Showing posts with label sickness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sickness. Show all posts

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Christina Odone Just Doesn't Understand

(source)
Back in February I posted my reaction to a piece Christina Odone wrote over at the Telegraph. It was  about how sad she was that students are not reading the Bible as much in school lately -- as if it's nothing more than religiously inspired literature. (She got no sympathy from me.) Well, she wrote something else that sort of bugs me.

Faith sent Dr Kent Brantly to fight Ebola – and it gave him the strength to accept God's will

Apparently, it was God's will to put him through hell by contracting Ebola, but then God had preordained that Brantly be a white American -- lucky him! So he was whisked away back in a state of the art jet to the most technologically advanced nation (so they say) to be treated with a new experimental serum. Thank God!

Listen, I'm happy he's alive, don't get me wrong.

However, I cannot help but wonder what the other hundreds of suffering patients back in Liberia could learn from this. Maybe they had even more strength to accept God's will. That's right, perhaps God's just testing them.

Brantly thanked God for his recovery. I know, I know, what would I expect from a Christian missionary? Still, I am allowed to cringe. Here's what Hemant Mehta had to say about it.
Some will say it’s impolite to bring any of this up, but giving a shout-out to God after surviving a tragedy may be the most natural, yet repugnant, thing to do. It wasn’t the grace of God that saved you. It was trained professionals, scientific breakthroughs, or just plain luck. There’s where the credit should go. There’s where all the credit should go. It’s just crazy that the things that actually saved Brantly’s life are treated as afterthoughts.
Perhaps God didn't hear all the prayers of the hundreds who died in Africa? Either they and their families were not praying hard enough or else we have a pretty ghastly and morbid experiment here with very clear results indeed. Either God is a monster, was out fishing or simply doesn't exist at all. I'll pick non-existence because I would rather not even entertain the existence of a being who behaves like this and this is completely justified with the utter lack of evidence for his existence. Thank goodness for that!

Anyway, back to Christina Odone's article.
But Dr Brantly's heartfelt gratitude has struck some commentators as inappropriate – even cruel. They argue that Uncle Sam, not God, saved the young Oregon physician. He was, one commentator sneered, “whizzed home” by the American authorities, to a hospital in Atlanta, where Zmapp, an antibody serum, was administered. Thousands of Africans were not so lucky; they were not evacuated, or given the newest medical treatment available. They died.
It was modern science that saved Brantly and this is where his gratitude should rightly go. This seems to be what Odone doesn't see.
Now Dr Brantly speaks of his gratitude to the same God that has overseen the Ebola outbreak.
Precisely. What's the deal with this God who apparently gives all the black and brown people horrendous diseases knowing full well they're going to suffer horrendous deaths? Especially since Liberia is 85.5% Christian and 12.2% Muslim. Must be all the indigenous and others, right?
The secularist finds this baffling and downright nasty: how can Brantly thank God for saving him, while knowing that men, women and children back in Liberia are dying all around him of the same virus? Surely only a Wasp’s arrogance explains Brantly’s reaction. He thinks he is one of the chosen few who deserves God’s help – in the form of an expensive drug – and damn the rest.
I think she means atheist here, not secularist.

Anyway, I don't think it necessarily has to do with Brantly being a white anglo-saxon Protestant. It seems to be a problem pretty common among all theists out there. I'm still waiting for an adequate solution to this problem of suffering as well. It's also so interesting that God apparently favours the highly atheistic and secular countries to the north while apparently utterly despises the highly religious ones in Africa.

Odone calls this sneering, but I call it a legitimate question. How could anyone seriously thank a God that not only saves a few -- for seemingly random or geographical reasons -- after He either created or stood by watching the disaster in the first place?

Well, Ms. Odone, please enlighten me!
Dr Brantly has faith. And he would answer that it does not help understand God’s ways, but accept them. Faith means total surrender to the divine will. The young missionary is giving thanks to God, because he believes He has saved his life; but he would have just as readily died with a “praise be to God” on his lips.
Oh come on! You realize that if these were the actions of anyone but God everyone would be calling to have them thrown to into the depths of Hades. With the God glasses, the almighty murderer can do no wrong whatsoever.

The rest of the article does nothing whatsoever to answer the problem brought up at the start. How does it make any sense at all to thank a being who allowed thousands to become sick from a virus he apparently created, then allow them to suffer horribly and die all the while holding the cure in his hand.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Comic Book Heros Make Chemotherapy Easier For Kids! Way Cooler Than Pope.

(souce: Buzzfeed)
So, last night I ranted to my wife about yesterday's post, Why Does This Repulse Me So Much?, which is all about the Pope apparently using frail and sick children to boost his public image.

