“God was watching over me”?

I know that I am going to upset some people. My friend K. is already unhappy with me about this blog. However, my blog is a reflection of my thoughts and feelings at any given time, and this is the time to write about “God was watching over me!”.

Being a cynic, I always had an issue with people telling stories about facing some possible catastrophe and ending their stories with “but God was watching over me”.

Take for example the story of one of my interns who came to supervision all shaken up because she was in an accident that left three people critically wounded, one of them a teenager, while she got out of it unscathed.

Knowing that she is religious, I was not surprised when she ended her story by saying “I guess God was watching over me”. What I did not say was, “J, why did God fail to watch over the other three people who were critically wounded—is he capable of watching over one person at a time?” But of course I did not say that, because I was told too many times that religion and politics are not a good subject matter for civilized discussion.

Sometimes there’s a feeling of gratitude, and it needs to be expressed and directed towards some object or being. God is a good object. And just in case you are wondering, I am an atheist.

But let’s take it a step further, to the place that is a sacred ground to most Jews – the Holocaust. So many stories about being saved, about being spared, about escaping, and some unbelievable miracles etc. Some survivors say that they were simply lucky, they stopped believing in a God a long time ago, in the face of losing all members of their family, and yet others explain their survival by saying that God was watching over them. This one is illogical. God was watching over you, the survivor, but was too preoccupied to take care of the other six million? What was he doing, playing chess? And then you have the people who would say that we should not try to explain God’s work, because his ways (her ways?) are mysterious. If it is so, then why are those people the ones who claim to be saved by him? Please make up your mind. You either cannot explain his mysterious actions, and therefore you cannot say that he watched over you, or he did! Which leads me to believe that he does not do such a great job with a lot of other people, like the Sudanese, for instance.

So when you tell me a story  and you want to say that there are no accidents in life (yes, there are!) and that God was watching over you, please be aware of the fact that you are also saying that he was not watching the other three in the other car, who faced calamity. You are implying a process of selection! You, who survived the accident, you were worthy of God’s attention, as opposed to the other thousands who die every day, whether it is on the freeway, in terrorists attacks, hurricanes and more, which is all a part of a great design apparently,  which we mortals just don’t have the capacity to understand. But you, you deserved to stay alive, so let’s praise his name. Hallelujah!


About rachel bar

Psychotherapist and supervisor.
This entry was posted in Atheist, Christopher Hitchens, Religion, Secular, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to “God was watching over me”?

  1. Jordan says:

    You ARE brave for posting this, Rachel….. Everyone has their own lens/template in which they view the world through… I grew up in a warm, loving, cohesive family, so at times, I can’t help but view the world as whole, just and abundant… but this worldview is challenged whenever I think of the unfairness and the suffering that occurs every day, every moment and hear “Life is not fair.” Perhaps the thought that there is no divine plan, that we are free floating in a vast universe that does not ‘care’ about us, is too much for some. Or perhaps the fact that we even exist is enough evidence of a miracle, a miracle that I should contemplate every day.

  2. rachel bar says:

    I definitely struggle myself with the concept of “higher power” and the divine, especially when I am in nature, or when I look at the beauty in the world. I have an issue though with the need (which feels simplistic sometimes) to believe that there’s a god who watches over us personally.
    Thank you Jordan!

  3. Oren Raz says:

    AMEN!!! 🙂 Fantastic!!!

  4. Mort says:

    Way to preach it, sister!

    Every day brings examples illustrating your theme–such as the ultra-Orthodox 82 year old Holocaust survivor from Williamsburg, Brooklyn who flees from Hurricane Irene to the Catskills where an overflowing stream drowns her in her room. Did God select her to survive Hitler over millions of others? Did He then cause, or allow, her to die when and how she did? All explanations and justifications are absurd. Carpe diem!

