I’ve mentioned before stories of atheists who had to deal with a crisis — or at least people who didn’t turn to a god when they were dealing with terrifying situations.
The fact that Stephen Alter is an atheist is only a minor point in this essay he wrote for Outlook India.
But after paragraph upon paragraph recalling a brutal attack he and his wife suffered at the hands of assailants (who have still not been caught), it’s a sobering reminder that no God(s) can help us in the worst of times. We have to take action on our own:
Knowing that I was going to be stabbed, I rolled on to my left shoulder, still under the weight of my assailant. Desperately, I kicked at the masked man. Convinced that I was about to die, I didn’t want to give up without some sort of resistance. The masked intruder stabbed me six times on the legs, though the only wound I remember receiving is the last. Avoiding my thrashing feet, I saw him brace himself before lunging forward and bringing the knife down on my right thigh, cutting into my flesh and ripping open a deep wound, 12 inches long.
Retelling a story can be a form of healing too, as each rendition attempts to make sense of disturbing events. Many messages we received, expressing sympathy and support, reminded us of the need for spiritual recovery. Being a devout atheist, I never once felt a compulsion to ask for help from god while I was being attacked. Afterwards, however, there were many who came and prayed over us. Even if I don’t believe in divine intercession, I am grateful for the prayers on our behalf. Whatever wounds and scars remain inside still fester with fear and anger, but just as my tendons, muscles and nerves have begun to heal themselves, my psychological sinews are also undergoing a process of self-repair.
There are indeed atheists in foxholes and there are atheists who see the end of their life right in front of them. Just because you’re undergoing trauma doesn’t mean you automatically turn to the supernatural.
(Thanks to Deirdre for the link!)