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.
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 .
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.