Pharyngula

I find the results of this study to be simply sad, but entirely unsurprising. An examination of dying cancer patients showed that the most religious were also the most likely to ask for very aggressive medical care.

The patients who leaned the most heavily on their faith were nearly three times more likely to choose and receive more aggressive care near death, such as ventilators or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. They were less likely to have advanced care planning in place, such as do-not-resuscitate orders, living wills, and healthcare proxies.

“These results suggest that relying upon religion to cope with terminal cancer may contribute to receiving aggressive medical care near death,” the authors write in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association. “Because aggressive end-of-life cancer care has been associated with poor quality of death . . . intensive end-of-life care might represent a negative outcome for religious copers.”

Most religions are built on fear and ignorance, so we shouldn’t be at all surprised to find that these dying people respond to their situation with great fear, and with little planning or thought. I don’t even think it’s because religion tells people to ignore their wills or to seek the most excessive (and ultimately, futile) medical attention — this is a property of the kind of people who seek out religion.

Comments

  1. #1 Sigmund
    March 18, 2009

    I saw that report earlier and wasn’t sure whether it asked about fear of hell rather than belief in heaven as the reason they clung to life so tenaciously.

  2. #2 That German Guy
    March 18, 2009

    Well, now we know what some of us have always thought: At least some religious people are so directly because of a fear of the unknown and/or death.

    Me, I don’t fear death. Death is in all probability the cessation of existence, and what does not exist cannot suffer. I do fear dying however, as that seems to be quite painful (among other things).

  3. #3 Zap
    March 18, 2009

    I’m not sure that’s entirely fair. I’m an atheist myself, but I think that assuming that all religious people react to death with fear and poor planning is painting them with a pretty wide brush. I think that they plan, but that their plan is belief based, not logic based. Prayer to them is real, as real as air or gravity. Yes we know it’s nonsense, but they don’t. When their prayers are not answered, then they panic, because not only does reality finally set in, but their faith is rapidly being lost under the most terrible of situations. Coming to realize that perhaps the structure you built your life upon isn’t going to save you must be terrifying.

  4. #4 Your Mighty Overload
    March 18, 2009

    Sounds a lot like they don’t really trust their Great Sky Fairy. I mean, for a group of people who believe so fervently that they are going to heaven, they sure don’t seem to want to get there too fast.

    What happened with all that “putting your life in God’s hands” crap?

  5. #5 Dan
    March 18, 2009

    A focus on Heaven is a focus on eternal life. It’s a small hedge to go for extending this one.

    A skeptic while enjoying life may simply be more stoic about prospects.

  6. #6 Zap
    March 18, 2009

    drat, forgot the close tag on the italics above.

  7. #7 WTFinterrobang
    March 18, 2009

    “god’s will be done” my ass!

    Yet another example of xtians choosing the cafeteria belief plan.

  8. #8 clinteas
    March 18, 2009

    Tough one that.

    I think everyone is afraid of death,I see people die every day,probably more that didnt expect to die than the chronically ill like cancer patients,but still.

    Interesting that religious people would be the ones to want more aggressive resuscitation,I dont care what anyone’s beliefs are really,but the reality is that a terminally ill patient does not get resuscitated usually,because there is nothing reversible or fixable with their condition.Its about palliation,and a lot of places are not doing a good job at that.

  9. #9 maureen
    March 18, 2009

    The ability to accept death as final, to plan for it and in due time to acknowledge and accept the imminence of death is not something which can suddenly be switched on – be that on admission to emergency care or at age 85.

    It comes from a lifetime of thinking quite deeply about all sorts of things, not just death, and dealing in facts not fantasy wherever possible.

    I have lived long enough to see several deaths close up. Those who achieved a good death – and that is possible – were the ones who approached the matter as rationally as they had lived their lives.

    My own plans – though I want to be here another 30 years – include a set of t-shirts bearing the legend “no euphemisms, please” and with any luck I’ll be wearing one as I die.

  10. #10 Lee Picton
    March 18, 2009

    The husbeast, dying with a degree of grace and dignity I am in awe of, is an atheist like me. We have our paperwork in order, and have even managed to avoid the ridiculous expense of after death disposal – we live in Maryland, which has a lot of medical schools and a continuing need of “training material” for its students. Neither of us approves of aggressive end of life care (although part of that may stem from the fact that we are older and have already lived pretty decent lives by anyone’s standards), or, for that matter, expensive end-of-life care. Husbeast thinks that 24/7 ventilator care (which he is pretty sure he will refuse) costing hundreds of thousands to prolong a life that is circling the drain anyway is a scandal, when the same amount of money would subsidize the care of thousands of children. Like the rest of those who do not fear death itself, it is only the possibility of an unpleasant dying that gives us pause. I personally think the religious have a far greater fear of death because they have been brought up in fear, and that’s a pretty hard thing to shed.

  11. #11 Zeno
    March 18, 2009

    Remember when TV evangelist D. James Kennedy had that heart attack a couple of years ago? He vigorously resisted going to heaven, even at the price of using modern medicine influenced by the evils of science and intellectualism. Kennedy is gone now, but his fellow travelers continue to pray that God will refrain from snatching them up too soon. Eternal bliss in heaven with Jesus? Well, maybe later. For now it’s better to suffer on this blighted earth. It’s an interesting choice that underscores the shallowness of their convictions.

  12. #12 Rnar
    March 18, 2009

    Perhaps christians go through life, not really thinking about death. But when the the end of their life comes, their faith isn’t as strong as they thought, and they end up trying to cope with the whole issue of death without having laid the “philosophical groundwork” that we atheists are forced to deal with fairly early in our life?

  13. #13 Philip1978
    March 18, 2009

    I have an idea that I would like to hurl around and see where it gets me

    I think these people also do it because it prolongs the pain, it prolongs the suffering – its almost as if they want it.

    Why?

    Because God would want them to.

    I have had conversations with many religious people who all suffer from the same Stockholm Syndrome and certainly masochistic part of their religion that makes them feel unworthy in God’s presence unless they are truly getting the crap knocked out of them.

    I suspect you have all witnessed at some point the type of person who dances happily and loves God even more for killing their children or something of the equivalent that somehow makes their “faith” stronger.

    I would guess that some people do want to hang on in pain a bit longer – a bit like purgatory – to make themselves more “holy” or worthy in God’s presence.

    My other guess is that some want to keep it all going, machines and all, until it is completely and utterly clear as to what God’s plan for that life is. God could turn the machine off when he decides its time, for all they know, God could provide that miracle cure for the person that they have been praying for.

    The awful mess Bush made of the Terri Schiavo is evidence of this sort of refusal to look rationally at the situation.

    Am I talking rubbish or does this make some sort of sense?

  14. #14 JMartin
    March 18, 2009

    No fundies in foxholes.

  15. #15 True Bob
    March 18, 2009

    What I see in common through their life and death is….desperation.

  16. #16 WTFinterrobang
    March 18, 2009

    @Clinteas #8

    “Its about palliation,and a lot of places are not doing a good job at that.”

    Hear, hear!

  17. #17 MissPrism
    March 18, 2009

    There’s also the fact that strongly religious people will likely have families and communities praying (possibly in shifts round the clock) for their miraculous recovery. That could lead terminally ill Christians to see the acceptance of death – even inevitable death – as selfishly letting the side down and frustrating the valiant efforts of prayer teams. So they suffer needless pain in order to give Jesus one last chance to heal them.

    This is tragic, not contemptible.

  18. #18 Gingerbaker
    March 18, 2009

    We should remember this Deathbed Doubt study the next time we hear some idiot say there are ‘no atheists in foxholes’.

    And add yet another entry into the Captain’s Log of ‘Even More Reasons Why Religion Sucks’ – disproportionate healthcare expenses. Thank you, Jesus, for nothing.

  19. #19 True Bob
    March 18, 2009

    “palliation”? Isn’t that what you do with friendly terrorists?

  20. #20 Jud
    March 18, 2009

    When I was 16 or 17, I was out driving on a two-lane country road, and foolishly pulled out to pass another car just before the crest of a hill. As I topped the rise, I saw I was headed right for a station wagon full of nuns. I managed to swerve back into the right lane just in the nick of time.

    I’ve never seen so many women look so panic-stricken at the thought of going to meet their husband.

    Lee Picton (#10): Hat’s off to you and the “husbeast.”

  21. #21 bc4
    March 18, 2009

    “These results suggest that relying upon religion to cope with terminal cancer may contribute to receiving aggressive medical care near death”

    I’d be interested in why they assume any causation here. It seems plausible that a person with a profound fear of death would turn to both religion and aggressive treatment in their final days, months, or years– even if they weren’t that religious beforehand.

  22. #22 Alverant
    March 18, 2009

    Times like this I wonder if christians deep down are aware that their religion is a load of crap. That’s why they’re so scared of dying. They know there’s no heaven and can’t admit it. It’s very unhealthy.

  23. #23 Susan
    March 18, 2009

    One of my favorite Randy Newman quotes (Hi, Janine!): If I believed in an afterlife, I’d drive faster.

  24. #24 Danimal
    March 18, 2009

    Perhaps they are sinners and know that they are going to hell and want to avoid that as long as possible. It also could be that they are not sure which (heaven or hell) they are going to and are afraid to find out.

  25. #25 rrt
    March 18, 2009

    I agree, phillip1978. Although I think PZ’s right about the main reason, I think for some there’s also the spectre of the whole “right to life” thing hovering over them. They aren’t sure when it’s theologically okay to die. If it wasn’t okay for Schiavo, how can it be okay for their (nominally) non-braindead selves? They don’t want to be seen by their church peers as one of those suicide-loving “culture of death” liberals.

  26. #26 Transmogrifier
    March 18, 2009

    I heard this story on NPR this morning and one of the comment there was that religious people are more likely to believe in miraculous healing as a result of prayer. So perhaps these people are holding out in the hope that there will be a miracle and they will live.

  27. #27 KI
    March 18, 2009

    re#23
    I learned a new song at last week’s Hoot where the chorus ends with “Jesus has the wheel, and I’ll be in heaven tonight”!
    I love humor in song.

  28. #28 Scott Hatfield, OM
    March 18, 2009

    Hmmph. This is not an ennobling thread, and I think playing the contrarian here is unlikely to edify anyone. But here goes…

    There is another reason why many religious choose aggressive treatment options near the bitter end. It is simply that they have belief systems that value life more highly than the non-religious. If you happen to believe that life is a gift from God, you tend to have a greater reverence for life than, say, the materialist who views their own life as merely a contingent fact of the universe, stumbled upon through some combination of chance and necessity.

    You might even come to believe that life in and of itself is so sacred that you find yourself unable to avoid conflating things like the death penalty, eating animal flesh, abortion on demand, euthanasia or stem cell research. “Every sperm is sacred”, and all that.

    Now, I myself don’t share that view. I believe that there are values which have a greater claim to our allegiance than the defense of individual life. I admire the way that Richard Feynman met his death: rather than grasping and clawing at life, he chose to greet it rather calmly as a new adventure, a step into uncertainty and, if the end of all things, something he was prepared to accept rather humbly. I hope that my death will be like his, and not like Dylan Thomas’s father, raging against the dying of the light.

    But I think the materialist spin that the dying religious are simply more likely to be ignorant cowards is too simple by far. We will all die, and the manner of our death is likely to say something about how we lived our life. Leave it at that. There is a point where armchair philsophizing about another’s experience ceases to be enlightening and becomes merely vulgar.

    Now, as it happens

  29. #29 Chuck
    March 18, 2009

    The results of the study aren’t terribly surprising, I must say.

    But I wonder about classifying cardiopulmonary resuscitation as “aggressive care.” Something that many high schoolers learn in freshman year health as a first aid tool isn’t in the same league as a ventilator, IMO.

  30. #30 curiouser_alice
    March 18, 2009

    Re: #21, I agree. I theorize that religion is the human mind’s attempt to remove uncertainty about the unknown, whether it be with respect to when it’s going to rain or what will happen when we die. Humans with the least tolerance for uncertainty are most likely to participate in organized religion because it makes them feel more “in control” of what is happening in their lives. I would guess those same people would be more likely to want aggressive care.

  31. #31 Invigilator
    March 18, 2009

    Just an anecdote, but my father, who was a pastor and sometime missionary, not only had his death arrangements well planned out (he had a looseleaf binder ready years ahead with instructions); he also directed in advance that no agressive measures were to be used to prolong his life, not even a feeding tube. He was man of faith (but far from being a fundamentalist).

  32. #32 Liberal Atheist
    March 18, 2009

    I hope that if I ever find myself in a situation where I suffer from something of which medical science can not cure me, I will have the sense not to ask for procedures that will not cure me and only marginally prolong my life. Oh, and if I’m braindead, that means I’m dead and no longer in existence. Really, it’s ok to pull the plug if I’m helplessly not there and never again will be. If I’m going to die very soon anyway, let me go and leave the resources for those who might actually benefit from them.

  33. #33 nmcvaugh
    March 18, 2009

    For those interested in the actual study:

    Phelps et al. Religious Coping and Use of Intensive Life-Prolonging Care Near Death in Patients With Advanced Cancer. Journal of the American Medical Association (2009) vol. 301 (11) pp. 1140-1147

  34. #34 Invigilator
    March 18, 2009

    Just an anecdote, but my father, who was a pastor and sometime missionary, not only had his death arrangements well planned out (he had a looseleaf binder ready years ahead with instructions); he also directed in advance that no agressive measures were to be used to prolong his life, not even a feeding tube. He was man of faith (but far from being a fundamentalist).

  35. #35 Scott Hatfield, OM
    March 18, 2009

    Oops! My previous post (#28) was poorly-edited. The dangling sentence should have been cut…SH

  36. #36 MS
    March 18, 2009

    Re #11. When Dobson had his stroke, much the same thing happened. He got the best medical care available and didn’t seem at all in a hurry to go to the infinitely better place he assures us Christians (or at least his type of Christian) will go to. Not exactly the same thing, but along similar lines, I noticed that he frequently gave God the credit for his recovery, and never once, that I heard, mentioned the docs, EMTs, nurses or others who kept him alive–and forget about talking about the generations of medical researchers who made the discoveries that kept him ticking and out of a vegetative state.

    And many others have commented in the past that Mother Teresa always seemed to avail herself of the best, most advanced, most expensive, medical treatment available, including the pain relief she didn’t provide for those in her hospices.

    Billy Graham isn’t exactly in a rush to collect his reward, either, is he? (See Frank Schaeffer’s Crazy for God for some interesting comments about Graham–according to Schaeffer, Graham, a “genuinely weird man,” is absolutely terrified of death.)

