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Study Finds the Pious Fight Death Hardest

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the would-like-a-mulligan-please dept.

Medicine 921

Stanislav_J writes "A US study suggests that people with strong religious beliefs appear to want doctors to do everything they can to keep them alive as death approaches. The study, following 345 patients with terminal cancer, found that 'those who regularly prayed were more than three times more likely to receive intensive life-prolonging care than those who relied least on religion.' At first blush, this appears paradoxical; one would think that a strong belief in an afterlife would lead to a more resigned acceptance of death than nonbelievers who view death as the end of existence, the annihilation of consciousness and the self. Perhaps the concept of a Judgment produces death-bed doubts? ('Am I really saved?') Or, given the Judeo-Christian abhorrence of suicide, and the belief that it is God who must ultimately decide when it is 'our time,' is it felt that refusing aggressive life support measures or resuscitation is tantamount to deliberately ending one's life prematurely?"

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Or they're terrified (5, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244519)

Because they don't really believe and haven't had time to consider and come to terms with their own mortality.

Re:Or they're terrified (5, Insightful)

new_breed (569862) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244555)

..or terrified that what they've believed their whole lives might actually not be true. It's the ultimate test of your faith!

Re:Or they're terrified (5, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244617)

what they've believed their whole lives might actually not be true

Actually, I'd expect it to be the reverse. If I expected my eternal destiny to be judged upon death, I'd be pretty anxious to postpone my trial.

Re:Or they're terrified (1, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244781)

Actually, I'd expect it to be the reverse. If I expected my eternal destiny to be judged upon death, I'd be pretty anxious to postpone my trial.

I always have thought this to be the most illogical parts of humans of modern mainstream religion.

The longer you live, the more time you have to mess things up and do bad things.

So if you die an early death, then chances are you are more likely to have not messed things up.

In this, the past religions (and some modern extremists) the argument of martyrdom actually makes sense. Not only do you die sooner than later so you can't mess things up along the way, but you are guaranteed a positive afterlife.

Since most modern Churches groups frown on that ancient practice these days, it is quite conflicting to expect humans to "tough it out" ( like saying that it is immoral to assistant the suicides of terminally ill patients and keep comma victims on life support as long as possible), when they die and they are going to heaven anyways.

Re:Or they're terrified (3, Informative)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244831)

Except that according to many Church's teachings, you already messed up as soon as you are born.

Re:Or they're terrified (5, Insightful)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245031)

According to my common sense, original sin is messed up.

Re:Or they're terrified (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245053)

Original sin. It's a Christian-only thing among the big 3 monotheists. I don't believe there is anything analogous in Islam or Judaism. Babies are usually exempted somehow... usually by pouring water over their heads. Also, IIRC there is quite a bit of disagreement among Christian sects as to whether original sin applies to the heaven/hell equation - and even what it is exactly.

Re:Or they're terrified (1)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245249)

Indeed there is disagreement. Thus why I qualified my statement as many rather than all. I think that it's also safe to assume that in the US, Christianity so greatly dominates over Islam and Judaism, that those referred to in this article are predominantly of a Christian sect.

Re:Or they're terrified (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27245077)

Shouldn't those churches just love abortion, then? No birth, no sin.

Re:Or they're terrified (1)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245189)

Not if you accept that life begins at conception. No birth, no baptism, go to Hell.

Re:Or they're terrified (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245169)

Except that according to many Church's teachings, you already messed up as soon as you are born.

It still makes no sense to extend life as long as possible if it does not determine the outcome in the afterlife for the person in question (especially a comatose one).

Re:Or they're terrified (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245219)

Given the holy terrors most children are, I would have to side with the Church on that one.

I would guess people of true faith consider carrying on a challenge or test.
An atheist might say, I'm worn out and beat up so let's get on with the ultimate release from pain.

Sponge Bath - Faithful Atheist

Re:Or they're terrified (1, Insightful)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245041)

"So if you die an early death, then chances are you are more likely to have not messed things up."

Unless of course you are a baby and a Catholic, in which case you are going to hell because nobody splashed "holy water" on your forehead in time. Oh yeah ... and the same God that allows helpless innocent babies to burn in hell is also All Loving and Benevolent. It is not a contradiction at all, since everyone knows that "God works in mysterious ways."

Disclaimer:I am not ant-religion, or even anti-Catholic, just anti-lack-of-common-sense, and anti-moron. (not aimed at the parent poster or anyone else; apologies to those who feel that they got caught in the crossfire)

Re:Or they're terrified (5, Funny)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245251)

Actually, unbaptized babies go to Limbo. Read something besides Pagan FUD please. Thank you.

Re:Or they're terrified (4, Interesting)

Zerth (26112) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245091)

From a memetic point of view, this only makes sense. Any religion that believe offing yourself as fast as possible was a good idea would be like the Ebola of religions, wiping itself out before getting a good shot at jumping hosts.

