“. . . it swept away my last belief that there might be a Being of some kind out there who truly loved and cared about me—and that my prayers might be heard, and even answered.”
The first time I heard someone say a similar sentiment about losing faith after a crises in life was when I was in college and truly beginning to try and hear what other people said. Besides the anger that great literature and ideas were kept from my fellow high schoolers and me, I was surprised at other people’s opinions, ideas, and beliefs who hadn’t been raised by my mother.
There were adults who actually believed God would just roll over and be available to solve their petty problems. Some were even serious that God was on their side during a football game. That was really, really evident whenever my school, The University of Utah, played Brigham Young University. Oh dear god, that was a lesson in religion.
The above quote is written by Eben Alexander, M.D., in his book Proof of Heaven. He is a neurosurgeon who writes of his near death experience and explains how it changed his faith. His story is written efficiently and falls in the class of books that either you believe it or you don’t, but he’s adding his story to the accumulating genre of NDE.
His story is typical of faith stories that everyone has read, seen in movies, heard from their friends, and been told in church. It is the skeleton of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s theories on death and grief. Joseph
Campbell describes it in the hero’s journey as the basis of every full human story written or told. Very basically, there is belief or life as normal, a trauma, and then the inevitable steps of the journey or recovery.
Trauma is usually shortly followed by a questioning or total loss of faith that results in emotions similar to Alexander’s. In fiction writing it’s in the first third of the book. In life it’s common within the first weeks or months.
So why was I so surprised for so many years when I heard this sentiment of God’s desertion?
First I wasn’t familiar with the pattern of the hero’s journey. A reasonable study
of it will show we are a planet of almost seven billion people living variations of the same template.
Second, and this is where my mother comes in and I have to thank her for it, she taught and I’m glad I listened, that God loves everyone. It stuck in the literal mind of that seven-year-old I was then. The belief did not leave room for me to be the center of God’s attention attention at the expense of others though I was still included in the party. I also think since I had experienced the leaving of my father and the loss of California’s sun that resulted in cold basement living, I already knew males were a bit remote and the world could be Utah cold.
My beliefs and ideas have modified and changed since then, especially about men and sunshine, but it all gave me a good practice working up to adulthood.