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►►MY MOST POPULAR BLOG ENTRIES (CATEGORIZED)

Confident BusinessmanCANCER, ALS, REVERSING ARTERIAL BLOCKAGE

Killing cancer, sparing the patient (Targeting tumor cells while leaving normal ones unaffected)

Looking for treatment options for ALS, heart disease, cancer or eczema?

Reversing arterial blockage: Experimental regimen that worked for man facing amputation of his lower legs

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Mind expansion: Recommended Reading

Books - free MS photoPurity of HeartALL THE BOOKS LISTED BELOW ARE ONES READ & RECOMMENDED BY CHOCTAW DOC

CRITICAL THINKING

 

You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself  by David McRaney 

Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science by Martin Gardner

The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan, Ph.D.

Snake Oil Science by R. Barker Bausell, Ph.D.

The Scientist As Rebel by Freeman Dyson

Any and All Books by James Randi

Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine  by Richard P. Sloan, Ph.D.

Ignorance (How It Drives Science) by Dr. Stuart Firestein

Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks by Ben Goldacre, M.D.

A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind: What NeuroscienceCan and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves by Robert A. Burton, M.D.

 DEEP ECOLOGY

Deep Ecology: Living As If Nature Mattered by Bill Devall & George Sessions

Deep Ecology for the Twenty-First Century by Bill Sessions

Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization by Christopher Manes

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

FICTION (with a powerful message)

House of Earth by Woodie Guthrie

HEALTH & MEDICINE (including stem cell medicine)

Click this link to access Dr. Christopher Centeno’s new 52 page e-book titled “The Stem Cells They Don’t Want You To Have” (FREE download): http://bit.ly/NPlVmZ

Snake Oil Science by R. Barker Bausell, Ph.D.

The Anatomy of Hope: How People Prevail in the Face of Illness by Jerome Groopman, MD

How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman, MD

Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine  by Richard P. Sloan, Ph.D.

 HISTORY/POLITICS

1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Turning Points in Ancient History) by Eric H. Cline

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Mataxas

Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower

Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great (The Arts of Leadership & War) edited by Larry Hedrick

Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers by Filip Muller

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Dr. Stephen Greenblatt

The Un-Civil War: Shattering the Historical Myths by Leonard M. Scruggs

Slavery Remembered: A Record of Twentieth-Century Slave Narratives by Paul D. Escott

Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity by Dr. Daniel J. Goldhagen

Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto by Vine Deloria, Jr.

The Face of Imperialism by Michael Parenti, Ph.D.

The Rich And The Rest Of Us: A Poverty Manifesto by Travis Smiley & Dr. Cornel West

The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn

Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee by David Crockett

HUMAN NATURE & PSYCHOLOGY

Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives — How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do by Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, James H. Fowler, PhD

You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself  by David McRaney     

The Self Beyond Itself: An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences, and the Myth of Free Will by Heidi M. Ravven, Ph.D.

The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity by Bruce Hood, Ph.D.

The Illusion of Conscious Will by Dr. Daniel M. Wegner

What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire by Daniel Bergner

A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind: What NeuroscienceCan and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves by Robert A. Burton, M.D.

The Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotions by Drs. Jaak Panksepp & Lucy Biven

The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths by Michael Shermer, Ph.D.

50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True by Guy P. Harrison

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind by Robert Kurzban, Ph.D.

Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose by Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D.

The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen

Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower

Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families by Pamela Paul

Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality by Dr. Gail Dines

Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto by Anneli Rufus

The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D.

The Biology of Belief by Dr. Joseph Giovannoli

Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning by Viktor Frankl, M.D., Ph.D.

Faces in the Clouds by Stewart Guthrie, Ph.D.

