You beat Ebola because of science, not God

I read in the news today that the two workers who were helping with the Ebola outbreak in Africa were cleared for release from the hospital. That’s right, these two people survived Ebola. That in itself is awesome, of course. I don’t want anyone to die the agonizing death caused by Ebola. But things that both of these people said upon their release really stuck in my craw.

Kent Brantly, the physician, said, “God saved my life.” Nancy Writebol said, “To God be the glory,” as she left the hospital. And only one thing came to my mind.

How disrespectful.

Statements and sentiments like this are ridiculous on two levels. First and foremost, God did not save you, science did. Is any rational human being really going to tell me that if these two people had stayed in Africa that they would be cured right now? No. Because if it really were all God’s work, then their location wouldn’t make any difference. What made the difference was returning to a western, first world country and receiving the best science and evidenced based care on the planet. Receiving a brand new experimental drug probably didn’t hurt either. A drug that was developed, by the way, by science–not Jesus. Give some credit where credit is due. It shouldn’t be “To God be glory,” it should be “To Medicine be glory.”

Secondly, how insulting to all the people who have already died from the Ebola outbreak. To insinuate that your survival was ordained by a supreme being suggests that those who died deserved to die in God’s eyes. For what? Why? What is so super special about these two people? They don’t think that those people in Africa who they were treating were doing the best they could do? This attitude is patronizing and condescending to the people you’re trying to help, and especially to those whose lives have already been claimed. 

At the end of the day, God had nothing to do with the survival of these two people. Clean water did. Antiseptic did. Being surrounded by trained professionals did. IV fluids did. An experimental new drug did. I’d be willing to bet that if given the same treatment in America, more of the people who died in Africa would have survived as well. So, please, let’s all stop pretending that an invisible man in the sky is deciding who lives and dies for his own reasons and acknowledge who the real heroes are: doctors and scientists.




9 thoughts on “You beat Ebola because of science, not God

  1. God prefers Americans. Especially if they’re white and prosperous. It’s in the Bible.

    Snark aside, I wonder what the general religious background is for the medical staff. “I want to go to West Africa and treat Ebola patients” doesn’t seem to be the default reaction of the world’s doctors & nurses.


      Apparently 55% of US physicians say religion influences their practices. Of course that doesn’t say anything about the rest of the world. I think a lot of organization like the WHO and “doctors without borders” show that a lot of medical professionals are willing to put themselves in harms way to practice.

      Of course I would also be willing to bet that most people don’t volunteer to practice in risky settings because they only entered medicine for the money.

  2. It always sounds weird when people thanks god for saving them when many other people died or are in the process of dying. The hurricane or earthquake aftermath interviews are especially crazy when right behind the people is massive destruction.
    Maybe you’ve seen it already, but Daniel Dennett wrote a letter called “Thank Goodness” after recovering from a dissected aorta. It touches on a lot of these topics, and more.

  3. This type of stuff is just insane. The most God did in this situation was just not killing you with ebola before you got the chance to be treated for it. There’s a certain amount of luck involved in this situation, in how they didn’t just die of it while in Africa or wherever they were (I didn’t pay much attention to the geography during the news show I saw on this), but that’s it. Granted, you could say that he was lucky that the medicine actually worked on him, since medicine in general can just refuse to work on some people, but I have a feeling that the doctors and nurses who gave him the medicine knew very well that it would probably work. At least we get to further the research on this medicine thanks to the couple of people in this.

    1. What annoys me about this is that if you distill the Christian argument down I’m sure it would amount to something like, “Well it was God’s will that the medicines worked.” As if any medicine we have developed will inherently not work unless God gives it his express permission to do so on an individual basis. And they’d probably back it up with, “Well how else could chemotherapy work for one patient, but the same chemo NOT work for another patient?”

      It makes me want to pull my hair out.

  4. Add some of my hair to your pulled out strands. It continuously ticks me off to hear about how someones dog saved them, when an army of Dr’s and nurses are standing at their side. What about the people in the labs working their asses off to to make the vaccines? What about the paramedics, the chopper pilots, and the millions of chicken eggs sacrificed for flu vaccines? What a bunch of narrow minded imbeciles.

    Science for the win, the dog gets the credit. Sends me into a swearing spasm every time. It would be more appropriate to thank the chicken that laid the fucking egg.

  5. Wow, you’re criticizing Christians for being consistent with their faith. Nice. So we need to stop practicing our faith so that we don’t offend you? I think not. We live in America where we’re free to practice our faith… at least until certain people try to take away those rights through legislation and impose their own secular laws at the expense of our freedoms.

    There’s absolutely nothing disrespectful about what the two Christian workers said. What they did was give glory, honor and credit to God, and that’s what Christians are supposed do. Now that’s not meant to take away anything from what the doctors have done. Doctors saved me from cancer, and I’ve thanked them personally, but, nonetheless, I give all the glory and credit to God alone. As a Christian, those doctors wouldn’t be able to practice medicine and save anyone if it weren’t for God giving them the capacity and faculties to do so. God has given many people the ability to treat those who are hurt and sick, and it’s important to recognize the work God has done. God has blessed America with an abundance of clean water and other things necessary to treat the sick. So rather than being disrespectful, they were being completely respectful and consistent with their faith.

    Yes, God did save them. Not science. God. He’s the one who created the means for us to use science, so all glory and honor go to him, not science. It’s irrelevant where these people were located and whether or not they would be cured had they stayed in Africa. What matters is that God provided the means for them to return to America where they could be treated and saved, despite the obstacles and politics. God worked through all that and saved them.

    And it’s not insulting to those who have died from Ebola (as if they could even feel insulted). If these people had died, and others were saved, these people would be thankful that God had saved those other people because Christians are called to love others. No one is suggesting that everyone else deserved to die. I’m not sure how you could come up with some convoluted, ignorant response like that. I find such vitriol and animosity towards Christians to be insulting and disrespectful of us and God.

    There’s nothing so special about those two survivors, and that’s one of the beauties of Christianity; God saves many people who are completely undeserving, and I’m sure those Christians would admit that they didn’t deserve to be saved out of all the people who have died from Ebola. They gave no patronizing or condescending attitude. The condescending attitude is coming from yourself, showing unnecessary disdain towards Christians who practice their faith.

    It’s interesting that in one article you criticize Christians as a whole for not doing enough that their faith has called them to do, and here you criticize Christians for practicing their faith as they should. Obviously you think whatever Christians do is worthy of criticism. Nice. I don’t think it’s Christians giving due credit to God who are the problem. Sorry, but God saved those two people, and he used clean water, antiseptic, drugs, doctors, and other people to do so.

    Is it really necessary for such a scathing and hateful response to Christianity? Failing to give glory, credit and honor to God would actually be a violation of our faith. Where’s the tolerance?

    1. Thank you for your comment. Respectfully, I do not believe that divine intervention saved these people at all. I believe overlooking the human presence that did work on them is disrespectful. If someone wants to believe God saved them, that’s fine. My point here was that often times the human beings involved in the saving of a life are completely overlooked.

      1. I understand that you don’t believe in God, but those two workers do, and you’re criticizing them for exercising their faith and beliefs. And what makes you so sure that they overlooked the human presence that helped them? Are you assuming that because it wasn’t reported? Or did you come across evidence suggesting that they hadn’t thanked the people treating them? I’d wager that they did thank them, and that you’re just caught up in what was reported. I haven’t seen anything except what you’ve written, so I don’t know, but I’d be extremely surprised if they didn’t thank those that treated them.

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