09
Feb
09

Giving relevance to the irrelevant…

I will admit to not understanding the way most people think. On a daily basis I hear things from people that indicates a kind of logic that, to me, seems rather unusual. However I can respect that others have different ways of thinking. It’s what makes humans human.

But one thing that I find really confusing is that I also run into people who say things that should logically contradict their own way of thinking. A recent event regarding a nurse who got suspended for asking one of her patients if they would like her to pray for them got me thinking about it…

Supposedly, even asking was inappropriate, as it could offend someone. And that’s what I don’t understand. Why would an atheist (for instance) be offended by a theist asking to pray for them? She didn’t ask them to convert to Christianity/Islam/whatever. She didn’t even ask *them* to pray. I don’t get it.

There seems to be an unfathomable logical chasm between what people believe and how they behave. Lets say, for example. You believe in one, all powerful, omnipotent, omnipresent God. Then, as Captain Kirk once put it, “What does God need with a star ship?” If all God wants is to see his people at their best, would it really matter what everyone else believed, just so long as they loved their fellow man? I would submit that it doesn’t matter. At least not to any God worth his salt. It only matters to us. We are the ones who have made such a relatively trivial point one of ultimate importance.

Lets also consider the position of the atheist. The devout scientist, for instance, who believes there is no God. And yet wants to see theism of any kind removed from society as a whole. Why? Because religion is evil? If you truly believe there is no God, then what a person believes is also irrelevant, because there is no omnipotent power to back them up is there? And if there is no God, then all evil is the result of man, not religion. Following a religion is not what makes a man evil. It’s what they decide to believe and do that does. And for that reason, any atheist should be railing against men, not God.

People seem forget that it is we who decide to act the way we do. Any Christian will tell you that God has granted man free will. And any atheist should tell you that each mans actions is their own. So seeing as they both agree on the most important issue of all, why do Christians still blame atheism for the decline of our cultural morals, and why do atheists still blame theism for sociopolitical strife?

That makes no sense to me. Instead, why not prioritize a persons intentions, instead of their beliefs? If a person asks if they can pray for you, recognize that they mean you well, and they are doing everything they can possibly do to make it so. If you believe prayer is useless, fine. But is it so hard to accept the gesture for it’s intent, rather than take offense? If the patient didn’t believe in God, then the question should have been no more offensive than the nurse asking whether she could send the patient a “get well soon…” card. Or asking them if they wanted to see a Unicorn, or ask Santa Claus to pay them a visit early…

Or am I just talking crazy?

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10 Responses to “Giving relevance to the irrelevant…”


  1. 1 shamelesslyatheist
    February 9, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    I can not agree to this. If someone who asks to pray for me and doesn’t know that I’m an atheist, fine. I would politely inform the person of my own beliefs. If it is someone that knows me, knows that I am an atheist, then either their intention was good, but couldn’t be bothered to place themselves in my shoes and imaging how that request would be taken, or it is outright disrespectful. Neither is good. I have an aunt who is very religious, but would never even think to disrespect me in this manner and I love her all the more for it. Her husband (my blood relation, unfortunately) is a different matter, and even other strongly religious people can’t stand him.

    As for the nurse, thing (I presume you are talking about Caroline Petrie), asking to pray for a patient is beyond the pale. A health care worker has an immense amount of power over a patient and anything outside of the prescribed standard of care is verboten. Asking a patient if they would like to have a prayer said for them may seem harmless, but imagine this situation. A surgeon asks exactly that – “Mind if we say a prayer?” Does he do this at the consultation? No. Does he do this when you are being admitted and settling into the hospital room? No. He asks as you are being prepped and wheeled into the operating room! How many atheists at this point would say no? Well, I would. In fact, I’d get up off the gurney and head straight to a lawyer. I want a surgeon that trusts in their skill first and foremost.

