Young people who are diagnosed with cancer and are not already religious, do not turn to religion. But the life-threatening diagnosis can strengthen beliefs in those who are already religious, finds a study.
"My research shows that young cancer patients' views on existential issues show consistency before and after the diagnosis: Their faith and their religious practices remain the same," said Nadja Ausker, sociologist of religion from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
"However, the beliefs they already had could be confirmed and strengthened - this applies both to religion and science," Ausker added.
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 like cancer diagnosis, a Copenhagen statement said.
Ausker, however, challenges this theory. In her thesis, she interviewed a group of young cancer patients about the religious consequences of life crises - both shortly after the diagnosis and during treatment.
Ausker said a cancer diagnosis did not make young people lose their religion, just as atheists 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," the sociologist said.
"Several patients said it would be hypocritical of them to change practice and faith because of the diagnosis," Ausker added while defending her thesis Oct 12 at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Copenhagen.