Progress in Spite of Faith
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20-09-2011, 10:10 AM
Progress in Spite of Faith
We all know that there are times when everything goes completely wrong. I'm sure every single one of us has been in that situation, and we've all handled it in completely different ways. Often, I hear people make remarks that during these times the weakness of the atheist shows; a sentiment very much along the lines of the "there are no atheists in foxholes" assertion.

I'm sure most of us would completely disagree with that assertion (I know I do). In fact, I think it's quite the opposite in many cases.

My brother is a fundamentalist Christian. He's a Calvinist, a southern baptist, and follows the teachings of the preacher John Piper like they were the words of a god. He's attended the Ambassador's Academy with my dad where he personally met and worked with Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron for a couple weeks. He's been studying to become a preacher himself, planning to move to California to the Master's Seminary to be ordained there. I hope I'm painting a strong enough picture here to show that this is "a man of God".

The past few years he's been working as a Resident Assistant (and a damned fine one) in his university, always with advancements and praise for his humble attitude in work and outstanding service (he works his ass off there). Recently he's been getting notices from his boss that he would be likely to be promoted to Resident Director (that is, the head honcho of the entire dorm). These rumours spread around for a good few months (maybe even more than a half a year), and the position finally opened up.

He didn't get the job.

What's worse, because of these absurd tuition and room/board prices lately, he had to quit his job as head RA and move back in with our parents to commute to school. It's even possible he won't get to graduate (he's been struggling to graduate for years now). He gave up on his dream of becoming a medical doctor to pursue this path, and now this one is slamming shut in his face as well.

He's posted many Facebook statuses in coping with this, but this one (in conjunction with a later comment on one) really struck me the hardest:

Quote:If there be, therefore, "perpetual failure" in your life, it cannot arise from any weakness or impotence in the Mighty God; but from some failure on your part. That failure "may probably" be discovered in one of three hiding places--imperfect surrender, deficient faith; or neglected communion. -F.B Meyer

This quote, along with his later note to a friend on another of his statuses that there must be some secret sin in his life that he's unaware of that he has to kill, struck me across the face. This doctrine and dogma that has been completely controlling his life, that he has surrounded himself in, that he is inextricably bound to, tells him that this terrible turnout is his fault.

My brother has wronged me a number of times since I came out as an atheist, and never once apologized for any of it. In spite of that, he's my brother and I love him. It's unbearable to see him going through this, to see him place the blame on himself for this. He says God had a plan and he must have been going against it. Even more maddening, his fundy friends support this claim, telling him it's all part of God's plan, and "Liking" his posts that say it's his fault.

I wish I could see my brother free from this, but he's made it abundantly clear to me in the past that this is the path he's going down, whether there's any evidence for it or not. The pain and misery he must be feeling, the shame and the guilt, the blame and the sorrow, it must be terrible. Being able to progress in spite of faith seems much more difficult than coping without it.

"It does feel like something to be wrong; it feels like being right." -Kathryn Schulz
I am 100% certain that I am wrong about something I am certain about right now. Because even if everything I stand for turns out to be completely true, I was still wrong about being wrong.
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20-09-2011, 11:03 AM
RE: Progress in Spite of Faith
Unfortunately you cannot help the unwilling. If your brother will not consider the possibility that his faith is bullshit then he is likely to wallow in his self degradation until his luck changes (if it ever does.). Religion robs believers of the joy of accomplishment as well as cause self abasement.

This insidious side of Christanity has always left a sour taste in my mouth, all the fundamentalists I grew up with blamed themselves when their prayers went unanswered. I cannot count the number if times I've heard Christians bemoan when bad things happen to them because they fell short of the glory of god. What putrid rubbish!

My mother died with cancer feeling that she never got healed because she failed god in some way. I suspect that she might still be alive had she sought medical treatment rather than seeking divine intervention. She hid it from everyone thinking it would disappear if she could pray the prayer of faith. By the time the family found out she had it, it was too late for anyone to help. So her physical suffering was compounded by her self blame for not being healed. This is the real evil of this kind of Christian fundamentalism.

Sorry I cannot give you some upbeat or hopeful to help, but I have felt similar pain, if that helps...

“There is no sin except stupidity.” Oscar Wilde
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20-09-2011, 12:55 PM
RE: Progress in Spite of Faith
ebilekittae, I have few words that can tell you what I feel when reading your post... maybe the scriptural, "unutterable utterance". My heart goes out to him... and you.

If there is anything I can say to give encouragement, maybe it's that I have been in a place very similar and as bleak... and I am now an atheist. I made the right choice.

My thoughts to you both.

Who can turn skies back and begin again?
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21-09-2011, 01:56 AM
RE: Progress in Spite of Faith
Thanks for your sympathy and support, you guys. Smile I hope the best for my brother, and that's all I can do for now, I think.

