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

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.