  37. #37 rrt
    March 18, 2009

    Huh. I also just realized that in the old-school Catholic side of my family, death is taboo. It isn’t discussed, isn’t planned for, and both serious and terminal illnesses are treated with what almost seems to be shame. It was like pulling teeth to get my father (hopeully alive for decades yet but at notable risk even now) to finally make a will.

  38. #38 simOn
    March 18, 2009

    “345 people with advanced cancer were interviewed”

    345 people only ??

  39. #39 nmcvaugh
    March 18, 2009

    For those interested in the actual study:

    Phelps et al. Religious Coping and Use of Intensive Life-Prolonging Care Near Death in Patients With Advanced Cancer. Journal of the American Medical Association (2009) vol. 301 (11) pp. 1140-1147

  40. #40 bc4
    March 18, 2009

    “These results suggest that relying upon religion to cope with terminal cancer may contribute to receiving aggressive medical care near death”

    I’d be interested in why they assume any causation here. It seems plausible that a person with a profound fear of death would turn to both religion and aggressive treatment in their final days, months, or years– even if they weren’t that religious beforehand.

  41. #41 Scooty Puff, Jr.
    March 18, 2009

    I think in the backs of most religious peoples’ minds, there’s a vague awareness that what they believe is utter crap. But most aren’t really forced to confront it until the moment it matters most: one their deathbeds. They’ve been living in denial for their whole lives, and so they’ve never come to accept the idea that their death is final. So they clutch at any medical straws they can take hold of to buy them a little more time in the dark.

    Those of us who understand that some day we’re going to blink out of existence aren’t so terrified when that day comes. I think that by facing it head-on, we can accept it in a way that religious folks cannot.

  42. #42 chris
    March 18, 2009

    Scott @#28

    That I think is a good point.

    It does bring to mind another quote, slightly more flippant, but it brings a smile to my face….

    “If any doctor ever said to me that if I had one more drink that I would surely die, I would like to think I would have the courage to drink myself into the grave”

    Oliver Reed.

  43. #43 Janine, Insulting Sinner
    March 18, 2009

    Should save this article for those trolls who like to inform us that atheists always goes kicking and screaming to death.

  44. #44 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    Gosh. More pharyngula psycho-babble. Nothing in the report suggests ?fear? but of course Myers and many of the rest of you jumped to that conclusion. Well, I have seen more than a few Christians die and face death with great dignity and joy, including one quite recently. You?d all like to think their faith deserted them at the end, and they were scared shitless, because that fits in your simpleminded caricatures, but it?s not so. Now the living will issue/DRO is an important one (both my wife and I have one) but it is one that has had trouble gaining wide spread acceptance in the Christian community. What is at play here, and Scott Hatfield nailed it, is not that all of a sudden Christians give up their faith and want to cling to life?but that they and their families are confused about the religious question of whether it is proper to preserve life at all costs. A child would be smart enough to see that could be a contributing factor to the report at hand?but not most of you people.

  45. #45 Silva
    March 18, 2009

    I think this is one of those issues that has a strong disconnect between the anecdotal and the statistical levels. For one, it invites exploration of anecdotal comparison, because to each of us, impending death is a very personal concept. Of course, some of the anecdotes will support the statistical trends, and some won’t. For instance:

    Mother-in-law: agnostic, planned for everything and died peacefully of cancer.
    Grandfather-in-law: sworn atheist, resisted all planning and ultimately resisted death itself (and almost won!) until age 97.
    Great-aunt: devout Catholic, was emotionally ready to die a year before she did.
    Husband: sworn apatheist, full set of plans including living will, terrified of death.
    Me: full set of plans and living will made several years before I became an atheist.

    But in my case, that might support the idea that it’s a mindset thing. I was never afraid of there being no god, and likewise I was never abjectly terrified of death. Given enough time and opportunity, I choose the most sensible course of action. That might be what the statistics are showing.

  46. #46 Zap
    March 18, 2009

    @Miss Prism (#18)
    “This is tragic, not contemptible.”

    I agree.

  47. #47 Carlie
    March 18, 2009

    “There are no fundamentalists in the ICU”?

    I take some issue with Scott’s explanation, which is made more clear by heddle’s muddling. If one’s faith in God is so strong, than it is absolutely mucking about with his plan to preserve life at all in the first place. I know some fundamentalists who have even struggled with wearing glasses, wondering whether they were thwarting God’s will regarding their eyesight. The same people who claim that contraception is evil because it is messing with what God does with bodies can’t then turn around and take heroic man-made measures regarding what God is apparently doing to their bodies. If they want to take advantage of modern medicine, fine, but then they have to stop then talking about how God is in control of everything. They can’t have it both ways.

  48. #48 Paul Schofield
    March 18, 2009

    This one would be interesting to compare across countries and religious lines.

    Those who read Fred Clark over at Slacktivist (all of us I’m sure…) will be used to the idea that a lot of American Evangelicals buy into a form of Christianity that has evolved into death denial. The whole rapture mania is the most common symptom of this. For example, he especially hammers the Left Behind books representation of visitation ministers, because such a cult can’t really provide comfort or closure to the dying or sick. Their theology suggests that the True Believers will not die at all, so they have no way to deal with it when death comes.

    A speaker I heard a few years ago used a more interesting indicator of the same thing – the use of cremation and the types of funerals people buy into. In the US, cremation is less popular and people are more likely to have extensive and heavy duty coffins that are designed to preserve the (usually well dressed and carefully prepared) deceased. In other countries, even those with comparative levels of Christian belief, there was no such trend. He used this as a measure of the acceptance of death and willingness to move beyond it.

    It would be interesting to compare evangelicals (maybe controlling for belief in the rapture) with Catholics or other Christian groups, as well as with non-Christians. Catholics tend to have extensive death rituals, and I would predict their being much more prepared and accepting when the times comes. Other groups it is hard to say.

  49. #49 Carlie
    March 18, 2009

    To be more clear, because I was rambling:

    but that they and their families are confused about the religious question of whether it is proper to preserve life at all costs.

    They shouldn’t be, because it’s in God’s hands. Right? IF they’re confused, it’s because they aren’t paying attention and are trying to reconcile their statements about God being in control with the knowledge that deep down, they really don’t want that to be the case.

  50. #50 Julie Stahlhut
    March 18, 2009

    Fear of death is a damned good thing IMO. It keeps us from killing ourselves when things get tough. It keeps us from taking stupid risks with our own safety and that of the people we care about. It helps us develop empathy for other people — after all, we’re all in the same boat, and if we’re afraid to die, it stands to reason that most other people don’t much like the idea either.

    That aside: My opinion is that many religious people consider it “God’s will” to keep people alive long after the process becomes torture, simply because we know how. They don’t give humans credit for developing life-prolonging technologies, nor for navigating the treacherous ethics of when, how, and how long to use them. A hundred years ago, a Terri Schiavo would have died within minutes, not years. So would a lot of people who, unlike Terri Schiavo, can now recover from their illnesses or injuries. What fundamentalists are resisting is the idea that the humans who developed the technologies to save lives can also figure out with reasonable confidence when those treatments would be futile.

  51. #51 J
    March 18, 2009

    Hope this doesn’t fall into the anti-scriptural-citation rule:

    “Creatures are always mortally afraid of death
    and yet they strenuously seek repeated birth
    Death is certain where there is active existence
    creatures wallow in the very thing they most fear.”

    Buddhacarita, 7:20

  52. #52 Benjamin Geiger
    March 18, 2009

    Personally, I’m not afraid of being dead, or even of dying (though if it’s painless, so much the better). I’m more afraid of leaving my family and friends behind. I know I’ll have to do so eventually, but I really want to put it off as long as I can.

    So I’m going to have to agree with Carlin. “I want everything you’ve got! Tubes, cords, plugs, probes, electrodes, IVs… you got something, stick it in me, man! You find a hole I didn’t know I had, stick a fuckin’ plug in it! Vegetable, shit, I don’t care if I look like an artichoke! Saaaaaaave my ass!”

  53. #53 Sastra
    March 18, 2009

    Scott Hatfield OM #28 wrote:

    It is simply that they have belief systems that value life more highly than the non-religious. If you happen to believe that life is a gift from God, you tend to have a greater reverence for life than, say, the materialist who views their own life as merely a contingent fact of the universe, stumbled upon through some combination of chance and necessity.

    I don’t think there’s really a difference here between how religious and non-religious value life. Why is God valuable? For the same reasons that make life valuable: love, beauty, compassion, wisdom, understanding. The religious simply allow what they care about to take a human-like form, and weave it all into a social narrative.

    heddle #44 wrote:

    What is at play here, and Scott Hatfield nailed it, is not that all of a sudden Christians give up their faith and want to cling to life?but that they and their families are confused about the religious question of whether it is proper to preserve life at all costs. A child would be smart enough to see that could be a contributing factor to the report at hand?but not most of you people.

    A contributing factor? Probably. “What is at play here?” No, just a contributing factor. I think several of the other points — such as a failure to work through death issues beforehand, expectation of a miracle, and perhaps a correlation vs. causation factor — are also likely contributing factors.

  54. #54 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    Carlie,

    If they want to take advantage of modern medicine, fine, but then they have to stop then talking about how God is in control of everything. They can’t have it both ways.

    They shouldn’t be, because it’s in God’s hands. Right? IF they’re confused, it’s because they aren’t paying attention and are trying to reconcile their statements about God being in control with the knowledge that deep down, they really don’t want that to be the case.

    You are creating false dilemmas. Perhaps they shouldn’t be but they are, because it is recognized that God operates through secondary causes. Christians, like myself, with a strong view of God’s sovereignty, sometimes struggle with this. I’m guessing even non-Christians have heard the little parable that demonstrates this: woman on her roof during a flood–a rescue boat comes and she declines saying that God will save her. Then a rescue helicopter comes and she again declines help with the same response. Finally she is swept away and drowns –and when she sees God she asks why didn’t he save her–and of course God answers “well I sent a boat an a helicopter what more do you want?” A simple story that represents a great truth– that some will view the extraordinary measures as accepting help provided by God, and others will turn off the machines because that is how they see bowing to God’s will. It is a conundrum and people of strong faith can go in either direction without it indicating fear as Myers suggests.

  55. #55 J
    March 18, 2009

    *Fear of death is a damned good thing IMO.*

    I’m not so sure. Fear tends not to remain as “fear” but quickly transmutes into other things–panic, paranoia, anger towards others, rudeness, ill health. This being the case, it actually corrodes empathy for other people.

    Keeping death’s unavoidability in mind A.) gets you used to it and B.) makes you that much more careful about your everyday actions. If you wake up in the morning and think to yourself, “I could die today” and are less than terrified by that idea, then you become politer, more generous, more conscious of pleasure.

  56. #56 E.V.
    March 18, 2009

    Oooohhh, Heddle invoked the dreaded psychobabble rejoinder!
    This, of course, renders all previous analysis and speculation as trivial and illegitimate and immediately crowns the invoker as intellectually superior king of all things psychological. (Psychobabble and pfffft are synonymous and have near magical qualities when refuting an opponent’s argument.)
    All Hail Heddle! No, wait – make that “to hell with Heddle”. Pfffft.

  57. #57 rrt
    March 18, 2009

    Heddle, you seem willing to acknowledge there is a mix of reasons here, and I think you would even grudgingly acknowledge fear is one. So tellya what: I’ll spot you a harrumph if you spot me a giggle. Deal?

  58. #58 Xtine
    March 18, 2009

    Interesting study. Would like to see more on the same topic. Perhaps religion encourages attachment to life, or the belief in second chances in life. In my experience, serious christians did NOT cling to staying alive more than non-christians. Would like to see more details patient’s specific religious backgrounds as well as how different dying scenarios create different reactions (cancer vs heart disease…)

    Death/suffering offers a stage for one to test one’s faith, to practice christian virtues publicly. To what extent did these patient’s (religious/nonreligious) families have a say in end-of-life decisions?

  59. #59 Disciple of "Bob"
    March 18, 2009

    Am I the only one who thinks it’s GOOD to go kicking and screaming to one’s death? I regret that I have no Tyrell to go and demand more life from.

    As Larkin said:
    http://www.boothill.ca/goatwrrld/aubade.html

  60. #60 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    rrt,

    deal.

  61. #61 Patricia, OM
    March 18, 2009

    I concur. To hell with Heddle. To hell with Heedles disgusting religion.

  62. #62 Woo Woozy
    March 18, 2009

    @ Philip1978 #13

    My other guess is that some want to keep it all going, machines and all, until it is completely and utterly clear as to what God’s plan for that life

    @ Danimal #24

    Perhaps they are sinners and know that they are going to hell and want to avoid that as long as possible. It also could be that they are not sure which (heaven or hell) they are going to and are afraid to find out

    An anecdote: A very religious, evangelical Christian family member died a few years back after weeks in ICU. She shared her thoughts with us, mentioning she was having recurring dreams and fears about what she described as an ?elevator.? She said she wasn?t going to step through the door until she knew for sure whether it was going ?up? or ?down.? She was absolutely terrified that she was bound for ?hell,? not ?heaven,? even though she was an average, normal person with no skeletons in the closet. She never mentioned holding out for a possible miracle cure, and she also never mentioned thinking that her belief in heaven/hell might not be correct or that she really might have nothing to fear re what awaited after the dying process was over.

  63. #63 Jadehawk
    March 18, 2009

    You might even come to believe that life in and of itself is so sacred that you find yourself unable to avoid conflating things like the death penalty, eating animal flesh, abortion on demand, euthanasia or stem cell research. “Every sperm is sacred”, and all that.

    that doesn’t make sense. the vast majority of anti-abortion christians are death-penalty proponents and carnivores. I find this total “respect for life” a lot more common in pagan religions, and yet they seem more serene about the concept of death, too.

    Though I can believe the confusion about at which point they’re “allowed” to stop fighting for their lives, since suicide is a sin, and euthanasia is seen as suicide. much more likely, at least for the conservative branches of religion, is the fear of the unknown that pushed those people into religion in the first place: no matter what you believe, death is still an unknown.

    and as a side-note: I’m scared shitless of death because the concept of having only a finite amount of time to do something with myself is horrible to me. still doesn’t mean i’m going to start believe in sky-fairies (maybe when i’m old and about to die i’l convert out of pure fear)

  64. #64 Carlie
    March 18, 2009

    because it is recognized that God operates through secondary causes.

    And that was one of the little drips of water that helped to erode the facade of religion for me. What’s happened to God that all of a sudden now he needs secondary causes to work through? Not a very powerful god, that. And if your response is that he tries to stay hidden so that people will have to believe without evidence, then that’s a pretty sick trick to do to people when the stakes are eternal life or eternal hell.

  65. #65 siMon
    March 18, 2009

    #43

    Should save this article for those trolls who like to inform us that atheists always goes kicking and screaming to death.

    that’s old fashioned atheist.
    modern atheist prefers euthanasia or suicide.

