From Roll To Disbelieve
God only knows the times my life was threatened just today.
A reckless car ran out of gas before it ran my way.
Near misses all around me, accidents unknown,
Though I never see with human eyes the hands that lead me home.
But I know they’re all around me all day and through the night.
When the enemy is closing in, I know sometimes they fight
To keep my feet from falling, I’ll never turn away.
If you’re asking what’s protecting me then you’re gonna hear me say:
God has angels watching over me, every move I make,
Angels watching over me!
— Amy Grant, “Angels”
We will start with a scene out of anyone’s worst nightmares: an accident that totally didn’t need to happen. The privileged boy responsible for it had chosen to drink and drive one dark Texas night. He piled into his red pickup truck with a bunch of his friends to go on a speeding joyride, and he hit an SUV that’d had a flat tire and was now at the side of the road. He never even tried to hit the brakes–it was over with and done just that fast. He had hit a bunch of people, and the scene was now one of unmitigated horror. Victims and bystanders alike began to call 911, sobbing and screaming for help. Confused, drunken-sounding teenagers stumbled away from the wreck and tried to sound adult to dispatchers when really they were terrified children inside, heartbreakingly baffled at just how their awesome night had turned out like this.
And then, out of the darkness of the night, came a strong, authoritative male voice (heard around 1:15 on this clip): “I need you to sit here and I need you to pray, OK?” He began to corral people and sit them down to pray. You can hear him doing it on the 911 clips; he’s a busy guy whose voice sounds just as griefstruck as the rest, but he has a plan. He has an idea of what will help. Prayer will help. Get people praying. That’s what we need now. Prayer. Yes.
I couldn’t believe my ears the first time I noticed this fellow. Couldn’t believe my eyes. What the hell was praying going to do now? “Oh god, you let this happen when you totally could have stopped him. You could have made his car run out of gas like in that old Amy Grant song. You could have made the SUV last a few more miles before it broke down with that flat tire. You could have had all the people he ended up hitting be way away from the car looking at a baby squirrel or something. Hell, you could have made people’s bodies not able to suffer drunkenness at all when you designed us, or made us more durable so so many of us wouldn’t die so gruesomely in accidents like this one. But no, you let this accident happen, and you’ve allowed a youth pastor and a bunch of other people to die and become paralyzed for life. So now that you’ve done that, please… do something.” I realize this guy was probably just trying to give those folks something to do and keep them occupied, but it just sounds like sheerest obscenity to me to appeal to a divinity that could have done a thousand, a million things to prevent something like this accident from ever happening, yet did not lift a finger. If he really existed, if I thought for a heartbeat he was real, this accident would be yet another of a long list of atrocities that he would have to account for. For every set of car keys Christians think prayer locates, there is an accident like this one crying out for explanation.
From Humanist Plus
Unbelief in God is a permanent and inextirpable feature of human life.
Belief has never claimed one hundred percent of the population at any time in human history.
And yet every now and then a Pew Research report tells us no member of Congress purports to be an atheist. The real question is, why won’t the atheists in Congress admit it?
Out of more than 500 Congressional members, depending on the term of self-designation, there are likely five or ten or twenty Atheists, Freethinkers, Agnostics, Non-Theists, Secularists, Rationalists, Skeptics, Humanists, Materialists, Naturalists, Ignostics, Brights. They are in both parties. Why not declare it?
The answer is more than a thousand years old and traceable to Christianity’s outlawing of unbelief. With the ascendancy of Christian monotheism and the elevation of belief as the chief criterion of merit, doubt (which is the safeguard of all critical thought) was moralized and deemed a crime punishable by death in matters of religion. Doubting God was actionable.
From Captain Cassidy
Threats are a constant and deeply-woven part of Christian culture. Even the really nice parts of the religion use them in implicit form. That’s why we often talk around here about Christians’ use of threats. They make promises as well, promises that touch on the natural and supernatural worlds. I thought it’d be interesting to pull together some of their favorites–and offer up some link love in case anyone wants to read further about them.
Obviously, the biggest and most potent threat at a Christian’s disposal is the threat of an eternity of being tortured forever and ever by demons. This threat didn’t originally appear in the Christian mythos; it was added much later, and it was added specifically to frighten people into line.
The terrible part about this threat is that it is devastatingly effective.
More than two thousand years later, Christians still use this threat willy-nilly. It’s their go-to threat, in fact. It’s used so often and so freely that sometimes the Christians using it don’t even realize that non-Christians view what they just said as a legitimate threat. They use it that often because it is very effective against people who aren’t aware of its many shortcomings. About all that’s changed over the last couple of millennia is the degree of graphic details added to the threat scenario.
Even years out of the religion, ex-Christians sometimes suffer from a fear of being tortured for eternity–thanks to the “loving” Christians around them who constantly deploy this threat.
The promise that Christians make to counter their threat of Hell is, obviously, that compliance with and adherence to their religious demands–a very earthly subservience masked by the Christianese phrase acceptance into one’s heart of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ–will allow their new victim access to Heaven instead of Hell.
In its turn, Heaven is, according to Christians, the most wonderful place in the universe though to non-Christians that description often doesn’t sound quite so accurate.