Last weekend my daughter asked me to take her to the movie Soul Surfer. I was a little wary of the religious aspects of it since she’s still working through her own beliefs, but it wasn’t a bad movie for a 14-year-old girl working through depression regardless of religion. The story of determination and hope outshines any messages of faith it had so I think it’s a decently positive movie for nonbelievers as well. The times they touched on religious belief may be comforting for believers and eye rolling for nonbelievers, but for this nonbeliever they didn’t try too hard with the attempts to associate real world events and human strength to a godly purpose. I think it’s a story about believers without necessarily trying to spread belief. I know I would have hated watching this movie for myself but maybe I’m less critical because I did it for my daughter.
If you don’t know it, it’s a movie based on a true story about a surfer that survived a shark attack but lost an arm. The family rightfully thanked the friend’s dad for what he did to save Bethany more than they thanked their God for saving her. It saddens me when believers give all of the credit to the supernatural and don’t give any credit to the efforts right here on Earth. If you’re going to believe in gods then I still expect you to acknowledge the efforts of humanity since I’ve never seen the gods work without our “help.” Even when it comes to the inevitable question of “why bad things happen to good people?” the answer is the same as you’d get from any human with or without religion. Sometimes things just happen and there is no reason we know for it. They try to suggest that there was tie to an unknown purpose and possibly that was to serve as an inspiration to others. However, the inspiration we can get from Bethany’s strength is for anyone to be inspired by without or without gods.
It was the challenges faced by Bethany and how she dealt with them and overcame them that was the topic of discussion for us. We talked about depression being my daughter’s shark or maybe even her arm loss. We talked about how something that seems so hopeless and terrible at the time can be overcome and there really is a reason to continue living and continue working to be better than our current conditions. We talked about how Bethany and my daughter both have help along the way to survive but ultimately it was Bethany’s strength, determination, and desire to do more and better that made her the better person she has become. Not once did our talk bring up god, religion, or anything supernatural because it wasn’t necessary for the conversation. Not everyone needs such things to give them hope. My daughter felt a little hope and a little happiness to see a fellow teenager girl overcome and triumph. It was a good moment and I hope things like this can provide some amount of help while we work through overcoming her depression. The movie may not have touched my “soul” but it was a nice moment with my daughter that through her it touched my heart. I wish for Bethany’s strength for my own daughter and anyone else that needs it.
A post on Evangelical Realism concerning How God Really “Works” is a prime example for how people try to tie normal human activity to acts of a supernatural deity. It references a story about a professor who states “God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform. I’ll give you exactly 15 minutes.” Of course nothing happens until a Marine steps up and knocks him down. The Marine calmly replied, “God was too busy today protecting America ’s soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid stuff and act like an a$$. So, He sent me.”
Evangelical Realism has an excellent rebuttal for the whole thing discussing something I’ve brought up many times. Acts of God are simply just acts of humanity attributed to the wrong person. Prayer is just hope given over to the supernatural and hope doesn’t result in any real actions unless we decide to act. The blog post ends with a great summary of this:
This is the secret. This is how God really “works” in the real world: somebody thinks they know what God ought to be doing, then they sit there stewing about it because God’s obviously not taking care of the matter, then they jump up and do it themselves, then they claim that God ought to be given credit for having gotten the job done. A classic case of sock-puppet deity. Rather pitiful, really, but so long as God persists in failing to show up in the real world it’s the best Christians have to offer.
Mr. Anonymous And Probably Fictitious Marine, I salute you. You may have acted violently, ignorantly, and unjustly, but you at least gave us a clear demonstration of how Christians perpetuate the delusion that God actually does things in the real world.
There were some quotes about faith from a church bulletin and some questions over at The Atheist Mama blog. Here’s my take on the quotes…
“Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” I believe this to mean that faith is the only thing that keeps you believing in something after the magic has worn off and you’ve seen the evidence of the magician’s trickery. Faith keeps you believing in that mirage in the summer haze that was just a trick on your eyes. Faith is what makes you think you can actually walk up to the end of rainbow, touch it, and have the colors wash over you. It may be pleasant or harmless ideas, but faith does not equal reality.
“Faith is both the substance of things that we hope for and the evidence of things yet to be realized.” I always say that prayer and faith are just hope wrapped in religion. Hope is good. Hope drives a person to action to achieve what they hope for. Prayer and faith puts your hope in a god’s hand that delivers with the same reliability as chance. Faith is not about what is real now or what we have evidence of from the past. That is why the quote tells us faith is all about that feeling of hope and what is yet to be realized. It’s a trick to get us to think that when we get what we hope for that it is a god that gave us that when it is the work of humans or chance that has ultimately delivered.
It’s these tricks of remolding hope into faith that keeps believers believing. We just have to remember that hope is real and natural and it is only us that can do anything about it… like building dollhouses for our daughters. 🙂 “Keep the faith” is the same as “keep your hope alive” for nonbelievers.
I “hope” some day everyone else will wake up from the fantasy and quit trying to live their lives for a mythology and instead live it for family and society. Maybe then we can work on our hopes and dreams together without waiting for gods to deliver…
Any change in the world is brought about by real action by real people. We obviously fight against the powers of nature and the chaos of the universe, but fight we must if we want anything outside of the status quo. Prayer and hope alone do nothing to change our circumstances.
If a person were wounded you could just watch and hope (or pray) they stop bleeding or you could take action and do something to help them. You can personally try to stop the bleeding and you can call for help. Society will step in and help where a supreme being does not.
Doctors have not always existed. Primitive man had no doctor to turn to that could heal the human body. Doctors developed out of a need of society to heal our wounded and sick. If prayer really worked, then we would have no need for doctors. If there was a God that really listened to us and intervened when asked, then we would have no need for police, firefighters, or any other profession that helps us and protects us from each other and the planet itself.
We have war because we collectively take no action to stop fighting with each other. We have famine because we do not do enough to feed everyone. We have any number of problems because we have not acted together for the good of society to overcome them.
Crime does not exist because everyone needs the same religion to guide them. It exists because some selfish people are not working for the good of society. There are plenty of religious criminals that pray they don?t get caught so they can provide for their families through their crime. The only answer to this is that society must take action to punish such behavior. Community-wide prayer will do nothing to reduce crime, but police in the community will work. Would you rather have prayer from the religious or police to protect you? Would you rather have a doctor heal you or prayers from a billion believers? Would you choose a society of Atheists with doctors, police, and other human intervention or a society of priests that would do nothing but pray for divine intervention?
One answer to those questions is that God works through people. That does not help you much if there are no people around to perform God?s work, which just shows us that it is only the people that matter in this whole scenario. It proves nothing about God?s divine intervention if humans are required to make it happen.
Nature takes action. The physical universe takes action. People can take action. Religion is only belief and hope in the power of prayer and a divine power that should be able to overcome everything else. I prefer to rely on the power of action. It is the only thing I’ve seen that has ever produced actual results.