Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Own Little Foxhole

There's an expression that there are no atheists in foxholes.  It implies that even the most militant atheist will turn to a higher power during high levels of stress or danger.  This is something I've often wondered about on a personal level.

I didn't grow up in an outwardly religious family, but I was surrounded by the idea of God through friends, television, books, movies etc.  I learned more about the concept of a personal god in high school going so far as to accept Christ into my heart during one ill thought out moment. 
Meryn Cadell sums that moment up nicely:
"And then later in the car, my hot-from-crying face against the window, shutting out the conversation around me, I thought about what I'd said .....and I already doubted it. So intangible, so surreal.
Lettin' Christ into my heart? I didn't even know the man."

After high school I really started to examine my beliefs - not just figuring out what I believed, but looking more deeply at why I believed it.  This led to the search for evidence.  I couldn't find any evidence for the existence of Jesus at all - I'm talking primary resource material which completely excludes the bible and anything written based on the bible.  This lack of evidence pretty much made the whole prophet / lunatic / son of God controversy moot. 

While I also didn't see any evidence for a personal god, I wasn't yet ready to let go of the entire concept.   As more and more time passed and my research continued, my views began to evolve.  Gradually it went from acknowledging the existence of a higher power to doubting the existence to more recently denying the existence.  I will still never confidently proclaim that there is no god just as I will never confidently proclaim that there are no pink unicorns on Jupiter.  You can only prove the non-existence of something within very specific parameters and I don't have that ability.  I will however say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and I have yet to see any.  Until such evidence becomes available I will continue to view all religions and thoughts of gods or goddesses as primitive superstitions which have no place in today's societies (and especially in schools, governments and legislation).

This brings me to my foxhole pondering.  While I feel good about walking away from these superstitions, I have often wondered how I would react in a dangerous or traumatic situation.  Would I leap wholeheartedly back and pray for some sky fairy to save me?   I recently got my answer.

Almost a month ago I hit a patch of black ice while driving on the highway and lost control of my vehicle, swerving violently and rolling off the edge into the median.  I would imagine that others who have had similarly dangerous experiences will understand when I say it all happened so quickly, but in slow motion.  Because of the slow motion I can honestly remember everything that went through me head at the time.  First there were some expletives which were expelled from my mouth and I won't detail those here.  Then I remembered hearing or reading somewhere that many of the injuries sustained during accidents are caused by individuals bracing for impact and that you should try to relax your body against that instinct.  (I credit my lack of injuries to following this little nugget of wisdom!)  As I started to go over the edge I just accepted that I no longer had any control over the situation and had to deal with whatever outcome lay ahead.  Then I quietly waited and listened to all of the commotion around me (crunching of icy snow, the scraping of metal, the cracking of the windshield...).  When all of the motion and noise stopped I opened my eyes, started breathing again and assessed the situation (a little difficult while hanging upside down). 

I am thrilled to say that at no time during the entire ordeal did I turn to God or prayer.  This tells me that I have truly succeeded in shedding the superstitions from my past and have moved forward to claim my life and my actions as completely my own.  It's a great feeling!

On a side note, I did gain a little faith that day as well - faith in humanity.  I still find myself teary eyed thinking of all of the people who risked their own lives that day to stop on an obviously icy highway to help out a stranger in need.  A very heart-felt thank you to all of the good samaritans out there.