One night many many years ago while I was still toiling in the fields of agnosticism/atheism I was in an awful car accident. My leg was mangled badly and the night after the accident I was home and in PAIN. I mean the kind that just precludes all thought other than “I’m in pain.”
I still consider it one of the longest nights of my life. At night you’re alone and there’s nobody to distract you from the pain. That night around 3 a.m. I was driven to prayer. It was a heartfelt plea to ease my suffering. There I was on the floor, sweating and in pain and praying to God to take away the pain.
At some point shortly after, I fell asleep. And instead of being grateful in the morning I remained the jerk I’d always been and was happy that the meds finally kicked in. Not only that, later I’d use that night to prove to myself and others that there was no God. I’d say that people in the “old days” believed in God probably because there was no pain medication. Life quite simply stunk and if you or someone you loved wasn’t suffering from cholera, the black plague, or tuberculosis you probably had a toothache severe enough to keep you up nights. So I said people were driven to God just because life was so hard. Us advanced 20th century types didn’t need God anymore. We had Vicodin.
But now that I’ve changed a bit I sometimes wonder if people back in the “old days” didn’t know something that us enlightened twenty first century folks have forgotten.
A story from Howrah.com:
It’s time to throw away pain-killers from medicine box: Scientists have proved that faith and belief in God can relieve pain.
Researchers at the Oxford Centre For Science Of The Mind, in Oxford University, in a study published in the journal Pain, conducted an experiment with electric shocks on 12 Roman Catholics and 12 atheists as they studied a painting of the Virgin Mary.
The Catholics in the experiment seemed to be able to block out much of the pain as they were able to activate part of the brain associated with conditioning the experience of pain, reported the Mail on Sunday. The study also found that participants who had strong religious belief could moderate their pain by thinking about it more positively. The experiment was conducted as part of a series by the Oxford academics — scientists, philosophers and theologians. It involved strapping a sparking device on the back of every participant’s left hand to deliver an electric shock. They were also asked to contemplate two paintings, Italian painter Sassoferrato’s 17th century Virgin Annunciate (Virgin Mary) and Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th century Lady With An Ermine.
The participants were not told the true purpose of the experiment, only that it was designed to judge how people felt pain while contemplating pictures of different things. They were made to spend half-an-hour inside an MRI scanner, receiving a series of 20 electric shocks in four separate sessions while looking at either one of the paintings. The researchers hoped that the Virgin Mary painting would induce a religious state of mind in the believers and the da Vinci painting was chosen as it did not look dissimilar and would be calming. The researchers found that the Catholics felt “safe,” “taken care of” and “clamed down and peaceful,” said that looking at the painting of the Virgin Mary. They reported feeling 12 per cent less pain after viewing the religious image.
So at this point we have studies which indicate that religious people recover better from illness, they’re happier, and they deal with pain better. Oh yeah and they don’t fear death as much. Man, I’m sure glad I’m not an atheist salesman nowadays. “Hey buy into atheism, your life will be miserable and pain filled and you’ll fear death a lot. But don’t worry, death will probably come to you sooner because you don’t recover as fast as those dopey religious types.” Maybe Richard Dawkins’next book will include all this.