28 April 2011

"God-ordained" events in the life of a non-believer

I just have to post this. I attended a newbie night with the Minnesota Skeptics last night. It was fantastic. I'm trying to remedy the fact that my social network has shriveled considerably and I simply find life pretty lonely at times. I still have great friends who are believers, but it's quite difficult when you think about religion and god a vast majority of the time, but can't share those thoughts for fear of offending others.

I've been trying to branch out to groups like the MN Skeptics and the Minnesota Atheists to find companions who are open-minded and receptive to my venting and sharing about my situation. This phase is taxing to both my wife and I, but I think she's far more well-supported considering she still shares common belief with everyone and is still in her weekly-meeting couple's group (which I was asked to depart from). I don't have such types of support, and would also add that the support she receives is much more "empathetic" (I'm so sorry you're enduring this, god has a plan, we're here for you, etc.) while mine tends to be primarily focused on accountability/challenging (remember -- you're still obligated to be a good husband, are you reading the right stuff?, how are you caring for your wife?, you do realize this is really hard on your wife, right?, why don't you want to raise your kids believers?, etc.). This can be taxing.

So, I'm at this meeting last night at a cafe, and the meetup organizers were introducing the group, what it's about, an intro to skepticism/rationality/critical-thinking, etc., and then had everyone introduce themselves. I shared a bit about my history and also mentioned the name of the outreach group I used to be affiliated with, Saint Paul's Outreach, as well as the lay-community of Catholic Families that I made a life-long commitment to, Community of Christ the Redeemer. This was actually a bit atypical; I hardly ever actually mention the names, at least online, but I guess since it was a local face-to-face meeting I did.

Guess what happened next? One of the organizers pipes in and says that he used to belong to both groups! What are the chances of that? Were I still a believer and ran into a former member of these groups (assuming he was still a believer, too) in such a small group, my heart would have warmed at the thought of how crazily "providential" such an occurrence was.

I felt compelled to mention this event because many still find it extremely difficult to dismiss apparent "miracles" or "acts of divine providence" when it comes to the possibility that god might not be real. This is just one example of how such things continue on. Unlikely things still happen... just not as often as, well, likely things. Because such events are out of the ordinary, we feel compelled to find a "why" behind the "what."

I don't think this is necessary any longer. The world is not revolving around you or I, and that's okay. Acts of "providence" (the atheistic kind) still happen to me (the event above is not the only time something like this has happened post-deconversion). Perhaps we simply see only what we look for.


... Zoe ~ said...

My first "god-ordained" moment, post-deconversion happened within a few weeks of my leaving the faith. Seven years ago this month.

I walked in to a book store and a lady was selling Avon products and raising money for Cancer. This lady stuck to me like glue. I donated to her cause, didn't buy any product but smiled kindly and was sure to be genuine with her and not just hurry through, as to ignore her. Eventually, I slowly began to look through the book displays, only to find that this lady literally was wandering towards me and leaving her display. At first I thought, what's she doing, but, I again decided to not ignore her, which led her to sharing with me a bunch of her concern for a family member who was very sick with ... wait for it ... the same disease I have. :-)

People who believe in "God" regardless of the god-belief they have (there's a lot of them) think that this is evidence of their being a "God." Christians say it's Jesus. Muslims say it's Allah. And on it goes. We talked at length and I shared with her some books and information that may be of some help for her family member and when we finished the lady said to me: "You must be a person of strong faith." I smiled from ear to ear and said, "I am." I don't know what it meant to her and I had no need to explain what it meant to me. What it did mean to me is this: It confirmed that even though I had lost the faith in the God of Christianity and Christianity itself, it had not changed the essence of who I am at the core of my being. I still had faith in myself and in humanity.

I think we humans have incredible instincts and intuitions. Some people call those instincts and intuitions, "god-ordained". I just call them instincts and intuitions. :-) This lady and I had what I think are natural human instincts and intuitions that eventually drew us to one another. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :-)

Hendy said...

@Zoe: thanks for sharing! Probably fair insights regarding the conflict a doubter creates in a community and for one who is supposed to pastor. It has been most frustrating to not encounter a single friend or community member who thinks there might be any ounce of truth whatsoever to my doubts/non-belief. No one has seriously wondered if I might just not be crazy. Having been highly respected intellectually, that's frustrating!

Some are quite better at pastoring than others. I think those who have wrestled with doubts by far know how complicated all of this is and thus have more empathy. I don't mean to paint everyone in a bad light -- some have been extremely gracious and really know the landscape. I think those who've never really researched and found a compulsion to internalize justification for their beliefs are those who are the most flippant and likely to give one the dazed look of confusion that wonders how one could ever possibly doubt god's existence or Christianity.

Crazy story -- that is quite incredible. Especially that she followed you around a bit which allowed you to continue the sharing.

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