Dazed, confused and deluded

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.

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9 thoughts on “Dazed, confused and deluded

  1. Well written.

    I am not against anyone else praying or doing whatever they want, what I get irritated about is that my (parents’ )money is spent on such things, like the pujas in hostel.

    I hope Bhuvanesh recovers soon, he is getting better (I visited him just before leaving).

  2. “I believe that there is no place for religion in an institute dedicated to learning and critical thinking. ”

    I don’t think it is dedicated to critical thinking! Learning? Maaaybe. More like Getting marks -> Getting job.

    🙂

    • haha…At least thats what this college tries to be…never matter how far(or near) we may be from reaching that lofty goal…

  3. You are absolutely right when u talk abt the pujas performed in hostels. they are crap. But do not compare this thing with those pujas. It was more of an act of solidarity and empathy than a religious one. Moreover, atheists and agnostics should not attend such events if it bothers them so much, just like I did. Why deride something that was meant for comforting a poor guy’s parents?
    I am sure u must have experienced how it feels to lose (or be abt to lose) a loved one. Logic, reasoning take a backseat in such cases dude. Dont attend such events like me. Dont question ppl’s faith. Faith is beyond reasoning and logical thinking. Respect it.

    • Well you are right that this was not a puja. It was an act of solidarity and of showing support. But it could have been done in some other way.

      As for questioning faith. I have to say I totally disagree with you. Faith requires blind belief, belief without proof or reason. That is a dangerous thing. It is because we dont question such stupidity, that fundamentalism has risen today. Faith is like giving you a statement and saying, “Here is a statement and You are not allowed to question or argue it”. But why? Why is religious belief not arguable? Is it any different from any other belief. Think a bit and you will find that religious belief can and should be argued.

      Check out this video http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/richard_dawkins_on_militant_atheism.html

      • I have no problem in arguing… i like arguing. All i am saying is that its not rite to question such events. Everyone desrves to have his or her own beliefs. Those who believe attend such things and those who dont, dont.

        if someone wants to pray for an ill person let him pray. If u dont like it, like me, dont be a part of it.

        Religious freedom is intergral to our society. U can criticise religion. But u cannot say such events should not be held. That, my friend, is against the basic freedom given to citizens of this country.

  4. well I think that we have given faith and religious belief too much of freedom for far too long, freedom from questioning and logical arguments. People always get away by crying religion. That should not be allowed to happen.

    Yes if someone wants to pray for somebody, I and you have no business there.

    But some of the things being said at that prayer were incredible. Things like “Its all in God’s hands…”etc. I cant understand how well educated, clever people can have such beliefs.

    As far as basic freedom in concerned, non religious/agnostics never encroach on others freedom. Religious people do.

  5. well, that’s what i m saying…
    non religious ppl never encroach….
    but by saying that such events should not be allowed, u are actually encroaching

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