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Tags atheism , near death experience , spirituality

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Old 25th September 2007, 08:33 AM   #1
shalomsteph
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So I had this aneurysm....

I am not sure if this is the right place to post, but it seems appropriate.

I am a very, very Reform Jew. I don't eat pork or shellfish and attend high holy days. That's the extent of it, really. Well, and until high school, my kids went to a private Jewish school, but that was only because secular private schools were out of reach financially and I lived in a BAD area then. We are financially better off now, and in a better school district. My kids are split-one is religious, one is not.

I am not exactly a "believer".

I recently went to ER for a migraine that would not go away. They treated the migraine with some morphine and then admitted me to do some more testing in the morning. (I remember none of this--I went to the ER because I was having pain, plus feeling "disconnected" and was blind in one eye)

One of the tests was an MRI, which revealed that I had had an aneurysm in the pons section of my brain. It had already happened and was healing at this point. I didn't really "get" the significance of it until after I was discharged, and the doctor called. She told me that this was something they see on an autopsy, and the fact that I had no permanent damage is something of a miracle.

I am conflicted, because I am not feeling anything spiritual whatsoever. I don't feel like some celestial being "saved me" any more than I feel like some evil being was thwarted in taking my life. Yes, I like my life--I love my life, in fact--but people keep telling me (what I feel are) dumb things like, "God has a special purpose for you!" or "You must be here for a reason!" Well, if this is true, and God "saved" me for some reason, then what about all of the young men and women in Iraq, or babies and children in developing countries, or practically ANY other person who dies for no good reason, before they were able to find their full potential in life? I am no one special. I am a work from home wife and mother in Kansas. I don't believe I am supposed to be anything other than that. I just don't feel it AT ALL. It isn't a self-esteem thing, since I like myself just fine. I am just not having any "Hallelujah" moments at all. None.

I will be very careful and take the doctor's advice about continued treatment to try to prevent this from happening again. I WILL be more careful about how I live my life and put more thought into how I spend my days here on earth. I will try to be a better person, although the person I am is not bad at all. I already do tons of volunteer work, etc. I will be more thoughtful about the memories I leave behind, my actions, etc. But seriously, I don't believe I was spared by a higher power. I think that my brain absorbed this "hit" without permanent damage because, maybe, it was in the exact right spot. Or maybe even the top neurologists can't say for sure what happens...maybe more of the brain is a vast wasteland than previously believed. After all, had I not had the migraine, I would not have had the MRI, and it never would have been discovered. Maybe lots of people are running around with this exact injury, but no one knows about it.

Anyway, maybe this was rambling, but how do I respond to these people who are praising God on my behalf, or think there is something seriously wrong with me for NOT praising God?? It would be easier to just say, "Yeah, praise God" but that feels....wrong. SO MANY young people die for no good reason, it seems arrogant to even believe I was spared when they weren't. Does this make sense?

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

Steph
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Old 25th September 2007, 09:01 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by shalomsteph View Post
I am not exactly a "believer".
Answering your questions might depend on what you are a lot ...

Quote:
I recently went to ER for a migraine that would not go away. They treated the migraine with some morphine and then admitted me to do some more testing in the morning. (I remember none of this--I went to the ER because I was having pain, plus feeling "disconnected" and was blind in one eye)
Ouch ... glad to hear you're better. Remind me to be less whiney about my headaches.

Quote:
One of the tests was an MRI, which revealed that I had had an aneurysm in the pons section of my brain. It had already happened and was healing at this point. I didn't really "get" the significance of it until after I was discharged, and the doctor called. She told me that this was something they see on an autopsy, and the fact that I had no permanent damage is something of a miracle.
I am sure it wasn't. If it had been anywhere near a miracle they would have asked permission to slice you up and see what happened. It might have been very rare, though.

Quote:
I am conflicted, because I am not feeling anything spiritual whatsoever. I don't feel like some celestial being "saved me" any more than I feel like some evil being was thwarted in taking my life.
Where's the conflict in that?

Quote:
Yes, I like my life--I love my life, in fact--but people keep telling me (what I feel are) dumb things like, "God has a special purpose for you!" or "You must be here for a reason!" Well, if this is true, and God "saved" me for some reason, then what about all of the young men and women in Iraq, or babies and children in developing countries, or practically ANY other person who dies for no good reason, before they were able to find their full potential in life?
Beats me. That is why I am not a beliver.


