It’s arrogant and reckless to think that prayer will cure cancer…or anything else for that matter

I received another one of those deceptively cute e-mails today from someone who I don’t think is a Christian. The contents are what you’d expect from a fundie.

However, I know this person and she’s definitely no fundie; maybe just another innocent believer who is a tad lazy to employ some reasoning skills. And also becoming an unwitting spammer.

So here’s the contents of the mail:

Friday is world cancer day – I’d appreciate it if you will forward this request 

 93% won’t forward 

A small request.. Just one line. 

Dear God, I pray for a cure for cancer.  Amen

[Image of candle removed]

All you are asked to do is keep this circulating, even if it’s only to one more person. 
In memory of anyone you know who has been struck down by cancer or is still living with it.

A Candle Loses Nothing by Lighting Another Candle.. 

Please Keep This Candle Going

Okay, the first obvious problem with this mail is that World Cancer Day is on the 4th of February 2011, more than two weeks away; not this coming Friday as the impression is being created. I however don’t have any problem with that; it’s actually laudable to create awareness about this important day. What I do have a problem with is the call to prayer and the conceited suggestion that you will be only one of the mere 7% of people who are “good” and “give a shit about cancer.”

My second problem with this mail has to do with reasoning. Let’s assume that there is a god. Cancer has been around since the dawn of man. It’s just that its only been relatively recently diagnosed, not through divine revelation mind you, but through the hard work of scientists. Let’s also assume that god is responsible for creating everything and he [or she] has a divine plan, just like scripture [or the priesthood] tells us. Now wouldn’t it then also be logical to conclude that cancer was created by god and it’s part of his divine plan?

Wouldn’t it also then be arrogant, not to mention futile of man to pray for its eradication, seeing as it is a constituent of a bigger divine plan? Isn’t it reasonable to make these conclusions? And isn’t a divine plan supposed to be incontestable? As the late great George Carlin so eloquently reminded us:

What’s the use of being God if every run-down shmuck with a two-dollar prayerbook can come along and fuck up Your Plan?

Coming back to reality, the plain and honest truth is that prayer is not going to do any good in curing cancer; there is no evidence whatsoever that it does anything apart from making you feel like you can sit on your ass and magically command things to happen. Cancer is treatable when detected early and the chances are good that cancerous cells can be treated into remission. Ongoing research, however may one day lead scientists to discover how to switch cancerous cells off, so that they don’t divide and replicate.

This e-mail is dangerous in that it encourages both fundies and the ignorant to pray rather than seek medical help. Let’s be part of that 93% that employs our reasoning faculties.

Classic PZ Myers response to a Christian correspondent…hilarious

I just couldn’t resist lifing the entire blog about PZ Myers’ response to a Christian correspondent on his website Pharyngula. [PZ’s response in red font, of course]:

Time for another stream-of-consciousness response to yet another slimy Christian.

Interesting blog

But I beg for just a few moments of your time. You are obviously an intelligent individual, considering you’re a prof and all [Flattery alert: diverting warp power to shields. I can guess how this will end up], but consider this for one second. Could our few years on this planet be all that there is? [Yes.] You are born, live, then die and that’s it? [That’s what I said. Yes.] All of you loved ones that have died are no more? [What? It’s not enough to have lived and to have loved ones? These guys are always belittling their lives and families.]

There is a lot of evidence of paranormal activity[No, actually, there isn’t] , how is that explained? [Wishful thinking, selective memory, gullibility. Easy.] The vast majority of people believe in a God [So? You don’t get to vote on what reality exists], and many believe Jesus has died for their passage into heaven [And many believe that Mohammed was God’s prophet, and that praying to Ganesh will remove obstacles from their lives. Do you?]. Are all of these people (myself included, and I am a very well educated individual and deep thinker if I do say so myself [I don’t believe you.]) delusional or weak minded or worse because the have faith? [Yes. Or lazy, or guilt-ridden and brain-washed, or fearful] If you look at the world and see how everything fits so perfectly together I don’t understand [Those three words are actually the whole of your argument] how anyone can NOT see that there is “intelligent design” behind the creation of everything [Hey, it’s easy…because there is no evidence for creation, but plenty for evolution]. My background is also in biology and the life sciences. I went to Kent State University [Kent State grads everywhere are groaning at the association], then graduated at The Ohio State University [Ditto Ohio State] with a degree in Allied Medicine. [That’s nice. Are we playing Trump That Degree?] For a few years while I was “becoming smart” [I think you were deceived] I too began to question the existence of a God. I was deceived [like I said] into thinking [I’m pretty sure you weren’t doing that] there really was no need for any supernatural force for everything to be [I peeked ahead. You never bother to tell us anything that requires a supernatural force]. But then I looked how everything just worked. Take the krebs cycle. One of hundres of thousands of different processes that occur in the body. Every step has to happen perfectly. [No it doesn’t. Cellular processes are stochastic, driven by thermodynamics. Did you learn nothing about biochemistry?] Every substrate has to perfectly fit it’s particular enzyme [Wow. So there must be only One True phosphoglycerate mutase out there then. Have you noticed that there is sequence variation in these enzymes in different species?]. That 1 process, you’re trying to tell me, just came about because of chance? [No. That’s a very tired creationist canard. Evolution is about chance modulated by selection, a non-chance process] I really don’t think so. I can go on and on with different examples but that would be pointless because you know exactly what I’m talking about. [Actually, I know exactly that you don’t know what you are talking about.]