 RELIGION/SPIRITUALITY

Purity of Heart by Rev. Bert M. Farias [In “Purity of Heart” Rev. Farias eloquently states things which, I daresay, most mainstream and even many Charismatic and neopentecostal congregations either gloss over, tiptoe around or mangle (oftentimes resulting in their landing in the thorn patch of profound legalism). Two thumbs up and kudos to Rev. Farias, whose ministry website is http://holy-fire.org/]

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Mataxas

Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Finding Sanctuary (Monastic Steps for Everyday Life) by Abbot Christopher Jamison

Breakthrough Faith: Living a Life Where Anything is Possible by Larry Sparks

PSALM 83, The Missing Prophecy Revealed – How Israel Becomes the Next Mideast Superpower by Bill Salus

Sooner Than You Think: A Prophetic Guide to the End Times by Sid Roth

The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection by Benedicta Ward

Jesus’ Words Only (Free in its entirety on-line) by Douglas J. Del Tondo, Esq.

My spiritual watering hole website: http://summerclouds.weebly.com/

The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity by Dr. James D. Tabor

Blood Kin of Jesus (James and the Lost Jewish Church) by Kenneth Hanson, Ph.D.

Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity  by Dr. James D. Tabor

The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity by Rev. Jeffrey J. Bϋtz

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan, Ph.D.

How Jesus Became Christian by Barrie Wilson, Ph.D.

Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus by Dr. Robin R. Meyers

The Bible Against Itself: Why the Bible Seems to Contradict Itself  by Dr. Randel McCraw Helms

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are by Bart D. Ehrman, Ph.D.

The Ancient Roots of Christianity: A Native American’s Look Through Christianity by my fellow Choctaw Nation Tribal member, Rainbow Eagle

God and His Demons by Michael Parenti, Ph.D.

The Real Kosher Jesus: Revealing the mysteries of the Hidden Messiah by Michael L. Brown, Ph.D.

The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? by David James

The Rainbow Covenant: Torah and the Seven Universal Laws by Michael Ellias Dallen, Esq.

Faces in the Clouds by Stewart Guthrie, Ph.D.

Rats in the Cosmic Laboratory: Is God A Scientist? by Dr. A. G. Payne

Hitler and HaShem (The Almighty) by Dr. Anthony G. Payne

Heart of a Missionary by Dr. A.G. Payne

The Spiritual Aspect of Holistic Medicine by Dr. A. G. Payne

Religion is not about God by Prof. Loyal Rue

The Secret Origins of the Bible by Tim Callahan

Spiritual Evolution: A Scientific Defense of Faith  by George E. Vaillant, M.D.

The Undercover Philosopher by Michael Philips

Why We Believe What We Believe by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman

 “WALKING AROUND THINKING ABOUT STUFF”

Extended Being (Examiner article) by Choctaw Doc

EXTENDED BEING WEBSITE: http://extendbeing.weebly.com/

Alienation: Pervasive and insidious  (Examiner article) by Choctaw Doc

Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine  by Richard P. Sloan, Ph.D.

“Living Longer, Yes! But, Living Well?” by Choctaw Doc

Fascination with Dying and Death as Participation by Choctaw Doc

Is an attachment style problem complicating or undermining your life? (Examiner article) by ChoctawDoc

Dark times and the allure of evil  (Examiner article) by Choctaw Doc

The Fook U Party

This is Rated “R” for being quasi-raunchy & revolutionary, so minors & overly sensitive folks should not open this file: The Fook U Party – Viva La Revolution

Stepping Outside the Religion Box: A new book by Jim Haverlock

 

The Supreme Trap Box by Jim Haverlock
The Supreme Trap Box

Looking for God?
Do Religions follow the Teachings of Christ?
Are churches “infallable”?
Do you have your own questions about God?

What you will read in this book:

*Preface
Chapters:
1. Embroidery of Life
2. Everyman’s way is right, in his eyes
3. 21st Century – vs – early B.C.
4. Religions – Rules/Regulations / Sins
5. Wisdom Literature
6. Genesis-Purity-Compassion-
Chocolates Because so many of us “lay people” question this topic, it may just be time for a lay persons view point and expressions, that may open new doors, or provide more questions for each of us to ponder.