Quote:
I am no one special. I am a work from home wife and mother in Kansas. I don't believe I am supposed to be anything other than that.
Who do you think supposes you should be that?

Quote:
I just don't feel it AT ALL. It isn't a self-esteem thing, since I like myself just fine. I am just not having any "Hallelujah" moments at all. None.
No problem there. You're alive and healthy. I think the incident taught you an important lesson on how valuable your life is.

[snip evidence of that]

Quote:
Anyway, maybe this was rambling, but how do I respond to these people who are praising God on my behalf, or think there is something seriously wrong with me for NOT praising God??
If they praise God on your behalf, be glad. It might be silly, but it doesn't do any harm.

Suggesting that something would be wrong with you, however, is rude. You might ask them if they want to question God's judgement in the matter.

Quote:
It would be easier to just say, "Yeah, praise God" but that feels....wrong. SO MANY young people die for no good reason, it seems arrogant to even believe I was spared when they weren't. Does this make sense?
To me as a non-beliver, yes it does. How anyone believing in a god can work this out is beyond me, though.
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Old 25th September 2007, 09:16 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by shalomsteph View Post
Anyway, maybe this was rambling, but how do I respond to these people who are praising God on my behalf, or think there is something seriously wrong with me for NOT praising God??
You could just tell them that the same god who let you live through the aneurysm was the one who caused it as well, but that might seem ungracious. Glad you are still with us, whatever the reason.
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Old 25th September 2007, 09:17 AM   #4
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You are making lots of sense, Shalomsteph. Glad to hear that all is going well with your recovery, aneurysms are dangerous and scary things. The human body is also fairly amazing at times, you seem to be fortunate in that your body was able to handle it.

Religious people just love to credit anything that they view as miraculous as a gift from their sky-daddy. They don't seem to be inclined to blame their sky-daddy for any problems, but hey, that is just how religion works. Don't try to understand it, it is not logical, it doesn't have to be, it is religion. Don't question it either, because that is not allowed either.

If people want to praise their sky-daddy on your behalf, as long as they don't expect you to be involved in it, let them knock themselves out with it They enjoy playing with their imaginary friend. It is unlikely you will convince them that no deity was involved in it.

Personally, I think you have a very good way to mess with the prayer-heads if you want to have some fun Your seem to have come through the problem with no prayers said for your health, especially since you didn't even know you had the problem.
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Old 25th September 2007, 09:17 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Freethinker View Post
You could just tell them that the same god who let you live through the aneurysm was the one who caused it as well, but that might seem ungracious. Glad you are still with us, whatever the reason.
Likewise, the same god who mercifully "saved" you cruelly "let" thousands of others die of the same cause.

Really glad you're doing well.
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Old 25th September 2007, 09:20 AM   #6
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Shalomsteph: Here's the short answer.

You got lucky. Enjoy life and be glad.
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Old 25th September 2007, 09:26 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by shalomsteph View Post
I didn't really "get" the significance of it until after I was discharged, and the doctor called. She told me that this was something they see on an autopsy, and the fact that I had no permanent damage is something of a miracle.

...

But seriously, I don't believe I was spared by a higher power. I think that my brain absorbed this "hit" without permanent damage because, maybe, it was in the exact right spot.

...

Anyway, maybe this was rambling, but how do I respond to these people who are praising God on my behalf, or think there is something seriously wrong with me for NOT praising God?
First, when a physician say "It's (something of) a miracle," what they're really saying is "I haven't an effing clue."

Second, I'm inclined to agree with your assessment that the aneurysm occurred in a "sweet spot" where its effects could be felt, but no permanent or irrecoverable damage was done.

Third, when people have praised God for the "miraculous" healing I received after my own "cardiac episode" last December, I politely listen, thank them, and then explain to them that (1) I live 3 blocks from the E/R, (2) I had basic first-aid drilled into me during my time in the military, and (3) The proximity to the E/R and the early recognition of the event lead to the physicians catching the problem before any permanent damage occurred.

Yet, they still prattle on about the "miracle."

