Thou shall not worship false idols.
I’ve been thinking about the commandment not to worship false idols a lot since getting floxed.
We, as a society, and probably as individuals too, look to pills to fix us. We look to pharmaceuticals to cure us when we are sick. We worship the pills as if they are magical, and good, and as if they will remove all problems from our lives. There is a systematic lack of questioning about whether or not drugs are actually good – whether the benefits outweigh the costs. We have faith – blind, baseless faith – that all drugs do more good than harm, that adverse effects are transient and rare, that there is enough knowledge about the workings of the human body to anticipate how a drug is going to affect cells and how those effects are going to change the health and well-being of the person who takes them, etc. (To their credit, scientists do try to make drugs safe and understand how they work – but there is a lack of willingness to admit that we know far too little about the workings of the human body to be messing with it like we are.)
We worship doctors as if they are Gods.
I wonder if there is something profoundly broken about this way of thinking. And I wonder if there are some deep lessons to be learned in thinking about where our worshipping of false idols is taking us.
What happened in our floxed bodies is chemical. I don’t think that any of us got sick because of God’s spite or vengeance, or because any of us worship the “wrong” God. (There is NOTHING about getting poisoned that is your fault. Nothing.) Likewise, what it will take to fix us is chemical, and I don’t think that faith is going to be able to repair our broken cells.
But I also think that it is destructive and wrong to worship pharmaceuticals and doctors. They can be helpful and they can be guides – but they are not Gods.
I used to believe that adverse reactions are rare, antibiotics are benign, when a drug does harm a doctor can fix it, the FDA is ensuring drug safety, diseases are well understood, the pharmaceutical industry is working hard to find cures to the ills that plague humanity, etc. I no longer believe any of those things. I have lost my faith. Getting hurt – then gaining a little knowledge about how drugs work – will do that to you.
I don’t claim to know who or how (or even if) we should worship.
But I don’t think that pharmaceuticals or doctors should be worshipped. They are powerful – there’s no denying that. Unchecked power has never led to good though. In politics, unchecked power leads to corruption and tyranny. In medicine, unchecked power leads to poisoning – which leads to chronic disease and suffering.
Drugs aren’t the only false idol that are worshipped to the point of destruction and pain. The oceans, rivers, land, animals and humans are being hurt in the pursuit of fossil fuels. Money – the ultimate false idol – the one that none of us (myself included) seems capable of getting out from under the enchantment of – is pursued to the point of inducing pain, destruction and suffering of the earth and all her inhabitants.
When we, collectively (seriously, no individual blame here), worship false idols, we get poisoned. Our earth and our bodies are being poisoned as we worship money and power and chemical concoctions that we don’t realize the consequences of. It is a shame – a crying shame. My heart and soul ache for us all.