  66. #66 Anonymous
    March 18, 2009

    Interesting. I wonder if there is a link between mothers choosing aggressive conception procedures (IVF and such) and religion?

  67. #67 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 18, 2009

    that’s old fashioned atheist.
    modern atheist prefers euthanasia or suicide.

    And your idiotic misinformation comes from where?

  68. #68 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 18, 2009

    such a moron

  69. #69 Evinfuilt
    March 18, 2009

    Annecdote time…
    My Grandfather, devout catholic. Felt he betrayed his wife after her passing (he really did, awfully so) and in his moments of sanity in his final year he would be extremely fearful of dieing, afraid he’d see her again.

    Meanwhile, my partners Grandmother spent the last decade praying to die in her sleep so she could be reunited. She choose Hospice care and went as gently into the night as could be asked for.

    I do hope for the strength she had to embrace death, even if for different reasons… Though I do believe she was very tired of living, and did not enjoy her suffering as the Catholic church asked of her.

  70. #70 tony
    March 18, 2009

    Scott makes one excellent point- we all face our fears differently, regardless of our religious leanings.

    Personally – in my own circle of family and friends there are probably three groups:

    • those who are well prepared for their eventual deaths are in the minority. They seem to share one characteristic – that they all live life to the full.
    • those who have at least talked about their eventual death, and thought about it at least a little, are probably the largest group overall. They are likely representative of the population at large, preferring to avoid unpleasantness, and deferring difficult decisions when they can
    • those who seem to avoid the fact that they will ever die. Complete denial, and no plans at all. These folk seem to live their lives avoiding reality. They live in fear of change, and fear of difference, and try to avoid ever making decisions. Luckily(?) this is again a minority position

    My wife and I are in group 1. We’ve had wills since our twenties, and have express instructions on how our deaths should be handled (including DNR, organ donation and donation to medical school).

    As far as a wake goes – We both want our friends to have a big party (I make a new video each year to be shown – I’m a ghoul! One recurrent comment I make: I’m pissed to be missing the party!). We have funds specifically invested for this purpose (although the recession means death in the near future will have a smaller party!).

    I’m athiest, and my wife is deist (in the Spinoza’s God sense). Neither of us, needless to say, believe in heaven or hell. As for the religion of the others. It’s a mixed bag, and I certainly couldn’t say how anyone will actually respond to the fact of their impending death. All I can do is look at how they act today and extrapolate. I can recognize those who I think would clutch at whatever straw is offered – and that’s all of group 3, and most of group 2.

    Is that wrong? not necessarily.
    Is it wasteful of resources? Definitely.

    To paraphrase clinteas above – palliative life extension is a fucking waste of resources. People should get real.

  71. #71 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    Carlie,

    And that was one of the little drips of water that helped to erode the facade of religion for me. What’s happened to God that all of a sudden now he needs secondary causes to work through?

    Little drips? Erode? You mean it actually took you a while, just for a simple example, to notice that God does not push the planets about in their orbits micron by micron? The idea of secondary causes is not exactly subtle or esoteric.

    And if your response is that he tries to stay hidden so that people will have to believe without evidence, then that’s a pretty sick trick to do to people when the stakes are eternal life or eternal hell.

    No, it’s not. Blind faith is not a Christian virtue.

  72. #72 RamblinDude
    March 18, 2009

    The report says that, statistically, there is a measurable tendency for the religious to pursue more aggressive anti-death measures. This isn?t an attempt to tar all Christians with a big sloppy sneer brush.

    To rationalists, these results aren?t too surprising. Most of the Christians I know are fearful people who embrace wishful thinking, and they are not hard-nosed realists.

    But I think it?s too simplistic to say that this is simply evidence of an expected, knee-jerk-fear reaction of people who go through their lives avoiding reality. These same people often have spent a lifetime being preoccupied with miracles. The greed for miracles is a heady preoccupation with many, many Christians. In any situation they find themselves in, there is as much anticipation for heavenly intervention as there is with taking practical steps and being self-reliant. Not surprisingly, this preoccupation with magic doesn?t just stop when death is knocking at their door. If they just have enough faith, just keep on believing in the power of God then a miracle will happen and they can stand up in church and testify that their faith was strong enough and was rewarded (most always with the help of highly trained medical experts, of course, but nevertheless).

    This worldview of magical thinking, and faith being rewarded, (and not just Christians) is a powerful incentive.

  73. #73 SC, OM
    March 18, 2009

    heddle,

    Given your comment here (which was part of a broader discussion of your claim that the Bible “has little to say about science other than telling people to go out and do it” – I think that’s an exact quote, or close to it)

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/02/the_stupid_it_burns_2.php#comment-1377298

    would you please:

    a) define “science.”
    b) explain its relation to “truth.”
    c) define “sexual immorality.”
    d) explain how sexual immorality, by your understanding, springs from a rejection of science or truth.

    Thanks ever so much.

  74. #74 Jud
    March 18, 2009

    I’m not scared of death, though there are of course ways of dying I’d much prefer not to experience. There’s even a grandeur to the idea that billions of years from now, my atoms could be bubbling around in the guts of some denizen of another galaxy, or just touring as space dust Way Out There Somewhere.

    My objection to death is much more in the way of disappointed curiosity: I don’t get to find out what happens after I’m gone. A couple of millenia from now, will we have FTL drives? Will string theory unlock the puzzle of how to integrate relativity and quantum mechanics, or will some other TOE prevail? Who will the NY Giants take in the 2055 draft? I’d love to know….

  75. #75 rrt
    March 18, 2009

    Me too, Carlie. And eventually I had to confront the fact that an “indirect” god was still a testable hypothesis. And when later on I realized “real but statistically insignificant” wasn’t enough to hide even an indirect god in, that it was still functionally equivalent to “no god” and that I would reject scientific hypotheses of that sort…

  76. #76 Tulse
    March 18, 2009

    Blind faith is not a Christian virtue.

    Now THAT is comedy gold!

  77. #77 Glen Davidson
    March 18, 2009

    I don’t know about differences in “valuing life” contributing to the resort to more extensive intervention, but I think that the religious often consider it to be a duty to hang onto life, that “God will take me” if he really wants to do so. The idea of “god’s will for my life” may contribute to less planning for death as well.

    PZ’s interpretation conflicts with the studies whose results I have heard in the past. I can’t point to any of these specifically now, but I remember that it was said that in fact both atheists and those who were very confident in their faith were the most accepting of death.

    This did not, of course, follow the old idea that atheists are terrified of death, but have come to terms with it. On the other hand, those who felt confident of god’s assurance of eternal life were also fairly sanguine about meeting with death.

    Of course the current study doesn’t seem to differentiate between religious people who were not confident in their beliefs and those who were, so conceivably the religious interventions were by religious people who are not secure “in the faith.”

    According to the studies I heard about, those who really are certain of their religion might accept death fairly well. But then we get back to the question of whether or not they think they have a responsibility to prolong their lives that most secularists would not have.

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

  78. #78 Chuck
    March 18, 2009

    I am an atheist, and I agree with Dr. House:

    “Our bodies break down, sometimes when we’re 90, sometimes before we’re even born, but it always happens and there’s never any dignity in it. I don’t care if you can walk, see, wipe your own ass. It’s always ugly. Always. You can live with dignity, we can’t die with it.”

    I am equally put of by cloying, saccharine, nonsensical talk about death and stoicism in its face coming from atheists as I am by religious people talking about how meaningful meeting their fake God is.

  79. #79 Bill Dauphin
    March 18, 2009

    Danimal:

    Perhaps they are sinners and know that they are going to hell and want to avoid that as long as possible.

    Assuming we’re talking about mainstream Christians here, they know they’re sinners, because they’ve been taught that we all are sinners and the only salvation is through faith in Christ, rather than any personal merit or redemptive good works (note that the precise degree of emphasis on this point varies with denomination, though).

    So you can only be confident of avoiding Hell if you’re absolutely sure your faith is complete and acceptable to God… and who among us is that certain about our own thoughts and emotions? Worse yet, who among us is that certain about our loved one’s internal thoughts and emotions?

    This is, IMHO, one of the great perversities of Christian theology: It teaches that you, and your loved ones, and the whole physical world in which you live, are all inherently corrupt, and that only a degree of perfection of mind that, in our heart of hearts, I suspect none of us feels truly capable of can save us from eternal damnation. It’s no wonder that “Christendom” is wracked with social and psychological pathology, is it?

    Scott:

    It is simply that they have belief systems that value life more highly than the non-religious.

    I’m sorry, but I just can’t buy this… at least, not if by “life,” we mean life in this temporal, mortal sphere. I don’t know what religious tradition you come from (I probably should, as I know you’re a long-time regular; please forgive my ignorance), but as I pointed out to Danimal, many Christian denominations emphasize the corruption and depravity of life, and denigrate earthly life in favor of the supposed eternal life that waits after this life is done.

    Beyond strictly Christian beliefs, it’s hard for me to credit religious people with “valu[ing] life more highly than the non-religious” when so many of them countenance, and even actively promote, so much earthly human suffering in the name of theological purity.

    If this disinterest in (bordering on contempt for) “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in this mortal sphere counts as religious people “valuing life,” I think I’d prefer they not value mine.

  80. #80 tony
    March 18, 2009

    Jud@74:

    My objection to death is much more in the way of disappointed curiosity: I don’t get to find out what happens after I’m gone.

    That’s exactly where I am!

    I often say to my wife, that Science and biotechnology will advance so much in the coming decades, that I fully expect to live past 150 years old1. That’s still not enough time to do all the things I want to do! I’ll be really pissed when I die, ‘cos I’ll miss so much cool stuff!

    1. My wife says if that’s the case, I can find somebody else to spend the next century with! She’s gonna find a nice young man to look after her in her dotage!

  81. #81 SC, OM
    March 18, 2009

    By the way, for anyone interested, I provided the relevant verses a few posts down:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/02/the_stupid_it_burns_2.php#comment-1377465

    ***

    And a little thought exercise for Christians: Imagine, for a moment, that the Bible didn’t exist. How, in this circumstance, would you understand or interpret what we know of the cosmos?

  82. #82 Glen Davidson
    March 18, 2009

    I can’t vouch for the source, but it sounds like what I’ve heard previously, so I think this adds to the discussion:

    On the home page

    EXCLUSIVES

    Crashing galaxies may have spat out monster black hole

    Dolphin games: more than child’s play?

    Tiniest dinosaur embryos reportedly found

    Craving for amputation: more complex than once thought

    Rats found to sigh with “relief”

    Smashup could end universe

    Genes behind transsexualism possibly found

    MORE NEWS

    Man-sized scorpion described

    Childhood neglect found to change brain chemistry

    Chimps won’t do a neighbor a favor

    Sign up for our email newsletter:

    subscribecancel

    “Long before it’s in the papers”
    December 19, 2005

    RETURN TO THE WORLD SCIENCE HOME PAGE

    ——————————————————————————–

    Fear of death: worst if you?re a little religious?

    A new study tries to explain why moderately religious people fear death more than either the strongly religious or total nonbelievers do.

    July 13, 2005
    Special to World Science

    Most people think religion eases the fear of death. But studies have found that?s not necessarily true.

    Although very religious people fear death the least, studies suggest, total unbelievers take second place for ability to take their mortality in stride. The worst death anxieties haunt those who lie somewhere in between those extremes?who are a little religious.

    A new study has backed up these findings, and provided some tentative explanations for the surprising phenomenon.

    For some of those in the unlucky category of ?moderately religious,? the study?s authors found, the explanation may be grimly straightforward. They?re afraid of punishment in the afterlife, such as going to hell.

    Many of these people believe in a God, but don?t go to church, pray or otherwise follow through much on that belief. This may ?raise the specter of punishment after death without hope for salvation,? wrote the researchers, Paul Wink and Julia Scott of Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass., in a paper describing the findings.

    Fear of death ?was particularly characteristic of individuals whose belief in a rewarding afterlife was not matched by their other religious beliefs and practices,? they added.

    Divine punishment may be a less troublesome prospect to strongly religious people, who tend to be more confident of their merit. Atheists don?t worry about it for obvious reasons.

    Another reason some slightly religious people fear death more may be that they sometimes question whether an afterlife exists at all, the researchers wrote.

    Such doubts might not plague more hard-core believers. And atheists may cope by focusing on ways to achieve at least a ?symbolic immortality,? such as through children or creative works.

    Being only moderately religious is common in the United States, the authors wrote. They cited figures showing that while four in five American Christians believe in an afterlife, only slightly over half of those, or 44 percent, go to church regularly.

    It seems ?firmness and consistency of beliefs and practices, rather than religiousness per se, buffers against death anxiety in old age,? Wink and Scott wrote.

    In their study, they surveyed 155 people in their late 60s or 70s who were born in Berkeley, Calif. Their findings replicated, among elderly people, the results of past studies with younger people showing that the moderately religious fear death the most.

    They also found that strongly religious people feared death the least. The least religious were in between, but slightly closer to the moderately religious.

    The researchers said their study had some weaknesses, including a relatively small sample size. Other studies should be done with larger samples and including a greater variety of religious denominations, they said.

    The study also didn?t examine how people with unconventional spiritual beliefs, unconnected to organized religion, handled fear of death. This should be a subject of future studies as well, they wrote.

    Another finding from their study was that, at least for some people, fear of the dying process itself seems to lessens with age. People in their mid-70s who had experienced more illness and bereavement, perhaps paradoxically, were found to fear death less than those in their late 60s.

    http://www.world-science.net/exclusives/050628_deathfearfrm.htm

    So actually, this source claims that the strongly religious were the least fearful of death, which is not what I had recalled from what I had read.

    The least religious, again, are not especially fearful, but I don’t suppose it’s surprising that they might be more fearful than those who strongly believe their illusions.

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

  83. #83 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    SC, OM,

    OK, one iteration, because when you ask these questions I get blamed for thread hijacking. Remember: you are feeding the troll. If you have a never ending chain of theological questions for me, take them to my blog.

    a) The systematic study of creation via iterations of proposing hypotheses (theories), observation and experimentation/hypothesis-testing.

    b) The hypotheses being proposed/refined/rejected (as the case may be) will inexorably get closer to truth–that is, closer to an accurate description of physical reality — providing science is not, ultimately, a fools errand — which I presuppose it is not.

    c) A form of rebellion against God in which sex becomes an idol.

    d) I don’t know.

    If you don’t like answers 1 & 2 I don’t care–philosophy of science nitpicking is not of interest to me. Consider them working definitions.