7. Infallibility
8. Hypocrisy
9. Just for Fun
10. Communication with God
10a. Angels, Guides, Spirits
11. Trap Box – Supreme
12. Closing Notes
*About the Cover
*Foot notes / references
*Suggested Readings

Want a sneak preview? <—Click this link

Delusional Beliefs: A Normative Coping Mechanism?

One online source defines the term “delusion” thusly:

delusion

n 1: (psychology) an erroneous belief that is held in the face of evidence to the contrary [syn: psychotic belief] 2: a mistaken or unfounded opinion or idea; “he has delusions of competence”; “his dreams of vast wealth are a hallucination” [syn: hallucination] 3: the act of deluding; deception by creating illusory ideas [syn: illusion, head game]

Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

This pretty much lines up with how psychiatrist Karl Jaspers, MD, defined “delusion” in his seminal book General Psychopathology. Dr. Jaspers gave three main criteria for a belief to be considered delusional:

  • Absolute certainty (A belief is held with absolute conviction)
  • Incorrigibility (A belief is not changeable by compelling counterargument or proof to the contrary)
  • Impossibility or falsity of content (A belief is implausible, bizarre or patently untrue)

Undoubtedly many of you reading this hold fast to specific religious or other beliefs that meet all 3 criteria. To your way of thinking this is a demonstration of faith, a strength that pleases the Almighty. Nothing will sway you from what you hold to be sacred truth. Maybe you fear dire consequences in this life or the next should you deviate from the faith tradition you were inculcated in as a child or embraced later on. You may not even be able to consider the remotest possibility that what you believe about (say) biblical accounts of miracles or specific stories or accounts could be misinformed, misguided,  or just plain wrong. As one neo-Pentecostal minister put it, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it”. This appears to be a timeless species of faith down through the millennia of human history.

Many fundamentalist believers and scholars from the major faith traditions engage in the most incredible feats of mental gymnastics to preserve sacred beliefs. Many Christians, for example, believe that their scriptures are inerrant, while abundant evidence exists that their Bible is chocked full of contradictions and is anything but free of error. For example, the book of Genesis alone contains two separate accounts of the creation saga that contradict one another profoundly http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/accounts.html. The same is basically true of the story of Noah and the flood http://www.sullivan-county.com/identity/2cs.htm. But rather than modify their belief system to accommodate logic and fact, they force a fit between religious dogma and contrary evidence (Or just deny the evidence altogether or define or otherwise alter it such that it accord with belief). This imposition of religious dogma or belief on the process and findings of history and science has given the world an incredible array of pseudo-historical and pseudoscientific books, documents, papers and such that, well, help reinforce the delusions of multitudes of “true believers”.

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html –Contradictions in the Scriptures

http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/by_name.html  – Contradictions in the Bible

http://www.nobeliefs.com/DarkBible/darkbible4.htm – Absurdities and troubling entries in the Bible

Mind you, I am not an atheist or an “enemy” of religious beliefs or faith. My family tree is one brimming over with fervent Protestant fundamentalists, southern Baptist deacons, creationists and even charismatic and neo-Pentecostals. My late maternal grandmother, Faye C. Whittle, a rather extraordinary woman who helped aid and encourage my studies in science and medicine, was about as devout a Bible-toting woman as you could hope to meet and fully fundamentalist in her thinking. I did not often challenge her beliefs…..and was especially less inclined to do so as she reached into her eighties and nineties – for reasons I will weave into this essay shortly.

My own quest for “religious truth,” which is to say a faith that is concordant with logic, biblical scholarship, historic fact, and the findings of science led me first to Roman Catholicism, then ultimately to Judaism. Yes, there are some commonly held Jewish beliefs that run contrary to this thrust, but at least there is room for reconciling all this within most Jewish traditions.

