GUEST POST: No Thanks to God by Lisa Morguess

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.

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39 responses to “GUEST POST: No Thanks to God by Lisa Morguess

  1. Yeah, what kind of Omni-awesome “god” would see fit to scare the life out of parents that way; not to mention the fate of everyone else’s children….every child in a war zone or disease hotspot who is surely NOT protected at all. I get sick of it; for me it is like mental high fructose corn syrup: sickening sweet, nutritionally void at best and liver-poisoning at worst.

    Just as I eliminate that crap from my physical diet, I eliminate the company of people who feed my mind the “praise god” nonsense.

  2. Well explained Lisa and well done for putting the case for the natural explanation of events very well.

    What came to mind when I read your comments regarding the almost ritualistic sayings of Christians in time of need, is that it is so utterly selfish to appropriate a divinity for one’s exclusive self, whatever the circumstances and however they turn out.

    These things attributed to one alleged divinity may as well have been attributed to the favouritism of the man in the moon.

    If there is one thing that we (should) have learned from the “masters of suspicion” (Freud, Marx, Nietzsche) is that humankind has from the beginning projected themselves onto their divinities, trying to make up for their own failings, mistakes and shortcomings.

    Very glad that you are all OK!

  3. I know how you feel! My brother is currently being treated for cancer and I notice so many supportive comments offering prayer and praising God.A financial contribution toward the endless medical bills, a gift certificate for a massage/pedicure for my sister-in-law who is caring for him 24/7 — so many ways to help and show genuine active support other than token lip service.

  4. Thank you so much for posting this, Deb!

  5. Wonderful and articulate post, Lisa. Similar thoughts ran through my head this morning as I listened to the recently cured and released Ebola patient give God full praise for his recovery. How about a shout-out for that incredible team of doctors and the CDC in general? I’m always freshly astonished by the kudos God receives for curing people.

  6. Through social media, I know someone who has a friend who is dying of cancer. Each day I read public comments that pop up on my feed: “God has perfect timing,” God has a perfect plan,” “Keep praying, miracles happen every day.” I don’t understand how someone could say something like “God has a perfect plan” under the circumstances of what is happening. While I have sympathy for the young girl who is suffering and for her family, and understand that thoughts like these might help to make sense of what is happening, at the same time, it baffles me how they, along with their friends and family, could still believe these things.

    I also was dismayed today to read that the doctor who was afflicted with Ebola, who has been released from the hospital, has thanked God for his recovery. He is a man of science and has seen what havoc this virus has wrought, yet, he thanks God for his recovery?

    Often, one says “Thank God!” as a form of expression, not necessarily meaning “Thank God” in the literal sense. I do understand this. I say this myself, i.e. “I found my keys. Thank God!” I don’t really mean that I believe a man in the sky helped to find my keys.

    However, in the examples above, these people truly are thanking God; they truly believe that God will grant a miracle. I don’t understand it.

    • I don’t understand it, either.

      • I also wanted to add one more–James Foley’s father. Gosh, it was heartbreaking what he said about his son’s beheading. Then he said that it was part of God’s plan. I thought, what an evil, evil god they believe in. So sad.

    • I believe that although he is a man of science, he and the American woman who got Ebola were there on behalf of a religious organization. I don’t understand it. As a somewhat-scientist myself, I prefer logic. There is no logic to this prayer and praise God stuff. This blog is full of logical thinking and that’s why I like it!

  7. I completely agree with the comments above. I’m probably going to get slammed for this by some of the posters. If my son was missing and my Christian friends and family said they were praying for him, I’d feel a tremendous sense of gratitude toward them. It wouldn’t be because they were praying and praising God after he was found… I would be grateful because they were in it with me, that my son was on their minds and that they were also feeling helpless. When people tell me they’re praying for me, it makes me feel thankful, not because of their useless prayers, but because it shows me that they truly care. It’s not my place to try to change them, that’s something they’ll have to figure out on their own just like I did.

