Who Ya’ Gonna’ Call?

When I was a Christian and something happened in my life that was out of my control, it was natural for me to turn to God for guidance. I believed “He” was somewhere “up there” looking out for me. Whether any help arrived or not was inconsequential. It was the idea that I had an invisible friend who cared about me.

I no longer believe in the existence of this God; however, I sometimes catch myself in times of crisis asking for “His” help. After only a second or two, I come to my senses and remember there is no “Heavenly Father” sitting on a throne somewhere above the sky that is going to set things right.

The brainwashing is undeniable.

These incidents got me to wondering — what do non-believers and/or other ex-Christians do when a crisis over which they have no control enters their life (e.g., health issues; accidental death of loved one; unwanted pregnancy; etc.)? Or they are faced with a major decision that could change their life? How do they handle it? Do they turn to family and/or friends for guidance? What if the issue is so personal and/or sensitive that they would prefer to keep it to themselves? How do they work through it?

I’d love to hear some real, personal experiences rather than rote answers from atheists about how there is no help from supernatural sources and all the reasons why they believe that.

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20 thoughts on “Who Ya’ Gonna’ Call?

  1. I have a very good friend, a charming atheist lady in her late 50’s, living in Sydney, Australia, who has been the biggest fan of my writing. Suzanne has had a 26-year domestic partnership with a gentleman named Greg. For several weeks, she emailed that she had no energy. Recently, she was diagnosed with esophageal cancer – she has three months left to live.

    Suzanne doesn’t want to die, certainly, and her domestic partner Greg, has OCD and Asperger’s, and will fall apart once she’s gone, but she’s true to her convictions. Presently, she is enthusiastically planning her own wake, and is limiting her guests to a 3-drink maximum – she KNOWS me better than that, what will I do AFTER breakfast?!

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    • But Arch … what would YOU do if a crisis hits? It’s one thing to talk about what your friend is doing. But if something dire happened to you that you weren’t sure which way to turn (excluding a pending death), how would you handle it?

      Since I know you’re an unbeliever, I know you wouldn’t turn to “God.” But think about it. What would you do?

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      • That’s such an open-ended question, Nan – I’ve faced a considerable number of crises in my life, and handled each one differently, but at no time did I pray, or expect some supernatural force to help me. I guess I couldn’t answer your question without having a specific scenario in mind. I don’t want to trivialize your question with a trivial answer.

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  2. This question caused me some pause for thought. When I have faced a crisis in the past few years I didn’t bother praying about it because I don’t think God intervenes. I think relying on the strength of the love and support of family and friends has become my source of coping with tragedies.
    But I would be dishonest if I said that in an overwhelming crisis that I wouldn’t chance a prayer, because I think in utter desperation everyone will, including atheists. It will be interesting to see how other people answer your questions.

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    • Ann, I tend to agree that unbelievers who came from a religious background would probably “chance a prayer” in a desperate situation. I guess it depends on how deeply one was immersed in the faith but for many, I think it would be almost automatic.

      I know most atheists hold a strong conviction against there being a supernatural being but, like you, I think they too might call out for help.

      As I was writing this, I thought of a situation that might trigger a “prayer” for an unbeliever. Let’s say you’re skiing, when suddenly there’s an avalanche. You try to escape but end up being buried under several feet of snow, except for a very small space that allows you to breathe. You’re cold. You’re scared. You know that it will be difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to find you. Hours pass. You realize your chances of getting out alive are fading fast. Do you go against all that you have claimed to believe about there not being a God and “chance a prayer?” Or do you accept your fate and simply “let go?”

      I would like to think I would do the latter, but I can’t say with absolute certainty that this is what I would do. As I said in my original posting, many of the teachings I was once exposed to are still buried deep within my psyche. I guess all I can say is I hope I’m never put to the test.

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      • In the skiing scenario, I’d keep trying to free myself. The LAST thing I’d do is waste my air with a prayer that only I am going to hear.

        However, there are times when we atheists may SEEM to be praying, when we are actually talking to the world around us, in most cases, to not let something happen, not to god, not that we believe the world around us is going to supernaturally prevent either. In the long run, we’re really expressing our strong hope that the event doesn’t happen. Like a closed carton of eggs may slip out of my hands, and I may say, “NO! Don’t break!” – I’m not expecting some god to intervene, I’m actually telling the eggs not to break, which I also believe has no direct effect, but I am expressing my wish that it not happen.

        However talking to lottery-ball machines is perfectly acceptable, and has been known to be effective at a ratio of about one to 437 million – still, ya never know —

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  3. Interesting post.

