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Medicine

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 Nursie (632944) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:01PM (#27244519)

    Because they don't really believe and haven't had time to consider and come to terms with their own mortality.

  • by new_breed (569862) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:03PM (#27244555)
    ..or terrified that what they've believed their whole lives might actually not be true. It's the ultimate test of your faith!
  • by A. B3ttik (1344591) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:06PM (#27244603)
    Maybe, since they believe in a higher power, they believe that they "belong" on Earth and "have work to do" and that they can actually make a difference in the universe.

    Compare this with an atheist who might believe that life is futile, fleeting, and nothing they do matters in the long run... they might be more accepting and complacent.

    I'm not saying that either of these two are the case, my real point is that there are a billion different ways to look at this.
  • by MightyYar (622222) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:07PM (#27244617)

    what they've believed their whole lives might actually not be true

    Actually, I'd expect it to be the reverse. If I expected my eternal destiny to be judged upon death, I'd be pretty anxious to postpone my trial.

  • Cause/Effect... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:09PM (#27244631) Journal
    I'd be inclined to suspect(admittedly without experimental evidence) that, rather than being cause or effect of one another, piety and pursuit of aggressive EOL care are both effects.

    People with the greatest fear of death would be inclined both to fight it medically and to seek reassurance against it theologically.
  • by vertinox (846076) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:09PM (#27244639)

    Because they don't really believe and haven't had time to consider and come to terms with their own mortality.

    I dunno. Maybe the truly pious people don't wear it on their shoulder or are so humble that they play down their amount of piety religious when asked.

    That or people who fear death are more likely to have embraced religion, not that religion makes people more fearful of death.

  • by Ambiguous Coward (205751) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:10PM (#27244655) Homepage

    Or it's as simple as those that are afraid of mortality tend to cling to the idea of an afterlife. Rather than a causation here, I would guess we more likely have a correlation. The sort of people who are afraid of death will of course do everything in their power to avoid it. Additionally, the sort of people afraid of death will also be more willing to accept the idea of an afterlife.

    We're so quick to tag any "link between video games and violence found" as correlationisnotcausation, but then we get an article positing a correlation between fear of death and religious faith, and we all start hopping on the bandwagon for "oh they don't believe their own lies" or "haha, shaken faith!" but really, I'm guessing it's more likely that the one doesn't actually cause the other, but they're instead both caused by some third factor (railing against mortality.)

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:13PM (#27244693) Homepage

    Honestly I find it's those that are members of the "you are BAD!!!!!" and guilt based religions that do this. Real christians, those that actually follow his teachings, not the dimwits that have the fish on the car and have sunday morning Tv extravaganzas tend to be afraid of death.

    It's interesting. Do they realize on their death bed, they were actually raging assholes to their fellow man and are afraid of the wrath of their god on the other side?

  • The obvious answer (Score:1, Insightful)

    by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:16PM (#27244759) Homepage Journal

    The weak-willed and fearful are those who come to (or stay with) religion, therefore they are the most likely to fear dying.

  • by DinZy (513280) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:23PM (#27244881)

    If there are billions of different ways then clearly most of these ways must be wrong on some level or another.

    Most of the atheists I know, myself included, value life a great deal. I would argue that the pious are more afraid because they spend their whole life thinking the afterlife is where life truly begins that they fail to live it to the fullest. Whereas the accepting atheist knows he/she has only 70 or so years if they are lucky to have a personally meaningful existence.
     

  • by Nick Ives (317) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:23PM (#27244883)

    The TFA reveals the study is about aggressive, end-of-life cancer care. We're talking about people who have metastatic cancer and are on their death beds, people who have zero percent chance of survival.

    This study is saying that religious people are more likely to insist on non-palliative chemotherapy and mechanical respiration even though there's no chance of it succeeding. The study found these people were the least likely to have filled in a "do not resuscitate" order.

    This could be a fear of death thing or it could just be a hope for a miracle. If it's the latter then surely it'd just be better to place your complete faith in God at that stage of the game?

    I suppose you can't expect religious people to act rationally about these things though.

  • by Ambiguous Coward (205751) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:24PM (#27244895) Homepage

    I think most everyone should be bothered by the situation you described: that's just a healthy human reaction.

    But there's a difference between fear of death, and acceptance of the inevitable. Me falling into the grand canyon is not inevitable (I hope) but me dying eventually for some reason is.

  • by vux984 (928602) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:29PM (#27244977)

    Now, were you okay with it? Did you feel any fear, any adrenaline, anything like that? If not, maybe you're not afraid of death.

    Or maybe they are just afraid of falling long distances and experiencing the crunch at the bottom.

  • by javelinco (652113) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:31PM (#27245013) Journal
    You can be afraid of pain, but not of death, and have the same reaction. Your test is poorly designed.
  • by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:32PM (#27245031) Homepage Journal

    According to my common sense, original sin is messed up.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:33PM (#27245041) Homepage

    "So if you die an early death, then chances are you are more likely to have not messed things up."

