Here is an excerpt from a recent email I wrote to my little brother-in-law who is serving his mission in Mesa, Arizona:
I saw the video of the LDS woman who was in a plane crash and survived. It was a very moving story and that woman was very brave and obviously very strong. It did raise a question however that I have had for some time. I hope you are okay with me asking you a religious question – I figured now that you are a missionary you probably get asked difficult questions all the time. You are an intelligent person and someone who I know thinks about things very deeply so I am hoping you can give me some insight. My question doesn’t pertain to the Mormon religion per se, but to faith in general. In the video, I was disturbed by the part where the woman credited her survival to God and prayer. I watched the video only a few days after my experience in hospital and had been thinking about this already. In fact, it has always bugged me. I remember when 12 miners were rescued years ago in Pennsylvania, people crying and saying they were saved by prayer and by God. While rescue workers who had risked life and limb stood by. I think of all the doctors who worked on that poor lady in the video, and all the amazing science and technology that went into saving her life. The nurses, the physiotherapists, not to mention her own inner strength and perseverance. I find it so frustrating and difficult to understand.
Many people say that faith is not something that can be measured or tested. That is true. However, certain things can be measured. One of those things is prayer. It’s a simple thing really; pray for 100 people, don’t pray for the other 100 and see what happens. You can have control groups and measurable outcomes. It’s been studied and tested hundreds of times over, by those of faith and those without, in many different countries and there has never been a measurable difference. While prayers certainly brings peace to those offering them, it doesn’t actually increase the odds of the sick or injured getting better. Now, what has been proven to work is medicine. Time and time again people are saved by medicine and technology and doctors, and yet, many people of faith insist of crediting prayer when things go well (and God’s will when they don’t, but that is a whole other story) rather than thanking the people who actually deserve it.
Anyway – I don’t mean to go off on a tangent. I saw that video, and it was fresh in my mind and I know you are religious and also smart and so I naturally thought to ask you. I truly hope that you don’t feel offended or put off in any way and if you don’t feel comfortable addressing my question, than by all means just ignore me. :) Having said that, I would really like to know what you think about this. I guess, to summarize, the question would be: why insist on crediting God, when there are so many more obvious and tangible people who deserve recognition?
Now for those of you who are seasoned rational thinkers or atheists this email might seem very mild. There were a million other points I could make – I could tear his world asunder if I wanted to. The thing is, he’s an awesome kid and we have never talked about religion. Ever. Nobody in my husband’s family discusses it at all. We all just tip toe around the fact that they are Mormon and we are not. I hate it but it’s hard to engage people in a conversation when they are unwilling. So, I decided that this topic was safe. It isn’t specific to Mormons, it hopefully won’t be perceived as a personal attack, and it might just get him to think a little. Since this is my first attempt at a religious conversation, I have no idea what to expect.
I asked my husband how he thought my BIL would take it and he said he didn’t have a clue. When my husband told T (my BIL who was 16 at the time) that he was never coming back to the church, T cried like a little kid. Full on bawling for an hour. This kid is not a crier and actually pretty reasonable, level-headed and unemotional. Ever since then, my husband feels like he has little insight into his younger brother which leaves me out on my own. So, I sent him the email and I guess I’ll wait and see what he says. I’ll keep you posted.
Oh, and please check out the video. Sad story of course but another example of how incredibly awesome the church is at marketing, communications and spin. I’m in awe.