As scientists prove that faith can relieve pain, distinguished psychologist Dorothy Rowe examines the case for and against religion
I’m not religious, but I have thought about religion all of my life. My mother never attended church but she insisted that I went to St Andrew’s Church, a cold, unfriendly place filled with cold, unfriendly people. At home, my father, an atheist, would read aloud to us from the essays of Robert Ingersoll, the 19th-century militant atheist.
Ingersoll’s prose had the music and majesty of King James’s Bible. I loved the language of them both. I learned how to use Ingersoll’s logic to examine the teachings of the Bible. My disapproval of the cruelty and vanity of the Presbyterian God knew no bounds, but I felt at home with Jesus, whom I saw as a kind, loving man like my father.
God had not been in the trenches, or anywhere else, with the ex-Servicemen whom I met at university. When religion was discussed, we listed the cruelties and stupidities of religion throughout history, just as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens were to do 40 years later.
However, when I went to work in psychiatric hospitals, I realised that criticising religion was not enough. I needed to understand why religion becomes an integral part of a person’s life – and doesn’t cease to be so when such beliefs cause the person much pain and guilt, or lead him to commit murder, even to the point of genocide.
Although they had not recognised it, my depressed or psychotic patients were struggling with the questions that theologians and philosophers had struggled with for thousands of years. “What will happen to me when I die?” “How can I be a good person?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
Siegfried, a depressed, alcoholic psychiatrist, told me about his uncle, who was in the RAF during the war. He provided the love and concern for Siegfried that was lacking in Siegfried’s parents. He said: “Then, one day his aeroplane came down a bit too fast.
“Up to that time, aged 13, I’d had some vague concept of God – I sang in the church choir every Sunday. My last memories of any contact with God was that particular night when I called Him all the filthy language I knew. I thought, if He exists, He’s a s–t.” I asked him how he felt about God now. He said, ‘If He exists, He’s a s–t’.”
Unable to find satisfactory answers about the meaning of their existence, the psychotic patients had constructed very idiosyncratic fantasies. Ella was a beautiful 16-year-old who had become withdrawn and isolated. Her parents had taken time to recognise that there was a problem because, to them, she was the perfectly obedient child they wanted.
Ella’s mother told me: “I always obeyed my parents and I expect my children to obey me.” Fearing her parents’ anger, Ella learned to avoid all spontaneous decisions and actions. She told me: “I’ve begun to wonder whether I’m the only person who’s really alive – the only living person. Everyone else is a vision. I’m living each person’s life in turn.”
A stampede at a hill-top temple in western India killed more than 147 people and wounded 55 others who had gathered to celebrate the start of a religious holiday on Tuesday, police said.
More than 25,000 devotees were trying to reach the 15th-century temple through a steep and narrow pathway when the stampede occurred around dawn Tuesday, officials said.
The Chamunda Devi temple is located inside a fort atop a hill in Jodhpur, the second-largest city and a popular tourist destination in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
Authorities do not know what prompted the rush, but state Police Chief K.S. Bains rejected as “baseless” reports that it was triggered by rumors of a bomb.
“But one thing is clear that a cascading effect did take place as it was a slope where it happened,” he said.
India has been on edge in recent days after a string of deadly bombings across the country.
The crowd had gathered to celebrate the start of Navaratri or nine nights. For nine nights and 10 days, Hindus worship the various forms of a Hindu goddess.
Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria told reporters that police had planned for the event and deployed “enough” officers for crowd control. But the massive numbers overwhelmed them.
Good thing she did, we can’t very well have a vice president flying around on magical brooms, now can we?
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A grainy YouTube video surfaced Wednesday showing Sarah Palin being blessed in her hometown church three years ago by a Kenyan pastor who prayed for her protection from “witchcraft” as she prepared to seek higher office.
The video shows Palin standing before Bishop Thomas Muthee in the pulpit of the Wasilla Assembly of God church, holding her hands open as he asked Jesus Christ to keep her safe from “every form of witchcraft.”
“Come on, talk to God about this woman. We declare, save her from Satan,” Muthee said as two attendants placed their hands on Palin’s shoulders. “Make her way my God. Bring finances her way even for the campaign in the name of Jesus. … Use her to turn this nation the other way around.”
Palin filed campaign papers a few months later, in October 2005, and was elected governor the next year.
Palin does not say anything on the video and keeps her head bowed throughout the blessing. The Republican vice presidential candidate was baptized at the church but stopped attending regularly in 2002.
