Deepak Chopra, MD - Washington Post On Faith: Murder by Faith? A Tale of Two Worldviews
What should be done when parents rely on religion instead of medicine to heal sick children?
I doubt that any sensible person would sanction withholding medical treatment for a sick child because of his parents’ religious beliefs, especially when it’s a case of life and death. So far as I know, courts have always sided for treatment. America is a secular society based on the rule of law. Priests who abuse children are not immune to civil law because they have taken vows (even though the Catholic Church for decades acted as if the clergy was immune, treating abuse cases as an “internal matter”). Christian Science is the most prominent denomination that believes in healing through faith, but they have come to terms with medicine as a practical matter in modern life.
Since the issue seems cut and dried, what is there to discuss? — the uncomfortable shadow zone between two world views. Secular society gives special privileges to churches, and politicians cannot succeed without at least paying lip service to a belief in God. Yet as we all know, everything that God once took care of has been usurped over time. Just as we don’t expect God to provide supernatural medical care, so we don’t expect the deity to prevent accidents, divert natural disasters, conquer enemies, or impose divine retribution on wrongdoers. Such expectations were the norm, however, in an age of faith.
For some believers, adapting to a purely secular worldview is abhorrent, and here it is easy to sympathize. Human beings crave meaning, and that often includes a higher meaning. To spend one’s life grinding away at work and accumulating possessions isn’t an adequate substitute. Even a loving family and success isn’t adequate. We are wired to look beyond the material world. It’s been said that all the things denied or unknown to science — beauty, truth, service, morals, compassion, empathy, justice, aesthetics, philosophy, and spirituality — are the very things that make life worth living.
Sadly for believers who take their religion too literally, being dragged into court is backlash from wanting more meaning in their lives. They have been blinded by promises made in the name of God. The priesthood in every society has prospered on such promises, and now that religion wanes every decade, the priesthood needs miracles and Providence and divine love simply to survive. I think the trap of two worldviews won’t end until we arrive at a form of secular spirituality, based on the evolution of consciousness. If someone can experience grace and divine love in their own lives, or if not those things then expanded consciousness, with or without a traditional God, the foundation for such experiences must be their own awareness. Accepting second-hand dogma, however uplifting, always leads to the kind of contradiction these unhappy medical cases exemplify.
Published in the Washington Post OnFaith