Editorial: Prayer or Science? Faith or reason
we are responsible for whatever happens to us
Editorial: Prayer or Science? Faith or reasonBy Ricky Roehr, North American leader of the Raelian Movement
You may have heard of the tragic story of an 11-year-old girl in the U.S. who died of untreated diabetes because her parents refused to take her to the doctor, believing that God would heal her if they only prayed sincerely enough. Her parents believed that God made her sick in order to test their faith. They prayed, asked friends and family to pray and even sent out emails for an “urgent prayer”. According to the complaint (the lawsuit which was filed), the parents of 11-year-old Madeline Neumann believed physical illness was due to sin, curable by prayer and by asking for forgiveness from God. Sadly, Madeline died on March 23, 2008.
A very similar thing happened only days earlier in Oregon (USA) when parents of a 15 month old girl died of a bronchial infection which antibiotics could have easily cured. They were sure that prayer would heal their child. This seems to happen surprisingly often in the U.S. even though it is one of the most technically advanced nations on Earth.
Before going any further, we send our deepest condolences to the parents and extended family of these young girls who are surely now living through something very difficult. While keeping in mind the tragedy of this situation, there are some very interesting things to be examined here which seem to elude the monotheistic society in which we live.
We all know that almost anyone who believes in a god in this day and age doesn’t hesitate to see a doctor when they or a loved one is sick. Even the Pope himself or his counterpart in any religion often have several doctors to see after them. What is almost always forgotten, however, is the fact that all of the former Popes etc. were vehemently against the development of the very things which their successors’ happily used in order to live much longer. There is a strange contradiction there. The last generation’s religious leaders were very much against vaccines, blood transfusions, organ transplants, antibiotics, surgery etc. Their faith was strong and they were very clear in warning millions of followers that “man is meddling in God’s domain…that the power of life and death comes from God alone”. Then only a couple of decades later, their successors use that “immoral technology” in order to stay alive. How can their successors accept all the medical assistance their former leaders said was immoral and against God’s wishes? Does it not seem that the late Pope et al betray their predecessors? (thus betraying God since these were God’s spokesmen) How can all who consider themselves true believers yet use all the medical advancement of the last 80 years reconcile this? We would have to deduce one of two things. Either they don’t really believe what they claim to believe, or, they don’t see it as a contradiction of their belief.
It’s a little of both.
First of all, a moment ago it may have seemed easy to criticize the Neumann’s thinking as delusional or fanatical. If we’re honest, however, from the religious view, the Neumanns or other similar people who choose to die rather than “turn their back on God” are actually among the minute number of the devout who are not hypocrites since they truly have faith in what they claim to believe. They have committed themselves and paid the highest price – the loss of their child. All who claim to be among the faithful but still accept the “forbidden technology of yesterday” somehow fall short of their commitment since they use doctors, insulin, and antibiotics etc., all of which were all but banned by the previous generation’s religious authorities.
Apparently these leaders who condemned new technology were only trying to preserve what they thought God would want. In the following paragraphs I hope to show how religious leaders who were trying to protect tradition were not only wrong but how this reverence for tradition and fear of change still continues and constantly penalizes humanity even today. We will see that it has always been the “fanatical left wing” of ages past that allow people today to live much longer – and comfortable lives. (as well as the freedoms we enjoy today) Those heretics often paid the ultimate price for their rational thinking since the religious leaders of the day had the power to kill those who disagreed with the churches’ position on things. We can thank the likes of Giordano Bruno, Copernicus and Martin Luther for the freedom we all now enjoy.
Every time someone “feels it’s not right” to fund stem cell research, clone human beings, genetically modify crops etc. it is because they feel it is immoral or unethical – obviously this in accordance with their value systems which are rooted in religious views. As in the Pope example above, yesterdays immoral technology is today’s savior. It will be the same for this generation as well. Today’s immoral technology will be tomorrow’s savior; it’s just that it takes some years for the masses to understand that it is something which is beneficial and not to be feared. (For all you middle-agers, you may remember your initial reaction to in vitro fertilization being a negative one but then gradually accepting that it was beneficial and did not create the “monsters” we were warned about by the respective moral majority in the 70’s. Again, it takes a while for most people to see the benefits and stop fearing new discoveries and developments) This is why, in the 90’s, Rael asked all politicians who vote against stem cell research and human cloning to sign an agreement that they or their loved ones and descendants agree to never use this technology when it finally becomes available – because those who vote against it are impeding progress – always on ethical or moral grounds. As Raelians, we argue the opposite – that impeding technology is actually a crime against humanity because it is always, always science and technology which saves lives. Not prayer.
Most Christians and Muslims in this age readily accept the fact that all the prayer in the world will not bring back a dead child or grow back an amputated leg. Yet most of the same people would not hesitate to pray for a cancer patient or victim of a car accident. Why? It’s really, really interesting. Apparently they feel that God may intervene with cancer but not in a case of frostbite or gangrene??