Although, in this day of fast communication and semi-decent data retention, one could almost get away with it. Put up a website, start a trust to keep it going, put up a page consisting of "donate to our trust, then pop a cap in your head". Then read it.

It'd only catch the crazies without a better hook, but it'd probably keep the site going until the government where the site was hosted suffered revolution or nuclear war.

Re:Or they're terrified (5, Insightful)

Ambiguous Coward (205751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244655)

Or it's as simple as those that are afraid of mortality tend to cling to the idea of an afterlife. Rather than a causation here, I would guess we more likely have a correlation. The sort of people who are afraid of death will of course do everything in their power to avoid it. Additionally, the sort of people afraid of death will also be more willing to accept the idea of an afterlife.

We're so quick to tag any "link between video games and violence found" as correlationisnotcausation, but then we get an article positing a correlation between fear of death and religious faith, and we all start hopping on the bandwagon for "oh they don't believe their own lies" or "haha, shaken faith!" but really, I'm guessing it's more likely that the one doesn't actually cause the other, but they're instead both caused by some third factor (railing against mortality.)

Re:Or they're terrified (5, Interesting)

mellon (7048) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244823)

If you think you're not afraid of death, try this test: get a friend, and go to the Grand Canyon. Stand on the edge. Have your friend hold onto your shirt and push you so that your balance goes out over the edge. Don't try it too many times - your friend might slip.

Now, were you okay with it? Did you feel any fear, any adrenaline, anything like that? If not, maybe you're not afraid of death.

I think the actual problem here is something the Tibetans call tetsom - lazy doubt. You sort of nominally believe that X is true, and you leave it at that - you never go any deeper, never really examine it to see if what you believe really stands up to analysis. You *think* you really believe it, but your faith is foundationless.

Then when your faith is tested by the approach of death, suddenly your lazy doubt catches you by surprise, and makes your fear of death just that much worse, and so of course you cling to life all that much more strongly.

The depressing thing about lazy doubt is that I think it's behind a lot of the really pernicious things we attribute to religion - e.g., creationism is a clear case of lazy doubt. "Oh, if it turns out that things evolved, that calls my whole belief system into question, and I don't want to have to question it, so I will pretend that things didn't evolve."

Re:Or they're terrified (5, Insightful)

Ambiguous Coward (205751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244895)

I think most everyone should be bothered by the situation you described: that's just a healthy human reaction.

But there's a difference between fear of death, and acceptance of the inevitable. Me falling into the grand canyon is not inevitable (I hope) but me dying eventually for some reason is.

Re:Or they're terrified (4, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244977)

Now, were you okay with it? Did you feel any fear, any adrenaline, anything like that? If not, maybe you're not afraid of death.

Or maybe they are just afraid of falling long distances and experiencing the crunch at the bottom.

Re:Or they're terrified (5, Insightful)

javelinco (652113) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245013)

You can be afraid of pain, but not of death, and have the same reaction. Your test is poorly designed.

Re:Or they're terrified (1)

Clever7Devil (985356) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244969)

Assuming religion is a purely human construct, I've always assumed that fear of death was one of its motivating factors. Isn't the practice of burial rites one of the first signs of religion in a culture? I'd have to lean towards siding with those who say fear of death and religious belief are strongly correlated.

Kenny Chesney says it best... (2, Insightful)

capnkr (1153623) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245261)

"Everybody wants to go to heaven,
Nobody wants to go now."

Maybe these folks just love life, and regard it as a great gift, something they don't want to end so soon...?

Nope, this is not a religion-bashing post, so I doubt it gets much support. I do find it interesting that so many here have to be so critical of other peoples life choices.

Standard disclaimer: Not a religious person, personally. But so long as your religion doesn't call for you to kill me because I don't pledge my life to your Deity, then it's fine with me that you believe whatever you want to. His Noodly Greatness forgives all, in the End. ;)

Re:Or they're terrified (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27245271)

I tend to agree. I too think there may be other factors that were not examined.

Maybe the religious tend to have stronger family bonds and are therefore reluctant to give that up. Not necessarily for themselves but they are thinking of those around them (or it could be for themselves, doesn't matter really).

Or something like that, who knows. I don't think we have enough information to say that people who are religious are more afraid of death, there may be other reasons than fear that makes them want to live longer.

Re:Or they're terrified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244719)

I think it's the Hell thing combined with the nebulous rules.
Cause, without that people tend to think that *whatever* death is, it is the end of suffering.

I would go so far as to argue that we know this by instinct. Most so called native or natural religions see death as a release, and so does atheism in it's way.

There is a reason why judeo-christianty wiped out the natural religions, and it's hell fire.

Re:Or they're terrified (4, Interesting)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244863)

The 'natural religions'? As opposed to the unnatural religions? That makes about as much sense as people who refuse to buy food that's not 'organic'.

