Friday, May 27, 2011

When god commits an epic fail

My brother-in-law was kind enough to share some of the issues he is dealing with as far as faith goes. As he got into his teenage years, he began to have a desire to go into the ministry. He’s a gifted musician and wanted to take over as the praise leader for a popular local Christian camp. He started taking theology classes to learn and broaden his perspective on religion. At first, this helped strengthen his faith, but his newfound open mindedness ultimately made him question what he was learning. Then, tragedy struck. A friend who he considered very “strong in her faith” seriously injured her spine while at work. They had worked together before as praise and worship leaders. Cognitive dissonance started brewing in his mind, and he began to ponder how god could do that to his most devoted followers.

Other ongoing issues seemed to serve as a constant reminder that all was not well with god’s children. My brother-in-law’s father suffered with chronic back pain that had been a significant issue since he was only a child. The medication his father was on made their relationship less than ideal as he states. His youth pastor, who was a mentor, was also suffering with chronic back issues. His father-in-law is the pastor of a Methodist church, and my brother -in-law sees the way his congregation treats him as further evidence of a god who doesn’t care.

Then, his wife’s grandfather became very ill. A man who had helped millions was suffering immense pain before his very eyes. This same man built hundreds of thousands of homes for the needy, built churches and dedicated every waking moment to the Christian cause, eventually becoming a bishop. He had a series of strokes that took him from being a mighty force for god to a bedridden man in constant pain. His body was so contorted that he couldn’t lie in his bed comfortably. As my brother-in-law puts it, “He recognized no one and was constantly crying from the time he woke till the time he went to sleep. The only recognizable words he said, through the tears, were about the memories of the places and people he had seen and tried to help but were so horrible that he tried to forget. But, now, they were his only memories, and he was reliving them every day.” This brutal, punishing attack against his body went on for ten full months. In my brother-in-law’s words, “God wasn’t just torturing him but everybody in his family.” After finally being released from his cell of torture, it was already too late for my brother-in-law. He had seen the devastation that god allowed to happen and bitter resentment soon emerged. The mere thought of god no longer evokes a desire to serve, more like a strong distain. He’s also fed up with hypocrisy in the church.

People have been “brainwashed”, as my brother-in-law puts it, into believing in a good god and the “God works in mysterious ways” mantra only makes him more infuriated. The problem with that line is that it really doesn’t alleviate the problem. Humans want reasonable explanations, but god provides no such thing. As I explained to my brother-in-law, and have shared with my faithful readers, I too suffered with a persistent state of cognitive dissonance. How could a god allow children to starve to death but take care of a Christian’s every need? I now know that he doesn’t because he doesn’t exist.

My brother-in-law isn’t ready to give up on the idea of some higher power. The “emptiness” he feels when thinking about there not being a god up there keeps him hoping for the possibility. I told him that I had the same problem for quite some time. It has taken a lot of reading, writing and time to get where I am today. I’d be lying if I said that I don’t still wake up in the still of night and become distraught. It’s scary to think that you simply die and are no longer. That’s not the happy ending any of us necessarily want to picture. After all, I used to feel like I could always afford to fuck up this life when I had another chance in the next one. I’ll just have to pick up the pieces and keep trucking forward with what’s left.


  1. I. Love. Your. Posts! :-)

    Two comments/questions:

    1. I’m so very sorry to hear about your brother-in-laws struggles (they sound awful!), although I’m glad he’s edging closer to the “truth.” Still… I’m surprised… he never noticed, in his whole life as a Christian, that “God” is cruel/evil/indiscriminate? It took such personal tragedies to make him start questioning Christianity? Natural disasters, suffering children, other Christians’ difficulties, evil, torture, famine, rape, cruelty to animals – none of that ever made him question his faith or “God’s goodness” before? It just kind of baffles me, but I guess that’s the Christian brainwashing part.

    2. As a lifelong atheist, someone who’s never had to deconvert or “give up Christianity,” I’m curious – what is so scary about giving up Christianity? Why is it so hard? (Maybe this should be a whole future post in itself!) Is it just the death part? (I don’t fully understand that, either – the millennia before I was born didn’t bother me; the “not thereness” when I’m asleep isn’t bad; I expect the “nothingness” after I’m dead to be fine, too. It doesn’t seem that scary to me.) So: Christians have to give up the idea of immortality… what else? You talked about the “emptiness.” Is this something that I, as an atheist, just can’t understand? Why do Christians hold onto the fantasy so desperately? I’d love as many things Christians are scared of (or whatever they are, whatever reasons they have for not seeing/believing “the truth”) as you can give. (There might be a poem brewing; call this my Market Research.) ;-)


  2. If you don't mind, I want to make my next post a q and a between the two of us!

  3. Awesome! I was out of town yesterday, or I would have responded sooner. I see you've already posted something -- hurray!

  4. Sorry, I couldn't wait any longer and I didn't think you would care...honestly. I've got to reach 100 posts!!!