    This is a real-world example that Richard Sloan relates in Blind Faith. There are very specific rules regarding the ethics of this in the medical profession, and religion is OUT OF BOUNDS. It is not at all a gray area.

    The incident with Petrie was not her first violation of her professional code of ethics. I for one believe a strong reprimand is in order. Imagine, for instance, if she was a practitioner of voodoo. Would you feel the same way if she asked the patient if she could sacrifice a chicken to Baron Samedi for her? Is it different just because the nurse happens to be a Christian? I don’t think so, though I’m sure the chicken would. Place it in that context and you get an idea how an atheist feels in this situation. And why did Petrie bother to ask? The altruistic thing to do would go quietly off to pray for the patient unobserved. To me, it seems more of showboating than good intentions.

    For the record, I do not blame all of societal ills on religion. I doubt very many actually do. Nor do I doubt that individuals benefit from religion. I just do not see any evidence to suggest that it actually helps society. The US is arguably the most religious nation in the developed world, yet it also leads or is no different from more secular countries in rates of nonviolent and non-lethal violent crime, homicide, adolescent suicide, teen pregnancy and teen STD transmission. Except for the last two, I do not see religion having any effect at all, good or ill. The last two, however, are demonstrably directly related to absolutely useless faith-based programs like abstinence only. All these programs accomplish is to keep teens from arming themselves with vital information about sex.

  2. February 9, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    @shamelesslyatheist
    Thanks for posting. I do have some questions though. Do you believe that a person should separate their beliefs from their life? That their way of life can be separate from how they live their life? As an atheist, your everyday actions are those of an atheist. Nobody would sue you just for being an atheist. So do you not think it unfair that a theist must deny their own beliefs in order to satisfy yours? Why do you automatically consider it a form of disrespect for someone with different beliefs to express their desire for your well being in a way they believe will be most effective?

    And why, exactly, do you consider religion out of bounds in the medical profession? I know quite a few excellent Christian surgeons. Your argument seems to imply that a person who actively practices a religious belief cannot be a good surgeon/doctor/medical practitioner, and is automatically violating some medical code of ethics. But from my perspective, it sounds more like an easy blanket statement that has no foundation in logic. If you, as an atheist, believe that God has nothing to do with how good a surgeon is, then what difference does it make whether they pray before every surgery or not? Why do you believe that what a person attributes their skill to actually has any bearing on the skill itself? They are either skilled or they are not right? Or am I missing something? I have not read Blind Faith, but I would appreciate it if you could explain exactly how acting on ones religious beliefs is unethical from a medical perspective.

    And I use Christianity as an easily recognizable example. It doesn’t really matter what religion we are talking about. Muslim, Wiccan, Voodoo, Christian, whatever If they are good doctors, it will be evident from their work, regardless of their beliefs. And unless they do something that directly violates your rights, their belief system should be of no consequence. So to answer your question, if a doctor who has an excellent medical track record asked if they could sacrifice a chicken to some unknown deity in my name, sure, I’d say no, BUT I would not hold that against him/her. From my perspective it would not be a violation of my rights unless they actually did sacrifice the chicken in spite of my wishes. Not before.

    If that’s how an atheist feels, then her asking should not have been an issue. But the more atheists I talk to, the more I get the impression that atheists objections to things like this have little, if anything, to do with being disrespected, or being imposed upon, and more about carrying an innate disdain for other peoples beliefs.

    I also think you are misinterpreting the possible reasons why a religious person would ask before praying for someone. Your understanding of altruistic action from a theistic standpoint seems needlessly limited. Showboating is a possible reason, but is not the only reason for a person to ask before praying for another. If a religious person truly respected someone else’s beliefs, it would actually be wrong to pray for someone who did not wish it. From my perspective, the person who would pray for you without telling you would actually be displaying a greater disregard of the beliefs of the person they were praying for, than the person who would have the courtesy to ask first.