Re:Or they're terrified (4, Interesting)

jandrese (485) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244985)

The term 'unnatural religions' just makes me think 'Scientology'.

Re:Or they're terrified (1)

Daravon (848487) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245085)

I think by 'natural religions', the AC meant the "savages" that worshiped nature, instead of worshiping the Great Noodley.

Re:Or they're terrified (4, Funny)

Zerth (26112) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245141)

I can think of some unnatural religions.

Cthulhu ftaghn, RAmen!

It'd be like calamari in spaghetti sauce:)

Re:Or they're terrified (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245199)

I am intrigued by your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter...

Re:Or they're terrified (1)

e**(i pi)-1 (462311) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244753)

it is probably more the prospect of roasting for all eternety in a burning pit.

Re:Or they're terrified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244577)

I had the exact same thought after reading a similar story in the NYT this morning.

Perhaps its actually that those who cling less to religion are comfortable with the idea that life is finite, and those who thump their chosen holy book so loudly are the ones that are terrified to wits end?

Re:Or they're terrified (4, Interesting)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244675)

Perhaps its actually that those who cling less to religion are comfortable with the idea that life is finite

That's how it works for me.

Around the age of 5 or 6, I was introduced for the first time to whatever the current life expectancy chart was at the time. For males, the average was 72. Now, I understood that anything could happen and I could pop my clogs a lot sooner, but I distinctly remember thinking "72? Sounds like a good run." And since that day, I've lived my life largely based around the knowledge that by the time I'm 70-80, I better have gotten to do all things I've wanted to do.

Re:Or they're terrified (1)

jmpeax (936370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244605)

Exactly. It makes sense that religious people believe what they do to avoid confronting their mortality.

Then, when death approaches, their lack of self-awareness makes it all the more difficult to accept.

Re:Or they're terrified (4, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244639)

Because they don't really believe and haven't had time to consider and come to terms with their own mortality.

I dunno. Maybe the truly pious people don't wear it on their shoulder or are so humble that they play down their amount of piety religious when asked.

That or people who fear death are more likely to have embraced religion, not that religion makes people more fearful of death.

Re:Or they're terrified (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244693)

Honestly I find it's those that are members of the "you are BAD!!!!!" and guilt based religions that do this. Real christians, those that actually follow his teachings, not the dimwits that have the fish on the car and have sunday morning Tv extravaganzas tend to be afraid of death.

It's interesting. Do they realize on their death bed, they were actually raging assholes to their fellow man and are afraid of the wrath of their god on the other side?

Re:Or they're terrified (5, Interesting)

xch13fx (1463819) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245021)

It's interesting. Do they realize on their death bed, they were actually raging assholes to their fellow man and are afraid of the wrath of their god on the other side?

EXACTLY! It was probably fear that lead them to the church in the first place. Then they surround themselves with like minded people and yell at the rest of the world for how evil they are(really there just mad everyone else doesn't have the same irrational fears of the natural world.) and have nice fantasies of the rest of the world rotting in hell. Then on their deathbed they wonder... "Is god gonna like those fantasies of all those people burning and being tortured because that's about as much as I thought about my entire life...All I ever wanted was for OTHER people to die and goto hell".

Re:Or they're terrified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244861)

God loves us so much that he has restored our lives and hence it is our duty to live our lives fullest so we may influence and bring good things to people around us. I am not saying that everyone practices what is being heard, but at least people know what is right, however, being human, it is very hard to live the life that we want to live all the times. So, when it's time to take care of healthy, it makes sense that believers will try everything in their resources to do best thing for them. In this case, taking care of them until the last moments...it is written in the scriptures that God is mysterious and we don't know when he will come through(Usually, at the end of straw for unknown reason we may reflect upon the situation later and usually understands what it happens such ways).

Re:Or they're terrified (5, Interesting)

nobodylocalhost (1343981) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244875)

This is a terrible survey, the base demography are of terminal cancer patients. Have the surveyor ever consider the possibility of people become pious due to fear of death? Many soldiers get sent to the battle field also suddenly become more pious. That's not something new. It'd pretty much be the same as "We've surveyed slashdot, and it seems people who post on slashdot also tend to be avid computer users." All I can say about that is "well duh!"

They know their judgement day is coming. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244927)

They believe that all the things they have done are going to come up for judgement.

Most christians are hypocrites, have a long list of sins to pay for and are perfectly aware that they are going to burn for eternity.
 

Re:Or they're terrified (1)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245027)

I have always thought the religion was a way for people to deal with death when there is really no way to know what is going to happen. Those that are really religious probably believe their religious convictions, but may be the most terrified of death and cling to religion as a way to deal with the unknown. It would make sense to me that these people would not want to die.

If it were me (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244549)

I'd be praying for a quick death so my family wouldn't have to pay the millions to keep me alive after hitting the limit on my insurance policy.

Re:If it were me (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244761)

Don't worry! In Texas, you wouldn't need to pray [wikipedia.org] .

