Friday, 15 June 2012

Giving God The Credit

I'm a sucker for real life murder mysteries; like the ones they feature on Dateline NBC week in and week out.  I think I've seen all the episodes. It's just fun for me to try and figure out "whodunit" (my wife finds these shows a bit creepy, but she tolerates them if there's nothing else on TV).

Recently, I watched one about an innocent man; convicted of murder, in part because of a false confession, some thirty years ago.  I can't remember his name, but frankly (and sadly) it's a story I've heard dozens of times before.  If there's one thing I've learned, through watching so many of these programs, it's to never confess to a crime that you didn't commit.  I don't care if the police lock you in a tiny room, for days on end, or engage in verbal and/or physical abuse...never, ever, ever just tell them "what they want to hear", if it's not what really happened.  (To be clear, I'm not implying police regularly do this sort of thing.)  It can take you a lifetime to have a false confession turned over, even in the face of overwhelming evidence demonstrating your innocence.

Anyway, in this case, I couldn't help but notice that the suspect (and his mother) seized every possible opportunity to promote their Christian faith on camera.  "Glory to God!", he exclaimed upon finally being released from prison.  Who could blame him?

What's completely fascinating to me now though, as an atheist, is the psychology that lies behind these platitudes.  Why do people insist on giving God the credit, and especially so in truly horrible situations?  The more horrible the circumstance is, the higher the apparent propensity to believe that God is somehow working through and in it all.  It doesn't make sense.  I mean, this guy spent 29 years of his life in prison, for a crime he clearly didn't commit.  Yet, upon his release, the first thing he can think to say is "praise God!".  Why?  On one level, I suppose it's simply because that's what he believes.  But I'm inclined to think that it's a lot more than "just" that.

While I was a Christian I never really understood what people meant when they said that faith is a crutch.  I think I get it now.  Let's really think about this guy's predicament.  Here he is, rotting away in prison, year after year, decade after decade, all the while knowing that it's a complete travesty of justice.  He doesn't deserve to be there.  It's one thing to suspect, that someone may be innocent; but it's an entirely different matter to know it for an absolute fact.  Innocent prisoners know they are truly innocent, even if they can't convince a single other person.  How do you maintain a positive outlook day after day, and keep hope alive, when the whole world (or at least the justice system) seems to be conspiring against you?  When analyzed in this way, I think the urge to evoke God makes perfect sense.  Sometimes you've just *got* to believe that there is a larger plan at work; that, somehow or another, even your misfortunes are "meant to be" in the grand scheme of things.  It's the only way you can stay sane, so you grab on to that hope and hold tightly for everything you're worth.  The world may have let you down, but God is still in control at the end of the day.  He's got your back to the finish line and beyond.

Naturally, what doesn't occur to someone, at a time like this, is how utterly illogical this entire thought pattern is.  What about those innocent prisoners who will never be released?  Did God not hear their prayers?  Why on earth would he bother to facilitate the release of one innocent prisoner, but allow hundreds (probably thousands) of other innocent prisoners to spend their entire lives locked up?  There are also plenty of examples of people who have been executed, by the state, and only later found out to be innocent.  How much do you want to bet that most of those death row inmates believed in heaven by the time they died?  The human desire for justice is incredibly powerful and, if we can't receive that justice "down here", we're damn sure going to insist on believing that it will happen "up there".  It's a coping mechanism.

Watching this episode also made me think about how we too have been wrongly convicted.  We've been wrongly convicted by Christianity.  No one deserves to be punished eternally; not even Adolf Hitler himself.  It's deeply messed up to think that a supposedly just God would demand, on threat of never ending damnation, that we believe some very particular things about a 2, 000 year old story; especially one that contradicts itself all over the place (and stems from an age of rampant superstition).  Sometimes I wonder to myself, why couldn't I see this before?  I was a born again Christian for more than 25 years, but it's only since leaving the faith that I feel as if my brain has been released from prison.

The other problem with giving God the credit of course is that it robs from those who genuinely deserve it.  The real heroes, in the above situation, are this guy's lawyers.  They worked tirelessly, through ridiculous shit loads of red tape, to get an innocent man out of prison.

That's good enough for me.


  1. I have nothing to add. I just want to say... good stuff.

  2. With a simple look at the world around you anyone can see that someone or something greater than man is the creator. The simple longing to know who that creator is will bring you answers to these and all your other questions. The Bible says anyone who longs to know me should pray to me and I will reveal myself to them. I pray that you will find your way back to him.

    1. I appreciate your obvious sincerity Jessica but, with all due respect, you didn't even attempt to engage seriously with the content in the post. Have you considered the fact that maybe it is you who is wrong (and not me)? Remember, I once believed as you do now. I wish you the best Jessica and I hope that, next time around, you make more of an effort to engage with the topic at hand (whatever it might happen to be). Cheers,

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    3. Wishful thinking Jessica and I totally disagree. Something greater did create it all but much too vast for a God to have done it. It's obvious you know nothing about science and evolution.

    4. I always find it interesting how some atheists view God, or define God. There is nothing too vast for God to create. We can't truely fathom the entirety of God's existence and power, but it's understandable why we can't. We are so stuck in our own perception that we are blinded. Our perceptions of time, location, and space are all relative to the created, not the creator. He is omnipotent and omnipresent. Creation is lesser than the created, logically. All of nature's laws are God's creation, and so mathematics and sciences are only the observation of the creation and cannot measure the creator. He is not a being in the way our perception normally would define, because we cannot properly percieve that which is outside of our ability. God is not limited like us, but perhaps he gave us imagination to help us understand. Our senses and dimensional existence, as some call it, are all God's creation, and to imagine how God could create and be greater would place him in another dimension of existence. A higher form. We can imagine many things and to "create" we have to use pieces of God's creation to make our into vision tangible existence, but God is so powerful that he could imagine and spawn its existence. We are bit a lesser reflection of God's existence and likeness. With no belief in higher power, any existence is impossible because something cannot come from nothing according to our perception, but God is greater. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed only transferred or changed in form, according to our first law of thermodynamics, but how did the energy exist in the first place? Would one say that it was already there? Then would one say that it was always there before? There was always something, it's either that nothing was formed into our reality by an eternal God, or you believe that something randomaly formed through chaos to become order. Both of which take faith. You either believe certain scientific theories that are everchanging or you believe in divine creation. I personally believe that creationism and science are not exclusive from one another, but most scientists are biased towards scientific theories by default and shun/discredit those who don't conform. Scientific method is supposed to be unbiased by design, but personal bias is unavoidable and the ethics are questionable to the point of suggesting an agenda.

  3. Hey, man. I'm a Catholic-going-Agnostic/Atheist.
    For awhile, I've been seeing all these sites that talk about the contradictions in the Bible that have made me rethink about my beliefs. My Dad knows I've got Dawkins's God Delusion. And I want to see how the other side thinks and feels.

  4. This is a subject I've written about constantly because I've tried to figure out the reasoning. I've always been amazed at the thought process that believes that a truly omniscient and all powerful couldn't just save the leg work and bail me out instantly especially if I wasn't at fault and that includes everything. On another but related topic, I see request coming through my email asking for the Prayer Warriors to come out and help. First, I'd like to know who these warriors are fighting? Is it Satan? If, so, why hasn't he been vanquished by the almighty. Perhaps, it is because Satan is just as strong or stronger than God. Just a thought.