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Study Finds the Pious Fight Death Hardest 921

Posted by timothy
from the would-like-a-mulligan-please dept.
Stanislav_J writes "A US study suggests that people with strong religious beliefs appear to want doctors to do everything they can to keep them alive as death approaches. The study, following 345 patients with terminal cancer, found that 'those who regularly prayed were more than three times more likely to receive intensive life-prolonging care than those who relied least on religion.' At first blush, this appears paradoxical; one would think that a strong belief in an afterlife would lead to a more resigned acceptance of death than nonbelievers who view death as the end of existence, the annihilation of consciousness and the self. Perhaps the concept of a Judgment produces death-bed doubts? ('Am I really saved?') Or, given the Judeo-Christian abhorrence of suicide, and the belief that it is God who must ultimately decide when it is 'our time,' is it felt that refusing aggressive life support measures or resuscitation is tantamount to deliberately ending one's life prematurely?"
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Study Finds the Pious Fight Death Hardest

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:15PM (#27244739)
    Compare this with an atheist who might believe that life is futile, fleeting, and nothing they do matters in the long run...

    Atheism != nihilism. You fail it, try again.
  • Re:If it were me (Score:3, Informative)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:16PM (#27244761) Journal
    Don't worry! In Texas, you wouldn't need to pray [].
  • by DrLang21 (900992) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:20PM (#27244831)
    Except that according to many Church's teachings, you already messed up as soon as you are born.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:21PM (#27244845)

    I'm sorry, but atheism != belief that life is futile, fleeting and pointless. It only means a lack of belief in any sort of god(s).

  • Original sin (Score:3, Informative)

    by clarkn0va (807617) <apt.get@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:54PM (#27245409) Homepage
    I thought original sin was a catholic idea. Granted, catholics outnumber other christians in most places, but it still warrants pointing out that they are not representative in this regard.
  • by genner (694963) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:08PM (#27245651)

    Actually, unbaptized babies go to Limbo. Read something besides Pagan FUD please. Thank you.

    Rome threw out the idea of limbo. Didn't you get the memo?

  • Re:Original sin (Score:3, Informative)

    by DrLang21 (900992) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:10PM (#27245703)
    It may have originated in the Catholic Church, but I've heard original sin picked up by many protestant Churches. From having spent time in at least five very different Christian Churches, I can think of four that believed in original sin.
  • Re:Original sin (Score:5, Informative)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:12PM (#27245719)

    I thought original sin was a catholic idea. Granted, catholics outnumber other christians in most places, but it still warrants pointing out that they are not representative in this regard.

    Original sin as a Christian doctrine predates the formation of most distinct separate sects -- it may be "catholic" in the sense of "universal", but it isn't a distinctly Catholic idea; it is found in most strains of Christianity (though not in all groups that are or call themselves "Christian"). OTOH, the evolution over time of the precise understanding of original sin differs between different groups within Christianity. Wikipedia's article on original sin [] is a fairly decent starting point.

  • by plague3106 (71849) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:15PM (#27245757)

    Limbo was made up. There's no reference to it anywhere in the bible. Even our catholic school teachers taught us as much.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:25PM (#27245933)

    Is Purgatory really that much better? I can't remember the last time I heard a Catholic say "ya know, I wouldn't mind hanging out in Purgatory with absolutely nothing to do for all eternity"

    There's a good reason why you wouldn't normally hear that from a Catholic. Purgatory is a temporary condition, at least according to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. As the name implies it's purpose is to purge sin from the souls of those who tried to live righteous lives and died without any unrepented mortal sins. After Purgatory the soul is fit for Heaven, regardless if Heaven is an actual "place" or simply a state of being with greater connection to God than is possible to achieve in the physical world. There has been a lot of theological debate about the exact nature of Purgatory (how long the process is, or if it is instanteous, whether the length of time even matters, etc...), but the Roman Catholic concept of Purgatory excludes the possibility of it being an eternal state.