Suprising... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244565)

Wow. That's actually a rather interesting occurrence. One would, most certainly, assume the pious would accept death. But, when faced with death, I suppose a lot of beliefs become shaken.

Re:Suprising... (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244707)

I think the word Pious is being used incorrectly. Pious is not a synonym for those with religious beliefs. Plus, with the great variance in beliefs even with in Christianity ( to say nothing of any other religion), its hard to generalize anymore than the summary.

There are some Christians that believe they are saved, and cannot lose their salvation regardless of what they do. There are also those that believe it isn't set in stone and their whole life will be judged. So it would be surprising if they were all believers of the first type, but not at all if they were believers of the second type.

Re:Suprising... (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244725)

But, when faced with death, I suppose a lot of beliefs become shaken.

Hmm, sounds like the reverse of "In a foxhole, nobody's an atheist."

Re:Suprising... (1)

tilandal (1004811) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244745)

Well that's is not completely true. There are certain religious groups that specifically limit medical intervention such as the Amish and Jehovah's Witnesses. Personally I feel that many right wing groups take the sanctity of life argument way too far. The day is coming where nearly anyone can be kept alive through artificial means indefinitely. After all, what is the fundamental difference between keeping someone on life support and keeping their head in a jar like in Futurama or cryo-freezing them? The very same people would argue that the last two are a gross perversion of science yet are perfectly fine with keeping people alive far beyond their natural limits with forced feeding and artificial resuscitation.

Re:Suprising... (1)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244965)

Many right wing groups are not actually talking about the sanctity of "life" but rather the sanctity of "being alive". Somewhere down the line people started forgetting that death is a natural constant in the process of life.

of course (0, Flamebait)

thhamm (764787) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244589)

because they're deliberately scared to shit of their 'afterlife'. pay your church or suffer horribly after death, little human!

Pious means scared (3, Interesting)

Moblaster (521614) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244593)

The pious have the greatest fear. This is why piety, a close relative of conservatism, is associated with a variety of risk-averse thoughts and behaviors to preserve "status quo," even to the extent of apparent paradox.

As much as I don't want to spark a Religion debate (1)

Samalie (1016193) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244601)

Perhaps its the belief that all life is sacred and prescious that makes them want to hold on to life, regardless of their belief in the afterlife. If life matters...then you hold on to it....if its not, and existance ends at death....why prolong the enevitable (sp?)?

And yes, lets exclude the godhatesfags.com people and other such hate groups that hide behind religion to commit their hatred from the "all life is sacred" discussion.

Re:As much as I don't want to spark a Religion deb (2, Interesting)

DrLang21 (900992) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244803)

I think there's a common paradoxical belief amongst Christians in the US that, rather than life being sacred, being alive is sacred. Life as a whole would include the entire cycle from birth to being consumed by the Earth. In this case though, I think it's more a case of FUD injected into their veins by the Church. I have no problems with religion, and consider myself to believe in some higher power. However, in my experience, Christian Churches spend way more time preaching about the punishment that awaits those who are not "saved" than they spend talking about how great it is to go out into the world and help your fellow man. The very concept that there is nothing you can do beyond blindly holding a belief to prevent eternal suffering in hell creates lots of FUD. It is not in the human nature to constantly blindly believe without at least occasionally questioning it. And the moment that you question it, is the moment that you create an instance where you will go to hell upon death.

Time on Earth is Valuable (5, Insightful)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244603)

Maybe, since they believe in a higher power, they believe that they "belong" on Earth and "have work to do" and that they can actually make a difference in the universe.

Compare this with an atheist who might believe that life is futile, fleeting, and nothing they do matters in the long run... they might be more accepting and complacent.

I'm not saying that either of these two are the case, my real point is that there are a billion different ways to look at this.

Re:Time on Earth is Valuable (0, Flamebait)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244701)

Maybe, since they believe in a higher power, they believe that they "belong" on Earth and "have work to do"...

Yep... there are still boxes of pamphlets in their basement waiting to be handed out and stuck on windshields. GO CHRISTIANS!

Re:Time on Earth is Valuable (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244739)

Compare this with an atheist who might believe that life is futile, fleeting, and nothing they do matters in the long run...

Atheism != nihilism. You fail it, try again.

Re:Time on Earth is Valuable (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244845)

I'm sorry, but atheism != belief that life is futile, fleeting and pointless. It only means a lack of belief in any sort of god(s).

Re:Time on Earth is Valuable (5, Insightful)

DinZy (513280) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244881)

If there are billions of different ways then clearly most of these ways must be wrong on some level or another.

Most of the atheists I know, myself included, value life a great deal. I would argue that the pious are more afraid because they spend their whole life thinking the afterlife is where life truly begins that they fail to live it to the fullest. Whereas the accepting atheist knows he/she has only 70 or so years if they are lucky to have a personally meaningful existence.
 