  84. #84 Pierce R. Butler
    March 18, 2009

    Scott Hatfield @ # 35: The dangling sentence should have been cut…

    But, but… – it had the potential to become so much more! It would be unjust, a denial of all its hopes and dreams, for some uncaring materialist to callously erase it from being just because some other bytes could use that space. This lack of reverence divides us all from the higher meaning of Creation, the gifts of Grammar and the need to address our own Syntax with compassion and forgiveness!

  85. #85 Timothy
    March 18, 2009

    This should be obvious. Because if these cowards actually believed in an afterlife as they claim they would be in a hurry to get there. But I’ve never once seen one of these craven liars walk out in front of a car.

  86. #86 Knockgoats
    March 18, 2009

    You?d all like to think their faith deserted them at the end, and they were scared shitless, because that fits in your simpleminded caricatures, but it?s not so. – heddle

    No, heddle, you’d like to think we’d all like to think that, because it fits your mean-minded caricature.

  87. #87 Sam C
    March 18, 2009

    I could never understand those religious nutters who said they were heavily against turning off life-support systems for people who were in a persistent vegetative state because that would be usurping their god’s will and right to decide on life or death. I thought it would be exactly the opposite; people saying we can do no more with our medical knowledge, drugs and machines, and if any omnipotent god wants to revive the corpse, s/he is free to do so.

    As usual, when required, these gods seem to be mysteriously absent. Strange that, it almost makes one think she/he/they might be asleep on the job… or not there… oh dear.

  88. #88 NewEnglandBob
    March 18, 2009

    Now there is a surprise, religious people are hypocrites!

    The pope is a fuckwad, Islam is a cancer on humanity and religious people have no morals.

  89. #89 Natalie
    March 18, 2009
    that’s old fashioned atheist. modern atheist prefers euthanasia or suicide.

    And your idiotic misinformation comes from where?

    I’ll take “out of his ass” for $500, Nerd.

    Re Scott Hatfield at 28 – I don’t think acknowledging that some people are afraid of dying and/or afraid of being dead implies that one considers those folks to be cowards. Granted, I may be biased as I myself am afraid of both dying and of losing close family/friends. This seems like a pretty normal fear/apprehension to me.

    Certainly, one can work on accepting the inevitable, and I do think the average atheist will accept this truth more easily. But it’s not as simple as saying “ok, that’s what’s going to happen” to oneself. Our emotions just don’t work that way.

  90. #90 NewEnglandBob
    March 18, 2009

    Glen Davidson:

    Learn to use links instead of copy and paste of whole pages.

  91. #91 Knockgoats
    March 18, 2009

    I’m guessing even non-Christians have heard the little parable that demonstrates this: – heddle

    Many, many times. It’s just as stupid now as the first time I heard it. Why, if it acts through secondary causes, didn’t “God” prevent the flood in the first place?

  92. #92 SC, OM
    March 18, 2009

    OK, one iteration, because when you ask these questions I get blamed for thread hijacking.

    I don’t recall that happening (if it has, it’s been a charge made exceedingly rarely). I‘ve accused you, justifiably, of many other things, however.

    Remember: you are feeding the troll.

    ?

    If you have a never ending chain of theological questions for me, take them to my blog.

    I’m asking you to respond to the statements you have made here, on this blog.

    c) A form of rebellion against God in which sex becomes an idol.

    Intellectually dishonest and/or idiotic.

    d) I don’t know.

    Then knock the hell off claiming that not pursuing science* has anything to do with sexuality, and make clear that you are not supporting Paul (in your reading of him), you utter and profound asshole.

    *(as you basically describe it, which isn’t what Paul was talking about, as Owlmirror has shown on that and a later thread)

  93. #93 SteveM
    March 18, 2009

    heddle wrote:

    Gosh. More pharyngula psycho-babble. Nothing in the report suggests ?fear? but of course Myers and many of the rest of you jumped to that conclusion. Well, I have seen more than a few Christians die and face death with great dignity and joy, including one quite recently.

    Missing the point entirely. The “psychobabble” is not about the people who are accepting their death with dignity and joy. We are discussing why so many of the religious do NOT face death with dignity and joy. There is no claim that ALL religious people are afraid of death. It is like we are discussing why so many red cars are driven jerks and you berate us because there are red cars not driven by jerks. Completely irrelevant to the actual discussion.

  94. #94 Glen Davidson
    March 18, 2009

    Glen Davidson:

    Learn to use links instead of copy and paste of whole pages.

    Learn to mind your own business, lackwit.

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

  95. #95 varlo
    March 18, 2009

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the remark attributed (I believe) to Woody Allen: I’m not afraid to die; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

  96. #96 Joshua Zelinsky
    March 18, 2009

    I don’t think that PZ’s description is a good description of what is going on here. For many religions, there is a direct obligation to try to extend life as long as possible. This is true for example in many strains of Judaism and Christianity. There isn’t any necessary fear here. Moreover, I’m disturbed by the mention of issues of “poor quality of death.” How much that matters is an inherently personal issue, based on cultural values and various desires. Labeling a longer more painful death as poor quality is a decision I sympathize with but as given it gives an erroneous impression that this is an objective decision.

  97. #97 skyotter
    March 18, 2009

    “Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”
    –Isaac Asimov

  98. #98 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    SC, OM

    Then knock the hell off claiming that not pursuing science* has anything to do with sexuality, and make clear that you are not supporting Paul (in your reading of him), you utter and profound asshole.

    I don’t know what the hell you are talking about, but I never claimed that “not persuing science” has anything to do with sexuality.

    *(as you basically describe it, which isn’t what Paul was talking about, as Owlmirror has shown on that and a later thread)

    What you mean to say is this: Heddle and Owlmirror argue over a scriptural interpretation, (rather civilly, which must have dissapointed you) using details about Greek verbs to make their points. Owlmirror posited that Paul was arguing, generically, against philosophy and by extension science. Heddle argued that he wasn’t. I, in spite of my OM, couldn’t follow their arguments, but since Owlmirror is “on my side,” I declare him the winner.

  99. #99 MS
    March 18, 2009

    Re #95, Woody Allen’s other great remark: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve it through not dying.”

  100. #100 SC, OM
    March 18, 2009

    Why, if it acts through secondary causes, didn’t “God” prevent the flood in the first place?

    Because God really acts through tertiary causes!

    Duuuh!

  101. #101 varlo
    March 18, 2009

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the remark attributed (I believe) to Woody Allen: I’m not afraid to die; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

  102. #102 Knockgoats
    March 18, 2009

    OT: SC, very sorry to hear about your dog. I know that the grief I’d feel if mine died would differ in degree rather than kind from what I’ve felt when a human friend dies; I’m sure it’s the same for you.

  103. #103 Janine, Ignorant Slut
    March 18, 2009

    Life is a short warm moment
    Death is a long cold rest
    You get you’re chance to try in a twinkling of an eye
    Eighty years, with luck, or even less.

    Free Four

  104. #104 Greg Peterson
    March 18, 2009

    A friend send a report on this study to me, and this is how I responded:

    “Some religions can see the good and the holiness in suffering,? said Mary Ann Gill, palliative projects consultant for the Mount Carmel Health System.

    If I’m terminally ill and in intractable pain, I beg of you, do not let this b*tch anywhere near me. The fact that she expresses this thought as “CAN see the good and holiness in suffering” implies to me that she thinks there is something there to see. There is not. There is nothing good or holy about suffering. It is purposeless as one might expect in a universe that remains coolly neutral whether we’re in agony or ecstasy.

    I want the palliative projects consultant who thinks suffering when there is no hope of recovery is stupid, and gives me tanker trucks of morphine and then helps me end my suffering with my life, with as little trauma to my dignity as possible. I

    The person who believes she’s going somewhere after death fighting tooth and claw to stay here and suffer more, that doesn’t make a lick of sense. It makes me wonder how strong their faith really is, or their belief in their own salvation or whatever. Or perhaps there’s just more to fear from something than there is from nothing, no matter what that something might be? Or are they afraid that the first words they’ll hear from God (or St. Peter or Abraham or whomever) is, “You were a coward…you were supposed to suffer more and you chickened out. You were supposed to gasp for every last painful breath because suffering is in itself a fine and noble thing, regardless what it can bring about.”

    If they really think something like that (and who could blame them after reading their blood-soaked sacred texts), then perhaps it also follows that their god is simply a dick.

    I suppose a lot of people find suffering instructive (Lewis called it “God’s megaphone”) and if they think there’s some lesson there that they can bring with them into the next life, it could make some sort of sense.

    Except…it really doesn’t. I mean, isn’t the point of heaven to be “made perfect” and suffer no more, have the tears of ours wiped away, and so forth? That being the case, of what possible value would suffering be? And then the final piece of the puzzle appears to me: If they experience suffering, and I mean really feel racked and ruined by agony, then they can love Jesus all the more for what he went through for them. They can feel as if they’d been crucified, too–although they think no one could ever have possibly suffered as much as Jesus did (as Julia Sweeney says, “He had a bad weekend for your sins”).

    Is that what this is about? Crucifixion envy? Count me out. I want lots and lots and lots of drugs, and then I want to die. Not too early–I’m not eager to die at all. But if all I can think about is my pain, and there’s no hope of recovery, than the most palliative thing anyone could do for me is help provide the means by which I can escape without leaving a mess for my loved ones to clean up.

  105. #105 Jim A
    March 18, 2009

    We may be confusing cause and effect here. It seems reasonable that those with severe, uncurable health problems might be more likely to turn to religious “life everlasting,” hokum. And they’re also less likely to have a healthy person’s knee-jerk reaction of “don’t keep me alive with machines.” Someone who is already debilitated has a differnt view of what kind of life is worth living than someone who is healthy.

  106. #106 Carlie
    March 18, 2009

    No, it’s not. Blind faith is not a Christian virtue.

    I have no idea what kind of Christianity you espouse, but it’s nothing like most Christianity. Blind faith is not just a virtue, it’s the highest virtue. “Unless one comes with faith as a child” and all. Seriously heddle, do you have any idea whether what’s in your head has anything to do with reality?

  107. #107 Marcus J. Ranum
    March 18, 2009

    Reminds me of the story of Mahatma Ghandi – who despised “English” medicine so much that he allowed his wife to die of an eminently treatable condition, rather than take her to a real doctor. But when the icy hand of death was upon him, he got life-flighted to the Mayo Clinic.

    Every breath we take, every time we dodge out of the path of a car, or try to protect ourselves from falling – is a direct repudiation of belief in an “afterlife.” All of our instincts tell us this is the only ride we get, no matter what delusional nonsense our brains cook up to convince us that after we die, somehow – we’ll go on.

  108. #108 E.V.
    March 18, 2009

    c) A form of rebellion against God in which sex becomes an idol.

    What is it with these repressed religiotards like Heddle where sex is the hyper-exaggerated boogeyman? As PZ pointed out, he and the Mrs. have been faithful for 29 years. I have been faithful to my wife for 20 years (before that though was a parade of yeah baby and eh, not so much…). Sex is great and monogamy is an ethical choice if exclusivity is the agreed contractual terms for your marriage, though i know several couples who swing and seem to have solid marriages because sex and sexual jealousy are not the central issue to their marital partnership. But sex for Heddle is of the Marquis De Sade variety, always sliding down that slippery slope to decidedly unsexy behavior. (Copraphilia? Mutilation, Murder? – De Sade ran out of erotic acts just a week into four months worth of sexual activities and had to substitute violence and resorted to ridiculous gross out scenarios.)

    Pleasure comes from neurotransmitters, specifically dopamine. Dopamine reward activities are just that – ways to increase pleasure to cope with this very difficult existence through dopamine stimulating behaviors. All those sins Heddle is preoccupied with are carnal, you notice, the sins of the flesh, and it eats away at his envious little “if I ruled the world” religiofascist brain to think about all those godless fornicators out there fornicatin’ away. He’s betting everything on a libidoless chaste and perhaps genital-less afterlife in Heaven (Not like the orgy-in-the-sky Valhala) which he’ll never get to experience (because it doesn’t exist…). Oh well.
    And Heddle, if two or more consenting adults decide to “idolize” sex together, it’s none of your fucking business, literally.

  109. #109 Marcus J. Ranum
    March 18, 2009

    Janine writes:
    Life is a short warm moment
    Death is a long cold rest

    What is odd, is that the millions of years of death I experienced before I was alive – don’t bother me nearly as much as the millions that will come after.

  110. #110 hje
    March 18, 2009

    Hedging their bets. They also make quite a scene at funerals, even when the deceased is a known Christian.

  111. #111 Matt
    March 18, 2009

    I can see where this is going: 1. Aggressive cancer treatments are expensive

    2. Socialized medicine is inevitable, and unquestionably good.

    3. Religion tends people towards aggressive, expensive cancer treatments, now socialized by others, of course to be rationed (rationally, of course) by the State.

    Conclusion: If we could just eliminate religion, everyone would die so much cheaper! Hear that religion-eliminators, get crackin, you’ve got work to do.

  112. #112 RamblinDude
    March 18, 2009

    Carly,
    I have no idea what kind of Christianity you espouse, but it’s nothing like most Christianity. Blind faith is not just a virtue, it’s the highest virtue. “Unless one comes with faith as a child” and all.

    And if you have the faith of a grain of mustard seed, you?ll be able to move a mountain just by ordering it to go someplace else, literally!

    Not only is blind faith considered a virtue, the perks that come with it are FABULOUS!

  113. #113 SC, OM
    March 18, 2009

    I don’t know what the hell you are talking about, but I never claimed that “not persuing science” has anything to do with sexuality.

    Liar! This is from the post I linked to above:

    Rom 1:18-25 states (v. 18 being regarded of the start of the section), paraphrasing: God?s anger is directed at those who suppress the truth. They have no excuse because God’s attributes are apparent in creation. Then is goes on to explain the consequences of ignoring the truth: sexual immorality, worshiping animals, etc. [my bold]

    I remind you – this was about the Bible and “science.” Stop lying, heddle.

    What you mean to say is this: Heddle and Owlmirror argue over a scriptural interpretation, (rather civilly, which must have dissapointed you) using details about Greek verbs to make their points. Owlmirror posited that Paul was arguing, generically, against philosophy and by extension science. Heddle argued that he wasn’t. I, in spite of my OM, couldn’t follow their arguments, but since Owlmirror is “on my side,” I declare him the winner.

    You’re an ass. I’m no biblical scholar, but I’m as much of one as you. My childhood church is almost (or completely) identical to your current one. I spent years in this freakshow. I had shelves of ribbons for memorizing Bible verses, and starred in plays about salvation. Greek was also my first minor, and I recognize bullshit from a mile away. Nice try.

    Knockgoats:

    OT: SC, very sorry to hear about your dog. I know that the grief I’d feel if mine died would differ in degree rather than kind from what I’ve felt when a human friend dies; I’m sure it’s the same for you.