  • Re:Original sin (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chris Mattern (191822) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:39PM (#27246189)

    I thought original sin was a catholic idea.

    No, it's almost universal in Christianity. A few fringe sects might not believe in it, but it's part of Catholic, Orthodox and mainstream Protestant thought.

  • by katarac (565789) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:44PM (#27246273)
    Actually, I see that question quite a bit, and haven't ever had too much trouble with it.

    The universe is not tuned to our specifications, with our well being in mind. We are tuned to it's specifications, and have adapted to survive here.

    Oh wait, here's a quote from the article that you linked which explains it better than I could.

    Critics suggest that the fine-tuned universe assertion and the anthropic principle are essentially tautologies.[9] The fine-tuned universe argument has also been criticized as an argument by lack of imagination because it assumes no other forms of life, based upon alternative biochemistry, are possible. In addition, critics argue that humans are adapted to the universe through the process of evolution, rather than the universe being adapted to humans. They also see it as an example of the logical flaw of hubris or anthropocentrism in its assertion that humans are the purpose of the universe.[10]"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:31PM (#27247081)
    Try, "I hope I'm wrong." Some atheists would rather believe in an imaginary sky fairy and a romantic happily ever after ending. We just can't believe it even if we try.
  • by flibbajobber (949499) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:07PM (#27247641)
    Not explicitly perhaps, but certain passages read along the lines of "pray for the souls of the dead" - what benefit could that possibly have unless they were in purgatory/limbo? Hell is a one-way trip, and those in Heaven need no such prayer.
  • by anegg (1390659) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:27PM (#27247943)

    Hmmm. That's not my approach to atheism.

    1) I'm here because of a long line of previous conditions that resulted in me existing. Many of which have to do with survival of the most fit. I'm one bad mo-fo, evolution-wise, amongst a crowd of really bad mo-fos. Good for us.

    2) I have the same purpose as all life - the continuation of life. Self-organizing molecules that have risen up far beyond what might have been expected, and shall rise further yet. There is no grand scheme to the universe, as there is no grand schemer. But organisms like me have developed a consciousness as well as a superior physical form and brain, and we can form societies. And as part of a society, I recognize that I can play a role in furthering society. I can make those around me happy, just as they make me happy. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is a great universal rule for organisms living in a society. Seems like I may have seen that written down someplace.

    3) No individual action of mine will probably survive with any attribution to myself beyond a relatively short period of time. But I don't recall any religion offering an alternative to that. I don't think the Christian god will be giving out gold medals for those who sing his praises the loudest or the longest, as seems to be the plan for all devout Christians in the afterlife. Endless praise, directed at the supreme being. Not individual attribution of merit.

    4) There is a very real morality that exists as a natural consequence of our organism's evolution of society - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Without it, society would fall apart. With it, great works are possible. I don't need the threat of the big guy snuffing me out in a permanent way, or punishing me forever, to guide me to doing good to myself and others around me. I'm surprised at the number of folks who think this "do it or I'll snuff you/punish you" makes a better morality than that of those who do what is right because it is right.

    5) My value isn't rated, I'm priceless until/unless I decide to sacrifice myself for some greater good; at that point someone may put a price on me because of what I achieved, but I won't really care. I'm not sure where you got the idea that an atheist only considers their value to be the value of their chemical constituents plus skillset. Atheists believe in art, love, beauty, and lots of intangibles. Atheist != materialist.

    6) There is plenty of point in helping others, starting with the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) but also extending beyond that to various forms of altruism. Once again, I'm not sure where you got the idea that atheists place no value on their fellow beings. It seems pretty egocentric of you to think that only Christians do nice things.

    Best of all, even if there is a supreme being, a creator - how on earth can you assume that it is the Christian notion of god that is correct? There are lots of other approaches, many of which predate Christianity, and seem more likely to be correct since they were developed closer to the origination of the world. How can you not consider the ancient Greek pantheon, Hindu concepts of the cycle of life, Buddhist notions of the sacred in all living things, and other major belief systems just as viable as the Christian view point?

  • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:29PM (#27247971) Journal

    Not if you accept that life begins at conception. No birth, no baptism, go to Hell.

    Um, the Catholic doctrine is that the souls of those who die unbaptised at birth, or are stillborn (and so on and so forth) go to some place called Limbo. They eventually get to Heaven, apparently, but must wait until the souls of those in Purgatory get there also.
    Then again, I think Dawkins said it best about the Catholics: "They're making it up as they go along!"

  • by canadian_right (410687) <> on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:08PM (#27248535) Homepage

    Actualy, in April 2007 the Pope decided that unbaptised babies do NOT go to purgatory []. Good thing he's thinking of the children! There is no "Limbo", just purgatory according to Catholic dogma.

  • by Darby (84953) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:19PM (#27248687)

    If this is true of Christians it's certainly true of Atheists.

    No, it most certainly isn't. You're being very dishonest. Isn't lying a sin?

    Do you see the lazy doubt at work here?

    No, because there isn't any. You're taking the traditional approach used by deeply dishonest and cowardly believers of pretending that just because I know that your fairy tales are ridiculous, and I've never even heard of a religion whose fairy tales aren't ridiculous that somehow I have some magical faith.

    I don't have a faith to be questioned. I lack all of the thousands of beliefs in idiotic fairy tales that you do, plus one more. Now if there were any evidence *at all* for the truth of your fairy tales, then it would be possible for you to make a valid point that way. As there isn't any, it is not possible. Rejecting your idiotic ideas isn't a religion, it's just common sense.

    Now, keep in mind that the only reason that you are a Christian is that your parents brainwashed you into believing that idiotic nonsense. If your parents were Muslim, then you'd believe that idiotic nonsense just as strongly and you'd recognize what you now see as "holy" to be idiotic nonsense. That's what's really amazing to me about adults who still cling so desperately to childish nonsense like religion. If you'd ever given the matter any honest thought at all, you'd know that your deepest held beliefs are only that through an accident of birth. It's sad, really.

  • by JonathanBoyd (644397) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @07:17PM (#27249955) Homepage

    So you're saying it's more important to show respect to God, than to actually follow his/her/its teachings?

    Where did I say that? You were the one with a quote saying that devoutness (i.e. adherence to God) was something God wouldn't care about, which I disagreed with.

    I would have thought that if God made man in his own image, then she made a man that was innately curious, enquiring and sceptical.

    Such reasoning takes Genesis 1 and 2, then fails to apply Genesis 3, which reveals man to fallen i.e. no longer a good representative of God, therefore our current nature is not what we are supposed to be.

    In which case, a lack of blind faith would be rewarded in the afterlife

    Who said anything about blind faith? I certainly don't have it and hope that people have faith on the basis of evidence.

    since it showed you actually had some intelligence, whereas a senseless following of irrelevant precepts would see you chucked in the "try again" bin. To give humans reason and intelligence, and then tell them not to follow it, is just ludicrous.

    I agree that God gave us minds in order that we might use them (though I also disagree that his precepts are irrelevant). How is that at all relevant to what I posted? Surely a intelligent mind, upon discovering an infinitely worthy being, would worship it?

  • No it is not. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chicken_Kickers (1062164) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @08:07PM (#27250435)

    Firstly, this thread seems to forget that there are many religions, not just Christianity. Each religion treats the coming of death differently. We Muslims are actually taught to be fearful of God and the coming of death. Being fearful of God and death is judged a positive trait.I have said before and I will say it again: you do not need a God to justify doing bad (and good) things in life. Atheists are as prone to having "insane behaviour" as religious people, or any human being. In fact, we say that those who don't believe in God are the ones who are narcissistic, in that by not believing in God, they elevate themselves to Godhood.

