When God Hands You Lemons


This morning I heard a nice story on public radio about a lovely family and their struggle with their child’s cancer. They’re trying to develop software to help detect retinoblastoma. And that’s great. Really, it was a heartwarming, pleasant story.

Religion was mentioned briefly. The father said, “I’m a Christian,” as an explanation for why he wants to use this unfortunate situation to help others. And that didn’t really make sense to me, because I’m not sure what that has to do with being a Christian. It seems like a good thing for anyone to do, regardless of their faith. But okay.

Then I clicked on the story on the NPR website. Now this was a slightly different story, heavily focused on the father’s faith.

On the one hand, the story states, “There’s no doubt that a bad thing happened to Shaw’s family.” But then it quotes the father saying, “I believe there is no bad thing done to you.” So maybe there is some doubt? Anyway, this When-God-Hands-You-Lemons approach to life is also intended to keep his son from losing his faith.

But he worried that Noah might have trouble understanding that. “When he gets older and he can think for himself, I don’t want him to get mad at God, or stop believing that there is a God,” Bryan says. So he was determined to find ways to prevent that from happening. He hopes the early detection software will do the trick.

Again, okay. I get it. He’s a good guy. It’s a nice story. The software seems valuable. I have no beef with this family. But why is God necessary in any of this?

What if the cancer didn’t happen for a reason? What if it just happened? How does that change anything? If the cancer was a bad thing that happened, does that mean there would be no point in trying to make the best of it and creating software to help others? Are optimism and ingenuity reserved for the faithful? Wouldn’t it be a useful lesson to teach a child that sometimes bad things happen for no reason and the best you can do is look for ways to use your struggle to help mankind? I mean, an atheist parent never has to worry about her child getting angry at God. With no God to blame, we have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try to persevere just like anyone else. Do atheists not care about their fellow man? Of course we do. Instead of looking for God’s mysterious lesson in our lives, we just find our own way. We also look at setbacks as opportunities. We also try to use our pain to help others. These are human qualities. You don’t need God to do any of this.

My friends often say “God gave me the strength to finish packing” or “Then God sent a friend to my house to brighten my day.” Again, take God out of it and what does it change? I’ll tell you what it changes. It changes your appreciation for mankind. If you found the strength to finish packing, YOU found the strength WITHIN YOURSELF to accomplish something. Good for YOU! Now you know you’re capable, even when you feel defeated. Is that a bad lesson? If your friend decided to come visit you, YOUR FRIEND decided ON HER OWN to help you. Good for HER! Now you know you have good friends who are sensitive to your needs. Is that a bad thing? Giving yourself credit? Giving your friends credit? Giving a stranger credit? Why are atheists considered immoral or shifty or mean when they clearly see the beauty, strength, resilience and generosity in mankind? Why do theists insist on giving the glory to God? The glory is everywhere! The glory is in you! Isn’t it amazing? Being human and recognizing the beauty of the world, recognizing the power within yourself, recognizing the overwhelming strength of a community committed to a good deed… That’s no less glorious than your God. And it’s real. And it’s here. And it’s inclusive. And it doesn’t judge. And it doesn’t turn its back. And you don’t have to pray to it. You just have to live it. Faith in God is like a fancy garlic press. You can actually survive just fine without one. In fact, your meals might taste better.

P.S. Fuck you, Supreme Court and your bullshit these days.


“…attendees at the council meeting may step out of the room if they do not like the prayer.”

Because nothing makes a citizen feel like part of his/her community and the political process like being welcome to leave.