Friday, September 25, 2015

God say me eat COOKIE

Part 3 of a two-part blog about my encounters with nursing home and hospital clergy. I suppose you can call it part 2.1, since it's unpacking the subject of the second blog. I really should stop labeling linked posts with numbers. (Part one.)

Naturally, atheists think they're right about the nonexistence of God and consider the faithful misguided, at the very least. In fact, that's the very word I once used to describe the family members lamenting the fear of the dark they thought was preventing the poor dying girl in my ICU room from "crossing over." The same goes for believers, of course. How can atheists deny the "evidence" of God's work? But what sets the two groups apart? And what was different about the prevaricating hospital chaplain and his probable motivation for his behaviour?

When was the last time you read about a child being killed in an attempt to drive religion out of them? Take your time; I'll wait. In most cases, the adults involved in tragically fatal exorcisms are doing this through love, not malice. But surely it's unfair to link the probably well-meaning mainline Protestant hospital chaplain to such ignorant, fringe religious thinking, you may say. I agree, despite the fact that I snarkily used an image from The Exorcist to illustrate my last blog.

But what links these religiously based behaviours is an absolute conviction of the righteousness of their cause. It's a belief that the ends justify the means, and a faith that God is guiding their actions. Atheists, on the other hand, believe that their own biases and desires are shaping their motivations--duh!--not some outside force. They therefore tend to consider their moral actions with utmost seriousness. Far from being rudderless without God to guide them, it's been my experience that nonbelievers think far more deeply about the consequences of their actions. The faithful are more likely to translate their inner voice as God telling them to do, coincidentally, exactly what they want to do.

That's like Cookie Monster telling himself that God is the voice in his head. God say me eat COOKIE! Nom, nom, nom. An atheist is more apt to be like Oscar the Grouch. I love trash, and that's why I collect it. I don't steal trash from other Grouches because it would be wrong to take their battered and worn sneakers just because they have more holes. They love their ragged or rotten or rusty trash too.

So what does this have to do with our lying cleric? He was probably so convinced that he was doing God's work that anything he did was God's will, even if it involved lying. There was a life at stake, after all. Without God's light, she will surely die. Yes, all of her loved ones but one is a nonbeliever, but keeping me from praying for her is like preventing her doctors from treating her. It's God's will that I pray for her, despite her beliefs and her loved ones' wishes. I'm lying, but it's for the greater good.

Of course, he wasn't doing it for selfish reasons, but the fact remains that he lied because he thought he was doing God's work. God's will gave him him license to do exactly what he wanted to do. What a coincidence. No one thinks they're a bad person, and when they do wrong, they can usually find a handy excuse to justify their actions. But those who believe their actions are guided by a higher power don't even recognize that it's an excuse, however justified. To them, it's a command from God. They chomp down on that cookie, convinced all the while that it's not because me love COOKIES.


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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.