A recent post by Think Atheist member Aline Carriere titled “Have You Been Saved?
” caught my attention while flying over Tulsa, Oklahoma. (That’s right, Delta has Internet on cross country flights now! I’m so happy!
) I didn’t agree with everything Aline had to say, but that’s alright. We atheists are allowed to disagree without having to form new “denominations”. Her post tells a story about an incident in which she could have been seriously injured or killed had someone not come along to assist her at just the right time. The typical Christian would take such an event as a sign that God truly exists and has a plan for their life. They would then get down on their knees and thank Jesus for saving them. Aline thanked Leonard Hammond.
It impresses me when someone has the rational insight to see such an event for what it is; a chance encounter with mortality. Had Leonard come along 20 minutes later, Aline might not have been around to convey her story to the rest of us. 10 minutes later and Leonard may not have been around for Aline to thank. (Read her post to get the whole story. The link is provided above) It takes a lot of guts to accept that reality and not attribute the fact that she is still here to the will of an invisible “father” in the sky or some other supernatural force. I’m ashamed to say that I reconverted to Christianity after my initial departure from the faith because of just such an event.
I was dating a young woman who was recently divorced and had two young girls from that marriage. We had a date planned for the 4th of July and she left to take her daughters to their father for the evening. I waited for her at her apartment for an exceptionally long time. Just as I began to be worried, a knock came at the door. I opened it tentatively and a solemn faced man whom I had never met called me by name and told me I needed to come with him. We got in his car and drove about 100 yards up the street from the complex.
There in the parking lot of the Dollar General store on the corner was the mangled chassis of her car. About thirty yards from it on the other side of the parking lot was the pickup truck that had slammed into her driver’s side door at sixty miles an hour. The driver stood dazedly beside it, a bloody rag to his head, but otherwise unharmed. I stood and stared in shock and disbelief. Emergency workers feverishly rushed around the twisted metal heap as the “Jaws-of-Life” were used to extricate her wrecked body from the wrecked vehicle. Incredibly, she was still alive, but without the proper medical attention, she wouldn’t be for long.
The impact had collapsed the dash and driver’s side door onto her left leg, breaking it in three places. It had also broken three ribs and her clavicle and ruptured her spleen. She was bleeding internally, but all she knew was that with each passing minute it was becoming increasingly difficult to breathe. She gasped this to the EMT’s as the ambulance screamed toward the tiny rural hospital that was woefully unprepared to deal with her kind of injuries. Luckily the doctors there had enough sense to see this and called Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga to have her Medevaced there.
During this entire ordeal, all I could think about was her daughters and how they would have to live without their mother if she didn’t make it through this. By all accounts and purposes, she should have died, but she didn’t. Instead of thanking the dedicated emergency and medical personnel that actually saved her, I decided that it had been a miracle. God had intervened to keep her alive for her children. I believed once again in an omnipotent creator who loves and intervenes on the behalf of his creation. All this from the unexpected survival of one woman with two young girls who still needed their mother.
As I’ve said in past entries, the human mind is “wired” to find patterns even when there are none. We see faces in rock formations, animals in clouds, and the hand of God in miscellaneous events in our lives and the lives of others. It takes a rational mind to realize that these things are not “designed” or “intentional”. I believe that we all are capable of these realizations, but stress and emotion are strong forces against rationality and logic. We revert to our basic instincts in the face of severe psychological strain and trauma.
I know now that because of the emotional burden I faced during this ordeal, I interpreted the chance survival of the woman I was dating as meaningful on some supernatural scale. In my mind, the creator of the universe actually took an interest in her and spared her from hell (we’d been having extra-marital sex and she was on her way back for us to sin some more when the accident took place
) and her daughters from life without their mother. I never once gave a thought to the millions of other children who have lost one or both of their parents in such accidents (My cousin's girls for instance
). I never once gave a thought to the millions of people who “sin” on a regular basis and die without a “second chance”. I thought about myself, my girlfriend, and how much God loved her. I asked God to forgive me and began living for him once more.
The glaring inconsistencies in and nagging doubts about Christianity eventually resurfaced as they always do when you look at it without the rose-colored glasses for more than a few minutes at a time. Many Christians will say that this is a personal problem; a lack of faith. I say it’s a personal triumph; courage in the face of adversity. When you can see the world we live in with all its problems for what it is and can accept this without the need for supernatural rescue, I personally believe you’ve arrived and found the true reason for living.