Some of you gentle readers are probably having an “ah hah” moment as you read all this. Some will surely be thinking, “Well, if I embrace delusional beliefs, so does he. So does everyone”.

No doubt most of us – even those who are ultra-diligent in their efforts to bring every aspect of their lives into accord with logic, fact and sound reasoning – harbor some belief, conviction or idea that is at the very least unfounded or suspect, but which we resist discarding unless and until contrary fact compels us to. Such a belief or idea may not constitute a full-blown delusion or delusional belief, but it in some respects belongs to the “fraternity”. Psychologists have shown that we all possess cognitive filters that bias what we perceive and believe; mechanisms (if you will) that tend to find patterns in things (often where none exists), discard ideas or facts that contradict cherished beliefs or views, and inflate our own self-perception of being objective. This tendency to be self-deluded and to deceive others has survival value. Deception is part and parcel of nature itself, something documented by field ethnologists and primatologists studying the behavior of chimpanzees and monkeys.  

While not immune to delusional beliefs, in my own case precious few (if any) of my core religious beliefs meet Dr. Jasper’s 3 criteria. How so? In a word, I am willing to modify or reinterpret them to gel with logic and compelling scientific and historic fact. My belief in the Almighty, for example, is resolutely entrenched (A delusion according to many skeptic friends) – but my views on His nature, interaction with humankind, activities and such is amenable to modification in light of reason, logic and fact. Actually, this willingness to modify or discard one’s beliefs about anything that is redefined or overturned by new evidence lies at the heart of the scientific method. Without this plank, there would be little scientific progress. And while this process can and does generate evidence and reasoning that wrecks havoc with many beliefs long held to be sacred, this is not something to be feared or resisted. If religion and religious beliefs are to genuinely enable us to zero in on truth, it must necessarily be informed by the scientific method, critical thinking and hard logic. If not this, there is only a retreat into blind faith – this being often a wellspring of irrationality and, in the case of fundamentalism, a path to unhealthy extremes and even monstrous intolerance and bloodshed. 

Of course, the mere idea that one has birthed, embraced, nurtured or perpetuated delusional beliefs is, for most of us, something we tend to resist or deny. After all, to be delusional or harbor such thoughts is invites the stigma of being weak or intellectually failed or possibly given to a form of pathology (Disease). And I would readily agree that more extreme expressions do indeed reflect a pathological form of aberration or deviance. Especially forms that are divisive, that create or sustain barriers that marginalize others or foster bias, racism or ethnocentrism, or otherwise diminish our individual or collective human potential for caring for others, extending kindness and aid to strangers, and encouraging a peaceful coexistence that denies justice, opportunity and fairness to no person.

But what of delusional beliefs that do not give rise to or involve these negatives? Many would argue that a delusional belief is always antithetical to fullest personal development or best appreciation of reality, and this is a reasonable contention. However, I tend to view “benign” delusional beliefs as an effective coping mechanism; a way of ably dealing with the pain, vicissitudes and ugly moments in life, as well as being a mental tool for handling the contradictions and seemingly irreconcilable aspects of life.  In this sense, I see delusional beliefs as not only a tendency, but a normative coping mechanism.

And in this vein, truly benign delusions can play a useful role when it comes to the genesis or maintenance of our individual and shared (societal) weltanshaung or worldview; the mental constructs of reality we fashion and refine all the days of our lives. They also can have beneficial physiological effects. People who, for example, believe that ultra-diluted homeopathic medicines effect or foster healing despite overwhelming scientific evidence that they do not produce statistically significant results in well designed and executed clinical trials, nonetheless can and sometimes do perceive good things “going on” that in and of itself is encouraging; that may spawn some corresponding benefits such as one would expect when a person stops being anxious and fearful, and adopts a positive frame of mind. There are studies that link this species of faith or belief with reductions in resting blood pressure.