    Thank you. My little peanut. The worst of it is that I fear that at the end she was wondering where I was, since I always took care of her when she was sick (and vice versa). The doctor said she was really out of it by then, and I’m clinging to that. She was a special dog. I appreciate your sympathy. *sobs*

  114. #114 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    E.V.,

    What is it with these repressed religiotards like Heddle where sex is the hyper-exaggerated boogeyman?

    Are you on ‘ludes? I never said any such thing. I said sexual immorality is when sex becomes what you idolize. Virtually all immorality manifests itself in creating idols–money, sex, status, etc. I never said sex was bad or evil or any sort of “boogeyman.” Get a grip on reality.

    Carlie,

    I have no idea what kind of Christianity you espouse, but it’s nothing like most Christianity.

    In Hebrews chapter 11 there is a hall of fame–people who are praised for their faith. Each and every one of them had direct interaction with God or witnessed miracles. Gideon, for example, who demanded God prove who he was twice, is mentioned there. If blind faith was the ultimate virtue, Gideon (and the others mentioned there) would be in the hall of shame, not the hall of fame.

  115. #115 E.V.
    March 18, 2009

    There will be conscious, no knowledge of death, only the living deal have to cope with death and loss.
    Several years back someone wrote a a very poignant Requiem for those who died of AIDS. In one of the movements a surviving partner intones: “I will miss you”. Later, in the final movement, this line becomes, “and I will miss missing you.”

  116. #116 E.V.
    March 18, 2009

    deal *sigh*

    Sorry Heddle, I had you confused with Walton or Pete Rook evidently…

  117. #117 RamblinDude
    March 18, 2009

    Oops, I meant “Carlie”, of course.

  118. #118 CJO
    March 18, 2009

    And Heddle, if two or more consenting adults decide to “idolize” sex together, it’s none of your fucking business, literally.

    Remember, heddle’s witnessing. He’s speaking for god, the great J. Edgar Hoover in the sky; everything’s his business.

  119. #119 Carlie
    March 18, 2009

    heddle,
    WRONG. Faith by being forced to show it, in fact, is thought of as less than faith that is blind. God got pretty peeved at people who wanted it proven; Gideon, to use your example, had his hip dislocated for it. Moses had to beg and plead God for signs to show the Israelites, and God was huffy about it. The story of Thomas is used as a warning to not be like him, but rather the more faithful disciples who did not need to examine Jesus. I have no clue how you could possibly read the Bible and not come away knowing that blind faith is more highly valued.

  120. #120 Sastra
    March 18, 2009

    I’ve never personally heard any Christian praise “blind faith.” Instead, they argue for a “reasonable faith,” and make analogies between religious faith and various secular examples of belief without certainty — ranging from loyally believing in your best friend’s innocence even when the evidence seems against him, to prudently believing that your car is still in the garage even when you can’t see it. Most of them are not good analogies, imo.

  121. #121 Knockgoats
    March 18, 2009

    Matt,
    If you really think the cost of those last few days or weeks of “heroic” treatment make up a large share of medical/nursing care costs, you’re an idiot. But then, that much is obvious.

  122. #122 SC, OM
    March 18, 2009

    WRONG. Faith by being forced to show it, in fact, is thought of as less than faith that is blind. God got pretty peeved at people who wanted it proven; Gideon, to use your example, had his hip dislocated for it. Moses had to beg and plead God for signs to show the Israelites, and God was huffy about it. The story of Thomas is used as a warning to not be like him, but rather the more faithful disciples who did not need to examine Jesus. I have no clue how you could possibly read the Bible and not come away knowing that blind faith is more highly valued.

    It’s amazing to me that for the religious the qualities that we detest in humans (and reject as the basis of good and ethical political systems) are, in a deity, to be worshipped. Bakunin was so right in his reversal: If that God actually existed, we’d have to destroy him.

  123. #123 Holydust
    March 18, 2009

    It’s not about fear of heaven or hell, the reason they ask for more aggressive medical care…

    Like German Guy said, most people ARE strongly religious because they fear death so much.

    Getting closer to it just brings them back to their subconscious understanding that they might have been fooling themselves that there’s something out there for them after they die. It’s a very scary thought.

  124. #124 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    SC-OM,

    You are a shameless quote-miner of ID-ian proportions. Or just a bald-faced liar. Or plain stupid. Or most likely all three. I never made a causal link: do not do science –> to sexual immorality. The passage is Romans states ?suppress God?s truth? –> (among other things) sexual immorality. And that there is no excuse that you didn?t know about truth?because God?s attributes are apparent in creation. You do not have to be a scientist to see them. On the other hand, it does commend the study of creation?i.e., science. Only a perverse jackass such as yourself would try to claim that what I wrote was: not doing science results in sexual immorality.

  125. #125 RamblinDude
    March 18, 2009

    Sastra,

    I’ve never personally heard any Christian praise “blind faith.”

    Nor have I. But I?ve seen hundreds pursue it.

  126. #126 bybelknap, FCD
    March 18, 2009

    I want all heroical mesasures possible and then some. Then I want a glass coffin, above ground, in a very public place, just in case I wake up.

  127. #127 E.V.
    March 18, 2009

    Uhoh, Heddle had a widdle tantwum.

  128. #128 nywoodsman
    March 18, 2009

    I think that a person’s response to revealed “religious truth” is an inate predisposition.You could no more explain to Heddel how his understanding of god is wrong as you could of his experience of the color blue.
    We can’t change our genes,behavior comes first,justification follows,Theist or atheist,some people will fear death and some will approch it passively.It’s just who we are,not what we believe.

  129. #129 RamblinDude
    March 18, 2009

    Of course, they don?t actually think of it as ?blind.? They think of it as having enough spirituality to feel the truth of Jesus in their heart.

    Six of one. . . .

  130. #130 E.V.
    March 18, 2009

    I want all heroical mesasures possible and then some. Then I want a glass coffin, above ground, in a very public place, just in case I wake up.

    So I take it you want the M.E. to put all your organs back after the autopsy…

  131. #131 RossM
    March 18, 2009

    Ah, I believe we have found in Heddle, a different version of Barb. Be imprecise, no that is not what I meant, move the target, quote something new, equally murky, move the target, go to my blog, ah but you ( insert insult of choice ), new pedantic slant …….. Never will change, no matter how big you make the island.

  132. #132 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    CJO,

    Remember, heddle’s witnessing. He’s speaking for god, the great J. Edgar Hoover in the sky; everything’s his business.

    No E.V. was correct. What you do behind closed doors with another consenting adult (or an animal, plant, or electrical appliance for that matter) is none of my business. I couldn’t possible care less.

  133. #133 E.V.
    March 18, 2009

    Heddle: I don’t think bestiality should be included in the “consent” category even with peanut butter applied liberally from nave to chops.

  134. #134 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 18, 2009

    No E.V. was correct. What you do behind closed doors with another consenting adult (or an animal, plant, or electrical appliance for that matter) is none of my business. I couldn’t possible care less.

    I knew it. Heddle is a secret wanna be member of the First Church of Appliantology.

  135. #135 SC, OM
    March 18, 2009

    Q: What does the Bible say about science? It seems to be antiscience and profaith (belief without evidence). The Bible recommends faith without empirical research or evidence, or despite the evidence rendered by empirical research, as evidenced in many verses (including, but not limited to, the mythical Jesus’ admonition to Thomas: “Blessed be those who believe without having seen”).

    heddle: The Bible has little to say about science, other than telling people to go and do it. My [single] example (I won’t reply to your verses or to the larger issue of picking and choosing and interpreting them to suit one’s purposes) is these verses from Paul. They tell people to go out and do science.

    [Are you standing by that, heddle?]

    Science is seeking the truth via empirical methods – basing our beliefs on observable evidence, stating them in terms of falsifiable hypotheses, and designing studies to test them.

    [Are you standing by that, heddle?]

    If people do not do so, they fall victim to sexual immorality.

    [Are you standing by that, heddle?]

  136. #136 bybelknap, FCD
    March 18, 2009

    @ E V # 130 Autopsy schmautopsy! I amn’t goin!

  137. #137 E.V.
    March 18, 2009

    I knew it. Heddle is a secret wanna be member of the First Church of Appliantology.

    I believe Tom Cruise’s cousin belongs to that church, of course Katie probably does too out of necessity.

  138. #138 Sastra
    March 18, 2009

    ny woodsman #128 wrote:

    I think that a person’s response to revealed “religious truth” is an inate predisposition.You could no more explain to Heddel how his understanding of god is wrong as you could of his experience of the color blue.

    This doesn’t account for people who change their minds, sometimes after sincere belief for quite a long time — atheist to theist, or theist to atheist (or religion to very different religion.) And many people think their way from one position to the other.

    While there may be some sort of genetic aspect for a predisposition towards anthropomorphism, or superstition, or mysticism, I think there’s so much interplay between genes, environment, and reason that you’re not going to be able to tease them apart and find the One Real Cause for religion, or politics, or whatever.

  139. #139 Ken Cope
    March 18, 2009

    Heddle is a secret wanna be member of the First Church of Appliantology.

    Heddle certainly could use a good plooking from a gay bob doll. I’m betting heddle doesn’t honor safe words, though.

  140. #140 SC, OM
    March 18, 2009

    heddle:

    No E.V. was correct. What you do behind closed doors with another consenting adult (or an animal, plant, or electrical appliance for that matter) is none of my business. I couldn’t possible care less.

    It’s possible that you couldn’t. Is this the position if your (Biblical-inerrantist) church, heddle? Its policy recommendations?

  141. #141 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    SC, OM,

    It’s possible that you couldn’t. Is this the position if your (Biblical-inerrantist) church, heddle? Its policy recommendations?

    That’s a good question. It highlights a misconception–that we spend a great deal of time, in church, talking about unbelievers. We don’t. As far as I know, no church I have ever been in had any sort of position on whether or not you should give a damn about victimless sins of unbelievers.

  142. #142 Owlmirror
    March 18, 2009

    heddle @#124:

    And that there is no excuse that you didn?t know about truth?because God?s attributes are apparent in creation.

    Paul asserts that. If Paul was correct, how would it be possible to be an atheist? How would it be possible to be anything other than a strict Yahweh-worshiping monotheist?

    You do not have to be a scientist to see them.

    Yet you yourself have asserted that you have no way of testing for God. This is in contradiction to Paul: God’s attributes are not apparent … even today, when we can find the evidence for particles which barely interact with matter at all; when we can find the evidence for the radiation from the start of the universe ~15 billion years ago. We can find the evidence for all of that, and so much more… and yet we can’t find the evidence of God.

    God’s attributes, even assuming they exist, can not be found easily, or even with the extremes of scientific observation and analysis. Paul was wrong.

    On the other hand, it does commend the study of creation?i.e., science.

    Romans does not anywhere say “study creation now”.

  143. #143 Jadehawk
    March 18, 2009

    As far as I know, no church I have ever been in had any sort of position on whether or not you should give a damn about victimless sins of unbelievers.

    hmmm, yes. that beautifully explains why Christians don’t try to have their morals codified as laws, so that even non-believers have to obey them

  144. #144 SC, OM
    March 18, 2009

    That’s a good question…As far as I know, no church I have ever been in had any sort of position on whether or not you should give a damn about victimless sins of unbelievers.

    To clarify: a position about these sexual behaviors. None at all? Nothing about homosexuality or extramarital sex? You’ll swear to that?

    Please tell us the name of your specific church – the one where you teach Sunday school.

    (“Sins” is telling. Lest anyone doubt it, heddle is Barb – just a deluded/dishonest version.)

  145. #145 Tulse
    March 18, 2009

    Life is a short warm moment
    Death is a long cold rest

    Hey, Janine, massive props for digging deep into Pink Floyd catalogue!

  146. #146 CJO
    March 18, 2009

    C’mon, heddle. That “no church I have ever been in” qualifier would appear to be a set-up for a No True Scotsman argument. Anyway, large and influential ministries such as Dobson’s and Robertson’s would appear to give a damn about very little other than “victimless sins of unbelievers.” Go ahead and tell us how those positions don’t represent mainstream fundamentalist Protestantism.

  147. #147 MTran
    March 18, 2009

    More important, to me, was the death rates for the believers who received aggressive care: they were much more likely to die.

    From CNN’s coverage: “About 10 percent of those who had high levels of religious coping died in the intensive care unit, as opposed to 4.2 percent who had low levels of religious coping.”

  148. #148 Owlmirror
    March 18, 2009

    As far as I know, no church I have ever been in had any sort of position on whether or not you should give a damn about victimless sins of unbelievers.

    Hm.

    What does “sin” mean, in this context, and in general?

  149. #149 Nurse Ingrid
    March 18, 2009

    “no church I have ever been in had any sort of position on whether or not you should give a damn about victimless sins of unbelievers.”

    Two words: Proposition 8.

  150. #150 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    Owlmirror,

    Paul asserts that. If Paul was correct, how would it be possible to be an atheist? How would it be possible to be anything other than a strict Yahweh-worshiping monotheist?

    (A better question is how is it possible not to be an atheist). But at any rate Paul says the attributes are clearly visible?but that people suppress the truth. He is not stating that there is a physical irrefutable scientific proof of God?s existence. Rather he is saying that anyone who denies seeing the hand of God in creation is doing so with malice aforethought?and will therefore be without excuse. Evidence is there, but people are free to ignore it.

    God’s attributes, even assuming they exist, can not be found easily, or even with the extremes of scientific observation and analysis. Paul was wrong.

    Paul was not wrong?I see attributes of God in creation all the time. Both in routine observations of creation as well as in advanced science and mathematics.

    Romans does not anywhere say “study creation now”.

    Fair enough?I am extrapolating there. There are other passages to bear in mind, such as in the Psalms. And then there is the general, fairly unique feature of Christianity that the physical realm is good, not evil. All that taken together, that the heavens declare his glory, and that the physical is good, sends, in my opinion, the message that studying what is good and declares God?s glory, that is doing science, is a proper and commendable and recommended activity for Christians.

    CJO,

    Anyway, large and influential ministries such as Dobson’s and Robertson’s would appear to give a damn about very little other than “victimless sins of unbelievers.” Go ahead and tell us how those positions don’t represent mainstream fundamentalist Protestantism.

    I not only do not speak for Dobson and Robertson, I regularly take them to task for meddling in politics. If you are complaining about their views, take it up with them.

    For crying out loud, if I didn’t say “church that I’ve been in” you’d accuse me claiming to speak for all Christians. And when I do, carefully, include the qualifier, you accuse me of focusing narrowly on my own church.

    Owlmirror,

    What does “sin” mean, in this context, and in general?

    What I mean is, we have no policy–nor have I ever heard any discussion, about say, two unbelievers in an adulterous relationship. Certainly we view adultery as sin. Certainly we would take action of church members were invovled. But unbelievers? Why should we care?

