Home > Religion, Science > It's Easter!

It's Easter!

Which apparently means newspapers publish obnoxious religious pap. The Chronicle has a front page story about Faith & Healing (link subject to unannounced disappearance, because the Chronicle sucks).

Every other Thursday for 16 weeks last year Lois Schwartz did two things.

In the morning she attended a Bible study class.

In the afternoon she underwent an aggressive form of chemotherapy.

The 64-year-old Bozeman resident had breast cancer, and on Thursdays she did what she could to combat her fears and the disease that brought those fears to the surface.

With the support of a close circle of friends who prayed for her, Schwartz said she felt buoyed by her faith every time she walked through the doors of Bozeman Deaconess Hospital.

“I have great respect for the doctors and the chemotherapy,” Schwartz said Thursday, again surrounded by her friends from Bible study. “It was God who was using the chemotherapy to destroy the cancer.”

You doctors might as well just go home. God is on the case!

While scientists continue to debate the medical benefits of prayer, large numbers of people in Bozeman, and the rest of the country, are embracing it as a complement to Western medicine.

There’s not really much debate. Previous studies have been fatally flawed and the most recent, best one showed absolutely no benefit.

Dr. Gabor Benda, a family physician at Bozeman Clinic, believes prayer benefits patients whose spiritual paths lead them to it. People may also find comfort through other means, but what is there to lose, he asked, by turning to prayer?

Even if scientists are not able to measure all of the effects of prayer on people’s health outcomes, patients themselves can experiment and then choose whether to believe in prayer’s power.

Well, let’s see. One benefit of scientific studies is they can control for placebo effects. They also study a group of people, minimizing the possibility that any benefit was a fluke. Trying it by yourself has neither of those benefits and is error prone. It’s the least useful thing you can do.

“There are lots of positive outcomes when you’re not limited to what we can see and know,” Benda said.

And how do we know those positive outcomes exist if we can’t know about them? A question for the ages, that one is.

For instance, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., funds several studies of prayer and other spiritual practices.

What have those studies found? Nothing. What are we doing to the National Institutes of Health’s budget? Cutting it. What are we doing to NCCAM’s budget? Nothing. Fuck.

To Cindy McNichols, a Bozeman resident who had congestive heart failure five years ago, such studies [the large prayer study I mentioned above] are not worth paying attention to. She survived an emergency flight to a hospital in Billings, despite the precariousness of her situation, because of her faith in God, she said.

“I just know what works for me; it’s my faith in God,” McNichols said. “I know for a fact that God was holding my heart all the way to Billings.”

I try to be nice, but I can’t think of a word other than “delusional” to describe that.

Yet McNichols does not discount the power of modern medicine, either. Her 30-year-old son, who was born with cancer, is healthy today because of medical interventions and prayer, she said.

“God has given people the knowledge,” McNichols said, “Modern medicine is a great gift.”

No, it’s not a gift. It was earned over thousands of years by very smart people who made incredible discoveries. People who devoted their lives to making the world a little better for human beings. To ignore them and give credit to an imaginary sky-being is ridiculous and does a disservice to people who devote their lives to helping us.

According to the members of Lois Schwartz’s Bible study group, praying for Schwartz as she faced chemotherapy made them feel joy, too.

“Lois was such an inspiration to all of us … she was able to keep her hope in God,” said Carol Sanford, a member of the Bible study group, along with Nancy MacPherson and Laura Stonecipher.

And the group was able to watch as they saw their prayers having a positive impact on Schwartz’s health, they said.

Schwartz had a new mammogram on Monday, and doctors have studied the effects of her cancer treatment on her heart.

Today everything appears to be normal, Schwartz said. And she credits her relationship with God, whom she accessed through prayer, for the blessing, she said.

“We don’t need a study to tell us that,” Stonecipher said.

Of course not. I hope someday people will stop relying on their silly delusions and start giving human beings the credit we deserve, rather than blame for the bad things and God for the good things.

Categories: Religion, Science
  1. Mark T
    April 16, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    Amazing how God gets all the credit and none of the blame. After all, who was it that gave Lois Schwartz her breast cancer in the first place? Oh wait – sorry – forgot. Satan.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: