Friday, March 16, 2012

Consolations of homeopathy, and waiting for God

I've a column in today's Age, 'Homeopathy is not a cure, it's water and consolation'.

I'm noting the dubious medical status of homeopathy, suggesting why it's popular, and reminding homeopathy patients not to delay medical treatment.  A sample:
[Homeopathy] is relatively benign if it remains a private consolation. It requires a certain cognitive dissonance, and seems a waste of a perfectly good mind, but religion has been promoting similar fantasies for millenniums. The real danger is that patients put off medical diagnosis and treatment in favour of this ''cure''. There have already been deaths from delayed medical treatment: an infant, for example, with severe eczema given homoeopathic solutions. 
As with religion, homeopathy is best seen as a consoling or entertaining fiction - do not suspend medical treatment while you suspend your disbelief.
I also have my regular ABC column up today, 'Waiting for God: an ultimate power'. I'm looking into the relationship between religion - particularly Christianity - and time.  Specifically, I'm outlining the dangers of becoming too fixated on an imaginary future. A sample:
The great sign of power, wrote sociologist Pierre Bourdieu in his stellar Pascalian Meditations, is making people wait.
Think of the medical specialist's ante-rooms, or the entertainment reporter awaiting the prima donna actress, still in her trailer. Putting one's life on hold often requires more than saintly patience: it demands deference to someone's authority. 
"The all powerful is he who does not wait," wrote Bourdieu, "but who makes others wait."
This is the Lord's ultimate power: outside of time and its powerlessness, he keeps everyone else in a state of what Bourdieu calls "total uncertainty". 
In this light, churches and religious pundits still have enormous power: they keep the faithful waiting. Some for the messiah: his appearance or reappearance, his grace or sword. Some for the ultimate proof of the Lord's goodness and grace, missing in ordinary life. Despite their desires or anxieties, there is no direct evidence of a benevolent creator - not yet, anyway. There are emotional hints, logical 'proofs', textual signs, but not a single 'hello' or 'handshake'. But in the time to come…
(Images: Wikidudeman and Wallraf-Richartz Museum)

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