The other day I was having a discussion about "beliefs" and such with a long time friend and co-worker.  He has always listened to me ramble on about what I believe and has never, until now, said anything in response.  He said that he had a challenge for me.  I was shocked because he never really "participated" in any of my "ramblings" so I was curious as to what it might be.  This man has been my friend for over 15 years and is someone who taught me a thing or two about electrical work ( I am an electrician).  He has children and is a Christian. His challenge was this:  You're in Afghanistan, you're being overrun by the enemy and you know this is the end.  You know you will never see your wife or family ever again. If you have no faith, what will you cling to in that moment? Will I be able to remain an atheist, or will I revert back to what I was before?  A christian. I had to stop for a moment and think about this.  Humans will do and say crazy and things when faced with injury or death.  I remember shortly after my "conversion" to atheism, this same friend was in a serious electrical accident that burned his face and hands.  After he was taken to the hospital, myself and another electrician had to restore the power to the building.  During this time, as I was "suiting up" in my arc flash gear, I remember thinking, "Please let him be okay and please don't let me or anyone else get hurt when we re-energize the power".  After things calmed down, I thought to myself, "Who were you talking to?". Was I praying?  I think I was!  I was upset with myself because I never want to be hypocritical with what I believe. I have thought long and hard about who I am.  I did not become an atheist overnight.  It took many years.  From Christian to agnosticism to atheism. I told myself that some habits are hard to break.  I used to "pray" all the time.  This is something I needed to work through.   

So, my answer to the challenge?  I truly hope that I will remain true to myself if ever faced with another situation like that or the situation he described.  Hopefully I'll never have to find out the answer!  Let me know what you think. 

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Eventually, the word prayer will be replaced with "hope".  You were hoping everyone would be ok!  Yeah, we all get caught talking to ourselves sometimes.  Actually, if you could get into your own head you'd see that we're talking to ourselves all the time, even while dreaming!  Reply:  But, we're always within our own head! 

"we're always within our own head!" - but sometimes out of our mind --

Recently I was waiting at a bus stop during an off and on downpour and thunderstorm. Though the rain had stopped, the thunder and lightning were picking up, the flashes getting brighter, the thunder louder, and the two closer together each time. All the sane people had either shown up just in time to catch their bus or had taken shelter at one of the fast food joints down the block... I was very much alone. I was already quite nervous owing to the above mentioned factors and the fact that their was no viable shelter or protection from lightning within a walking distance I was willing to brave... or the fact that the ground had a thick layer of water and the rain had soaked me well... a perfect target for electric discharge.

A blinding glare and deafening roar from directly overhead came immediately together, causing me to reflexively recoil and tightly close my eyes. I recalled that the time between a flash and the sound of thunder was an indication of how close the lightning struck from a person's viewing point and worried at just how close the last strike had been.

The thought entered my head that I might be killed... perhaps I would die rather miserably in a hospital, in plain sight of worried family members. The random noise from the surrounding intersections and highway became eerily quite; the light of the environment looked very surreal; everything seemed to slow down. Past suggestive thoughts from my religious days nagged at my brain and the creeping thoughts entered my head: Wouldn't you like to believe that God is waiting for you? Wouldn't your fear be eased... wouldn't you be comforted if you prayed to him?

I spent a moment pondering my thoughts, then concluded in my head that believing that a god was hearing my prayers and would protect me or accept me into heaven wouldn't make it more or less true. It would not make me any less apt to die... my family any less apt to mourn. I could be struck dead without even realizing it. I accepted the fact that death would take me at some time or another and there would be nothing left of me, and though it was not the first time doing so, it was certainly better practice than usual. I thought about how certain family might react to my passing; I hoped in my heart that they would be okay if something did happen to me.

In summary, I think on our death throes our thought priorities should be the things that matter most: our friends, family, good people still among the living, etc., and our memories thereof. I think your friend is mistaken to suggest or imply that we need something to "cling" to at that time... particularly places or beings which none of us has ever seen... these would be a poor use of our precious last moment. To be clear though, I certainly wouldn't blame you for doing so... years of belief and practice don't easily brush off.

