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What do I do?
Posted: 28 October 2006 05:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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I do understand that you are not here to convert anyone to anything, but at the outset you said, “I cannot imagine how anyone could live without God?’ - so I assumed you wanted some help in order to imagine how that is possible.  Anyway, I’m sure you do realize that it is possible to live without theistic beliefs, hundreds of millions of buddhists and atheists do it everyday and very successfully.

At the end you say that,

    “i only pray that humankind is NOT arrogant to think we are the creators when we are merely the created. “

In a sense, you’ve got it backwards.  It seems to me that we are the creators (of ideas and how to use them), and the most arrogant thing that we (humankind) have created is the idea of god.  On the other hand, to claim humility by saying “we are merely created” (that word ‘merely’ is what gives the phrase its sense of being humble) - you are in fact claiming that the same deity who created the entire universe also saw it in his desire to create YOU, but not only that, this almighty being created you with a purpose in his mind.  So here’s the most fantastic, most incredible, most loving, most good, most ultimate perfection in the whole universe and he specifically creates YOU so that his cosmic plan will be fulfilled.  Where is there any humility in that, I ask you?  I see in that the absolute opposite of humility.

Bob

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Posted: 28 October 2006 05:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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[quote author=“confused”] Does anyone have suggestions?  Does anyone feel the way I do?  I need to believe in something.

First of all, as others have said, there’s nothing surprising about praying to God in a moment of terror and physical shock.

The question is, when you say “I need to believe in something” what does that mean? 

If you mean a powerful supernatural being benevolently looking out for you, at least when you remind him to do that by praying, I don’t see a problem with it in the one sense - if it comforts you but doesn’t impose on anyone else…

Except that sooner or later you will be disappointed and then you’ll have to try and figure out why you got cancer, why your child did, why your mother was gruesomely murdered - that sort of thing.  If you live long enough, dreadful things will happen to you and/or those you love no matter what you believe in nor how many prayers you say.  And sooner or later you yourself will die.

So perhaps you mean life after death in which all the bad things here will somehow be made okay.  I don’t have a problem with that in the same sense…

Except that believers don’t seem very happy about facing death nor about dying.

As someone wrote in a letter to the editor of the Minnesota newspaper I used to read, responding to a story in which a Christian had described his successful efforts to avoid death after an accident (including his own desperate prayers and those solicited from others among the things resorted to),

“Is there a Heaven or not?  Religion postulates no reward for suicide.  But when God hands you a valid ticket to Paradise, how is it everyone - even the devout - starts checking into later flights?  I’m experiencing a crisis in other people’s faith.”

How many people have you watched die?  I’ve seen a few.  Belief in God made no difference in their movement down that path.  Physical circumstances did, though.

So personally I cope by other means.  Distraction helps - immersing oneself in life. 

When thoughts like “This won’t last” come up, I shift quickly into mindfulness mode.  I observe the thought, describe it.  “There’s that impermanence thought again.”  I stop there.  I don’t follow the thought.  I let it go.  I turn my attention again to what’s going on.  “I’m on the Pomo Canyon trail.  The sun is warm.  The trail is steep.  I’m breathing a little hard, but I’m stronger than I expected.  The sun shining on the ocean makes it look like silk.  I can see fifty miles in every direction I look.  There’s a hawk flying in the canyon.  I’m higher than a hawk…” 

Actually I was on the Pomo Canyon trail today and except when I was talking to my husband and son, I kept words out of it.  Just felt, looked, noticed things like I’ve described above, but not in words at the time. 

It’s hard to explain, and there were plenty of times when we were all chattering and exclaiming about the experience, but at other times my mind was quiet.  (I’ve found that mentally putting everything into words puts as much of a layer between you and an experience as putting a camera between you and the experience.)

I’ve had a few accidents but not such as you describe.  During the moments when I didn’t know the outcome, things were so confusing and happened so quickly I was just trying to make sense of what was going on.  I didn’t pray.  Once the accident was over, there was no longer any reason to, because I was never badly hurt as you were.  Although in such a case I would probably hope that someone dialed 911 before I lost consciousness, rather than pray.

So I don’t know what to tell you about coping in extremis.  I can cope when things are really really bad in terms of loss, fear, sorrow, even physical pain, and so forth, but haven’t dealt with massive trauma yet.

If I did say a prayer before losing consciousness and then regained it again, I would be mildly surprised but it wouldn’t cause me to question my nonbelief in God or religion.  I would write it off to conditioning. 

I’ve heard injured and dying people call out for their mothers, who’ve been dead for decades, too.  I’d be mildly surprised if I did it myself, but it’s certainly possible.  It wouldn’t lead me to question whether my mother is dead.

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Posted: 29 October 2006 12:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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[quote author=“why not?”] i will not be shaken from my beliefs as i’m sure none of the readers will be shaken from theirs.

Actually, a great many of us have been shaken from one religious framework or another. Some were even deeply devout, just before it all began to unravel. If you have a moment, you might follow this link to another thread on the forum.  It features several of our stories, detailing how we experienced that change:

http://www.samharris.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1578


I empathize with the sense of responsibility you would feel being left alive after an accident that—by all rights—should have ended you. But to follow that line of reasoning to the will of God is, it must be said, deeply insensitive. Those little Amish girls who got shot. . . where was God as they pleaded with Him to deliver them from this madman? Where was He when thousands of poor believers were trampled in a stampede while on pilgrimage to one of His temples? Where was He as thousands of children drowned in unimaginable terror during the Christmas tsunami? Did he not hear those screams? . . . He lets hundreds of his faithful children die, yet he leaves you  alive for some special purpose? Think again before buying into the idea that you were hand-picked to be “spared” that day. . . while at the same time, babies were burning to death in a housefire somewhere, a little boy was being forced to give oral sex to his priest, and whole families were blown to bits by a suicide bomb in their marketplace. . .

By your reasoning, your prayers somehow managed to reach and influence God, more than all those other people’s prayers did. Is that cause for joy or celebration? It sure wouldn’t be, for me—not if I was a believer, that is. To do so would be thanking God for saving little me, while ignoring hundreds of others who might deserve that second chance a whole lot more than I do.

From my standpoint, you have every reason to feel joyful about the outcome of your accident, but that’s because I don’t attribute it to a capricious God, which means I don’t have to wonder what’s so bloody special about you, that you were left to embrace life, while someone else’s beloved was deemed unworthy of saving. . . Or is it that you were not worth bringing into Heaven quite yet, perhaps? I imagine it gets kind of hairy, trying to decide which outcome is more flattering to you—to be “called home” early by your master, or to be left on Earth awhile longer, for a little more ripening. Personally, I’d want life, and it seems you agree. . . but don’t pretend it was because of a prayer.  That borders on the offensive, truth be told. Just ask any person who lost someone on the same day when the heavens opened to grant your  wish. I urge you to reflect on this, since you seem like a sensitive person.

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Posted: 29 October 2006 04:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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Mia, ditto.

Rod

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Posted: 30 October 2006 10:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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[quote author=“confused”]
I argued with people, winning debates, and I felt proud, content that I had the answers.  But soon thereafter I was involved in a horrible wreck.  I saw my life pass before my eyes.  I pulled myself out of the wreckage before passing out, and I remember praying, “God, keep me safe.” 

Harris, I am sorry.  In the moment I most feared for my life, my moment in the fox hole, I clung to God.  You can point out every flaw in my religion, but my need for it will endure.  Maybe I am weak, maybe I am stupid, but I must believe in something. 

I want help.  I know the flaws in my religion, but I know I need something.  Does anyone have suggestions?  Does anyone feel the way I do?  I need to believe in something.

Confused -

Your story is touching, but I don’t think you need to appologize to Sam or anyone else for turning toward prayer at a terrifying moment.  However I do have a few suggestions wink.

I don’t think you have a need for religion.  I don’t think anyone does.  Many of us live without it, it is the childs-blanky of grown people, the comfort to the injustice and circumstances that life involves.  But no one needs it. 

