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Ready to go postal

For topics that are more about faith, religion and religious organisations than anything else.
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lukanator
Posts: 25
Joined: August 1st, 2008, 10:07 am

Ready to go postal

#1 Post by lukanator » May 9th, 2009, 7:55 am

I was discussing a young friend's battle with brain cancer with my in-laws and a friend of theirs. They took this conversation as an opportunity to talk to me about Satan, an ostensibly all-powerful deity capable of inflicting brain cancer who nonetheless harbors petty human vices such as hatred, envy and impatience. For our young friend to defeat brain cancer, they informed me, we apparently must "brace" ourselves against Satan, refute him, etc. and in general maintain a diligent campaign of resistance through intense prayer.

They also shared with me anecdotes of miracles, of grievous injuries being healed instantly through mere contact with some holy relic. These were especially creative.

The two dispensed religious dogma for about 20 minutes while I sat and listened to them silently. A few questions occurred to me:

What sort of an ostensibly supreme being has an enemy whom he cannot defeat (Satan)?

What sort of a transcendent, super-human deity demands totalitarian allegiance, free from dissent?

What sort of an ostensibly supreme being demands worship but gives us the ability to dissent?

I don't believe in Santa Clause. Does that make me a bad person?

I decided I didn't want to see two human beings short-circuit, especially since one of them was my mother-in-law, so I said nothing. It made me sad, however, to realize that the more vigorously one proselytizes and dispenses one-sided dogma, the less receptive that individual is to information. The reason these two people were able to talk at me (not TO me) about miracles and religion for 20 minutes is because they themselves couldn't possibly be willing to sit through even a minute of The Case For No God.

This is related to why I'm hesitant to describe myself as "atheist." The word has a negative connotation by virtue of the way it's applied, by religious conservatives, as an epithet. Our world is so fucking backwards when not believing in a god as a matter of logic can negatively impact the way people consider you.

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grammar king
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Joined: March 14th, 2008, 2:42 am

Re: Ready to go postal

#2 Post by grammar king » May 9th, 2009, 10:10 am

It's always tough, especially when you're deep in a religious community. My mum thought it was just a teenage phase when I became an atheist. I stopped going to mass but for some reason she thought Christmas would be the exception. In fact I have a bigger problem going to mass on holy days of obligation because that's what they base their attendance figures on. She cried, and I felt terrible, just for not believing.

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jaywhat
Posts: 15807
Joined: July 5th, 2007, 5:53 pm

Re: Ready to go postal

#3 Post by jaywhat » May 9th, 2009, 12:57 pm

Hang on there. My mother probably didn't cry but she probably also thought I would grow out of it. Now at 97, she sees her son (at 71), as a person who has stuck to something for well over 50 years and she seems to be nearly on my side - trouble is, meeting dad is only a little time off.

lewist
Posts: 4402
Joined: July 4th, 2007, 8:53 pm

Re: Ready to go postal

#4 Post by lewist » May 9th, 2009, 2:14 pm

lukanator wrote:I was discussing a young friend's battle with brain cancer with my in-laws and a friend of theirs.
Your young friend is lucky if there is a realistic chance of a battle, lukanator. Thirty three years ago my mother died of a glioblastoma, six weeks after the diagnosis, four of those in a coma. The consultant admitted that they knew nothing about this form of cancer at all. Just over a year ago my wife died of the same. She lived over a year after the diagnosis, some of that time with quite reasonable quality of life, because now there are palliative treatments, ways of prolonging life, though no hope of a cure. The level of knowledge seems not to have increased much at all. All this stuff about god and satan is rubbish, fairy tales for those who won't think. It was my wife's illness - and her cheerfully stoic attitude to it - that made me assert myself as a Humanist, though I had considered myself one since my late teens.

Let's have an analogy to show how I see it. Years ago a local business magnate where I lived at the time owned and promoted the local basketball team. All the players were imported from the USA and they did well because he put megabucks into them and the sports centre he built for them. Then he had the chance of a lifetime and bought a Premier League football club. A new toy having been bought, the old was cast aside. The basketball team struggled for a time then disappeared; the sports centre was demolished and the land was used for a shopping centre.

If there was a creating god, it has moved on; we are its basketball team, still struggling along, and somewhere it has a new toy, if you like, a Premier League football club. Pay no attention to god, it is not worth your time. If he was here, he is gone and won't be back. Most likely he never was here in the first place. There probably was no god but if there was, it is god the utterly indifferent, god the couldn't give a toss.

Your questions? Mainly rhetorical. It is difficult dealing with people who have views so opposed to yours and so unthinkingly entrenched. On the other hand I have friends who are committed Xtians and we simply don't approach issues where we might really disagree. Thus we get on and get by.

I have to apologise if a lot of my post is off topic; mention of brain cancer makes me want to repeat my views.

