A cancer diagnosis does not make young people religious

Oct 18, 2012
A cancer diagnosis does not make young people religious

A sociologist of religion from the University of Copenhagen has interviewed 21 young patients diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer about their religious beliefs. She concludes that a cancer diagnosis will not make young people, who are not religious already, turn to religion. But it can confirm already existing beliefs.

"My research shows that young ' views on existential issues show consistency before and after the diagnosis: Their faith and their religious practices remain the same. However, the beliefs they already had can be confirmed and strengthened – this applies both to religion and science – so the patients may feel more strongly for the beliefs they had before they were diagnosed," explains of religion Nadja Ausker from the University of Copenhagen.

It has been a theoretical staple of sociology of religion that major religious conversions are preceded by personal crises; a person's feelings toward religion are significantly altered when confronted with an existential crisis such as a .

But Nadja Ausker challenges this theory with her thesis "Time for a change? Negotiations of religious continuity, change, and consumption among Danish cancer patients". In the thesis, she interviews 21 young cancer patients about the religious consequences of life crises, both shortly after the diagnosis and during treatmentt.

No hypocrisy

Nadja Ausker explains that a cancer diagnosis does not make young people lose their religion, just as do not become religious:

"The cancer patients do contemplate existential issues, but that does not mean that they suddenly start praying or going to church if these religious practices were not already part of their lives. Several patients said it would be hypocritical of them to change practice and faith because of the diagnosis."

What the patients who already are religious find important, according to Nadja Ausker, is the availability of religious goods to choose from and consume as needed – just as one takes a pill or other medication. The patients become "consumers" of religious goods, and they pick the goods for immediate consumption, e.g. prayer or attending a church.

The patients therefore consume , and not new , during their illness. But their post-diagnosis practices are still consistent with their pre-diagnosis practices.

Explore further: Less privileged kids shine at university, according to study

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Religion and healthcare should mix, study says

Oct 23, 2007

Research shows that religion and spirituality are linked to positive physical and mental health; however, most studies have focused on people with life threatening diseases. A new study from the University of Missouri-Columbia ...

Recommended for you

Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

Dec 18, 2014

Analysis of the results of a large-scale survey reveals the extent of truancy in English secondary schools and sheds light on the mental health of the country's teens.

Fewer lectures, more group work

Dec 18, 2014

Professor Cees van der Vleuten from Maastricht University is a Visiting Professor at Wits University who believes that learning should be student centred.

How to teach all students to think critically

Dec 18, 2014

All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills. ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

chromosome2
5 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2012
This makes me hopeful because if cancer doesn't cause people to regress, maybe other catastrophes won't either.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.