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Melisande
07-30-2008, 06:01 AM
Am I a hypocrit? (Please; bear with me here)

As some of you may have read in my thread "F it all"; my brother has Leukemia.

At first he, and his doctors, seemed quite convinced that he would pull through 'in a jiffy'.

Well, turns out he won't. He is now diagnosed with stage three cancer. Very unsuspected to everyone, including my poor brother. And that's the long story put very short.

I now find myself in a position where I ask anyone I know who is a believer to pray for my brother. I have searched myself - everything within myself- and I find nothing there to pray to; or try and bribe (as in 'Fix this, God, and I will not...'.)

I'm at a loss here! I realize that a lot of people - probably the majority of the human race - find comfort in religion at a moment like this.

Thing is - I don't have that. I don't have belief. I have nowhere to search for comfort. All I have is accepting the fact that these things happen; and right now it is happening to my brother -My brother that I love unconditionally!!!!!!!

I am sad. To say the least I am concerned. To be honest - if I could trade places with my brother I would! I've had a good life! I am prepared. He has a daughter, a grand-child, a life worth living. As a matter of fact - so do I. It's just that I hate seeing people I love in pain...

Now I am wondering;

Am I a hypocrit for asking all the people I know who are believers to pray for my brother? Does this show weakness in my atheism? Am I a hypocrite or do I try and buy that (oh too cheap) insurance?

If I had any kind of conviction at all, I ensure you that I would pray myself. However, there is nothing - nothing - that leads me to do such a thing... And therefore I ask you all this question.

Ruv Draba
07-30-2008, 06:58 AM
Melisande, I think that you're suffering anxiety and grief and so the question of your ideological integrity is hardly the most important issue right now. I don't think it's very wise to invite criticism for how we act when we're distressed, and I doubt very much that anyone here is going to give you that criticism, even if you're asking for it.

In terms of making sense of your feelings, I reckon they make a lot of sense. People who study grieving identify 'stages' (http://changingminds.org/disciplines/change_management/kubler_ross/kubler_ross.htm)including shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing and acceptance. 'F it all' may be an anger stage (http://changingminds.org/disciplines/change_management/kubler_ross/anger_stage.htm) for you, while 'please pray for my brother' may be a bargaining (http://changingminds.org/disciplines/change_management/kubler_ross/bargaining_stage.htm)stage.

The problem with diseases and misadventures is that we can't bargain with them even though we want to. To pretend that bargaining offers false hope is unkind. My biggest concern is not for your integrity or for others' opinion of you, but that one of your devout but well-intended friends will persuade you (falsely) that their prayers will make a difference and torture you with that.

The honest truth: Christians die of leukemia at the same rate as everyone else. If they didn't, then every severe leukemia sufferer would convert.

I believe that the outcome is between your brother, his disease, and the abilities of the doctors. I believe that your job is not to mediate on the outcome, but to help your brother and your family with their feelings. I say this having lived long enough to have seen such things before.

You have my deepest sympathy and you and your family have my very best wishes.

StoryG27
07-30-2008, 07:09 AM
Melisande, I don't think you are a hypocrite. Panicking and covering bases, maybe, but what's wrong with that when you are trying to do whatever may or may not be in your power to help save/improve a life?

You have my deepest sympathy, and please, don't try to dissect all your decisions during this difficult time, emotions don't always make sense, just be there for your loved ones, and let them be there for you.

Mandy-Jane
07-30-2008, 07:09 AM
Melisande, I think that you're suffering anxiety and grief and so the question of your ideological integrity is hardly the most important issue right now. I don't think it's very wise to invite criticism for how we act when we're distressed, and I doubt very much that anyone here is going to give you that criticism, even if you're asking for it.

In terms of making sense of your feelings, I reckon they make a lot of sense. People who study grieving identify 'stages' (http://changingminds.org/disciplines/change_management/kubler_ross/kubler_ross.htm)including shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing and acceptance. 'F it all' may be an anger stage (http://changingminds.org/disciplines/change_management/kubler_ross/anger_stage.htm) for you, while 'please pray for my brother' may be a bargaining (http://changingminds.org/disciplines/change_management/kubler_ross/bargaining_stage.htm)stage.

