They Are Dying

My friend, let’s call him Mango, is one of those hip young Christian types. He’s got no problems saying — with sincerity — “I’ve accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as My Personal Saviour,” he volunteers in the local church youth group, and he believes.

At lunch on Monday, Mango, our mutual friend Sly (also a pseudonym) and I had a rollicking good conversation about Jesus, God, belief and the like. Mango and Sly shored up the “God is Good, God is Great” front, while I took the “you realize you guys are all deluded, don’t you?” tack.

In an clever but subversive effort to bring me into the flock, Mango sent me a link to, a blog the genesis of which is explained here; an excerpt:

This hospital gig was just the kick in the ass I needed.
You see, people facing death don’t give a fuck about your interpretation of II Timothy. Some take the “bloodied, but unbowed” road, but most dying people want to pray with the chaplain. And they don’t want weak-ass prayers either. They don’t want you to pray that God’s will be done.
Hell no. People want you to get down and dirty with them. They want to call down angels and the powers of the Almighty. THEY ARE DYING and the whole world should stop.
I threw myself into it. I prayed holding hands and cradling heads. I prayed with children and old men. I prayed with a man who lost his tongue to cancer. I lent him mine. I prayed my ass off. I had 50 variations of every prayer you could imagine, one hell of a repertoire.

That’s compelling stuff, and the blog that goes with it similarly interesting and well-written.

I’m not ready to start drinking the holy water (you do drink it, don’t you?), but it is does make me realize that closing my eyes entirely to the hardcore Christ types might mean that a lot of wheat is getting thrown out with the chaff.

So, Mango, you can consider yourself to have executed the Lord’s work today.

Next week at lunch I’ll return the favour when we discuss my Bolshevik heritage.


Oliver's picture
Oliver on September 23, 2004 - 17:40 Permalink

Don’t leave out all that great church architecture built during the Inquisition, and that moving demonstration of Hindu civic pride at Ayodhya. To a lot of people, religiosity looks awfully close to inseperable from intolerance and sectarianism. It could still be the lesser of two evils, of course. We’ve never tried a world wholely without religion.

Oliver's picture
Oliver on September 23, 2004 - 18:06 Permalink

As an attempt forestall somewhat against creating too much offence: I wasn’t making a point so much about any one person’s religiosity. Mainly I meant to suggest that a “belief system” catchy enough to get people congregating around it inevitably breeds a number of zealots and aggresive and intolerant evangels, around whom crusades, social calmities etc are bound to coalesce once in a while. Also while Republicans and Democrats can intermarry, as can two people of different religions, I think they have more to overcome to achieve closeness than do people who avow clashing beliefs they hold dear.

Oliver's picture
Oliver on September 23, 2004 - 18:12 Permalink

How much more to overcome, of course I expect would depend on their individual styles of religiosity. Um, I’m going to go away and await the fatwah now.

Ken's picture
Ken on September 23, 2004 - 19:47 Permalink

While I’m not very religous, I think religion allows for certain good things to happen. Prayer is one. What better way to voice hope amid the despair of death is there? When someone I love is struggling, I say to them I’ll cross my fingers for you, or I’ll pray for you. The bottom line is I will be directing some positive mental energy towards them. Maybe it will culminate into an obvious solution. Maybe it will lead me to act, or speak in a way that leads others to help my friend. Maybe God himself hears me and intervenes. In any case, I meditate on it, pray on it, stay actively aware of it. And I at least feel better that I’m actively wanting a solution — chance, divinity, positive thinking — whatever.

Without religion I think a lot less of this mindfulness would occur.

When I lay dying, I will be comforted knowing someone prays for me. Even though I think that religion is bunk, and we are all a lot less significant than we wish we were. God bless you Mango.

Nils Ling's picture
Nils Ling on September 24, 2004 - 00:00 Permalink

I explored this blog and love what it has to say (at least, what it says to me) — that there is a difference between belief in God and belief in Religion. My eldest daughter is an avowed atheist (with that utterly adorable conviction found so commonly in 22 year olds). I’ve recommended this site to her. Thanks for highlighting it for us all.

art's picture
art on September 24, 2004 - 14:03 Permalink

There seems to be growing recognition in even some of the most insular faiths that religion can be seen as evolving and reflecting specific cultural and historical contexts (Tom Harpur is probably the most publicized example of this in Christianity, but Irshad Manji’s writings on Islam fall into here as well). This is important because so much depends on building interoperable systems of belief for the future. Some religions accommodate other religions better than others, but any world view that sees humans as springing fully formed from a divine being will unfortunately infuse some believers with the notion that even human life itself can be violated in the name of faith. While this seems to be remarkably handy for building armies that can conquer others, as Oliver points out, it can and has led to tragic consequences. Despite this, the power of belief, especially shared belief, really does seem to be a positive force of its own. Many of the ceremonies from the First Nations are compelling and fully participatory acts of spirituality, and even Murray Gell-Man, Nobel Laureate and the inventor of Quark Theory, has been known to dance in the circles of the Tewa that keep the world in balance.

Robert  Paterson's picture
Robert Paterson on September 26, 2004 - 12:35 Permalink

I have found Tom Harpur very helpful in reconciling my immersion in the Christian experience but my aversion to religion and religiosity in particular

Will Pate's picture
Will Pate on September 26, 2004 - 20:40 Permalink

I had the same experience as Rob. I remember spending long days in the peace and quiet of the UPEI Chapel reading Tom Harpur. He was the only Christian writer I could stomach, sharing Rob’s aversion to organized religion and dogma.