    Unless of course you are a baby and a Catholic, in which case you are going to hell because nobody splashed "holy water" on your forehead in time. Oh yeah ... and the same God that allows helpless innocent babies to burn in hell is also All Loving and Benevolent. It is not a contradiction at all, since everyone knows that "God works in mysterious ways."

    Disclaimer:I am not ant-religion, or even anti-Catholic, just anti-lack-of-common-sense, and anti-moron. (not aimed at the parent poster or anyone else; apologies to those who feel that they got caught in the crossfire)

  • by capnkr (1153623) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:44PM (#27245261)

    "Everybody wants to go to heaven,
    Nobody wants to go now."

    Maybe these folks just love life, and regard it as a great gift, something they don't want to end so soon...?

    Nope, this is not a religion-bashing post, so I doubt it gets much support. I do find it interesting that so many here have to be so critical of other peoples life choices.

    Standard disclaimer: Not a religious person, personally. But so long as your religion doesn't call for you to kill me because I don't pledge my life to your Deity, then it's fine with me that you believe whatever you want to. His Noodly Greatness forgives all, in the End. ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:45PM (#27245271)

    I tend to agree. I too think there may be other factors that were not examined.

    Maybe the religious tend to have stronger family bonds and are therefore reluctant to give that up. Not necessarily for themselves but they are thinking of those around them (or it could be for themselves, doesn't matter really).

    Or something like that, who knows. I don't think we have enough information to say that people who are religious are more afraid of death, there may be other reasons than fear that makes them want to live longer.

  • by kellyb9 (954229) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:47PM (#27245317)
    I'd hardly call this a study. They took 345 people dying of terminal cancer. You can make a hundred different inferences from such a small sampling. Here's a few:

    Maybe some/most of these people were pious because they were dying
    Maybe these people actually enjoyed their life more because they were pious
    Maybe they were more pious because they were younger and didn't actually want to die
    etc.

    Nothing is learned from this study other than the fact that some religious people who have cancer don't want to die.... WOW. That should be in tomorrow paper... errr perhaps they'll need a special edition.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:51PM (#27245379)
    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"
  • by Sentry21 (8183) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:53PM (#27245389) Journal

    Couple that with the fact that the more 'pious' people that I've met are generally the worst Christians. They're judgmental, opinionated, closed-minded, bigoted, and full of hate. The most laid-back Christians I know are more liberal and open-minded, and follow the teachings of Christ a lot better.

    Perhaps when faced with their impending death, some of them realize just how much of assholes they've been, and how badly that's going to look come judgement.

  • by joelholdsworth (1095165) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:53PM (#27245391)

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

    I often ask Atheists how they explain the remarkable fine tuning [wikipedia.org] that the universe displays in the absence of a creator God. Very few have ever thought seriously about the question, and most are more than content to ignore the issue, or maintain a blind faith in some system of parallel universes for which there is no evidence whatsoever. Do you see the lazy doubt at work here?

    To say that all Christians, such as myself, are lazy doubters is as unrealistic as to say that Atheists have a monopoly on intelligent thought.

    I understand this forum has a strong anti-Christian bias, so please think twice before modding me troll.

  • by neoform (551705) <djneoform@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:05PM (#27245609) Homepage

    There's a difference between not fearing death and welcoming it.

  • by Don853 (978535) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:11PM (#27245707)
    In my opinion, Agnosticism makes the most sense. I think what exists outside the bounds of our physical universe, and before (and after?) 'time', is unknown and unknowable. God, Zues, the Matrix, or a spontaneous generation, it's all the same to me. The Christian story is full of contradictions with the evidences of our origin which surround us, but that certainly doesn't rule out in my mind the existence of some sort of creator. I sincerely doubt it gives a shit who I am or am not having sex with in any more than an ant farm sort of way. Obviously, we are, rather than are not, but God only moves that question to "where did God come from?".
  • by js3 (319268) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:18PM (#27245821)

    After 5 years I've logged in again to /. to post a reply >.

    Anyway I wanted to say that there's nothing impossible in religion. Those who are religious tend to hang on longer because they believe a higher power is at work and can solve impossible things. It has nothing to do with being afraid of death, rather being hopeful that their terminal ailment CAN indeed be cured.

    Meanwhile the non religious would normally just give up and die.. because some guy said so.

  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:20PM (#27245849)
    In outright atheism one may find oblivion appealing rather than a compulsory eternal life, one may also treasure the finite term of consciousness a little more and when you're done you're done, there's not a sodding thing you can do about it. That's not what I think myself, but thats possibly the point of view of many non-pious, they've already found their peace in life and fear nothing.
  • by plague3106 (71849) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:21PM (#27245855)

    Ahh.. the watchmaker argument. Of course it couldn't be that the universe HAS to exist as it does, or it couldn't exist at all. It's a matter of statistics; there's a lot of matter in the universe, so it only makes sense that somewhere in it life started, randomly.

    Nieschze has a good theory that explains it... without the need for a god.

