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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I'm So Blessed?

I've been a member of the site for about a week now, but really haven't had the time to post. Yesterday, the post by nonmagic on how a Christian can get an Atheist to stop listening brought up a lot of good point. When I first read it, I found myself trying to come up with the most annoying thing that a Christian can say. In my opinion, I think nonmagic hit the nail on the head with the ninth item in her list: "Tell me about some healing that supposedly occurred as the direct result of your deity but for which, of course and per usual, you have no evidence for except your word or the word of someone who told you."

To understand where I'm coming from, I have to provide some background information. This past January, I was diagnosed with Stage IIIB Hodgkin's Lymphoma. For those not familiar with the staging of this disease, Stage III occurs when the cancer is present on both sides of the diaphragm. The B denotes I had B-symptoms which are things like high temperatures, night sweats, etc. I about two months of work while recovering from the first four chemotherapy treatments. I work at an engineering firm in Pittsburgh, PA and a lot of my coworkers are fundamental Christians. Most of them do know that I'm an atheist as I have not been shy about expressing my views at times. While I was out, I did not mind getting cards from them where they said they were praying for me.

However, there were two incidents during this experience that really pissed me off. The first was when I received an envelope in the mail with no return address that contained a tract with a natural remedy for lymphatic cancer. It offered me a cure by following this advice:

  1. Go on a vegetable juice fast for 2-3 days, then eat nourishing food, and fast again every few days
  2. Stop eating all refined, and junk, food. Stop smoking and drinking liquor
  3. Steam baths, salt glows, and hot and cold water treatments will invigorate the body
  4. Helpful herbs include echinacea, burdock, pau d'arco, and red clover. Other herbs include white oak bark, plantain, vervain, and yarrow
  5. Decide, with all your heart, that you will walk in the truth found in the Bible, and you will be safe. Cling to Jesus as your only help and stay close to Him amid the crises of life.

In my opinion, the person who sent this to me is the lowest form human life imaginable. While it is pretty pathetic to use someone's illness in an attempt to convert them to your religion, the part that really pissed me off was the herbal advice in the tract directly contradicted the literature given to me by the UPMC Cancer Center, particularly the part about taking echinacea.

Lucky for me, I chose to take the boring mainstream approach by going through six cycles (24 weeks) of a chemo regimen called ABVD. After about two months, I was well-enough to return to work part-time. The second incident that got under my skin occured today. I will be missing work tomorrow to meet with my doctor and get the results of the latest CT scan. Today at work, a lot of people gave me words of encouragement which I appreciated, but a few did nothing more than iritate me by stating that they know their god has healed me and that I bounced back from this so well due to their god. Normally, I would blow this off as nothing more than mindless rambling, but none of them seemed to realize that recovering from cancer is a lot harder than having an invisible man snap his fingers to make things better. The chemo regimen I was on has a lot of really negative side effects. Some of them are jaw pain, flu-like symptoms, vomiting, insomnia, fatigue, neutropenia, and nosebleeds. A typical treatment was usually followed by five days in a tremendous amount of pain while I was stuck at home on the couch. Thus, I felt that by attributing my recovery to God waving his magic wand, that they were trivializing the recovery process to a ridiculous degree. By giving God all the credit, they are also taking credit away from the people that actually cure cancer and help to lessen the suffering of those they can't cure, like the doctors and nurses who work to help cancer patients every day.

In conclusion, this experience has taught me to value the time I got on this Earth and to take nothing for granted. It has also showed me that religion has removed some people so far from reality that they cannot appreciate the medical advances that science has given us or the medical professionals that save lives everyday. While I don't know what news I will be getting tomorrow, I do know I will be thanking my doctor and the nurses who have done a great job over the past eight months.


  1. By giving God all the credit, they are also taking credit away from the people that actually cure cancer and help to lessen the suffering of those they can't cure, like the doctors and nurses who work to help cancer patients every day.


  2. When someone is sick and facing death and at their weakest, of course believers are going to flock to them. That's the main reason, not altruism, that they do so much of their missionary work with the poor, whether it's in this country, or elsewhere. It's a lot easier to tell someone "hey, you have a shitty life now, but if you believe what I believe, at least when you die it'll be better" than it is to actually make someone's only life, this life, better. As for those who claim it was God who healed you, I suggest that they start saving money by not using modern medicine and just rely on prayer.

    Good luck to you.

  3. First, I would like for you to know that I am truly sorry that you are going through this illness and I'd also like to welcome you to this blog.

    I'm glad I wrote something that spoke to you. I agree, by attributing cures to a deity for which there is no proof, it demeans all of the knowledge, dedication & hard work by medical professionals, scientists and everyone else that has a hand in your care.

    I do not know what you will find out tomorrow, but I wish you all the best. If you ever need a friend, my email is on my profile.

  4. Also, I would suggest you re post your comment somewhere at Ray's. Again, good luck to you.

  5. Thanks very much for sharing your experience with us.

    It makes me so sad to watch people attempt to convert people to their way of thinking when they are at their weakest. And you just know that certain people see tragedies like this as an opportunity to convert you.

    My best friend was killed in an accident earlier this year, and I was amazed when someone whom we had both been acquainted with and who had been less than accepting of my atheism asked me if her death had convinced me that god existed. Apparently I should take this opportunity to realize that I could end up in hell, like my friend, if I didn't repent and turn to Jesus and blah blah blah ....I'm not a violent person, but I'm glad my fiance was there to restrain me.

    In a similar vein, a friend of mine is dying of leukemia. Some asshole homeopath has him convinced that herbal remedies can help with his cancer and has him paying over $500/week for these "treatments." It makes me sick that someone would exploit someone with a terminal illness - that money should be going towards a savings account for his wife and baby.

  6. As Daniel Dennett might say, "Thank goodness for science". I hope you get good news tomorrow.

  7. Your post was moving and erudite.

    I hope you get good news tomorrow, and you're absolutely right to say that if things do work out well, the credit belongs with those who discovered the cures and those who administered them.

  8. mjarsulic - Keep your chin up and your head down, as we used to wish our soldiers during the war.

    Stick with your reason and your logic, they show you that science and conventional medicine are what work. Put your trust in the numbers. When you're feeling down, and ill and weak is when your heart can take over and make you grasp at the straws of pseudoscience and religion. Their ways are blind alleys that lead nowhere.

    I had a good friend at university who had Hodgkins. The radiation burns under his arms made it very difficult to lift a glass of beer to his lips. But damned if he didn't sstruggle thru the pain and get that beer down him anyway!

    It was 20 years ago, and he is as hale and hearty as he ever was.

    Take keer and my very best wishes


  9. The good stuff has been said, so I'll just add my best wishes to you here. You'll fight it the atheist way, and you'll win.

  10. Talk about leaving 'em in suspense - you owe us a follow-up post! Rootin' fer ya, mjarsulic.

  11. Mjarsulic,

    Thank you very much for sharing.
    A lot of Christians are totally unable to percieve how we can face adversity without their irrational beliefs, but we do, and I salute you for your courage and character.
    You are a great example for us all.

    I am a western Pennsylvanian too and I'll be rooting for ya!

  12. Powerful words, thank you for sharing. Dale said it very well, I hope he doesn't mind if I repeat his comment
    "I salute you for your courage and character.You are a great example for us all."


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