Sunday, June 3, 2012

Watching a Theist Explode: Witnessing the end of faith?

When reality dawns on a devout Xtian stand back- you don’t want to get any of their fear and confusion splattered on your Birkenstocks.

I have a couple of Xtian internet friends that I’ve known for many years now.  A moderate / liberal “Christ follower” she’s only a short jog away from being rational.  Her husband, also an accepting Xtian, is a tad more afflicted with the God Virus. He’s a Bible banger, but mild mannered, not comfortable with debate and typically avoids confrontation. He’s from the hills of the Bible Belt, she’s from the North East.  I’ve shared some of my experiences with them in The Atheist Camel Chronicles.

So, imagine my surprise when out of the clear blue sky I get this posting to my Facebook page from “Jethro” (paraphrasing from memory):
“I’ve had enough!!  You spend page after page trying to disprove Jesus; more time than I do praising Him. Deep down you must really believe or you wouldn’t spend so much time denying Him.  I hope you find Him some Day. You just got called out BITCH!!”

This was so out of character for him I contacted his wife who was also taken aback at the bizarre outburst.  Having suffered a serious injury he’s been on and off mega narcotics, is suffering a great deal of discomfort, and has been out of work for a long time because of it. He has been under enormous physical and financial stress for almost two years now.   I hold no anger at his rant - no harm done. I hope he gets better and things turn around for the both of them soon.

But what’s interesting is that no where on my Facebook page have I ever attempted to disprove Jesus, nor any mythical figure.  Nor have I attempted such in my blog, or in my books. Trying to disprove the existence of Jesus, God, Isis, Ganesh, Mithra, Moloch, Big foot, or aliens among us would be the ultimate waste of time. I dismiss them simply because they lack objective evidence for their existence; not in a “spiritual”, live, dead, or zombie state.

And why does an atheist’s rejection of a scientifically unsupportable concept imply some sort of repressed deep seated belief to theists? Does the theist’s own denial of the thousands of gods man has dreamt up over millennia similarly imply they are harboring a suppressed belief in the pagan gods, many of whom are worshipped by millions to this day?  If the answer is “no” then why is it so easy for them to ignore that fact and project belief on those who simply reject as fable just one more god than they?

The predominant opinion is that these religionists simply lack the will or intellectual capability for self-reflection and analysis.  They cannot equate their own rejection of other peoples’ gods to an atheist’s legitimate rejection of their Xtian God. The “truth” of their belief is so evident to them, so obvious in spite of the absence of objective proof that for anyone to not accept it they must be “angry at God,” or “deceived by Satan,” or just in denial. 

But what could possibly have been the catalyst to prompt such a hostile outburst and unprovoked and uncharacteristic challenge from “Jethro”?   I have a theory. 

You see, he and his wife believe strongly in the power of prayer. Oh, not enough to entrust God to cure his physical condition without ongoing professional medical care, but enough to credit God with every crumb of positive fortune that falls into their laps.  If someone gives them $20.00 to pay for medication (they have little or no health care coverage), then it was God’s influence.  If their church fund provides them with groceries, or gas money to tide them over... their prayers were answered. If they get a cost of living increase on their disability payment, God did it. If his symptoms subside and he can walk without agonizing pain for the afternoon, Jesus had a hand in it. 

However, this self deception of attributing supernatural causes to natural and humanitarian acts of charity plays just so long / goes just so far.  It’s one thing to chalk up misfortune to a “test of faith” - it’s a whole ‘nother thing when conditions become such that the worry and tribulations never improve, never resolve and show no sign of ever abating.  When the landlord issues his final notice; when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from; when you suffer because there is no money for meds, or gasoline, or repairs, or electricity - and this continues for years with no foreseeable relief- in spite of daily appeals to the supernatural, one might begin to question the efficacy of prayer, or God’s benevolence, or perhaps even the existence of a god itself.

So what prompted Jethro’s inexplicable explosion and impassioned protestation of my supposed dedication to the disproval of Jesus and his tortured illogic of my harboring a repressed belief in his man-god? I proffer it is his own reckoning with reality as it begins to seep through the cracks of his failing faith. When one implores the non-existent with desperate pleas day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year and is met with deafening silence and inaction while others around you are prospering and enjoying good health even in their rejection of religious supernaturalism then “Why hath thou forsaken me?” or more likely “Where the fuck are you??” is a reasonable response.  After all, even mythical Job’s suffering was limited to weeks, or months at worst. Years of it would be untenable.

So, perhaps Jethro wasn’t entirely mistaken. Maybe Jesus IS being disproved, and an underlying repressed acceptance IS being harbored.  But the disproval is not of my making, it’s his; and the acceptance is one of hard reality – also his own. He is grieving the loss of a long held and all but unshakable belief and is understandably scared to death at the dawning of this revelation. Jethro’s psyche is hovering somewhere between “denial” and “anger“ in Kessler’s and Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief.

Welcome to the brink of rationality, Jethro.  Welcome to the cross road of free thought. Let not your heart be troubled. Although you don’t see it just yet, I promise you that there is comfort in the knowledge that you are the only master of your one and only life.  I hope it serves you as well as it does me. Embrace it.


zarton said...