My wife very wisely pointed me to this most excellent initiative by doctors, Warner Bros, JWT and comic book artists to make chemotherapy more tolerable and as fun as possible for children.

Look, this is way cooler than some old guy in a frock asking dying children to pray to his God for him. Maybe I'm just behind the times or something, but this beats the cassock off the pontiff.

Take a look at this story over at Buzzfeed:

Children’s Cancer Center Rebrands Chemotherapy As “Superformula” : They also redesigned the cancer ward to look like a Super Friends Hall of Justice. An amazing idea.

The idea is to rebrand the children's ward at the A.C. Carmargo Cancer Center into a fully immersive superhero experience.
Covers for intravenous bags were constructed based on characters from the Justice League, creating a child-friendly version of the treatment. Co-developed with doctors, the covers are easy to sterilize and handle and meet all hospital hygiene standards. 
(The) experience went far beyond the covers by also providing a new look to the entire Children’s Ward: the game room was turned into the Hall of Justice, corridors and doors were decorated in the same theme, and the exterior acquired an exclusive entrance for these little heroes.
(source: Buzzfeed)

The children get to read comic books that describe familiar superheros who also have cancer and have to take the very same superformula inside identical cases. The books document struggles and challenges similar to those the children could well have to endure before they get better.

The idea is that this will act as an additional placebo effect.  It presents the treatment in terms children can understand and it provides positive role models - superheros. I would imagine they may not feel as alone or afraid. And their IV covers are identical to those in the comic book.

The children are the true heros here.

Watch this video. Unlike the visit with the Pope in yesterday's post, this one may me weep with joy. Thank goodness for smart and compassionate doctors and multinational media companies. Never thought I'd say that.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Why Does This Repulse Me So Much?

"Pope Francis (then Cardinal Bergoglio) chose a children's hospital 
in Palermo (Buenos Aires) to celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass of the 

Lord's Supper.  There, he washed the feet of 12 sick children."
Right, so I'm likely to get some criticism from someone on this post, but there is something I really need to get off my chest.

It could be baggage left over from my Catholic days, or being a father.

When I saw the picture to the right and read the blog post over at the Archdiocese of Toronto blog I got angry.  Really angry, deep down. I have a really hard time expressing why.

Last Halloween I posted about the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia. This is where there are horrible mutations of fetuses and various other horrendous diseases that afflict the innocent for no apparent reason. It points clearly to either an incompetent, feeble, malicious or non-existent God. Pope Francis' God.

In the post I quoted Dan Barker.
All you have to do is walk into any Children's Hospital and you know there is no God.
Well the Pope, who is, as I understand it, God's main conduit here on Earth - Mr. Infallible Himself - visited a children's hospital in March of this year and washed some kids feet and the crowd went absolutely wild. Many of the children may well still die after horrible suffering, but the reporters snapped photo after photo of this humble man in a frock washed the feet of innocent children.

So many reporters, so many germs - so feeble the immune systems of many of these children. You'll notice that the Pope apparently has not a force field capable of stopping infection from entering the nostrils of this poor child due to the this increased risk. I hope the Pope's visit didn't cause more harm than what was intended - well, assuming the whole thing wasn't one big PR stunt.


So June 3rd, the Pope was visited by some children with cancer (see video above). A young girl with cancer read a letter to him where she assured him they were praying for him. She asked him to pray for them and all the sick children in the world.

The Pope responded that Jesus, dead for 2,000 years, gives them all a big hug. He then asks them one last favour.  To pray for HIM!  I mean, if they're not too busy with chemo or other treatments - with the whole cancer thing and all.

Why does the world fawn all over this man?  What about the doctors trying to save the lives of these children? The researchers looking for a cure or new treatments?  The suffering parents who must walk boldly on with brave faces for their children as they watch their babies weaken and sometimes die?

At least Jesus, who is now apparently un-dead, allegedly healed the sick - although I've been told this was only to prove some point or other. Regardless, what is this Pope capable of?  Apparently, he can manifest invisible hugs from an immaterial dead undead guy. How warm and fuzzy. How sad.

Well I guess it's still more warm and fuzzy than his God who apparently sits by while these children die  - for no apparent reason.  But maybe it is his greater closeness to God that allows Pope Francis to keep faith and be satisfied with only being able to provide psychic hugs from beyond.  To say the least of currying the prayers from dying children.

It's really sad on another level too. I mean, these poor kids seem to believe in this, adore him and probably derive a great deal of hope and comfort from this. The fact it's all bullshit makes me want to weep - really, it does.

