Religious Coping Superstitions

A couple weeks ago, I came across an article on Boston.com that really struck me as being foreign to the world I live in. "Patients with strong faith more likely to get aggressive end-of-life care" looked at a Journal of the American Medical Association article that explored the influence of religious faith on end-of-life medical decisions by terminal patients.

What startles me in the writing is the apparent assumption that religiosity among these men and women was not something constitutive of them as persons, but a selected process of "coping." The clinicians quoted in the story seem fascinated by what they call "religious coping," expecting that some kind of objective analysis of the phenomenon will yield a "better understanding" of how it factors into decision making. These patients, essentially, were viewed not as persons of particular personal character, but as a sample of concept-consuming human laboratory rats who "used religion to some extent to cope with their illness."

Aside from the sadly comical image of clueless empiricists standing around a scene of deep human meaning with clipboards, kind of like they’re trying to measure changes in friction, for example, to explain human sexuality, I’m left with the disturbing realization that these people see "coping" as the fundamental human act. Everything is a tactic to be utilized in a complex story of universal manipulation. Even the human being as a subject is nothing more than the object of external phenomena that must be "coped with," for there is, in this barren and shallow worldview, no truly interior life.

Of course, the belief that reality can be manipulated is the very heart of superstition…

Even the chaplain gets into the act, finding “diverse choices” associated with “high levels of religious coping.” This makes her almost a dissenter to these “findings.”

I’m sorry, but I just can’t imagine entrusting someone I love to these imbeciles during his or her final days. I just don’t know how I’d cope.