    You have to remember that a religious person who prays for you believes that their actions are not just symbolic, but will have real, significant physical effects on the person who they are praying for. A considerate, thinking theist would ask for the same reason a doctor would ask before performing surgery on a lucid patient, no matter how life saving. It is their body. It is their right to refuse treatment, prayer, etc. And it is the ethical thing to do. IMHO, that is what ethics are supposed to require.

    I think that Petries current problems arise from the fact that she believes her religion is a way of life, not something that she can drop in a basket at the door when she goes into work, and pick up when she leaves. Her actions reflect that, and that is what is being framed as a violation of her medical code of ethics, in spite of her not actually inflicting any actual physical harm on anyone, and without even showing how her actions were a violation of any medical code of ethics, though I’m hoping you can help me understand that part of things.

    And I would also argue that it is not the faith based programs that are depriving teens of vital sexual education. It is our two-faced prudish culture. Religion is not to blame for that. We are. We say do as I say, not as I do. There are ghettos filled with both religious and atheistic people who are all wildly promiscuous, all the while telling their kids not to be. We could teach them everything they need to know about it in school, but noooo, that would be immoral/unethical/whatever. And there are secular voices in that crowd that are just as loud as the religious ones.

    As for people blaming their societal ills on religion, unfortunately, I run into them all the time. They blame religion for war, for violence, for stupidity, you name it… And none of the loud religious mouthpieces are any better. I find that people will use any excuse available to them to rationalize their beliefs regardless of it’s intrinsic logic (or lack thereof). You have yet to disprove that observation…

  3. 3 shamelesslyatheist
    February 9, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    No, there are many good Christian surgeons. There are many good atheist surgeons. But to make such a request of a patient (who is in a very vulnerable position and the CMA takes a very dim view of what would be perceived as an attempt to align the beliefs of the patient with his/her own) is simply unethical. A person’s personal spiritual beliefs are exactly that – personal., and they should remain that way (and both the codes of ethics of the AMA and its counterpart here in Canada, the CMA recognize this). If a patient requires spiritual needs to be met, health care workers can refer them to the appropriate professional (rabbi, priest, etc.). But I can certainly say that I would indeed question the skill of any surgeon who made such a request, and for that reason would immediately terminate the doctor/patient relationship quickly followed by a call to my lawyer. I fail to see why a doctor or nurse can not keep their beliefs to themselves when practicing their profession. This is not asking them to stop being a Christian, but asking them to respect the doctor(nurse)/patient relationship. A health care worker is not a spiritual guide.

    “I think that Petries current problems arise from the fact that she believes her religion is a way of life, not something that she can drop in a basket at the door when she goes into work, and pick up when she leaves.” If she is not able to fulfill her duties to which she agreed to when she became a nurse she is free to pursue other career paths. Being religious is not an excuse to run roughshod over codes of ethics.

    ” Her actions reflect that, and that is what is being framed as a violation of her medical code of ethics, in spite of her not actually inflicting any actual physical harm on anyone,… ” Not all harm is physical. You can not take advantage of a vulnerable patient in this manner. Do not underestimate the power a health care worker has over the charges in his/her care. Codes of ethics were developed precisely because of this lopsided arrangement. A patient has to have an immense amount of trust in doctors and nurses, and I can’t see how bringing prayer into it ISN’T a complete violation of that trust. Patients are not there to be prosthyletized to (whatever the intent is, asking to pray for them is prosthyletizing) but to be made better. The Nursing Midwifery Council code states that “you must demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity” and “you must not use your professional status to promote causes that are not related to health“. This is the code of ethics she signed on to. Asking any patient if they want to be prayed for oversteps these bounds.

    ” It is their right to refuse treatment, prayer, etc. And it is the ethical thing to do. IMHO, that is what ethics are supposed to require.” Sure, you can refuse a treatment which has been shown to be of benefit. But ethics does not end there. A nurse shouldn’t offer to sacrifice a chicken. By the same token, a doctor should not offer a prayer. Even believing prayer works is irrelevant. It is not part of any standard of care (and is thus outside the purview of a health care worker) and it is not up to Petrie to change that. You just don’t even go there.

