Posted by: Nito | December 21, 2013

An Unusual Day @ The Atheist Society (a short story)

It was a quiet lunch. “It’s too quiet,” thought Sam to himself, “usually, everybody is quite chirpy around the table… what has happened?” Sam was running late that day as there were few complications at the hospital. There was a case of broken ribs with punctured lungs as well as a guy with a gun wound. The summer has arrived and with the temperatures rising the violence in the city has risen as well.

He turned to Elizabeth sitting on his left. “What did I miss?” whispered Sam. “Oh, just the most unusual conversation that the Atheist Society has ever seen!” muttered Elizabeth, trying not to make too much noise, “it seems that Ted has switched sides.”

Their whispers broke the awkward silence. “I’m not your enemy!” ejaculated Ted looking at the far end of the table, “I’ve simply realized that it is far more profitable to believe than not!” Sam could not believe what he had just heard. Ted was one of the senior founders of the society and has contributed to significantly raising its public profile. Every detail of his past debates with the “enemy” was analyzed and discussed, as these gems of wisdom and wits were regarded as an essential read for any novice to the group.

“It’s a simple logic!” Ted continued, “We all have to die someday, and we’ll eventually find out for ourselves if God exists or not. Believers have nothing to loose. If the Creator does exists then they are on the safe side. He will save them from the judgement and we, who now think are smart and educated, would be very sorry and confused standing in front of His throne.

“On the other hand, if there is no afterlife, but everybody disappears into nothingness and all life simply stops, who will confront them and tell them they were foolish? Who will tell them they lived a stupid and uneducated life? And why would it matter, anyway? In such a case we’ll all loose awareness the minute we die and we won’t be able to enjoy our victory. We won’t be able to rub it in with ‘I told you so!'”

Ted’s last words started an avalanche of thoughts in Sam’s brain. Feelings that he had long forgotten started to well up inside his heart. He found himself in the middle of a lush green meadow sprinkled with colorful spring flowers. Everything was budding with life. The birds and bees were singing and cherry trees were in full blossom. He recognized the place; it was his grandpa’s farm in Springwood. And it was the day, thirty five years ago, that would change his life forever. Just few minutes later he would hear grandpa calling him to come into the house. He would run vigorously and expect to see mum and dad, who came to pick him up for the day. Staying at his grandpa’s farm was a usual routine, as mum and dad were running a family business which involved a lot of driving around. They would take him along sometimes but he much preferred staying at grandpa’s and playing with chooks and sneaking upon frogs that lived near the pond.

But that day something broke in his heart; suddenly, his whole world came crumbling down. He remembers grandpa’s sad look and teary eyes as he told him that mum and dad are in heaven with God and will not come back. That afternoon the gloom settled onto the farm. The storm came and darkness fell early. He remembers being terribly frightened throughout the night as the flashes of lightning and thundering noise made shadows in his room more scarier then ever. Usually he would crawl in between mum and dad, but their bed was now empty and cold. He could not understand how all-loving and good God could take his mum and dad. How terrible God was!

Thundering noise and flashes of lightning couldn’t well describe the atmosphere at the Atheist Society. Everybody was out of their chairs and yelling. The quiet of the few moments ago was replaced by a storm of accusations and a barrage of insults. The Atheist Society was thorn apart, irreparably split asunder. Two groups emerged. On the right side was Ted, joined by vice president John and some of the committee members. Others grouped on the left, around Alan, who was elected president a year ago.

Sam looked in Ted’s direction. His arguments were strong, but he stayed calm and composed. The tone of his voice brought back more memories. It was another spring day and another life-changing moment for Sam. The priest was standing in front of the crowd. It was his grandpa’s funeral. As he was commending grandpa’s good life Sam could remember years of growing up on the farm. The warmth of grandpa’s voice and the assurance of his presence helped him overcome the pain of loosing mum and dad. But still he wasn’t healed completely. When last year he sailed like a ship into the world ready to explore and conquer, that lingering anger bubbled up during his freshmen year in the college. And now God took his grandpa also. He will never forgive Him, how terrible God was!