"It does feel like something to be wrong; it feels like being right." -Kathryn Schulz
I am 100% certain that I am wrong about something I am certain about right now. Because even if everything I stand for turns out to be completely true, I was still wrong about being wrong.
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21-09-2011, 07:43 AM
RE: Progress in Spite of Faith
That quote strikes me as wrong in a very fundamental way - and i don't mean the god thing; that's expected in context. Seems like, it's dividing blame equally between the god and the petitioner - leaving out the third party: other men. In your brother's case, god wasn't involved at all; other men were.
My personal suspicion is that the guys in charge (whoever) told all aspiring candidates the same bs, to keep them hoping and working their asses off, and then appointed the one they'd already chosen. The one(s) who don't get the promotion take the blame and try even harder. Bosses do this often enough - they can only win.

Is there some way to - gently! - point your brother toward the fallibility of men: i think that' allowed. It won't help much in his situation, but might lift a little of his burden. Aside from that, there is not much you can do for a damn fool who's made his own bed.

BTW Atheists do cope better! They're not stuck with the ridiculous dichotomy: it's either my fault or that of my imaginary friend, which makes it my fault. They're allowed to look around and find the real culprit - or at least a convenient scapegoat.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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21-09-2011, 12:40 PM
RE: Progress in Spite of Faith
That’s a sad story, ebilekittae, and an infuriating one—an example of the blame-the-victim mentality that poisons discourse, particularly here in the U.S. with our “anybody who’s willing to work can make it in the Land of the Free” mythology. You can’t find a job? You’re not looking hard enough. You say you’ve faced discrimination? You must be doing something to make people dislike you. Brain tumor? It’s because of your “negative energy.” Your daughter died? If only you had prayed harder when she was in the hospital.

Good things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people. Sometimes we can find valid reasons for things, but often there are no such reasons. Things happen at random. Unfortunately, as a species we seem constitutionally unable to accept that fact, which is why you constantly hear crap like, “There are no accidents.”

There are accidents. If the plane went down and 299 people died while you were the sole survivor, it doesn’t mean “the Lord had a plan” for you. It only means you were fortunate enough—lucky enough!—to be sitting in just the right seat to avoid destruction during that particular mishap. If the camp bus goes over a cliff during a storm and 30 kids are killed, it doesn’t mean they were particularly vicious sinners who deserved what they got. The primitive notion of divine retributive justice is belied by the children’s cancer ward in your local hospital and a million other atrocities every day. But people with blinders on, especially religious blinders, can’t see that.

Since your brother seems far from ready to face his mythology head on, you need to talk to him in his own language. Bible verses carry a lot of weight with fundies, so you might quote him some “scriptures” that speak to the idea of randomness in human affairs and a lack of justice. (You can find whatever you like in the Bible if you look hard enough.)

Ecclesiastes is a good place to start:

9:11 -- I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. (KJV)

And also Jeremiah:

12:1 -- Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? (KJV)

Even some of the Bible writers, in their more lucid moments, acknowledged the inherent injustice and randomness of the world.

Hope that helps a little.

Religious disputes are like arguments in a madhouse over which inmate really is Napoleon.
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22-09-2011, 06:33 AM
RE: Progress in Spite of Faith
I know it seems like a simple thing, but I never once even considered using Bible verses to help him along. While my words are the words of a "heathen", the Bible holds strong authority with him. It's a pretty good idea, thanks, cufflink!

Peterkin,

You're right about the view of that quote. I'm often staggered by the isolation of a fundamentalist worldview. So many times all the matters in this worldview is the god figure, and the only other real thing is the "servant" figure, which is to say my brother in this case. Everyone and everything else is just a tool of the god figure. My brother blows my mind exceptionally in that he's a Calvinist, and believes that literally everything that happens is deeply controlled by God (but sin is still somehow the fault of the sinner--something that made even me raise an eyebrow at Calvinism when I was a fundy myself). Those corrupt men (the higher-ups in that university are craaazy! O_o It's a private Southern Baptist University, so I guess it's to be expected) were acting in accordance to God's plan in my brother's eyes, so it couldn't be some fault of theirs.

My brother has the strange ability to be both very humble and very arrogant at the same time. The blame falls on him, the responsibility is his, he's the servant, but it's also his form of spotlight. It's the same way here. He's the only one that matters (arrogance), but that means it's his fault (humbleness). It's a situation that I really pity him in, it must be kind of miserable, especially in this situation.

Just yesterday he started having car troubles, too. He might not be able to make it to be the best man in his friend's wedding, or to throw him a "Bachelor's Party" (a very safe one, just playing tabletop RPGs and eating pizza Tongue). Hopefully he'll cope through all of this well.

"It does feel like something to be wrong; it feels like being right." -Kathryn Schulz
I am 100% certain that I am wrong about something I am certain about right now. Because even if everything I stand for turns out to be completely true, I was still wrong about being wrong.
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22-09-2011, 07:29 AM
RE: Progress in Spite of Faith
Quote:If there be, therefore, "perpetual failure" in your life, it cannot arise from any weakness or impotence in the Mighty God; but from some failure on your part. That failure "may probably" be discovered in one of three hiding places--imperfect surrender, deficient faith; or neglected communion. -F.B Meyer

That's just another way of saying "I will never, ever, admit that I made a mistake in believing in God."

Believe nothing you hear and only half what you see
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