  151. #151 T-bone
    March 18, 2009

    Perhaps a latent variable is missing here. It could be that there’s some character trait that is causing these advanced cancer patients to pursue desperate measures – both medical (by asking for invasive measures) and religious (jumping at religious beliefs in hope of a miracle cure).
    It’s a big stretch to suggest that the connection between these two elements suggests religious people are scared of death.

  152. #152 Ken Cope
    March 18, 2009

    As far as I know, no church I have ever been in had any sort of position on whether or not you should give a damn about victimless sins of unbelievers.

    Hm.

    What does “sin” mean, in this context, and in general?

    It’s typically self-refuting heddle twaddle. If it was a sexual practice or behavior that no church had any sort of position about, there’d be nobody else to categorize it as a sin, which is by definition a subject about which churches are reputed to give a damn.

    ***Strange Interlude***

    Joe:
    This is exciting
    I never plooked
    A tiny chrome-plated
    machine
    That looks like a
    magical pig
    With marital aids
    stuck all over it
    Such as yourself
    before

    Sy Borg:
    You’ll love it!
    It’s a way of life.

  153. #153 Matt
    March 18, 2009

    Knockgoats, if you really think that the state wont ration medical care based on my scenario or something even more ridiculous when it has the power you are a … nevermind, you’re a socialist. You think the state should make that decision. The state is benign and mistake-free after all.

    How much the religious spend of their own money on end of life health care is a non-issue, unless of course we’re all responsible for each others medical care and its everyone’s money down the drain. Maybe then you will have a financial anti-theist argument. Its all so rational.

  154. #154 SC, OM
    March 18, 2009

    So, no response to my question or my request @ #144, I see.

    ***

    Fair enough?I am extrapolating there [!!!]. There are other passages to bear in mind, such as in the Psalms. And then there is the general, fairly unique feature of Christianity that the physical realm is good, not evil. All that taken together, that the heavens declare his glory, and that the physical is good, sends, in my opinion, the message that studying what is good and declares God?s glory, that is doing science, is a proper and commendable and recommended activity for Christians.

    Pathetic. Ridiculous. Lame. Lame, ridiculous, and pathetic. And out there for everyone to see. The physical is “good, not evil”? Explain what this means. Good and evil have what exactly to do with the question about science? Point to specific, concrete evidence for your claim(s), you dishonest git.

  155. #155 RossM
    March 18, 2009

    MTRAN @ 147

    Sorry you are wrong,( as the source CNN is not accurate),as all patients were about to die, as all had advanced cancer. After baseline assessment, the median was 122 days until death.

    Religious coping was associated with mechanical ventilation, compared to patients with a low level, 11.3% vs 3.6.

    Keep in mind this is a small study, very preliminary for use as discussion here, as further research is needed to determine the reasons for this association.

    http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/301/11/1140

  156. #156 Tulse
    March 18, 2009

    if you really think that the state wont ration medical care based on my scenario or something even more ridiculous when it has the power you are a … nevermind, you’re a socialist

    The US already rations health care, just on the ability to pay rather than on need. This is similar to rationing fire protection based on wealth rather than whether something is on fire.

  157. #157 nywoodsman
    March 18, 2009

    Sastra,Changing ones mind does not necesarily equal changing one’s behavior.Once,as a theist, I faced emminent death as a victim of a mugging.I was shot point-blank in the chest and was sure I was at the end of my life.I reacted passivly putting myself in the Lords hands, trusting that God would understand my faults,and my desire for truth and would justify me in the end.There was no fear,as facing God was just too overwhelming,only resignation.
    Years later as an atheist,I experienced another close brush with death.While running on a treadmill at the gym,I experienced the worst headache of my life.I rushed myself to the hospital(in a taxi) where,after a checkup I was diagnosed with a severe cranial bleed,and was advised to quickly get my affairs in order.Again I survived ,but my responce as an atheist was similar to my responce I had earlier as a theist.I was resigned to my death without fear,because when facing Death,fear has no meaning,I just had hope that dispite my faults the people closest to me would understand that I tried to love them the best I could and I would be remembered that way.
    Changing the definition of oneself from theist to atheist doesn’t necessarly change ones behavior but merely changes ones justification for it.

  158. #158 Margaret
    March 18, 2009

    Sorry if this point has been made before (no time to read through all the posts) but this correlation makes perfect sense to me.

    Failing to make provision for one’s infirmity, or to make a will, are signs of denial of the likelihood of one’s death or debility. Once such a person is ill, the same denial feeds the demand for aggressive treatment.

    Fear and denial often go hand in hand, and fear of mortality is a key element of religious belief.

  159. #159 Sastra
    March 18, 2009

    ny woodsman #157 wrote:

    Changing the definition of oneself from theist to atheist doesn’t necessarly change ones behavior but merely changes ones justification for it.

    I agree, so perhaps I misinterpreted what you wrote in #128, when you said “a person’s response to revealed ‘religious truth’ is an innate predisposition.” I thought you were saying that whether people were religious or not was the result of genetic tendencies. Instead, you’re saying that our basic dispositions when approaching death remain similar same whether we are religious, or not.

    I think you’re right. In which case, the results of this study (assuming they’re reliable) is more likely to have some connection to something specific in the beliefs themselves.

  160. #160 CJO
    March 18, 2009

    And then there is the general, fairly unique feature of Christianity that the physical realm is good, not evil.

    That’s not a “general feature” of Christianity historically. To believe it is you’d have to just ignore the gnostic and ascetic influences on the tradition, yea, all the way back through Augustine, who never got over Manichaeism, to Paul, whose writings were Marcion’s chief inspiration.

  161. #161 astrounit
    March 18, 2009

    That German Guy #2 says, “Death is in all probability the cessation of existence, and what does not exist cannot suffer. I do fear dying however, as that seems to be quite painful (among other things).”

    Yep, it’s getting there that’s the problem.

    As Woody Allen once said, “I don’t mind dying… I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

  162. #162 Fortuna
    March 18, 2009

    heddle asks:

    (A better question is how is it possible not to be an atheist).

    Delude oneself. Seems pretty straightforward.

    Rather he (Paul) is saying that anyone who denies seeing the hand of God in creation is doing so with malice aforethought?and will therefore be without excuse.

    LOL at “malice aforethought”. Being unable to see the messages in one’s breakfast cereal is totally the equivalent of planning to do something malicious.

    Paul was not wrong?I see attributes of God in creation all the time. Both in routine observations of creation as well as in advanced science and mathematics.

    You should put that shit up for a Nobel Prize, man. That would be absolutely astounding, if true.

    What I mean is, we have no policy–nor have I ever heard any discussion, about say, two unbelievers in an adulterous relationship. Certainly we view adultery as sin. Certainly we would take action of church members were invovled. But unbelievers? Why should we care?

    Because we’re on our way to the cosmic barbecue, by your lights? Because you have a measure of compassion for your fellow humans, and you supposedly have the only way to save us?

    Admittedly, this is unfair to lay on you specifically; feel free to say something to the effect of their presuppositions, not mine. But this is what I hear from Christians all the time; it would be irresponsible for them not to get all up in my business, in the grand scheme of things.

  163. #163 astrounit
    March 18, 2009

    That German Guy #2 says, “Death is in all probability the cessation of existence, and what does not exist cannot suffer. I do fear dying however, as that seems to be quite painful (among other things).”

    Yep, it’s getting there that’s the problem.

    As Woody Allen once said, “I don’t mind dying… I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

  164. #164 astrounit
    March 18, 2009

    Hmmm…SB must be overtaxed.

  165. #165 Owlmirror
    March 18, 2009

    heddle @#150:

    But at any rate Paul says the attributes are clearly visible?but that people suppress the truth. He is not stating that there is a physical irrefutable scientific proof of God?s existence. Rather he is saying that anyone who denies seeing the hand of God in creation is doing so with malice aforethought?and will therefore be without excuse. Evidence is there, but people are free to ignore it.

    You’re contradicting yourself (or Paul was contradicting himself), again.

    If there is indeed evidence, then this evidence would indeed be available for scientific scrutiny. Because that’s what science does. It looks at the evidence. It wouldn’t have to be “physical”… but it would have to exist as evidence. Otherwise it’s not evidence — which means we’re back to Paul being wrong.

    Again, I’m recalling you yourself describing your epiphany. Before that point in time, would you indeed say that you yourself denied seeing the hand of God in the world with malice aforethought? Are you indeed attributing actual malice to your younger self, and to all atheists, and to all non-Yahweh-derived theists?

    Paul was not wrong?I see attributes of God in creation all the time. Both in routine observations of creation as well as in advanced science and mathematics.

    And you’re not making any sense at all here.

    What are these attributes of God?

    How do you know that these attributes are of God?

    And remember, you have a “benefit” that we don’t — your “regeneration”. Before you were “regenerated”, would you have seen these supposed attributes of God? Would you agree that before you were “regenerated”, you were suppressing the knowledge of these attributes “with malice aforethought”?

    What does “sin” mean, in this context, and in general?

    What I mean is, we have no policy–nor have I ever heard any discussion, about say, two unbelievers in an adulterous relationship. Certainly we view adultery as sin. Certainly we would take action of church members were invovled. But unbelievers? Why should we care?

    That wasn’t actually what I was asking. I am trying to get a basic, coherent definition of sin. What does the word mean; what sort of thing or things does it actually refer to?

    When I actually believed, I had some vague ideas about what “sin” meant; now that I no longer believe, I have other ideas… but I am trying to nail down how you define the word, at this point in time.

  166. #166 michael j
    March 18, 2009

    I’m not surprised. One argument used against atheism is the pointlessness of existence if there was no God. I think that a lot of people hold onto their belief in God due to this fear rather than any evidence for His existence.

  167. #167 Margaret
    March 18, 2009

    Sorry if this point has been made before (no time to read through all the posts) but this correlation makes perfect sense to me.

    Failing to make provision for one’s infirmity, or to make a will, are signs of denial of the likelihood of one’s death or debility. Once such a person is ill, the same denial feeds the demand for aggressive treatment.

    Fear and denial often go hand in hand, and fear of mortality is a key element of religious belief.

  168. #168 Sastra
    March 18, 2009

    heddle #150 wrote:

    He is not stating that there is a physical irrefutable scientific proof of God?s existence. Rather he is saying that anyone who denies seeing the hand of God in creation is doing so with malice aforethought?and will therefore be without excuse. Evidence is there, but people are free to ignore it.

    If this viewpoint is intrinsic to Christianity, then it’s enough to falsify it. Whether God exists or not, it isn’t completely unreasonable to believe that it doesn’t, and that there is no supernatural disembodied Mind or Force creating and controlling things. Metaphysical naturalists can make a case which needs to be addressed.

    By the same token, it is not completely unreasonable to believe in God. Theists can make a case which should be taken seriously. Neither side needs to accuse the other of that sort of malicious blindness — certainly not in every case. And yet, that appears to be what this view entails.

    So this version of Christianity, at least, is demonstrably wrong — when approached through reasonable standards we use in other situations. If approaching it through faith entails throwing out the normal, reasonable standards we use in evaluating people, then it is hard to argue that faith need not contradict reason. In at least one rather blatant case, it does.

  169. #169 CJO
    March 18, 2009

    or Paul was contradicting himself

    Occupational hazard of rush-delivery DIY theology.

  170. #170 Fortuna
    March 18, 2009

    Matt said;

    Knockgoats, if you really think that the state wont ration medical care based on my scenario or something even more ridiculous when it has the power you are a … nevermind, you’re a socialist. You think the state should make that decision.

    Countries with well-established public health care systems do, in fact, ration their non-essential services to varying degrees, in complementarity with private clinics that can pick up the slack. And guess what? Their national health outcomes are, on the whole, fine.

    Everyone gets serviced, and if you can pay your way to avoid delays, then knock yourself out.

    How much the religious spend of their own money on end of life health care is a non-issue, unless of course we’re all responsible for each others medical care and its everyone’s money down the drain.

    We are, in fact, all responsible for each others’ medical care. Medicine doesn’t happen in a vacuum, every medical system worth two shits has a certain degree of publicly funded infrastructure supporting it.

  171. #171 MTran
    March 18, 2009

    RossM @155, thanks for the correction. Guess that’s what I get for clicking on the first link I find on Google news! I don’t have immediate access to the full journal article but it seems that the CNN numbers are, at best, quite misleading.

  172. #172 RossM
    March 18, 2009

    MTRAN @ 147

    Sorry you are wrong,( as the source CNN is not accurate),as all patients were about to die, as all had advanced cancer. After baseline assessment, the median was 122 days until death.

    Religious coping was associated with mechanical ventilation, compared to patients with a low level, 11.3% vs 3.6.

    Keep in mind this is a small study, very preliminary for use as discussion here, as further research is needed to determine the reasons for this association.

    http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/301/11/1140

  173. #173 RossM
    March 18, 2009

    MTRAN @ 172

    Sorry the duplicate post, there was a timeout and then I did not see my own stuff.

    The link above gives you free access to the Abstract

  174. #174 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    Fortuna,

    Because we’re on our way to the cosmic barbecue, by your lights? Because you have a measure of compassion for your fellow humans, and you supposedly have the only way to save us?

    Who told you that? There is nothing I can do to save you. All I can do is tell you the gospel. I?d be happy to do that. And that would include a call to repent. But somehow coercing you to stop sinning in your bedroom (as an example) would have no bearing on your salvation. If (and I am using ?you? generically) you don?t want to stop then there is no repentance and forcing you to stop, say by passing a law, would accomplish nothing.

    CJO,

    That’s not a “general feature” of Christianity historically.

    Actually it is. From Genesis (and it was good) to the incarnation to the fact that Christians believe that Jesus has, even as we speak, a physical body –these all attest to the fact that we view the physical as good, not evil.

    Owlmirror,

    You are making Paul?s claim into ?and creation provides irrefutable scientific proof? but he doesn?t say that nor did I claim he did. He says rather that an honest person would acknowledge, to use a common phrase, Goddidit. He is not an IDer. He is not saying that you can prove God did it. He us saying that the beauty and wonder and awe of creation (and, by extension, of science) should point you to God?so much so as to leave you without excuse.

    What are these attributes of God?

    Beauty, grace, power, intelligence, love, providence. Paul?s argument is that you should grasp this even if never hear anything about the gospel.

    How do you know that these attributes are of God?

    I don?t know I believe that they point to a creation rather than a Godless universe. They are evidence for me, not in some Thomas Aquinas sense, but because I don?t believe the universe would be as it is (or be at all) if there were no God. It is kind of the ID argument, but without claiming that it is science.

