Hard Luck

I’m going to start counting how many times a day someone talks to me about God (or their church) or someone talks about God in the media I read or hear. Yesterday, the count would have been high for both.

Just one example: In Granbury (about an hour from Dallas), six residents were killed by a tornado. Seven were still missing. In yesterday’s paper, we learn that tornadogoing to church (a Baptist church) saves lives. A 26-year-old man and his family were spared by attending  the night of the deadly tornadoes. His house was leveled, but the church was spared. The hardest-hit neighborhood in that town? The Habitat for Humanity project. Kind of ironic, huh?

In Granbury, the hardest-hit neighborhood was Rancho Brazos, which had 61 homes built by Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit that builds homes and sells them to low-income homeowners at cost.

With more bad weather heading our way this week, I was considering seeking shelter in a local Baptist church. But a quick search of churches and tornadoes yielded millions of hits for stories of downed places of worship. In fact, one church in Guy, Arkansas, was hit by 3 different tornadoes on the same day. Guess someone wanted that church down. Maybe they owed God money.

It’s not really funny–the damage that tornadoes do to people and places. But it just goes to show there is no correlation between weather events and who or what is spared. Bad or good luck. That’s it.

Why everyone doesn’t think this is baffling, but it seems that when a church is spared, it just reinforces the idea that God saves (for some lucky folks). And when God (oops) accidentally plows over a church in his angry rampage? Well, he was sending a message about what a big disappointment we all are. Just keep the faith. If you are lucky enough to see that your church was razed, God spared you.

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59 responses to “Hard Luck

  1. Exactly. People try to find meaning in everything. There is no meaning, people, just coincidence.

  2. I thought about this article for several minutes before deciding to reply. People who believe in God and attent church are in an illusion when they assume that God will protect them or save them from bad events occuring in their lives. Jesus stated in the gospels that it will “rain on the just and the unjust.” This simply demonstrates to me that what we go through as people isn’t the result of an angry God punishing us, but that life happens to all of us. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if we believe or not. We’re all in the same boat. We’re all in this together.

  3. Juan Pablo Bernal

    I don’t know how many of you have read this… but the following link is a must for a discussion forum like this Enjoy

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/religion

    Jp

    • @Juan Pablo Bernal Thanks for the link. LT has posted some of those comics from Oatmeal. The guy is really funny.

      I almost fell over with the, “Does your religion give you anxiety about sex?” Hilarious.

      Funny how, 10 years ago, all sorts of people (especially xtians) said they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon. But the wallet is mightier than even God we saw in the last election. For me, I just can’t elect into office someone who believes he’ll get his own planet when he dies.

      When I was reading that comic, I thought about this article I read over the weekend. We’re really not alone inside our bodies. We share them with a whole microcosm of organisms. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/magazine/say-hello-to-the-100-trillion-bac teria-that-make-up-your-microbiome.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130 519

  4. Debbie, I’m glad you and your family are all safe, and hope that all of you remain safe.

    Yeah, “DON’T LOOK AT THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!” That’s what I think of as I look back at my dramatic prayer life when I was Christianese. The great and powerful “Wizard of Oz” (GOD) could grant me wishes or ultimately destroy me. I was at his mercy day in and day out as a young child until I was almost 40 years old. Continually wondering if he would bring me clothes to wear or food to eat. Hoping for him to hear my cries from extreme neglect and abuse as a little girl and teenager. Would he finally have my parents divorce so that my younger siblings and I could at least have a little rest from their miserable marriage? Then I finally learned that there was basically nothing behind it all, just smoke and mirrors. All those years of spoken words, tongues, and “standing upon the word of god”, and the only response I ever received was rejection. Another heart felt prayer of tears and pain denied. I guess that’s why I like my life now as an atheist, no bible + no prayer equals less drama in my life. Prayer is what made me a worry wart, not non belief.

