22 Phil Zuckerman Quotes on Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment, Agnosticism and Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions - Quotes.pub

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Sure, the God question has come up on occasion. Not a problem for Debbie. She has had no difficulty answering her sons’ questions about God. “I always start by just saying that I think life is really wonderful, really beautiful, and that we are so lucky to be here, so lucky to be alive, so lucky that we can appreciate the beauty of the world. But I tell them that I don’t feel the need to put God in there somewhere in order to appreciate all those things. So we tell them that. And then we say that some people do believe in God, but we don’t.” And what about when the kids ask about what happens when we die? Again, Debbie handles this topic with relative ease. “I have just told them that it is a time of peace. You’re not alive anymore. You’re part of the world. You just go back to being part of the world, and your body becomes a part of everything. I always try to be positive, to put it in positive terms—that you will become part of the world and return to the earth.” What I admire most about the way Debbie handles such questions is her ability to be clear and honest about her lack of supernatural beliefs while at the same time not putting down religion, not condemning it or mocking it. It is important that her kids know where Debbie stands on these topics, while at the same time healthy and good that she doesn’t sour them on the bulk of humanity—those billions of people who do believe in God or life after death. Debbie’s answers exude confidence rather than defensiveness, ease rather than stress, and openness rather than closed-mindedness. This may simply be the result of her own personality. But it may also be a result of the sociological fact that her daily life is devoid of religious bullying, zealous proselytizing, or fervent faith,
I remember that as I sat there, my initial reaction was: flummoxed. Pray to God to heal a baby’s defective heart? Really? But doesn’t God, being omniscient, already know that this baby’s heart is defective? And doesn’t God, being omnipotent, already have the ability to heal the baby’s heart if he wants to? Isn’t the defective heart thus part of God’s plan? What good is prayer, then? Do these people really think that God will alter his will if they only pray hard enough? And if they don’t pray hard enough, he’ll let the baby die? What kind of a God is that? Such coldly skeptical thoughts percolated through my fifteen-year-old brain. But they soon fizzled out. As I sat there looking at the crying couple, listening to the murmur of prayers all around me, my initial skepticism was soon supplanted by a sober appreciation and empathetic recognition of what I was witnessing and experiencing. Here was an entire body of people all expressing their love and sympathy for a young couple with a dying baby. Here were hundreds of people caringly, genuinely, warmly pouring out their hearts to this poor unfortunate man, woman, and child. The love and sadness in the gathering were palpable, and I “got” it. I could see the intangible benefit of such a communal act. There was that poor couple at the front of the church, crying, while everyone around them was showering them with support and hope. While I didn’t buy the literal words of the pastor, I surely understood their deeper significance: they were making these suffering people feel a bit better. And while I didn’t think the congregation’s prayers would realistically count for a hill of beans toward actually curing that baby, I was still able to see that it was a serenely beneficial act nonetheless, for it offered hope and solace to these unlucky parents, as well as to everyone else present there in that church who was feeling sadness for them, or for themselves and their own personal misfortunes. So while I sat there, absolutely convinced that there exists no God who heals defective baby hearts, I also sat there equally convinced that this mass prayer session was a deeply good thing. Or if not a deeply good thing, then at least a deeply understandable thing. I felt so sad for that young couple that day. I could not, and still cannot, fathom the pain of having a new baby who, after only a few months of life, begins to die.