Religion is fascinating; in school it was one of my favourite subjects. I tried the going to church thing and having faith, but it never worked for me. I respect other people’s right to religion and have no problem with them having faith, but they should in turn respect my right to not be religious.
I have come across a few religious people who seem to assume other people are also religious without even asking them. As a disabled person I have had others say they will pray for me more than once. They seem to think I should be grateful for this, while I Know they mean well please do not expect me to thank you for it. I am not religious therefore have no belief in the power of prayer. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and his disabled daughters are not keen on Christians who say they will pray for you. Kathrine Welby who has mental health issues said in a recent interview ‘I think with mental health, as with any disability, if your first response is, ‘Can I pray for your healing?’ then you’re not listening. Because actually: A, you don’t need to say to someone you’re praying for their healing for God to be able to work; God’s bigger than that; and B, it really shuts down the conversation,’ (www.christiantoday.com). I agree that it does shut down a conversation; it can be like saying I will pray for you as I actually do not want to have to listen to what really wrong with you and help you in a practical way, even if that is not what they mean by it, that is how it can come across sometimes. If they say they will pray for you and offer practical support then that is far better.
Some religious people believe the power of prayer will heal the disabled and sick. Telling a disabled person God will cure them if they have enough faith and pray hard enough is wrong. It is cruel to those who do have faith; it could make them feel as if God no longer loves them and has abandoned them when they are not cured. It could also lead to them doubting their faith, which may not help their mental health.
Then there are places like Lourdes which claim to cure people by taking the waters, by either bathing in it or drinking it. While I think they are in themselves not that bad, a lot of people visit just as curious tourists and not for any kind of cure, it is a fine line between that and exploiting the vulnerable. I am sure some genuinely believe the water can cure, but we have to be careful what we tell vulnerable people.
Another thing I dislike is when being disabled makes me seen as an easy target for religious people to indoctrinate me into their faith. It does not happen often to me, but when it does I hate it. No I will not unquestioningly follow what you tell me. In fact I think one of the reasons when I went to church and tried having faith it did not work for me was being autistic I over think things and think too logically. I thought about what was being said in church and probably took what they said far too literally. For me religion made no logical sense. I think rather than making me easier to convert my condition made it harder.
I run a Facebook page connected with my hip issue. I once had someone on the page talking about how God cured them as a child when someone brought in a sacred object to the hospital and passed it around for all the children on the ward to touch. It was a piece of cloth, supposedly worn by a saint. Whether or not it was a genuine relic, I had to explain that the hip does often grow back to normal and correct itself for some people who have the disease very young. It did not matter the medical facts, she swore blind it passed the healing power of God onto her. What worried me was how someone was allowed onto a children’s hospital ward, claiming to cure vulnerable people in that way. I looked up the famous cloth online, if anything it was likely to do more harm than good, it was a filthy rag.
In some cases I think religion may help someone with an illness or disability in so much as attitude and ‘mind over matter’ giving them faith in themselves. Praying may aid some people’s recovery giving them the boast they need. It is the claim it cures anything that is wrong, it should be seen as more of an aid alongside other treatments.
I sometimes wish I did have a religious faith as it could make the really low points less awful and help, but I tried and it just did not work for me. I will always stand up for others right to religion and for religious tolerance, but I will not stand up for people who take advantage of vulnerable people or insist that I must be religious also.
Recently online someone who is religious told me there is a difference between believing in a god and blindly following a religion to the point you do more harm than good. This is exactly my point.