The problem with diseases and misadventures is that we can't bargain with them even though we want to. To pretend that bargaining offers false hope is unkind. My biggest concern is not for your integrity or for others' opinion of you, but that one of your devout but well-intended friends will persuade you (falsely) that their prayers will make a difference and torture you with that.

The honest truth: Christians die of leukemia at the same rate as everyone else. If they didn't, then every severe leukemia sufferer would convert.

I believe that the outcome is between your brother, his disease, and the abilities of the doctors. I believe that your job is not to mediate on the outcome, but to help your brother and your family with their feelings. I say this having lived long enough to have seen such things before.

You have my deepest sympathy and you and your family have my very best wishes.

What a great post. I have to say, this makes a lot of sense. But having said that, I certainly don't think that your asking believers to pray for your brother is hypocritical. It doesn't matter if you don't believe; they do. And it doesn't show weakness in your atheism; it shows that you respect other people's beliefs. So I'd say, go ahead and ask for all the prayers that anybody wants to offer up. It certainly can't hurt.

And best of luck for your brother and your whole family. (I'm not much of a believer myself but I promise I'll certainly be sending good and healing thoughts your way.)

Melisande
07-30-2008, 07:40 AM
I believe that the outcome is between your brother, his disease, and the abilities of the doctors. I believe that your job is not to mediate on the outcome, but to help your brother and your family with their feelings. I say this having lived long enough to have seen such things before.



That is very much what I believe as well, but I've such a hard time expressing it...;

I ask people to pray for my brother... However, I am realist enough to realize that somewhere deep indide I need this 'comfort' for myself as well, because I am surrounded by people who pray all the time for any reason and it makes me feel awkward - to say the least - that I do not have this ability - because I've nothing to pray to... (not that i really feel a need to have that).

I know, I'm being a coward, and I really feel that you are right in your response. I guess I am inviting criticism, but that was not my intention with starting this thread.

I do not have very much confidence in my brother's doctors. So far they have not proven themselves to be very trustworthy. I guess that I am just afraid that my brother may not be in my life very much longer.

I believe that I have accepted this fact in my heart. Makes me feel bad, though, because it seemes to me that most people would want an answer to the eternal question of; WHY?

I feel no need to ask that question, because I don't believe in that kind of rethoric. But instead of admitting it I ask people to pray...

Yeah - I'm a hypocrit allright!

Ruv Draba
07-30-2008, 08:07 AM
I ask people to pray for my brother...Well, there's something about the ceremony that's meaningful even if the magic is not. Holding your brother in your family's thoughts honours him, brings the family together in shared suffering but also sympathy. Nobody really has anything useful to say in such times anyway - there's only the ugly situation itself and lots of desperate wishes.

It can be lonely to worry and fear and grieve - even if (and perhaps especially if) everyone else you know is doing it too. If it's anything at all, prayer is a sincere and dedicated expression of our emotions. And expressing them together is perhaps a balm for the loneliness of our fears.

The thing is, you can have a ceremony without making it magical. You only need space and silence, shared intention and shared behaviour. This is something that I think many atheists either don't realise or forget.

Very best to you,

Ruv.

StephanieFox
07-30-2008, 08:54 AM
Don't worry about being a hypocrite. You are not one. You are in a stressful, difficult and emotional situation. You have enough to worry about without worrying about things that, in the grander scheme, are minor.

Think of it this way; The friends who pray for you will feel as if they are doing something helpful. That they are supporting you by doing this will make you are your family feel loved and comforted by their concern.

No one is hurt when this happens and some may be helped. As an atheist, you do not have to prove you non-belief that's for the religious. You just have to take care of yourself, your friend and your family, which is what you are doing. If it makes you feel better, you can ask people to think good thoughts for your brother.

It might be magical thinking, but I see nothing wrong with that right now. You need to find ways to cope at this difficult time. I'll be thinking of you and hope you will be OK.

Neurotic
07-30-2008, 10:00 AM
I found the hardest part of dealing with my father's cancer was the feeling of my own utter uselessness. My friends have told me the hardest thing for them was knowing I was going through what I was going through and not knowing how to help. It's an awful, helpless circle and you have my sympathies.

In a time like this, anything which gives you or the people close to you some sense that there's something you and they are able to do is a good thing. I don't believe that makes you a hypocrite, I think it just makes you human.

Mumut
07-30-2008, 01:07 PM
My very sincere condolences to you and all your family. I don't follow any set religion. I have my own beliefs. But I wholeheartedly hope your brother survives this dreadful diagnosis.

Bartholomew
07-30-2008, 02:33 PM
The power of prayer has, if I am not mistaken, been demonstrated in test conditions. The denomination of the prayer didn't matter. Send your prayers to your brother; no need for a middle man. Any middle man.

Disa
07-30-2008, 03:04 PM
If nothing else you could send your positive intention and good thoughts straight to your brother. Putting good vibes out into the Universe can never hurt anything.

I wish you and your family all the best.

regdog
07-30-2008, 06:29 PM
You're not a hypocrit. You're somone who loves their brother and wants him to survive more than anything else. You don't believe in a god, that's fine. Despite some religions ideas towards those who don't believe if that is what is truly in your heart and mind that there is nothing wrong with it. Asking those who do believe to pray is just as fine because those who do believe should only be too happy to offer their prayers to help.

Prayer should give comfort and solace not guilt and the same goes for asking for prayer.

Good luck and comfort to you both

veinglory
07-30-2008, 06:33 PM
You are also letting people do what they can do. It does no harm.

Sarpedon
07-30-2008, 08:22 PM
The power of prayer has, if I am not mistaken, been demonstrated in test conditions. The denomination of the prayer didn't matter. Send your prayers to your brother; no need for a middle man. Any middle man.

Actually, nearly all of the 'studies' that have claimed this are flawed. Here's a link to a news article concerning one of the most egregious examples:
fake prayer study, + plagiarism (http://www.obgynnews.com/article/PIIS0029743707702021/fulltext?browse_volume=42&issue_key=TOC%40%40JOURNALSNOSUPP%40QO%400042%4000 06&issue_preview=no&select1=no&select1=no&vol=#)

Here's a study that came up negative: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12082681/

These are two that I was able to find in a few minutes. I've read plenty of others. Generally 'studies' that demonstrate the power of prayer have certain problems; they are unrepeatable, use faulty methodology, or make conclusions based on statistically insignificant results. Unfortunately, the media generally prints the press release of prayer studies, and omits to publish the follow up debunking that always occurs.

aka eraser
07-30-2008, 09:01 PM
I consider prayer to be channeled hope. But hope itself is certainly not limited to Christians, or believers of any stripe.

Hope the best for your brother. And by all means, ask those who direct their hope to include him in their prayers. Lend him strength with your presence. Love him.

As my Dad was fond of saying in just about any situation: You never know.

Aside to Sarpedon: Unasked-for cold showers are rarely appreciated.

Roger J Carlson
07-30-2008, 09:10 PM
Melisande,

Although it may be of no value, I'll be praying for you and your brother.

awatkins
07-30-2008, 09:27 PM
((((Melisande)))) I'll be happy to keep your brother and your families in my thoughts and prayers. I've been where you are and know from experience that having friends and loved ones pull together to encourage and lift you up helps.

Marian Perera
07-30-2008, 11:48 PM
Hi Melisande,

When my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, my family and their friends didn't just pray. They enlisted people in seven or eight different countries to pray for her. They made her drink "blessed water". They conducted an exorcism on her to drive out the evil spirits. They built a (Christian) shrine in our living room.

I didn't participate in any of the prayers. Sometimes my mother would ask me, "If they're praying so much, why aren't I getting better?" But she never said that to anyone else. Still, I'm sure that most of the time, the prayers made her feel better on an emotional level. And when you have cancer, you need all the support you can get.

I'm completely indifferent to prayer, but I know what it's like to have a family member with cancer. I know what the fear and desperation feel like. You're not hypocritical, you're human. And I hope so much that things work out for your family.

