Amongst the myriad of religious practices which are practiced by religions, prayer is one of the most sacred of duties: It is supposedly a two-way communication line between you and your favorite cosmic deity (although I tend to suspect prayer to be a one-way, nonreciprocating kind). Most prayers come in the form of accosting for divine favors, and people do pray for all kinds of divine intervention, from trivial nonsense such as winning football leagues to more serious endeavors, such as killing your enemy or seeking some form of a divine cure for supposedly incurable ailments.
Imagine this scenario: You are suffering from a terrible migraine, and here you are, taking your seat next to your doctor, who examines you, and instead of dispensing his expert medical advice and some prescription drugs, decides to offer you a free prayer for your health. Sounds familiar?
From time to time, most of us, I am sure, will encounter folks from the field of medicine who will take our religious liberties for granted. During my post-op visit to a hospital to have my stitches removed last year, I was attended to by a male nurse who, during the process of removing my stitches, decided I would do well with a bit of proselytizing. I wasn't very much offended, given the fact that my knee was at his mercy, but is the hospital the right institution for spreading religious dogma?
A nurse found out the answer the hard way, according to this BBC news article:
Nurse Suspended For Prayer Offer
1st Feb 2009
A Christian nurse from Weston-super-Mare has been suspended for offering to pray for a patient's recovery.
Community nurse Caroline Petrie, 45, says she asked an elderly woman patient during a home visit if she wanted her to say a prayer for her.
The patient complained to the health trust about Mrs Petrie who follows the Baptist faith.
She was suspended, without pay, on 17 December and will find out the outcome of her disciplinary meeting next week.The Roles & Responsibilities of Hospital Staff
One stubborn trait that keeps cropping up in such delicate "religious" issues is that religious folks are very insistent in blurring the line drawn between Church & State, exploiting any crook and cranny to proselytize to unwary, secular citizens as well as citizens who somehow do not share their religious zeal.
Sure, these religious proselytizers have their right to spread the religious virus in their churches and to a certain extent, public places, but to allow for such unabashed pimping of God in secular, government institutions not only impedes important work, it breeds discontentment and intolerance towards other folks who do not share the same faith as the proselytizers who seek to shove religion down the throats of other people.
I have little doubt that Carrie Petrie is a well-meaning nurse and a devout Christian, but let's try to reverse the roles for the sake of argument: Suppose Carrie is the patient, and sitting next to her attending to her is a Muslim nurse who begins to rant about the virtues of Prophet Muhammad. Will the Muslim nurse be offending her religious sensitivities?
Clearly, the need for secularism and separation of church and state is evident here: It allows for the smooth running of the hospital, minus all the negative bias and unnecessary bickering arising from religious disputes, thus allowing the hospital to function normally.
In short, being a government entails certain conformance to rules and regulations, and that includes not proselytizing to folks when you are dispensing government service. For the nurse in question, that means no proselytizing to patients, which she had quite willingly and blatantly commit.
The Faith of Patients?
The moment a patient steps into a medical institution, he or she no longer places faith in cosmic deities: After all, if you really trust in God to deliver you from the pain and suffering caused by your ailments, why would you visit a doctor, instead of a priest?
To put it bluntly, why should God bother to inflict disease upon you, only to have you find a cure from a priest? A case of divine sadism on the cards?
Sure, religious folks who are inevitably cured of their ailments by doctors will attribute their convalescence to some invisible deity. Faith, it seems, is dispensable when life-and-death is at stake, but upon recovery, the good doctor is all but forgotten, his actions replaced by the wild imaginations of a supposedly loving, powerful deity.
Keeping Government Institutions Secular
The need to maintain equality and bi-partisanship is the basis of government institutions, such as hospitals. Hospitals should be dispensing medical care and services, not prayers and dogma. Sectarian religions should never be allowed to be dispensed by medical professionals and government staff.
While the fundamentalists may decry secular rules as being infringements upon their religious rights, I am quite sure that they will also be the same folks who will complain vehemently if someone else who is of a different faith from theirs attempts to shove down religion down their throats. These folks simply want the government to indulge in their fantasy entities at the expense of the rights of others.
If indeed patients are really so confident of their respective deities, they should be visiting the Churches, not hospitals.
And finally, if prayers do work, not a single hospital we see today will be left standing today. We'd all be cured on a wing and a prayer.
Prayers Don't Work.......
-"Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day; give him a religion, and he'll starve to death while praying for a fish."