Reluctant To Meet Their Maker

But not yet, Lord
The Economist, March 21, 2009, pg88

The findings from a recent study into religion and end-of-life anxiety are not surprising. Hell is an awful imagination. I wouldn’t want to wonder if I were destined for the fire, either. I’d want every last second of mortality to repent, too.

HOW do a person’s religious beliefs influence his attitude to terminal illness? The answer is surprising. You might expect the religious to accept death as God’s will and, while not hurrying towards it, not to seek to prolong their lives using heroic and often traumatic medical procedures. Atheists, by contrast, have nothing to look forward to after death, so they might be expected to cling to life.

In fact, it is the other way round—at least according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Andrea Phelps and her colleagues at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Religious people seem to use their faith to cope with the pain and degradation that “aggressive” medical treatment entails, even though such treatment rarely makes much odds.

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