    I’ve been lucky over the last few years in that I haven’t faced any major tragedies. Our family has been through a few rough spots, but nothing that was utterly devastating. Still, I have trouble seeing myself offer a prayer over anything. It’s just not a reaction for me anymore. When problems come up, I tend to move right into management mode: what can we do? what are the next steps? etc. I focus on what can be controlled and just work to accept the things that can’t. Again, this hasn’t been tested yet by anything major, but I think this is how I would react.

    In part, I act this way simply because I don’t believe in a god. But also, if there is a god, and if he/she is concerned with me and my family in the slightest, then a prayer shouldn’t really be necessary anyway. He/she would already want to help me — at least, it seems that way to me.

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  4. I’m with Nate, in that nothing really major has come up since I lost faith and anything at all has been dealt with in management mode as he said. I feel like I have control over my actions now, which is terrifying and liberating at the same time.

    All that being said, last night a car ran through an intersection and a close call was had . I instinctively thanked God that no one was hurt.

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    • Old habits die hard, Alice – interesting why no one asks why god didn’t stop the driver from running through the intersection. If there had been a collision, someone would have said, thank god no one died, or if they did, that he/she was in a better place, but no mention of that proverbial ounce of prevention. Don’t you just hate a god that gets all of the credit, but never has to take any of the blame?

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    • “Isiah 45:7”

      Ah yes, the old, “I create evil” verse, I’ve used it many times when people insisted on telling me how good their god is.

      The best thing that could have happened to the Judeo/Christian religion, was the conquest of the Levant by the Greeks the consequent spread of Greek thought and philosophy. The Ancient Greeks, say of Homer’s time, believed in capricious gods, who shared human emotions, and punished or succored at will. But about the time of the Greek expansion into Palestine, Plato’s and Aristotle’s philosophies were becoming accepted. Socrates had said, help your friends, hurt your enemies, but Plato and Aristotle both agreed: harm no one. Their line of logic was that the good man is happy, and a happy man will harm no one, so it became accepted that the gods must behave likewise – the gods, everyone admitted, are happy, therefore they are good, therefore they harm no one, therefore the myths regarding vengeful gods are wrong. “Fear of the gods” became an error and a philosophical vice. (D. Martin, “Inventing Superstition“)

      You may notice that with the introduction of Greek philosophy into the Levant, the image of the Jewish god began to change into a softer, kinder god, eventually evolving into one who “so loved the world –“.

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  5. Nan, I think the skiing scenario is a good example. I think our survival instinct will kick in and we will reach for anything that may provide hope. Arch makes a good point in referring to it as a strong hope. It doesn’t mean that someone believes that God will intervene, but I think that everyone will chance the possibility, if only for a moment, that something, anything can stave off impending death.
    I don’t think it has anything to do with the choice or willingness to believe or not, it is just that the will to survive will cause us to express that strong hope in any way we can, even the odd chance of a supernatural intervention.

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    • Sorry, not I.

      I recall rolling a car once – never for an instant, did any thought of being “saved” enter my mind, just that rolling over and over was just about the most exciting thing I had ever done! I was probably more surprised that I lived than anyone else, but no supplications ever occurred to me.

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  6. @ arch.
    You would know better than I, and if your experiences have proved differently I have no reason to think it would change.

    I’ve followed your comments on a few posts. I’m interested in Christian history and hope to check out your site soon.

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  7. Just stumbled on this blog. I am a former fundamentalist Christian turned agnostic, at the least, and atheist in general. On a recent motorcycle trip my bike had mechanical issues and my wife had to ride her bike alone about fifty miles. As it happened, a few steps from where we separated, was an Episcopal church open for anyone to come in and pray; I did so without much question. My prayer started with telling God I did not think he was there and if he was there I did not think he spent much time intervening in human affairs. However, I also pointed out that my wife believed he was there and active in her life and asked him to watch over her as she rode alone. As it happened, my wife made her ride alone safely, and while I don’t think any deity had anything to do with it, I know she appreciated the prayer.

    Reading a lot of deconverted writing, I seem to be somewhat odd in that I don’t hold any bitterness towards my former faith. In fact, I would be happy to be proved wrong, I just don’t think that is going to happen.

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    • Hi Tim!

      Glad you stopped by.

      Yours is an interesting story. I’m sure some Christians would jump on it and say it was “God” stepping in and keeping your wife safe.

      I don’t hold “bitterness” against my former faith either. I just feel sorry for those who are afraid to look beyond what they have been taught.

      And just a word of advice … I wouldn’t hold my breath that you’re going to be proven wrong. 😉

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