Terry Blanchard is a long time reader who had a lot to say about my previous article Is God Trustworthy? The Root of Religious Delusion. His comments involve a lot of “psychoanalysis” of my motives, so I cast him in the role of a doctor.
The Doctor Begins: Am I just an impatient petulant child?
There is something missing from your analysis here. Readers of your forum with long memories will recall the two anecdotes you posted describing the two key events which led to your loss of faith. In the first, you were walking up a hill carrying your son, when you hurt your ankle. In pain, you prayed for immediate relief, but the pain did not cease in that moment as you requested. The second incident concerned your son and a stomach complaint, which again, was not instantly healed when you prayed for this to happen.
Out of interest, how is the ankle now? And your son? Hopefully both turned out fine. If so, then one might be tempted to suggest that your prayers were answered, but just not in the time-frame that you requested.
Wow Doc, you have a prodigious memory. As far as I know, I mentioned those two events only once in passing in a post on my forum three years ago. I can’t imagine where you got the idea that those were “key” events. I mentioned them in a reply to a member “CWH” who started a thread called Why Pray? They were meant as nothing but personal illustrations of the vanity of prayer. CWH, like many fundamentalist Christians, had been claiming that God was communicating his displeasure with America through weather patterns. He said that we should pray more to get back under God’s good graces. Here is how I answered:
Why pray? Did God care about the thousands of Christians he killed with the earthquake in Haiti? Would he have spared them if they prayed more? The answer is obviously “no” – God kills people quite randomly, whether they pray or not. Indeed, sometimes he likes to make a special point by specifically targeting Christians while they are praying! I’m talking about the 10,000+ Christians he killed with an earthquake in Lisbon in 1755. He sent the earthquake at 9:40 AM when most everyone was in church to ensure massive casualties amongst Christians. Here’s what the wiki article says:The earthquake had wide-ranging effects on the lives of the populace and intelligentsia. The earthquake had struck on an important church holiday and had destroyed almost every important church in the city, causing anxiety and confusion amongst the citizens of a staunch and devout Roman Catholic city and country, which had been a major patron of the Church. Theologians and philosophers would focus and speculate on the religious cause and message, seeing the earthquake as a manifestation of the anger of God.
God collapsed the churches upon their heads while they were praying on All Saints’ Day! Many atheists and others who didn’t go to church were presumably spared. It’s no wonder that Christian “theologians and philosophers” were more than a little confused by this “message” supposedly sent by God.
And God did it again to 300 devout worshipers in Peru in 2007 when he collapsed a Catholic church on their heads, killing 50 during mass.
In general, the idea that God is “communicating” through weather and natural disasters is a ludicrous proposition for at least two reasons. First, it is an extremely ineffective way to communicate since there is no way for us to discern between a “message from God” and a “random accident” or even what the “message” is supposed to be. Only an idiot would try to communicate that way. If God is intelligent and wants to communicate, then he would use an intelligent method – “natural disasters” do not suffice. Second, natural disasters are non-specific. They affect pretty much everyone equally. So who then is being “judged” if God is killing innocent children and devout Christians along with those he supposedly “targeted” for “communication?” And worse, sometimes he targets Christians while they are praying in churches and spares the atheists! I really think you need to rethink your ideas about how God acts in the world.
As you can see, I had many objective reasons to reject the idea that God answers prayer. My argument was not based on any personal experiences or subjective disappointments. If it had turned out that God had answered my prayers, it would have been an anomaly that in no way contradicted the general truth that God cannot be trusted to answer any specific prayer in any situation.
I see no merit in your suggestion that I should think God “answered” my prayer because my leg ultimately healed itself in accordance with the normal functioning of the human body. By that standard, I could believe the Tooth Fairy answered my prayer. I hope that is not typical of the “intellectual rigor” to which you hold your faith.
The Doctor Probes Deeper: Is it because of my unsophisticated theology?
I once prayed for a one kilogram bar of gold to be delivered to my front door within 30 minutes. It never arrived. What theological conclusion should I draw?
You should conclude that the God to whom you prayed does not exist. If he did exist and was kind and rational, at the very least he would have explained your error. That’s what I would do if my child asked me for something unreasonable. I would not give him the silent treatment, hide in a place he never could find me, and send him cryptic notes through my confused messengers that he was in danger of hell fire if he doubted my existence!
The Doctor Cuts Deep: Am I a troubled child throwing a tantrum?
Here’s what I think, and I offer these thoughts with nothing but respect. You have deep, unresolved feelings of anger against your father for dying suddenly, out of the blue, on you, as you so movingly describe somewhere on your site that I have read. Christianity was a means of overcoming this loss, in one sense, by forging a relationship with a Heavenly Father, one who would not abandon you in the same way when you needed him. But then, that’s just what did happen: when God failed to heal your ankle, and your son’s stomach, you took it bad, and all that unresolved anger came flooding back. Your heavenly father had not been there when you wanted and needed him, just as your earthly father had left you so suddenly. And after all the work you had done for “God”, you felt badly let down by him. This is why you are reacting so vehemently now. It’s payback time. God wouldn’t do such a simple thing for you as block out a little pain, after all you had done for him; well, you will show him. And you are. Slash, burn, slash, burn, you are cutting quite the swathe.
