I have been thinking of writing about this for quite sometime. So now I have finally found the time.
One of the students of my college has been suffering from a rare genetic disease for some months now. He is in the fourth year of chemical engineering here. I dont know the exact name of the disease but the disease is causing slow paralysis of his whole body. He is admitted in a hospital now and his treatment is costing quite a lot for his middle class parents with limited income. When I heard of it, I was very upset and I am sure anyone who heard about it must have been.
So it was only a matter of time that our college too would try to help out one of its own in any and every way possible. The institution therefore, paid a modest amount of money for his treatment which is very commendable.
But then, the realization dawned on our college authorities that mere treatment by competent doctors wont be enough and a prayer meeting was organised at the Staff Club on 20th March.
I came to know about this meeting from the Gmail status message of friend of mine who said she didn’t believe in “anything beyond our efforts but in situation where our efforts dont count our hope may”. She wanted to attend the prayer to “just send a positive signal of hope from our minds”. I was reluctant to attend it as I am unsure how faith and hope could heal a person and I have seen no evidence where such a thing has happened. However, I decided to attend it just to show my solidarity to the his parents.
I reached the venue on time. Quite a few students had arrived to attend it. On the front row were his parents and some college authorities. On the stage were a group of singers ready to sign bhajans (religious hyms) as and when required. The program began with t a few customary introductions. It was soon realized that even our college doctor thought that a prayer meeting would be the best thing for the suffering patient at this juncture. After that certain threshold, according to the college doctor, it was all in God’s hands. Soon the program started with a few bhajans. Then, of course, there were the hired singers on the stage who introduced themselves at length and recounted their various performances, much to the annoyance of the audience, which they obviously failed to notice. All this continued for 2 hours after which people(the students) started trickling out one by one as they were either bored or had to go back to their hostels for dinner.The parents of Bhuvanesh, who must been happy initially to see so many students coming to the prayer meeting must have been really hurt at the sight of students leaving the prayer meeting.
Soon after, I left too.
And I wondered, what is the point of all this? What purpose does it serve? Is there any documented evidence that praying has helped someone recover? Instead we have evidence to the contrary. A prayer experiment was conducted at the behest of the Templeton Foundation on cardiac bypass surgery patients. The results showed that patients who were prayed for suffered more complication than those for whom no prayers were organized. Details of the experiment were published in the American Heart Journal 151:4,2006, 934 -32, titled “Study of the therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients” by H. Benson et al.
One of our pass-out students, an atheist and sceptic has this to say about the regular pujas being conducted in our college, “Each hostel wants to conduct its own puja for some god or goddess. In the end it’s all just politics and playing with the religious sentiments of people. All the burning of incense and wasting of money does not do anything to help anyone.The money spent in these things would be better used in the service of the living, rather than that of the immortal”.
Going by the reliance on prayer that is shown by our college administration, we the engineers of this famed institution should rely on prayers and divine intervention rather than than thorough testing and analysis.
I have no doubt that the people who organized the prayer meeting really believed in it. They sure had pious intentions and our college administration does care for its students. But unlike them, I dont share their belief in faith. Instead of organizing a prayer meeting, they could have asked us students to donate some money for his treatment and I am sure everyone would have happily done that. I am always ready to help as long as it is in some constructive and meaningful way.
Did that prayer meeting really serve any purpose? And what was the point of lengthening it to more than two hours? Also why were the prayer-for-hire singers wasting time in introducing each other and singing accolades about themselves?
How can a doctor, who surely has read about evolution besides obviously medicine, believe in God or faith healing?
Why should the laws of nature be bent for one individual? Just because people prayed for him. I dont think so.
I really hope he recovers but I am strongly against any such prayer meetings.
I agree that faith is comforting but that does not increase its truth value one bit.
I believe that there is no place for religion in an institute dedicated to learning and critical thinking.