  5. Barbara Cooper says:

    Ah Rachel, permit me to get on my soapbox here. First, if I am the “B” that you referred to that would be angry with this, you couldn’t be more wrong. Let me start by saying I do believe in a Higher Power, A Supreme Energy, but I do not believe that this power runs our lives or decides who is to live and who is to die at any given moment. I believe that God created us and everything else from himself. If “In the beginning, there was nothing” except God, then all is made with “God Energy”. Most religions say “God is everywhere, all knowing, omniscient. If everyone and everything is made from that original energy, than that Power is contained within everyone and everything. That being said, for the religious among us, we are told that we are given free will by God. Free will means exactly that, and I personally do not believe that this free will exists only on this plane. So, everything that happens, be it good or bad, horrific as the Holocaust, or the joy a newborn baby brings to the world is decided by our own souls before we come to this plane. We pick the joys and the horrors and yes, the car accidents, to teach us something. It’s about soul growth. God doesn’t work in “mysterious ways” that is the cop out used by religions to explain the unexplainable to those who say “Where was God” on September 11? You can’t have free will and expect God to intercede on your behalf. We are all made of the same energy, so how and why should this God play favorites? It always confused me when at the end of the Jewish High Holidays you get written in the book of life for another year. My father went to synagogue on the High Holidays and then died one year. What happened to “the Book Of Life”? No matter how or what you believe, someday, you are going to die. That is a fact. I just believe that our individual souls pick our time of birth, our parents, our life path and our date of death. That is free will.
    When those of us who pray to God ask for help, we are really just focusing on the part of that energy that is contained within us all, our own higher power, which is available to all of us to tap in to at any given time. Life is a never ending journey of existence because energy cannot be destroyed. It can change forms, but it always exists. We “reap what we sow” in this life and our future lives. The moral…do the best that you can with every minute of every day, try to be kind to everyone because we are all on our own paths trying to learn our own lessons, and trust your own soul that whatever it (you) decided before you came onto this plane will unfold exactly as it should. In that regard, “there are no accidents”!

    • rachel bar says:

      Barbara, it all makes sense if you believe in what you believe in. My point makes sense to people who believe the way I do. That is why some like chocolate ice cream and others vanilla. That is why there are so many belief systems and religions. So I respect what you said, and I can see that from your your view point (whether you get on your soapbox or not:)), life makes sense.

  6. Amy Ebert says:

    Well said, Rachel! A very brave blog indeed…although I still find it so appalling that assertions such as yours are considered brave. ;D Why is it so taboo to challenge the theistic beliefs of others who are constantly bombarding people with their theistic rhetoric? It’s OK for them to regularly spout off their personal beliefs about God (because they’re more socially-sanctioned) but they gasp & balk if you dare to assert yours or challenge theirs? If people don’t find religion an appropriate topic for civilized discussion, perhaps they need to seriously re-evaluate their religious beliefs. Or if they don’t want to discuss it perhaps they might want to avoid making theistic statements in public.

  7. Barbara Cooper says:

    Believe, don’t believe. I’m fine with it all. Know why??? Because we all have free will to believe or not. And it makes for lively discussions and sharing of theories all of which I find fascinating and enlightening. The truth is what is “right” to believe is whatever works for you in your life. What gives you comfort or helps you to deal with life’s tribulations is what is important here. Many souls, many paths.

  8. Martha Carr says:

    Amen Rachel!!!! You and Dennis Prager agree on this issue! (He hosted Religion on the Line for many years.) I totally agree with you. I don’t think we pick an event in order to learn something. but we certainly can choose to learn something from what happens to us! (or not). (See Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankel.) I have a friend who says things like “this illness is related to control issues”. I think: “My dog was sick last week, does she have control issues?” or, I think “Most everyone I know has control issues, but they aren’t sick.” But I understand the thought process involved. It is a natural desire to THINK/WISH we had control over what happens to us (if I work out this emotional problem I will never get cancer) or to THINK we have been divinely rescued, as in your scenario. I guess there is just random luck sometimes. And I do think some people are lucky and some are unlucky. But, did I tell you about the time…..:)))

  9. Cameron Ashby says:

    I loudly applaud even celebrate the risks inherent in your addressing such an eternal topic. I’ve cherished a Polish poet’s statement, “Who knows if it means little or much to have lived on earth, this poor, poor earth filled with nothing but gifts.” Immediately upon meeting him in a class at Berkeley in 1970 I knew, even in my addled twenty-year-old mind I was in the presence of greatness. Czeslow Milosz went on to garner the Nobel, just as he’d fought nobly in the Polish resistance.