So is faith like the Neumanns’ admirable or lunacy?
It seems that all but those few like Mr. and Mrs. Neumann have realized that God will never answer certain prayers yet still believe that God will somehow reply to others. It can’t be because God is incapable of replacing an amputated leg. Surely for an omnipotent God this would be as simple to give a leg back as to cure cancer, would it not? Hospital studies have shown prayer has no more effect than positive thinking alone does and in the end, it seems rather convenient to not pray for the amputee and still pray for the cancer patient.
It’s also possible that, after the death of their children, the parents of these children resigned themselves to the notion that “it was not in God’s plan” that their daughter live. Most people who see their prayers are not answered decide that God did not reply because what they were asking for is not in the Divine Plan. If, as believers claim, sickness, suffering and death are a part of God’s plan, why would a person of faith want to pray for anything that might go against God’s plan? And it seems unnecessary to pray for God’s Plan to take place since that’s what will happen anyway. ;-) If, on the other hand, prayer is acceptable and one believes it can heal the sick then why don’t amputees pray fervently for the return of their limb? If we really think about the question we know the answer but most people avoid the question.
As the religious leaders always told humanity, every disease is God’s will, his retribution for something or test of faith for those like the Neumanns. That would also mean that every drowning, car accident, tidal wave or volcanic eruption is God’s will since this God created everything including viruses, Ecoli, cancer and many other killers. Every tornado, every hurricane, every plane crash has been God’s will. This would mean that all the paramedics, firemen and rescue teams are working against God’s Plan, too. Hang on. It gets even more confusing. ;-)
After any given plane crash, thousands of mourners have comforted themselves by saying “Well, it was her time to go. God wanted her back”. But what about all the other people who were in the plane? And what about the pilots? Was it their day, too? The flight attendants, too? Did God really plant the urge for them to all go to school to learn their skill just to take all of their lives together in one plane crash? That’s a lot of controlling on God’s part to get a couple of hundred people together who are supposed to die all at the same time – along with the planned tens of thousands of people who die every day in one way or another.
Pro-lifers also fail to follow their belief to its logical conclusion by admitting that every abortion and would also be in God’s Divine Plan so why do Christians try to change abortion laws? (yet a large percentage of them still support the death penalty) Because according to the Divine Plan mechanism, all abortions were planned by God all along. And we shouldn’t forget that millions of pregnancies spontaneously abort or miscarry. Is it God’s Plan to conceive the first few cells of a embryo but then miscarry it after a few hours, days or months? No wonder most people say that God’s Plan is too complex for humans to understand!
Following this rational questioning into a Divine Plan further, we should ask more questions which would only add to this growing list of these quandaries. Things like history’s endless wars where men have always marched into battle crying “God is on our side” while the enemy’s God is also on their side praying for victory. To put it less serious terms, only one football team can win even though both teams’ members are praying for victory. :-)
There are billions of devout who view the Bible or Koran as the only good and true value system to live by. With well thought out commitment to a god, there are followers who would bomb an abortion clinic to save embryoes yet still support the death penalty for human beings who are only suffering from mental illness, as any person capable of harming another person is surely suffering from an illness. They would protect a few cells which are not a human being yet kill a mentally ill person who has committed a crime. There are millions who consider themselves among God’s most faithful who have reconciled divorce thanks to someone they’re not even aware of, King Henry the VIII, who bucked the religious system of his day and started a new thought which allowed divorce. Divorce is another luxury billions (in the more free countries) have today thanks to a revolutionary. As stated above, it’s always the revolutionaries who pave the way for the next generations. It’s never the conservatives.
Another example would be the fact that there are very, very few “hard cores” still on Earth who consider living every word of the Bible or Koran to mean that they should indeed stone adulterers – yet even among these, one would be hard pressed to find one of them who would still say we should kill any man or child who have touched a football. (since it is the skin of a pig and punishable by death according to ancient scripture)
Maybe the most dangerous of all, there are hundreds of millions who believe that there is a hell awaiting all who do not heed God’s warning – a supposed all-loving God who would condemn the person who chose the wrong religion. And since Christianity and Islam both warn of such a place, we can ascertain that at least one of them is wrong. So does our eternal fate rest upon our choosing the right one of these two choices? Or just because of where we were born since we might be raised Hindu in India, Muslim in Egypt, Buddhist in Viet Nam, Christian in the US? Is it really the flip of a coin which decides out eternal fate? Now that’s a huge amount of pressure! After all, we’re talking eternity here!
The examples are many, and the interesting thing here is that not all believers agree on every detail as to what is permissible or punishable. As we see here, these conundrums create a myriad of questions and contradictions which are so deep and so numerous that it’s mind boggling. There is more fear here than there is love and it’s impossible for love and fear to occupy the same mind at the same time. It’s obvious that when the fear mechanism is engaged in the brain that all higher thinking such as love and compassion shut down since the brain is in survival mode.