Re:Time on Earth is Valuable (4, Insightful)

Nick Ives (317) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244883)

The TFA reveals the study is about aggressive, end-of-life cancer care. We're talking about people who have metastatic cancer and are on their death beds, people who have zero percent chance of survival.

This study is saying that religious people are more likely to insist on non-palliative chemotherapy and mechanical respiration even though there's no chance of it succeeding. The study found these people were the least likely to have filled in a "do not resuscitate" order.

This could be a fear of death thing or it could just be a hope for a miracle. If it's the latter then surely it'd just be better to place your complete faith in God at that stage of the game?

I suppose you can't expect religious people to act rationally about these things though.

Re:Time on Earth is Valuable (1)

grahamd0 (1129971) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245047)

What are they going to do to help the world while incapacitated in a hospital for a week before they die with a machine breathing for them?

That sounds like a flowery dressing-up of an utterly selfish motivation to me, but who knows? You and I might well make the same decision. I'd hesitate to render a value judgment on someone in that kind of situation.

Re:Time on Earth is Valuable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27245129)

I certainly can't speak for every Christian, but as believer myself, I think it's because we value life so much.

Yes, heaven will be so much better. That doesn't mean a mortal existence is bad. As a Christian, eternal life doesn't start after you die. It starts immediately when accept you Christ.

--

Wohlford

Amen. (1)

Nick Driver (238034) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245289)

I certainly can't speak for every Christian, but as believer myself, I think it's because we value life so much.

Yes, heaven will be so much better. That doesn't mean a mortal existence is bad. As a Christian, eternal life doesn't start after you die. It starts immediately when accept you Christ.

Also, if you know you're on the brink of death, you might want to hang onto life a little harder because you might get the opportunity to tell just one more person about Christ before you leave this world.

Re:Time on Earth is Valuable (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245247)

I'm not saying that either of these two are the case, my real point is that there are a billion different ways to look at this.

I only see 4500 or so. certainly NOT more than that.

you are wrong. and you are going hell.

Re:Time on Earth is Valuable (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245269)

Maybe, since they believe in a higher power, they believe that they "belong" on Earth and "have work to do" and that they can actually make a difference in the universe.

Work to do? Make a difference? In a lifetime that is infinitesimally short compared to the infinity of eternity, in a universe that has a fixed and predetermined end? That word "futile"... I do not think it means what you think it means.

Family intervention? (1)

broken_chaos (1188549) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244627)

It's not really addressed in the summary or the article, but this sounds like it could also be family intervention, considering the article refers to the last few days or week before death - ventilators, feeding tubes, and similar usually end up being used when the spouses or families of these people decide they want their spouse/parent/grandparent kept alive for as long as possible.

It may be a case of the religious families being unable to let go.

FLAME SHIELDS ON! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244629)

*hides*

This could get ugly.

Re:FLAME SHIELDS ON! (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244727)

Boy, I'll be glad when the Fark refugees learn to how to create an account on slashdot.

Cause/Effect... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244631)

I'd be inclined to suspect(admittedly without experimental evidence) that, rather than being cause or effect of one another, piety and pursuit of aggressive EOL care are both effects.

People with the greatest fear of death would be inclined both to fight it medically and to seek reassurance against it theologically.

Re:Cause/Effect... (1)

SpuriousLogic (1183411) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244677)

I was going to say the same thing. It would seem to me that those that fear death the most are the most ardent believers in an afterlife (which religion offers), and thus also most likely to pursue excessive EOL care.

Re:Cause/Effect... (1)

dex22 (239643) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244931)

The "Insightful" tag is only for ironic effect. You're not supposed to make insightful posts, you fool! :P

Paradoxical only if you confuse cause and effect. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244651)

Piety is the result of being terrified of death, and scared into believing *anything*, however unlikely.

Views of Sacredness of Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244663)

Highly religious people are more likely to place a premium on preserving life in all circumstances. Hence the religious are more likely to be anti-abortion, anti-assisted suicide, and anti-euthanasia. (The death penalty is probably a notable outlier here).

Clear conscience? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244667)

Maybe those of us who don't pray are just comfortable and have a clear conscience?

The Official Reason (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244689)

The official reason (for most pious Americans), is that suicide, or otherwise giving up on life, is a sin. They believe life is not just worth fighting for, but that NOT fighting for it is an affront to their creator.

The real reason, of course, is that they are scared shitless of death, as are most people, as well as the afterlife.

skewed?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244695)

TFA didn't say if the people were hardcore bible bangers BEFORE getting terminally ill. Maybe the conclusion should be "Those who are most scared of death are more willing to try anything to remain alive, including intensive life-prolonging care AND prayers"

Scary people are Religious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244751)

People who don't fear death have no need to pray, so only the people enough afraid of death go to Church.

The obvious answer (1, Insightful)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244759)

The weak-willed and fearful are those who come to (or stay with) religion, therefore they are the most likely to fear dying.

