little bit cold with anyone who didn’t want her to pray for them.

    Except from whoever it was that watched the Wright Stuff.

    Besides, if a nurse offered to pray for me, I would start wondering why regular scientifically proven treatment was inadequate. I would then be thinking such thoughts as “Am I going to die?”. Even if it was obvious that I was going to die anyway, an offer of a prayer to someone of a different (or no) faith is not something people would want on their deathbed.

    And quite frankly, this nurse works for the NHS, and as a Government employee she should keep religion out of her work (even if we technically have a state-sponsored religion in the UK).

  337. #338 Thunderbird5
    February 4, 2009

    Dear Piltdown Man

    I’m British, raised and live and work in the deepest SW – just like Nurse Petrie – and a nurse. Qualified for 20 years now. That makes me older, I suppose.

    I read The Guardian. Have done since I was 13 and buying it for myself.

    Go on – have another bile-flecked rant of ignorance and pejudice, but this time towards rural middle-age nurses who read the Organ of Hezbollah or whatever you think it is, and are horrified at the disrepute this nurse has brought to our profession.

    Really knock yourself out this time.

  338. #339 Monado
    February 4, 2009

    Alex [335], the point to my comment about efficiency is that John H. was responding to post 176, which said nothing about paying bills, but rather,

    She’s raising the price of medical care with useless actions.

    and his response was basically, “Who cares? it’s free at the point of delivery,” which invites people to ignore the fact that it costs money upstream.

  339. #340 Hoots mon
    February 4, 2009

    I would have thought most people wouldn’t object to someone praying for them, whether religious or not, many athiests wouldn’t really care if someone went and prayed for them or not, doesn’t bother them.

    I think the real problem stems where there are bigger issues, such as in America where you have lots of news going around about christians refusing care based on their religious views, and for those few who would worry that saying no would cause harm to their care offering prayer DOES harm them. It clearly distresses some people, so it should never be offered. It doesn’t stop any nurse praying for their patients in their own time, or praying with patients if they ask for it first. All medical staff should not be allowed to initiate prayer. Those of you who say it isn’t a big deal, well maybe not to you, but to a few it is a big deal, and while in the care of a hospital that should be respected. Not trounced across because they’re just ‘over reacting’ in your opinion.

    Personally, if I was very ill in hospital, someone offering to pray would annoy me, maybe not much and I’d be comfortable enough to say no, but I would still be annoyed, is it the job of a nurse to annoy patients?

    Plus there’s the whole argument that its a total waste of time, and especially in the UK, I’m not paying tax to go to wages of nursing staff so they can sit on their arses and pray all day. Go do some fucking working you lazy bastards!

  340. #341 Bezoar
    February 4, 2009

    YES 76%; NO 24%. Consider it fixed.
    I have had to break these seances when I?m trying to take care of patients in my ER. Because I?m working in a baptist town, this is often met with a ?religious death/hate stare?.

  341. #342 eric
    February 4, 2009

    Douglas (#204 and 213) said:

    P Z Myers,
    I do not have your certaintly in the face of death. I agree with you – I think we’d agree – that praying to a diety is probably a complete waste of time. But, doing it in the face of death is probably just the same as throwing over the last card. It is not going to work, it is probably a waste of time, it is probably illogical, but, where’s the harm, exactly?

    Well, if you pray to the wrong deity, you may end up getting more torment than you otherwise would have. If you take religion at all seriously, then you have to accept the possibility that offering a prayer incorrectly or to the wrong God can lead to more torment than you would get by simply abstaining.

    You could, reasonably, say that the continual failure of praying to work should make it redundant. But, it is not for the dying, I think. It is for the people left behind. That is the point of it, for us to rail against our coming darkness.

    Douglas, if you really believed that it was for the living, then the solution is to do it silently, with no overt gestures, or to simply wait until you leave the hospital and pray for the person in the privacy of your own home. You don?t even have to ask their permission for that.
    I think you are plainly wrong about this particular situation. A vocal prayer performed in front of the dying person pretty obviously has them as one of the intended audience members.

  342. #343 Circe of the Godless
    February 4, 2009

    Think of it this way, do you think there would be outrage if I tried to “convert” someone to aetheism while they were under my medical care?
    Of course there would. Inappropriate for the workplace. You have no right to spew you sky fairy beliefs at people in your care.

  343. #344 PZ is nuts
    February 4, 2009

    Another example of why atheists are the new over-sensitive fundamentalists. Thanks for sharing, PZ.

  344. #345 tony
    February 4, 2009

    PZ is nuts, opined

    Another example of why atheists are the new over-sensitive fundamentalists. Thanks for sharing, PZ.

    Perhaps you would do better to actually read the post, and the subsequent comments, than simply to troll so concernedly!

    The nurse was contractually in the wrong (and at the time was already under discipline)
    The nurse was ethically in the wrong (abusing her position of ‘power’ over her patient)

    and the nurse continues to solicit support for her ‘martyrdom’ at the hands of ‘unfeeling, godless bureaucrats’.

    But then – you are a troll. Not renowned for any cognitive skills, whatsoever.

  345. #346 PZ Myers
    February 4, 2009

    Hmmm. I may have to add a new rule to the site: anyone who morphs frequently and uses the username field to post abuse is an obvious troll, and should be banned.

    I could get them on the hypocrisy of complaining about being abused while using abusive names, but if I dropped the hammer down on hypocrisy, we’d never get another Christian or creationist to post here.

  346. #347 Chiroptera
    February 4, 2009

    Peate R, #334: She seems like a kind, caring, nurse.

    …who can’t seem to grasp the rules that govern her job even when it was explained to her before. We have a professional who had violated the rules, had them pointed out, and then still wasn’t clear what they were (or didn’t care what they were).

    Does this put sort the situation in a different light?

  347. #348 Bosch's Poodle
    February 4, 2009

    Certainly…if she has caused problems more than once then it seems reasonable something appropriate and proportionate should be done to stop it. If she ignored any patient requests to knock it off, same thing, in my opinion.

  348. #349 Fred Wollam
    February 4, 2009

    Is it expecting too much to ask that the religious posters (and, to be fair, everyone else) actually read all the posts? Many of you seem to be studiously side-stepping the point of this thread, trying to turn it into the same, tired old “atheists are simultaneously misguided and belligerent, whereas we are neither” issue. This is not a question of adherence to faith… not at the question’s most healthcare-salient level, anyway.

    Surely, we atheists (among others) would appreciate it if all the superstitious zealots of the world would cease proselytizing, that all missionarying would dry up and blow away… but that’s not solely, even primarily, what’s at issue here.

    Are you still paying attention? Yes, I’m talking down to YOU.

    Few patients would have the perspicacity to instantaneously adjudge this nurse’s heart, nor have the time or the inclination to read her CV and biography, nor interview her employers, friends, family, and instructors, to ascertain the motivation behind her offer of prayer, and certainly should not make such a snap decision on-the-spot and under-the-gun (so to speak), even if the acceptance were only to humor the poor girl, or just to be polite. She may know her motivation, and you, the casual observer, may suspect or be deluded into thinking you also know it, but I (the patient) certainly do not. A simple “No, but thanks anyway” response on my part could, for all I know, result in diminished care from her and/or anyone to whom she reports. At its most extreme, I might be signing my own death warrant by turning her request aside. Most likely not, of course, but in my weakened and dazed condition, I’d rather not have to stress over the possibility.

    Was I insulted by your offer? Yes, of course, but that’s beside the point. Because my life is in your hands, I was also frightened and alarmed. And you call yourself “loving.” How dare you?

    Now, put your mumblin’ beads or fairytale book or whatever that is in your hand down for a moment and go back and read the prior posts, to seek what you’ve overlooked. Then, if you can spare another few moments, re-read all I just wrote, and see if you can figure out which sentences I was tempted to type in ALL-CAPS, in hopes of finally penetrating your fog.

    I’d apologize for the tone, but you’ve really got me pissed off.

  349. #350 Piltdown Man
    February 4, 2009

    Thunderbird5 (@338)

    You’re right. My last post was intemperate and uncharitable. I apologise.

  350. #351 tony
    February 4, 2009

    Fred: You’re re-iterating what Sastra said many comments ago (@190, and many many others).

    She said it way better that I could – so I’ll simply direct you there.

  351. #352 A. Noyd
    February 4, 2009

    @ Bosch’s Poodle (#333)

    While you and I probably agree on our metaphysics, the difference between us is that you think it’s better to make a big fucking federal case over every petty discourtesy, and I think it’s not.

    Wow, you managed to miss my point and put words into my mouth in one breath. It’s amazing how you fuckwits do that. I never said anything about a federal case–there are plenty of authorities to appeal to below that, such as, I don’t know, the hospital administration? (Who, in the case of Petrie, did seem to be handling things.) But if all lesser authorities wrote this off as nothing, taking a case like this federal would be warranted precisely because this sort of thing is far, far more than a “petty discourtesy.”

    You can disagree, you can say my reaction is disproportionate, but do not presume to tell me what I am thinking. I’d also suggest you read Fred Wollam’s 3rd paragraph in #349. It’s yet another excellent explanation of the problem of a patient having to guess at the intentions of a nurse.

  352. #353 PalmPete
    February 4, 2009

    Bosch’s Poodle #333

    You Said
    “the difference between us is that you think it’s better to make a big fucking federal case over every petty discourtesy, and I think it’s not.

    And I would say the difference between us is that you think it’s better to sit at the back of the bus and I think it’s not.

  353. #354 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    This is why we like PZ. He has a totally irrational approach to religion…

    I fixed that for you hayseed. Your caliber of “thinking” is what I would associate with someone who has such a worthless degree.

  354. #355 Registered User
    February 4, 2009

    I voted against the praying nurses at the linked website because that is a stupid poll and well deserves crashing.

    My real view is a bit different, though. Of course I would have no objection whatever to a nurse offering to pray for me. From a religious person, an offer of prayer might be very well meant, and especially if the nurse thought me religious also and hence likely to appreciate the gesture, I couldn’t regard the offer as hostile at all.

    Now, if after I’d said, “That’s very kind, thank you, but I’d prefer if you’d just exercise that little extra bit of care when sticking the IV line into me instead”, she persisted in pestering me about her imaginary friend, then yes, I would object, and ask for a different nurse.

  355. #356 Dubaarh
    February 4, 2009

    Was reading about this on the forum at Ben Goldacre’s BadScience.net site and on there found an interesting link to the The Lay Scientist’s blog where he explores the role of the “Christian Legal Centre” in all this.

    Seems they are are behind a number of faux outrage stories that have found their way into the Daily Hate over recent months.

    Here’s the link to the Lay Scientist Blog:
    http://layscience.net/node/482

    And the thread on BadScience.net:
    http://www.badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=7638

    Interesting reading. Seems she’s convinced her prayers have actually been healing people. A lot more to this than meets the eye by the looks of it.

  356. #357 Registered User
    February 4, 2009

    I’m not really Anonymous, BTW, but rather Mrs Tilton. Signed in on TypeKey and all, so I’m not sure why PZ’s comments box doesn’t recognise me.

  357. #358 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    My real view is a bit different, though. Of course I would have no objection whatever to a nurse offering to pray for me.

    I’m glad to see not everyone here is a pretentious, vapid, pos (just most).

  358. #359 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    Think of it this way, do you think there would be outrage if I tried to “convert” someone to aetheism while they were under my medical care?

    The word is atheism, stupid ass. (privative alpha + QEOS/QEOI)

    Of course there would. Inappropriate for the workplace. You have no right to spew you sky fairy beliefs at people in your care.

    Dayum you are stupid. Did you purloin “sky fairy” from skank-whore Amanda Marcotte or someone else?

  359. #360 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam, god doesn’t exist, and if he does, doesn’t answer prayers. There are studies proving the futility of prayer. Those engaging in futile exercises are not to be commended.

  360. #361 Chiroptera
    February 4, 2009

    Anonymous/Mrs. Tilton, #355: Of course I would have no objection whatever to a nurse offering to pray for me. From a religious person, an offer of prayer might be very well meant, and especially if the nurse thought me religious also and hence likely to appreciate the gesture, I couldn’t regard the offer as hostile at all.