    It seems to be so useful to take God out of the formula as Darwin and Freud did to get the details of the action that are otherwise explained away by the drooling mouths of dogmama. Then at other times it’s helpful to put the “big weasel in the sky” back into the picture, simply because of the awe I encounter (often sunsets in this desert near “sin city”), and the searing awareness of how little, what few smithereens I can actually know of that baby nursing or learning from some wordless innate signal to turn itself over on its back. It’s a deal I can’t refuse nor find much comfort in. My ignorance explodes and is drawn into that awe; it forces my attention, and sometimes dissipates my will, and like viewing Van Gogh’s paintings my knees begin to tremble. Mom took me to see his work when I was eight-years-old. It seems I’ve never recovered.

    Repeated experiences of traveling with the dying have attuned me to something nameless, unutterable, that nameless black hulled ship of Ulysses ready to set sail at 4am. And like an electrician, I attempt to trace the short circuits in my own connections between the finite and infinite, and others as well. Recently I saw the image of a star being pulled into a black hole. They are photographing these events now, an “intercourse not well designed for beings of a golden kind” as Tennessee Williams mused in “Night of the Iguana.”

    Perhaps I sound mad, maybe I am, yet I’m glad you risk speaking what you need to say. It seems there’s an implicit welcome, yet also one that seeks to stir and shake each of us into a morning wake up call, “get up, get up, it’s another day in this camp,” along with an important text message to the blind watch maker, that big weasel who is going to kill us all anyway, no matter what we believe.

  10. Ifat says:

    Rachel, thank you for stirring the pot 🙂 For me God is less fixed. I view God as symbol, a projection, a personal reflection which was institutionalized in various ways like many other conceptwe feel a need to concretize. In modern culture the image of God seem to offer no solace. I differentiate between the biblical God and a scared experience. We seem to grapple with the learned traditional religious concept of God and personal experiences of soring numinous moments of unspeakable awe, for which there are many portals through which these moments can be expressed. I like to view the “freedom of choice” as a freedom to view these numinous experiences as autonomous or as experiences generated from within our psyche. We can also choose to turn it into a faith if it serves a purpose or a deep need. For me things get complicated when we claim these moments as a reality that carries a universal truth. I wonder if in our atheism (a way in which I define my own lack of having a godly belief system), we are losing the connection and our willingness to experience intense moments of awe and mysticism where there is no logic or definition, only pure, almost unconceivable experience. It is almost as if we need God so we can develop a relationship with those unconceivable moments of awe, so we can harness and keep ourselves in communication with these events even when we are no longer in that space. God allows us to divorce ourselves from being in the totality of our psychic experiences as we project them onto its image. So I choose to let “Godly” experiences transform within me and transform me as I continue to resent the old learned concept adapted by religious belief system while I respect attempts of others to concretize what is possibly an unattainable experience….. I liked to notion of paying attention….

    • rachel bar says:

      I agree with everything you said Ifat, except that I don’t need to define these moments of awe, wonderment and mysticism through the image of God or the concept of God. I actually feel that by attributing phenomenons to God, I limit the experience instead of broadening it. The definition itself is minimizing.

  11. rachel bar says:

    I remembered this quote by Bertrand Russell: “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.”
    That sums it up for me.

  12. Martha says:

    What about Joseph Campbell’s definition: “God is a metaphor for a mystery which absolutely transcends all human categories of thought.” With that in mind, how can we attribute anything to God’s doing?

  13. katzideas says:

    I found this very intriuguing…think Joseph Campbell is right

  14. katzideas says:

    As usual, Martha, your depth amazes me. Choosing the perfect Campbell’s quote to sum up our lack of knowing, and yet acknowledging and defining this mystery.

    That is your reply to the previous commenter and I agree with you and her

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