Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Say and Do

I try not to engage in the culture wars online very much any more. There are more reasonable people doing it. But every once in a while, something draws me out.

This cartoon, by Jessica Hagy, on Index
, gets to the point of my discomfort with religion, and for some reason, I thought I could be polite about it. I might have been wrong. I often am. But this is what I wrote in response to two comments on the board. Misspellings included.

I figured I'd post it on my personal blog. Anyone who knows me can tell me why I'm wrong.

"1) I sadly will be removing Indexed from my blogroll. I cannot support a blog which moves from advocating atheism to attacking other people’s faiths."

If your faith is that prayer is more efficacious than action (and science isn't a belief, it's a set of activities), then maybe it's worth lampooning. God helps those who help themselves, right?

Or as the punchline to the joke goes, "God: I'm trying to help you out, here, but you have to buy a lottery ticket first."

"Both science and prayer can serve a purpose. Science, when rigorously (and responcibly) applied, has answered many physical problems. An honest application of prayer (if you were to seriously try it and not dismiss it.) has ammazing effects on the personal level."

The problem being that many people believe that they're prayers move things in the world, not just in themselves. It answers their physical problems. Kind of like Uri Geller. But in this case, it sometimes kills them or their children.


Mary Lou Klecha said...

But in this case, it sometimes kills them or their children.

I don't know if I know you well enough to tell you where you're wrong, but I'll offer a couple of observations, Devil's Advocate style: the number of believers, of any sect, who rely solely on prayer to the total exclusion of science in the form of, for instance, modern medicine, is very small--and it's monstrously unfair to judge all who believe in the efficacy of prayer on the basis of those who take it to its most absurd length.

My guess is that a - scientifically rigorous, natch - study would show more deaths from medical malpractice, adverse drug reactions, and other sources stemming from (rather than insufficiently alleviated by) modern medical care, than from believers' refusal to seek medical care available to them because they choose to rely solely on prayer.

[Medical care which is insufficient or unavailable and drives people to rely on pray
er as a further or final resort being, for I trust obvious reasons, ruled out of the equation.]

For what it might be worth, I have found the world easier to understand and to navigate since I started accepting that just about everybody has a fandom, a [thing they are irrationally enthusiastic about and protective of]. For quite a lot of people in the world, it's religion, and that doesn't make them all crazy or stupid or child abusers or murderers or suicides, any more than listening to heavy metal makes someone a Satanist child molester. I'm sure you didn't intend it, but that's basically the charge you levied with your comments.

Lawrence said...

Hey Ms. Klecha!

Nope. You got every right to tell me when I'm wrong. And I think you're smart, so it's more likely to stick.

I mostly backed out of the online culture wars awhile back because a) I'm an asshole, and b) I come across too dry.

Here's the thing. I didn't make any blanket statements in my post. Lots of "I" statements and modifiers. If one is not using prayer to the exclusion of medical science, nobody's getting hurt. I wasn't clear. That is my usual mistake.

The line you highlighted: If you're thinking prayer never kills anybody, well. We're not reading the same media articles. Or we're not looking at them the same way. But people have refused medical care for their children because they believe the power of God works better.

You might say "They're crazy. Doesn't count." You might not. I wouldn't. I take people seriously when they say things like that. People believe lots of things. Some of them are harmful.

In fact, I know a lot of my ilk would suggest that all religion is crazy. But if someone's making an if-than statement like that, I pretty much assume they are making as rational a decision as they can. That's a little scary sometimes.

The cartoon I was responding to responses of is maybe less mild, but still a pretty mild condemnation of prayer. As I read it. The degree of mildness might be my bias.

Many other commentators saw different things in the cartoon. The two commentators I responded to saw a blanket condemnation.

I guess I just don't see it as an attack on faith to suggest that maybe prayer isn't as good at fixing some problems as others.