    I can understand your position. However, it is different for me. I get weirded out when my neighbors just invite me to church. An interesting question for psychologists, I’m sure, and I don’t want to go into the childhood experiences that led to this, but when I am sick or injured, trying to recuperate, I don’t need the extra emotional discomfort from my health care professionals wanting to pray, dance naked around my bed, or sacrifice chickens for my sake.

    What they do on their own time and in their own space if fine; I just don’t want it brought to my attention.

  361. #362 Sastra
    February 4, 2009

    Dubaarh #322 wrote:

    The nurse in question was just interviewed over the phone on TV … She proceeded to trot out the sham snake-oil line that there are ‘three components’ to a persons health… physical, mental and spiritual. And that she felt it important to address the spiritual one as much as the previous two.

    Here is one reason why her simple request to see if her patients want to pray with her is a potential problem. She believes that there are 3 components to a person’s health: physical, mental .. and spiritual. In order to either be healthy — or get healthy — you need to be strong, spiritually. It’s important.

    Now, given her view of health, what is she going to think about the patient who politely declines her offer to join her in prayer?

    Not healthy. Not likely to be healthy. Spiritually sick — and this is effecting their mind and body. Spiritual healing is a significant part of the care she offers — and it was refused.

    No matter how nicely she takes a refusal, and how little she presses people afterward, I’m going to guess that it sends a little warning flag up in her mind. Or, perhaps, it fails to send up the Happy-In-Spirit flag — the one flying proudly over the patients who prayed with her. She has expectations for one set of patients which she doesn’t have for the other set — based on nothing more than whether they prayed with her.

    You don’t want that in a nurse. If this is not just a causal little offer she sometimes makes (still inappropriate), but a vital part of her philosophy of nursing, then darn right she should refrain from systematically setting up a situation where she can easily mentally categorize and rank her patients according to their “spiritual health.’ The hospital should see that she does.

  362. #363 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam, god doesn’t exist

    Oh, yes He does.

    and if he does, doesn’t answer prayers. There are studies proving the futility of prayer.

    Prayers do not change His mind. However, they can be a source of solace.

  363. #364 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam, prove your imaginary god exists by showing physical evidence that will pass scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers as being of divine origin. Until you do so, god doesn’t exist. The well run studies proved prayer did nothing. Why bother? Unless you are a delusions fool.

  364. #365 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    Are you still paying attention? Yes, I’m talking down to YOU.

    That’s odd, since you are a fetid piece of shit. I won’t bother talking down to you; I’ll just scrape you off the bottom of my shoe and carry on.

  365. #366 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 4, 2009

    No Rostam, we will wipe you of the bottom of our shoes. It’s a game called troll stomping, and we are very good at it. Keep that in mind your troll.

  366. #367 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam, prove your imaginary god exists by showing physical evidence that will pass scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers as being of divine origin.

    See the classical arguments for God’s existence.

    The well run studies proved prayer did nothing.

    That’s false. As I wrote, prayer can bring solace. However, God is not a genie.

  367. #368 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    No Rostam, we will wipe you of the bottom of our shoes. It’s a game called troll stomping, and we are very good at it. Keep that in mind your troll.

    Bitch please. Collectively, you lack the native intelligence to go head-to-head with me. Pharyngulites aren’t worth shit.

  368. #369 Wowbagger
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam wrote (about his god’s existence)

    Oh, yes He does.

    Really? How do you know? Did you meet him? If so, what was he wearing? What does he smell like? Does he part his Holy Hair on the right or the left – or is he bald? Did he grant you a wish?

    If any of these did happen, how are you sure it was your god and not someone else’s? Because, you know, there are a lot of them out there.

  369. #370 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam, you have already conceded defeat with your supercilious attitude. You have nothing and you know it. Bring it on.

  370. #371 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    Come on guys, the world is big enough to cope with diversity of belief. She seems like a kind, caring, nurse. There’s no suggestion that she ever went even a little bit cold with anyone who didn’t want her to pray for them. I’d be happy to be treated by her.

    Another seemingly decent fellow. I am pleasantly surprised to encounter such people in this wretched hive of scum and villainy.

  371. #372 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam, and we aren’t surprised to see such stupidity from godbots.

  372. #373 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    Now tell me I’m overreacting.

    You are overreacting. And you are a f’ing paranoid loon.

  373. #374 Mrs Tilton
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam,

    skank-whore… fetid piece of shit… Bitch please…

    Do you talk to your imaginary God with that mouth?

    Everybody else,

    may I suggest that we henceforth simply ignore Rostam. Starved of the oxygen of attention, people like him usually go away. And even if he doesn’t, if we all simply skip past his comments without response, he will be left howling alone in a virtual void.

  374. #375 tony
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam puked

    surprised to encounter such people in this wretched hive of scum and villainy

    At risk of being insouciant… I loikes me ‘ive of scum an’ iniquity, oi does!

    And as a gesture of polite inquiry:
    What would it take to remove the putrid stink of sanctity that would infest oneself, if one were, inadvertantly and in passing, referred to as decent by Rostam?

    ta much!

  375. #376 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 4, 2009

    And still no evidence for imaginary beings. Yawn. What a bore.

  376. #377 Wowbagger
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam, a pissant, bleated:

    Collectively, you lack the native intelligence to go head-to-head with me. Pharyngulites aren’t worth shit.

    >deadpan<Oh no. What have we done? We’ve made a theist mad. I sure hope he doesn’t sic his invisible sky-fairy on me. I’d hate be to turned into a pillar of salt or have a bear tear me to pieces. Please don’t hurt me, Rostam’s magic super-best-friend.>/deadpan<

  377. #378 clinteas
    February 4, 2009

    prayer can bring solace

    If Im terminally ill and have the choice between the place that offers prayers for solace,and the one that offeres Morphine drips,I know where Im going.

    Where did that pompous arrogant rostam fellow come from?

  378. #379 Wowbagger
    February 4, 2009

    Blah. Angle-bracket FAIL. Was that your god at work, Rostam? Smiting me with typos?

  379. #380 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    I’d hate be to turned into a pillar of salt or have a bear tear me to pieces.

    Since you are a piece of shit in a pile of shit, I should think a pillar of salt would be several steps up.

    I think we should hand over Pharyngulites to the military so that they can be used to sniff out IED’s, terrorists, and other dangers to which legitimate human beings should not be subjected.