That's dark, man. Dark.

Once posted, it should have been obvious there was a problem - using the 15-minute delay in editing time, if Dave had clicked on the HTML button in the tool bar overhead, gone into the message and deleted the bracketed piece of code <yada, yada, yada> that contained the word, "color." followed by a number "# ______" the post would have reverted to its default color, white.

He can still copy it to a text program, which should remove the HTML coding, then re-copy it and paste it back here, which should solve the problem - if the code stays with it, which I don't think it will, but it would depend on the text program, he can always go back to plan A and change the code.

If you type your response in a text program and then copy/paste it here, the default color is black. You have to make sure that you change your text color to white before you copy/paste.

Peace

Or here, I'll do it for him:

By Dave Gibbs:

Recently I was waiting at a bus stop during an off and on downpour and thunderstorm. Though the rain had stopped, the thunder and lightning were picking up, the flashes getting brighter, the thunder louder, and the two closer together each time. All the sane people had either shown up just in time to catch their bus or had taken shelter at one of the fast food joints down the block...I was very much alone. I was already quite nervous owing to the above mentioned factors and the fact that their was no viable shelter or protection from lightning within a walking distance I was willing to brave...or the fact that the ground had a thick layer of water and the rain had soaked me well... a perfect target for electric discharge.

A blinding glare and deafening roar from directly overhead came immediately together, causing me to reflexively recoil and tightly close my eyes. I recalled that the time between a flash and the sound of thunder was an indication of how close the lightning struck from a person's viewing point and worried at just how close the last strike had been.

The thought entered my head that I might be killed...perhaps I would die rather miserably in a hospital, in plain sight of worried family members. The random noise from the surrounding intersections and highway became eerily quite; the light of the environment looked very surreal; everything seemed to slow down. Past suggestive thoughts from my religious days nagged at my brain and the creeping thoughts entered my head: Wouldn't you like to believe that God is waiting for you? Wouldn't your fear be eased...wouldn't you be comforted if you prayed to him?

I spent a moment pondering my thoughts, then concluded in my head that believing that a god was hearing my prayers and would protect me or accept me into heaven wouldn't make it more or less true. It would not make me any less apt to die...my family any less apt to mourn. I could be struck dead without even realizing it. I accepted the fact that death would take me at some time or another and there would be nothing left of me, and though it was not the first time doing so, it was certainly better practice than usual. I thought about how certain family might react to my passing; I hoped in my heart that they would be okay if something did happen to me.

In summary, I think on our death throes our thought priorities should be the things that matter most: our friends, family, good people still among the living, etc., and our memories thereof. I think your friend is mistaken to suggest or imply that we need something to "cling" to at that time... particularly places or beings which none of us has ever seen...these would be a poor use of our precious last moment. To be clear though, I certainly wouldn't blame you for doing so...years of belief and practice don't easily brush off.

A couple of things: praying is really just self talk to begin with. When you pray, you reinforce all that you believe to be true and all that you want to become true. Thoughts are things, and a lot of people think that praying "works" because they ultimately receive the things that they pray for. The reality is much simpler: when you pray for something it reinforces it in your mind over and over again, strengthening that desire. The result is that you are much more likely to achieve that which you pray for because you have remained focused on that goal through self talk (prayer). So, just think of your "praying" over your boss as mere self-talk, stating your desires to yourself so that you can remain more focused on them.

There is also this: I have never been a Christian. I looked into it extensively when I was younger, but always felt like an observer that never really bought in to any of it. I never felt like an actual part of the Christian religion. I dabbled in Wicca for a while after that and found it to be the same story: I was merely observing all the rituals and rites and I never really felt that I believed any of it. After that, I was an agnostic for quite a while until I began paying more attention to what was going on in the scientific community. The more I read and watched, the less God and religion made sense to me. It became very plain to me that the entire Christian religion is nothing but a metaphor for the astrological cycle, and was completely contrived and plagiarized (from more ancient religions) by human beings in positions of power for the sole purpose of controlling other humans. I know any Christian will tell you that all evidence of evolution and any similarities their religion may have to any other (older) religion is just false evidence planted by either A) God - to test our faith in him or B) Satan - to tempt us away from God so that he can have our souls when we die. LOL. Suuuuuure...