  • by ianare (1132971) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:23PM (#27245891)

    I always have thought this to be the most illogical parts of humans of modern mainstream religion.

    Looking for logic and consistency in any religion is a fool's errand.

  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:28PM (#27245971) Homepage

    Wow. A lot of dark, dark souls here on /.

    Rather than fearing judgement or beset by regrets, perhaps pious folks have led for the most part satisifying lives, and that's why they want to keep on living.

  • by halivar (535827) <bfelger&gmail,com> on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:32PM (#27246043) Homepage

    I think you did a good job summing up the position of traditional protestants. I would, however, caution against inferring the mindset of the average atheist, as you do in the second paragraph. I say this only because most of the "this is probably what they're thinking" posts by atheists/agnostics above trying to infer the mindset of the average church-goer are horribly, even to the point of caricature, off the mark. I imagine I would sound as ridiculous doing the reverse.

    In short, I think the study is meaningless, and no one should read too much into it.

  • by Dusty00 (1106595) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:32PM (#27246049)

    Pagan FUD

    [citation needed]

    As a Pagan I'm very confused by this statement because I've never heard of such. I don't even know of any proactive Pagan initiatives educate outsiders on Paganism (possibly a FUD engine based on your point of view).

    Like any religion we have our share of members who are attention seeking louts (our's scream "I'm a Pagan, deal with it!" yours scream "Your going to Hell for X!") but we tend to have few members actively recruiting. Paganism doesn't have a Dogmatic philosophy and hence we have no real motivation to recruit others.

    Much as I'm doing in my post I understand wanting to correct a misconception about your religion but lest there's grounds for it don't blame those misconceptions on opposition propaganda.

  • by fropenn (1116699) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:33PM (#27246059)
    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 means religious people are scared of death.
  • by cowscows (103644) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:35PM (#27246103) Journal

    Ignorant of the fact that there are many many different types of religions and religious people. Ignorant of the fact that there are many different types of atheists (even ones that fear death). Ignorant of the fact that stereotyping a very large and very broad category of people(religious)is a not at all informative or useful.

  • by speedtux (1307149) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:39PM (#27246185)

    The data is pretty easy to explain based on the hypothesis that religion is motivated by an irrational fear of death; the same irrational fear of death also motivates the desire for excessive medical intervention. The religious are also are much more afraid of violent crime than the rest of the population.

    Unfortunately, the paranoid fears of this group is responsible for bad public policy, such as imposing unwanted life extending measures on others, irrational security features, human rights violations in the name of national security, and an irrational and unforgiving "get tough on crime" approach.

  • by spinninggears (551247) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:42PM (#27246233)
    "Very few have ever thought seriously about the question" Maybe because it is not really a question, but a false dilemma fallacy, and they find your jumping to the God conclusion a good example of someone not thinking things through very well.
  • by Nazlfrag (1035012) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:43PM (#27246255) Journal

    His will cannot be defied, they were merely doing his bidding. How can any action of man be artificial when god is everywhere, omnipresent and omnipotent. There is only the will of the divine, and what you see as doctors performing miracles is in fact a host of angels.

    You need a better line of reasoning to convince believers that they are cheating their god.

  • by HadouKen24 (989446) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:47PM (#27246317)
    Most of the atheists I've run into, in contrast, have considered the question.

    I don't think it's fair to characterize the "parallel universes" response as "blind faith." I've only run into one or two (rather stupid, sadly) atheists who really did have a firm faith in the existence of parallel universes. Generally speaking, this hypothesis is brought up to counter the notion that one should immediately leap to the conclusion that there is a personal Creator. There are too many options to settle on one.

    To my mind, the really interesting question is why the universe is so damn mathematical. It's not just that we can measure things, but that things follow mathematical laws so exactly. It's no wonder that no one twigged to this fact for so long; it's such an astoundingly strange notion, from the perspective of pre-scientific peoples. For this reason (along with others), I find myself compelled to admit that a mind-like Higher Power is somehow the ultimate cause of things as we know them.

    However, I don't think that there is any compelling reason to think that something like the Christian or Muslim God exists.
  • by Script Cat (832717) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:49PM (#27246355)
    They have a close family that loves them more often. The others in the sample may be people that are all jaded and broke all ties with family and community (including religion) and don't care as much.
    This does not mean atheists don't care if they live. What it does mean is the people break off from both communities but the loner stones get lumped back into the atheist group.
    It's a broken study. Lovers fight harder than haters, regardless.
  • by vadim_t (324782) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:50PM (#27246381) Homepage

    You have the answer right at the start of the article.

    If the universe wasn't tuned in a way that allowed us to exist, we wouldn't be here to marvel at its well-tunedness.

    There's also that life forms adapt to their environment. It's not that the universe is well suited to us, but we're well suited to live in the universe. It's like wondering that the ocean is remarkably well tuned for dolphins. It's isn't, the ocean was there before the dolphins.

