Friday, March 20, 2009

Show From: Mar. 20, 2009

Alright! And now it’s time for…Godless Wisdom! Where every week we bring you the greatest thoughts from the brilliant minds of the world’s best thinkers. Today’s Godless Wisdom comes to you from the mind of Penn Jillette, the larger, louder half of the magical duo, Penn & Teller. I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do. You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word "elephant" includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?

So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The atheism part is easy.”


That’s all for Godless Wisdom. Now, onto the news!

First up, we have a report released on Wednesday that says people who claim greater faith in heaven are the most likely to fight to keep their mortal life. The story can be found all over the internet, and the article, if you want to see the whole thing ("Religious Coping and Use of Intensive Life-Prolonging Care Near Death in Patients With Advanced Cancer"), can be found in the Journal of the American Medical Association. We’ll be reading from the New York Times.

--Terminally ill cancer patients who drew comfort from religion were far more likely to seek aggressive, life-prolonging care in the week before they died than were less religious patients and far more likely to want doctors to do everything possible to keep them alive, a study has found.

The patients who were devout were three times as likely as less religious ones to be put on a mechanical ventilator to maintain breathing during the last week of life, and they were less likely to do any advance care planning, like signing a do-not-resuscitate order, preparing a living will or creating a health care proxy, the analysis found.

The study is to be published Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
“People think that spiritual patients are more likely to say their lives are in God’s hands — ’Let what happens happen’ — but in fact we know they want more aggressive care,” said Holly G. Prigerson, the study’s senior author and director of the Center for Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

“To religious people, life is sacred and sanctified,” Dr. Prigerson said, “and there’s a sense they feel it’s their duty and obligation to stay alive as long as possible.”

Aggressive life-prolonging care comes at a cost, however, in terms of both dollars and human suffering. Medicare, the government’s health plan for the elderly, spends about one-third of its budget on people who are in the last year of life, and much of that on patients at the very end of life.

Aggressive end-of-life care can lead to a more painful process of dying, researchers have found, and greater shock and grief for the family members left behind.

The new study used both a questionnaire and interviews to assess the level of reliance on religious faith for comfort among 345 patients with advanced cancer. The patients, most of them belonging to Christian denominations, were followed until they died, about four months on average.

A vast majority of patients, religious or not, did not want heroic measures taken. Still, 11.3 percent of the most religious patients received mechanical ventilation during the last week of life, compared with only 3.6 percent of the least religious.

The most religious patients were also more likely than less religious ones to be resuscitated in the last week of life and to be treated in an intensive-care unit as they died, although those differences may have been due to chance. --

I’m not shocked, not at all. It’s what I’ve been saying all along: most people say that they believe in God and whatnot, but in all reality, when the cards are down, they focus their minds and their fears in the natural world.


Next we have something truly deplorable, coming straight from the Heart of Darkness itself, the Pope condemns condoms, once again. For the complete story, we turn to the New York Times.

--Condoms are not the answer to Africa’s fight against H.I.V., Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday as he began a weeklong trip to the continent. It was the pope’s first explicit statement on an issue that has divided even clergy working with AIDS patients.

Benedict arrived in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, on Tuesday afternoon, greeted by a crowd of people waving flags and snapping cameras. The visit is his first pilgrimage to Africa as pope.
In his four years as pope, Benedict had never directly addressed condom use, although his position is not new. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, often said that sexual abstinence, not condoms, was the best way to prevent the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.

Benedict also said the Roman Catholic Church was at the forefront of the battle against AIDS.
“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope told reporters aboard the plane heading to Yaoundé. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

The pope said a responsible and moral attitude toward sex would help fight the disease.
The Roman Catholic Church rejects the use of condoms as part of its overall teaching against artificial contraception. Senior Vatican officials have advocated fidelity in marriage and abstinence from premarital sex as crucial weapons in the fight against AIDS.

About 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with H.I.V., according to Unaids, a United Nations agency. In 2007, three-quarters of all AIDS deaths worldwide were in the region, as well as two-thirds of all people living with H.I.V.

Rebecca Hodes of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa said that if the pope were serious about preventing H.I.V. infections, then he would focus on promoting wide access to condoms and spreading information on how best to use them.

“Instead, his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans,” said Ms. Hodes, the campaign’s director of policy, communication and research.--

Disgusting. Type Pope Benedict Condoms into the google news search engine and you will find a slew of articles where countries are outright ignoring the Pope’s words and many groups are actively speaking out against him.

The Vatican stepped in a few days later to “clarify” that the Pope only said that condoms risk making the problem worse. The Catholic News Service came out with this report:

--Regarding the reaction provoked by words of the pope on the problem of AIDS, the director of the Vatican press office, Father Federico Lombardi, clarifies that the Holy Father has reaffirmed the position of the Catholic Church and the essential elements of its commitment in combating the terrible scourge of AIDS: first, with education in personal responsibility in the use of sexuality and with reaffirmation of the essential role of marriage and the family; second, with research and implementation of effective treatment of AIDS and making it available to the greatest number of sick people through many health initiatives and institutions; third, with human and spiritual assistance for those with AIDS as for all the suffering, who have always been in the heart of the church. These are the directions in which the church concentrates its commitment. It does not believe that focusing primarily on a wider distribution of condoms is in reality the best, most far-sighted and effective way to oppose the scourge of AIDS and protect human life.--

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