Re:The obvious answer (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244801)

The weak-willed and fearful are those who come to (or stay with) religion, therefore they are the most likely to fear dying.

Yup... In other news, the emperor has no clothes.

Re:The obvious answer (1)

al0ha (1262684) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244905)

Wow, what an ignorant statement.

It's very simple... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244765)

Obviously God punishes the non-believers by causing them to deny themselves critical end-of-life care.

Is this really surprising? (3, Interesting)

forgetmenot (467513) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244793)

Probably get modded down for this.. for "religion" has always struck me as a haven for the fearful, those who lack self-esteem, or narcissistic personalities looking for external justification for their insane behaviour.

When such an individual is confronted with the prospect of death.. all that doubt, self-loathing and regret must really be a lot to suddenly bear when they "know" they're about to face the final judge.

Catholic Judeo-Christian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244805)

I don't know about 'most people', but I can speak for myself. I want everything possible done to keep me alive because I believe in loving life and being thankful for every single moment of it. I believe if I'm in pain with no hope of the pain going away before I die, that life is still worth living and that only God has a right to decide when my time is. So, unless, I'm just wasting people's time and money because there is really no hope in prolonging my life through seeking treatment I believe I have a moral obligation to seek that treatment.
That philosophy is consistent with certain veins of catholic-Christian thought.
Pope John Paul II refused to have a hip replacement, because he wanted to sympathize with the poor who could not afford one. He persisted valiantly to the end as he died of Parkinson's disease.
  Christians and epically Catholics do not view suffering in general and especially at the end of life as a negative experience, but rather as an opportunity to unite oneself with the suffering of Jesus who was crucified. That suffering can be beautiful and since offered to Jesus can be of immense use and value in the preparation of one's soul for the afterlife and the salvation of other souls. For a catholic there is no such thing as useless suffering.
I suspect the answer to the questions posed are related for many Christians.

Did the study hold for regularly praying Buddhist or Hindu's?

Re:Catholic Judeo-Christian (2, Interesting)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245149)

only God has a right to decide when my time is.

In the cases mentioned in the article, basically He has already decided it's their time, but they keep defying Him by relying on machines and drugs and surgeries, prolonging the time away from Him.

So, basically, no. You're not letting Him decide when your time is; you're attempting to artifically take every last second possible.

Reaction to suffering? (1)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244867)

From what I heard, being close to death from terminal cancer is painful. Therefore, if you believe life is about maximizing pleasure, the last weeks are probably of negative value. Might as well end it and get rid of them - it would be a better life overall.

If you believe that suffering can be good for you in some ways, then it is not necessarily of negative value. If you believe you have higher callings in life than to avoid pain and pursue pleasure, then again - those last weeks may be valuable. Those beliefs tend to be taught by religions.

Authoritarianism (5, Interesting)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244889)

People who follow the instructions of authority, believe others should follow such instructions, and tend to believe that authority is right most or all of the time, are called authoritarian. People who hold to belief systems dictated by a hidden power with perfect judgement are some such. Those people also tend to believe/believe in other authorities judgements and power. Thus, people who hold strong religious beliefs tend to be the same people who most strongly believe in (and expect results from) the abilities of health care authorities -- doctors.

The same paradox was noted by Stanley Milgram in the Yale Experiments http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment [wikipedia.org] A nurse was one of the people who continued to follow instructions and "shock" a subject after the subject appeared dead, just because she was told to. At first it seemed a paradox that a nurse would follow instructions that would harm another. He figured it that he was equivalent to a doctor in the nurses mind, and so she was following his instructions to the letter without evaluation, just as she was trained to do with doctors. (Nurses these days are trained differently).

bad theology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244913)

Religion teaches that you have to do certain things (be good) to go to heaven. When death approaches people may start to wonder if they did enough good and the scales tip in the wrong direction for them.

This is contrary to Christianity. Christianity states that we can never make up for all the lying, coveting, blasphemy, etc. We cannot trust in our own works, but we can trust in the work of Jesus who payed the fine for us. A Christian that is dying that has a proper view of the gospel should not have any fear of dying. God is completely just, yet full of loving kindness.

Other studies say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27244933)

Other studies put an inverse correlation between the IQ of a person and their belief in God. So it's not very surprising that
peoples with low IQs believe in God and try to prolong their life (even when that mean suffering even more, or having your hospital bed as your HQ for a long time.) While peoples who don't believe in God (and are generally smarter), prefer to let nature follows its course...

Hypocrisy or fearful of their life of ignorance? (-1, Flamebait)

Mr.Fork (633378) | more than 5 years ago | (#27244967)

As a former Roman Catholic now turned atheist, I find this rather amusing. My own belief is that most religious people they tend to live simpler lives because everything can be explained by acts of Horus.. I mean Jesus - who ever you believe to be the son of Ra, I mean God. That afterlife boat, I mean light, can be scary. Live your life of ignorance and bliss and just say 'it was an act of our Lord!'

