This I Believe

George - Mesquite, Nevada
Entered on September 8, 2006
Age Group: 65+
Themes: atheism

I don’t remember what I was doing when I learned that my oldest child had crashed his car. Most is just a blur. But I do remember that, during the subsequent week, I totally rejected “belief” in God, replacing it with more appreciation for human accomplishments.

During the 30-or-so years since I had refused to go to church any longer, I hadn’t given the “God idea” much thought: I was too busy getting my degrees, raising my family, working in science, and so on. What rekindled my thoughts about God was an ignorant cleric who came around to the waiting room outside the intensive-care unit, where I waited days and nights for my son to regain consciousness.

Just as I had seen him do to others, he came to me and asked: “Would you like to pray with me for your son’s recovery?” Angrily, I said “No.” To me he seemed like a vulture, swooping down to devour the most helpless prey. Everyone in that waiting room was stressed to the limit.

Sitting there, hour after hour, I wondered: should I give in? Should I pray to God for my son’s life? I remember my conclusion: “No. The ‘God idea’ is stupid. It doesn’t have a shred of evidence to support it. If I give in and pray, I’d be abandoning science.”

Within about an hour, the doctor came to me and said: “Your son has regained consciousness” – and he added: “Thank God.” That blew me away: not only because my son would live, but because of his stupid “Thank God.”

It wasn’t God who should be thanked. Thanks go to the person who saw my son’s car go into the irrigation ditch and immediately called 911, to the rescuers (one of whom jumped into the ditch to hold my son’s bleeding head above the water, so he wouldn’t drown), to the ambulance team, to the doctors and nurses, and so on: to the inventors of the telephone and the automobile, to all the other humans who had created everything from sirens to good roads, to a public knowing what to do when they hear an ambulance, to the developers of all the instruments and capabilities in the hospital, to the inventors and producers of electrical power, and so on, on and on.

I remember telling my other children, while driving home from the hospital the next day, that the only god that should be thanked is the “Human GOD” – an acronym for “Human Greatness On Demand.”

During the subsequent quarter century, frequently I’ve been disturbed by how much harm has come from the ignorant “god idea” – and yet, more frequently, I’ve been thankful for how much help has come from human intelligence, kindness, bravery, and perseverance.

Think of 9/11 and think of the future. What’s needed is not a war on terror but to continue to battle against ignorance, epitomized by the “god idea”.