    “And I would also argue that it is not the faith based programs that are depriving teens of vital sexual education. It is our two-faced prudish culture.” C’mon! Where did this culture get its two-faced prudishness from? Religion has a long history of controlling the sexual behavior of its members (I’m not talking about just Christianity here). Prohibitions with regards to sex abound in pretty much all religions. Abstinence-only nonsense is espoused solely by religious organizations. But I agree that this needs to end.

    “As for people blaming their societal ills on religion, unfortunately, I run into them all the time.” Yeah, well, I probably get the “evil atheist” argument even more often. The greatest atrocities man has inflicted on fellow man have been due to ideology, whether religious or not. But it is hard to separate the religion from the ideology sometimes. 9/11 wasn’t just politically motivated, after all. But, let’s face it. Pat Robertson and his ilk are far worse than any atheist that I’ve ever heard.

  4. February 9, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Sadly, while I can see where you are coming from, none of your arguments in any way, acknowledge what it means to a theist, to be a theist. They simply argue that being religious and being professional must remain separate, when in fact, it is not that simple.

    You are treating her question as though it were a request of the patient, or a form of coercion, when it could not possibly be interpreted as one. Yes, I can see how her position *could* be abused, but in this case, she does not appear to have done do. She did not ask the patient to *do* anything or even to *believe* anything. She asked her patient if *she herself* could exercise *her own* beliefs. She was not trying to be anyones spiritual guide, nor would that even be relevant for what she was asking. There is a big difference between the two, which you have failed to acknowledge. She did not agree to not be a Christian as part of her agreement to practice medicine. But what you don’t seem to realize is that is what you are asking her to do. It is one thing to tell a person they are going to hell if they don’t pray with you. It is another to *offer* to pray for them.

    And another thing that you have also chosen to ignore, or perhaps are ignorant of, is that, at least in the case of Christianity, people are supposed to help others. The skill of some doctors are a direct result of their religious beliefs, and their desire to fulfill what they believe they have been called to do. They are one and the same. They practice and have become skilled at healing *because* they are Christians. It is not so easy to separate the two as you might think. And you should not penalize the ones who do it correctly for the mistakes of those who do try to take advantage of people in that way. People need to make the distinction, not just make sweeping blanket judgments about it.

    Your statement that you would question the skill of s surgeon based purely on their religion is disappointing. It is certainly your right, but it demonstrates a kind of illogical thinking that is based not on facts, but on presumption. On the blanket presuppositions I mentioned earlier. Once you make the conscious decision that you no longer care whether the person is a good doctor or not, just whether or not they believe the same things you do, you are no better than a religious fanatic. You yourself have agreed that there are theists that can be good doctors, but you would still blindly never trust a theist to treat you, based purely on their religious stance? That is exactly the kind of contradictory thinking that makes no sense to me.

    Whether or not she was planning on sacrificing a chicken, goats, ducks, etc. is irrelevant. It doesn’t even really matter what she was asking. It is the fact that she asked permission to perform a religious act that has people riled up. Your own statements have admitted as much. And your only possible argument for why that might be wrong, that she violated a medical code of ethics by *offering* (not demanding, or asking her to pray or to do anything for that matter) to pray for someone seems almost ludicrous. Would people have reacted the same if she said wished her patient the best of luck with her procedure? And can you tell me how such a offer could be used to take advantage of a patient?

    As related our senseless social aversion to sexual expression, let me put it this way. In spite of the common “religion is the source of sexually controlling behavior” party line, I know of a lot of kids, of both secular and religious families, that have had unwanted pregnancies out of wedlock. Few of them were “abstinence only” households. So saying “It’s religions/hedonisms fault” seems kind of stupid. Being religious does not guarantee you an out of wedlock child, any more than being an atheist. I hear too many atheists, make that argument, not to help solve the problem, but rather to cement their atheist position. Not that the multitude of pious Christian households are any better, but ultimately both sides will need to quit pointing fingers, and find solutions.

