A link to a moving and heart-warming story appeared in my Facebook feed the other day, along with an utterly inexplicable comment from a distant friend-of-a-friend.
It’s not that long a story behind that link, but in short, someone encountered a person who was rude and aggressive; and rather than responding with anger and effrontery in kind, she gave this person the benefit of the doubt and offered kindness and generosity in return. The aggressive person who’d been having a shitty day apologised and was chastened, and it ends with everyone feeling better and more connected to each other and knowing there’s more love in the world than they might otherwise have expected. It’s beautiful.
And here’s what the guy who posted it particularly enjoyed about it:
What’s so wonderful about this story, is that *God* showed up to shower her with empathy; she didn’t force herself or self-generate this deep compassion, but was a free (and freed!) recipient of God’s empathetic, sympathetic & consanguineous heart for this poor frazzled woman.
Now, as it happens, the person telling the story also gave it a religious interpretation. And that’s fine, on the face of it; anything that inspires people to act well and care for each other like this can’t be all bad. She prayed that God would help her to see other people “as He sees them, not as I see them”. If you define God as one who sees people with compassion and kindness and patience and love at all times, this is a fine and worthy aim.
But it goes a step further to declare that the God part – not the wonderful act of human kindness part – is what makes the story great.
Apparently, what makes it a great story is when you stop believing in the intrinsic goodness of people, in our own innate capacity to act well toward others and be caring and forgiving and loving and kind, and start trusting some external and unknowable force to inspire these things in us.
Apparently, it’s not nearly as wonderful to think that humanity might be able to raise itself up to such glorious heights and approach the zenith of all those values we hold most dear, as to presume that our only hope lies in our being granted these feelings of charity and compassion by someone else.
Apparently, we are not powerful, nor capable of overcoming our baser urges on our own; and if God isn’t going to help us, nobody else can, and we certainly can’t help ourselves.
And atheists get told that ours is the bleak and cynical worldview.