    I saw a comment on here about prayer beads in various religions. I equate it to the ancient indigenous religions/new age practices of praying with crsytals. From my understanding, it’s moreless the same. I know a little about this, my husband’s birth mom uses crystals. She’s told me that her circle of friends call her a shaman, but she also considers herself to be a non church christian. I know she takes her Cherokee heritage quite seriously, although I believe shamanism isn’t originally from Native American culture.

    I know that many jews, muslims, and christians would leave their religion if they would actually look at the blatant mysticism in their holy books, and modern day rituals. They wouldn’t want to associate with people whom they consider to be religious flakes. The absolute last straw of a huge handful of last straws for me in leaving christianity was a study on the so called Star of David. As someone who was an evangelical, pentecostal christian zionist for many years I was shocked to learn what this symbol I held so dear really represented both spiritually and politically.

    Yes, my husband’s birth mom is a new ager, his adopted parents are long time southern baptists, and my parents follow the same thought as what they have since their extensive involvement in the “jesus people” in the early 1970s. I guess that’s why I love the detachments of holy books and prayers in atheism.

    • @Charity Did your siblings stay in the same religion as your parents?

      I forgot about the new agers and the crystals. I knew someone in NC who believed in that stuff. She was still spiritual, but believed in more of a “god force” and forces of nature. That’s still religion.

  5. Deborah,

    My point of view where God is concerned is a fairly complicated one in that sometimes it could be considered a type of oxymoron. I don’t believe God is removed from the lives of people. At the same time, I don’t believe God intervenes/interferes as much as other people would like to believe. The “miracle” stories we hear of sometimes I believe have rational explanations. The creation of everything we see and know, in my opinion, didn’t happen as quickly as a huge sector of “fundamentalists” would have you believe. I believe it can be completely described through science.

    To me, this life is simply a huge test. I quoted lyrics from Metallica on one of your previous articles “My life style determines my death style.” I believe how well you die depends on how well you live. I’m not referencing an individuals actual death, because it would be absurd to believe that all people who die a horrendously painful death didn’t live well. A lot of great people die with agonizing diseases. But a person’s legacy, how long they live in the minds of those who knew them after their passing, is a simple fingerprint of how they lived their lives.

    All that being said, I believe God realizes we’re all unique individuals. As such, I believe He handicrafted all of our lives to express completely all possible combinations of human condition. To interfere would be to interrupt the most beutiful, and sometimes tragic, poems ever crafted.

  6. LanceThruster

    A variation of this is where survivors interpret their brush with death as a sign from God that they were spared in order to embark on some task with Divine purpose.

    I saw The Rolling Stones this weekend in the OC and outside the arena it was the Super Bowl equivalent for the signage god-botherers (see: http://www.fromTheHolyBible.info ). They had a somewhat diverse group of sign holders (old, young, Filapina) though the 12 year old boy looked a mix of boredom and embarrassment. I passed a Hulk Hogan lookalike who bellowed as I walked by, “I can SMELL the unrighteousness!” (guess I need to change speed sticks) With previous encounters I have at times engaged them which inevitably resulted in their making the assessment that I was damned to hell for my rejection of their god, but this time I just felt sorry for them. Yes, a Stones show most likely has its share of hedonistic “lost souls,” but I don’t see adopting any of the countless variations of xian mythology as the optimal way to sort your life out. Much of the crowd looked as if they’d be as at home on the golf course as anywhere.

    As far as making hard life choices for your own sanity/survival, it’s hard to top the story of Mick Taylor, the Stones guitarist who replaced Brian Jones after he died. He quit the band at the top of their game because he was certain he would succumb to heroin addiction in the hard partying atmosphere and wind up dead. As I watched the masterfully fluid style of Taylor who guested with the band on this 50th anniversary tour, I kept thinking what might have been. His virtuosity is evident in the song, “Can’t You Hear me Knockin’?” Ronnie Wood is great to be sure, but Taylor added an element that was unique.

    I guess it’s only rock and roll…

    Back on topic, I could only afford a single ticket (best seats I ever had for them – and I’ve got an unbroken streak of Stones tours since 1975) and sat next to a guy who had done the same. We chatted with a very nice couple next to us and at the end of the show, I joked to them, “See you next tour.” He patted me warmly on the back and said, “See you next tour, God bless you.” I chuckled inwardly but felt good that I just accepted the wishes in the spirit they were given. We atheists are like that, particularly because we have heard that same phrase uttered with disdain as in “Die heathen scum.”