  380. #381 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 4, 2009

    Still no physical evidence for imaginary beings. If god exists, the physical evidence is all over the place. Must be a defective troll.

  381. #382 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    If Im terminally ill and have the choice between the place that offers prayers for solace,and the one that offeres Morphine drips,I know where Im going.

    The two are not mutually exclusive. Do I need to draw Venn diagrams?

  382. #383 Wowbagger
    February 4, 2009

    Since you are a piece of shit in a pile of shit, I should think a pillar of salt would be several steps up.

    Hmm, giving that some thought I realise that it is an excellent argument for the existence of the god of the broader Judeo-Christian religion…

    Oh, wait – it’s not. Those are the words of a whiny little pissant who’s made claims he can’t support and who is now crapping himself with fear in the corner because he’s let his mouth write a cheque his butt can’t cash. So he’s reduced to insults because he knows he can’t show any reason to believe in his second-rate god.

    I think we should hand over Pharyngulites to the military so that they can be used to sniff out IED’s, terrorists, and other dangers to which legitimate human beings should not be subjected.

    You think someone who’s got no argument and has to resort to insults would be good at it.

  383. #384 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    …he will be left howling alone in a virtual void.

    Astute thee! Pharyngula is, indeed, a void. An intellectual void.

    The only thing worse than a f’ing moron is a pretentious f’ing moron, which characterizes 99% of pharyngulites.

  384. #385 tony
    February 4, 2009

    The two are not mutually exclusive. Do I need to draw Venn diagrams?

    There would be one, two, or three choices. Even if one is fully encapsulated within the other. So what are you saying? That some god-clinics would NOT have morphine, or that some god clinics offer morphine in addition to god?

    Unless the sets are conpletely congruent, (and all clinics only deliver morphine plus god) then of course I have a choice.

    I’d draw you a diagram, but seem to have forgotten my crayons.

  385. #386 Wowbagger
    February 4, 2009

    At the time I write this, Rostam has commented eight times since he made the claim that his god exists in post #363. Not one of those posts has contained anything resembling evidence or argument to support his claim.

    Is he just waiting to throw down? No. Rostam has, as they say, ‘jack’. Nothing. Nada. Bupkis, even. He doesn’t ‘go heels’, as they said in the old west. Shooting blanks. His argument for god is limited to how he really, really, really believes there’s a god, mostly because he wants to feel special and have a super-special magical best friend who loves him.

    But that’s not an argument. So, all he has are third-rate (on a good day) insults and the sort of substandard snark most Pharyngulites could top without blinking.

    Eh, he’ll stick around for a little longer before fleeing in terror, covered in his own piss and shit.

  386. #387 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    Nah, Wowbagger. I know from previous experience that pharyngulites lack the native intelligence to apprehend Goedel’s Ontological Argument and other arguments that rely on mathematics and statistics.

    I tend not to waste effort on the incurably stupid, you see.

  387. #388 John Morales
    February 4, 2009

    Another hypocritical, pretentious troll.

    Troll’s 13th post in this thread:

    I tend not to waste effort on the incurably stupid, you see.

  388. #389 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam, you got it wrong. We know the arguments. We also know the Ontological Arguments do not constitute physical proof. Occam’s razor still says no gawd. And a philosophical gawd is worth zippo since it doesn’t interact with the physical world. Just another boring troll with nothing to offer. Yawn.

  389. #390 Wowbagger
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam, a coward with no arguments, wrote:

    Nah, Wowbagger. I know from previous experience that pharyngulites lack the native intelligence to apprehend Goedel’s Ontological Argument and other arguments that rely on mathematics and statistics.

    I tend not to waste effort on the incurably stupid, you see.

    Translation: blah blah I got nothin’ blah blah I could show you but I won’t blah blah Gödel was real smart so my god must exists blah blah you’re all too stupid to understand blah blah maths and statistics prove god but I too afraid to try and explain because deep down I know it’s worthless blah blah I’m a whiny pissant.

    Run away, Rostam. You’re a gutless fool and we’re all laughing at you.

  390. #391 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    we’re all laughing at you.

    That would be a horse laugh.

    Rostam, you got it wrong. We know the arguments.

    No you don’t.

    Occam’s razor still says no gawd[sic].

    Ockham’s razor is a heuristic device; it does not prove anything.

  391. #392 tony
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam – you appear to know some words, yet you seem to have great difficulaty applying them with any logical consistency.

    Ockham’s razor is a heuristic device; it does not prove anything

    Do you have any fucking idea what a heuristic is? It is “involving or serving as an aid to learning, discovery, or problem-solving” according to M-W.

    No-one mentioned proof. We simply mentioned Occam’s Razor – as a way to approach the “problem” to be “solved”, i.e. “is there a god” – and the answer, heuristically or otherwise, is NO.

    In common parlance – the method says no god.

    You’re an ass.

  392. #393 Wowbagger
    February 4, 2009

    Ockham’s razor is a heuristic device; it does not prove anything.

    Do my eyes deceive me? Is it possible? Has Rostam has actually attempted to present something that could perhaps be considered by some to be close to something resembling an approach to an argument? Quick, stop the presses! Call the president! The fire brigade! The light brigade! The Home Guard! Someone to stop me adding exclamation points to my sentences!

    Say it ain’t so, Pa; say it ain’t so!

    Whew, Rostam – you’d better watch out; if you keep up at this rate he might actual present an argument for your god* within – oh, I don’t know – six months or so. Thing is, you can take as much time as you like – it’ll still be useless. You can’t prove your god exists, Rostam; not even if you had two Gödels and half a Plantinga stuck up your ass.

    *Note this; it may be significant later.

  393. #394 Kel
    February 4, 2009

    Ockham’s razor is a heuristic device; it does not prove anything.

    lol,this coming from a bonehead using ontological arguments?

  394. #395 Wowbagger
    February 4, 2009

    lol,this coming from a bonehead using ontological arguments?

    He hasn’t used any arguments yet. He’s cowering in the corner, covered in shit; from time to time he stops sobbing and flings some – probably thinking it’s ice-cream.

    This is as close as he’s likely to get to an argument.

  395. #396 Kel
    February 4, 2009

    He referred to Godel’s ontological argument, I’m assuming it was the same one who brought it up about a month ago. Just googling the topic came up with a disproof of it, why does it feel like a creationist asserting “there are no transitional forms” in the hope that we haven’t even heard of archaeopteryx?

