Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Children & Miracles

Every year, CHOM (97.7 MHz FM), along with its sister stations Mix96 (95.9 MHz FM) and CJAD (800 kHz AM), hosts a pledge drive for the Montreal Children's Hospital; it's called the Caring for Kids Radiothon and it's one of the most worthwhile causes I've ever heard of. It's goal is to maintain a supply of new and modern equipment in what has become (thanks, at least in part, to exactly this kind of charity drive) one of the best and most prestigious Children's Hospitals in North America.

Part of the programming for the pledge drive is a series of testimonials from parents and children who've been through terrible ordeals with illness and have found help, hope, caring and good medicine within the walls of the Children's; without exception, parents & patients alike laud the staff, the doctors, even the support personnel, for their kindness, professionalism and skill; these testimonials will tear your heart out. They could leave you literally weeping. It takes a cold heart - a heart which's humanity has been completely leeched away - to remain unmoved.

But what has struck me - and this is an artifact of the organizers' understandable goal of getting as much money as possible from as many people as possible - is the constant use of the word 'miracle' when dealing with acts of human kindness; from the donations of listeners to the skill of the doctors involved. The reason this has struck me is not because I'm a theophobic atheist with no morals who wants everyone to bow down to my way of thinking (although the only reason it might have struck me if I wasn't an atheist is if I were a philosopher or theologian), but rather because it seems inappropriate in light of the drive's stated goal (which is a bizarre paradox):

Assuming God does exist and is omnipotent and does interfere in our world through the use of miracles, then he is responsible for everything. Philosophers and theologians call this The Problem of Evil. Thanking God for saving your child - all the while belittling the actions of the men and women who were, through their expertise and professionalism, directly involved in saving that child's life - is tantamount to thanking an arsonist for calling the fire department after setting your house ablaze.

I think the facts of the situation are pretty straightforward; there are no miracles here. The Montreal Children's Hospital, its doctors and staff, work exceedingly hard in a market that does not favour them (Québec's doctors are the worst paid north of Mexico) for children who deserve as much health and happiness as everybody else. Calling their work a miracle cheapens it - it says that their skill and talent and work ethic is inconsequential, that whatever happens, God will intervene; this is, of course, wrong. These men and women are some of the best people our society has to offer and our city would be poorer without them - let's honour them properly.

No comments: