Saturday, December 03, 2005

Saviours

My stepbrother-in-law works as a tow truck driver near Yosemite. He's well-suited for the job--hardworking, conscientious, gallant, just the kind of person you're relieved to see when you've broken down in the wilderness in the dead of night on the last leg of your cross country journey and are wondering if that grunting sound you just heard was emitted by a large hungry carnivore. He has some amazing stories, but is very modest and shrugs off the dangerous aspects and long, weird hours. My stepmom let me know that on one of his recent calls, his customer had a heart attack, and he administered CPR and saved his customer's life. Pretty great, huh? His boss thought so too, and nominated him for an award from the American Towman's Association, which he won. So his boss flew him to Baltimore, where tonight he will receive his recognition at the ATA's annual gala dinner event. Yeah, I didn't know they had one either, but it's apparently a rockin' good time. Congratulations!

*****

[Religious Opinion Alert! Please skip down if this offends you.]

Christmas is just around the corner. Time for some "Food for God Thought":

There Is No God by Penn Jillette
...I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven....Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do."...Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future...Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.


I came across this via BoingBoing, a story about an atheist student group that gave out porn in exchange for bibles:
A Heroic Story by TonyC
...I no longer fear non-existence (although I do fear the act of dying, and admit I felt fear on a few times I have come close). The fact that the world is random actually gives me great comfort. I would rather believe that the loved ones I have lost (two siblings murdered, one dead by accident, and my father dead of a heart attack) were taken by accident, disease, bad luck or insane bad guys than that there exists a capricious God that could have saved them but inexplicably chose not to. Likewise I prefer to think that the bad guys in the world, the sadists, rapists, thieves and thoughtless murderers and dictators are all a natural disease we can strive to minimize or eliminate, rather than to think that they continue to wreak havoc with some divine approval. If God exists he could stop them if he wanted to, clearly he has other priorities...If God is omniscient and omnipotent, if he truly knows everything as it happens and can stop anything as it is happening, if he can intervene in human affairs as a result of prayer and faith, then how can he possibly watch a faithful eight year old christian girl being raped to death and not act? And not just once, but hundreds and thousands of children every year? There is no answer, or at least, the only answer acceptable to me is that there is no God, no Satan, no guardian angels, no supernatural scheme of justice. There is only the unfortunate insanity of a few caused by disease, drugs, abuse or some other brain failure, and the bad luck of crossing paths with one of these deranged few...Perhaps if people stopped attributing the horrors to God’s plan or Satan’s perfidy, if we stopped this insane reliance on supernatural protection and instead blamed ourselves and our systems that let criminals wander free and leave children exposed to predators, we could develop the law enforcement, surveillance, health care and other systems necessary to stop these horrors, or at least most of them. But then, that is just an atheist’s dream of accepting and tackling the world as it really is, instead of how we wish it would be.

While I'm still not sure about God or the existence of some bright pool of goodness/perfection that we can all dip into if we only Believe, I'm also pretty much convinced that death is simply no longer existing. (Note the use of "pretty much"--I'm a Virgo middle child, and have a little trouble with absolutes. Which probably explains my skepticism of God, huh?)

When I was at NYU, I took an Old English class and was charmed by a story I read, the pre-Christian belief that one's soul was like a swallow, winging its way through cold darkness; your life was the brief moment of light and warmth when the swallow found its way into the Great Hall, and ended as it flew out again. But I don't think I'll even experience darkness or chill when I die. Is that so bad? Why are people afraid of that?

I can understand how religion developed in ancient times, when lives were short and hard at best, and natural disasters were even more devastating and unpredictable--the existence of an afterlife would be fab, something to help you make it through. And many people still do live in desperate conditions, but as both of the above writers point out, we humans can work our own miracles and try to make things better. That seems to be much more reliable than waiting for God to decide to take action. I see too many people relinquishing their responsibilities, using faith--"it's God's will"--as an excuse not to feel, or to act in a certain way.

Some people have faith that I'll experience the searing flames of hell for *not* believing in hell. I guess that gives them some sort of comfort, payback for not believing as they do. I really, really would like to believe in a greater power. And karma. And reincarnation, talk about payback! But I think I'm going to have to stick to the rollicking admonition that we'll hear often this holiday season, "So be good for goodness' sake!"

That reminds me, time to dig out my Christmas music.

*****

Well, I'm off, heading down to Berkeley to see a friend of a friend in a community theater production of "Noises Off" then staying over at the friend's pad for a little slumber party. No, I won't miss M, he'll be studying almost the whole time. I'm nearly ready to go, but I have to spend some time talking myself into driving in heavy urban traffic. I'm leaving early so I can go slowly and won't have to travel in complete darkness. I can do it, I can do it...

4 Comments:

At 11:57 PM, December 03, 2005, Anonymous M2 said...

Thanks for sharing that not-sure-about-God-stuff. It warms my heart on this cold evening to know that I'm not alone.

 
At 10:56 AM, December 04, 2005, Blogger Rebecca said...

Excellent food for thought.
I'll pray for you. No! Just kidding!!!! (but I couldn't resist). The two quotes - especially the first, for me - make good sense. After a year and a half of being self-exiled from my previous belief system, I still find that I am unsure of the nature of Reality or any Higher Power, and I can see that I could happily question and doubt and seek for the rest of my life. But I agree that it's hugely important to be awake in this world, paying attetion to the rest of the people who are stumbling around it, working to make things better. That's what it's all about.

(*i intially posted this comment to your introvert entry, for some reason. nevermind it there. it belongs here.)

 
At 4:51 PM, December 07, 2005, Blogger Nancy said...

"Be good for goodness' sake" - that really sums it up nicely! Perfect ending to a great post.

 
At 11:48 PM, December 19, 2005, Anonymous shawn said...

Suze, Thanks for the kind words tried to track down an email address but couldn't find yours. Thanks again
S.K.

 

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