Connect With Others Touched By Cancer
Get to know Jaime, Liz and Sheryl as they blog about their personal experiences with cancer -- as patients, survivors, caregivers and friends.
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Faith and healing?
August 10, 2010
How often have we heard the saying "there are no atheists in a foxhole"? How many of us believe that is true? While I tend to stay away from topics like religion and recognize their hot-button qualities, I do think faith comes up a lot within the topic of cancer. People may turn to, or away from, religion, spirituality, or whatever Higher Power in which they believe. Their loved ones may rail at God, or become fervently prayerful. Or people may simply wonder why bad things happen to good people or where karma is coming from at a time like this.
Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, recently came out with the news that he has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He is a fervent atheist, and his diagnosis has not changed his thinking at all, although he does express appreciation for prayer groups that have been praying for his recovery… but he also says "… that's all meaningless for me."
To each his own, and I personally am constantly going back and forth on the issue and examining my beliefs… but what about the studies published in JAMA or NEJM that show prayer has actually been shown to help people? (I can counter this, though, with the idea of all the people who have not been healed, despite countless prayers). When I read Hitchens' essay "Topic of Cancer" in Vanity Fair, I actually was not aware of who he was. When I found out, I have to admit, my first thought was, I wonder if he believes in anything now… and the answer is simple: No.
Cancer throws us into uncertainty. All bets are off once we get that diagnosis; things explode into chaos. It is natural to want organization, a plan, a guide. For some of us, that comes in the form of religion or faith. For others, it may come in the form of music or sculpting. And still others find it in children's laughter and smiles. Cognitively and rationally, this makes perfect sense – we are all unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Then why am I so surprised at Hitchens' situation? I'm still trying to figure that out.
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