    I have run into the “evil atheist” argument just as much as the “religious fanatic” one. And at this point, both sides sound exactly the same to me. Neither one is willing to stop making blind assertions about the other. “That doctor is religious, he/she can’t possibly be very good”, “That teacher is an atheist, he/she is gonna turn my child into a hedonistic monster!” Neither side is actually arguing facts, simply personal preference and prejudice, and even fewer make any logical sense any more. The only other point I agree with you on is that it is peoples ideology that spawns atrocities, not necessarily their religion, or lack thereof. People of decidedly nonreligious backgrounds have committed acts just as horrific as those motivated by a “faith”. If you believe that either one is more heinous than the other, you are deceiving yourself.

    The finger pointing and “My belief is better than your belief” is old already. Until people stop trying to find fault with anyone who thinks differently, and learn to be more accepting of others, we will never be able to find solutions to problems that will work for everyone.

  5. 5 shamelesslyatheist
    February 12, 2009 at 10:03 am

    “They simply argue that being religious and being professional must remain separate, when in fact, it is not that simple.” Yes it is.

    “You are treating her question as though it were a request of the patient, or a form of coercion, when it could not possibly be interpreted as one.” Yes, it is a form of coercion regardless of whether that was the intent. The power a health care worker has over a patient is such that any such request becomes a form of coercion!

    “Your statement that you would question the skill of s surgeon based purely on their religion is disappointing.” You are putting words in my mouth that I DID NOT SAY. Go ahead. Reread the comments before. It is the actions of the surgeon which are disappointing, not his religion. Even more disappointing is that you can’t seem to tell the difference, and the difference is HUGE. I don’t care one squat if a surgeon is religious. What I said is that for any health care worker to bring religion into a doctor/patient relationship is unprofessional. Why would I think his skills were any less so?

    If the patient happens to share the belief, no harm done. But if the patient does not, the patient is going to feel disrespected. Why bring religion into the doctor/patient relationship in the first place if it does not impact on health care when the potential for damaging the relationship is so high? Why on earth would anyone take that risk? Ever watch that episode of

    “And another thing that you have also chosen to ignore, or perhaps are ignorant of, is that, at least in the case of Christianity, people are supposed to help others.” Absolutely. So is a secular humanist (as I am), unless you are saying that only Christians are capable of holding this ideal. And where again does prayer come into this? Her profession does not recognize prayer as part of any standard of care, which Petrie is unqualified to alter in this manner. Petrie’s request has the potential for harm by upsetting a patient who does not share her belief. Trust me. I would be upset. Many atheists would be upset. Many people of other faiths would be upset. Again, why on earth would anyone take that risk?

    “They practice and have become skilled at healing *because* they are Christians.” Okay. Now you are starting to upset me. You are suggesting that only a Christian can be a good doctor/nurse. This is simply ridiculous. I know many good doctors. Some are religious, some are not. Actually, come to think of it, most of the docs I know are not religious. In neither case could you tell as a patient which was which! They do not say ‘let’s say a prayer’. They don’t even go anywhere near religion. It is unnecessary to patient care, and the potential for harm if religion is brought into the health care worker/patient relationship prohibits it. That is exactly how it should be. If a patient has spiritual needs and requests that they be addressed, the patient is referred to professionals in these areas who are on hospital staff.

    “It is not so easy to separate the two as you might think.” Baloney. For the great majority of health care practitioners it most certainly is. Petrie is an isolated case. The majority of religious health care workers understand the ethics of their profession just as well as the nonreligious ones. When Petrie made the request she was not acting as a nurse but on her own personal beliefs while on duty. There is no gray area here.