  • by Theolojin (102108) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @03:54PM (#27246471) Homepage

    Sorry to ask this, as it's so eay to offend. IF God created man, to always live on earth i.e. everyone coming back to earth after Jesus Christ returns it bewgs a simple question. Where and how will everone live on a totally over populated single planet with no personal space and no room to grow food? Or is the "easy" answer that there are really so few "decent" people that in reality the returning few will have more space than today?

    The Bible does not address this, so the following is my speculation (which is another way to say "I don't know"). The earth is large enough to sustain many, many more people than it currently does. One can certainly find many alarmists who are screaming about overcrowding and lack of food but the WORLD is not any where near overcrowding. The problem is too many people in one place. (China is slightly smaller than the United States yet it has several times the population.) I live in one of the 100 largest cities in America and when I'm downtown I can point in any direction and drive for 30-40 minutes and be in either farmland or forest. Also consider how much food goes UNproduced in the US. We (rather, the US Congress) actually pay farmers to NOT grow produce. With our current uncontrollable and unpredictable weather patterns we still can produce far more food than we need. Imagine a world in which perfect weather exists and crops (and people!) are utterly free of disease or drought or other weather-induced crop failure. In a perfect world I suspect that people could live on far less than what they currently eat since digestive systems would be also be more efficient, and the world would be capable of producing far more food than it does currently.

    You called it the "easy" answer but it isn't easy at all. There are many who will not be "heaven" (ie, the new earth, when Christ returns). That does not give me any joy nor is it easy to say. In my original post I was careful to say that the "people of God" would live on earth forever. I don't know how many that is. I know it is less than the total number of people who have ever lived since there are many who reject the existence of God, let alone trust in Him alone for salvation.

  • by wealthychef (584778) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:02PM (#27246595)
    I think it's the reverse. People most likely to fear death are the ones most likely to turn to religion which offers a hope in an afterlife.
  • by Chad Birch (1222564) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:04PM (#27246637)
    There's a quote I've always liked along these lines:

    "Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones." - Marcus Aurelius
  • Every religious group is a hate group to some extent. You must have a them to rally against.

  • by pluther (647209) <pluther@@@usa...net> on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:11PM (#27246729) Homepage

    Very few have ever thought seriously about the question, and most are more than content to ignore the issue, or maintain a blind faith in some system of parallel universes for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

    No. You may have been told by those in authority in your church group that atheists have never thought about the issue, but that is not the truth.

    What you describe is the Anthropic Principle, and far from never being seriously thought about, it's been debated to death all over the internet.

    Aside from the extreme fallacy of claiming that if an atheist can't explain how something happened, it must have been a specific god, it can also be pointed out that the universe is not precisely tuned for human life. In fact, in all of it we know about, with the exception of one tiny portion of one tiny planet, we can't even breathe. And even on that part there are places where it's so hot and humid you'll die within hours, so cold you'll die within minutes, wind so strong it'll kill you, ground that shakes, falls, burns, fills suddenly with water, or just collapses under you unexpectedly. And that's not to mention all the other life forms, from large predators to tiny micro-organisms, that kill millions of us every year.

  • by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2@NoSpaM.gdargaud.net> on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:17PM (#27246851) Homepage
    About the fine tuning of the universe, the simplest explanation is the anthropic principle, but really it doesn't explain anything ("it is so because it is so" sounds close to many a religion's theogony). But maybe it's simpler to say that since we cannot experiment changing the speed of light or the charge of the electron, maybe the whole question is wrong or purposeless.
  • by blueskies (525815) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:19PM (#27246893) Journal

    That's arguing in a circle. The universe doesn't HAVE to exist at all, much less be hospitable. It is not trivial that both of these are true, no more than it would be trivial for me to find myself alive, having somehow dodged every bullet from a firing squad.

    - Joe Blow won the lottery.
    - Joe Blow must have cheated because the chances of him winning the lottery without cheating are not trivial.

    Argument from ignorance or argument from lack of imagination. Because you cannot foresee an answer it has to be God. But you end your logical probing at God.

    Now you fall victim to the first cause fallacy. Who created and finely tuned God? The chances of him existing and being finely tuned into your Christian God are far smaller than the chances of the universe being as it is. It's non-trivial that God could exist in such a form, some earlier God must have created him. And so on, and so forth.

    Explain to me how the fine tuning required for God to form anywhere is less than the fine tuning for life to form anywhere.

  • They're athiests. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Abuzar (732558) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:25PM (#27246973) Homepage

    It's like everything else in our society, everything is the opposite of what it appears.
    The religious are atheists, the atheists are religious.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:26PM (#27246995)

    Couple that with the fact that the more 'pious' people that I've met are generally the worst Christians. They're judgmental, opinionated, closed-minded, bigoted, and full of hate. The most laid-back Christians I know are more liberal and open-minded, and follow the teachings of Christ a lot better.

    Perhaps when faced with their impending death, some of them realize just how much of assholes they've been, and how badly that's going to look come judgement.

