Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wanted: Someone to Thank


Ad in Saturday's edition of The Age:
Atheist seeks "Someone to thank". Deities need not apply. Angels will be considered on merit.
You think I'm joking, don't you? Well, this is what German paraglider Ewa Wisnierska said after (unintentionally) breaking the human altitude record on Wednesday:
"I don't know who to thank. I thanked the angels, but I don't believe in God."
Ms Wisnierska and her paraglider was sucked up into a storm cell, carried to an altitude of 9946 metres, frozen over with ice and lost consciousness, before being returned to earth safely and in one piece 60km from where she took off from Mount Borah north of Tamworth. Yes, well might she want someone to thank.

God knows (if you believe in him) what Richard Dawkins would make of this need to thank someone, but there is in this small instance an indication of exactly what it is that leads people to faith in divine power(s). It is an almost universal "inbuilt" need in human nature, and could indicate that human beings are indeed "wired for faith". Whether this inbuilt "need" corresponds to external reality is a subject for the "existence of God" debate. The Romans knew the need to thank someone for unexpected good providence--they coined the name "Fortuna" for the Goddess of Fortune. But they also knew that Fortuna could be a capricious god, with her "favourites". A Chinese paraglider caught in the same storm as Ms Wisnierska was found dead on Thursday. Of course, Dawkins would blame it on the "religion meme".

Still, there is something a little sad about Ewa Wisnierska's plight of being such a convinced atheist that in her time of thankfulness she could only turn to the heavenly "help" rather than to the Heavenly Master to express her thanks. And you have to wonder about a spirituality that claims atheism yet is happy to admit the existence of angelic powers.

As Obelix the Gaul would have said in the times of the Romans: "These Germans are crazy

5 Comments:

At Monday, February 19, 2007 9:37:00 am , Anonymous Lucian said...

No, it's not. When you feel a tremendous burdain you can't bare anymore and just break down and cry, and want to ask for forgiveness, only there's noone there to ask forgiveness from, though the sorrow is there, or when you just have to cry out form the depths of your heart 'Thank you!', but there's noone to thank ... that's when you feel God inside you like the strength of a giant waterfall.

Lucian.

 
At Monday, February 19, 2007 11:06:00 am , Blogger Schütz said...

I think you have a gift for misunderstanding me, Lucian. All good Christians would thank their guardian angel for such an act of deliverance, but they would do so with the knowledge that the angel was simply acting as a servant of God, and that the ultimate thanks belongs to God himself. Ewa's case is a little like thanking the cook, the gardener, and the cleaning staff for a nice stay at a country house, not "as well as" but "instead of" thanking the Host.

 
At Monday, February 19, 2007 8:51:00 pm , Blogger LYL said...

Ms Wisnierska and her paraglider was sucked up into a storm cell, carried to an altitude of 9946 metres, frozen over with ice and lost consciousness, before being returned to earth safely and in one piece 60km from where she took off from Mount Borah north of Tamworth.

Wow!

 
At Monday, February 19, 2007 10:41:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Indeed. I wouldn't be an atheist anymore if I were her!

 
At Tuesday, February 20, 2007 10:08:00 am , Anonymous Lucian said...

You shouldn't judge her; faith is a gift of the Holy Ghost. I'm a living example of it. I was given my entire life all the reasons *not* to believe in God, or, at least, _not_ to remain an OD (I lived my childhood during the communist regime). The books and the TV were infected by it, the only people who spoke of God were the other Protestant villagers who were very kind in perpetually reminding us when & where we've polluted our faith, etc. I don't think that the religious education I got at home from my granny is alone responsible, or that it suffices, for that. (And of course, where God has invested so much faith, He demands good deeds, a multiplying of the talents, of which I fall so far short of, again and again, but that's another story alltogether).

Lucian.

 

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