  396. #397 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    Just googling the topic came up with a disproof of it…

    Apparently, you are one of those types who believes anything he reads on the internet. Some of us, however, like to get our information from books and other stuffy media.

  397. #398 Wowbagger
    February 4, 2009

    I don’t know if it was him; I did a search on the name and it appears he’s only been posting today – though I wouldn’t rule out morphing; it’s pretty much standard behaviour for this sort of wannabe hit-and-run troll*.

    *I add ‘wannabe’ because otherwise people might think he actually hit something – and he didn’t.

  398. #399 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam, never underestimate our backgrounds or resources. You are in over your head. Wait until our philosophy/theology experts arrive. Your head will be spinning seven ways from Sunday.

  399. #400 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam, never underestimate our backgrounds or resources. You are in over your head. Wait until our philosophy/theology experts arrive. Your head will be spinning seven ways from Sunday.

    This is not my first time here and I’ve already observed the occupants of the pharyngula clown car; they are almost without exception low rent and trifling.

  400. #401 Kel
    February 4, 2009

    Apparently, you are one of those types who believes anything he reads on the internet. Some of us, however, like to get our information from books and other stuffy media.

    tbh,I got the godel ontological argument from the net as well. That makes it as invalid as the disproof? Or are you just dismissing outright that maybe there may have been some validity to the argument and you are criticising the medium in lieu of actually looking for yourself?

    It’s amazing to see something in this day and age still using ontological proofs… oh well, it’s only the internet right? Some of us prefer to get information from books and other stuffy media than from comments on a blog post… oh what’s that? Am I dismissing you out of hand without considering what you said based on your own criticism of a medium? How dare I?!?

  401. #402 Wowbagger
    February 4, 2009

    Rostam, reeking of urine and faeces, whimpered:

    Apparently, you are one of those types who believes anything he reads on the internet. Some of us, however, like to get our information from books and other stuffy media.

    Wow, the stupid is strong in this one.

    Since you hate modern technology so much, Rostam, why don’t you sharpen yourself up a nice quill pen, mix yourself up some ink and write to PZ in longhand on parchment? Maybe you can get a carrier pigeon to deliver it for you.

    If we hear from you in anything less than a week we know you’re a hypocrite.

  402. #403 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    Kel,

    It is possible that you found a legitimate criticism of Goedel’s Ontological Argument on the internet. I doubt it, though. (I don’t doubt that you think you’ve found a ‘disproof’ but that you’ve actually found one.)

  403. #404 Crudely Wrott
    February 4, 2009

    [begin elementary school teacher voice]Now class. Class! Please face front! I know there is a large and ugly bug beating at the the window and it looks threatening, but if you will look closely, you will see that he is trapped between the inner glass and the outside storm window. It will soon enough beat itself to death and fall out of sight. Now! May we please return to today’s lesson? Thank you. My, my. Some of you are so easily distracted.[end elementary school teacher voice]

  404. #405 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    Since you hate modern technology so much, Rostam…

    Recognizing that there is much bullshit on the internet (including this cesspool, of course) is not the same as being a luddite. I regularly use the internet to download articles from legitimate sources.

  405. #406 Rostam
    February 4, 2009

    begin elementary school teacher voice

    That’s the prevailing intellectual level here and I give you credit for recognizing it.

  406. #407 Kel
    February 4, 2009

    It is possible that you found a legitimate criticism of Goedel’s Ontological Argument on the internet. I doubt it, though.

    It is possible, but honestly do you think that mocking my source when you are using that exact same source is constructive in any way? Did it make you feel intellectually superior that I dared to make mention of a medium that has problems? Does the information coming from a book suddenly make it more valid, or are books limited to the same trappings as the internet? Is it that I need to have an entire library in my house dedicated to the topic at hand that you happen to bring up? Are you concluding from all this that because I used the internet to check out whether an ontological proof has a refutation that I must use the internet for all my information? And on that, that I can’t discern bullshit from brilliance?

    Or could it be that you put so much credence into that proof that you figure the possibility for it being refuted is non-existent therefore I’m the idiot?

  407. #408 Wowbagger
    February 4, 2009

    Recognizing that there is much bullshit on the internet (including this cesspool, of course)

    And yet you’re still here. Surely there are plenty of ‘articles’ from ‘legitimate sources’ you could be downloading rather than lowering yourself to consort with the likes of us?

  408. #409 Nunuv Yerbizness
    February 4, 2009

    “Don’t ask, just go quietly off by herself and pray for the patient. The request is an unnecessary element that is little more than a ploy for attention, a declaration of her piety.”

    And, according to Matthew 6:6, the biblically appropriate thing to do.

  409. #410 PZ Myers
    February 5, 2009

    You haven’t made a single argument here yet, Rostam, and you’re very close to being banned. Knock it off. Say something other than this repetitive whining.

  410. #411 Fred Wollam
    February 5, 2009

    I have a better idea than banning him (it’s rather nice, in a perverse kind of way, to be afforded the opportunity to feel like such a mental bully every so often, don’t you agree?).

    Here’s my plan: let’s all pool our pocket change, then, by turns, buy the dipshit for what he’s worth,* then sell him for what he thinks he’s worth, retire on part of the proceeds, and finance the world out of its present crisis with the balance.

    *Hell, let’s buy up all his god-proof too… it won’t cost any more.

  411. #412 Wowbagger
    February 5, 2009

    Eh, I’m bored with Rotsam Flotsam anyway, so I don’t object to him being banned. But I don’t think it’ll matter much; he appears to have scuttled off leaving only a trace of troll-stink – and nothing resembling an argument – behind him.

  412. #413 Kel
    February 5, 2009

    For the record, here is the disproof of the ontological argument.

  413. #414 Owlmirror
    February 5, 2009

    For the record, here is the disproof of the ontological argument.

    LOL. That’s the same paper with the quote cited by Rostam when he was being Peregrinus.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/11/mormon_meddlers.php#comment-1200758

    “Either 2+2=5 or desires are equines;
    It is not the case that 2+2=5;
    Therefore desires are equines”

    Ponies for everyone!