    The truly pious (your second group) are more familiar with the concept of forgiveness, and thus believe in their own salvation. The rare(?) judgmental hate mongers within a church tend to intellectually understand that they are forgiven in a cold academic way, but may not really believe it.

  • by xch13fx (1463819) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:26PM (#27247001)
    My dad is an Episcopal priest. I understand the comings and goings and the born into's. It is still a choice to remain active in the church after you discover the outside world.
  • Pope John Paul II (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:38PM (#27247185)
    I'll preface this by saying that I'm more or less an atheist (formally I'm an agnostic because I've never felt the whole thing worth investing much mental effort on, but I can't imagine myself ever being a believer).

    I think we can look at the death of Pope John Paul II as illustrative. John Paul had staked a lot of his papacy on what he saw as the inviolability of life, arguing ultimately, as we all remember, that life is the gift of God and therefore we need to do everything we can to preserve it. So, when he was at his own end, hopelessly and obviously terminal, he had his doctors do everything in their power to preserve his own life as long as possible, with the idea that if this life is indeed God's gift then everything possible must be done to preserve every second of it. This was widely reported at the time.

    Now, we can argue all day about what life is and when it begins and ends, about whether or not John Paul's papacy did anything to preserve life in the world, and so on. But his death and the way he handled it demonstrate that if you accept the premises of Christianity then there are very good reasons to do everything possible to stave off death, beyond the various forms of hypocrisy, fear, self-delusion, and so forth that the average Slashdot responder is so quick to cite.
  • by Sj0 (472011) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:57PM (#27247495) Homepage Journal

    The beautiful thing about science is it doesn't have to explain anything until it's ready. The huge number of species so specialised didn't make sense until evolution came about. Until then, everyone could go "A wizard did it", but eventually it made sense. When physics reaches the point that we understand how this universe that we exist in came about, if it does end up explaining it in the span of human existence, then we'll know. Until then, the universe can be "A wizard did it" too. Electricity and magnetism were once literally "A wizard did it", and rare earth magnets and amber and such items were catalogued in "magical" tomes as items imbued with natural magic until science unravelled the mysteries.

    I find Christians do themselves a disservice with their poor logic, especially when a lot of the questions they hope to solve have simple and consistent theological answers. The answers to "Why is there suffering in the world?" are all very flawed examples of poor logic, while the obvious answer is that if man is created in God's image, and God created the world out of an urge to create and see a better tomorrow, then God would be compelled to create a race that was also compelled with the urge to create and see a better tomorrow, in which a world that can't be improved because it's perfect would be hell. You can see this in far northern communities where everyone is on welfare, and the suicide rate is massive because everyone's needs are covered, but they've got no future any better than what they're already doing.

  • by JonathanBoyd (644397) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:06PM (#27247621) Homepage

    You could only come to that conclusion if you ignored all the other tenets of Christianity e.g. murder being wrong, life being purposeful because it is commanded by God and provides opportunities to serve him and enjoy him.

  • by JonathanBoyd (644397) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:09PM (#27247665) Homepage

    The quote has fairly massive flaws If God is by his nature, supremely worthy of worship, then not worshipping him is a terrible wrong, making any human virtues somewhat irrelevant. And if God's moral standard is at a certain level, then human definitions of virtue will always fall short.

  • by JonathanBoyd (644397) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:21PM (#27247831) Homepage

    The Christian Gnostics held that the spirit was imprisoned inside the body. As a result, anything vaguely carnal was bad: good food, sex, having kids, etc. (Strangely, the early Pauline Christians who would survive and become Catholicism changed their policy regarding sex and kids very early on..wonder why...)

    You've got your history wrong: Gnosticism as a major movement came well after Paul. It has some roots in Greek philosophy, which Paul wrote against at various points. Additionally, the gospels and the Old Testament are quite positive about the physical world - Jesus turned water into wine, an entire book of the OT is written about sex and relationships. Gnosticism wasn't a precursor to mainstream Christianity in any way.

  • More likely... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gillbates (106458) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:28PM (#27247945) Homepage Journal

    They're grateful for every minute.

    Or it could be that in suffering they find themselves identifying with the suffering Christ underwent on the cross.

    Or perhaps they believe their suffering has been brought to them for some higher purpose. They view whatever fate God has assigned them as a test of their faith.

    Or perhaps they believe there is something noble about never giving up. Some of those dying of cancer today were of the same generation that stormed the beaches of Normandy...

    If I really believe that God created me, then for me to have a passive attitude toward death is hippocritical; how could I expect God to care about my life if I didn't?

  • Voice of sanity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:32PM (#27248023) Journal
    "I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions of years before I was born and had not suffered the slightest of inconvenience from it." -- Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:34PM (#27248051)

    Basing your life on every word written by people who lived in the desert thousands of years ago seems a bit messed up too.

  • by Darby (84953) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:49PM (#27248275)

    And if God's moral standard is at a certain level, then human definitions of virtue will always fall short.

    Not at all. We know where God's moral standard is (He regularly committed and/or ordered genocide and mass murder and he invented ebola for a laugh) and we know that people who only come up to that level are generally called monsters and we lock them in cages or execute them.

