Sunday, December 18, 2011

"She's in God's Hands Now"

Last week a seven-year-old little girl and her 21-year-old uncle were killed in what seems to have been a burglary.  Their funeral was on Saturday and the TV news showed several people making comments about it.  And of course someone said the inevitable "She's in God's arms and God is taking care of her now."

I've heard that sentiment a million times but this time I realized.... why would you want a crime victim to be in the hands of the same god that let her get murdered?  I mean, if being "in God's hands" was some kind of protection, then obviously God isn't all-powerful or else he'd have protected her on Earth.  Not much of god if he can only keep her safe after she's shed her corporeal self and starts hanging out with him and the angels.  I thought there was no suffering in Heaven, so he's protecting her from what?  Boredom?  What a challenge!

Sometimes when a child dies they say "God needed another angel in heaven so he took her."  (Usually just the girls.  I suppose when boys die the Devil gets them?  *shrug*)  What?  Why would he need another angel?  What do angels do besides sing his heavenly praises?  There's no work in heaven, and if there was, why make children do it?  And why would God need an angel?  Why would God need anything for that matter?

And anyway, you'd think God would know how many angels he needs to surround himself with and not have to change his mind after letting one be a child for seven years.  There's no death or disease in Heaven, so it's not like one of the angels came down with laryngitis and had to drop out of the Heavenly Choir.

I can understand the need for comforting thoughts in a time of grief, but how can these fairy tales be any kind of comfort?  I find it rather dismissive of the absolute horror that the child experienced.  "Oh yeah she was terrified and then she got shot and maybe she bled and hurt for a little while, and maybe she saw her favorite uncle take a bullet too, but it's all okay now."   Uhhh yeah, her suffering is over, but not that of her family. 

When challenged about it, most people would admit that their fairy tales are just made up to soothe their feelings.  People say these things without any thought for the theology of it, or even the logic of it.  They make up a way to reframe their situation in a way that makes it less painful.

It reminds me of Dissociative Disorder.  The abused child has been taxed beyond their ability to cope, so their mind supplies them with another personality that can take the lumps for them.  We've all probably been in situations where we mentally "check out" because it's so uncomfortable.  The next phase would be imagining you're watching yourself taking in the pain.  After that, dissociation.  And then after that.... dissociate the entire universe.  Make up a universe in which the unfair becomes fair and pain is turned to comfort.

Life is tough.  Death is also tough.  We atheists comfort ourselves that Hitch left behind his writings and the fond memories people have of him.  We had the luxury of being able to prepare for his loss, but  we still miss him.  The little girl's life was cut so short that there wasn't much of a legacy there.  It was truly horrific, and we can empathize with the grief of her family and friends. 

Thanks to vaccines, water treatment plants, sewage systems, and food safety inspections, the girl's family was not unrealistic in believing she could have lived into her eighties.  But life still has its risks, however small, from day one through the "natural" ending.  This is one of those times when a rare event happens.  We wish they were even more rare, of course.

In the Middle Ages people seemed to believe in Fortuna, the Roman goddess of luck.  (Yes, even in the supposedly most religious age of Christianity there was a lot of pagan stuff floating around!  Who'da thunk it?)  She turned her wheel (The Wheel Of Fortune) and people rose or fell according to where they were on the wheel.  Even though they had a thousand or more years of Christian theology to turn to, they still had to admit that in the end sometimes shit just happens and it's out of your hands.  They didn't imagine that it was in God's hands, either. 

Medieval theology was based pretty much on the Bible, unlike the theology of the ultra-religious of American society (who claim to be "Biblical").  They believed in salvation of the soul, but as for the rest, shit happened.  I have to admire the fact that they spun off their dissociation into a different deity rather than rewriting the theology of The God to ameliorate their pain.  I think Christianity was as successful as it was in converting "pagans" in part because it originally lacked that promise of making things happen on Earth in the same way that pagan gods did.  The pagan god of harvest, childbirth, or whatever, was fickle and could let you down.  The Christian god of damnation and forgiveness wasn't interested in those things, just what you believed about him.  Of course, this left open the door to pagan ideas and celebrations, such as Fortuna, and yule logs and gift-giving at the Solstice.

Now, apparently, instead of reverting to Pagan gods or studying The Problem of Evil, people just make shit up about God.  You don't have to have a theology degree or even to have read the entire Bible to do it.  Here's the formula: 
  1. Feel bad. 
  2. Imagine a Hollywood fairy tale ending. 
  3. Attribute the fairy tale ending to God.

The End.


Nameless Cynic said...

Yeah, there's a lot of those.

"God doesn't give you more than you can handle" - wow, there's some BS right there. I've seen lots of people who couldn't deal with their lot.

"God wants you to be happy" - despite significant evidence to the contrary.

"God hates (whoever)" - funny how the ending to that sentence always parallels the speaker's own preconceptions.

It's weird how much people make up that doesn't even have biblical backing, much less the stuff the Bible actually says.

LadyAtheist said...

This post is getting a lot of hits today. It's too bad people are googling "She's in God's Hands" or whatever terms are bringing them here.

Christians: If you've skipped the rest of the post, here's the deal: Christianity is about the afterlife and forgiveness for Eve's sins based on belief in Christ. The rest is just stuff that happens. You won't find anything in your religion to assuage your feelings about the Connecticut school massacre, so just make up whatever makes you feel better. You won't find anything in your religion.