Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

The Road to Atheism

Posted by Jerry on September 17, 2007

In my recent post on Mother Teresa, I passingly mentioned the question I had come across randomly on some atheist website. The question was why do we never hear of an amputee’s limb being miraculously regenerated or regrown through the power of prayer or supernatural intervention.

Interestingly enough, there’s a whole website dedicated to this question and to all of its implications–and it’s called “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?Thomas Stone (of the EpistemeLinks project fame) brought this site to my attention in a private e-mail. He specifically says that the videos on the site are a must-see. I visited the site to briefly glance at its contents; here are some juicy bits that I found! 🙂

No matter how many people pray. No matter how sincere those people are. No matter how much they believe. No matter how devout and deserving the recipient… Prayer does not restore the severed limbs of amputees. You can electronically search through all the medical journals ever written — there is no documented case of an amputated leg being restored spontaneously. And we know that God ignores the prayers of amputees through our own observations of the world around us. If God were answering the prayers of amputees to regenerate their lost limbs, we would be seeing amputated legs growing back every day.

What are we seeing here? It is not that God sometimes answers the prayers of amputees, and sometimes does not. Instead, in this situation there is a very clear line. God never answers the prayers of amputees. It would appear, to an unbiased observer, that God is singling out amputees and purposefully ignoring them.

[M]any believers will say, “God always answers prayers, but sometimes his answer is ‘no.’ If your prayer does not fit with God’s will, then God will say ‘no’ to you.” This feels odd because God’s answer to every amputee is always “no” when it comes to regenerating lost limbs. Jesus says, “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” He does not say, “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it, unless you are praying about an amputated limb, in which case I will always reject your prayer.” Jesus also says, “Nothing will be impossible to you,” and regenerating a limb should therefore be possible. The fact that God refuses to answer every prayer to regenerate a lost limb seems strange, doesn’t it?

Now, since we are on the topic of God and his obvious non-existence, I am reminded of an early paper I wrote in college for my “Critiques of Christianity” course in Theology. That paper was my first official exploration into the territory of mild atheism. Frankly, I was glad to write that paper because it forced me to revisit my already ambivalent feelings toward Christianity and come down conclusively on any one side of belief or unbelief.

I extensively researched source material for the paper, including materials from Catholic apologists from Boston University (the writers of the famous Handbook…), Micheal Martin’s “Case Against Chrisitianity,” several books on Theodicy, Soteriology, and Christology, whose author names I cannot remember now. 

One of the points of argument I made in my paper regarding the Resurrection story of Jesus was that Jesus was not the only one to have allegedly resurrected from the dead according to the Gospels. One of the Gospels explicitly states that when Jesus died on the cross, the earth split, rocks rolled off the tombs, and dead people resurrected in large numbers and went into the city to spread the word of God.

So, apparently, Jesus was not the only one to self-resurrect from the dead; but for some reason, he got the most publicity for his stunt. 

In any case, by the end of my paper, I had surprised myself by the strongly anti-christian and anti-God-incarnate conclusions I reached. I’ll also admit that I was worried by my conclusions at that time. I was still emotionally religious; but my paper had just forced me to rationally confront my emotional predilection. My emotional need to cling to beliefs I was familiar with and which I had thoroughly internalized over all my life created a sense of discomfort against the honesty of my rational conclusions.

My emotional responses of fear, discomfort, and uncertainty stemmed from the deeply engrained irrational beliefs that I held and wanted to protect. I feared that I may be guilty of grevious blasphemy against God because of my rational conclusions. Note that my rational conclusions were so new to me that they had yet to be internalized and integrated into my subsconscious mind and “reprogram” my emotional responses. Thus, I was essentially feeling the philosophy I had held at that time. I was afraid for my “soul” because of my rational but sacrilegious words.

I don’t exactly remember how, but eventually I overcame my emotional responses of fear and my emotional attachment to religious belief. I suspect it came about gradually with my increased immersion into the study of religious belief and rational philosophy. Importantly, I can note from my experience that the greatest hurdle in overcoming religious belief is overcoming my own fear–fear of supernatural retribution, fear of unknown spiritual and philosophical exploration, fear of losing your emotional comfort zone, fear of having no moral and ideological framework without religion, etc. Note that the variety of this emotional response all stem from an unfounded and irrational philosophical premise–that reality does not have primacy (the primacy of supernatural consciousness) and that man’s consciousness is inept and incompetent in dealing with and facing reality.

Truly, being an atheist is a very liberating and exultant feeling, of a magnitude greater than any religious experience, because it does not dull after the momentary high of a religious experience; it is a feeling that characterizes your very approach to life and existence.

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3 Responses to “The Road to Atheism”

  1. From Tehran, with love! said

    “Fear, discomfort, and uncertainty” very true … and that’s exactly how i felt and feel even now!
    Here in Tehran (in an inclusive sense) it is not just logic versus old beliefs. In my society it also becomes a case of going against ones’ identity (re-building it if you may) and that is merely because religion has been so tightly integrated into peoples lives that you end up feeling liberated but at the same time empty and like an outsider. And that is not considering the legal issues that it might cause.
    I suspect Living in India gives you the benefit of having more tolerance or at least being used to diversities? … it’s the land of 72 nations after all.

  2. Ergo said

    FTWL,

    Tehran is certainly a very repressive environment, and if you have had the opportunity to grasp a sense of psychological freedom even for a moment, then the tide of repression in Iran must seem particularly overwhelming for you.

    In a similar sense, although to a lesser degree perhaps, I am also keenly sensitive to the repressive environment in India. My atheism, philosophical beliefs, sexuality, political beliefs, etc. are far from being accepted or even tolerated in the Indian mainstream society; indeed, much of it is not even known as existing valid alternative beliefs.

    I think in the cacophony of a billion clamoring voices that constitute this democracy of the vocal mob, the sound of my views–and of those like me in this country–does not even reach the level of a muffled protest; ironically, this is to my benefit, in a way: Being far below the radar here also lends me a mantle of protection and an illusion of freedom. Otherwise, India is not a nation where you can freely and loudly proclaim and practice the kinds of things I talk about.

  3. daily prayers

    our daily prayer

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