Thursday, March 3, 2016

Born Free (of God)

The Secular Spectrum: Born Free (of God)

Though I was raised as an agnostic, when I was about 10, I began praying silently before bed:
Now I lay me down to sleep,I pray the Lord my soul to keep,If I should die before I wake,I pray the Lord my soul to take.
I must've picked it up from TV or the movies. The reason I was doing this wasn't because I had secretly become religious. I interpreted the prayer as a threat that God might kill you in your sleep if you didn't pray to him.

God was the boogeyman, the monster under my bed.

I also deeply feared Bloody Mary, which Dale McGowan amusingly recalls in his latest post. To me, both God and Bloody Mary were equivalent--demons to be feared. If God didn't get me, the ground might open up and Devil would suck me into the bowels of Hell.

Though I was a fearful child, I was able to shake this strange habit for a girl who would mouth the prayers she was forced to recite before lunch in school. (Both events happened when I lived in Birmingham, Alabama.)

One day, I thought, "This is silly. I don't even really believe in God. I should stop this."

I didn't gather up the courage right away, but eventually I stopped praying to the imaginary killer in the sky.

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

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In July of 2013, I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died. When I awoke from the coma, I could barely lift my head. It has been a hard road to recovery. The doctors advised my loved ones to give up all hope for my full recovery, but while they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of consciousness, I was telling them grumpily to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to my coma-dream. I was experiencing covert cognition, and the coma-dream was my version of a near-death experience. I'm a skeptic, so I saw surreal images instead of spirits or dead loved ones. According to my research, as many as one in five people with consciousness disorders have covert cognition.

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.