    • @LT Those two stories contrast well–the God bothers and the decent guy who meant well with God bless you. Religion at its worst and religion at its best. Though, when I hear someone say those words to me, I’m also just a tad bit let down.

  7. LanceThruster

    One other note, I almost had a meltdown because when I went to pick up my ticket at my old address (my sister lives there now), it wasn’t there! I didn’t know what to do. I was going to drive all the way back home to begin a frantic search of mail I had picked up prior in the off chance I had overlooked it. The voice inside my head is desperately pleading, “Please don’t let this happen to me!” to no one in particular. I was debating whether to lie about missing the show because I was so embarrassed about spending that much money for nothing. After an hour on the road doubling back, I got a call from my dad that my sister had mistakenly put it with his mail (I had called him first thing but he said he didn’t have it either but I guess he at some point decided to make sure). I was too relieved to give my sister grief even though she was a bit snotty in claiming that she handles the mail sorting task without error.

    It was fortunate that I actually got an early start because I was supposed to be having an early diinner with a friend who lives near the venue. If not for that, my dad and his wife might have already been out on the town and the night would have been a total washout. My friend was so understanding and had me come over afterward to spend the night on her couch instead of driving two hours home or an hour to my sisters. We then walked a couple of miles from her place down to the beach (which I hadn’t been to in over a decade) and I just basked in my contentment and good fortune.

    Did I think that this was Divine intervention and God was looking out for me? Not in the least. I would have no respect for a God like that because I would in a heartbeat trade the resolution my minor mishap (in the grand scheme of things) for a God that would actually intervene in ways that came to the rescue of those truly in jeopardy and in need.

    Instead, it is up to us the soften the blows for each other whenever and wherever possible that are a result of the random ‘capriciousness’ of the universe. That’s the way it’s always been and always will be.

    “We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” ~ Mark Vonnegut –

    • @LT That’s a nice story. There are so many near-misses. People do believe, though, that a story like yours was Divine Intervention. The thing I can’t understand is why do they believe this? For the same reason you mentioned, don’t people see that the “minor mishaps” are nothing compared to the heart ache some suffer. Do some believe we’re just a bunch of pawns in God’s game. Seems like he would have saved the time and trouble before you started doubling back. Sigh.

      Love that quote.

  8. LanceThruster

    Juan Pablo Bernal | May 20, 2013 at 1:35 pm |

    We need to hand this out like tracts (I think I’ll make sure I have some on hand for the god-botherers I occasionally encounter or who come calling door-to-door). It is profound in its simplicity. Make sure you check out the Oatmeal’s take on dogs. It has more to say about the reality of existence than any sacred text I’ve encountered.

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/dog_paradox

  9. I remember the flood of pictures after Superstorm Sandy hit the east coast, showing the foundations of churches and statues of the Virgin Mary left untouched in the midst of completely flattened homes. “God is good!” people cried, when they really should have been saying things like, “stone is stronger than wood!”

    I touched on this selectivity the other day (“I AM SO BLESSED!”) as one of the reasons I see a danger inherent to religion no matter how seemingly benign to those who believe. It encourages shutting off your brain in favor of feel-good confirmation bias that is still viewed by a significant percentage of our population as just as important in our search for “truth” as science.

  10. LanceThruster

    In yesterday’s paper, we learn that going to church (a Baptist church) saves lives. A 26-year-old man and his family were spared by attending the night of the deadly tornadoes. His house was leveled, but the church was spared. The hardest-hit neighborhood in that town? The Habitat for Humanity project. Kind of ironic, huh?

    Legend of the great San Francisco quake and subsequent fire has it that the churches were destroyed but the saloons remained standing.