Maybe the fact that life after death may not be so real after all? Could it be simply religious hypocrisy at its fullest extent? Why can't the religious can't they accept the path into the afterlife but fight it every step of the way? After all, Ra, (darn it), I mean God has a plan for them. Could it be that Mehen (darn it), Mephistopheles (the Devil) may be waiting for them and they're scared they haven't lead a full pure life to enter the gates of Heaven?

I'm looking forward to endless dreamless sleep after my tired old body is done after 75-85 years of life - unless I can be uploaded to a 'freshie' or 'refreshed'.

None of the above (1)

Whip-hero (308110) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245001)

It's not because of self-doubt or fear of damnation. It's because as religious people, they believe they have more to live for. They believe that a supreme being has taken a personal interest in their individual lives, and that whatever is happening to them serves an important purpose in the greater scheme of things. If there is any chance of recovery at all, they'll hang on to it.

The definition of faith is the belief in that for which there is no evidence, so perhaps religious people are less likely to give up hope.

Re:None of the above (1)

Killgore9998 (978340) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245121)

Right on. It may also be worth noting that often, people who are the most doubtful, conflicted, and insecure about themselves are the first to accuse others of having those traits. That may explain the overwhelming jump to conclusions made by the summary and most of the early comments.

Prolonged & Painful vs Short & Serene (4, Interesting)

shrubya (570356) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245019)

A few notes to remember about this study:

  1. None of the patients "got better". The only difference was that being stuffed full of plastic tubes sometimes postponed death by a number of days.
  2. On average, the highly religious were much less likely to have end-of-life planning (advance directives, durable power of attorney, etc)
  3. On average, the families of people on intensive life support were more traumatized by the death than the others. That's a "no duh".
  4. All that machinery and medical labor is REALLY expensive.

Personally, I would much rather go for hospice care. Aside from being more comfortable for the patient, it also gives them a chance to say goodbye to everyone properly, rather than just gurgling at your horrified visitors from inside a torture chamber.

Bias much? (0)

Killgore9998 (978340) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245023)

Wow, I have to say that the comments so far as well as the proposed explanation in the summary really fall short of anything approaching objectivity or restraint from bias, even more so than is the norm for /. What is with jumping to the conclusion that faithful people are desperately trying to avoid death because they're secretly not faithful, or afraid that they're wrong? Not only does this sound like a desperate grasping of straws to provide an explanation, but it also belies a tremendous lack of respect for any lifestyle that incorporates a little spirituality. My first thought after I RTFA was that the non-religious are less equipped to cope with facing their own demise. I would suggest the opposite of the theories proposed so far, which is a much more intuitive and simple explanation: that when one realizes that they've lived a selfish, faithless life, they realize that there's very little reason for them to cling to it, just as how one loses the drive to continue working on a project which is flawed beyond hope once they realize just how flawed it is. Or perhaps the atheist realizes that he's only been kidding himself about how fulfilled he feels his life really is, and is less motivated to continue such a meaningless existence. Yes, I would call myself a pious person who prays regularly (though I rarely go to church), but I am far from being a jesus freak. I just think it's pretty sickening how any report about a given behavior of religious people in general, whether it is rational or not, is instantly met with derision and disrespect by the greater internet community.

Probably... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27245025)

more likely that people that choose not to fight don't love life as much as people that do choose to fight.

Even if I was laying face down in the dirt after just having both arms and both legs amputated in a horrible accident, you can bet that I will be crawling with my chin. No matter how much my life sucks, I would much rather be alive than dead. I would much rather my consciousness persist than decay. Perhaps that is the ultimate sign of an egotist?

I'm not exactly sure which part my will to do God's work plays in my will to live.

Perhaps Religious People Actually Like Their Lives (1)

bgray54 (1207256) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245065)

I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm pretty religious and I actually like my life. I enjoy spending time with my family and I'd like to hang around for a while. I actually don't spend a great deal of time thinking about the afterlife. I find that living my beliefs makes me happier in this life.

We're all sinners (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245073)

Basically what a lot of 'religions' teach is that you will be judged by $DIETY after you die. When you're no good, you go to a bad place (or you won't get resurrected) and if you're good you will go to a good/better place (or you will get resurrected in paradise).

Whether or not that's true I'll leave in the middle in order not to spark huge debates but the leaders of those religions have you believe that you're always bad and everything you do is bad (you're born a sinner and we can't do anything about it) unless you tell $CHURCHLEADER about it and let him tell you what to do (whether it be paying cash, prayer,...), then you're good for a little bit until your next mistake. Off course we all make a lot of mistakes and some things we have never told to anyone or we have done and we think that we can't be forgiven for it (maybe because other people haven't forgotten about it) so we take those secrets/unforgiving sins with us as we die. However those secrets might doom us for eternity (it's not clear cut as to what will doom us or what won't) so we rather hold on to what we know than to what we don't know.