Not to get all evangelical [brace yourselves, everyone, he’s going to get evangelical] on you or anything, but this is the conclusion I came to. Science is a wonderful thing. It’s provided us everything from shelter from the elements to cures for dreaded diseases to the exploration of our universe, but science and our ability to think on that level is a tool from God to help us cope on our planet [Data not shown]. Now, this is where I may lose you [No worries, you lost me in the first paragraph], Satan [Oh boy, here it comes] (and he does exist [Just like Spiderman and Santa Claus!]) has taken the tool of science and perverted into HIS tool [Reason: Satan’s tool.] to deceive man into thinking there is no need for a God for all this to be. Satan HATES you [How do you know? Talked to him lately? For all you know, Satan might think I’m a really cool guy] because you are a creation of God [Wait…wouldn’t Satan also be a creation of god?] and he wants nothing more than to torment you in hell for all of eternity [And god, of course, has nothing to say about this. I rather suspect that if they existed, Satan is nothing but a stalking horse for that evil psycho, the Christian god].

I’m sure I haven’t convinced you of anything [Nope]. But in quite moment just think about an eternity of torment [Nah, not interested. That’s more your thing. You seem to enjoy dwelling on other people’s suffering]. At the moment of your death when you feel the tug of demons trying to take you down [That won’t be demons. Probably heart failure], at that point it’ll be too late. Google [Our modern prophet] near death experiences [I’ve read about them. None are convincing] and listen or read the horrors of people who have tasted hell [Most of the people I’ve heard who’ve tasted hell have done so in this life, and blame fundie nutcases like you for causing it] and then continue to write your blog and doom other atheists to an eternity of torment [Damn, man, you started off all chipper and cheerful, and this is where you end up, grinning like a maniac while you wag a finger and gloat over everyone else’s dismal fate?]you will have to answer for all the souls you’ve convinced there is no God [Should I ask Satan for a commission?].

I just wanted to share that. Have a great day! [Seriously? You just sent off a rant telling me I’ll burn in hell for all eternity, and, by the way, you think I should have a nice day? Somehow, I don’t think you’re at all sincere. But then, you are a Christian, and that’s what I’ve come to expect.]

NJ C [And you didn’t even bother to leave your name, you brave missionary]

A nice change from the usual religious hate e-mail I get

Normally I receive religious e-mail that threatens me with all sorts of horrible punishments for not believing in god or Jesus.  Or, they are extremely condescending sales pitches for a religion, and appear disguised as motivational prose or clever anecdotes, usually accompanied by breathtaking pictures. Yes, you’ve seen them too!

The threatening and pseudo-motivational ones are invariably from Christians, even Muslims, but the e-mails from Hindu’s are revoltingly superstitious in nature and suggest that your luck will take a turn for the worse, if you either don’t do something such as pray or fast; or more absurdly, refuse to forward the mail to x-number of persons within a certain time period. For some reason I don’t receive any religious e-mails from Jews or Buddhists (to their credit); perhaps because the former are part of an exclusive club, and the latter are not really religious.

I was therefore pleasantly surprized, when I received the following piece of poetry which is clearly from a Christian source, but which does not threaten or insult my atheist status. As a matter of fact, it seems to chide Christians, but could apply equally well to persons of all religions; even atheists. ***Note: I personally don’t think it’s the best poem in the world; it’s just titled that way in the e-mail***

Best Poem in the World

                           I was shocked, confused, bewildered
                           As I entered Heaven’s door,
                          Not by the beauty of it all,
                          Nor the lights or its decor.

                         But it was the folks in Heaven
                         Who made me sputter and gasp–
                      The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
                          The alcoholics and the trash.

                     There stood the kid from seventh grade
                        Who swiped my lunch money twice.
                         Next to him was my old neighbor
                          Who never said anything nice.

                           Herb, who I always thought
                            Was rotting away in hell,
                        Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
                            Looking incredibly well.

                        I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal?
                         I would love to hear Your take.
                      How’d all these sinners get up here?
                           God must’ve made a mistake.

                          ‘And why’s everyone so quiet,
                          So sombre – give me a clue.’
                 ‘Hush, child,’ He said, ‘they’re all in shock.
                      No one thought they’d be seeing you.’

                                   JUDGE NOT.

          Remember…Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian
             any more than standing in your garage makes you a car .

                           Every saint has a PAST….
                           Every sinner has a FUTURE!

 And, while the conclusion is “cute,” I prefer to think of myself as neither a saint nor sinner, but just a human being; and more importantly, I care not for the past nor the future, but the present, which I have control over.