  414. #415 Crudely Wrott
    February 5, 2009

    Back on topic, what then is the value of, and the proper response to, an offer of charity that offends the recipient?

  415. #416 Owlmirror
    February 5, 2009

    (Or in other words, Peregrinus/Rostam was/is trying to convince us that there is some merit in a logic that he already knew had been disproven!)

    *snrk*

  416. #417 Kel
    February 5, 2009

    (Or in other words, Peregrinus/Rostam was/is trying to convince us that there is some merit in a logic that he already knew had been disproven!)

    lol. So it is like a creationist asserting that there are no transitional forms in the hope that we don’t know better; or at least changing the definition of transitional in order to fit what he sees it as. “the disproof says it’s logically sound, so that’s all that matters”, “scientists still haven’t found the crocoduck, so there are no transitional forms!”

  417. #418 Crudely Wrott
    February 5, 2009

    As a seed, I will submit the counsel of my recently departed DaddyO. To wit: Be Wise, Kind and a little bit Blind.

    When he first advised me so I had a pretty clear notion of being kind. And I had an intuitive understanding of being a little bit blind, being older than my two step brothers and two step sisters. After all, they were just little. And silly. It was the part about being wise that was troublesome; after all, I was just a kid. The intervening mumbley mumble years have given me many clues yet I am still not able to say with certainty what wisdom is in any given situation. I usually just let my conscience be my guide. (Thank you, Jiminy Cricket!)

  418. #419 Rostam
    February 5, 2009

    (Or in other words, Peregrinus/Rostam was/is trying to convince us that there is some merit in a logic that he already knew had been disproven!)

    Polish your crystal ball cuz’ it ain’t working. I know Graham Oppy believes the argument has been disproven.

  419. #420 Kel
    February 5, 2009

    Polish your crystal ball cuz’ it ain’t working. I know Graham Oppy believes the argument has been disproven.

    So where is Graham Oppy wrong in his disproof?

  420. #421 John Morales
    February 5, 2009

    Crudely Wrott,

    Back on topic, what then is the value of, and the proper response to, an offer of charity that offends the recipient?

    Well, that would depend on the act and its context, wouldn’t it?

    In this case (prayer) and context (one’s nurse, unsolicited, to a non-believer), the value of it is nil to the recipient, and the proper response is to point out that, regardless of the intent, it is in fact an imposition rather than charity since the recipient is presumably expected to show gratitude, or at the very least to abstain from criticism. Unsolicited prayer is no more desirable than unsolicited advice (when such advice is inane).

  421. #422 Owlmirror
    February 5, 2009

    I know Graham Oppy believes the argument has been disproven.

    And I know that Oppy is correct because I have no pony here.

  422. #423 John Morales
    February 5, 2009

    Re Gödel’s Ontological Argument – for mine, the fifth axiom is arbitrary and question-begging, though necessary to his argument.

    I note this from the Wikipedia entry:
    “In August 1970, Gödel told Oskar Morgenstern that he was “satisfied” with the proof, but Morgenstern recorded in his diary entry for 29 August 1970 that Gödel would not publish because he was afraid that others might think that he actually believes in God, whereas he is only engaged in a logical investigation (that is, in showing that such a proof with classical assumptions (completeness, etc.) correspondingly axiomatized, is possible).

  423. #424 Rey Fox
    February 5, 2009

    And you’ll know they are Christians by their love.

  424. #425 Rostam
    February 5, 2009

    Then you should also have noted this:

    Morgenstern’s diary is an important and usually reliable source for Gödel’s later years, but the implication of the August 1970 diary entry — that Gödel did not believe in God — is not consistent with the other evidence. In letters to his mother, who was not a churchgoer and had raised Kurt and his brother as freethinkers,[3] Gödel argued at length for a belief in an afterlife.[4] He did the same in an interview with a skeptical Hao Wang, who says that

    I expressed my doubts as G spoke [...] Gödel smiled as he replied to my questions, obviously aware that his answers were not convincing me.”[5]

    Wang reports that Gödel’s wife, Adele, two days after Gödel’s death, told Wang that “Gödel, although he did not go to church, was religious and read the Bible in bed every Sunday morning.”[6] In an unmailed answer to a questionnaire, Gödel described his religion as “baptized Lutheran (but not member of any religious congregation). My belief is theistic, not pantheistic, following Leibniz rather than Spinoza.”[7]

  425. #426 Crudely Wrott
    February 5, 2009

    John, your point is well taken. In the case of someone like Nurse Petrie, she made a common assumption that because she assumes the efficacy of prayer and most of her circle of acquaintances did too that I would be similarly disposed. And it is precisely that presumption that I and others find irritating. (Makes an ass of u and me.)

    I’ve never been under medical care for anything seriously threatening, under sedation and disoriented when someone offered to pray for/with me, so I cannot address the issue from that particular POV. I address the question to more general and pedestrian occasions.

    I have been offered unsolicited advice too many times to count and I find that my responses vary considerably, from a noncommittal smiling nod to a hard glare and profanity. I observe that in the latter case I usually feel like a heel. I do not like to offend people unnecessarily, but then, who willingly suffers an ass?

    I have also noticed that to snap at someone who presumes to tell me how to solve my (apparent to them) need for advice to have the affect of causing the other to pull up short, think for a moment, and then request advice on the subject at hand of me. This is a quandry, for I do not know how to discern it in advance.

  426. #427 Erp
    February 5, 2009

    I personally would probably be a bit upset, and, I suspect she went a bit further than she stated. If all she wanted was to say a prayer, she could have done it on her own time. Instead she had to make sure the patient knew she wanted to say a prayer. Her job is to consider the patient’s wishes within the bounds of good medical practice. She did not know the patient’s wishes in regards to prayer.

    Turning the situation slightly:

    If the patient had asked a doctor or nurse to pray, how should a doctor or nurse respond?

    I’m reminded of a short story by Balzac calle “An Atheist’s Mass”. In it the main character discovers a doctor, a well known atheist, several times a year has a mass said and distributes money to the poor. He queries the doctor who explains he does it for the sake of a workman who he had shared quarters with when he was a poor student. The worker had no family and more or less adopted the future doctor, supporting him with all his meager savings thereby allowing the doctor to complete his studies. The worker was a devout catholic but when he died had no money for even a funeral mass, all had gone to the doctor. He had never asked the doctor for anything except that the doctor become a good doctor and he knew the doctor was an atheist so had no expectation the doctor would pray for him. The doctor felt the least he could do would be to provide the masses the worker would have liked. I’m still not sure what to make of the story, but, I note the doctor considered what the worker would want not what he wanted.