    Before that point in time, would you indeed say that you yourself denied seeing the hand of God in the world with malice aforethought? Are you indeed attributing actual malice to your younger self, and to all atheists, and to all non-Yahweh-derived theists?

    Yes. Because I was already a scientist and I would have said: ?we don?t need no stinkin? god to explain any of this including, at a minimum, why it is comprehensible at all.? Maybe ?malice aforethought? is not the right term?maybe arrogance is closer.

    That wasn’t actually what I was asking. I am trying to get a basic, coherent definition of sin.

    It means willfully violating the law as revealed by Christ, primarily in the Sermon on the Mount. Which is tough indeed?much tougher then the OT law.

  175. #175 E.V.
    March 18, 2009

    Heddle:
    Do you define sin and ethical behavior as precise antonyms or are they near antonyms which overlap?
    Are sins relative or universal?
    Is it possible that biblical interpretations of sins are no longer relevant to the modern age?
    If ethics and a religiously ideological view of sin are at odds, which is the correct course of action, employing an ethical standard or a religious one?

  176. #176 Sastra
    March 18, 2009

    heddle #174 wrote:

    Because I was already a scientist and I would have said: ?we don?t need no stinkin? god to explain any of this including, at a minimum, why it is comprehensible at all.? Maybe ?malice aforethought? is not the right term?maybe arrogance is closer.

    What’s ironic is that atheists usually consider theism a form of arrogance, in that it shapes the universe into personal form, and makes human attributes the foundation of all reality. The stage, is too big for the drama. And the drama, is coming from ourselves.

    Theism can seem as self-centered as astrology: ‘how arrogant to think that the stars move without regard to ourselves.’ Again, if Christianity requires the belief that people need to act with malicious intent in order to not just hold to metaphysical naturalism, but even consider that it has a rational basis, it fails.

  177. #177 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    E.V.,

    Do you define sin and ethical behavior as precise antonyms or are they near antonyms which overlap?

    I never thought about it–but I guess I don’t think they are perfect antonyms. For example it is not a sin to drink alcohol–but I would consider it a sort of ethical violation to do so in front of a recovering alcoholic.

    Are sins relative or universal?

    I’m not sure what you mean. There are many examples of situational ethics in the bible–so it is not absolute or universal in that sense.

    Is it possible that biblical interpretations of sins are no longer relevant to the modern age?

    Of course–and the reverse as well. It was permitted at one time to sacrifice animals for the forgiveness of sins. Today it would be an abomination.

    If ethics and a religiously ideological view of sin are at odds, which is the correct course of action, employing an ethical standard or a religious one?

    You’d have to give me an example. Paul told Timothy to be circumcised after Paul won the argument that circumcision was not required. To me that always set the precedent that you should be very sensitive to the culture you are in–so I would tend to fall on the side that showing a respect in the form of behaving ethically with other humans is more improtant than a list of do’s and don’ts. Again, not sure if that answers your question.

  178. #178 CJO
    March 18, 2009

    Actually it is. From Genesis (and it was good)

    Genesis? It was good, sure, but what about 3:17-18? Doesn’t sound so great to me. And of course there’s the problem that the Torah isn’t really Christian at all, it’s just been appropriated as a disorganized collection of vaguely prophetic proof-texts in which the inconvenient and contradictory is to be assiduously ignored or pleaded with to go away.

    to the incarnation to the fact that Christians believe that Jesus has, even as we speak, a physical body

    My whole point was that, historically, the incarnation has been presented in many different, mutually exclusive ways, and even outright denied. Granted, you have the hindsight of orthodoxy to label the bulk of those beliefs “heretical,” but, by any such standard, I don’t see how Paul gets a pass. By modern standards, Paul was a gnostic.

    Furthermore, Paul himself is far from ludid on the subject of just what kind of body inherits the kingdom. It doesn’t sound like anything I’d be willing to call “physical” with any rigor. I find it hard to read 1 Corinthians 15 as anything other than frantic handwaving on his part. Maybe you can help me out there.

  179. #179 Carlie
    March 18, 2009

    And then there is the general, fairly unique feature of Christianity that the physical realm is good, not evil.

    Whaaa??? Is this the 1984 Christianity or something? The world is fallen. It is broken. Evil rules over the earth. You can be in the world, but should not be of it. It’s like every statement you make is about Christianity in opposite world.

  180. #180 'Tis Himself
    March 18, 2009

    Everyone wants to go to Heaven, nobody’s in a hurry to get there. -Paddy Clancy

  181. #181 Fortuna
    March 18, 2009

    heddle;

    Fortuna,

    Because we’re on our way to the cosmic barbecue, by your lights? Because you have a measure of compassion for your fellow humans, and you supposedly have the only way to save us?

    Who told you that?

    The Christians in my life who are fond of telling me how I ought to act. Believe me, I only wish I was making this shit up.

    There is nothing I can do to save you. All I can do is tell you the gospel. I?d be happy to do that. And that would include a call to repent. But somehow coercing you to stop sinning in your bedroom (as an example) would have no bearing on your salvation. If (and I am using ?you? generically) you don?t want to stop then there is no repentance and forcing you to stop, say by passing a law, would accomplish nothing.

    Makes perfect sense to me. I wish more Christians would take that attitude (wrt, specifically, the Southern states in which sodomy is illegal, or Proposition 8).

    But remember the comment of yours I was quoting? You said you’d take action if church members were involved with adultery. Presumably they’ve already been presented with the gospel, and have nominally accepted it. Wouldn’t any further action taken qualify as coercion brought to bear on their bedroom activities? If it’s OK to go beyond mere presentation of the gospel for believers, why not unbelievers?

    Not that I want you to do any such thing, I’m just curious how it all hangs together.

  182. #182 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    CJO,

    Paul was a Pharisee not a Sadducee. In the passage you mentioned, 1 Cor 15:12 Paul writes: ?But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?? He cannot be arguing about a spiritual resurrection?that is tantamount to arguing about eternal life or an immortal soul. He is not saying, to the Corinthian church, ?how can some of you say that there is no eternal life (or immortal soul)?? There would be no point to that?it cannot be that within a Christian community there developed a controversy about eternal life. You wouldn’t be in the church if you thought Jesus died and that was that–he’s gone for good–and we have no eternal life, just this one. He must, in my opinion, be talking about a movement that developed in the Corinthian church to deny the bodily resurrection.

    Paul was no Gnostic?not even close.

  183. #183 CJO
    March 18, 2009

    Paul told Timothy to be circumcised after Paul won the argument that circumcision was not required.

    In Acts, right? To me, that’s just another clear indication that Luke’s treatment of the Apostles is pure legend. Paul didn’t just “win an argument.” He appears to have been adamantly opposed to the Judaizers who would have Gentiles be circumcized in order to be saved.

    There’s nothing equivocal here anyway:

    Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him.
    1 Cor 7:17-20

    I think it’s clear that Luke had other purposes than accurately portraying Paul’s gospel.

  184. #184 Scott Hatfield, OM
    March 18, 2009

    Why, if it acts through secondary causes, didn’t “God” prevent the flood in the first place?
    Because God really acts through tertiary causes!

    Except in more recent times, when his action was Quaternary.

  185. #185 constant
    March 18, 2009

    I recently read a bunch or evangelical propaganda in the form of the book Same Kind of Different as ME in which the writers wife dies of cancer. It was a first hand account of exactly what you describe, plus a lot of nonsense about angels and visions and stuff. At one point the writer says that he truly believed that God was going to cure his wife at any moment. I got the idea that they were going with the painful and extra measures to keep her alive longer just in case God didn’t get around to the miracle until next week.

  186. #186 CJO
    March 18, 2009

    Paul was no Gnostic?not even close.

    I understand that you are not a gnostic, and that you consider your theology Pauline, and so Paul just can’t have been a gnostic, period, end of discussion. But plenty of early Christians, ancient persons, much closer to Paul psychologically than either you or I, found a thick vein of gnostic ideas in their reading of Paul. I find it somewhat questionable that they were totally off-base yet a modern rehabilitation gets him just right.

    I did qualify it a bit, remember, by saying “by modern standards.” I admit that Paul would not have accepted the epithet, but nevertheless his theology was much closer to the gnostics of the first centuries of Christianity than to modern Calvinism.

    Also, the parts of 1 Cor 15 I meant are later in the chapter, say, the whole second half. Spiritual or Physical or both somehow? What does Paul mean about the resurrected body and the kingdom?

  187. #187 EnfantTerrible
    March 18, 2009

    For whatever reason, it appears that most of the religious people who appeared in the study were ill-prepared to cope with their situations. I believe this made them more fearful. This may partially explain why some religionists so totally lost their s**t over Terri Schiavo.

  188. #188 dc-agape
    March 18, 2009

    You know I have always been surprised that religious people don’t want to go to heaven. It seems the most odd dichotomy. But I did find a catholic with a PhD who had an excellent explanation. They are afraid they won’t cut the mustard, they are afraid that they have not been true enough to “Daddy” and he won’t want them.
    Can you imagine living your entire life fearing that you won’t live up to an imaginary creatures standards? Can you imagine being afraid to die because of this?
    It blew my mind when she first told me. But it makes so much sense. This has to be why the want the most aggressive treatments. It also must be why they want other people (in vegetative states) to be kept “alive”.

  189. #189 dc-agape
    March 18, 2009

    You know I have always been surprised that religious people don’t want to go to heaven. It seems the most odd dichotomy. But I did find a catholic with a PhD who had an excellent explanation. They are afraid they won’t cut the mustard, they are afraid that they have not been true enough to “Daddy” and he won’t want them.
    Can you imagine living your entire life fearing that you won’t live up to an imaginary creatures standards? Can you imagine being afraid to die because of this?
    It blew my mind when she first told me. But it makes so much sense. This has to be why the want the most aggressive treatments. It also must be why they want other people (in vegetative states) to be kept “alive”.

  190. #190 Loren Petrich
    March 18, 2009

    This reminds me: whoever makes their last words

    See you in Heaven

    ???

  191. #191 heddle
    March 18, 2009

    Fortuna

    If it’s OK to go beyond mere presentation of the gospel for believers, why not unbelievers?

    Not that I want you to do any such thing, I’m just curious how it all hangs together.

    We are commanded to confront our brothers and sisters if they embrace an unrepentant sinful lifestyle, and I would definitely do it. If I knew a brother was having an affair, I would confront him. See the example of the man sleeping with his step-mother in the Corinthian church.

    And it is OK to go beyond the gospel with unbelievers. But I (or any Christian) am under no command to confront their sin.

    dc-agape,

    They are afraid they won’t cut the mustard, they are afraid that they have not been true enough to “Daddy” and he won’t want them.

    This was her explanation? And she had a PhD?

    Can you imagine living your entire life fearing that you won’t live up to an imaginary creatures standards? Can you imagine being afraid to die because of this?

    No, I can?t

    This has to be why the want the most aggressive treatments. It also must be why they want other people (in vegetative states) to be kept “alive”.

    No, it has nothing to do with it.

    CJO,

    Yes, I simply asserted Paul is not a Gnostic, because you made the claim. But by what argument? Are we talking Elaine Pagels? You are making a claim about Paul. The onus is on you to back it up. And when you write ?but nevertheless his theology was much closer to the gnostics of the first centuries of Christianity than to modern Calvinism.? You too are simply making an assertion. I would argue that Romans 9 is the very definition of Calvinistic soteriology.

    The only sentence in the second half of 1 Cor 15 that supports your argument, as far as I can tell, is it v. 44is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Even in isolation the verse is ambiguous?for it reads spiritual body, not spirit. In context it is, I think, clear that there is a contrast between the profane and the glorified?and it comes in the midst of a discourse on resurrected bodies.

  192. #192 CJO
    March 18, 2009

    You are making a claim about Paul. The onus is on you to back it up.

    Fair enough. No time now, but I will pursue it later tonight or tomorrow. For now, I’ll just note that I did say

    “plenty of early Christians, ancient persons, much closer to Paul psychologically than either you or I, found a thick vein of gnostic ideas in their reading of Paul. I find it somewhat questionable that they were totally off-base yet a modern rehabilitation gets him just right.”

    and intended that to serve as at least a plank of an argument for my assertion that

    “nevertheless his theology was much closer to the gnostics of the first centuries of Christianity than to modern Calvinism.?

    And of course: Romans. My least favorite of the genuine epistles. I much prefer the drama of Paul in crisis mode.

  193. #193 Rugosa
    March 18, 2009

    Much shorter version: Everyone wants to go to Heaven, no one wants to die.

  194. #194 Notagod
    March 18, 2009

    Rugosa,

    What??

  195. #195 Alan Kellogg
    March 19, 2009

    Notagod, #194

    Death tends to mess with your plans for next weekend.

    Me? I keep getting reassigned. If you think atheists are cynical about God, talk with a Jewish scholar some time.

  196. #196 Notagod
    March 19, 2009

    Alan Kellogg,

    Oh, I’m fine with the change of plans, personally. Its the heaven part that sucks. Sure its just mythology but, who would really wants to live with a ill tempered, tyrannical asshole for the next 14 billion years. The christians have nothing to do and 14 billion years to do it. HaHa serves them right for sure. Makes watching ants for a few years seem like a walk in the park.

    But what’s that about atheists being cynical? Laughing sure! Cynical, not a chance.

  197. #197 Owlmirror
    March 19, 2009

    heddle @#174:

    You are making Paul?s claim into ?and creation provides irrefutable scientific proof? but he doesn?t say that nor did I claim he did. He says rather that an honest person would acknowledge, to use a common phrase, Goddidit.

    Great. So now I am (and all atheists, and all non-Yahweh-derived theists are) dishonest. Just fantastic.

    He is not an IDer. He is not saying that you can prove God did it. He us saying that the beauty and wonder and awe of creation (and, by extension, of science) should point you to God?so much so as to leave you without excuse.

    Again, this is equivocation and definition-shifting of the word “evident,” leading to nothing but contradiction . If all these things that “point” to God cannot be rationally interpreted in any other way other than being of God, then they are indeed scientific evidence, and are scientifically testable, and God’s existence is a scientific claim.

    If they can rationally interpreted as being other than of God, then we do indeed have a reasonable excuse to deny that they are of God. If so, Paul was wrong… and we are not being dishonest in denying that they point to God.

    Examining your list a bit closer:

    What are these attributes of God?

    Beauty, grace, power, intelligence, love, providence. Paul?s argument is that you should grasp this even if never hear anything about the gospel.

    How so? By what reasoning?

    [This was originally much longer, but I decided to summarize (I do have a copy saved off, which I may bring back if this goes on.):]

    Nothing in that list above is evidence for God. They may exist, in human experience, in highly impure and conflicting states. God does not offer us his own beauty, power, intelligence, or love; indeed, in can be argued that God not demonstrating those attributes is an argument against his existence. How are we supposed to deduce that God exists just because those attributes exist in nature or in humans — when God does not even bother to show up and demonstrate them in himself?