    We (in general) have far surpassed God's moral standards and it's a much better world due to that fact.

  • by againjj (1132651) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @06:13PM (#27248605)

    It's only messed up if there is a belief that original sin means that you are guilty for the sins of Adam/Eve -- that is, their sin has created some type of guilt on the part of their descendants.

    Another thought is simply that the the sin of Adam/Eve was an "upward fall" whereas the sin is a consequence of free will and full humanity -- if people did not have the ability to choose between right and wrong, then they would not be fully human. Here original sin is the state of being able to sin, which is inherited just as humanity is inherited.

    Another thought on original sin is simply that is an insignificant blemish, and therefore of no importance (though it still exists).

    Another thought is that the sin of Adam/Eve, has caused humanity to have a tendency towards sin -- and thus the original sin is simply a bias in behavior.

    Original sin really is not a single belief any more than Christianity itself is a single set of beliefs, or that slashdot "thinks" anything in particular. Instead, it is a collection of related beliefs that are often lumped together into one -- "original sin".

  • by canadian_right (410687) <alexander.russell@telus.net> on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @06:16PM (#27248631) Homepage

    We wouldn't be here to discuss the "fine tuning" if it was tuned differently.

    Ask the religious why thousands of innocent children starve to death every day, why good people are struck down by cancer, and this omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect being does nothing, and I'm told you shouldn't ask questions like that, or it is a mystery beyond human understanding. Bah.

    If complicated things need creators, who created God?

  • by Tom (822) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @06:32PM (#27248857) Homepage Journal

    the simplest explanation is the anthropic principle, but really it doesn't explain anything

    Actually, it does, just not in the sense that we've all been brought up with. But the very point of it is that there is no meaning. We are searching for meaning and reason, and the anthropic principle tells us that we can stop doing that. It tells us that there's no point in trying to find out why the world is all pinkish when in fact due to those pink glasses we're wearing, we could not possibly see it in any other colour.

    It doesn't give us the answer - it tells us that we were asking the false question.

  • by shellbeach (610559) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @07:20PM (#27249391)

    The quote has fairly massive flaws If God is by his nature, supremely worthy of worship, then not worshipping him is a terrible wrong, making any human virtues somewhat irrelevant. And if God's moral standard is at a certain level, then human definitions of virtue will always fall short.

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

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

  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @07:44PM (#27249607) Homepage

    Believing that just changing what worked for 2000 years in a random way and expect everything to be just fine is perhaps just a bit arrogant.

    Don't you believe in evolution (of memes, in this case) ? The only reason that Christianity is still around (and actually somewhat resembles it's original form, or at least much more so than buddhism or islam) is a sign that it must be an ideology that clearly guarantees survival and kids for it's adherents. This ideology got people through the hardest parts of history.

    Furthermore, atheism failed that particular test, during that time in the desert (not that you should care, but Israel only became a desert after the muslims took it over, there were many pieces of lush forest available in Jesus' time and long after), as history relates, there was no shortage of atheists. In the christian case these people were not prosecuted by religious people (contrast with e.g. the islamic or buddhist cases where jihad and enslaving (not all that different concepts, really) had to do with disappearing atheists).

    In the christian case, however this disappearance is interesting since it was atheists who prosecuted christians. These were not just a little bit discriminatory, but regularly massacred religious believers (the Romans, which brings the question why they did this ... which is imho not sufficiently answered).

    You see in the christian case you see a very, VERY bad crisis (economic, military, social, ... everything combined : the "fall") and somehow the number of atheists dropped (very close) to zero in a period that can't have been much longer than a single human life.

    I know people like to describe religions like failed "random" make-belief games, built for social opression (and one religion is called "oppression" in arabic, and incidentially is very oppressive, so perhaps some are. Then again, that particular religion started out on Roman aid, and it's still critically dependant on western aid. If they have any success here, that aid will stop, and so will the religion, just like last time). But religions are as subject to evolution as our genes are.

    Therefore it's a VERY safe bet that there are extremely few randomly chosen things in any given religion. That, on the contrary, a huge amount of details of the dogma have been given extreme amounts of thought time and have been corrected over literally thousands of years.

    Isn't it a tiny little bit arrogant that, after 20 years of watching tv you "know better" ?

    Then again, most religions have been in periods of massive persecution by atheists. Especially the largest group of atheists ever to walk this earth were VERY bad in religious persecution : the communists. They literally slaughtered millions (mostly christians and muslims) to rid them of "the opiate of the masses", the death toll that ensued was even worse than the death toll of the muslim jihad (which was, at the very least, 300 million people, mostly black christians and hindus, more likely the total is 1 billion). Lots of people died, but not the religion.

    Perhaps if one considers the atheist birthrates, it is hardly surprising that "public" atheism has never lasted more than a few decennia, never a century, even under the most extreme of persecutions.