    “If you believe that either one is more heinous than the other, you are deceiving yourself.” I never said any such thing and I am in full agreement with you.

    “The finger pointing and “My belief is better than your belief” is old already.” Evangelizing, however, strongly implies exactly this.

    “Would people have reacted the same if she said wished her patient the best of luck with her procedure? And can you tell me how such a offer could be used to take advantage of a patient?” Of course no advantage can be taken in this case. What belief system contains luck? Prayer, however, is part of Abrahamic religions which (for the most part) actively (distastelfully) evangelize. The analogy fails. With the balance of power strongly lying with the health care professional, even a simple offer of prayer can (dispite your protestations to the contrary) easily become coercion.

    “Whether or not she was planning on sacrificing a chicken, goats, ducks, etc. is irrelevant.” Again, baloney. I find it extremely difficult to believe that most Christians would be okay with the equivalent action from a faith that they have no belief in regardless of the similarity of intent. “It is the fact that she asked permission to perform a religious act that has people riled up.” Okay. What if Petrie was offering a topical herbal remedy which, already known to cause no harm, Petrie had absolute faith in? And this remedy works by Petrie rubbing it on her own forearm, transferring the healing to the patient? (This is not so ridiculous – there is weirder nonsense out there. Just ask Deepak Chopra.) Here I’ve taken out the religious element. Neither prayer nor this herbal remedy is part of the standard of care. What then? Petrie’s career would be over. That’s what. Why? Because she altered the standard of care. THAT’S what the problem is in BOTH cases.

  6. February 12, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Many peoples religion *are* their way of life. Their profession is *secondary* to that. Your saying that they are separate does not make it so. What you are suggesting is that, for instance, a surgeon should pray silently in their heads instead of out loud, before going into the OR. That’s not separation, merely concealment.

    How exactly, can coercion exist without intent? Power does not automatically imply coercion. It only facilitates it. In the absence of intent, coercion isn’t even theoretically possible That argument makes no sense.

    This is exactly what you said: “But I can certainly say that I would indeed question the skill of any surgeon who made such a request…” You literally questioned the *skill*, (not just the *professionalism*) of the surgeon, based on *nothing else* but the fact that they outwardly expressed their religious conviction, without regard for their motives, or ability. How have I misinterpreted your statement?

    But more importantly, why should the patient feel disrespected by this? Everyone in this world shares different beliefs. The people who say things like this do not mean any disrespect. Why is everyone so adamant that unless they are treated in accordance to *their own* beliefs then they have been disrespected? Does that not presume superiority over everyone else’s beliefs? Everyone has different beliefs. Thinking like that only means that anyone who is different from you will offend you regardless of their intentions. And I think that is a no-win attitude, if we want to learn to live in peace with one another.

    And *you* are putting words in *my* mouth. My statement about Christians being taught to help people was intend to illustrate that some Christians chose to practice medicine *because* of their religion, and/or became skilled surgeons *because* of their religious convictions, and therefore, for them, the two are *inseparable*. I don’t see where you came up with me trying to say only Christians can be good doctors. That’s ludicrous.

    Evangelizing is part and parcel of many religions. Some do preach superiority. Others do not. Petrie, however, was not evangelizing, even though it seems you feel that she was. Evangelizing is usually motivated by the goal of converting the subject, which was clearly not Petries intention.

    You do not see the anaolgy because you do not see that Luck is part of a belief system. Can explain the concept of luck in a way that does not make it part of a belief system? Also, out of curiosity, do you consider Atheism a belief system? And why/why not?

    What she was pushing is irrelevant, because everyone pushes different things. It doesn’t matter what Christians would or would not be OK with compared to Muslims, or Atheists, etc., the more important thing is that they are all going to be different, and it is this difference, i.e. somebody acting on, or believing in something other than that you believe in, that seems to get everyones panties in a bunch.

