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Jul 12 2013

Why “Thank God I am still better off than some” is a selfish prayer and attitude

734924_268214039970930_2030938367_nSince being forced into the unemployment market, I have noticed an increase in people telling me to be thankful to God that I am still better off than others. Of course they know I am an atheist, but believers eagerly pounce on any opportunity to tell atheists that ‘God’ is great. I have even been told that the rough patch I am going through is God’s way of showing me he is the Almighty God, and he wants me to recognize it, go on my knees and accept him as God and only then would he make my path smooth again. ROTFLMAO!

OK, I won’t even go into the childishness of such a God or the morality of anyone who thinks such a God deserves to be praised or why God takes on the personality of his believers/creators. That is a story for another day. Now, let us not divert too much, the topic for today’s discussion is ‘Why “Thank God I am still better off than some” is a selfish prayer and attitude. Here is an analogy to get us started.

In a village, lives an all powerful king who has the powers to make all things happen. He is famed as omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, he could grant every heart desire if he so wish. Villagers often gather in his golden palace to praise him, pray and give thanks to him.

The king’s golden palace has many pews; villagers are seated according to their ranks, with the most favored seated in the first row.

Those seated in the front pew thank him for the opportunity to cruise in private jets with him. Since they believe the more you thank him for favours you enjoy, the more favours you get in return, they also make it a duty to thank him for making them better off than those in the lower pews.

Those seated in the second pew thank him for the opportunity to go on rides with him in fancy cars like limousines. They pray that he elevates them to the front pew so they could cruise with him in private jets. They also thank him for making them better off than some other villagers.

Some sit on the third row and thank him for the opportunity to walk with him. They pray that he grants them the chance to ride with him in fancy cars or even fly with him in private jets. They also thank him for making them better off than others.

Some sit way behind and thank him for allowing them to have a seat in his presence.  They pray that they get to walk with him, ride with him and fly with him. They also thank him for making them better off than other villagers behind them.

Some stand with no place to seat. They hustle to catch a glimpse of the great king. They thank him for at least giving them good pairs of legs to stand in his magnificent presence. They pray to him to elevate their rank to sit, ride and fly with him. They also thank him for making them better off than those behind them.

Some crawl to see the all powerful king in his golden palace. They thank him for blessing them with good eye sight to behold his magnificence. They pray to him to elevate their rank so they could stand with him, ride with him and fly with him. They thank him for not making them blind and for being better off than some others behind them.

And down and down the rows it goes, with everyone having one thing or the other to pray and hope for but never forgetting to thank the all powerful king for making them better off than someone else down the line.

One day, there was an accident that involved many of the villagers. Many of them were affected, some fatally, some very gruesome, some not as gruesome as the others. The accident had varying effects on the villagers. Someone who was in the front row was demoted to the fourth row, he could no longer fly with the all powerful king, he couldn’t ride with him, he couldn’t sit with him but at least he could still stand and see him, some other person involved in the accident was not that lucky, he lost his leg, so he could no longer stand on his feet to see the powerful king. Another one lost his sight, so he could no longer behold the powerful king, and with the tragedy came demotions to the back rows.

307120_290237154324821_100000156154826_1443765_1849047904_n

Suddenly a villager thought about all the changes and lost opportunities and asked why they couldn’t just ask their all powerful king who was after all omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent to make everyone equal.

Why did there have to be rows in his palace segregating people?

Why didn’t the king create a palace big enough to accommodate everyone equally?

Why must there be villagers who ride with the all loving king and those who cannot?

Why wouldn’t the king treat everyone equally?

Why must there be people who are worse off than others?

Why must the villagers thank this omnipotent God in whatever situation they are in?

Why couldn’t they pray to the king to make everyone equal?

The villager with the brain wave explained to everyone that equality would mean the segregating rows would disappear, everyone gets the same treatment and no one ever has to be demoted because there won’t be anything known as demotion. Accidents, economic recession and all other factors that could cause demotions could be erased with just a click of the king’s omniscient finger. So the villager with this brain wave wondered aloud why they couldn’t just ask their all omniscient king to make everyone equal.

The other villagers were taken aback by this suggestion. They wondered if that would actually be a good idea. The villager with the brain wave took it further and wanted to know why other villagers thought it was not a good idea to ask their all loving king to make everyone equal.

Is it because somehow they love being in the first row?

Is it that they love the privileges they have over others, because even if they are just in the third or fourth row, there is still someone they are better off than?

Does being ‘favoured’ somehow gives them a sense of privilege and power, which makes them aspire to be even better off than everyone else?

Is it that asking the king to make everyone equal would mean the loss of power, privilege and ego?

Would it mean the loss of pride they feel at being the most loved favorites of the king’s subjects?

Are these decent, noble feelings or just selfish feelings?

The villager with the brain wave explained that if all the villagers chose to ask their king to make everyone equal, no one ever needs fear demotion or accidents which means everyone gets to benefit from the situation. But the villagers dismissed his logic as blasphemy and the rants of a fool.

Now, input this scenario with religious believers who sincerely believe that their God is all powerful, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, whom they claim love every of his creature. When believers find themselves in difficult situations, they often say things like:

“Thank God, for not making me one of those people that are worse off than me.”

Thank God I survived that accident even though some people died, some were disabled, but I only got off with a scar, thank you God for loving me that much”.

Hmmm…how much more selfish could that sound?

Ok, if you believe that this God is all powerful and answers all prayers, why not just ask him to remove all accidents? Why not pray to him to remove pains, diseases, inequality etc. Oh, please don’t tell me this all powerful, all omnipotent, all loving God who you claim created this magnificent universe in just 7 days, is still angry because Adam and Eve ate a forbidden fruit that made them discover knowledge!

Oh, this all powerful God is still so hurt by that fabled act of disobedience that even though he slept with the virgin fiance of another man,  to give birth to his son, who actually is himself, so he could appease himself for the original sin committed by Adam and Eve,  yet somehow he is still so hung up about the eating of the forbidden fruit that he would continue to allow pain, suffering, hunger, accidents, diseases, children dying of cancers, children starving to death all because he still couldn’t find it in his all powerful,  omnipotent,  omniscient, all loving heart to forgive the human race for the original sin of Adam and Eve.

429085_348677975176751_249469905097559_1044135_984872112_nThis omnipresent God will continue to visit the sins of the fathers upon the sons and on generations unborn because Adam and Eve gave in to the seduction of a talking snake to eat the forbidden fruit which he had commanded them not to eat?

Thus, he has prepared an everlasting burning hellfire for those who do not worship him the exact way he wants to be worshiped. He keeps the furnace of hell burning, so he could finally throw everyone who did not thank him enough into everlasting hell fire, in the meantime he takes as much time as he wish for his famed second coming as he is still busy accumulating  candidates for his hellfire.

Do you truly believe this God has a moral ground to stand on?

Do you think this egoist you are thanking for making you better off than others deserve to be thanked?

Are you taking moral lessons from a being with such low moral code?307120_290237154324821_100000156154826_1443765_1849047904_nOK, you lost your job, on your way home you passed a homeless person living on the floor of the train station and you thought, well at least you are still not homeless. So you got home, knelt down and thanked God for making you better off than the homeless person. Does this God preen and pat himself on the back for being good to you?

Do you preen and feel like the favored child of this God, at least more favored than the homeless man?

Is favoritism a good thing?

Should a loving Dad, King or God practice favoritism?

Should a decent person demand favoritism?

Should a decent person not feel sad that even though they are in a bad situation, there are actually people who are worse off than they are?

Is it something to be proud of that we are better off than others, especially when it is not due to any fault of those worse off?

Each time you sit at your bountiful table, do you thank your omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent God for not making you one of the starving children in Africa?