Delusions can also give life purpose or special meaning in some instances or settings. Consider those who vest tremendous money, time and energy in pursuit of beliefs, events or practices that are contradicted by a confluence of historic and/or scientific fact, logic and well honed scholarship. Some actually border on the irrational, while some truly are. However, when such beliefs, pursuits or devotions cause no harm to self or others, do not generate intolerance or violence or other negative behaviors, do not wind up sanctioned by the state, and basically function to endow the lives of believers with a sense of purpose or meaning, then they have arguable utilitarian merit.  

Of course some species of delusional thinking can obviously set the stage for doing great harm to others. One need look no further then Nazi Germany to see this. In this tragic example from history’s darkest page, delusional beliefs and the pseudo-history and pseudo-science they sprang from and reinforced became ideology, then law, and finally a national religion of sorts. The Nazis elevated malignant delusions to sacred status and then took them to their logical conclusion: Repression, brutality, murder and finally genocide.

Given this, it logically follows that people need to be vigilant in terms of identifying, openly exposing, countering and even legally penalizing all forms of delusional thinking that clearly leads to the deprivation, denial or erosion of basic human rights to any group, creed, religion or what-have-you. Humankind can ill afford a Fourth Reich.

But what of countering benign delusional beliefs that offer solace and comfort? This brings me full circle to my maternal grandmother: She believed that her New Testament was inerrant and, as such, was a reliable and sure guide to all that’s needed to assure a place in God’s realm (following death). Yes, there were many occasions – many kitchen table chats on religion (especially during her more vigorous 60s and 70s) — in which I placed before her facts and reason that clearly demonstrated the errancy of scriptures. This she resisted solely on the basis of her faith, not reason or logic or fact. And while this belief influenced her life and actions to a degree, she did not seek to have this view become the law of the land or promulgated in public schools as fact or paraded as science in the classroom. At first I diplomatically and gingerly challenged her stance, but ceased doing so as she grew older and frailty began to take its toll on her physical and mental faculties. Who would be so callous as to deprive her of a delusion (inerrancy) which was a vital component of her worldview (Especially given its benign, tempered expression, as well as its utility in terms of dealing with her own mortality)? Not me.

“No man is happy without a delusion of some kind. Delusions are as necessary to our happiness as realities.”

-Christian Nestell Bovee

 http://www.famousamericans.net/christiannestellbovee/

 

The cup of delusions runneth over:http://www.crank.net/

A critical look at homeopathy:http://skepdic.com/homeo.html

What is Pseudoscience?http://www.chem1.com/acad/sci/pseudosci.html

THE DARK BIBLE

Foreword

A Short History of the BIble

Atrocities (a few)

Sex, Obscenities, Filth

Morality And Paradoxes

God, Satan, Jesus, Heaven

The Inferior Status Of Women

Bibliography

About The Dark Bible

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/guido_deimel/judaism.html

http://www.religioustolerance.org/imm_bibl1.htm#diff

http://www.dhushara.com/book/orsin/decalog.htm

http://home.teleport.com/~packham/bible.htm

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/atrocity.html – Atrocities

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/absurd.html – Absurdities

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/inconsistencies.html – Inconsistencies

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/precepts.html – Questionable Guidelines

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html – List of biblical contradictions

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/vulgar.html – Vulgarities

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/mark_ball/bible.html – Errancy

http://www.angelfire.com/pa/greywlf/biblegod.html – BIBLEGOD – A God of Love or a God of Atrocities and Murder? 