A spokesman for the McCain campaign declined to comment. A person who answered the phone at the Wasilla church confirmed the video was from May 2005 but declined further comment.
Palin was baptized Roman Catholic as a newborn.
Pentecostals are conservative in their reading of the Bible. Unlike most other Christians â€” including most evangelicals â€” Pentecostals believe in “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” That can manifest itself through speaking in tongues, modern-day prophesy and faith healing, which includes the laying on of hands.
Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign, has said Palin attends different churches and does not consider herself Pentecostal.
On a visit to the church in June 2008, Palin spoke fondly of the Kenyan pastor and told a group of young missionaries that Muthee’s prayers had helped her to become governor.
“Pastor Muthee was here and he was praying over me, and you know how he speaks and he’s so bold,” she said. “And he was praying ‘Lord make a way, Lord make a way’ … He said, ‘Lord make a way and let her do this next step.’ And that’s exactly what happened.”
The Rev. Zipporah Ndiritu, who studied under Muthee in the Kiambu, Kenya-based Word of Faith Church, said the bishop is revered among evangelicals there. In a phone interview from Mombasa, Kenya, she said church doctrine focuses on ridding the world of demons â€” and witches.
“Even in the days of Jesus Christ, according to the Bible there were witches who were manifesting through demonic forces,” she said. “You can seek from the Lord, and if you find demonic forces you cast them out.”
Ndiritu said she did not know Palin.
By Roger Ebert
Questions and answers on Creationism, which should be discussed in schools as an alternative to the theory of evolution:
Q. When was the earth created?
A. Archbishop James Usher, working out a chronology from the Bible, calculated in 1654 that the earth was created on the night of October 23, 4004 B.C. Other timetables reach back as far as 10,000 years.
Q. What about oil and coal, which seem to have been generated from ancient forests millions of years ago?
A. They are evidence of a Great Flood about 4,400 years ago, which laid down all the layers of sediment at once. They are nowhere near as old as evolutionists and archeologists say. A fossil claimed to be 200 million years old, found in Nevada in 1917, shows a shoe print. [See photograph]
Q. What about bones representing such species as Cro-Magnon Man and Neanderthal Man?
A. Created at the same time as man. They did not survive. In fact, all surviving species and many others were created fully formed at the same time. At that moment they were of various ages and in varying degrees of health. Some individuals died an instant later, others within seconds, minutes or hours.
Q. Were there ice ages lasting millions of years?
A. No, but a recent and catastrophic Ice Epoch.
Q. Did the Colorado River carve out the mile-deep Grand Canyon over eons?
A. It was the result of Ice Epochs, the Great Flood and other catastrophes within the last 64 to 100 centuries.
Q. Was there a Noah, and did he have an Ark?
A. Certainly. There are many unverified reports of a massive wooden vessel on Mount Ararat. The Arc contained eight people, from whom we are all descended. It also contained two of each kind of animal. Since living species were obviously not created through an evolutionary process, every surviving land-based mammal species (about 5,400) had both ancestors on the Arc.
Q: What about dinosaurs?
A. They walked the earth at the same time as man, but were wiped out by the Flood, whose turbulence buried their bones in non-sequential sediments.
Q. What did the creatures on the Ark eat?
A. Food on board, fish, and possibly trapped sea birds.
Q. How long did the Great Flood last?
A. We know that Noah was 600 years, two months and 17 days old when he sailed. Using that as a starting point and counting forward, Genesis tells us it lasted for 40, 150, 253, 314 or 370 days.
Q. Since the earth was completely covered, even to the highest mountains, where did the waters go?
A. This is explained in Psalm 104, verses 6 and 7: “Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains. At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.”
Q. What about such cosmic phenomena as the rings of Saturn?
A. Evidence of a catastrophic collision between Saturn and another object within the same 10,000-year span.
Q. Why would God create such an absurd creature as a moose?
A. In charity, we must observe that the moose probably does not seem absurd to itself.
Let me confess that I was genuinely unnerved by‘s performance at the Republican convention. Given her audience and the needs of the moment, I believe Governor Palin’s speech was the most effective political communication I have ever witnessed. Here, finally, was a performer whoâ€”being maternal, wounded, righteous and sexyâ€”could stride past the frontal cortex of every American and plant a three-inch heel directly on that limbic circuit that ceaselessly intones “God and country.” If anyone could make Christian theocracy smell like apple pie, Sarah Palin could.