I call myself a Humanist because it is a positive term; atheism (which I find hard to see as other than negative) is part of it; more important is the part about living a good life. Hang onto that! :)
Carpe diem. Savour every moment.

lukanator
Posts: 25
Joined: August 1st, 2008, 10:07 am

Re: Ready to go postal

#5 Post by lukanator » May 10th, 2009, 5:33 am

Lewist, thanks very much for the reply.

Our young friend was initially diagnosed with GBM grade IV, which implied almost unequivocally that she'd soon leave this world. As luck would have it, the diagnosis was wrong and confirmed as something more treatable. That tumor was resected and she underwent more than a year of grueling chemotherapy, apparently cured, only to have a perfunctory MRI uncover another similar tumor, this time buried in a different part of her brain. They're now contemplating their treatment options (she and her significant other.)

Her significant other, a logical and highly intelligent friend whom I respect a great deal, seems to have sought some refuge in religion, understandably as pain relief and to cope with the discomfort. That, to me, is all religion is...pain relief and a salve. Particularly for those "born-agains" who burn the candle at both ends for a while, living a decadent, self-absorbed life style, only to hit rock bottom and experience a dramatic moral over-correction. Conventional wisdom would have us believe that these people have cleaned themselves up, started over but in fact they've done nothing of the kind. They've simply moved from one drug addiction to another; finding religion is a natural progression from the mindless, helpless indulgence of recreational drug use and other things people call vices. For my friend's significant other, religion is not a reaction to his sordid past but instead is simply the only effective pain relief he knows of that can allow him to bear the discomfort of watching his significant other battle for her life.

I can't hold that against him, as conflicted as I am about seeing him fall prey to religious subscription. I can't hold it against him because the brain is an organ, just like the liver or lungs or pancreas. People take medicines for relief, sometimes medicine just to mask the symptoms of a terminal disease and let them rest in comfort. I don't judge those who struggle with ADHD for their therapeutic use of Ritalin. I don't judge those who suffer from migraines for taking Tylenol. I don't judge asthmatics for taking corticosteroids so they can breathe without thinking about it.

Ultimately I think it's the "external locus of control" thinking espoused by the religious that irks me, and not religion itself (for the reasons mentioned above.) Ultimately I believe there are good people and bad people; those who would hurt others, and those who know better. Those who know wrong from right, without having to pick up the Bible to find the answer. Zealots are quick give credit to their god and even quicker to assign blame to satan without ever considering the predictably unpredictable properties of the physical universe, or the power of a single, conscious human decision. Religion isn't the problem; it's the religious.

I'd not be so bunged up were my friends (whom I find I like less each year) more tactful and considerate about the views they share with me. Like anyone else who's been brainwashed, they find as difficult to listen to counter-argument as it is easy and even pleasurable to casually invoke their religion. I perceive great fault in the individual so wrapped up in their addiction that they're unable to consider the effect their actions and words have on the people around them. The two go hand-in-hand, I guess.

I grew up Catholic, attending Catholic schools and regular mass. I found the rituals interesting and the religious icons and stained glass fascinating, but eventually I had to ask "What does it all really mean?" And I've since not found a real answer, save the profound realization that it is not important for me to know what it all really means, and that all that truly matters is right now; this moment. That's how I resolved this crisis; by simply accepting the indifferent power of life as it is given to us, neither good nor evil. Why does my young friend, one of the sweetest and least offensive people I know, have to suffer through brain cancer? I can think of no person who deserves fate less. There's no way to explain it, except that it's life. Certainly the god Joel Osteen wants you to believe in either makes mistakes, has a cruel sense of humor, or doesn't exist at all. But that is life.

lewist
Posts: 4402
Joined: July 4th, 2007, 8:53 pm

Re: Ready to go postal

#6 Post by lewist » May 10th, 2009, 8:13 am

lukanator wrote:Our young friend was initially diagnosed with GBM grade IV, which implied almost unequivocally that she'd soon leave this world. As luck would have it, the diagnosis was wrong and confirmed as something more treatable. That tumor was resected and she underwent more than a year of grueling chemotherapy, apparently cured, only to have a perfunctory MRI uncover another similar tumor, this time buried in a different part of her brain. They're now contemplating their treatment options (she and her significant other.)
Yes, the GBM grade IV is a bu**er. Maureen lasted fourteen months after the diagnosis. It sounds as though there might be more hope here but the brain is hard to get at.
lukanator wrote:Her significant other, a logical and highly intelligent friend whom I respect a great deal, seems to have sought some refuge in religion, understandably as pain relief and to cope with the discomfort. ...religion is not a reaction to his sordid past but instead is simply the only effective pain relief he knows of that can allow him to bear the discomfort of watching his significant other battle for her life.
I can understand the attraction of religion in your friend's situation. I thought about it at one point after Maureen died but I don't believe in it. I certainly couldn't worship a being who - if it exists - is nothing other than a cruel, cynical b*stard.
lukanator wrote:Certainly the god Joel Osteen wants you to believe in either makes mistakes, has a cruel sense of humor, or doesn't exist at all. But that is life.
Yes, my view exactly - god the couldn't give a toss.
Carpe diem. Savour every moment.

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