Sat | Jul 20, 2019

Ethon Lowe | Let go of God

Published:Friday | July 12, 2019 | 12:17 AM
Paulette Ferguson raises her hands in prayer at Emmanuel Apostolic Church on Slipe Road, Kingston, in the commemoration of the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. File
Dr Ethon Lowe
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On Father’s Day, fathers are exhorted “to be strong in their faith”. Not to be left out, the young must “grow in their faith”. And let’s not forget the sick, “healed in their faith”.

But what is faith? “The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrew 11:1) Faith in prayers didn’t help the very sick three-year-old girl I saw recently. Her mother had used prayers to treat her sickness. Tragically, she succumbed to her illness.

Another patient, a 70-year-old with terminal breast cancer, refused medical treatment that would most certainly have prolonged her life. She placed all her trust in God. Who can blame the mother and the lady for thinking that their prayers would be answered. Didn’t Jesus say, “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive?” (Matt. 21:22)

Introduced to faith at an early age, children at Christmas eagerly await Santa Claus. Hoping to receive some of Santa’s somewhat dubious benevolence, young tyrants and mischief-makers become suddenly transformed into little angels overnight, for the sake of the toys and dolls they will get.

Christians will no doubt find this unquestioning faith in an omniscient God-like Santa strikingly familiar. But the young are fooled only for a time, and their rational minds quickly dispel the Santa myth and consign this plump, red-suited, bearded old man, along with the tooth fairy and rolling calf, to the land of make-believe.

Letting go of God is rather more difficult. Born in religion, slavishly obedient to their pastor and their parents, Christian believers have no need for healthy scepticism. They pay homage to the Christian God. Never mind that if they were born in India, their God would be Vishnu or Shiva; in Iran, Allah.

most afraid of death

Does faith make life less anxious and more certain? Consider a Christian who is told by her doctor that she has only months to live. Why doesn’t she beam with excited anticipation: “I can’t wait to die and go to Heaven.” Why don’t her friends and relatives shower her with “congratulations”. Anecdotal evidence shows that individuals who are most afraid of death are the religious ones.

The Jehovah Witnesses contend that only a select few, 144,000, will enter the Pearly Gates, grim statistics for the other billions of Christians left out in the cold. Roman Catholics believe in transubstantiation – that the communion wafer and wine become the body and blood of Christ. With profundities like this, no surprise that it is losing sheep to the other denominations.

Here’s my suggestion for attracting calorie-conscious sheep: How about a communion wafer with half the fat and a third fewer calories. They could call it “I can’t believe it’s not Jesus.”

Harmless you say. Consider the following. The Jehovah Witnesses routinely reject blood transfusions, citing biblical passages like Leviticus 17:10 (“I will even set my face against that soul who eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people.”) Deprived of life-saving blood, many children (who have no say in their medical care) will die. This is child abuse.

The Christian Scientists reject modern medicine in favour of prayer and faith healing. Embryonic stem-cell research has the potential of curing many human diseases, but religion claims that a single, fertilised egg is equivalent to a person, and destroying an early-stage embryo is therefore murder. Faith beliefs can also be lethal: the total unquestioning faith of the Muslim suicide bomber.

Ethon Lowe is a medical doctor. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and ethonlowe@gmail.com.