    This is still true even outside of the religious context. In fact, this is the crux of my major gripe with people in general. Nether religious nor secular sides seem willing to try and reach a compromise with ideas or cultures they do not understand, regardless how harmless it may be.

    The example of the harmless herbal remedy you mention is a typical example. I don’t see the issue. From a medical standpoint, it still only affects Petrie, not the patient. So what possible bearing could it have have on the standard of care provided to the patients?

    That’s like arguing that Petrie would have violated her medical code of ethics if she confessed to the patient that the moisturizing skin lotion she uses every day has been blessed by the pastor of her church. I really don’t see why that’s such a big deal, or should be considered offensive to the patient. I really don’t…

  7. 7 pkboomer
    February 12, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    “If a religious person truly respected someone else’s beliefs, it would actually be wrong to pray for someone who did not wish it.”

    And if the patient was an atheist, what of his/her beliefs? If I were that patient I would have been offended, that the patient had asked to pray for me. I would have seen it as an act of proselytization. This is MY BELIEF. Are you saying that the christian nurse’s beliefs take precendent over my own? Can’t you see that this act has the potential to be disrespecting the patient’s beliefs? Better to leave well enough alone and not disrespect or offend anybody. If the patient wanted to be prayed for, she would ask for it.

  8. 8 shamelesslyatheist
    February 12, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    “I really don’t see why that’s such a big deal, or should be considered offensive to the patient. I really don’t…” You don’t get it. If it is at all possible that it will be offensive to the patient (and such an offer is, in the words of my wife who feels the same way, not diversity conscious) and is not part of a standard of care it is OUT. No, not everyone would be offended. Yes, some people would be offended. Prayer is not in the standard of care. It’s OUT. You just. don’t. get. it!!!

    “The example of the harmless herbal remedy you mention is a typical example. I don’t see the issue. From a medical standpoint, it still only affects Petrie, not the patient. So what possible bearing could it have have on the standard of care provided to the patients?”

    You have GOT to be kidding me! Un-freaking-believable! So as far as you are concerned, anything goes? You don’t see this as an erosion of health care?!? We’re already seeing this kind of crap trying to encroach on science-base medicine, the type of medicine (and the only type) which has provided the benefits to health we have today. I can no longer continue this discussion with you – either you are trying to jump through hoops to get prayer to be okay to offer by religious health care workers or you are just far too obtuse to communicate with about ethical concepts. You are the type of Christian that feels that they have the right to shelve ethics just because they are religious. Goodbye.

  9. February 12, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    @PKBoomer
    Asking for permission is not an act of disrespect. I find that it is only people who want to have some justification to be offended by religious people, regardless of the persons actions or intentions, who think that way.

    The way it should be, is that nobody’s beliefs should take precedence over anyone else’s. The patients belief that there is no God, should not take any precedence over the nurses belief that there is. The Nurses belief system tells her that it is a good thing to pray for the sick. Therefore she believes that, in order to be a good practitioner of her faith, she should pray for the patient.

    Now if she really didn’t care what the patient believed, she could just as easily have prayed for them without asking, as ShamelesslyAtheist suggested. However, because she realizes that what she believes may not be what the patient believes, she decides to ask first, and it is this that gets her in trouble. Now if the patient said “No” and she continued to harangue the patient and do the whole “Your soul will be consumed by fire and brimstone!” speech, then yes, I would have agreed with ShamelesslyAtheist. That could be interpreted as coercion, and I would have no issue with her being fired, fined, sentenced to 800hrs of community service, or 30 strikes with the whip, or whatever the law of the land prescribed.

    But all she did was ask. I think the reason why it has become such a big deal is that it was religiously motivated, and these days both religious and anti-religious factions have become ridiculously militant about it. Yes, there are some incredibly annoying people on both sides, but that does not give anyone the right to crucify another (pun intended) purely on the basis of their beliefs.