  11. LanceThruster

    @Deborah Mitchell | May 20, 2013 at 3:43 pm |

    I remember learning that we’d starve without our stomach bacteria. Simply amazing. Even adherents of Jainism ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jainism )have to come to terms with the fact that their lives are a direct result of death on a grand scale.

    • @LT Interesting article about the Jains. One of the oldest religions in the world. They are dwindling because they’re too nice, it seems. I read somewhere that man developed his consciousness through chants and meditation. If I weren’t so lazy (ToE again), I’d go back and see where I found that. Haha. Maybe I will later. 🙂

  12. I live in the Bible Belt. I see this literally every single day. Every single one. I can’t drive five feet without hitting a church. Or a bank. Interesting. My husband is a Christian, and a good, caring man. He doesn’t worry about stuff. I worry about everything. I wonder if I’d be any more secure if I had been raised to believe in God? I don’t know. I think I question stuff way too much for that to have ever been successful. But who knows? I do wish I had that comfort. I wonder how many people who are faithful seriously have that comfort, or just tell themselves they have it. How man, at the end especially, are not so sure? I wonder.

  13. LanceThruster

    when I hear someone say those words to me, I’m also just a tad bit let down.

    I know exactly what you mean. There’s a sardonic voice in my head that goes, “Awww, why’dja hafta ruin it?”

    Wouldn’t it be nice to wish someone “Godspeed” ( http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19980129 ) which was an offering of success and prosperity, and be devoid of the god-baggage? I guess “Live long and prosper” covers it, and the Wiccan? greeting “Merry meet, merry part, merry meet again” is rather sweet though anachronistic.

    I think maybe when the opportunity presents itself again I might offer, “Thank you for that. If I was a believer, I’d bless you right back.” (it would even work for sneezes!)

    It might be a way to remain fully pleasant and appreciative but not ‘in the shadows.’ It allows you to validate the person without validating the worldview presented by way of your tacit assent.

  14. LanceThruster

    @aliceatwonderland | May 20, 2013 at 4:07 pm |

    I too get a feeling that they’re ‘whistling past the graveyard’ rather than experiencing the serenity that have having knowledge of the ultimate answer to mortality and the secrets of the universe should at least occasionally instill.

  15. Having spent at least 50 of my 70 years in Oklahoma City, I can assure you that unless a church has a storm cellar, it is not a safe shelter from a tornado. The large, unsupported roof spans of most sanctuaries are the worse kind of place to be. I have a lot of siblings, nieces, nephews, etc. in OKC and I assure they were all tucked snugly in their safe rooms and storm cellars yesterday. When a tornado is coming your way, you trust only the meteorologists, the storm chasers, and the engineers who built your storm shelter.

  16. These cartoon by Danish guys Wulff and Morgenthaler are at their best very, very funny and witty. And at their worst quite okay still 🙂

    http://wumo.com/2013/02/23

    http://wumo.com/2010/02/15

  17. LanceThruster

    I read somewhere that man developed his consciousness through chants and meditation.

    That certainly makes sense in that if I understand it correctly, the effect is to be ‘in the moment’ and what follows is the product of that moment. I get so exasperated when I see those wireless commercials where whatever is happening in real time is mind-numbingingly dull or uninteresting (including the mocking of elderly relatives sharing history) which is keeping them from plugging into the only reality that appeals to them; that of their cyber/social world. .The demand to be perpetually entertained to keep out the boring spaces that come in between seems a recipe for complete decline and fall for humanity in the long run. It is a form of openly unapologetic masturbation. A ride on public transportation will reveal a hefty fraction doing the zombie-like screen stroke. I’m partly jealous as there’s nothing wrong with optimizing your time, with toys, but there’s good and bad effects of promoting the virtual separation from the world around you. Certainly unpleasant people can make those interactions troublesome, but I think it would have an effect at least at the margins, and this effect is cumulative.

    After all, I can see nothing more important for us to foster in young adults than they think of themselves as knowing all they need to know and that no one outside of their circle has anything of value to contribute to their being.

    Kurt Vonnegut said when asked to explain what the meaning of life was, would respond, “Don’t ask me, I just got here myself.”

