Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Keep Up the Non-Faith

I've always wondered if my non-belief would hold up in the face of death and I got pretty close to finding out the answer last January when I was transported via ambulance to the emergency room of a Catholic hospital.

After I was diagnosed with a heart rhythm disorder in the ER, the nurse took me up to my room on the cardiac ward. Although I was lying on a guerney, I couldn't miss seeing all the religious art on the walls during the transport. My room was decorated with a huge wooden crucifix, and although when asked my religious preference in the ER, I'd clearly stated "none", they sent a chaplin to my room.

I was on oxygen, hooked up to a heart monitor and there was a flurry of activity around me as nurses drew more blood and an ultrasound technician took images of my heart and I was regularly swallowing meds even though I had no clue what they were doing for me or whether I was going to survive the night.

I'm happy to report that I still wasn't tempted to talk to invisible people in the sky. I'm even happier to report that my heart problem was later repaired through surgery and I'm in really good health again.

My surgery was performed at Stanford University where the art was secular and they believed me when I told them I had no religious preference. Instead of being visited by a chaplain there, I was visited by a volunteer who offered a music CD.

Our local Catholic hospital is big on suffering. They post crucifixes in all the rooms and in the past they posted a sign in the ER stating that they don't prescribe pain-relieving medications. They got sued by a patient and were forced to remove the sign, but I'm fairly certain the policy is still in place, you can see the evidence in the images of the cross in each patient's room and in the hallways. They even have a huge nativity scene in the lobby.