NOTES ON BIBLE PROBLEMS Compiled by Richard Packham

http://home.teleport.com/~packham/index.htm

CONTENTS

MORALITY IN THE BIBLE

MORAL MODELS

HUMAN SACRIFICE

ANIMAL SACRIFICE

WAR

GENOCIDE AND SLAUGHTER

CRUELTY, BARBARITY, VIOLENCE

DECEIT, TREACHERY

LYING

INCEST

POLYGAMY, CONCUBINAGE

PROSTITUTION

ABUSE OF WOMEN, WOMAN’S INFERIORITY

ABANDONMENT OF WIFE, CHILDREN, FAMILY

HYPOCRISY

HOMOSEXUALITY

EXTORTION

CANNIBALISM

SLAVERY

DRUNKENNESS

RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE, CLOSED MINDS

OBSCENE, OFFENSIVE, INDECENT, EROTIC PASSAGES

ABOUT GOD

PUNISHMENTS

GENERAL PRINCIPLES, LAWS

PARTICULAR EXAMPLES OF GOD’S PUNISHMENTS

CONTRADICTIONS

NUMERICAL CONTRADICTIONS

GENEALOGICAL CONTRADICTIONS

DETAILS OF EVENTS – OLD TESTAMENT

DETAILS OF EVENTS – NEW TESTAMENT

CONTRADICTORY DOCTRINE, COMMANDMENTS

CONTRADICTIONS ABOUT GOD

OTHER CONTRADICTIONS

OTHER PUZZLES, ANOMALIES, QUESTIONS

PROPHECY IN THE BIBLE

PROPHECIES OR PROMISES NOT FULFILLED

“FULFILLMENT” OF NON- EXISTENT PROPHECIES

“FULFILLMENT” OF PASSAGES NOT PROPHECIES

PROPHECIES CLAIMED AS FULFILLED

PROPHECIES IGNORED BY CHRISTIANS

PRECEPTS OFTEN NOT OBEYED BY BELIEVERS

OLD TESTAMENT PRECEPTS

TEACHINGS OF JESUS NOT OFTEN FOLLOWED

HISTORICAL / GEOGRAPHICAL INACCURACY, ANACHRONISMS

SCIENCE

EXAGGERATION, “TALL TALES”

WEB LINKS, BOOKS, PERIODICALS

© 2009 by Dr. Anthony G Payne. All rights reserved.

YOU MAY NOT COPY, REPRODUCE, DISTRIBUTE, PUBLISH, DISPLAY, PERFORM, MODIFY, CREATE DERIVATIVE WORKS, TRANSMIT, OR IN ANY WAY EXPLOIT ANY PART OF THIS DOCUMENT. WITHOUT LIMITING THE GENERALITY OF THE FOREGOING, YOU MAY NOT DISTRIBUTE ANY PART OF THIS DOCUMENT OVER ANY NETWORK, INCLUDING A LOCAL AREA NETWORK, NOR SELL NOR OFFER IT FOR SALE. IN ADDITION, THIS DOCUMENT MAY NOT BE USED TO CONSTRUCT ANY KIND OF DATABASE

The Spiritual Aspects of “Holistic” Medicine

The foundation of holism or holistic medicine rests on a triumvirate — body, mind and spirit. Actually, as the mind is an expression of the various regions of the brain — a species of the physical — we are really dealing with body/brain and spirit. The former, of course, has been probed and explored using the tools of medicine and science. No one questions their reality. Spirit, on the other hand, by most definitions is non-material, and thus lies beyond the purview of science; that is, one cannot demonstrate spirit using a gas chromatograph, scanning electron microscope, or any other tool in the armamentarium of science.

But what of the effects of spirit? If it exists, should we not be able to detect its effects on the physical realm? This is a question which now occupies many philosophers, some scientists and physicians, and many laypeople.

One very often cited manifestation of spirit lies in the realm of answered prayer. Numerous studies have been carried out in which patients with a given affliction were divided into two groups: One received prayer (experimental group) and the other (control group) didn’t. The prayers were offered off-site and no one involved in the study knew who was being prayed for and who wasn’t (double-blind).

The bottom line of many of these studies is that prayer appears to have made a significant difference in the relief or cure of the malady or affliction in the experimental group, while those in the control group had no appreciable change in their condition. The rigor of these studies has been found wanting by countless impartial investigators. That is, flaws in study design, methodology and/or execution have basically invalidated the findings of these clinical trials.