    If we manage to distill out that sort of humility from society, it means we understood far less than we ever put our limited imaginations to in the first place.

    Alan Watts spoke of “the Eternal Now” based on a Protestant theologian’s writings. It is always ‘now’ and has always been now and that is literally our connection to eternity.We express ourselves as ‘eternal beings’ by the shaping of the ‘now’ to come. You wonder if that would be enough to shape the behavior of enough so that a slight constant pull in the direction countering the decline were acheived. It’s hard to see any evidence of that when catering to the lowest common denominator is considered a no-brainer. It’s win or lose in the margins, and time favors the persistant.

  18. LanceThruster

    saab93f | May 20, 2013 at 6:21 pm |

    Those were exceptionally awesome.

  19. This sums it up nicely…

    POOF, THE LIGHT GOES OFF !
    A 65-year-old man goes for a physical. All of his tests come back normal so the doctor says, “Mike, everything looks great. How are you doing mentally and emotionally? Are you at peace with God?”
    Mike replies, “God and I are tight. He knows I have poor eyesight, so he’s fixed it when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, poof!, the light goes on. When I’m done, poof!, the light goes off.”
    “Wow, that’s incredible,” the doctor says.
    A little later in the day, the doctor calls Mike’s wife. “Mrs. White,” he says, “Mike is doing fine but I had to call you because I’m in awe of his relationship with God. Is it true that he gets up during the night and poof! The light goes on in the bathroom, and when he’s done, poof! The light goes off?”
    “OH GOOD GRIEF!” Mrs. White exclaims, “He’s P*****g in the fridge again!”

  20. I just finished reading a FB update from a family member who was near the tornadoes. Several of the commenters mentioned that “God is awesome” when speaking of her safety and being out of the way of destruction. I can’t help but wonder how God’s awesomeness is for the people who had their houses destroyed. For the school that was demolished with all of the kids inside?

  21. NONE of it makes any sense! How arrogant for football players to pray that God helps their team win…don’t you think God should be paying closer attention to the starving babies in Africa who have flies laying maggots in their eyes??? Perhaps God was answering the prayer of some woman who wanted to hit the lotto for just enough to pay for her liposuction, and flaked on protecting those kids instead. How anyone can continue to delude themselves just puzzles me, unless they are just so afraid they’ll never see grandma again, they’ll believe anything, which I think it is. The randomness of the universe is terrifying.

  22. Yeah, this kind of thing drive me up the wall. I just read something today about a church bus involved in a crash that resulted in fatalities, and I couldn’t help but wonder how the god people would spin that one.

  23. This has little to do with luck but goes on to show the xian holier-than-thou attitude. Apparently I have plenty more loath storaged somewhere – these good pious people condemning an 18-yo gay girl are just worthless scum.

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/05/20/bigoted-religious-zeolites-high-school-senior-allegedly-expelled-charged-with-felonies-over-gay-relationship-with-consenting-fellow-student/?corder=asc

    • @saab93f I read about that on another site, too. Very sad. I think the other parents are harassing Hunt, the 18yo. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be for her already–and her mom. At least the mother seems supportive of her daughter.

      The irony of all this is that, think of how many times (at least in the US) the media and advertisements (beer commercials) show two girls together provocatively. Like it’s OK as long as a guy is watching or a guy is involved, but if two women just love each other and are not sexual toys? Well, “that’s just nasty.”

  24. Great post and comments! So much of what I wanted to say has already been commented on which shows how much we think alike and in the questions we ask. So why is it believers don’t ask the same questions? How can they possibly keep making the same comment “God is good” or “by the grace of God I was saved” time and time again after each and every devastating occurrence? Could it be they honestly believe the comments they make or are they so programmed to saying such things that they no longer think rationally what they are saying. I believe it to be the latter.

    A trooper was being interviewed this morning after the OK tornado yesterday. She said they had found 101 people during the night and by the grace of God they will find more. God is good!