    There are many verses in the Quran and hadiths that says every little action, good or bad that we do in this world, hidden or clearly seen, will be replayed and judged on Judgment Day and we are constantly reminded that death afflicts the young and healthy as equally as the old and sick. Muslims are taught to pray for an "easy" death, easy in the sense that the soul leaves the body without much suffering to the body. We fear death because we might not have asked people for forgiveness when we had the chance, or we had not carried out our duties and responsibilities to the best of our abilities, or we have taken more than we have given back. Yet we do not "hate" death because life and the whole Universe is an illusion, a game. We score points by doing good and lose points when we do bad things. The "real" life begins after death, one that is eternal and where we reap our rewards or receive our punishments. There are many verses in the Quran where non-believers and sinners on Judgment Day, will beg for another chance to return to this life and do better, but always the answer is it is too late.

    Thus, it is a duty of a Muslim to live as long as possible, while doing as much good deeds as he can, to prepare for the inevitable. When a Muslim is on his death bed, his family and friends will attend to him, and whisper in his ear "there is no God but Allah" and asks him to repeat it so that it will be his last words. Quranic verses will be recited in his presence to calm him down and to face death with dignity. And when he dies, it is the duty of his children to regularly pray for him so that God forgives him.

    So you obviously don't believe in God. I accept that. Then why do you belittle those who do? You choose to highlight evil religious people, yet you conveniently ignore those who serve the community and do good deeds. We Muslims are taught to praise and respect people who do good deeds, be they Muslims or not. If you don't believe in the Afterlife, does that invalidates the good deeds of those who do? Will you not benefit from the positive effects of good deeds done by the pious? Or are you ironically succumbing to the same dogmatic stance that you accuse believers of having?

  • by lazy_nihilist (1220868) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @08:32PM (#27250631)
    While I don't believe in God or purpose in life, I will agree that both the points you made are most probably true.
  • by notwrong (620413) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @11:45PM (#27251781)

    That's some pretty serious twisting of the facts there to suit a particular worldview.

    Atheist does not mean "non-monotheist". The Romans were by no means atheists []. While there is evidence of persecution of Christianity for some time, it was eventually absorbed as the state religion, and coalesced into the Roman Catholic Church. The title of Pontifex Maximus [], now applied to the Pope, was once held by Julius Caesar.

    To assert that Christianity has been unchanged before or since this time is just strange. Ever heard of the Council of Nicaea [] or Vatican II []? How about the fate of Gnosticism []?

    Your desert claims are ridiculous. Where did Jesus go for 40 days and 40 nights, to be tempted by the devil, if there was no desert in Ancient Israel?.

    It is hard to buy your argument that Christianity somehow "works". It has split into innumerable denominations, further underlining its mutability. Allegedly righteous Christians launched the Crusades and used their religion as justification for colonialism and slavery for centuries. The modern world only even began to "work" when Europe was released from religious domination of state affairs.

    I do agree with you that not all ideas ideas in established religions are simply random. Successful religions will tend to have properties that lead to that success. There is no reason to believe, however, that benefit for believers or alignment with actual truth about the world are well-represented among these properties.

  • by evilviper (135110) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @03:37AM (#27252765) Journal

    This could be a fear of death thing or it could just be a hope for a miracle. ... I suppose you can't expect religious people to act rationally about these things though.

    Utterly WRONG. In fact what they found was that: "religion had been widely associated with an improved ability to cope with the stress of illness."

  • by pkphilip (6861) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @04:08AM (#27252907)

    I agree completely. My mother-in-law who suffers from cancer stays with my wife and I. She is going through her second episode of cancer.

    I can attest to the fact that she finds it possible to carry on only because of her faith. If she didn't have faith, she would have given up and died long ago.

    Most people on Slashdot do not seem to realize that people handle terminal illness very differently. Many just give up and then death comes very quickly. Some just don't quit - no matter how hard it gets. Mental toughness goes a long way in keeping one alive.

    I am guessing many of the more religious people probably don't quit as easily as those who are not religious.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 19, 2009 @06:12AM (#27253495)

Although the moon is smaller than the earth, it is farther away.