199858_503543039656467_1624769695_nShould a decent person who has a magical deity who could make all things right not be concerned about making this world a better place for all rather than thanking this God for making them better off than others?

Yes, it is good to appreciate our positions in life; it is good to be grateful for what we have and what we can do. I appreciate that I can see and admire the beauty of nature, that I am in good enough health to walk, skip and run around without aids. However I do think it would be utterly selfish of me to thank an all powerful God for making me better off than others, rather than ask my all powerful God to make others be able to enjoy everything I also enjoy.

“Thank God I am better off than others” is not a prayer of appreciation, it is simply another way of saying “Thank you God for making me better than others” AND THIS IS A VERY SELFISH ATTITUDE. 36599_429443320470027_589482721_n
Related Link-

Why “Thank God I survived” or “God knows best” is a terrible thing to say in the aftermath of a fatal disaster.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    In my business (I proof and edit academic papers, among other things), for historical reasons I happen to have a large client base comprised of Muslims, men and women, who are studying at the local university. Given the nature of the work, I deal largely with people who grew up in majority-Muslim countries, from Algeria to Indonesia.

    One client I’ve been working closely with for several months on a book he’s writing, told me that although he seemed to be carrying a lot of burdens -- his wife and one of his four young daughters are ill, and he’s waiting on a diagnosis himself -- that he had been taught, as a Muslim, that tribulations and troubles in life were just Allah’s way of testing him, and that since he was being tested so much, Allah must have a very special purpose for him, and that Allah must therefore love him very much.

    When it turned out that he’s going to have to go back to his birth country for a few months to help look after an ailing parent (much of his family were killed in recent conflicts), I wanted to ask him if maybe he ever wondered whether it’d be nice if Allah didn’t love him quite so intensely, that maybe it’d be nice to just be friends for a while, maybe even see other people.

    I couldn’t, of course, actually ask him, because my living depends on goodwill and word-of-mouth among his extended community, and because mocking the beliefs of a pious man looking to get through a heavy time by whatever means he can manage seems beyond my personal rule of cruel. But it really brought home to me what a complete replacement of rational faculties piety seems to both demand and instill: that any kind of evidence at all would never have any chance of shaking his ability to write it off to the will of Allah.

    I need to be reminded of this from time to time, because I grew up atheist, and honestly cannot fathom how someone does that, I just…I just don’t understand how an intelligent academic can so clearly eschew rationality in this sphere, and yet be the picture of logic when it comes to his academic discipline. I think the cognitive dissonance would break me; it’s a strange thought, to me, that there are literally billions like him in various religions around the world.

    Sometimes it’s hard to imagine ever achieving a world where rationality is the highest goal for all.

    Great piece as always, Yemmy. :)

  2. 2
    Yemisi Ilesanmi

    @CaitieCat -- Thanks. I sometimes get so depressed at the irrationality people spew in the name of their faith, and I am constantly annoyed and depressed when such comes from my closest family members, as it often does since I am from a deeply religious family and society.

    I don’t bother to engage strangers or casual acquaintances in discussion about the irrationalities they spew in the name of their God. For example, when my former landlord’s agent came to inspect the house and collect the keys, he kept rambling on about how good God is to him and how God loves him so much that He is helping him through the pains in his leg caused by cancer, I had a feeling saying anything against his God could mean a delay in or even not getting my house deposit back, so I just smiled.

    However, this is not so easy when such nonsense comes from close family members and friends. A very close family member had a quarrel with her neighbors just before going to bed. That same night she woke up from a bad dream and started praying profusely (not so uncommon). She said God just appeared to her in a dream and told her that her neighbors were planning evil against her.

    I asked her why God was gossiping to her in the middle of the night. Instead of gossiping why couldn’t this God just avert the danger? And why on earth is her God fueling an already bad atmosphere between her and her neighbors? And if God loves her so much, wouldn’t he know that such gossip in a dream would make her anxious, worried and unable to sleep? Why interrupt her peaceful sleep just so she could spend the remainder of the night praying to this same gossip inclined God?
    The part about God been a gossip got a smile from her but it did not stop her from calling other family members and laughing at “Crazy, spiritually naive me” :(

    I truly envy those who grew up in an atheist home.