Well said Hump,
I think you are on to something. I think the larger the emotional investment one has in a belief the more vigorously one will fight to keep it. Of course when all the intellectual artillary has been exhausted, all that is left is raw emotional response. My guess is that "Jethro" is a decent man, but has little left of his illusion and is defending it with all he has left... anger and fear.
Just a take from a recovered theist.

flyz4free said...

I think you are right in your assessment Hump. However, I have one other thought. Maybe, in desperation, he is thinking that even tolerating you a little is an affront to his god and this is one reason he is being punished so much. His life sounds pretty damn miserable. I wonder if he is trying one last extreme attempt to cleanse himself of anyone or anything that his god may disapprove of? If so it would be a last gasp effort and he would be forced to confront reality after that effort failed to produce results. But will he confront reality...ever? Most don't. I hope this man's situation improves. I am sure his rant was related to the drugs and frustration of all this.

Natalie said...

Your friend, and others may be interested in a current BBC radio series called Honest Doubt. I think folks in the USA can access BBC radio. should be available until Friday June 8.

Chatpilot said...

When I first rejected my fundamentalist beliefs I remember that the strongest emotion I felt at the time was anger. I was angry because I had wasted so much time out of my life actively living and spreading a delusion. I was angry because I felt duped, suckered, and let down. I was angry at myself for the most part. But every once in a while I shook an angry fist or hurled a couple of derogatory insults at the heavens.

Although I knew God was not there it was sort of therapeutic for me to express my rejection and rebellion against a false institution and deity. I literally burned my bible to a crisp and was pissed at every Christian I came across for some months.

After deconverting we all handle our frustrations differently and go through our phases. But in the end we come out with a positive outlook on life and look forward to what awaits us in our new life without fear and delusions.

Dromedary Hump said...

Thanks for your input all.

Of course, I'm only speculating as to what prompted this. As I always say, I only have a BA in psych, I'm not a psychologist I only play one on the internet. But it seems viable and as Chatpilot points out, anger at the onset of religious rejection is not a unique response.

It could also simply be his meds driving this (or the lack thereof), and yes, perhaps as the only atheist he knows I'm a convenient and god endorsed target.

Interestingly, an atheist on fb found it sad he was losing his religious delusion and that he was clearly struggling since it was so important to him.

I told her that while the transition to reality/reason may be painful at first (as is withdrawal from any addiction) I have never met a reformed religionist who regretted finding reason and wanted to go back. The recidivism rate among ex-theists is virtually nil.

David said...

I had an experience with a terminally infected co worker who I can only describe as being so confident in his self righteousness that he did not consider it necessary to acknowledge or rebut me or my atheism at all. But he attempted to be polite and civil towards me. This situation went on for some number of years before the nasty snide attacks started out of the blue. It doesn't matter how much a Christian attempts to practise their false beliefs that Christianity is a religion of tolerance, love and forgiveness, give them enough time and their true colours always show.

Dromedary Hump said...

I have litle doubt that given the option, and if ensured of no legal prosecution, that the vast majority of conservative believers, Xtian and Muslim, would happily round up every one of us non-believers and kill us enmasse.

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog. While all of it in one way or another, resonates with me, something David said hits close to home. My mom has malignant breast cancer. We're just finding out about it but I noticed over just the past two days shes been posting the kind of feel-good, and sometimes even angry blurbs/motivational photos/captions on Facebook. Something she's never really done before. My dad in the other hand…oy! I'm pretty sure they know of my disbelief - we've politely stayed away from all out confrontation - so, like the story here, perhaps she is trying to go out with one last 'hurrah'. A proving to oneself that they ARE faithful… damnit!

Dromedary Hump said...

So sorry about your Mom.

People deal with stress in many different ways. I hope she finds one that comforts her.

Hang in there.

longhorn believer said...

Hump, you are exactly right in your analysis. My disability was the final step in my 42 year journey from being raised fundamentalist to becoming an atheist. My chronic pain forced me to come face-to-face with the fact that deep down I did not really believe that prayer was going to cure my illness. I just hadn't really had to think about it that hard before.

It took me a little over a year to fully make the transition. I was angry too for a while, mostly with family who still thought prayer was the answer. After that was over, I moved on to making the best of things while still trying to find solutions to my health issues. That has certainly been more rewarding and productive than having a conversation in my head with an imaginary friend. I have a whole new life now with new friends and things to do. I hope your friend can make the transition too, and I hope he gets some relief from the physical pain. But take it from someone who knows, the emotional pain (like depression and anger) is far more debilitating than the physical pain.

Dromedary Hump said...

Longhorn...well said, good advise.

Darren Lacey said...

I think sometimes we cling to things like this simply because we learned it from a source we trust more than anyone, including 'god'.
Its our parents and theirs before ours and so on! That level of trust can cloud logic and leave us wanting to believe even when all else tells us not to! I think your friend wants to believe more than he actually does believe, and it causes a deep turmoil. His lashing out might be the result. My 2 cents, based on my feelings. but hey what do I know!