Or, lastly, maybe the parents who left their child’s life entirely up to their faith have deduced that their faith was just not strong enough? At any rate, there has never been a case of prayer raising the dead and all the prayers the world will not bring these children back to life – no matter the strength of faith.
So when should we use faith and when should we use reason? And how much to mix these things? Were the religious leaders from 60 years ago correct? Should we have never created the medical procedures which have save millions of lives? The source of all the varying degrees of interpretation seems to be the context in which things are interpreted. It is the context in which people interpret the Bible or Koran which varies – and context is everything. Context is interpretation and interpretation is context. They dance intertwined together, even interchangeable with one other, one completely depending on the other.
Do believers think about all this? Admittedly, it is a lot. And if they do, they have only two options. Either they bog down and have to say that “God’s plan is too complex for man to understand”, or, they become an atheist because they realize that rational thinking proves there is no God. Oh wait; there is a 3rd option which is related to discovering one is an atheist. Many discover they are Raelian. :-)
Raelians happen to find that the explanation Rael brings is a very rational, understandable context in which science and spirituality easily coexist together without contradicting each other – unlike the present accepted paradigm of faith which wrestles to protect old interpretation and context. (Losing match after match to scientific discovery) For Raelians, the Messages from The Elohim given to Rael can be likened to putting on a good set of glasses in that everything comes into focus. Why? Because a human being can understand what was written instead of believe what is written on the page of these ancient holy texts by primitive men who had no idea of the universe around them. This is why the rational message which the Prophet Rael brings is so well received by Raelians. For Raelians, there are just too many conundrums which cannot be answered by using the God paradigm. For Raelians, the answers offered by this way of thinking are not rational to a human being living in this era. We had the right to believe such things 100, 1000, 3000 years ago but not in this age. Humanity is like an adolescent – one foot in childhood and one foot in adulthood and it is seemingly difficult for us to give up the adult equivalents of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy etc.
For many years, the Prophet Rael has pointed out that most people who believe in a god don’t take their child to a church if the child falls ill. They take them to a doctor. This is perfectly normal and of course we feel it’s the wise thing to do. Apparently more than 99% of those who consider themselves faithful do the same thing. They use reason for some things but faith for others. It depends entirely on the circumstance. Cancer gets prayer. Gangrene victims get reason. As stated before, we need to always remember that today’s reason was yesterday’s heresy. It’s is so simple that it eludes most of us. Reason is constantly evolving as science removes one mystery of life after another and it is fought by the conservatives at every step. It happened in to Copernicus as well as others before him. It continues today not because the church has been right all along but because our view of the world is continuously evolving as science explains one mystery after another which religious leaders have always claimed the monopoly. Like a line in the sand, science crosses the line and the religious leaders who claim man is meddling in God’s affairs have to back up and draw a new line. And science crosses that one – and the next. No wonder religious leaders try to impede science. ;-) The Prophet Rael was pointing this out in the 90’s when cloning was hitting the mainstream. Everyone seemed to be against it for the same old reasons and Rael pointed out how, only 20 years before, the public had the same reaction to IVF and that all who opposed it (95% of the population) were wrong. The babies were not monsters and in fact were extremely well balanced people because they were so intensely desired and loved – even more than most of us who were “surprises” to our parents.
Yet while science, with daily discoveries from the infinitely small to the infinitely large dissolves the myth of God, it has also left a huge void regarding spirituality and still struggles with the precise contextual history in which so many archaeological artifacts and paleontological discoveries are found. Yes, science has its “white robed priests”, too and bucking the evolution system draws fierce fire from them. Because of this, science still largely ignores the traces left by humanity’s true Creators, the Elohim who were the objects of veneration in every great religion. Raelians realize that, as Einstein said, “There cannot be a watch without a watchmaker” yet the idea of an omnipotent God is no longer believable since we are starting to live in an age of reason and understanding and no longer have to only “believe”. The very reason we adhere to Raelism so freely is because it is the only option which answers the questions which God or Evolution do not answer.
Concerning the relationship of faith and science: We thought we would go on record here and state clearly that while we are all about the science and progress, we still definitely pray. :-) When we pray, it is only to thank and rejoice in the life The Elohim have given us. Each of us were only little particles of dust until The Elohim made it possible for this dust to be animated, to breathe, to laugh, to have pleasure, to give love. They did this through science and love. Not by faith or magic. But I suppose love is magical. :-)
So Raelians indeed have faith - in science - and they know that whatever happens to them is their own doing. Those who created us will never intervene in the course of our life. It is our duty to make it a masterpiece as a tribute to them… quite a challenging endeavor, but a much more fun to live than expecting some immaterial power to take charge of one’s destiny.