Dharmajam's Blog

Religion and Vaccination
July 2, 2010, 6:25 pm
Filed under: Medicine / Health, Religion / Philosophy, Uncategorized

The issue of whether or not to vaccinate has been a thorn in my side since my pregnancy with Em, five years ago. I simply can’t make up my mind whether the pros outweight the cons, on a personal level and public level. This morning, an even greater problem came into it. I was reading the animal and human tissue content of vaccines. (Just a little light read over morning coffee.) I was looking for the Dr. Sears vaccination schedule, when I stumbled upon the ingredients of some vaccines. I won’t list it here, or perhaps I should. It really is necessary component of my dilemma. I took this list directly from p. 193 of “The Vaccine Book,” First Ed. 2007, by Dr. Robert W. Sears M.D.

  • Human blood proteins (albumin)
  • Human lung cells
  • Human fetal lung cells
  • Human cell lines
  • Cow serum (the liquid part of blood)
  • Cow heart-muscle extract
  • Cow tissue extract
  • Monkey kidney cells
  • Guinea pig embryo cells
  • Chicken embryos
  • Chicken kidney cells
  • Chicken eggs

Then I wrote the following in the margins:

This raises an existential question for me.  I WAS  leaning toward a slow vaccination schedule.  These ingredients make me want to not vaccinate at all… again.  Aside from the disgusting quality of these ingredients, there is the disgusting nature of how they were obtained, of and to which I feel repulsed and opposed.  Of course, I am at my total luxury to be able to even consider these issues; at my liberty to even have a moral dilemma.  Vaccines HAVE improved life so drastically that I can not even fathom living in a world where my children were more likely to die than to live, as it used to be.  But there is the question of what “improvement” actually means.  Vaccines have improved life if we take improvement to mean a drastic reduction in the suffering, death, and bereavement that was commonplace a century or more ago. 

It was at this point  I looked at Ani and began to weigh whether I could stand the risk of losing her against what I do or do not believe to be existential truth.  My notes continued:

This brings me to my existential dilemma.  In Man’s quest to improve his condition on Earth, he tinkers at ever more minute levels of creation.  He cannot stop himself, for if he CAN do something to lessen the suffering of his family, he WILL.  However, should he stop himself from going too far?  How is he to know when he approaches the threshold of what is ‘too far?’  Does the scientist feel a pang of conscious as he mucks about at the cellular level? 

Is illness a function of karmic effect?  Certainly not from the Christian model of Good vs. Evil.  From the latter perspective, illness is an evil, a plague on humankind from the devil.  If I am correct in my understanding of basic Christian philosophy, God made man in His image, an image of perfection.  Man stayed in that state of perfection until his fall, due to the meddling of the devil, and became subject to the illnesses of the world and death.  According to such belief, we are perfectly within our rights to climb out of despair and suffering with innovation.  I am certainly not prepared, nor do I wish to live in a world without modern medicine.

However, I still do not know what to believe.  I am inclined to accept the Hindu model of karma, but after this examination, I’m not so sure it actually contradicts the Christian model of how we got into this mess to begin with.  It seems more of an explanation of how the mechanics of this ongoing sin is played out.  For example, according to the doctrine of karma, everything that happens to anyone is the reaction of some former action.  Basically, you get what you deserve.  As a child, this presented a problem to me “if so and so hits me, then I deserved it, due to me having hit someone in the past… however, so and so has now incurred bad karma from delivering my bad karma to me and will therefore be subject to the same.  How do you break the cycle?  For I would like to hit so and so back, but this will only insure my being hit again in the future…” and on and on and on.  I later discovered, the only way to break the cycle is to respond, rather than react.  But that is not relevant here.  What is relevant is that the doctrine of karma does nothing to explain the origin of suffering. (But it does help in managing it.)

How much should be done to alleviate suffering with science?  If I take God’s existence as a given, which I do, then the question is thus: Is God to blame for illness, or is it the work of a different malevolent entity? If God is God, then God cannot be to blame, and there must be a malevolent entity at work in the world.

Yet, there is still the question of how best to respond to it?  Christian Scientists pray for God’s intervention in cases of sickness.  However, this presupposes acceptance of the suffering of, or death of, a loved one.  If a malevolent entity is to blame for illness, how could anyone accept it?  What does it say about God’s interference in our lives if he does nothing to save someone for whom he has received fervent prayer to save?

Or, perhaps there is no God and no malevolent entity and science is our only savior against suffering.  I can’t accept that. 

God must use the suffering to bring us closer to him… that is what has been my personal experience.  Of course, I have no idea how to reconcile that belief with the degrees of suffering which are possible, and which some people in fact have endured.

I am at a crossroads in my faith.  Do I believe in original sin? Yes.  Do I believe it is valid for Man to try to improve his condition?  Yes.  Do I believe there is a line demarcating what is “too far?”  Yes.  Do I believe that vaccines are that line?  I guess not.  I don’t know.  Maybe.  *sigh*

In the end, I am no closer to making a decision for or against vaccination.  All I know is this:

The ingredients are gross and suffering has been reduced by an unbelievable margin by vaccines.  I hate ambiguity.  And yet, there it is.  The final question feels like the right one and will perhaps lead to solving this dilemma:

Should suffering be avoided? 

Please help me answer this question.