by Frances Farmer (1931)
No one ever came to me and said, “You’re a fool. There isn’t such a thing as God. Somebody’s been stuffing you.” It wasn’t a murder. I think God just died of old age. And when I realized that he wasn’t any more, it didn’t shock me. It seemed natural and right.
Maybe it was because I was never properly impressed with a religion. I went to Sunday school and liked the stories about Christ and the Christmas star. They were beautiful. They made you warm and happy to think about. But I didn’t believe them. The Sunday School teacher talked too much in the way our grade school teacher used to when she told us about George Washington. Pleasant, pretty stories, but not true.
Religion was too vague. God was different. He was something real, something I could feel. But there were only certain times when I could feel it. I used to lie between cool, clean sheets at night after I’d had a bath, after I had washed my hair and scrubbed my knuckles and finger nails and teeth. Then I could lie quite still in the dark with my face to the window with the trees in it, and talk to God. “I am clean, now. I’ve never been as clean. I’ll never be cleaner.” And somehow, it was God. I wasn’t sure that it was … just something cool and dark and clean.
That wasn’t religion, though. There was too much of the physical about it. I couldn’t get that same feeling during the day, with my hands in dirty dish water and the hard sun showing up the dirtiness on the roof-tops. And after a time, even at night, the feeling of God didn’t last. I began to wonder what the minister meant when he said, “God, the father, sees even the smallest sparrow fall. He watches over all his children.” That jumbled it all up for me. But I was sure of one thing. If God were a father, with children, that cleanliness I had been feeling wasn’t God. So at night, when I went to bed, I would think, “I am clean. I am sleepy.” And then I went to sleep. It didn’t keep me from enjoying the cleanness any less. I just knew that God wasn’t there. He was a man on a throne in Heaven, so he was easy to forget.
Sometimes I found he was useful to remember; especially when I lost things that were important. After slamming through the house, panicky and breathless from searching, I could stop in the middle of a room and shut my eyes. “Please God, let me find my red hat with the blue trimmings.” It usually worked. God became a super-father that couldn’t spank me. But if I wanted a thing badly enough, he arranged it.
That satisfied me until I began to figure that if God loved all his children equally, why did he bother about my red hat and let other people lose their fathers and mothers for always? I began to see that he didn’t have much to do about hats, people dying or anything. They happened whether he wanted them to or not, and he stayed in heaven and pretended not to notice. I wondered a little why God was such a useless thing. It seemed a waste of time to have him. After that he became less and less, until he was…nothingness.
I felt rather proud to think that I had found the truth myself, without help from any one. It puzzled me that other people hadn’t found out, too. God was gone. We were younger. We had reached past him. Why couldn’t they see it? It still puzzles me.
—-Frances Farmer (1931)
So they finally decided to turn the other cheek?
Florida Pastor Won’t Burn Quran, ‘Ever’
Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who incited world-wide debate over his plans to burn copies of the Quran, said Saturday that he had already accomplished his goal of exposing a radical element of Islam and that he wouldn’t follow through with his Quran-burning plans under any circumstances.
Appearing on NBC’s “Today Show,” Mr. Jones said he had come to New York in the hopes of meeting with Imam Feisal Rauf, a partner in the project to build an Islamic center two blocks north of Ground Zero. Mr. Jones has been lobbying for that project to be moved away from the site.
As Saturday progressed, however, it became apparent a meeting was unlikely to take place. People familiar with the matter said the imam will not meet with Mr. Jones and that this has become clear to the people in Mr. Jones’s camp.
Asked on the “Today Show” whether he would proceed with his plans to burn copies of the holy book, Mr. Jones paused for several seconds before saying he had decided to cancel the event.
Mr. Jones then said he could “absolutely guarantee” that he wouldn’t carry out his original plans, even if the Islamic center gets built on its proposed site. “We hoped that would open up a door to be able to talk to the imam about the Ground Zero mosque,” he said.
Mr. Jones originally announced plans in July to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11. On Thursday, he abandoned them after a direct appeal from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Mr. Jones said he dropped his plans after reaching an agreement to move the Islamic center away from its planned location near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks. However, representatives of the center denied there was any such agreement.
On Friday afternoon, speaking at his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., Mr. Jones imposed a two-hour deadline on the imam to notify him whether he planned to relocate the Islamic center. The deadline passed without any contact from the imam, and it remained unclear what Mr. Jones’s ultimate plans were as he traveled to New York Friday night.
Mr. Jones arrived at New York’s LaGuardia airport late Friday night as a throng of news trucks and cameras awaited him.
In his television interview on Saturday, Mr. Jones insisted that his plans weren’t a ploy for publicity for his church but rather a mission from God.
“Of course, Abraham was also wiser than us,” he said. “He told no one.”
A Message to Those Praying for Christopher Hitchens
On behalf of Christopher Hitchens, who thinks all of this skydaddy talk is ridiculous, thanks to all of you who wrote in to Goldblog to report that they would be praying for him as he undergoes treatment for esophageal cancer (you can hear him talk about his current predicament here). I would like to reiterate, of course, that Hitchens is still solidly atheist (strike that “still,” actually, because it implies his mind will change, which I don’t think will happen, at least, as he says, in reference to the mind we know today as Hitchens’s mind—what medicine does to his mind is a different story), but nevertheless I can report that he does not mock those who say they are praying on his behalf. What you could really, do, of course, if you’re interested in making Hitch happy, is buy this book.
As for the few of you who wrote to Goldblog to say they were praying for Hitch’s death, I can say that he does not care one way or another what you do or think or pray, but on behalf of myself and the entire team here at The Atlantic, let me just say, Go fuck yourselves.
I believe God will forgive me for that one.
Family Asks Doctors To Wait For Prayers To Work
FORT WORTH — A North Texas family is racing to stop a hospital from amputating a patient’s foot, saying the procedure violates their religious rights.
The situation is now so tense that Angela Wright’s husband has been barred from the hospital where she is being treated.
Wright had her first heart attack two months ago. Her family immediately began calling prayer groups, asking fellow Christians to appeal to God.
They kept praying through five more heart attacks.
“It’s everything,” said Dwight Wright. “It’s the reason my wife’s still here, I believe.”
Angela Wright remained at Baylor All Saints Medical Center Fort Worth Friday as the toes on her left foot blackened. Family members say doctors want to amputate, possibly going as far up as her knee.
That evaluation has led to a showdown. Family members say prayer needs more time to work, and an amputation would violate their religious rights; doctors say the amputation is medically necessary.
Jodee Wright, who had just visited her mother, recounted the conversation she had with the patient: “Do you want your toes amputated? She said, ‘No, I’m scared to death of losing my other foot.'”
Wright lost part of her other leg due to a blood clot nearly 20 years ago.
“There hadn’t been a day that’s been by since 1992 that she hasn’t asked me why didn’t I get her out of the hospital? Why did I let them amputate her leg? So why in her right mind would she want anything else amputated?” Dwight Wright asked.
The family concedes, however, that at other times Angela said “yes” to the doctors asking for permission to amputate. They blame medication and trauma, and say they should be allowed to make the decision on her behalf.
“I want her here; but I want her to have every opportunity she can have to keep the rest of her foot, because that’s all she’s got,” Dwight Wright said.
On Friday morning, the hospital removed Angela’s husband from her room and barred him from the the facility. A hospital spokesman said Wright made threats to hospital staff, and was “impeding the patient from making decisions about her care.” He denies the allegations.
As of Friday night, the amputation had not been carried out.