What's the Harm, you ask?

Hi Everyone. I haven’t posted or visited for a long time and did not really wish to just jump in and derail the order here with a new thread, but I am so upset that I must express my shock and pain in some way.

My mother, a stalwart but introverted agnostic of advanced years was hospitalised for pain control and what turned out to be massively metastasized cancer during November 2015. Apart from the distress caused by the diagnosis, only a powerful cocktail of narcotics including morphine could relieve her pain – which led to a state of such confusion that she failed to recognise me on several occasions. I always visited during the day and not during the official visiting hours.

On several occasions, she asked me if she was dying, and then asked me a another question: “What is all that singing about? Who is singing that stuff?” The mystery caused her great distress but I always assumed that she was delirious - until this evening, when I arrived and stayed later than usual.

At 19h30, the medical nursing staff, under the watchful eye of the Ward Sister, burst into an apparently routine twice-daily performance of ‘powerful, healing christian songs’ aimed at soothing seriously or critically ill patients in the oncology ward.

That was when I realised that my mother, in her drugged state, had somehow concluded that her possibly impending death and these bursts of christian songs were somehow related. I finally understood that she suffered from a fear of death/singing angels-induced anxiety, possibly due to feelings of guilt over rejecting religion amidst a peer-group in mass hysteria about her aberrant life path.

My heart breaks for my mother who is trapped in her own treacherous, drugged mind, who dimly realises that she has reached the end of the line, who is physically helpless and unable to protest this gross violation of her basic right to choose silence in a public facility.

The (no doubt well-meaning) MEDICAL staff is VIOLATING her right to come to a peaceful inner acceptance of her serious medical condition. The fact that she represents a generation where religion ‘reigns supreme’ makes this even more distasteful and doubly vicious, as people of her age must keep quiet or be utterly rejected by her peers. It transforms this rather basic violation of her rights into a brutal assault on her already bruised and vulnerable psyche.

I am just appalled, saddened, and paralysed by this barbaric situation. Hospital Management probably approved these officially sanctioned assault sessions after an airy: “What’s the harm” -type of consideration. My (mild and bewildered) protest was met with: “Oh, it’s a wonderful part of our (black) staff’s rich cultural life”.

What is the harm? Are you fucking, fucking serious? She doesn’t need this shit in her life right now!

Perhaps I will be able to articulate my argument tomorrow or on another day.


Once more something that at the surface seems supernatural to the one observing turns out to be entirely natural.

Anyway, I’m really sorry about your mom and we’ve had others here whose religious parents even refused cancer treatment based on woo-advice. And I think you’ve articulated your frustration and their insensitivity quite clearly. Religion poisons everything.

The argument you may have to make does not relate to atheism/agnosticism (the bastard stepson who gets kicked at every opportunity), but a serious challenge to this you can make to higher-ups I think would have a higher chance if you came at it from the “other beliefs like hindus or muslims” angle (the mildly amusing cousin who has to be tolerated).

I’m really sorry to read about your mom’s ill health. These are trying times and any little wrong thing can aggravate matters tremendously. (I did mean to respond earlier but the good intentions drowned in a sea of familial obligations.)

Not sure I agree with making the singing about religion. The world still isn’t ready for it and hence such a complaint might get the hospital administrator’s/manager’s back up in short order if he or she is religious (which is a fairly safe bet in SA). I think it would be wiser to make it about a terminal patient’s right to rest and relaxation: Your mom is being quite unnecessarily stressed by the singing because they are unknown sounds and she’s in a drugged discombobulated state; it would help if the hospital staff could take their chanting out of your mom’s earshot, quieten it down significantly, or even cease it altogether.

(If things get hectic, you could reference the intercessory prayer study of a few years ago which found that, if anything, prayer/incantations negatively affect recuperation, not positively.)


I hope your mother recovers.

Once when I was in hospital a preacher did the rounds from bed to bed with his Bible and prayers. He targeted the patient opposite me, who was clearly uncomfortable. I got up, walked over and asked the patient if he knew this preacher and invited him. He said no, so I told the preacher to leave.

Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi envisages an active role for faith-inspired organizations in public health care (see here) and is unlikely to oppose religious promotion in state hospitals.

Bastards. Im still annoyed with my mom’s experience a few years ago when she was going through chemo. There is a thread here somewhere about it.

I hope you can find a way to get them to stop, an intensive cancer care ward is no place for staff to go singing and making themselves feel good about how bloody holy they are.

Good luck and hugs from me, its not an easy road to travel with one’s folks.

My mother died a short while ago and I am now astounded to find how much I resent the phrases ‘passed’, ‘passed away’, ‘passed on’ and ‘went to a better place’ used by almost everyone when expressing their sympathy at the loss.

I could never snap at someone using such a phrase as it is invariably well-meant, but I am not one day going to open a door and find her on the other side of it - you know - in that place where she “passed on to”.

At the risk of sounding like an ungrateful, maladjusted ogre: It is not a thoughtful thing to say to a non-religious person and I will take great care never to use those words glibly.


We get it.

I feel you, no need to explain. A short while ago a close friend died in a horrific accident at his house. The entire show that goes around this only serves to make things worse for the non-believer. Not least that you end up sitting in a service so chock-full of lies it angers you. Then all the various ways of “softening” the blows from friends and family, they feel like blows in-and-of themselves.

He died, it was horrible, I’m sad. That’s the truth. Why can’t we just admit it?

TLDR: I completely understand.

These seem to be the only thing that really help.

Sorry about your mum.

Thank you.

The entire show that goes around this only serves to make things worse for the non-believer. Not least that you end up sitting in a service so chock-full of lies it angers you. Then all the various ways of "softening" the blows from friends and family, they feel like blows in-and-of themselves.

Yup. The funeral service was arranged by my sister-in-law and while I will always remain grateful to her for stepping in, my mother’s wish for a low-key funeral was ignored. To start with, she had no ties with any church, which should have been a clue. I stressed to the dominee that she was not religious - 2nd clue. And I still had to sit through that service feeling selfish as hell that I was so utterly furious at the bastards ‘appropriating’ her so smoothly for their cause.

I guess I can understand that they didn’t go with her favorite song though: ‘Red, red wine’ by UB40 (she was a teetotaler) :smiley: :smiley: 0:)

Well, in our case after all the “he was perfect in every way” speeches were over and everyone had left the gavesite … there was sprinkled a bit of weed over the coffin… so he could die the way he actually lived.

That is lovely… what a lovely memory to hold onto between all the bad emotions… well done Boogie, I’m sure the man would have approved…