Anyway, I tell you all of this because, having never been a Christian myself, I still engage in voicing my thoughts to the great nothing that is everything. I still, when I greatly desire something, engage in this "self talk" that other people might consider praying. I have never really believed that there was a god, have never been one to "pray", and yet I still go through the motions. Why? Because it is reassuring to me. It validates my own desires and helps me to stay focused on them. Because sometimes hearing something out loud makes it all that much more powerful to me. I have never envisioned my thoughts going up to some god for consideration; there has never been any other reason to do this other than self-validation. So, don't worry if you find yourself "praying". IT is not a Christian-only or religious-only activity, it is a human activity. Our human consciousness is what was and still is mistaken for "God". That inner voice we all hear; our Ego and our Id working together to make us whole. The only god that truly exists is this voice in your head. Some of us choose to interpret this voice as God, while others realize that it is only their biological mind at work.

Having never been a true Christian, and having experienced a near-fatal car accident, I can tell you that the thoughts running through my mind, the things that I would cling to in my final moments, were the faces and personalities of my loved ones. My son, my boyfriend, my parents. I also clung tightly to my own thoughts. The things I would never get to do if it were truly the end of my life. There was also an eerie calm before, during and after the crash. From the moment that I knew my car was going to roll over everything went very calm and surreal. I saw the world in slow motion, one tiny detail at a time. It was like I was savoring everything I saw because it might be the last time I was ever going to see even the most mundane detail of the world, in this case the inside of my 1995 Jeep Wrangler. There was no thought of God. There was no desire to repent at the last minute so that I might be saved. There were only my vivid observations of the world and my thoughts of those that I care about.

It is a foreign concept to me, this clinging to a god or a religion, and not for lack of trying. Even if one was to cling to their once forsaken god in their final moments and beg for forgiveness and acceptance, it would only really be that person making their final amends to themselves. This would in no way prove Christianity (or any other religion) to be true. In fact, nothing short of a god appearing before all mankind simultaneously to correct the misgiving of our ways is going to prove any religion. When that happens, I will believe.

Peace.

We all can have these "Who were you talking to?" moments, don't worry. Now this'll be awkward after all the long and well-written replies others have left already, but bear with me. For example, if I have really bad diarrhea I'll sometimes just "pray" for relief of the pain that feels like I'm shitting my scrambled intestines. Sometimes I'm even like "If you stop this burning agony I'll believe in you again, please!" and after I'm done wiping and washing my hands I finally say "I was just kidding. *lol*"

So yeah, your friends argument basically boils down to "god for the desperate." People will believe crazy shit when they're in the need. If there would be folklore about a toilet-fairy that relieves people of their diarrhea I'd probably believe in her too while sitting on the shitter sweating in pain.

There's even a Turkish saying, "He who falls into the sea will even hug a snake." Which basically means if you're in trouble you'll take anything.


Oh btw, if I were you I would have replied with this and turned the challenge around.

"What about you? If you were in Afghanistan you wouldn't be praying to your current god. You'd be praying to allah, a false god, and go to hell."

@ kOrsan - You crack me up! LOLOL

I suppose I don't see how it is a challenge to anything. Let's say you revert and beg God for mercy and to take care of your family. So what? Essentially, it was said under extreme duress, in a moment you'd cling to even the slightest hope, and doesn't mean you actually believe in God deep down. But let's say you actually do believe in God deep down, and the stress brought that out. Again, so what? That is not even remotely evidence that God actually exists. What did WWII Japanese soldiers think about when they went on a suicidal final bayonet charge? The Christian God? I don't think so.

Classic "no atheists in foxholes" scenario. I find this line of thinking irrelevant to the truth of theism.

As an interesting side thought: what do they expect to happen to an atheist who has no religion to "revert" back to when in that sort of situation? Imagine you were an atheist from birth, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't all of a sudden start crying out to God to save you.

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