One of the best things about this blog is meeting so many like-minded people. I really appreciate knowing there are others out there who share many of the same experiences and frustrations. We can relate to and understand each other. This is a big relief for those of us in communities that put so much trust in God, rather than in the people around them.
Many of you know Lisa Morguess. She recently had an experience that every parent fears. And she encountered responses that most of us, while we understand, find, at times, bothersome. Read on…..And thanks, Lisa, for sharing this with us!________________________________________________
NO THANKS TO GOD
My six-year old son disappeared while we were on a family vacation recently (I wrote about it here). Without our knowing it, he slipped out of the condo we were renting for the week up in Mammoth Lakes, a small rustic town in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. That he has an intellectual disability (Down syndrome) made it all the more terrifying; I was absolutely frantic when I discovered him missing.
It is a testament to the influence of social media in my twenty-first century life that after we called 911, I grabbed my phone and quickly typed on Facebook, “Finn is missing. We are up in Mammoth Lakes and he got out of the condo without us knowing. He’s been missing for close to an hour. Everyone is looking, including the police. I have never been so afraid in my life. Please think good thoughts for us.” It seems ludicrous in hindsight that I gave a second’s thought to Facebook, but I guess I just needed people to know what we were dealing with; I needed to rally my support network.
Replies of support poured in. It was not at all surprising that many of them were of the “I’m praying for you” variety, though most of my Facebook friends know that we are atheist. I know they meant well. I know that for people who believe in god, that’s the best form of support they can offer. I was grateful for all the kind words, for knowing that people cared about my son’s well being.
In truth, though, I couldn’t help but think of my friend whose two-year old son wandered off several years ago and was found in a neighbor’s swimming pool. He did not survive. My friend was a devout Christian at the time, and I have no doubt that many, many heartfelt, gut wrenching prayers went out for her son all those years ago. A lot of good they did. My friend, who has struggled with her faith over the years, but who still believes, offered words of support to me that day that pointedly did not include prayer.
What flitted through my mind in the face of all the prayers for us was, “What if Finn isn’t okay? What will you tell me then? That it was just god’s plan?”
After being missing for about an hour and a half, Finn was found – wandering in a mobile home park a couple of blocks away (and across a semi-busy road). There really aren’t words to express my utter relief – it took a long time to pull myself together.
I let everyone on Facebook know that he had been found and that he was safe and unharmed, and then the “Praise God,” and “God was watching over him” comments started rolling in. Again, I know that people meant well, and I was grateful for their caring. But at the same time, it irritated me that the credit was going to the invisible puppet master in the sky.
This is one of the very biggest things about Christianity that bothers me: the selfishness it inspires. People believe that when things work out well for them, god has smiled on them, god has granted them favor because they are worthy. The problem with this thinking is that, logically, it would follow that when things don’t work out well for people, god has deemed them unworthy. So this God of Goodness plays favorites. Or at least he plays head games.
How could anyone believe that there is a merciful, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient deity who was looking out for my son that morning? (Why would a god who demands worship watch over and ensure the safety of a boy whose family are non-believers, anyway?) What makes my son any more deserving of looking after than any other child? What about my friend’s son? Was god asleep on the job that day? Or is he just a total asshole who toys with people for sport? In order to believe that my son got special treatment from the Big Guy that day, then one must acknowledge that he gives an awful lot of people the shaft. But you never, ever hear Christians acknowledge that. To explain it away as “the mysterious ways of God which we mortals are not meant to understand” is just a cop out.
I had the same frustration a few years back when my husband was battling cancer and so many people were praying for us, and when he went into remission, it was all thanks to god. Why would anyone believe that, if there were a god, he would smile upon my husband over other people battling grave illnesses? How was my husband any more deserving of life and restored health than anyone else (especially since he doesn’t even believe in god)? What about all the people who die from cancer every day? But that belief, that one can convince god to intervene on someone’s behalf, is, deep down, a belief that people who receive god’s good favor have somehow earned it – and if you believe that, then you must also believe that misfortune and unanswered prayers befall those who are not deserving.
To many, I have no doubt that “miracles” like my son being found safe and sound are just more proof of god’s loving presence. To me, it’s just more proof that there is no god. We got a lucky break that day, thanks to nobody but the good people of Mammoth Lakes.