With No God, Where do Atheists Turn in Times of Crisis?

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By Blair Scott

Instead of begging an imaginary being for strength in a crisis, I reach out to others or rely upon myself. During times of crisis I do not plead, “God please help me!” or “God give me the strength!” I simply tell myself that I can do it or that I can make it through it. Often I reflect on the fact that I’ve been in worse situations and fared just fine. I can also turn to my family and friends for help and advice. And in extreme cases I rely on the assistance of trained professionals, such as firemen, police officers, medical doctors, etc.

I analyze each situation logically instead of emotionally. I figure out the best way to get out of the crisis. I walk into a hazardous and dangerous situation, take charge of it, and think it through. I take control of all the assets available to me, solve the situation, and get myself out of danger. I have fought fires, chased criminals and been in some desperate situations. Each time I was able to gather my own inner strengths and battle the situation head-on.

That is not to say that I am not emotional or that I do not react emotionally. It is hard not to react emotionally since our biology evolved to do such. Our emotions help us survive. I have seen lots of blood and damaged bodies in my time and I have never reacted emotionally. My training took over and I did what I had to do. When my daughter got hurt, it was different – my biological instincts overrode my training and I freaked out. It took me some time to come down, react logically, and get my act together in order to get her to help. One thing I never did during that time was pray to a god or ask for help from a supernatural being. I did it on my own and got my daughter to the science of medicine, not the pseudoscience of church.

Another thing that helps me get through situations like that is my own body with the chemical reactions and processes that take place inside it. Adrenaline will do wonders in an emergency!

I also seek help from people and things that can really help me. I do not seek help from imaginary beings and invisible friends that theists give credit to for doing something themselves. I find strength and help from some of the following:

  • My children, family, and friends
  • Music
  • Laughter
  • Adrenaline (Yes – I am an adrenaline junkie!)

Prayer and gods do not cure our diseases or solve problems during times of crisis. Where prayer and faith help is by calming the fears people have because prayer acts as a form of meditation and can have a therapeutic influence (even a placebo effect). Prayer and faith may give people the courage and emotional strength to continue, but they do not solve the problems that people face.

We, as human beings, solve those problems ourselves. Imaginary beings do not give us the answers. We come up with them. Why do theists give their gods credit for their own actions? Why do theists deny themselves the credit they deserve for being human beings with the ability to think on a higher level? Give yourself credit where credit is due.

I do not know how many times I have heard theists say to people suffering from clinical depression, “Pray to god, and he will help you.” God and prayer do not cure clinical depression. Clinical depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain that prayer cannot cure.

If you are a theist and have ever told someone to pray to get rid of his or her depression, you owe that person an apology. In addition, you should advise that person to seek medical help for their condition. When Pat Robertson tells people that they have to take mental health medication because their faith is not strong enough or Tom Cruise lambasts against mental health medication because his Scientology beliefs are medically ignorant, those ideas cause harm and additional suffering to those that believe them.

Often we find this argument being used in the “there are no atheists in foxholes” statement. There are atheists in foxholes. I served in the Navy for almost ten years and encountered several life-threatening situations. Not once did I pray to a god to get me through the crisis.

If anything, I would aver that there are no theists in foxholes. When we are in the heat of battle, our training and experience take over and we do our jobs. It is not until after the battle is over, when we have a time to reflect upon what happened, and upon our morality, the theists begin to thank their gods and prayer.

When someone chucks a grenade into your foxhole you do not pray that god gets rid of it: you grab it and chuck it back out. You may pray latter if you are a theist – but when your life was in danger you relied on your training and your instincts – you saved yourself.

Talking to fellow sailors and soldiers, I have learned one thing about god during a crisis: people forget about him. During a battle or major crisis, people forget about god most of the time. They attack the situation head-on and either save themselves or dig themselves into a deeper hole or cause their own death. Only afterwards, do people start reflecting on the situation and thank a god for saving them. God did not save them – their quick action and ability to think during a crisis saved them.

My father served in Vietnam. Vietnam made him realize that there was no god and he became an atheist in the foxhole. The foxhole made him an atheist.

Several friends of mine served time during war and each of them found strength in their atheism instead of finding a god in their foxhole. War to him or her was proof that there was no god.

One of the things that I have noticed during times of major crisis is that the hyper-religious often served as a hindrance to getting the job done and saving our butts. The hyper-religious would start to pray and cower to their god while the non-religious or the lightly religious would accomplish the mission or objective.

Often after a major catastrophe, we hear people say, “I had a guardian angel watching over me” or “God saved me from dying.” That is nice that they think their god saved them from death – but what about the other people that died. Did they not pray hard enough? Did their god not listen or were they not worthy? And why did their god put them in that situation in the first place?

When engaging in a protest in Tennessee a woman approached me and told me god cured her cancer. I told her it was amazing that her cancer went away with prayer only and without any medical doctors, drugs, chemotherapy, etc. Of course then she admitted that she went through all that. But her god got the credit: not the medical science. She droned on about how god helped her through her crisis and how thankful she was to her god for getting her through and curing her. I asked her if she thanked her god for giving her cancer in the first place. Deer in headlights look followed and she left without answering my question. I guess she had not thought of that before.

When you hear about people that were praying to a god during a time of crisis it is important to pay attention to their story. Often you will find that those that were actively praying during a crisis were in a stagnant mode. They were hiding under a desk (as we witnessed at Columbine) or were hiding in a basement or bathroom (such as in tornado activity) or were doing something else that left them inactive during the crisis. Those that were taking action talk about thanking their god after-the-fact. The atheists, on the other hand, thank the firefighters, police officers, rescuers, medical doctors, etc.

The last decade of my life has found me in several crises. In each of these cases, I turned to my family, my friends, and myself for the strength to tackle each situation. Together with my family and friends we pulled through each crisis without any help from imaginary beings. We came out of each crisis stronger and closer than ever before.

To our theist friends, the next time a fireman pulls you out of a burning building, thank him – not your god. The next time a doctor cures your ailment, thank her – not your god. Give credit where credit is due.


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