WTF? They weren't present. There was no heavenly manifestation. Mary did not waft in through the wall and smile at me. NO, it was early recognition and early intervention that made the difference.

I suggest that you smile, nod, and move along when someone starts gushing about the "miracle" of your healing.

For the record, I believe in the possibility of miracles, but I have yet to witness such an event that could not be explained away by natural or man-made causes.

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Old 25th September 2007, 09:34 AM   #8
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The doctor might not have been speaking literally. She might have been using the word to mean, "This is very unusual" rather than "This was an intervention by God."
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Old 25th September 2007, 09:43 AM   #9
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"Medical miracles" get two responses from me: The first is the well-known question of why we have never experienced the "regrown ambutated limb" miracle. The second is to make believers imagine for a while a world without a God (or without God's interference): Would all sick people die in that scenario ? Would there be no survivors at all in all accidents ? Etc.

It was a matter of good luck. Perhaps as rare as winning the lottery, but luck nevertheless.
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Old 25th September 2007, 09:47 AM   #10
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An aneurysm doesn't necessarily cause damage unless it bursts. If it went away without bursting then that would explain the lack of effect. As an aside, the same thing happened to my brother (probably). He suddently went blind in one eye and experienced a bad headache and dizziness. He went to hospital the next day but because nobody could operate the MRI scanner (I'm not joking) he was sent home. Two days later his symptoms cleared up and he was back on the golf course.
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Old 25th September 2007, 09:54 AM   #11
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I am glad to hear you are feeling well.

I can relate to how you feel about the God comments. I heard it dozens of times in the spring when I was hit by a car riding my motorcycle and walked away with very minor injuries. I was told it was a miracle I was not seriously hurt or killed. I would try to politely explain it was a handful of factors that saved me.

- I was returning from the off-road riding area and was wearing full motorcross body armor. Head to toe.

- The car driver (hit and run BTW) pulled in front of me so quick that I had no time to react. This means that I had not hit the brakes which would have collapsed my suspension and put my body parts down low, in the collision area.

- Instead, all the energy that could have hurt me was dissipated over time by me flying over his car through the air. Landing flat on my back on said armor. With the additional cushioning of a full backpack (including 2 full cans of diet coke that exploded). Then sliding across the pavement and finally a couple rolls at the end.

- The only injury (big bruise only)I received was from my handle bar hitting the top of my thigh as I started my flight. This is what started my body rotation that eventually put on my back. Otherwise I would have flown superman style.

I finish by saying that a miracle seems the least likely in my situation, for the reasons that you mentioned. I even chuckle when told that I was lucky. Lucky to me is when you win the lottery, not have your brand street legal dirt bike totaled. No, I wasn't lucky, I was smart (having all the right gear on), and that car driver was stupid for hitting me and then irresponsible for not stopping.

Last edited by often mrunderstood; 25th September 2007 at 09:56 AM. Reason: forgot the not
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Old 25th September 2007, 10:02 AM   #12
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Welcome to the forum Steph. You are having a crisis of faith on top of your medical crisis.

Right now you're not sure what you believe. You're welcome to come here and study on your own in an attempt to discover the nature of what you do believe. In the interim, I'd like to suggest that you answer comments like "Thank goodness God decided to spare you," with a pithy "Thanks". Even though the statement doesn't represent what you believe, try to accept it in the spirit that it is offered. What they really mean is "I'm glad that you're alive."

I had a similar but less life-threatening problem a few years ago. I had a stroke that was so minor that the doctors were unable to identify it from the symptoms I was having. I wound up being tested for multiple sclerosis and lupus and many other diseases with no result (it really never is lupus). During this time I received many promises of prayer and unsolicited blessings just like you did. I just accepted them all in the spirit that they were meant--"I'm sorry you're sick, I hope you get better."

Afterwards, I had a long period of time when I was in convalescence in my home (I was never hospitalized for this as by the time it was diagnosed correctly it was a long-past event). I wasn't sure I was actually grateful that I had survived. I was not sure that I wanted to continue living in the physical state I was in. During this phase I was extremely uncomfortable when people said "Thank God you're alive." The part that made me so uncomfortable was not the God part, but conceding that survival was a good thing. In order to make it through this stage, I had to take it on faith that my condition would improve and I would not be stuck for life as a house troll. This faith was not faith that God would heal me; rather it was a simple faith, that I would either get better or die, and there was no sense trying to second-guess which one was more likely. The faith paid off in the end and my condition improved, and my life is much more tolerable.