    A good hospital chaplain is trained to wait for the patient to request something and to carry out that request if any (within good medical practice) even if it contradicts the chaplain’s own faith. For example a Catholic chaplain should see that a Muslim patient has halal meals and the privacy to say his prayers in the correct manner if the patient so wants. I doubt this nurse is trained or willing to do that.

  427. #428 Owlmirror
    February 5, 2009

    Pilt @#313:

    And they’re all so dhimmified that they’ll roll in the dirt like a bitch dog in heat if a Muslim so much as glances at them – and anyone who doesn’t do the same is “xenohobic”.

    Kill them all, let God sort them out.

    So, Pilt, it also looks like all it takes to get you to turn into a frothing genocidal maniac is to insult the readership of the newspaper you also read…

    Say, are you sure you’re not possessed by a demon? Maybe you need to snort more holy water.

    Pilt @#239 on another thread:

    by the time I went to university I was a supercilious libertarian atheist who regarded religion as the crutch of the weak-minded and/or cudgel of the bigoted.

    And it also looks like you decided that having a crutch and a cudgel was a good thing (and so gave up the atheism), and that liberty is just plain wrong (and so gave up the libertarianism). I’m still wondering about that…

    PS: You’re still supercilious. But some things never change.

  428. #429 John Morales
    February 5, 2009

    Troll, those are the paragraphs following my brief quote, which had the purpose of indicating that Gödel (a very smart person) was aware that his formalisation of Leibniz’s version of Anselm’s proof was purely a logical exercise (and due to its reliance on unjustifiable axioms was not convincing in itself) and he probably did not want others to consider him feebleminded by virtue of belief in God from such an arbitrary basis.
    I also didn’t note that, a few years later, he starved himself to death.

  429. #430 Crudely Wrott
    February 5, 2009

    An atheist in distress who is offered prayer by a caregiver or anyone else could actually answer any way at all since the atheist knows that there is no difference between prayer and no prayer.

    I would seem, then, that the issue devolves to one of personal temperament. And we observe that this covers a wide range in any given individual depending on circumstance, the demands of the moment and the moods of the two principals involved.

    Given this, is there a proper response to unsolicited prayer/advice? Or do we just make it up as we go?

  430. #431 Wowbagger
    February 5, 2009

    What Rostam either doesn’t realise, or is conveniently ignoring, is that, even if we did accept that Gödel’s proof shows that a god is necessary, that proof can be applied to any god at all – Yahweh, Thor, Ra, Ahura Mazda, Ganesh or Offler the Crocodile God.

    Isn’t that right, Rostam? Or can you show that Gödel’s proof somehow only applies to the god you happen to worship?

  431. #432 Kel
    February 5, 2009

    I’m calling that necessary god ‘string theory’ ;)

    No mind, no consciousness, no intent, just the capacity to create the elaborate reality as we see it.

  432. #433 John Morales
    February 5, 2009

    Crudely Wrott,

    I would seem, then, that the issue devolves to one of personal temperament. And we observe that this covers a wide range in any given individual depending on circumstance, the demands of the moment and the moods of the two principals involved.
    Given this, is there a proper response to unsolicited prayer/advice? Or do we just make it up as we go?

    If I were forced to generalise, I would say that honesty is the best policy, especially on a first instance. Put up with it once, and you will be seen as churlish if then you speak up on subsequent occasions this occurs – and there will be subsequent occasions.

  433. #434 windy
    February 5, 2009

    You haven’t made a single argument here yet, Rostam, and you’re very close to being banned.

    Close to? I thought he already was, back when he was “O-s-t-i-a-r-i-u-s”

  434. #435 Wowbagger
    February 5, 2009

    No mind, no consciousness, no intent, just the capacity to create the elaborate reality as we see it.

    Makes a whole lot more sense than any of the gods I’ve heard posited. Plus, one can’t imagine such a creature would have any interest at all in recruiting an army of pompous, intellect-stifling, fawning ass-kissers.

  435. #436 Crudely Wrott
    February 5, 2009

    “If I were forced to generalise, I would say that honesty is the best policy, especially on a first instance.”

    Thanks, John. That is my preferred approach. That is, to not justify the offer by acceptance due to unearned courtesy. That would most likely suggest that one was comfortable with an offer that is intrinsically offensive. The result is often to reinforce the assumption that the recipient values the offer and encourages more vigorous offers which would eventually require equally more vigorous refusals which will serve no other purpose than more offense, tearful appeals to authority and civil court action. A total waste of time.

    Great thread, many considered thoughts. Good stuff to sleep on (for a second! night.)

    And so, good night.

  436. #437 Thunderbird5
    February 5, 2009

    Piltdown @350

    Accepted absolutely, and my apologies for the late. Went to work in betweens (as, in its own little way, did Rostam here, bless its little foil hat) but if any of my patients do believe in the power of prayer, I’m evidently not much of an agent thereof because I was asked several times not to even think of it..

    There are many many micro and macro issues and anxieties that healthcare workers down here at the crumbling big-toe end of the nation face daily. In endeavouring to attain and uphold the professionalism that serves our individual patients as well as the NHS in general, absolutely one of the last things we need is this unsolicited prayer squaddery making us look like
    a) inbred,wurzel-gurning superstitious rubes or
    b) ye-olde-england-upholding liberty-martyrs

    as portrayed by the national media axis ;)

    Come back Barbara Windsor, all is forgiven…

  437. #438 nothing's sacred
    February 5, 2009

    The ontological arguments boil down to claiming that a perfect being exists because it wouldn’t be perfect if it didn’t. Sensible people recognize that this can’t be valid, even if they can’t pin down why, just as

    1. Exactly one of these two statements is false.
    2. God exists.

    If the first statement is true then it follows that the second is false, but if the first statement is false, then it also follows that the second is false. Therefore the second statement is false, therefore God does not exist.

    is not a valid argument, even if one has trouble pinning down just why.

    Ockham’s razor is a heuristic device; it does not prove anything.

