Heavenly Safety Net

Over at The Journey Out I responded to a post by Mysteryofiniquity in which she tries to relate the mental anguish involved in leaving her religion behind. She seems to be having a hard time giving up what she felt was the “comfort” of God in times of crisis, what she calls her “heavenly pacifier”. I responded that I actually found more comfort in knowing, as best as I can know, that there is no god acting like a safety net in a trapeze act at the circus. To expand on that particular metaphor, knowing that I have no net to catch me when I fall is much easier to deal with, and far more comforting, than believing there is a net down there that, for all intents and purposes, I can not see. There are many things I can do, that I wouldn’t do if I thought there was a net. I can make sure my training is more rigorous. I can place the trapeze at a more reasonable distance from the ground. I can have spotters there to break my fall. I can find another occupation.

When I finally decided that religion was bunk, afterI tabulated all the evidence for God, and compared it to all the evidence that there was no God, after I examined all the arguments for God and found them wanting, it felt like a huge rock had been lifted from my shoulders. The sense of freedom was palpably uplifting. I no longer felt the uncertainly of not knowing how God would react to the events of my life, no matter how innocuous they were. I stopped feeling like someone was looking over my shoulder every minute of every day.

I felt independent. I finally realized that I was going through life on my own steam, not on someone else’s. I was my own man, responsible for my own self. Have you ever seen that (in)famous picture of the two sets of footprints in the sand, with the cutesy little story about how God always walks with you, but in times of real human stress, he actually carries you, and that’s when you only see one set of footprints? I always found that perplexing, not to mention somewhat nauseating, because I had quite a few times of stress, and I never felt like God was there then. He always seemed to be around when the collection plate was being passed, but where was he during my mother’s fight with ALS? When my daughter was born with congenital heart problems. During her subsequent surgeries?

No. The most satisfying periods of my life, I realized, were those times when I dealt with problems and solved them on my own. The self satisfaction of knowing that it was me, and only me, responsible for getting myself and my family through a crisis, was more than comforting. It was freedom incarnate.

“Life’s a bitch and then you die.” Sure, that’s a moribund, cynical way of looking at things, but it’s true only if you are cynical and moribund.

The first part is not true if you take responsibility for your life, and live it to it’s fullest. If you maximize your assets, and use your talents. If you enjoy each day, and not expect some superhero mythical sky person to pull you out of every hole you find yourself in. The moment you accept that fact, that only you are responsible for you, is the moment you begin to really live.

The second part is true whether you like it or not.

4 thoughts on “Heavenly Safety Net

  1. Good post!

    It really is a liberating thing to step into the driver’s seat of your own life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but during the six years that I embraced the idea of god I was actually a passenger in my own life. It rendered me inactive in so many ways. I feel a HUGE sense of relief to be back — feet firmly planted in reality. I no longer give my worries and desires to a force outside myself. I no longer wait patiently for goodness to land in my lap. I no longer pray. I no longer fear. Consequently, I feel stronger, more accountable and true to myself. (Not to mention more mentally stable!) It’s all good…and that’s not up for debate! Life is an abundant menu…and then you die.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out. I liked your response. I know it’s true in my gut. Believe me, you caught me in a moment of weakness and I agree with you and Sandy’s comments completely. Like Sandy, I felt like a passenger in my own life as well.

    I just seem to fall back into that magical thinking quite a bit. Do you ever do that? And if so, how do you get out of that funk? (spiritual depression I guess you could call it)

    Good post!

    Trying to lift rock off shoulders,

  3. I just seem to fall back into that magical thinking quite a bit. Do you ever do that? And if so, how do you get out of that funk? (spiritual depression I guess you could call it)

    No, for some reason I never found myself actually believing that God existed. I say that with 52 years of 20/20 hindsight, and it must be why it was easy for me to accept atheism. I deluded myself into believing when I was younger, and delusion is easy to shed with clear thinking. In other words, I don’t think, now, that I ever believed, then. If I found myself thinking that way now, I’d surely question my sanity.

    So spiritual depression is not something I can help with. To the contrary, my version of spiritual depression occurred when I wondered why I didn’t believe, like others did. Realizing that atheism made more sense, was the rock that finally disintegrated from my shoulder.

  4. That “magical thinking” is what I did when I was a believer and sometimes it comforted me, but mostly it just frustrated me because of its futility. Maybe this Chinese Proverb will help you…

    Pearls lie not on the seashore. If thou desirest one thou must dive for it.

    Next time you’re in a funk maybe you could help yourself get out of it by reminding yourself that the power is within you and not outside of you. You are the driver…or the diver in this case!

    It’s interesting that Spanish Inquisitor said that he’d question his sanity if he resorted to “magical thinking” now. In retrospect, I realize that my believing days were a byproduct of my stressful days. I was emotionally and mentally worn out by the events of my life at that time. If I welcomed the concept of god back into my life now, I too would surely question my mental health.

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