III
07-31-2008, 12:14 AM
:Hug2: for Melisande. It's not a real-life hug, but I hope you feel it anyway.

sassandgroove
07-31-2008, 12:21 AM
What a great post. I have to say, this makes a lot of sense. But having said that, I certainly don't think that your asking believers to pray for your brother is hypocritical. It doesn't matter if you don't believe; they do. And it doesn't show weakness in your atheism; it shows that you respect other people's beliefs. So I'd say, go ahead and ask for all the prayers that anybody wants to offer up. It certainly can't hurt.

And best of luck for your brother and your whole family. (I'm not much of a believer myself but I promise I'll certainly be sending good and healing thoughts your way.)
This is a good response. I couldn't put my thought into words quite this well. SO I am quoting Mandy and sending a prayer.

t0neg0d
07-31-2008, 09:39 AM
Melisande, I think that you're suffering anxiety and grief and so the question of your ideological integrity is hardly the most important issue right now. I don't think it's very wise to invite criticism for how we act when we're distressed, and I doubt very much that anyone here is going to give you that criticism, even if you're asking for it.

I wanted to second this... and also add: When you're asking people who believe in God to pray, you are simply asking them for their moral support. It's like saying, "I'm hurting... would you please keep me in mind? show me you're there and support me?" I seriously don't think this reflects on you or your belief in any way.

Bartholomew
07-31-2008, 01:13 PM
Actually, nearly all of the 'studies' that have claimed this are flawed. Here's a link to a news article concerning one of the most egregious examples:
fake prayer study, + plagiarism (http://www.obgynnews.com/article/PIIS0029743707702021/fulltext?browse_volume=42&issue_key=TOC%40%40JOURNALSNOSUPP%40QO%400042%4000 06&issue_preview=no&select1=no&select1=no&vol=#)

Here's a study that came up negative: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12082681/

These are two that I was able to find in a few minutes. I've read plenty of others. Generally 'studies' that demonstrate the power of prayer have certain problems; they are unrepeatable, use faulty methodology, or make conclusions based on statistically insignificant results. Unfortunately, the media generally prints the press release of prayer studies, and omits to publish the follow up debunking that always occurs.

I think the bottom line is that one either believes in some sort of spiritual magic, or they don't. And if prayer has any sort of power at all, it may well be impacted by circumstances, level of belief, and individual characteristics. This would be incredibly difficult to test.

That said, I was attempting to comfort the OP, not debate the power of prayer. I wish you'd have started a new thread.

One need not be be religious to pray.

Sarpedon
07-31-2008, 06:01 PM
Melisande is certainly not being hypocritical. People have to cope with crises in different ways. Prayer is part of the religious person's way of doing this. Its an acknowledgement that the person has done all that they can, and that the problem is now out of their hands. In that sense, it is good, in that it is a gesture of both goodwill and acceptance, with hope for the best possible outcome. It becomes a problem only when it is used as a substitute for action, which is clearly not the case here. By asking people to pray for her brother, Melisande is doing nothing worse than playing the expected role in the drama that is playing out. (I hope you will excuse this metaphor, it is not meant to minimalize the tragedy of what is happening, it is just that especially in the worst of times, people are expected to behave in a certain way) The request is an act of respect and love. One can respect the importance of such social rituals without believing in the spiritual magic allegedly behind them.

One thing that is certain; a positive outlook in times of crisis is never a bad thing. (so long as one remains realistically positive) Some suggest it increases the chance of recovery. Even if it doesn't, someone with a positive outlook is certainly happier than one without one. That is what this gives to him. The idea that so many people are out there rooting for him and caring about him will help him through this, whatever happens.

And so, you can add me to the list of people rooting for your brother. I'm sorry if my last post seemed insensitive and inappropriate.

Alpha Echo
07-31-2008, 06:04 PM
I am so sorry to hear about your brother. I can't imagine the kind of shock and hurt your family is experiencing right now.

I don't think you're a hypocrite at all. I think that when someone needs prayers, they SHOULD ask for them. The more people who are raising their voices to God, the better.

I will be praying for your brother and your family.