Another theory would be that if we hold on to life as long as we can and we think we lived a good life, that $DIETY might step in and miraculously heal us.

Somebody should ask them. Why do you want to live so badly, there's no hope for you.

Well, as a Christian, (1)

Hawthorne01 (575586) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245087)

... I'm going to go with the Parable of the Talents [biblegateway.com] as my answer to the question.

Yes, I believe in salvation by grace alone (hey, what can I say, my family's Presbyterian. :) ). But I also believe that loving God means working for God as expressed in what we do with what the life we're given. And deciding to end my life on this Earth early, either by hand or someone else's, is taking this marvelous gift of life and throwing it away.
Is that a sin? Dunno, others do, I don't.
Is that taking a gift and throwing it back in the face of the one who gave it? IMO, yes.

Terminal Cancer Is Different (5, Interesting)

VoxMagis (1036530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245109)

This study was done on terminally ill cancer patients. My wife is an RN, and in our discussions about her job it has been very apparent to her that death by cancer, slowly, causes a very different reaction in most people she has seen than other terminal illnesses.

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with the study, but I would like to see it expanded to, for example, heart/lung failure and other forms of terminal disease, and see what the difference is.

One aspect that I have seen in cancer end-of-life treatment is the heavy reliance on pain-killers to cope (nothing WRONG with that, just an observance). This could also have a very serious effect on EOL decisions.

Justifying murder by doctors and insurers.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27245113)

By turning this discussion into science vs. religion, this assures that the MBA-driven
cost-obsessed insurance companies and their stooge doctors can freely choose to disconnect
people who disagree with their 'scientific', 'medical', and professional judgement.
We are on a dangerous path to state-sanctioned mercy-killing by trying to justify
forced DNR orders based on so-called 'research' saying that pious people fight
harder for life.

This is not research, and is not worthy of holding any sway in policy considerations
of right-to-life issues.

Reason (1)

OldFish (1229566) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245233)

I would like to think that, as a lifelong non, un and anti-pious person, my choices in an end of life scenario would be ruled by reason. I would not refuse extreme measures if the likely outcome were acceptable, nor would I greedily demand all measures if the likely outcome were unacceptable.

Define likely, acceptable and unacceptable according to your personal taste.

I have to admit that I do find the implication in the headline that the pious value life more highly than the non/un/anti-pious to be typical religious bullcrap - they're always buying all the tickets to their own show..

its not that complicated (1, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245255)

its called hypocrisy

those who profess the highest of religious purity, according to whatever arbitrary standards, and pass judgment on others, according to their psychological poverty, are often the biggest hypocrites you find in this world

They haven't been to my church... (2, Interesting)

herksc (1447137) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245263)

What I sometimes see in my own church circle is that dying people can have a lot of people begging them to stick around. Point being that churchgoers usually have a larger, more dependent social circle (I'm not saying it's necessarily better).

Doesn't always work though. I think most of the oldest people at my church have DNR's. But we're 'spiritual' people, not 'religious'.

Also, given that these are are terminal cancer patients, some christians could get really confused and think that just because God can heal them, he just hasn't yet and "must need more time" (obviously a logically fallacy).

While it's true that people with a greater fear of death are more likely to explore religion and that it may attract them to explore a belief, I seriously doubt that would get them to devote their life to it. Fears are only motivating when we are immediately faced with them. I've met very few people that actually live with a constant sense of foreboding (actually none).

I'd be really interested in any data on this when is comes to deaths that are less premature/illness related.

I can hardly speak for all the "pious" (4, Interesting)

Theolojin (102108) | more than 5 years ago | (#27245279)

I cannot speak for all the pious, nor do I know how the study defines the pious so I will speak for myself. [cue the anti-whatever snarks...]

I believe we---mankind---were created for this world, not some ethereal place in the clouds. The Bible teaches that the people of God will live on earth forever, with a brief (relatively speaking) intermission elsewhere (between death and the return of Jesus Christ). It's quite interesting that the Bible begins with the Tree of Life in a garden (Eden) and ends with the Tree of Life in a city (see Genesis 2-3 and Revelation 21-22). Actually, the Tree of Life is still in a garden-like area that we would call a park. When Jesus returns He will create a sort of heavenly Central Park in the midst of a great city.

God intended from the beginning that man should live on the earth and the great promise is that one day man will live on a newly recreated earth and God will dwell with man forever in a world of peace, free of greed and anger and malice and war and poverty and hunger. In other words, people were created for this world and it should come as no surprise that they want to stay in it as long as possible. If, however, one does not believe this or one believes that this world is all there is, why delay the inevitable? Non-existence can often seem more desirable than a bad existence in this fractured, fallen world. For those who have hope for a future, existence in this broken world is desirable because they believe they were meant for it all along.

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