    It’s a heuristic device for finding true statements. To say that it doesn’t prove anything simply says that it isn’t infallible. But then, as seen above, neither is logicism.

  438. #439 Star
    February 6, 2009

    Well said! I particularly enjoyed the description of Melanie Phillips as a Dingbat!

    http://starless-midnight.blogspot.com/

    I expressed similar views on this issue in my blog, feel free to take a look and let me know what you think.

    And the poll has changed, it is now 68% Yes and only 32% No so it seems there is a strong support for the Equality and Diversity act in her own poll!

  439. #440 Leon
    February 8, 2009

    Mr PZ Myers,

    I’m an agnostic, but I am appalled at your ignorant and pathetic post. Do you believe you are superior to everyone else just because you’re an atheist?

    I’m tired of militant atheists that believe that they are superior to religious folk. Yeah right, you might not believe in a superior being, but I’m sure that you believe in a lot of other irrational things, like everyone else. The only thing militant atheism will achieve will be a faster islamization of Europe. Good luck with that.

  440. #441 Leon
    February 8, 2009

    A nurse suspended for “failing to demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity”.

    “Equality and diversity”, good. Caring emotionally for a patient, bad.

    I think the kooks are the ones running the asylum, not the nurse.

  441. #442 Knockgoats
    February 8, 2009

    The only thing militant atheism will achieve will be a faster islamization of Europe.

    Hey! We got us another racist scumbag troll!

  442. #443 Sven DiMilo
    February 8, 2009

    I’m an agnostic, but I’m very, very concerned about the islamificationisticism of Europe. So stop it, you militant atheists! Stop making me concerned.

  443. #444 Janine, Ignorant Slut
    February 8, 2009

    Posted by: Leon | February 8, 2009

    The only thing militant atheism will achieve will be a faster islamization of Europe. Good luck with that.

    And exactly how will that happen? Atheists are no more happy with Islam than they are with Christianity.

    Also, you brain damaged troll, medical care has no need of prayer. If a nurse or doctor must pray for me, they can do it when they are not with me. The thing is, I would be seeking more competent care givers after that.

  444. #445 'Tis Himself
    February 8, 2009

    Leon felt a dead horse needed kicking.

  445. #446 Janine, Ignorant Slut
    February 8, 2009

    Leon should stop kicking the horse and borrow the horse’s brain. It would be an upgrade.

  446. #447 SEF
    February 8, 2009

    NB The feeble-minded NHS bods let her back in:

    http://www.christianlegalcentre.com/view.php?id=684
    + Grauniad (since not linked to by CLC)

  447. #448 Patricia, OM
    February 8, 2009

    Wheeeeew!
    Holy cow, what a stink in here. Nice troll stomping!
    That one sounded like that Ost-? troll to me too.

  448. #449 Leon
    February 8, 2009

    “Atheists are no more happy with Islam than they are with Christianity.”

    That may well be so, but contrary to Islamists, Christians don’t tend to use force to punish unbelievers. Try the “atheist bus” trick in Saudi Arabia. Or try to put an ad saying “Mohammed is not a prophet” in London to see how it goes.

    What I see here is not so much “reason” or even “atheism” as Christian-bashing, simply because it’s easy. Christianity is dying in large parts of the developed world.

    But those who expect “reason” to prevail are sadly mistaken. There will always be religions, not necessarily theist. What was Communism if not another form of religion, with Che Guevara as its Jesus?

    Good bye.

  449. #450 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 8, 2009

    What was Communism if not another form of religion, with Che Guevara as its Jesus?

    Yes and anyone trying to make the atheism = communism claim is a moron.

  450. #451 'Tis Himself
    February 8, 2009

    Leon has a bad case of fatwa envy.

  451. #452 'Tis Himself
    February 8, 2009

    Tony Sidaway has this to say about fatwa envy:

    Modern Christians are actually saying to us ?you wouldn?t dare do something we disagree with if we had the power to have you sentenced to death.? In view of the fact that people in art and publishing have been killed by Muslim thugs in recent years, I find that bloody disgusting. If they want to be lumped in the same league as the islamic extremists, then so be it.

  452. #453 Janine, Ignorant Slut
    February 8, 2009

    Posted by: Leon | February 8, 2009

    That may well be so, but contrary to Islamists, Christians don’t tend to use force to punish unbelievers.

    And everything melts down to incoherence. If christians will not use violence, aren’t they at a disadvantage in facing off against muslims? Seems that atheists are not needed in the face of the hordes of violent muslims.

    As for putting an ad on a bus in Saudi Arabia, good luck putting a christian ad on the same bus. Saudi Arabia is a theocracy. And it was the english muslims who raised a fuss about the ads in London, it was the christians.

    Use the horse brain. You know not what you talk about.

  453. #454 Wowbagger
    February 8, 2009

    Considering that many (if not most) atheists are that way inclined because they are (at heart) adogmatists, they’re going to have as little time for most incarnations of Communism – and certainly the kind practiced by so-called ‘atheist’ Stalin – as they do for either Islam or Christianity.

  454. #455 Fred Wollam
    February 10, 2009

    Leon–a xian using the tedious ploy of feigning agnosticism to forestall honest argumentation–recently (and utterly unencumbered by facts) took the following wild stab:

    “Christians don’t tend to use force to punish unbelievers.”

    Mark Twain once quite rightly observed that a man “…who refuses to read has no particular advantage over one who can’t read.”

    Leon, I’ll beg the question by assuming you belong to the former category, so please, please,, before you waste any more of our time on such drivel, change your ways and consult the following two wee histories before you argue the topic:

    First, bone up on the entire history of xianity and xians; second, glance briefly at the history of war since the start of the crusades, paying special attention to said crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Huguenots, Joan of Arc, the Russian pogroms, the African slave trade, the KKK, George W. Bush… oh, wtf, you won’t need nearly that much to convince you. Just a tiny sample should be enough to snap you around 180, to convince you you’ve been gulled, to show you your companions are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Let us know when you’re done, and we’ll welcome you back with open arms (also look up: Burden of Rejoinder. The concept will smooth your transition.).

    And to the rest of you: shame on you, picking on poor, ignorant Leon! Such is tantamount to swatting mosquitoes with a baseball bat.

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