Saturday, May 9, 2009

The What Happened

Is there anything more heartbreaking than hearing someone describe, in detail, every facet of their lives that has convinced them that they should not believe in God?

Because of the Twitter fad-nomenon, I'm tempted to let that statement stand on its own, but I feel like this is something I need to spend some time addressing. And while it may not be the biggest revelation in the world, I hope that what I write here makes sense to someone.


When I was in college, I had a chat conversation with someone who vehemently refused to believe God existed. He used all kinds of logical arguments in explaining his viewpoint to me. But each argument never led to a conclusion; it only would set up the next point of his argument, and pretty soon he was going around in circles, arguing his way into a vortex that he couldn't explain his way out of. I didn't fully understand where he was coming from, and there were 2 things leading to this detriment of mine: 1) We were chatting, which only allows perceived notions of what the words mean rather than the luxury of hearing the speaker's tone; and 2) I wasn't taking the time to find out WHY this man believed the way he did. I gathered that he had worked it out in his head, but what had led him to the point where he had decided God wasn't on his horizon? I didn't take the time to find out What Happened.

There's a What Happened in everyone's life. My big What Happened is what led me to simultaneously distance myself from my mother, grow closer to my father, and open the door for sexual addiction in my life as I grew older. A former friend's What Happened is what led her to seek out men that would use her for sex instead of looking for the man that would treat her with the respect she deserved. Another friend's What Happened led him to believe that God exists, but only in terms that he feels comfortable in understanding.

What's your What Happened? Maybe it's the fact that your father was an alcoholic who got violent when he drank. Maybe you were one of the thousands of children molested by priests, neighbors, or family members while growing up. Maybe you were raped. Maybe you saw your mother beaten by a boyfriend or spouse. Maybe your father was too hard on you as a child, and nothing ever seemed to be good enough to satisfy him. Maybe you dealt with an authority figure that treated you unfairly or belittled you in front of others.

Christopher Titus opened up his "Norman Rockwell is Bleeding" show with the fact that The Los Angeles Times reported that 63% of families in America are considered dysfunctional (this was back in 2004). I think the actual percentage is much higher, at least in this day and age. I don't know many families that didn't have to deal with certain baggage from past family experiences, iniquities of the mothers and fathers that had been visited upon the 3rd and 4th generations. I think every family that I know has some level of dysfunction operating in it. All you have to do is run a profile on the family of any student in any high school today . . . those students may not be aware of some of their family's history, but I'll bet you an overwhelming number of them have witnessed issues stemming from some kind of addiction, divorce, abuse, neglect, personal withholding, or passive-aggressive behaviour in their families. Even psychologists will tell you that in order to properly deal with many psychological problems, you have to get to the root of the issue; that is, the What Happened.


There is always a single, solitary event that has become the impetus for the pivotal, simple-yet-huge decisions we make that shape our eventual worldview. In terms of believing in God, I think that if someone has the opportunity and chooses not to believe in God, there has to have been something that skewed their view of who they thought God should be. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard stubborn-willed people claim that they can't believe in a God that allows tragedy to befall innocent people, yet they ignore the part of scripture that identifies the devil as the one who has come to steal, kill, and destroy. That's just one example, but it's heartbreaking to me to hear from people who have made up their minds that God doesn't exist that the reason for their thinking is something bad that happened to them when they were younger. And more often than not, it's some variation of that reasoning.

Tell me about someone that didn't have some kind of tragic event happen to them in their formative years. Show me a man and woman in love who eventually grew apart that didn't feel some kind of sorrow that the time they'd invested in that other person was not going to be enough to keep the relationship together. Or how about the brilliant young woman whose father abandoned her and her mom when she was 5 years old. The youngest of 4 children who grew up in poverty only to marry a man whose temperament would hurl their relationship into a spiral of a different kind for upwards of 15 years. You see where I'm going with this.

We have have that moment of What Happened that changed the way we think. In most cases, the What Happened was not the sole propellant to the course our lives may have taken; it only provided us with a new viewpoint, one that most likely blindsided us when we were vulnerable. That point is only a catalyst; in order to continue, we then must choose.

We choose the path we walk. And in most cases, the choice we make boils down to either being selfish or being selfless. Will we take the selfish route, and choose a philosophy, career path, or lifestyle that continually looks out for only our interests first? Or will we choose the route of selflessness, making decisions that will build up those around us, empower those who are weak, and encourage those that are in need of help? Do we look beyond ourselves and our God-given talents and gifts for sustenance, or are we so arrogant that, while realizing that we can't possibly know everything there is to know, we decide that we can sustain ourselves on nothing more than our God-given intellect, talents, and gifts?


Oh, but wait. You don't believe in God? So those talents are yours, handed down through genetic selection as a result of what traits your parents and their ancestors possessed. Sorry, I forgot. Okay, then . . . same question. Selfishness or selflessness?


And to the fact that we've come "so far" in our society that that question even needs to be posed, I retort with another question . . . What Happened?


There Is No Box.
Zach

3 comments:

  1. "..the part of scripture that identifies the devil as the one who has come to steal, kill, and destroy."

    I guess you forgot that according to your Bible, the devil killed ten people, while your all-loving, merciful, tolerant god killed well over two million. Hmm.

    Way to imply that someone not believing in your god was caused by a negative incident. Maybe it was caused by something positive. For example, they reached the age of reason or their brain started functioning properly.

    My What Happened is that I found science and physics.

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  2. Sorry to hear that's the way you think, anonymous (BTW, I found science and physics, too, when I was in high school, and I loved and excelled at both physics and chemistry . . . although that's wholly beside the point). Perhaps you missed the part where Jesus Christ became sin on our behalf when he was crucified, and that God the father now extends grace to those who have sinned against him through Jesus Christ. Granted, that's a concept many people find harder to understand than, say, particle physics, but it's still valid.

    I'm not implying that negative events alone can or will cause one to not believe in God. I'm basing this off of conversations I've had with people and friendships I've share where people that did not believe in God based their worldview off one defining moment in their lives or a series of moments leading to one defining point, and every single event that led to someone turning away from God was negative. Every one. None of them were positive in and of themselves. Now, that's just what I've observed from the dozens of people I've known and shared time with, but I think it's pretty telling that none of these people expressed disbelief in God as a result of an overal positive experience.

    But you also have the defining moments that led to positive transformations, whether those were based in God or not. These turning points are all over our lives; we just have to identify them.

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  3. "that's a concept many people find harder to understand..."

    Just like how six days and six thousand years ago is much more inviting and understandable than allopatric speciation, genetic drift, ERV's, "junk" DNA, polyploidy, homology, morphology and radiometric dating.

    If it's too hard to understand, then gawd did it.

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