But, if my son got cancer, was deathly ill and asked me if he was going to see me in heaven when he passes away, I just don't know if I could explain to him that this wouldn't be the case. I think it would be easier if I told him from the get go - that it's a sleep we go into forever. Yes maybe. I don't know.

Anyway, look, I get it. He's humble - he uses public transit and doesn't use his limousine. Maybe he sleeps in the smallest room of his palace. Perhaps he's just a product of his own past.  Maybe he's just typecast to believe in the whole thing. But there is something about this that makes me ill - as a father of a young child. I'm not sure why I find it so repugnant.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

In Need of Woo-Less Help For Parents of Autistic Children

(source)
I don't usually complain about my personal life on this blog, but today was rough, really rough.

Both my wife and I likely picked up a bad cold from our son, who has apparently completely gotten over the one that's been dogging him over the past week.

His cold has been responsible for much lost sleep for us and him both but today he was fine and we're entering into the worst of our own infections.  It's a den of plague and suffering at the household this weekend.

To make things a little worse, my son is on the Autism Spectrum.  We love him dearly, but it can be a real challenge to our nerves dealing with him sometimes.  Just imagine the usual battle of wills and arguments that three year olds present on steroids. And he's full of near-hyperactive energy and bored while we're having a hard time keeping our eyes open. Today was a test of will.  For a brief moment I thought of the support groups out there an how parents who believe in a god cope.  Is it easier for them?

A simple search for autism and prayer brings up Autism Sunday which we just missed by a couple of weeks.
Autism Sunday, also known as the International Day of Prayer for Autism and Asperger syndrome, is observed annually on the second Sunday of February.
This seems like a fairly innocuous event.  Although the prayer achieves nothing whatsoever, it's nice to know people are at least meditating on the problem and focusing in on it.  One can only hope that some people take the next step and do something substantial rather than believing a simple prayer is enough.

But then things start taking a turn for the worse with this article at Pat Robertson's 700 Club, MIRACLE Indonesian Boy Healed of Autism.
"I thanked God because He was starting to heal William," Hilda says crying. "I was so joyful. He began to understand when we would call him. And when we would ask him his colors, he answered correctly." 
William quickly progressed to the point where he was able to attend a regular school with children his age. God had healed him of autism!
I'm happy to hear this boy is doing better now, but what does this do for others with this problem? If only God could be a more effective cure for all those other children with Autism.  I guess he works in mysterious ways.  At the end of the day, it's woo.

Then there's the Child of Destiny website.
JACK AND REBECCA SYTSEMA are both ordained Christian ministers who have been involved in international prayer ministry since 1993. They have also been involved with many autism groups over the past several years.
On their page Autism Strategic Prayer Network, they call upon people to pray daily to get God to help scientists out in finding cures and treatment strategies.
Because we believe so strongly in the power of prayer, we at Children of Destiny are now working to compile a list of people who feel called to pray for what is going on in the autism world. This network of people, who will be known as the Autism Strategic Prayer Network (ASPN), would be receiving periodic, as well as emergency, emails asking for prayer for important issues, events, and occurrences related to autism. 
Our goal in forming the ASPN is to identify and network intercessors who feel particularly called to pray at this level, and to make a significant impact in the world of autism through the power of prayer. The three main prayer objectives we focus on are:

1. That any and all causes of autism be exposed and recognized by those in authority so that the epidemic of autism is stopped;
 
2. That God would give strategy for how to best help those with autism medically, educationally, and spiritually; 
3. Those who are affected by autism would have all the necessary medical, educational, and spiritual resources available to them.
I know, I know.  What kind of lousy messed up God would even bring Autism into this world and why would he need such insistant prodding?  But I am not tempted to point out what a dick head he is.  Instead, I can only see that, as Christian ministers, this is what they have to lean on for comfort and support.  This is their support network when things get tough.  Of course it doesn't help and does nothing concretely for their goal, but it's not about that.  It's about community and shared suffering and challenges.  It's a shame it has got to have so much woo.

Then there is the insane den of woo that is Autism One.  It decks itself out as being a legitimate scientific convention and forum for parents to have access to the latest in therapies.  But it turns out to be a forum for self-serving entrepreneurs to peddle unscientific, abusive and dangerous so-called treatments for Autism. Downright dangerous woo.

But what's my point here?  My point is, it would be nice to have an organization out there to help support parents of children with Autism who are skeptical and rational.  Those of us who are not prone to jump onto the woo and religious bandwagons and for whom these crutches that people often reach for in times of utter desperation are no better than smoke and mirrors.

Fellow skeptics, humanists and atheists, lend me your ear.  Does such a group exist?