  • by vadim_t (324782) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @07:56PM (#27249739) Homepage

    You say the universe isn't hospitable enough - ok I understand that. But that's a distraction, because even for this universe to be even barely hospital at all an astonishing level of tuning is required to ensure that the universe doesn't implode, atoms don't evaporate, and stars can burn. This is a very serious problem for the Atheistic worldview, but very rarely have I seen Atheists stop and doubt and think on this, and this is my point - Atheists are not per se any less lazy about doubting than Christians are sometimes as GP was claiming.

    It's not really a problem.

    Again, the same thing. If the universe imploded, you wouldn't be here to ask why it doesn't.

    Personally I consider that it's interesting to ask why the speed of light is what it is, but I don't see what it has to do with religion. Perhaps at the core there is some universal rule, from which everything else derives. That'd probably explain a lot of things, except why that rule is there.

    I think you're going the wrong way here -- for most atheists your problem isn't a troubling indication of that maybe somebody indeed made the universe, it's an indication of that more research is needed.

    In the end though, I don't think religion or a deity is needed in any case. There's stuff in the universe, it interacts in interesting ways, what exists is a consequence of that. There's probably no interesting creation myth, no grand purpose to it, and no reason for its existence. I see no reason why there would have to be a neat explanation to it.

  • The core tenent of Christianity is to (paraphrasing) "Love God above everything, love others as much as you love yourself."

    Spot on. Matthew 22:36-40.

    Now I have serious problems with pretty much all organized Christian faith. They spend all their time telling you that you're going to burn in hell if you don't do this, or don't say that,

    As another poster suggested, perhaps you've been going to the wrong churches. Yes, you'll burn in hell if you aren't saved, but salvation is a free gift, not a reward; you can't earn it by doing the right things or not saying the wrong things (Ephesians 2:8-9). Christianity isn't about rules to govern our behavior (1 Corinthians 10:23), but your actions and words are a reflection of your heart (Luke 6:43-45); if you know God and love God, then your actions and words will naturally fall into line with God's will, and you won't need rules to adhere to.

    or if you vote in favor of gay marriage,

    That's a tricky issue; clearly God doesn't approve (Leviticus 18:22) but legislating morality generally doesn't work. The call to love our neighbors isn't restricted to just our straight neighbors, but different people have a variety of interpretations of what they think the right thing to do is.

    or eat red meat on Fridays during Lent,

    Lent is not a Biblical concept; it was invented by the Catholics, and most other Christians don't usually observe it. If you do observe Lent, you certainly don't have to choose red meat; whatever vice you think would be the most beneficial to give up is fine. I've heard some people are giving up texting and Facebook for Lent this year.

    or use a condom

    Contraception is definitely not prohibited by the Bible. Again, another screwy Catholic thing.

    or Pay us 10% of your wages

    The Jewish concept of setting aside 10% is rather different than the modern Christian concept of tithing; see Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].

    or fail to wear your holy underwear at all times.

    And that one's a Mormon thing, also not even close to Biblical.

    You have the godhatesfags.com morons who obviously really fucking hate themselves if they're "loving others as much as you love yourself".

    Yeah, no kidding. Assholes.

    Its not my place to pass judgement on ANYONE. I live my life, believe what I believe, pass on my beliefs when appropriate, and try my best to be good natured. And I fail miserably at times :). I try to do good overall in the world, and help other people out when they need it. And quite frankly, I can do that without someone telling me the myriad of ways I'm going to go to hell.

    That's a great attitude to have. Unfortunately, it won't keep you out of hell - that free gift of salvation I mentioned must be accepted, or it doesn't apply. None of us is inherently good enough to be permitted into the presence of God (Romans 3:23), no matter how good we try to be, because like you said, you fail miserably at times - we all do, and it only takes once. God doesn't recognize any difference between tiny little sins and great big huge sins, nor between one or two sins and a lifetime of constant sinning; it's all sin, and it must be paid for. Jesus died to pay for that sin, but you must turn your life over to Him in order to accept that gift (Romans 10:9-10).

    But hey, if you'd rather not, that's your choice to make, not mine.

  • by JonathanBoyd (644397) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @08:31PM (#27250117) Homepage

    You accused Christians for huddling together to condemn others and fantasise about their fate. Reading any Slashdot article on religion, I fail to see the difference between what Christians are accused of and what a lot of vocal posters actually do.

  • by turbidostato (878842) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @09:42PM (#27250707)

    "In the christian case, however this disappearance is interesting since it was atheists who prosecuted christians."

    Which atheists? Surely not the Jews nor the Romans. Which atheists, then?

    "the Romans, which brings the question why they did this ... which is imho not sufficiently answered"

    It's so simple it hardly needs an explanation. On one hand, don't tell Romans were atheists, they were not. On the other hand, christians were prosecuted because they were a (relatively) easy target on a time it meant political advantage having a "racial" enemy (for more information, look for "Emmanuel Goldstein" or "Al Qaeda"). Just the same reasons than in the case of Jews, women, black people or any other easly distinguishable people pool.