What of the healings connected with religious shrines, such as Lourdes? There have been approximately 69 healings connected with Lourdes which have met the Catholic church’s criteria for a bona fide miracle — 69 out of the hundreds of thousands of petitions for healing. This is not statistically significant. In short, the numbers do not support the notion that the rate of recovery/healing at Lourdes is greater than would be expected to occur as a result of normal processes. (One can expect a certain percentage of even incurable illnesses to suddenly and inexplicably go into remission. These recoveries happen to non-believer and believer alike — and hence appear contingent on natural and not supernatural mechanisms.)

I know what many of you are thinking — “Leave it to a skeptical, non-believing blankety-blank scientist to trash our sacred beliefs.” If you are nodding your head in agreement — you are dead wrong. First of all, I am a theist. I also believe that God hears and answers prayer — and even heals people through various means including the ministrations of physicians. Well, wait a minute, isn’t this contradictory or hypocritical, given what I wrote above? No, indeed, for I do not allege that my beliefs are based on hard science nor the manifestations of spirit, or God so physically evident as to permit measurement or quantification. In fact, those who believe that spirit, God, or any aspect of the supernatural can be demonstrated in a controlled study or lab experiment invite upon themselves the unenviable task of proving their claims. (It is always incumbent on those who propose the existence of something which can be physically detected and, thus measured, to do just that.) And I, for one, do not believe that they will ever garner any substantive proof. Why?

Consider this: In virtually every religious tradition God requires that humankind both apprehend His existence and relate to him via faith — a conviction based not on the physical and demonstrable, but on sheer belief. If God were to reveal Himself in the lab or clinical trial setting — say, by answering the prayers for healing in an experimental group at rates which exceed chance — the need for faith would be dispensed with. We could base our confidence, our belief in the spiritual and a First Cause (God) on the hard data provided by the study in question.

This, of course, would make God the author of a serious contradiction and would obligate most major religions to toss out many of their principle doctrines concerning the nature of the deity, the need for faith as a requisite for apprehending the divine, et cetera. It would also raise serious questions as to the reliability of revealed truths about God (oral and written traditions).

Since I do not believe God would ask one thing (faith) and then reveal Himself in a concrete, scientifically demonstrable fashion, I am not surprised or dismayed that laboratory experiments and clinical trials do not turn upon any credible data which stands up to scrutiny. I also realize, however, that there are some who believe that faith isn’t the only requisite to apprehending God or the supernatural and will continue to carry out studies aimed at catching a glimpse of the divine in action.

In my opinion they are wasting both time and money, but should they one day prove to be right — if they do incontrovertibly demonstrate the efficacy of prayerful supplication (to God) in healing a given malady — skeptic and believer alike will be making some rather profound changes to their distinct perspectives. This isn’t beyond the pale of possibility. I think, however, that such definitive proof will in some ways weigh more heavily on the religionist then the agnostic or skeptic.

While the debate rages and the studies plod along, what role then should the spiritual play in healing/medicine? I think most physicians — even diehard atheists — at the very least accommodate a narrow species of “spirituality,” in the sense of encouraging hope and making use of patient expectation to afford relief, if not cure.

In holistic medicine, on the other hand, the spiritual element more often takes on a different character and importance. The holistic medical community plays host to wide range of spiritual beliefs, including American Indian, New Age, Buddhist, Christian. As long as this spirituality is not called “scientific” or “hard science-based,” or makes claims which can be tested using the tools and methods of science, its place in the patient care repertoire of holistic health care practitioners remains a matter of personal prerogative. And doesn’t faith and personal prerogative lie at the core of human spirituality?

In the final analysis, I think we will find that the substantiation of faith begins and ends on one’s knees — and in one’s heart — and not in the laboratory. 

© 2009 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved

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