Mary Bellamy is the Counsel and Director of Special Programs for the Secular Coalition for America.
She’s undergoing some surgery today and shared a few of her thoughts with me. With her permission, I’m posting them here in the hopes they might help others going through something similar:
As a fairly recently minted humanist, I am facing my first serious crisis post-prayer. I have cancer in two places in my left breast and “atypical” cells in my right breast. Today, a doctor will remove all of my left breast and part of my right breast. Hopefully my lymph nodes will be clear and that will be that.
Do I miss having a deity to pray to? No. Being able to dispense with prayer is actually a comfort to me.
If I still believed in a god, I would wonder why this had happened to me. I would wonder how god would decide whose prayers to answer — mine or the prayers of others facing medical crises — since we would not all be spared.
I would wonder how I should pray. Should I offer to make a deal — if you spare me I will… Should I bargain — if you spare me until I have seen my children grow up, I won’t complain when you do take me (that’s what I prayed the last time I faced a medical crisis).
I would wonder what I should pray for. Is it selfish to pray for your own life/health? Should I pray instead for the end of hunger in the world or for god’s will to be done?
It’s freeing not to have to deal with the questions prayer raises. I am free to focus on my needs, my family, my friends (even the friend who will light a candle at a shrine to the virgin for me today, because who better to watch over me today than she who suckled Jesus at her breast?). So if anyone tells you that as atheists we have given up a comfort in a time of crisis, tell them no — we have given up a distraction and confusion, not comfort. For comfort we have our families and our community.
After you became an atheist, what was the first crisis you went through? How did you deal with it at the time?