    • Hi Lotus,

      I have the same feelings about the “praying for you” thing. It is their way of showing concern and also how they are accustomed to reacting to desperate situations. It’s the “That was God’s plan” type comment after a tragedy that sends me reeling. And I will admit, when someone refers to themselves as “blessed,” I immediately think, “What? The rest of us are f****d?” And of course we’re not;)

  8. Wonderfully written and I could not agree more.My husband and I always say something back to the TV when people than God for curing them or sparing them in disasters. What about the doctors and all emergency people who do most of the work God gets credit for!

    • I tend to say “No Deities required” to the TV or to a person i know fairly well when they say that a God helped with something trivial such as the
      food finally showed up.

  9. I felt this way big time after one of my family underwent stem cell therapy for advanced cardiomyopathy. He is doing great, and truly, the operation saved his life. There were many “praise god” proclamations afterward. Out of respect, I just grin and nod, but I really wanted to respond to all of them with, “What about the doctors? How about the scientists? How about the donors who gave money, and all those who helped with fundraisers, because not only is this NOT covered by insurance, but he had to fly out of the country to get the procedure?” And the big question: how would those people praising god respond had the procedure not worked?

  10. Patricia O'Sullivan

    I agree with previous commenters that people offering to pray for you is nice. However, when prayer is a substitute for a more helpful action, that drives me crazy. I see on FB all the time, “Pray for the people of ______” when there are all kinds of practical things we could do to help them. In this way, prayer becomes no better than liking something online, a rote response that has little meaning other than to satisfy the liker that she did something when, in fact, she did nothing. I’ve heard it said that online activism is killing actual activism because people feel as if they are helping a movement by hitting like or making a comment. I wonder if prayer works the same way. If Christians couldn’t pray for someone in trouble, would they do something else more useful?

    • Such an incredibly good point. In some respects, “I’ll pray for you” is a lot like saying, “I’m thinking of you and wish you the best.” However, if the person can actually *do* something that will help, that’s even better.

      And for what it’s worth, I’ve sworn off the “like” button on Facebook. I’ve found that when I have to make an effort to comment, it fuels something inside. I’m being more proactive about a great number of things. I don’t think it’s just because I’m not using the “like” button… but swearing it off did enlighten me to the fact that I’ve gotten very lazy, socially speaking.

      • Great point, Patricia: “In this way, prayer becomes no better than liking something online, a rote response that has little meaning other than to satisfy the liker that she did something when, in fact, she did nothing.”

        @Shanan Winters “Like”?? haha. Yeah, I just thought it was a way to say, “I hear you.” But you did make me rethink that!

        • I wish there was a like button on your blog for the comments. I certainly like all of the thoughtful responses! I equate, “I’ll pray for you,” with my standard comments which are “sending lots of love,” or “thinking of you during this difficult time.” I agree, better to do something, and for certain friends I absolutely would. With time constraints, sometimes letting a FB friend know he/she is in my thoughts is all I’m able to do. Wonder if those who offer prayers really think they are doing something or just acknowledging someone’s unfortunate situation. Maybe a bit of both?

    • Prayer is like online activism. Perfect analogy. I love it. (And I’ll remember what you said the next time I start to sign an online petition.)

  11. Very well stated!! I have had these same thoughts and discussions with my husband (quite regularly actually!). First off, I’m so glad everything turned out the way it did for you and your son! After I read your story and your thoughts, it made me think of a friend of FB today. This morning she asked for prayers for her mom who was about to get a stent in her heart. Later she posted that it all went well and her mother was recovering. The procedure went well but now her mother is bleeding somewhere around the stent and they don’t know where or why yet. So, did the prayers work? If she pulls through, they yes, the prayers worked. If she doesn’t, then it was just god’s plan. It is sad that the proper people or things don’t get credit when a life is saved. God gets all the credit for all of the good things that happen. Sigh.

  12. Great post! So glad they found your son also.

  13. If God was looking after Finn that day, why did he let Finn walk away in the first place and leave you to suffer the fear of something terrible happening.
    I remember a television show some years ago with Della Reese call “Angel” I think. They would intervene to save someone that fell in with the wrong crowd and save them. I would yell at the television “What about the rest of the crowd. Don’t they deserve to be saved? Didn’t their loved ones suffer as well as the saved one’s family?