    Let me use a non religious example of the same thing to illustrate. Let’s say in a professional office setting, that a guy asks a lesbian out. She says no, and he backs off. In that case, her rights have not be violated, and she should not feel insulted for having been asked out. This is fair because if she weren’t a lesbian, and really did want to go out with him, then either side will have at least one opportunity to make it happen. That is the way it should be.

    However, if she says no, tells him she’s a lesbian, and he keeps asking, pressuring her, and just being a general nuisance, then he has crossed the line. He has committed sexual harassment. The thing to note is that it does not become sexual harassment until he makes further unwanted advances, knowing that she does not wish to go out with him. Petries case is analogous to the first scenario, but has been treated like the second.

    Simply *asking* should not have been considered disrespectful or in violation of any medical codes of ethics, but people have made it so, simply because they do not want to even *see* anyone else practice their belief systems in their presence, but do not want to admit their blatant prejudice by stating outright that they do not want a theist treating them in a hospital. True tolerance is not one side suppressing their beliefs for the other, but rather both belief systems living side by side in their entirety.

    If these people were really being honest, then people like that should just admit, up front, they don’t want any religious people treating them when they go into a hospital. *That* is their right. Nobody should be able to tell a religious person to just stop being religious, claiming that it violates their rights, or some code of ethics. That’s just being a hypocrite. I think an honestly tolerant compromise would be to let a religious person be religious, and you find someone nonreligious to treat you if it bothers you so much.

    You just cannot persecute a witchdoctor for simply being a witchdoctor. And you most certainly can’t go to a witchdoctor and then complain when you are treated with black magic.

  10. February 12, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    @ShamelesslyAtheist
    “If it is at all possible that it will be offensive to the patient… …it’s out”?
    That’s your criteria for medical professionalism? Avoid even asking about anything that the patient might deem offensive? Do you realize that there are people whose beleifs run counter to accepted medical care? Shoud doctors not even suggest treatments that would violate those beliefs?

    You are right. I don’t get it. And I probably never will, because what you are arguing people should do isn’t even realistic. There are so many different belief systems, ways of thinking, cultures, how is a medical practitioner supposed to practice medicine, if even suggesting something that might violate *any* of them is verboten? We will never achieve any kind of harmony if we think like that. Your way of thinking inherently separates people, even more than they might on their own.

    LOL… how exactly did you make that leap from what I said to “anything goes”? Unless you can actually explain how blessed lotion, applied daily to a *nurse*, is an erosion of the standard of care for a *patient*, I don’t see how your argument makes any sense.

    I have no vested interest in seeing prayer anywhere. I think prayer is a personal thing. Some people need to do it. Others don’t. That is purely about them and what they believe. The reality of it is that I was not actually arguing either for, or against either atheism or religion. You read my original post and took from it what you wanted. The religiously biased aspect if the discussion is what you turned it into, because that is what is important to you, it is the way you perceive the world, and it colors your every thought.

    If you had *really* read any of my posts, you would have seen that what I really want is for people on both sides to be fair to each other. Out of all the things we have discussed, all you were able to extract from the conversation was that I want prayer OK’d to offer by religious medical practitioners. And that’s not even remotely true. What I really want is for people to treat others fairly, regardless of their beliefs, or cultural background.

    You think I feel I have the right to shelve ethics because I’m religious? You have yet to even show how Petries’ actions were unethical, apart from to say that if it could possibly offend the patient in any way. But that is not what ethics are. You have done exactly what I keep telling people will lead them astray. Clump people into some easily dismissed group so they can be marginalized whithout a second thought.

    From what you have said, it seems as though you still have no idea at all what my motives are, what I have been trying to say. And at best you only had circumstantial information upon which to determine whether I am even religious or not. And yet you have concluded you post with a neat little description of what I might want, what kind of person I am, and what my motives are. Your last post proved my point more effectively than anything that has been posted before.

    Thanks for the discussion.


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