Then came Palin’s first television interview with. I was relieved to discover, as many were, that Palin’s luster can be much diminished by the absence of a teleprompter. Still, the problem she poses to our political process is now much bigger than she is. Her fans seem inclined to forgive her any indiscretion short of cannibalism. However badly she may stumble during the remaining weeks of this campaign, her supporters will focus their outrage upon the journalist who caused her to break stride, upon the camera operator who happened to capture her fall, upon the television network that broadcast the good lady’s misfortuneâ€”and, above all, upon the “liberal elites” with their highfalutin assumption that, in the 21st century, only a reasonably well-educated person should be given command of our nuclear arsenal.
The point to be lamented is not that Sarah Palin comes from outside Washington, or that she has glimpsed so little of the earth’s surface (she didn’t have a passport until last year), or that she’s never met a foreign head of state. The point is that she comes to us, seeking the second most important job in the world, without any intellectual training relevant to the challenges and responsibilities that await her. There is nothing to suggest that she even sees a role for careful analysis or a deep understanding of world events when it comes to deciding the fate of a nation. In her interview with Gibson, Palin managed to turn a joke about seeing Russia from her window into a straight-faced claim that Alaska’s geographical proximity to Russia gave her some essential foreign-policy experience. Palin may be a perfectly wonderful person, a loving mother and a great American success storyâ€”but she is a beauty queen/sports reporter who stumbled into small-town politics, and who is now on the verge of stumbling into, or upon, world history.
The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin’s lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. “They think they’re better than you!” is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. “Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!” Yes, all too ordinary.
We have all now witnessed apparently sentient human beings, once provoked by a reporter’s microphone, saying things like, “I’m voting for Sarah because she’s a mom. She knows what it’s like to be a mom.” Such sentiments suggest an uncanny (and, one fears, especially American) detachment from the real problems of today. The next administration must immediately confront issues like nuclear proliferation, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and covert wars elsewhere), global climate change, a convulsing economy, Russian belligerence, the rise of China, emerging epidemics, Islamism on a hundred fronts, a defunct United Nations, the deterioration of American schools, failures of energy, infrastructure and Internet security â€¦ the list is long, and Sarah Palin does not seem competent even to rank these items in order of importance, much less address any one of them.
Palin’s most conspicuous gaffe in her interview with Gibson has been widely discussed. The truth is, I didn’t much care that she did not know the meaning of the phrase “Bush doctrine.” And I am quite sure that her supporters didn’t care, either. Most people view such an ambush as a journalistic gimmick. What I do care about are all the other things Palin is guaranteed not to knowâ€”or will be glossing only under the frenzied tutelage of John McCain’s advisers. What doesn’t she know about financial markets, Islam, the history of the Middle East, the cold war, modern weapons systems, medical research, environmental science or emerging technology? Her relative ignorance is guaranteed on these fronts and most others, not because she was put on the spot, or got nervous, or just happened to miss the newspaper on any given morning. Sarah Palin’s ignorance is guaranteed because of how she has spent the past 44 years on earth.
It’s nice to see the pope feel compassion for those who’s existence is marked by pain and suffering by telling them to suck it up and deal with it.
LOURDES, France (AP) â€” Pope Benedict XVI urged ailing pilgrims to accept death “at the hour chosen by God,” reasserting the Vatican’s opposition to euthanasia on Monday at an open-air Mass for the sick in Lourdes.
Benedict administered the sacrament of the sick to pilgrims outside the French shrine reputed for its curative powers. In the crowd, many pilgrims in wheelchairs and on gurneys were bundled in quilts against the chill.
In his homily, the pope said the ill should pray to find “the grace to accept, without fear or bitterness, to leave this world at the hour chosen by God.” The Vatican vehemently maintains that life must continue to its natural end.
The message has special resonance in Europe. Belgium and the Netherlands have legalized euthanasia, and Switzerland allows counselors or physicians to prepare a lethal dose, though patients must take it on their own.
France permits patients to refuse treatment that can keep them alive but stops short of allowing euthanasia. The debate in France was revived this year with the death of a woman whose tumor burrowed through her head, leaving her with constant pain, hemorrhaging and difficulty eating.
Benedict’s Mass for the sick outside the gold mosaic facade of the Basilica of the Rosary was the final stop of his visit to Lourdes. The shrine in the foothills of the French Pyrenees draws 6 million pilgrims a year, many of whom believe that Lourdes’ spring water has the power to heal and even work miracles.
Helped by attendants, the sick bathe in pools of the cool water and take it home in plastic jugs and vials in the shape of the Virgin Mary. Thousands of people have claimed to be cured here, and the Roman Catholic church has officially recognized 67 incidents of miraculous healing linked to Lourdes.