In the years that followed Sam’s anger grew steadily. In his last college year he joined the Atheist Society, a group of free thinkers who loved to start public debates with Christians. Sometimes, the winner of those debates had to be decided with a wrestling match. Playing for the school’s football team made him tough, so he would usually win in such cases. In the similar way how Ted’s debates were talked about and discussed, Sam’s wrestling matches were also included, although as a lighter topic, when someone new was inaugurated into the Society. Sam was fond of his achievements and he loved this bunch of people, but today he was witnessing the end of an era; the end of the Atheist Society as he knew it.

“What if Ted is right,” Sam thought, “The only true position that a scientist could have is to be an agnostic. We don’t know yet if God exists or not; there is no definitive proof that He doesn’t. And yet there are reports of miracles, which in some cases defy existing medical knowledge.” Sam was thinking about a recent case where a woman was sent home into palliative care as doctors could not help her anymore. She had only few weeks to live, maybe a couple of months. And yet she came back a week later and all her cancer was gone. She was completely cured, no trace of the cancer, and she kept saying that Jesus healed her.

It was these cases that messed up with his brain, and now also Ted. As a doctor Sam knew the power of the placebo effect. He thought that most of the reported miracles are spontaneous remissions amplified by the power of person’s positive thinking. In some cases a particular change in person’s circumstances and their positive attitude produced a beneficial effect, however in it self those changes wouldn’t have any power to cancel the disease, which means that the main factor that actuated the healing was person’s belief. A classical example of the placebo effect.

But if person’s belief is so strong that it produces a placebo effect, it’s also possible that believers live a better life as they constantly produce placebo effects for themselves. As Ted said, they have nothing to loose. And if God really does exist, then it’s not just a placebo effect, it’s the Reality behind the positive thinking that produces the effect we call placebo.

“But I hate God. He took everybody I loved. What did I do to deserve that? Why did He take mum, dad and then grandpa?” Sam had an inner wrestling match. “It’s a mystery,” his grandpa used to say “we will fully understand only when we leave this place. God is in the business of training His children. People say that He is whispering to us all the time, and this is what we call intuition. If we choose not to listen to this inner voice of wisdom we make a wrong choice and that’s what gets us into trouble. But God is so skilfully able to turn every bad situation into a good outcome, that people wrongly assume that they actually needed to get into trouble in order to learn something. They wrongly assume that God is using strife, sickness and other calamities to teach us a lesson.

“Actually, He is not. That’s what devil would like us to think; he would like us to believe the lie that God is using evil to exact something good. The truth is quite the opposite, if we choose to heed that inner still voice of God we would never get into trouble and we would never get sick. God’s plan for us is perfect and no matter how many times we mess it up we can trust that God has not changed His mind, His plan for us still applies. God is Love and Love is not scheming evil in order to produce a good result. That’s one of the biggest lies that devil has managed to put into people’s heads.

“The reality is that God is always the good guy and devil is always the bad guy.” Just then Sam remembered how on that awful day his mum did not feel well as if she sensed something bad would happen. She tried to tell dad to cancel the trip, but he insisted on keeping a promise to a customer. “Oh, God! Is it  possible that You tried to warn her?”

“Where are you going?” asked Elizabeth seeing Sam rising up from his chair. “I’m done with this place,” he responded. Looking up he waved in Ted’s direction and made a sign of a phone call. Ted waved back and shouted “I’ll see you later at the usual place.” “Wait for me,” said Elizabeth grabbing Sam under his arm. They were already out of the door. It was much quieter outside in the hallway. As if some chains broke around him, Sam put his arm around Elizabeth’s shoulder. “Do you want to go out on a date tonight?” he smiled, finally mustering the courage to ask her out.

It was a warm spring day. The birds and bees were singing and everything was budding with life. Things were looking good.

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