    A man told a news person that he prayed and prayed that the tornado wouldn’t touch him shortly before his house was obliterated and his dog swept from his arms. Guess God didn’t like his home. As an animal lover I was happy to hear his dog was spared. He made the comment that an angel must have been watching over them.

  25. Oops I see my post posted twice. Once as anonymous and then again me. I pressed the enter key before I was finished commenting. Didn’t think it would post. Sorry about that 😉

    • @Juls Sorry about that! I removed the other comment! Sometimes I have trouble posting comments, too.

      It’s hard to watch all those interviews. I heard there were a lot of missing pets, too. You know, people complain about the government, but “thank god” we do have all these services and help in place for times like this….

      So it’s our turn next. That storm is moving through here this afternoon.

  26. Did you know God hates Oklahoma now???? Good old Westboro Church at it again!

    http://www.examiner.com/article/westboro-baptist-church-tweets-god-hates-oklahoma-after-tornado

    On a much happier note…..I love stories such as this minus the “god answered my prayers” comment
    http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50147264n&tag=api

  27. Just came across this one as well from Pat Robertson. Oklahoma was hit because they aren’t praying enough. If they had of prayed more the tornados wouldn’t have happened. Wonder how that makes all those that do pray a lot and live there feel about his comments and that may actually be followers of his.

    http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/video-pat-robertson-blames-tornado-victims-not-praying

    • Wow. Juls. Both of them–idiots. Not too often you’ll hear me say that but it really ticks me off when people exploit a tragedy just so they can get their name/face/agenda front and center.

      It’s gotten really dark here now. They expect the storms to come through here in an hour or two–the same one that came through OK. When you don’t believe, you just realize that you’re at the mercy of mother nature.

  28. Hopefully you guys won’t encounter any raging nature. In here what you might see are strongish gusts of wind or heavish showers. Vanilla if you like 🙂
    Pat R is an evil man. I cannot think anything positive about him or his ilks.

  29. Deborah, et al …. thanks for providing me with a bit of sanity this morning. I have a question: What words will be as comforting to those in need when everyone is saying “God Bless You?”

  30. LanceThruster

    That is the perfect response. When I returned to work today, I learned that friend was just in a car crash as a passenger in someone’s else’s car and her face is all swollen from the impact. The driver was hurt worse (a couple of broken ribs). They were t-boned by a 17 year old kid with no insurance. My response was, “I’m so sorry, is there anything I can do to help.” She said, “How about a hug?” I said, “No…sorry. That’s asking a little too much.”

    She started laughing and punched me because I made her face hurt (she did get her hug btw).

    • @LT LOL. Funny!! (Did you punch her back?) Joking…

      • LanceThruster

        Not yet. I did give her an enraged look and then do that thing where you point at your own eyes with two fingers, and then switch to pointing at the other person with one finger (as in “I’ve got my eyes on YOU!”). That made her laugh too.

  31. Recently, Pope Francis said Athiests who do good are redeemed as well. What are your thoughts about his comment? Personally, I think its an interesting point of view. One that majorly clashes with the thoughts and feelings of Evangelical Protestantism.

    • @dqfan2012 Funny. This has been said to me many time before by Catholics. “I believe you’re still going to heaven because you’re a good person.” I think it’s an idea that has been popular with the people for a while. Even my mom’s priest told my father this several years ago. (My dad was not a believer; my mom, a Catholic.)

      Well, if I remember my history of religion courses correctly, what would it matter to the protestants? If everyone is predestined, they have no way of knowing who out of their bunch is marked and who isn’t. For that matter, an atheist who is doing well and exhibits the same signs of success as a protestant could also be going to “heaven,” right?

      What are your thoughts?

      • I’m neutral in this subject. I don’t feel qualified to give an answer. I will say this: I believe the belief held by Catholic’s and the Protestant communities is solely based on their definitions of the words “redeemed” and “saved.” I don’t see the two opinions all that differently, because, to me, they seem to be the two sides of the same coin.

  32. LanceThruster

    Another thing I’ve been hearing peppered into conversation recently is “God forbid.” I used to insert “Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise” when speaking to friends who knew I was atheist.

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