All that talk about life after death . . .

March 18, 2009 | By | 5 Replies More

Highly religious people should be more willing to say goodbye to the material world, right? It turns out that devout believers cling ferociously to Earthly life. That’s the finding of a new study reported by the Center for Inquiry:

[T]erminal cancer patients who reported drawing comfort from religion were significantly more likely to demand heroic care during their final week of life than those less attached to faith. Strong believers were also significantly less likely to engage in advance-care planning activities like making a living will, signing a do-not-resuscitate order, or naming a health-care proxy.

The difference between religious and non-religious was not trivial:

Only 3.6 percent of the least religious received mechanical ventilation during the final week of life, compared to 11.3 percent of the most religious.


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Category: Health, Medicine, Psychology Cognition, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    Perhaps they finally realize how much of this life they've wasted preparing for the next. Toward the end they feel a stronger drive to try to claim more of this one.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Another common contradiction (in my view) are the Christians who claim that they are commanded to help the poor, but then they proudly revel in abject materialism. The Joel Osteen crowd, for example. Many of them also have no concern about squandering the planet's resources and making things difficult for the next generation has no relevance to the Creator's wishes, despite their reverence for the creation story wherein God took great care to give us a beautiful place to live.

    I'm sure they don't see these as contradictions.

  3. Erich writes—"Another common contradiction (in my view) are the Christians who claim that they are commanded to help the poor, but then they proudly revel in abject materialism."

    A very American kind of contradiction, though one practiced around the world and at all times. In the early Republic, the Baptist, Anabaptist, and Methodist churches strove to bring the newly independent Americans "back to god." One of the ways they did it was by joining the idea of godliness to success—god rewards the righteous. The idea became so entrenched that the so-called Protestant Work Ethic took on megalomaniacal proportions in the 1820s to 1840s—so much so that the suicide rate among the middle classes was higher than at any other time in American history, due to the self-reproach at failure to succeed. We've never quite recovered from that "very successful" formulation.

  4. The clinging to life exhibited by the faithful seems to me to be a consequence of the fact that the benefit of such faith in terms of sense of self are entirely based in the here and now. How can you be faithful if you're dead? How can you reap the rewards of devotion when the reason for it is gone?

    The flip side, of course, is the gnawing uncertainty that comes from the idea of Hell.

    My opinion, of course.

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I have been near death on 3 different occasions. When I was young, I suffered an accidental electrocution, as a teen I almost died from complications of gastro-enteritus, and about 11 years ago, from a case of Fournier's Gangrene, which, at the time is was diagnosed, was dangerously close to dissemination, in which case i would not be here today.

    Obviously I did not suddenly convert into a believer. The first two times, I had learned how close I had come to not being long after each incident, but the third time I was told as I was rushed to emergency surgery that I had about a 20 percent chance of survival. I felt sad for my wife and kids who rely on me so much, but I had no fear of death. I realise I haven't done great things, but I don't feel a need to prove myself as some requirement of entry into an afterlife.

    So I don't try to live my life as a means of buying my way into Heaven, Paradise, Olympus, Asgaard, Sto-Vo-Kor, or some other afterlife. Why do I choose to be instead of not to be? I'm just too danced curious to see what happens next.

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