I appreciate your respectful tone. There are indeed many “deep, unresolved feelings” related to my father’s suicide. I was only fourteen and he told me about it before doing it – walking out the door as I stood there. I knew not what to say or do. So yes, I was saddled with a lot of confusion, guilt, and anger. I describe how this led to involvement in various weird beliefs like Scientology, the Occult, and Christianity in my article Why I became a Christian. I doubt those feelings will ever be “resolved” any more than a mature tree tied in a knot as a sapling could be untied. But I don’t see that as a problem – on the contrary, there’s a lot of value in being gnarly.
You are correct that Christianity offered a “Heavenly Father” figure, as did the Scientology cult leader L. Ron. Hubbard. I found neither satisfying, and they really were not that different.
Your assumption that I felt any particular loss at the failed prayers I mentioned once three years ago is entirely incorrect. I was disappointed but not surprised. I already knew prayer was vanity. Not because of personal unanswered prayer, but because of the absurdly obvious fact that God is absolutely untrustworthy. No one can actually trust God to do anything in any given situation. I knew it then but prayed anyway since that’s what was expected of a believer and faith had put me in a kind of stupor that caused me to persist in what I knew to be false.
Now as for your primary assertion: You suggest that I quit Christianity, rejected the Bible, and debunked everything I worked on for over a decade because I was mad at God, like a little child throwing a tantrum? Thanks. That really shows a lot of respect for the thousands of words I’ve written explaining my reasons. Not.
Let me put this mildly: You suggestion is ludicrous. It is absurd. And it is entirely out of line. It is clear you have been reading my writings for some time. There is no excuse for your disgusting dismissal of my dignity as an intelligent adult human being. You have ignored the thousands upon thousands of words I have written explaining my reasons. I reject the Bible because it is filled with errors, absurdities, and moral abominations attributed to God. I debunked my work on the Bible Wheel and numerology because it was full of bunk. How is it possible that you could suggest that my motivation was childish disappointment that God wouldn’t “block a little pain”? Where is that “respect” you thought you had? You have no respect for me in any way at all. You have made a stereotypical caricature of me!
There’s really nothing for me to say to someone like you. I have explained my reasons in thousands of words with logic and facts and you have read enough of them to remember minor points from three years ago. So if you cannot see, let alone interact with, the reasons I have stated, there’s no point in repeating them now. You are lost in a profound delusion that prevents you from even seeing me as human! You have not responded to any of the reasons I have given. It seems you have been programmed to see people like me in terms of mindless stereotypes that have nothing to do with reality.
But you got one thing right. It is “payback” time. No, not to a god that doesn’t exist, but rather to the people I have misled. I owe the world the truth. I contributed to the religious delusions of many, so it is my duty, honor, and pleasure to undo as much of the damage as possible.
The Doctor Removes His Mask: Am I the reason Christians are so rude?
But for all the changes to your position, one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the way you talk to people. Sure, there’s a veneer of friendliness at first, but as soon as your interlocutor has dared to suggest a position at odds with where you are today, and held their line, it is only a matter of time before they are an imbecilic moron, or whatever unruly title you are bestowing that day.
Where’s the love? Where’s the humility? Where’s the basic respect? Your own wife has been called a c*nt on the previous thread. That really should give you pause, not a belly laugh. There is a real lack of dignity creeping in here, and it starts with the bloghost, your good self. The one thing that hasn’t changed is you, Richard.
Maybe that’s why God didn’t answer your prayers that day. He had to send you round the long way.
Please don’t take offence at what I’ve written, or be harsh or sharp with me. No dialogue. If this is useful, then that is good. If it is not, then ignore it. Either way, the mystery of life remains.
Again, I’m disappointed, but not surprised. I have never taken any offense merely because someone disagrees with my position. Your presupposition is a perverse and absolutely unjustifiable lie. I am always delighted by a good intelligent challenge, supported with logic and facts. And that’s why I’m so disappointed and offended by your comments. It is true that I, like most who engage in debate on the internet, have descended at times to the level of some of my interlocutors, but never without them dragging me down first. It is not in my nature to talk that way.
Where is the basic respect and dignity you ask? It was totally lost on you, obviously. You have completely ignored everything I have written concerning my reasons for rejecting Christianity, and chose rather to tell me I’m a spoiled, selfish, thoughtless little brat! That’s the extent of your “contribution” to this conversation. And you wonder were the dignity is? You pissed all over it!
It is particularly telling that you blame me for the fact that a psycho who could not justify his delusion took out his frustration by calling my wife a “dirty disgusting cunt” as if that somehow helped his case, or yours. This shows that you are of the same mind as he. You feel justified to spew venom because I disagree with your religion and have the audacity to publicly state my mind. You obviously don’t have a clue how to answer any of the actual reasons I have given, so you ignore them all and choose rather to pseudo-psycho-analyse my motives in terms of infantile caricatures that are all your diminished religious mind can handle.
UPDATE: The Good Doctor just lost his shit in the original thread. After failing to support his argument with logic and facts, he resorted to mere assertion that opened with “You really are full of shit” and ended with “So now: flip out. Get all bent out of shape. Call me names. And then go fuck yourself.” I had not called the Good Doctor any names. I had not used any expletives. All I did was defend my position with logic and facts and he ignored every word I wrote. His response is amazing to behold in light of his previous “meek and mild” accusations that all the name calling and “lack of dignity” on my blog is caused by me. On the upside, people like Terry make my job a lot easier. They demonstrate how dogmatic religion tends to corrupt the minds and morals of believers.