GODNESS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT

No, that’s not a typo or a misquote of the Mae West line from the 1932 movie Night After Night. Rather it is how I view the tendency for survivors of a disaster to thank God for their good fortune, while death and destruction lie all about them.

Speaking live to a survivor of the deadly tornado in Moore, Okla., (Wolf) Blitzer declared the woman “blessed,” her husband “blessed,” and her son “blessed.” He then asked, “You’ve gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?”

But as she held her 18-month-old son, Rebecca Vitsmun politely replied, “I’m actually an atheist.” A flummoxed Blitzer quickly lobbed back, “You are. All right. But you made the right call,” and Vitsmun graciously offered him a lifeline. “We are here,” she said, “and I don’t blame anyone for thanking the Lord.” Nicely done, Rebecca Vitsmun.

http://www.salon.com/2013/05/22/tornado_survivor_to_wolf_blitzer_sorry_im_an_atheist_i_dont_have_to_thank_the_lord/

To me the dividing line is not between believers and nonbelievers. While such expressions of gratitude (“Thank God we were spared) do not offend me per se, I often wonder why they emanate from our mouths in the first place.

After all, if you and yours were spared why was the family right next door not? It is not the hand of God at work but merely the fickle finger of fate pointing one way or another.

I do believe such expressions are a form of arrogance, no matter how modest and shaken and genuinely appreciative the folks using them seem to be. After all, why should they have been chosen by God to live when two little children in the same block, or even the same car if it were a vehicular accident, died?

Are they so much better morally or worth so much more in terms of how their talents and actions benefit society as a whole?

I think not.

As that article notes one out of five American adults have no religious affiliation. That does not mean they have no appreciation for people who do declare their faith nor does it mean they have no concept or appreciation for any form of spirituality.

Speaking only for myself as one who, if not atheistic, is pretty damned close (I allow for ALL possibilities existing in the universe…after all, I am a big fan of mysteries) I give thanks for those friends of mine who have included me in their prayer circles in times of great distress for me.

I am not impressed with the power of prayer in these efforts but I am thoroughly impressed with the faith these people have in a complete stranger who has a troubled life.

There can be nothing bad about that.

Likewise I have frequently been wished to have a “blessed day” as opposed to the quite generic almost robotic “have a good day”. Those people are not trying to proseltyze me but are simply sharing their faith in hopes I have nothing terrible befall me.

There can be nothing bad about that.

I mentioned I don’t believe in the power of prayer. But those who do seemingly only acknowledge its power when being the beneficiary of the good result: surviving a tragedy, winning the ball game, getting a substantial raise. Only then do they exclaim “My prayers were answered!”

But in the midst of their financial despair, while tearing up the losing lottery ticket that would have enabled them to thrive if it had won, do you ever hear them declaring “My prayer was answered—but the answer was ‘NO’! “?

For if all prayers are heard and acted upon, one is sure to receive many more ‘no’s” in response than “yeses”.

There can be nothing bad about that.

Our subject article includes this tale of Arizona State Rep. Raul Mendez who was aksed to open a recent session with prayer.

“Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads,” the Democratic official said. “I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.”

He went on to say, “This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration. But this is also a room where, as my secular humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences.”

There can be nothing bad about that.

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