    I’m not sure what you mean by “grace” and “providence” in that list. The theological terms derive from a presupposed God; they certainly cannot be used to argue for the existence of a God without the theological premise of God already existing! If you have strictly secular definitions in mind, you had better clarify your terms.

    How do you know that these attributes are of God?

    I don?t know I believe that they point to a creation rather than a Godless universe. They are evidence for me, not in some Thomas Aquinas sense, but because I don?t believe the universe would be as it is (or be at all) if there were no God. It is kind of the ID argument, but without claiming that it is science.

    First of all… I’m afraid that when you write that is “kind of the ID argument, but without claiming that it is science”, what you really mean is that it is… an argument from ignorance: We don’t know the source of these things… therefore, “Goddidit“. That is what all arguments for God boil down to, even when made by otherwise very intelligent people.

    Secondly… Given that they are arguments from ignorance, it is precisely because of that that it is in fact reasonable to reject them. In contradiction to Paul, the evidence is not clearly seen. We do have an excuse. Paul was indeed wrong.

    Thirdly… If those indeed are attributes of God, I repeat my insistence that a God that actually had those attributes would demonstrate them, not hide them!

    This may be too personal an analogy for you… but you did mention that you had an autistic child.
    Would it make any sense at all for you to demonstrate your “love” for your son by refusing to speak to him; refusing to interact with him; by refusing to cope with or acknowledge the problems that he has with understanding people and things outside of his own head?
    Would it make sense for a supposedly powerful, knowledgeable, and loving God to refuse to speak to us; refuse to interact with us; refuse to cope with or acknowledge the problems that we have in understanding something so utterly outside of our own experience?

    Before that point in time, would you indeed say that you yourself denied seeing the hand of God in the world with malice aforethought? Are you indeed attributing actual malice to your younger self, and to all atheists, and to all non-Yahweh-derived theists?

    Yes. Because I was already a scientist and I would have said: ?we don?t need no stinkin? god to explain any of this including, at a minimum, why it is comprehensible at all.? Maybe ?malice aforethought? is not the right term?maybe arrogance is closer.

    And yet to me, being aware that an argument from ignorance is indeed exactly that seems like great intellectual humility. If the answer is not known, jumping to conclusions like “Goddidit” is much more like real arrogance to me. True humility is to honestly answer “We don’t know why these things exist”. And once a good general natural explanation comes along — like evolution by natural selection — offering the supernatural explanation seems not just arrogant, but intellectually perverse.

    What else am I supposed to derive from an argument which is, as best as I can tell, based on an explicit fallacy?

    [Sin] means willfully violating the law as revealed by Christ, primarily in the Sermon on the Mount. Which is tough indeed?much tougher then the OT law.

    I’ll have to tackle this one at some point in the future.

  198. #198 raven
    March 19, 2009

    I want all heroical mesasures possible and then some. Then I want a glass coffin, above ground, in a very public place, just in case I wake up.

    Not very ambitious are you? I want to be mummified and buried with all my earthy possessions and the possessions of quite a few other people. As long as the art is of high quality and contains a lot of gold. In a pyramid made of an improbable amount of cut stone. This is nonnegotiable, although the pyramid can take a century or two to complete.

    However, as a liberal, it will not be necessary to entomb my family members and retainers with me at the time. Whether or not they are still living or want to.

    I also will pass on having a cult started in my name. Seems to cause huge problems down the line. It is OK if someone like L. Ron Hubbard or Von Daniken makes claims about a benign space alien who was sent to liberate mankind.

  199. #199 Sastra
    March 19, 2009

    Owlmirror #197 wrote:

    If they can rationally interpreted as being other than of God, then we do indeed have a reasonable excuse to deny that they are of God. If so, Paul was wrong… and we are not being dishonest in denying that they point to God.

    The only way to save the Christian/Calvinist “they are without excuse” argument from this very cogent point is to invoke ESP as a basic human ability. In addition to our ordinary senses and ordinary ability to reason, every single person is born with a special extra-sensory God-perceiver.

    This ability cannot be measured or tested with scientific instruments, nor can it be located in a specific place in the brain (at least not yet, it could be, potentially), but, since it is universal and self-evident, it doesn’t have to be. Those who deny they have it are either liars, defective, or defective liars.

    By putting ESP into the mix, such theists can argue around the objection that it is reasonable to conclude naturalism from the evidence. Not if we start off the evidence with a built-in ESP ability that hones in on God, allowing us to recognize His voice the way a corral of lambs can sort themselves by the sounds of their mother’s bleat. This concept goes beyond the idea of “regeneration,” because it’s what is being regenerated in the first place. And if you talk to believers and get them to be more specific than usual, they really do seem to think about the situation of nonbelief this way.

    If ESP doesn’t exist as a phenomenon in any form, then the “without excuse” claim falls apart. If ESP in some form were proven scientifically, then the “without excuse” claim is — not proven — but supported.

    The overlap between religion and the paranormal is very large.

  200. #200 E.V.
    March 19, 2009

    The overlap between religion and the paranormal is very large.

    That has to be the most tactful and genteel understatement I’ve ever heard.

  201. #201 Steven Dunlap
    March 19, 2009

    My irreverent take on this: I’m reminded by the scene from the movie Jabberwocky in which a bunch of ascetics have a fist fight over who gets to be set on fire and launched from a catapult. There’s definitely an element of masochism in submission to the unreachable, invisible all-powerful [insert deity name here]. Hang on to life for every last second because … it’s what you’re supposed to do. Your god will approve. And you know this how? Hmm.

  202. #202 Steven Dunlap
    March 19, 2009

    My irreverent take on this: I’m reminded by the scene from the movie Jabberwocky in which a bunch of ascetics have a fist fight over who gets to be set on fire and launched from a catapult. There’s definitely an element of masochism in submission to the unreachable, invisible all-powerful [insert deity name here]. Hang on to life for every last second because … it’s what you’re supposed to do. Hmm.

  203. #203 SC, OM
    March 19, 2009

    That’s a good question…As far as I know, no church I have ever been in had any sort of position on whether or not you should give a damn about victimless sins of unbelievers.

    …For crying out loud, if I didn’t say “church that I’ve been in” you’d accuse me claiming to speak for all Christians. And when I do, carefully, include the qualifier, you accuse me of focusing narrowly on my own church.

    …What I mean is, we have no policy–nor have I ever heard any discussion, about say, two unbelievers in an adulterous relationship. Certainly we view adultery as sin. Certainly we would take action of church members were invovled. But unbelievers? Why should we care?

    http://gbcss.blogspot.com/2008/06/science-and-faith-at-war-christians-v.html

    Is homosexuality a sin, heddle? Has your church participated in any public activities or taken any position surrounding homosexuality, gay marriage, gay adoption, or other such issues related to consensual sexuality?

    [BTW, adultery - assuming dishonesty and a betrayal of trust - would not be considered by many to be "victimless," while extramarital sexual relations with the free consent of all parties could be (and are to me). It's...interesting that you make no such distinction.]

    I would also love to know what the hell it means to “idolize sex,” how it differs from having or enjoying sex, and how that definition is derived from the verses you cited.

  204. #204 Ryan Biggs
    March 19, 2009

    I think it is a little too easy to smuggly conclude from this research that religionists are in fact afraid of death because they doubt. There are better explanations. Just a few:

    - “I don’t want to give up on God before God gives up on me”

    - belief that miracles happen

    - impulse to question science and medical advice that we are not well equipped to fully grasp: “doctors are sometimes wrong”

    - Christian belief that enduring pain and suffering with dignity is good thing and brings us closer to god

    - etc etc etc

  205. #205 Sastra
    March 19, 2009

    Ryan Biggs #204:

    I think it is a little too easy to smuggly conclude from this research that religionists are in fact afraid of death because they doubt. There are better explanations.

    I think those are all good possibilities — and would include doubt in the mix as well. After all, if a dying person were absolutely certain of heaven and eternal joy, the other factors would be outweighed. My guess is that it’s probably a combination.

    I also think this study needs replication. Up above, Glen D. cited a study on religion and dying which apparently came to a slightly different conclusion. I’m skeptical on whether we can extrapolate anything yet. Idle speculation … oh, sure.

  206. #207 ffrancis
    March 19, 2009

    Marcus J. Ranum @107, do you have a source for the Mahatma Gandhi Mayo Clinic story? An admittedly cursory search doesn’t turn it up, and Gandhi was assassinated in India.

  207. #208 Fortuna
    March 19, 2009

    heddle;

    There is nothing I can do to save you. All I can do is tell you the gospel. I?d be happy to do that. And that would include a call to repent. But somehow coercing you to stop sinning in your bedroom (as an example) would have no bearing on your salvation.

    We are commanded to confront our brothers and sisters if they embrace an unrepentant sinful lifestyle, and I would definitely do it.

    I still don’t quite see how these statements are reconcilable…unless the generic “you” in the first quote is supposed to refer to unbelievers specifically, and the “brothers and sisters” referenced in the second refers to one’s co-religionists only. Which, I gather from the following quote, is the case.

    And it is OK to go beyond the gospel with unbelievers. But I (or any Christian) am under no command to confront their sin.

    You are under a command to confront your brothers and sisters when they sin, but are under no such command for unbelievers when THEY sin. Which logically entails that unbelievers are not your brothers and sisters.

    So it’s an in-group thing, basically?

  208. #209 zy
    March 19, 2009

    For the study authors and journal readers the importance of this story is less about the attitudes of the religious in the face of dying and more about the failure of chaplains and clergy who work with the dying. Those involved in end of life counseling need better training. It’s up to people in spiritual leadership positions to give people wisdom (to people who choose that advice and support, which is not everyone) that the pure instinctive fight for life cannot.

    Popular religion in America does not emphasize preparation for death the way, say, it did in medieval Europe. In that it follows the trends in larger American society, but it’s also part of the selective reading of the Bible that is pandemic. For every miracle healing, there is another passage that tells people “be ready because you could die tonight.” The result is, on their own, dying patients might have never dealt with the idea that it’s okay to reject heroic measures. It’s the job of clergy to help people to listen not to the mortal nature and the instinctive reaction to fight for life. They can help the dying decide if there is realistic hope or if all they are doing is to increase their own and their loved ones’ suffering.

  209. #210 gaypaganunitarianagnostic
    March 19, 2009

    When Oral Roberts was pushing his “God will call me home if I don’t raise a million…” bit. every sensible person assumed that it was a scam. I saw him on television at the time and he seemed genuinely scared. Could good ‘ol Oral have had DOUBTS about going to heaven?

  210. #211 SC, OM
    March 20, 2009

    heddle (at the link above):

    Now consider the following imaginary yet familiar debate:

    Non-Christian: Homosexuals are born that way. They don?t choose to be gay.

    Christian: No they aren?t. They make a moral choice.

    What do you call the Christian? Well, in a certain way you call him a heretic. For his premise in holding fast to the position that homosexuals are not born that way is not just semi but full-blown Pelagian. This Christian, like Pelagius, is insisting that God would never give the moral responsibility without the moral ability to comply. In fact, both sides in this debate accept the erroneous premise that God wouldn?t punish us for how we are born. One side says: “But we are born that way, therefore God would not punish us.” The other side says: “You are correct, God would not punish you if you were born that way, therefore you weren?t.

    Everything I know about Augustine and Pelagius tells me that in the little debate above over homosexuality, on the point of whether it was a condition of birth, Augustine, the saint, would be sympathetic with the ?non-Christian? position and Pelagius, the heretic, with the ?Christian.?

    The Augustinian response would be: Maybe you are born that way, but that?s no get-out-of-jail-free card. We all are born sinners.

    Now in terms of science, the data are ambiguous. The best guess at the moment is that the answer is ?both.? There is a predisposition toward homosexuality but that is not always the explanation. The point here is that the fact that some people being born gay fits naturally with Christian theology. Christians should not be Pelagian in this question.

    Nice scientific citations, there. Oh, and if by “non-Christian” you mean reality-based person, that person wouldn’t accept your stupid terms in the first place. In order to discuss what “immoral” behavior “God” would punish us for, you’d need to establish that an entity exists with an interest in human sexual practices, that “sin” is anything other than a made-up notion used by some people to control others, and that this is in any way a moral issue. “In terms of science,” not one bit of this is supported by evidence; it is therefore irrelevant to any scientific discussion of homosexuality.

  211. #212 Knockgoats
    March 20, 2009

    This Christian, like Pelagius, is insisting that God would never give the moral responsibility without the moral ability to comply. In fact, both sides in this debate accept the erroneous premise that God wouldn?t punish us for how we are born. – heddle

    One thing this does demonstrate is what a disgusting excuse for a human being heddle is, worshipping as he does a (fortunately imaginary) evil monster that creates beings in order to torture them for ever.

  212. #213 Knockgoats
    March 20, 2009

    Knockgoats, if you really think that the state wont ration medical care based on my scenario or something even more ridiculous when it has the power you are a … nevermind, you’re a socialist. You think the state should make that decision. The state is benign and mistake-free after all. – Matt

    Matt, you’re a moron. I was simply pointing out that the amount spent on “heroic measures” in the last few days/weeks of life is trivial in the context of medical and nursing expenses generally – compare, for example, with the years of nursing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients require, or the scans, surgery and chemotherapy cancer patients need. No, I don’t think the state should take the decision as to whether such “heroic” measures are taken: the patient should (or their next-of-kin if they are incapable) – and this is indeed the case in the universal health-care systems I’m aware of (you might try looking at the world outside the USA occasionally). As for the last sentence I quote above – no, I leave that sort of stupid generalisation (in either direction) to idiots like you.

  213. #214 SC, OM
    March 20, 2009

    One thing this does demonstrate is what a disgusting excuse for a human being heddle is, worshipping as he does a (fortunately imaginary) evil monster that creates beings in order to torture them for ever.

    And what makes it even worse is that he chose to do so, as an adult. And then to indoctrinate children with this garbage. Just appalling.

  214. #215 Daniel J. Andrews
    March 20, 2009

    Oh for goodness sake, PZ! You’re doing your creationist imitation again. Did you even read the study yourself? You go wrong right in your post title. Your critical thinking skills short-circuit when it comes to philosophy or religion or even basic psychology.

  215. #216 John Morales
    April 13, 2009

    [SIWOTI]

    [1] You go wrong right in your post title.
    [2] Your critical thinking skills short-circuit when it comes to philosophy or religion or even basic psychology.

    1. Lessee: “The patients who leaned the most heavily on their faith” vs. “Those who believe in heaven”.
    It’s clearly artistic license, so your nitpick seems mischievously spurious.

    2. You claim to infer from this [1]? Heh.

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