As Sam points out, some beliefs are better than others.  Being a Jain seems to be better than being a Muslim.  If for no other reason than Jainism is more a religion of non-violence, while that case is hard to make for Islam.  For personal beliefs, the only thing any of us need believe is that life is worth living. 

Evidence shows that we all have a 100% chance of dying in the future (death it is inevitable).  For a majority of us this will probably be something painful (as to the likelihood of cancer, heart disease, or other diseases/ailments).  We all are very likely to experience loss, many of us will see those we love (our parents, grandparents, friends, siblings) die.  And this emotional pain will be very hard also.  Some people will experience horrors much worse than this and they will all have to learn to cope with it, but most of us are guaranteed the former things. 

It is this evidence that attributes to a sense, that perhaps none of us want to bare life if it will consist of so much personal suffering.  Camus points all of this out in the Myth of Sisyphus, that despite our known suffering we should all believe life is worth living, and with such a belief it is likely that we will find at least some (if not numerous things) that we will enjoy.

Beyond a belief in life being worth living, having a belief in oneself is always good.  In times of the worst despair, having a belief that you can bring yourself out of any darkness, that you have it in you to endure whatever it takes to come out on the otherside of terrible times and circumstances can be the candle that you need.  This “faith” in oneself can easily replace a “faith” in God for many circumstances.  But for all those times where our actions have no effect on the circumstances we will need something else.

The next part is attributed to Buddhism.  Buddhists have made the keen observation that much of the suffering that we all experience in our life comes from our attachment to this life.  This is readily pointed out in the fact that we all personally suffer more from the death of a loved one than from the death of a stranger (or the death of your pet, to the death of an animal you killed from hunting).  Our attachment to those things close to us is directly linked to the suffering we experience when that thing is gone.  For this Buddhists have come up with the concept of impermanence. 

As a demonstration and example of impermanece, Buddhist monks will take weeks to months creating a tapestry out of sand.  They will labor over this art work, pouring love and care into it.  Once it is complete, they allow it to be viewed by the public for one day.  After that day they come by and sweep it away.  That is the embodiment of impermanence, and it is a good lesson for all of us.

In those times where the circumstances are completely out of our control, we have to be willing to completely let go.  To say honestly, “this is completely out of my control” and let whatever happens next happen.

A personal example of this is my own car accident experience:

When I was a senior in HS I was involved in a car wreck in which I thought I would literally die.  After hanging out with some friends of mine at a local golf course we decided to go a restraunt and get some food.  Leaving the place I pulled out of the parking lot making a left hand turn onto a busy street.  As soon as I pull out I hear brakes screeching, instinctively thinking that it is coming from the lains heading north I brake.  At this moment I have just enough time to look out the driver side window to see a GMC Jimmy coming straight at me.  My last thought before the cars connected was: “Well I guess that is it.”  At that very moment I thought I would die, and rather than be scared I was actually curious. 

I find myself now comforted by the fact that in the moment where I was aware that the end could very likely be near I was willing to completely let go and embrace that whatever happened in that moment was completely out of my control.  This is where impermanence played an important role, and it is likely that many of us (while not necassarily dealing with a car wreck) will deal with situations in our life where the outcome is completely out of our control.  We could all do well to take note of a Buddhist observation for these times.

Since this is a long post, I will summarize things that are better to believe in than God:

1) Life is worth living (despite its inevitable suffering and end)
2) A belief in oneself, one’s strength, and one’s endurance to make it through hard times.
3) A recognition of impermanence, and a willingness to let go of those things we most value (at some point our own lives) when the circumstances are completely out of our own control.


PS - Amazingly I walked away from the accident with nearly 0 injuries.  While some would attribute this to a deity looking after me, I unaderstand the physics of the situation.  By applying his breaks as he barrelled toward me, the driver of the GMC Jimmy hit the frame of the car I was driving rather than hitting directly into the door (which could of meant a lot more injuries if not death).  It is drivers safety and our natural reaction to break in dangerous circumstances while driving that saved me, not an all powerful Creator.

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