I suggest that you take your time and carefully explore your crisis of faith before becoming public about it. Right now you are unsure, and you have a right to as much time and study as you need in order to make up your mind. Even if you do decide that you're not Jewish any more, it's not necessary to announce it to everyone right off the bat. You don't want to start a firestorm so soon after your illness, so it can wait until you feel up to addressing it more thoroughly. It seems to me that some people are in too much of an all-shooting hurry to convert and announce their conversion, and do so before they really understand what they're converting to. Religious conversion is a serious decision. You take your time.
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Old 25th September 2007, 12:14 PM   #13
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Thanks for your responses.

I should have mentioned that I am allowing some additional blood work and an enhanced MRI, but denied the neurosurgeon's request to "go in and have a look." I flat out asked if this was for MY benefit, and she hesitated. So...an enhanced MRI, they can have. Brain surgery, they can't have. I am all for research and understanding how the brain works, but....not on me.

I am SO uncomfortable with all the fuss. Thank goodness my parents are even less religious than I am, so they are just saying, "Treat this aggressively! You still have kids to raise and grandkids to meet!" I plan to....and I DO have faith in medical science.

I am sorry if I am not quick to jump on the atheist band wagon. I am very close, but I LIKE being Jewish. I LIKE the Hebrew, the service, the community. My absolutely favorite service is the final Yom Kippur service--even if I don't fully believe in God, it still makes me feel fresh and new. It also makes me feel united with every other Jew all over the world, in shul, saying the same prayers in the same language. I love Judaism and can't give it up. So, even if I fall on the atheist side of the fence, I will still go to the final Yom Kippur service, crazy though that sounds.

Hopefully, people will soon forget that I had this brain injury and move on to more serious things, like whether or not Britney Spears will keep her kids or if OJ is finally going to jail.

Funny, I thought I had a reason to be here BEFORE the aneurysm. They are called my husband and kids. My parents. My siblings. My friends. My dogs and cat. I have the same reasons to be here now as I did before!
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Old 25th September 2007, 12:26 PM   #14
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Mazel Tov! You're alive and well!

Nu? When are we going to see some grandchildren?
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Old 25th September 2007, 12:39 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Fnord View Post
Mazel Tov! You're alive and well!

Nu? When are we going to see some grandchildren?

My rebellious 17 year old daughter announced she was gay for shock value last year. Without missing a beat, I said, "Well, as long as I get grandchildren...."

See? I am a Jewish grandmother already, and my kids are still teenagers! I suspect I will get grandchildren after they finish medical school. (Of course!)
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Old 25th September 2007, 12:48 PM   #16
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LOL! Something like ... ?

"Lesbian, Schmesbian ... as long as I see grandchildren!"

I'm sorry, I know it's a stereotype, and I hope you are not offended. In my parent's neighborhood, there were a few "Bubbies" who could have walked right out of a Leo Rosten novel, and to this day I can recite a "Barukh" ... which tends to raise a few eyebrows amongst my Presbyterian brethren...

ברוך אתה ה' א‑לוהינו מלך העולם‏
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Old 25th September 2007, 12:49 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by shalomsteph View Post
My rebellious 17 year old daughter announced she was gay for shock value last year. Without missing a beat, I said, "Well, as long as I get grandchildren...."

See? I am a Jewish grandmother already, and my kids are still teenagers! I suspect I will get grandchildren after they finish medical school. (Of course!)
What no Law school?
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Old 25th September 2007, 01:16 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
What no Law school?
OK, if they can't get into medical school.
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Old 25th September 2007, 01:27 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by often mrunderstood View Post
I was hit by a car riding my motorcycle
Why did you let the car ride your motorcycle? You must have known how dangerous that is!
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Old 25th September 2007, 05:53 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by kerikiwi View Post
Why did you let the car ride your motorcycle? You must have known how dangerous that is!
True! Cars are notoriously bad motorcycle riders.
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