jueves, agosto 13, 2009

How as an atheist I cope with tragedy.

Originally posted on Atheist Nexus - June 29, 2009

My mother had a and stroke because of an aneurysm about 2 months ago. She's currently in a coma, with sever brain infarct damage and her prognosis is not good. So, what do I make of all of it? Well, thank God I am an atheist. I can't hardly think how I could cope with this better if I were religious.

More than anything, it let me be calm about this tragedy. I don't blame anyone or anything for this. I know that our bodies are imperfect, that to die is part of all living creatures, and that we don't know how it may happen, just that it eventually will. I know and accept this, and that keeps me calm.

I am sad of course, I miss my mom. I didn't expect for this to happen soon because my mom is a very healthy person. Actually, it is somewhat 'interesting' because although she's in a coma (she is non-responsive), she is actually in very good health; all her organs are OK with exeption of most of her brain. When someone asks me about her status, I usually say she's both 'good' and 'bad', 'good' because she hasn't got any worst and 'bad' because she hasn't got any better.

Many of my more religious relatives are a little 'off' by my attitude. I am a little tired that they expect (and probably 'want') me (or my father or sister) to be 'devastated' and continously keep saying "what ever is God's will", "let's pray to god"... I somewhat pity them, I guess that deep down they envy me being calm or something. I am a software engineer, but my dad is a physician, with a specialty in anesthetics, so I have been rounded by medicine books and medical info all my life, so I am well aware of what many medical conditions mean and represent. I actually like this, because it helps me to be realistic about what may happen in cases like this. I know that my mom most likely not recover and that if she does she will be severly impaired. I know and accept this, why don't they? Why do they get so mad or angry when you say thing the way they are?

I'll venture to say they are somewhat selfish. My mom is (was) a very lovable person, pretty, funny, lovely grandma, great singer, smart... and I think they don't want to be privated from her, so they better surround themselves with the (false) expectation of recovery (a miracle) than face the truth that the person as they knew is gone.

During this experience, I've had to deal with a lot of religious mumbo-jumbo and I have experienced how easely people pick and choose from experience and how easely (and quite probably un-willingly) truth is distorted. The miracle cross that once saved a girl in the brink of death, the miracle priest that saved another girl in the brink of dead, and as you start to dig deeper in to the stories you realize that people have exagerated and disstorted the story, in order to make it fit the miracle-type event.

Case number 1: The miracle black-wax jesus. An aunt's friend has this black-wax jesus figure in a wooden cross. It is actually a very nice handcrafted piece and I think it is at least seventy years old. I actually liked it for its aesthetic value. So the story goes that this friend's daughter had a very serious car accident, and she went comatose for several weeks. So one day, while she was coming down the stairs (the figure being in the wall of the stairs), she sees that the chest of the figure is 'expanded' and she concludes that this was the sign of a miracle. So, it is supposed that that same day her daughter woke from the coma and recovered. Well, after hearing many people tell the same history, each one added some little detail that allows to see that that is not exactly what happened. I eventually puzzle the story like this: Indeed this lady 'saw' the expanded chest, but her daughter did not came out of coma inmediatetly, but several days later, and even after that, she still suffers some neuronal problems and had to take re-habilitation (is that spelled right?) for several more months. So, was that really a miracle, or just a favourable outcome? Why doesn't the wax-jesus just avoided the accident in the first place? You may have guessed my answer.

Case number 2:The miracle priest. There is this canadian priest called 'Father Thomas' who lives in a middle size town in the state of Verazcruz, in the Gulf of Mexico. I have never heard of him before, but it seems that he is very popular among the meduim-upper class back in my home-town. The story goes that this guy went to see a girl who had (also) a very serious car accident, and also was unconsious (is this spelled right?). So, this priest puts his hand on her head and starts saying things, supposedly in tongues or at least aramic. So, they told me, the girl suddenly wakes up and grabs the priest and start crying, and miracle! she got better. Well, as usual, there is more to the story. So it happens that this girl was suffering from seizures during her unconsiousnes (is this spelled right?) and the alleged 'wake up' was another seizure event, she didn't wake up then, but about one or two weeks later and still had to stay in the hospital for about a month and also require a lot of time more to recover. This guy went visiting my mom also, and did the same thing... any guess about the results? You guessed right. Nothing happend.

And yet, my relatives keep telling me that I should keep the faith, that miracles may happen. I honestly think that I woudl suffer much more if I was to think like that. Reality may sucks sometimes, but it is certain, that's for sure. As Sagan said about Kepler "He chosed the crude reality to his most cherished ilusions" (I am probably quoting it wrong, but the idea is the same).

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