  14. The saying “god works in mysterious” has always mad me mad. Did that little girl/boy/woman/man that was raped, tortured, and then killed was there a greater plan? I have had arguments with believers in this thinking and they come back to you and say “this is a test of your faith!”. You can have your faith if a god allows that much physical pain to anyone and lets it happen. There is so much pain in the world and I’m supposed to believe that sending me a prayer will help me. How does a god with one persons prayers neglect the others that are suffering more than I am. If god was a person he would be an asshole and surely would be called more than that by others if he selectively choose who he wanted to save based on prayers.
    I wish my family could understand my view of the world and see for what it is, at this point in my life I live in isolation from them since they don’t think this way. I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one that thinks this way.

  15. I really appreciate all of the thoughtful responses. So nice to know that I’m not alone in my worldview.

  16. First, Lisa, wonderful post. Second, the happy ending was nice. Third, this is also one of my pet peeves. Whenever I hear someone say “I’ll pray for you,” I immediately respond “I’ll do science for you.” It’s an automatic, knee-jerk utterance for me. Half the time I get a laughter in return. A quarter of the time I get a confused look. The final 25% of the time I get a negative reaction. Someone saying “I’ll pray for you” is, among the other equivalents posted here, like stating “Have a nice day.” It normally doesn’t mean anything and isn’t really heartfelt. It’s just an autonomic response.

    One of the other courses I follow is to challenge the person and ask s/he is really are going to pray. I ask if s/he is honestly going to set aside time and make a worshipful request to whatever they worship on my behalf. Then I repeat the word “Honestly.” About 90% swear they will. The rare 10% will admit they probably won’t and it was an automatic reflex on his/her part. This is what really grinds my axe. I doubt many actually take to the to say the prayer, and I think most believe simply uttering the insipid “I’ll pray for you” is the prayer.

    Thus, I tend to find these kinds of comments disingenuous at best and lies at worst, especially when I remind people I am an atheist. Then I get an entirely different reaction that’s usually quite hostile. Once I had someone tell me god already abandoned me, and I asked what kind of loving god is that. No response: just an ugly look.

    I won’t comment about god the mass murderer since I’ve gone on at length about that before, as well as “god’s mystery plan” and the effect on free will.

    Anyway, loved your post! The fact your son was able to navigate a busy road shows his DS might not be an entire impediment to leading a rich life. Sounds like your doing a good job. I’ll do science for you.

  17. It’s amazing that god is always given credit for someone’s triumph, but when something tragic happens he is given a convenient excuse.

    It’s like a parent that has a horrible child but can only focus on the few good things they do and talk about it ad nauseum.

  18. Today’s attitude toward god is rather disingenuous. Maybe we were better off with the Greek pantheon. At least then we expected the gods to be capricious with their favors. It was also more evident that god was created in man’s image.

  19. A little late to the dance but this should help explain certain peculiarities of the natural world –

  20. Beautiful piece. I am glad your son is safe and that your mind is thinking clearly.

  21. Romans 10:9. You have a choice. Choose wisely.

  22. a secular society is a must for this current civilization to move forward. not filling young minds is a start in the righ direction for a young mind neither understands or enjoys the dogma that religion brings to the table. change is slow but the lies are slowly being revealed to the masses. free thinkers must unite and speak the facts freely without fear from the wolves in sheep clothing. santa is not real. move forward people.

  23. I’m glad you found your son. When I read about your husband’s cancer, it reminded me of a thought I had when my husband’s mom had cancer. Why do people who believe in god always pray for recovery when they hear about a terminal illness instead of saying, “Wow! Lucky! S/he’ll probably get to meet our maker soon!” After all, those same people, if said ill person dies, always say something about what a better place that person is in, and with their lord, etc., etc. Or they thank god if the patient’s life is prolonged, which means that maybe heaven isn’t something “believers” are really looking forward to with that much confidence after all.

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