G. B. Shaw said: "The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is not more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one." With so many believers about, what is a poor atheist to do? The ultimate insult is walking into the brand new offices of my dermatologist today -- he bought a modern, well-accounted professional building of five stories in the heart of town, partly on my money -- and reading on the wall, in huge chrome-like lettering, the quotation from the prophet Isaiah, 7th chapter, about the "coming Messiah." My only thought was, That's somewhat original. Many would would quote a canonical.
My dermatologist is as happy as anyone I've ever met. He is also a genius. I do not use that word loosely. To me, it implies a "God"-given talent for something, and by "God" I mean DNA. My dermatologist is a person of high I.Q. and outgoing disposition. Or so he seems. The Christian fundamentalism bothers me, though. I would complain, but, hey, he appears to be the only dermatologist in town (a city of about 375,000) who takes my Part B Medicare insurance. (We have a dozen or so dermatologists, including my mother's: DNA also provided me with her skin, which was fair and moley. Moles can develop into melanoma, the Big "M," one cancer that scares the devil out of me, you should pardon the expression.) Discretion was the better part of valor.
At least until I got to the huge reception room. On the tables were copies of a local megachurch pastor's silly book about, among other things, why we should not worship Baal. It seems that Baal was a god of fertility (which I knew) and that his celebrants reveled in pornography, prostitution, and all manner of vices. (Which I assumed all along.) These Baal worshipers sound interesting. The pastor cannot admit it but the Baal worshipers' only sin was in their type of yoga, preferring the Dionysian to the Appolonian, or the Shaivite to the Kirshnaivite. One suspects they may have been tantrics, and tantrics are the bugaboo of many a Hindi.
It so happens that even as I thumbed through the book by Pastor Bil [yes, he actually spells it that way] Cornelius' mixture of scripture and Prosperity Gospel, I had, sitting on my desk at the office, a copy of Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith by J. Anderson Thomson, Jr. and Clare Aukofer, a dynamte little book you can get from the Richard Dawkins Foundation. It so happens this book explains why we are compelled to create gods and communally worship them.
My dermatologist's religion is his security blanket. It may never have occurred to him that religion and science are incompatible; not just at odds with each other but pluperfectly inimical. He isn't the type to put a big O.T. silvery quotation from Isaiah on the wall of the alcove of his new building just to appeal to local Christians. In fact, I distinctly recall that when he excised a basal cell carcinoma he and the nurse shot me up with lidocaine and gave me a few minutes alone while the anesthetic took effect. Someone turned on the tape deck and the next thing I knew I was listening to a full TV soundtrack of none other than that hick of all hicks Rev. Osteen, a man so cornball you wonder if he hasn't been channeling Barney Fife. (We all know it is Victoria who wear the pants and tells him how to tie his shoe laces.) Imagine going under lidocaine and having to listen to that jive artist and Ponzi schemer?
I happen to believe that Prosperity Gospel = air conditioned dog houses and prayer letters that go into File 13 (making sure that the checks go into the bank). And it bugged me considerably that here was a man of science who believed. Prior to authorizing the use of the lidocaine as a local anesthetic, the laboratory had to find evidence of its effectiveness and any known side effects and precautions discovered through controlled experiments prior to putting the stuff on the market. Imagine my dermatologist demanding this same rigorous peer group trial and error documented process of proof of the wisdom of approving lidocaine from his religion. There is not one shred of proof for his beliefs; he accepts them on faith, which only moves mountains when Jihadist or drone-driven terrorists plant bombs in the hills.
It was putting Bil's book out on the side tables of the reception room that really bugged me, really tempted me to go to a non-signatory provider of dermatological skills. If nothing else, Bil's faulty reasoning should offend a man of science, even an MD. Why would the worship of Baal be any better than the worship of Yahweh-Jesus? At least the Baal Cult was a true monotheism: Christianity is the worship of three gods, four if you count its begaboo Satan, Lucifier, George Carlin. The devil is the god of any people you personally dislike.
And there is no god but Man.
I'm going to try to work-up the courage to tell him how I feel.
I guess he has the right to put his literature out in his office and, of course, you have the right to ignore it. I would take my own literature to read and maybe an ipod and some earphones. However, I would complain about the Osteen tape deck as that is intruding on your privacy without your permission. There are good dermatologists and bad. If you are fair skinned and have cancers or precancers, you need a good one. I guess it would be better to have a good religious nut for a doctor than a bad uninvolved one. Hopefully, you won't have to see him often for more reasons than one.
He only does a particular type of cosmetic surgery, e.g. when skin cancer is on the face, so I do not see him all that often, but I wouldn't mind saying something about the Osteen tape. I might for example say "I heard that one last week." I am only afraid he would say, "I love hearing them over and over." This, friends, is what awaits you in Hell.
I must be lucky because in all my years I have never run into an overtly religious doctor or specialist. A fundamentalist physician would probably unsettle me.
We hear a lot of stories about religious faith when it heals (the examples where it does not work out don't get reported as much) Who knows why some survive and some don't - but here is a melanoma story about my atheist mother.
When she was 70 doctors removed a lump from under her arm and told her that she had melanoma and the primary source could not be found. The specialists deemed that whatever she had would soon do her in and she was told to put her affairs in order.
I remember her telling me with some steel that she wasn't giving up. She also did not give in to the religious conversion and prayer that my religious sister wanted for her.
She is now 89 years old and still going strong.
(I'm getting deja vu that I've already told this story before somewhere on this forum - but it is a good story worth repeating when talking about melanoma, doctors and faith)
Don't forget the Department of Repetitive Redundancy Department.
Anyone who deals with the public directly—doctors, teachers, ministers, police, etc.—should be aware that expressing personal opinions on topics not relevant to their effort detracts from their message. Freedom of speech is not always to be exercised, especially when it interferes with other things they are trying to get across.
As a professional, in the kind of position you describe, I agree with you wholeheartedly.
When people ask me about religion, or try to engage me in religion or politics, I always say, this is not the place for that. I respond, I want everyone to know they will be treated the same, with the utmost respect, and I don't want opinions about these other topics to be a factor. Plus, time is always limited, and we need the time to address their concerns. Then I get on with what we are supposed to be doing.
I went to a dentist once around the holiday season. The office had a Christmas tree with a copy of the Bible underneath. This was in a small town and he was the only dentist in it who took my insurance. On the one hand, I feel private businesses have the right to whatever religious displays they want. Supposedly people who don't like it can just not go there. On the other hand, in situations where there is really nowhere else for some people to go, and when the doctor takes government sponsored insurance, it doesn't seem quite right. They are getting taxpayers' money through the insurance. And making you listen to a sermon after you'd been given an anesthetic and were literally drugged was a blatant attempt at brainwashing. It wouldn't have been so bad if they had told you they were planning to do this before you even went in, so you would have had more of a choice about whether or not to go. Or you could have at least have brought in your own CD player with headphones. I knew a secular humanist who went to a mental health clinic who was taken off his medication cold turkey. Anyone knows you don't do that. Shortly afterward he killed himself. I don't know for sure, but I can't help wondering if they did it on purpose because he was not a Christian. I also used to attend meetings of Secular Organizations for Sobriety in a room loaned to us by a hospital. Other people could pass through this room. One time some "therapists" from a nearby clinic passed through on their way from the hospital cafeteria back to the clinic. I overheard one of the "therapists" say: "These people are nuts," referring to us because we don't have the 12 steps, prayer, or the higher power like AA does. Some doctors and therapists can't seem to help letting their religious beliefs interfere with their treatment of people.