Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Pet Peeve of the Day - April 1, 2008

As an atheist, want to know what really annoys me? Do you ever find yourself talking to somebody about a tragedy that befell someone somewhere in the world, and that person says "There but for the grace of God go I".

A former co-worker of mine was like that. He said it all the time. Mention a woman who died from cervical cancer, and he would say "There but for the grace of God go I." Really? It was cervical cancer you moron! Well, okay, he never actually said that in response to the news of a woman dying from cervical cancer, but he did say it a lot.

But what really pushed my button this morning was in reading the comments section to this article in Newsday about an 800 pound Mexican man who had an accident on the way to a date to celebrate his recent loss of 400 pounds.

So, what pearl of wisdom did one of the commenters in the forum offer? Yep, "but for the grace of God, there go I." Oh come on! As if it is only the intervention of a personal deity that prevents us all from weighing over a thousand pounds!

What really annoyed me when my former co-worker would utter that phrase was that it demonstrated such a passive and pessimistic view of life, as if none of us has any control over what course our life takes. And it is not just because I am an atheist that I hate the phrase. While I am not immune to moments of despair or sadness, overall I am an optimist. Eleven years ago I was not happy with where I was in my life, so I resolved to make positive changes. Consequently, the quality of my life greatly improved because of the actions I took and the choices I made. Grace of God indeed. Hmmph!

10 comments:

Brian said...

I've always thought of it as an attempt at sympathy, as if to say "I'm no better than them, I've just been more fortunate", but if you think about it, it amounts to saying that they were evidently not worthy of that same grace he extends to rest of us.

And if you think that god directly controls all our fates, then he is obviously one sick bastard.

tina FCD said...

I agree Brian. Someone says they are blessed to have survived something, does that mean the other people weren't? Are they any more special than the next person?

Mercurious said...

I"ve always automatically interpreted this phrase to mean "there, except for random dumb luck, go I."

Either way, though, there is some merit here. It's tempting to think that we're entirely in control of our fate, but when you get right down to it, this is just as silly as believing a supernatural God is in charge of us.

A fellow at work once said to me that he, and he alone, was in complete control of himself.

"Oh really?" I said. "How about a little experiment. First, stop breathing for 5 minutes or so..."

To mean, this little slogan is just an expression of a most valuable humility. There is profound value in understanding that we are not in control.

Just because there is no supernatural puppetmaster pulling the strings, doesn't mean that we, by default, become puppetmaster.

Evolved Rationalist said...

I was once a militant New Atheist, but God converted me to Christianity. God revealed himself to me yesterday and I accepted Jesus into my heart. I hope you do too, and I am praying for you.

http://www.evolvedrational.com/2008/04/god-revealed-himself-to-me-yesterday.html

Tommy said...

It's tempting to think that we're entirely in control of our fate

Of course we are not 100% in control of our fate. A drunk driver can run a red light and plow into me in an intersection on the way home from work tomorrow night and either kill me or paralyze me. However, whether we behave responsibly or irresponsibly plays a big role in where we are in life.

What annoyed me about the commenter in the forum regarding the article was that it is ridiculous to think that weighing up to 1200 pounds is something beyond our control and that it is only because of divine intervention that we are not all like that.

I was once a militant New Atheist, but God converted me to Christianity. God revealed himself to me yesterday and I accepted Jesus into my heart. I hope you do too, and I am praying for you.

And Happy April Fools Day to you slayer of theistards! ;-)

Hope to see you again at another CFI event.

Evolved Rationalist said...

Damn, nobody falls for my CONversions any longer!

Hope to see you again too! I most probably will be at the AAI Conference this year...and there will be a creationist conference with some sessions free and open to the public right here in Pittsburgh sometime in August. Fun times indeed.

Tommy said...

and there will be a creationist conference with some sessions free and open to the public right here in Pittsburgh sometime in August.

Knowing how you feel about those clowns, I don't know how you will be able to sit through one of those sessions without popping a blood vessel.

Evolved Rationalist said...

I plan on having some friends tag along to prevent me from screaming, dying, or worse, killing someone.

Tommy said...

More like "to prevent me from killing a theistard, or worse, screaming or dying."

tina FCD said...

Watch out, you might get tased! :)