On December 31, 2014, my fourteen-year-old son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Since that day, as one would expect, I have received many variations of the prayer sentiment. “I’m praying for you”, or “Your family is in our prayers”, or “Our whole church is praying for your son”. Now, even being very firmly in the atheist camp, I can recognize that sentiment for what it is. I realize that it is the person’s mechanism for attempting to say something encouraging in the face of something so awful. So when it happens, I smile and I sincerely tell the person, “Thank you. I really appreciate that”.
But then the prayer sentiment can go a step further. And that’s when my hackles start to get up. In this form, the sentiment has been something like, “You need to remember, God works miracles”, or “You should come to church”, or “You really need to turn things over to the Lord”. Do you see the difference? In the first set, the person is telling me that something is being done on our behalf. It doesn’t matter two shits if I happen to think that praying for my son does exactly as much good as eating a jelly bean for my son. That person is still simply expressing a nice sentiment. In the second set, the implication is that I need to change my behavior. And this is because the person talking to me can simply not fathom how anybody could know peace and learn to accept the situation without believing in the same invisible sky-man in which he or she believes.
This leads me to feel that it is at least worth discussing the fact that my lack of belief in any sort of god is every bit as sincere as your belief in Yahweh and Jesus. And just like you wouldn’t appreciate me coming to you in a time of stress and desperation telling you how much better your life would be if you would just stop with all of your ridiculous, bullshit beliefs, I don’t appreciate you coming to me and telling me that I need to change mine. I understand that many Christians in this country have never been adequately exposed to the notion that there are other ways of thinking, so I’m here to help with that.
Let’s start off with the easy part. I know you feel what you feel and you feel that everybody needs to feel what you feel. But here’s the thing…if you want to tell me that your god can perform a miracle and cure my son, then I see that as equivalent to a thief stealing my stuff but then finding it in his heart to give the stuff back. So, I guess…thanks for giving it back? But still…fuck you to begin with! I would have been much happier if you just hadn’t stolen my shit in the first place! Asshole. In other words, even if there is a god, I see no reason to praise him for undoing what he allowed to happen to begin with. So if that’s what you’ve got, then I say your god is an asshole who is unworthy of adulation even if he does exist.
But what can it hurt to put my faith in the Lord to help my child? Do you mean putting my faith in the hate-filled, genocidal phychopath told about in disjointed tales in a geriatric storybook and his zombie kid who gets pissed off at fig trees? I don’t know. Should we compare the track records of faith healing sects to those of science-based medicine? Because I have news for you, when you use science-based medicine and also still pray…<whisper>It isn’t your sky-wizard who makes things better</whisper>.
But now let’s move beyond the ridiculousness of me putting faith in a book that I find to be, literally, no different than The Iliad or The Odyssey (except nowhere near as good). Now let’s get to you telling me I should. Why? Why do you feel like you need to do that? As I said before, I’m not yammering on to you about the obvious benefits of not believing in a sky-man. For instance, when I found out my son had cancer, I didn’t have to reconcile that horrible fact with my belief in some “all-loving” god. I didn’t have to waste time and emotion jumping through hoops trying to figure out what sky-man meant by that. I didn’t have to resent sky-man.
I realize I’m telling you that now. But I would never have the gall to say something like that when you were at your wit’s end trying to figure out how to get your kid through cancer. So tell me, Christian who insists you know what I need better than I do…why don’t you have the same respect for me?