  3. 3
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    Yeah -- it was definitely lucky for me. My father’s family was (in the UK in the 60s) mildly Protestant (CofE), while my mother’s family were vibrantly Catholic. In the 60s, that put them either side of a Romeo/Juliet line, and they were both so disgusted by not just the sectarian violence then spilling into the rest of the UK from Northern Ireland, but also by the behaviour of their two families about their relationship, that they decided my sister and I would be raised with no religion at all. We weren’t baptised in either church, we were never made to go to any religious function, and when we were old enough, we were given the freedom to try out various religions. I tried a couple of Sundays with a couple of different Xtian faiths, but found nothing to satisfy, and didn’t stay. My sister flirted with Xtianity with the Pentecostals for a while as a teen, but gave it up after a while, as it turned out the friends she made weren’t okay with her being part of it for social reasons only.

    It has meant some minor inconveniences. Until I sat down and read a good part of the Christian Bible, I’d often miss out on the implications of various Christian allegories. For instance, when I read the Narnia books, I found them fun escapist fantasy, and never connected the big lion with Jesus. I found it weird later when I heard they were all supposed to be allegory about Christianity, and it diminished them for me.

    What I really don’t get, on any level, is how anyone finds anything positive in the Abrahamic god(s). That dude is a seriously sadistic entity, who seems to take delight in inventing fairly random reasons to punish someone FOREVER AND EVER. Put your private parts together with the wrong person at the wrong time (and most people are apparently wrong, for me, and all times are wrong since I’m not and never have been married), even once, and unless you beg for forgiveness, you get to burn forever and ever. Seemed a little disproportionate to me.

    I can understand the pagan concept of gods much better, because their gods tend to be focused on their portfolio: the god of alcohol, or sex, or doing well on tests, or whatever. But the idea of an omnipotent god who thinks it’s okay to kill people by throwing rocks at them? That’s just sick, to me.

    I’m sorry you missed out on that privilege, and I do recognize it’s a big one. To me, indoctrinating kids too young to know how to think critically is just emotional/intellectual abuse. It’s preying on the most powerless among us. :/

  4. 4
    Aliasalpha

    It really is madness, you can pretty much distill yahweh’s character down to “I’m all loving and all forgiving now worship me your entire life without deviation from my exceptionally vague requirements or be tortured forever” and people not only believe it but think its GOOD.

  5. 5
    Andy Staab

    Thank you, Yemisi, for your article. I’m an atheist as of only a few months ago. I was raised in a fundamentalist christian home and my siblings and mother still believe in all of the biblical messages. A few months ago, I read Christopher Hitchens “God is not Great” book and really began to search my heart and brain for what I knew to be truth. I realized I never really believed in Christianity. No god-like entity is in control. No god cares about me or my life, or has a plan for my life. It’s all a lie. I think it’s attractive to hope and believe that there is a supernatural parental entity watching over us and protecting us, but it’s just myth. As long as there are suffering humans and animals on this earth, I can’t believe in a god that would allow it. I just cannot, and I never ever will.

  6. 6
    Abdul Alhazred

    Lots of crazy stuff about justice in the Bible, but not the “just world fallacy”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_hypothesis

    “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” (Exodus 33:19)

    Purely arbitrary. Thank Him so as not to piss Him off.

    Makes perfect sense given the premises.

  7. 7
    Yemisi Ilesanmi

    @Andy Staab I wish you all the best in your journey from Theism to Atheism. Discarding religion is even more difficult when our family members and friends are deeply entrenched in religious myths.Hold on to reason and your morals. No one who truly cares about the sufferings of another can decently believe in an ‘all loving, all powerful God’ and that inevitably leads one to the logical conclusion, there is no God.

  8. 8
    isaac

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