At the close of Mass, Benedict anointed 10 ailing pilgrims, ranging from a teenage boy to an elderly nun in a white habit. He gently touched their foreheads and palms with oil and addressed each one in his or her own language.
The pope urged the ailing to remember that “dignity never abandons the sick person.”
“Unfortunately we know only too well: the endurance of suffering can upset life’s most stable equilibrium, it can shake the firmest foundations of confidence, and sometimes even leads people to despair of the meaning and value of life,” the pope said.
“There are struggles that we cannot sustain alone, without the help of divine grace,” he said.
Maryse Bargain, a 48-year-old woman from the Brittany region of northwest France, was among those praying for healing. She expressed hope that the pope, “someone else or the Virgin” might help cure the blindness she has suffered from since birth.
Benedict planned his trip to mark the 150th anniversary of visions of the Virgin Mary to a Lourdes peasant girl, 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous, who was later named a saint. On Monday he wrapped up a visit of sites linked to Bernadette’s life, stopping at the chapel where she received her First Communion.
The pontiff departed by plane for Rome en route to the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo after his four-day trip to Paris and Lourdes â€” his first visit to France since his election as pope in 2005.
Benedict said he hoped to return to France though that decision was “in the hands of God.”
The Church of England will tomorrow officially apologise to Charles Darwin for misunderstanding his theory of evolution.
In a bizarre step, the Church will address its contrition directly to the Victorian scientist himself, even though he died 126 years ago.
But the move was greeted with derision last night, with Darwinâ€™s great-great-grandson dismissing it as â€˜pointlessâ€™ and other critics branding it â€˜ludicrousâ€™.
Church officials compared the apology to the late Pope John Paul IIâ€™s decision to say sorry for the Vaticanâ€™s 1633 trial of Galileo, the astronomer who appalled prelates by declaring that the earth revolved around the sun.
The officials said that senior bishops wanted to atone for the vilification their predecessors heaped on Darwin in the 1860s, when he put forward his theory that man was descended from apes.
The Church is also anxious to counter the view that its teaching is incompatible with science. It wants to distance itself from fundamentalist Christians, who believe in the Biblical account of the creation of the world in seven days.
An article to be posted on the Churchâ€™s website will say: â€˜Charles Darwin, 200 years from your birth [in 1809], the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still.
â€˜But the struggle for your reputation is not over yet, and the problem is not just your religious opponents but those who falsely claim you in support of their own interests.â€™
The article has been written by the Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, the director of mission and public affairs of the Archbishopsâ€™ Council, the Churchâ€™s managing body, which is headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
Why is this man said to have “significant mental health issues” because he said that god asked him to kill evil people? If he claimed that god asked him to attend church and sing songs and praise and all that, would he be more sane?
SEATTLE – Authorities said the man accused of a shooting rampage that left six people dead in northwest Washington stole the guns used in the attacks as well as a pickup truck involved in a high-speed chase.
According to court documents unsealed Wednesday in Skagit County District Court, Isaac Zamora stole a rifle, a handgun and ammunition from a residence near his mother’s home in the small town of Alger, about 70 miles north of Seattle.
The Sept. 2 shootings that claimed the life of a Skagit County sheriff‘s deputy, two Alger area residents and two construction workers, continued as the shooter fled south on Interstate 5, firing at two cars and a Washington State Patrol trooper on the freeway, fatally injuring one driver.
After a high-speed police pursuit, Zamora, 28, surrendered at a sheriff’s office in Mount Vernon, about 20 miles south of Alger.
Zamora has been charged with six counts of murder and four counts of assault. He is being held on $5 million bail with his next court appearance set for Oct. 3.
According to court documents, in a police interview after his arrest Zamora refused to discuss his specific actions but said God told him what to do and told him to “kill evil.”
“God, why did I do it?” he blurted at one point in the interview.
Zamora’s only comment in court when he was charged last Friday was to twice declare: “I kill for God. I listen to God.”
Keith Tyne, a public defender appointed to represent Zamora, has said little about the case. After Zamora was charged, Tyne said, “Clearly there are significant mental health issues at play.”
According to the documents, the events on Sept. 2 began with a 911 call from Dennise Zamora, the mother of Isaac Zamora, who called police because she was afraid her son was breaking into neighbor’s houses, and might get shot doing so. Dennise Zamora has said her son has struggled for years with serious mental illness.