    We are humans, social mammals, with a strong tendence to promote "our" group against "others" as a mean to make our gene pool to perdurate. Social prosecution is just a symptom emerging from our biological ancestors.

    And about religion, more of the same. We are strongly programmed to stablish causal correspondences. Every "why" must have a "because". You know every baby born grows to the phase of "why this daddy? why that daddy?" and more importantly, you will see little children *never* question daddy's answers (only they will add another "why" to the answer): the Moon is made of cheese, because my daddy so said; babies come from Paris, because my daddy so said... We need *answers* much more strongly than *correct* answers. Given the choice of a crackpot answer or no answer most people will accept the former to the latter.

  • by Peter La Casse (3992) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @09:45PM (#27250727) Homepage
    If I were a god that "invented" the universe and the humans within it, I certainly would not "require", "want", or "need" any kind of worship whatsoever.

    How do you know? If I were a "god" that "invented" the universe and the "scare quotes" within it I would be very different from how I am now, and I think you would be too.

  • Re:Voice of sanity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EllisDees (268037) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @10:26PM (#27250999)

    >That's as maybe ... but in those billions of years previously, young Mr Twain wasn't aware of what he was missing.

    And he isn't now, either.

  • by kklein (900361) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @10:48PM (#27251161)

    I was raised a very "on fire" Evangelical Christian, but have since seen the light and accepted myself as my Personal Lord and Savior--a spiritual condition which has brought me much more happiness and peace than Jesus ever did.

    As such, I think I have a very keen insight into the psychological differences between highly religious people and agnostic/atheistic people.

    Basically, the belief in an afterlife that is great (for you and people who agree with you, anyway) really shields you from ever having to sit down and think, "I am going to die. It's not going to be some other person--some old man--who looks like me. It's going to be me. Just like I am now, but I'm going to look like that old man." Instead, the whole concept of mortality is couched in language like "going to a better place" or "being with Jesus" or whatever. Your entire concept of death is euphemistic. As a result, you have a sense of peace and well-being because you don't need to worry about death.

    All that changes, I imagine, however, when the time actually comes. Suddenly you can't be euphemistic anymore. It isn't so much this "meta" idea of death. It is your lungs filling up with fluid. It is pain wracking your body as the cancer spreads. It is the heartbreak of knowing that you and your loved ones are going to be separated now, and you don't know when you'll see them again, or in what form (this is assuming you really believe in heaven). Suddenly it's not so beautiful. Suddenly it's the nuts and bolts of your body--the only vessel you know--falling apart and failing you. Suddenly it is very real and very immediate.

    And you weren't ready for that.

    Atheists, however, accept death--the nuts and bolts--as inevitable, and probably first thing you have to come to terms with if you are an atheist is how you're going to think about death. And, I think, most people have to put themselves through that process of thinking and realizing that, yes, you are going to die. Your lungs will fill with fluid. Your body will be wracked with pain. By the time you get to that point, you have already thought a lot about this, and have resigned yourself to the pitiful, painful, undignified end almost all of us eventually face.

    So you don't see any point in fighting.

    Furthermore, a mindset that believes in a "super-natural" world--a world and truth and story that supersedes and explains everything we experience and in which we play an important part--comes to see death as more important than it really is. Part of the benefit of religion is that it makes one feel that everything they do is part of a Grand Plan, that everything fits together and has meaning. As an atheist, I know that it doesn't. I know that whether I live or die is wholly inconsequential. I am the product of an incredibly complex physical system that started moving billions of years ago when something exploded. Whether I lived or did not makes no difference whatsoever.

    And herein lies one of the most important distinctions between religious people and atheists: Religious people find that viewpoint hopelessly sad and question why we would want to live. Atheists think that the pleasure of typing into a textbox on Slashdot while nibbling black licorice is plenty reason to keep processing oxygen and sugars for as long as they can. The warmth and camaraderie of friends and family are enough. Life is worth living for life's sake. That may be the genes, who are selfish and want to be propagated, talking, but who cares?

    Religious people's peace and happiness are conditional, and when the conditions change, they often don't know how to cope. Atheists are unconditional, and therefore don't kick up such a fuss when it's over.

    My $0.02.

  • by EEPROMS (889169) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @11:09PM (#27251259)
    Religion is for those who fear the reality that the universe is truly indifferent to their existence
  • by JavaRob (28971) on Thursday March 19, 2009 @06:51AM (#27253379) Homepage Journal

    You seem to have a very... loose sense of causation. Huh.

    First, a very obvious point: the utility of religion is utterly irrelevant to the TRUTH value of it. If we found that people who worshiped the Hamburgler were invariably happier, more peaceful, and more responsible world citizens, you're saying you'd be on board? Really?

    It's a valid question, because if you actually study the utility of religion (instead of just swallowing the huge leaps of logic and painful oversimplifications of history that you've listed), chances are pretty likely you're going to have to set aside your religion and head towards a reality-based viewpoint. The argument that religious belief is doing more harm than good in the world today is fairly solid.

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