My surgery: A test of my non-faith

October 17, 2009 at 1:58 pm 19 comments

On Monday, 12 October, a few days after my 44th birthday, I had surgery on my cervical spine to replace two degenerative discs. This could almost be classed as an emergency surgery since I started having severe pain three weeks prior when my left C7 nerve root became impacted. There were two large left paracentral disc protrusions which caused impingement of the spinal cord. From my initial visits to my doctor, there it was an MRI on the 2nd, consultation w/my doctor on the 5th, consultation with a Neurosurgeon on the 6th, pre-op on the 7th, and surgery on the 12th. Bottom line, it all happened pretty quickly for me. I should note that I have not been in a hospital since birth and have enjoyed a relatively healthy life that has never included this type of pain (I don’t even get headaches).

This is my first crisis since de-conversion and I must say it was a good, solid test of my non-faith. In this blog, we have discussed the fact that dealing with crisis is one of the major reasons humanity has created gods and developed religious beliefs. I was faced with my first challenge of dealing with crisis without having my imaginary deity to run to for security, comfort and the general “it’s going to be alright.”

The other issue I faced was my response to my Christian family and friends. Even though it was difficult at times, I was respectful and said “amen” and “thank you” to the many prayers I received. I realized early on that they needed to say those prayers not to necessarily make me feel better but to allow them to feel secure about my surgery and that I’d be ok. Initially, their prayers were for my healing (I come from a Pentecostal/Charismatic background). I wanted to explain to them that God doesn’t perform these types of miracles (where degenerative discs are regenerated) but I did not. I wanted to explain to them that the only miracles God performs are the once that are scientifically possible (like cancer going into remission, etc.) but, of course, I kept those thoughts to myself. I wanted to challenge them to find ONE instance where an arm or a leg was grown back via a miracle knowing that there are no such cases.

After it was obvious, that the pain was not going to disappear via a miraculous healing and I would have to have surgery, the prayers shifted to “God guiding the doctor’s hands.” That prayer made me smile. I was hoping his training, skill, and experience would be his guide instead. Now, of course, it’s for a speedy recovery. If I am recovering quickly, it’s a credit to the pure genius of my doctor and his skills. Thanks doc!!!!

Overall, I passed the test. I never felt the urge to pray for security and comfort. I researched my doctor and hospital and there gained some security. I understood the risks, but also knew that the odds were in favor of a successful surgery. I’m happy to report that so far, everything is going well with my recovery. I will be on house arrest for 2 weeks, in a neck brace for 2 months and some additional recovery time, but I’m thrilled with the advances medical science has made that this surgery can be accomplished with the ease that it has.

I do have a renewed respect and tolerance for faith as I watched my family members struggle with this and realized that they could not go through this without leaning on their God, but I am thankful that I have made significant progress to not fear the unknown.

– The de-Convert

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19 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jezuzfree  |  October 17, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Paul, I’m very happy to have news from you. I must say I’m impressed by your strong stance while maintaining a respectful attitude. “I was respectful and said ‘amen’ and ‘thank you’ to the many prayers I received.”

    I’ll be sure to keep your experience in mind when, non-existent god forbid, a tragedy were to come my way.

    I wish you well. Welcome back.

  • 2. orDover  |  October 17, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    I’m glad to hear your recovery is going well!

  • 3. Sear  |  October 17, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    I just want to scream every time someone prays for someone’s speedy recovery, from whatever, surgery, sickness, etc…..

    To me, if there’s a god, I’d want him to keep me from getting the sickness, injury, whatever in the first place.

    A god that lets something terrible happen to me, then flexes his/her muscle to heal me, is a little late in his power, if you ask me…

  • 4. LeoPardus  |  October 17, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Glad you’re doing OK man. Wondered what was occupying your time lately.

    Good too see you’ve moved so far beyond any need to challenge people who are just floundering around for comfort from the unknown. And good job facing the whole thing so well.

    Rest and get well. Enjoy a good book.

  • 5. lauradee24  |  October 17, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    glad to hear god wasn’t with you and didn’t give you a speedy recovery. You weren’t in my prayers! 🙂

  • 6. lauradee24  |  October 19, 2009 at 12:39 am

    um, I really am glad you are doing better, despite the less than serious nature of the above comment.

  • 7. RFportland  |  October 19, 2009 at 12:46 am

    I like your respect level. I have been ‘de-converting’ about 2 years now and to be honest, some of the most obnoxious people I have come across have been former christians on the internet. My wife still works at my former church, I get together with some of my old church friends once a week for coffee, including the pastor I’ve known for 30 years, we talk sports, politics, families, etc. Today my wife and I went to lunch with a couple from the church too.

    Most of these friends, the pastor too, know about my questions, concerns, doubts and newfound unbelief. As a matter of fact, the pastor doesn’t ask me and the other two guys to join him in prayer before eating during our weekly coffee anymore, but that might have to do with me asking a year ago why christians are so superstitious about doing such a thing. After 30 years at the same church in our neighborhood I have many friends from there and am still invited to weddings, funerals, dinners, etc.

    A few months ago I was asked to pray over a large bbq we had in our backyard by someone who wasn’t aware of my unbelief, it was a moment of truth. I told the people who asked that they may not like my prayer, because I would be giving thanks to the poor illegal immigrants who take so much abuse and low wages in order to harvest the crops, work in the slaughter house and risk their lives crossing the border in order to do so. Needless to say, someone else prayed, but I have been flirting with the idea of memorizing a few agnostic type prayers for such occasions…”We are a thankful group of people who are glad to have the things we need. We are happy to spend time together and may we all show the love and respect…blah, blah, blah”.

    Anyway, l am beginning to be more comfortable learning to live with my unbelief and I definitely can associate going through these tests (I am a commissioned salesperson) without shouting out a prayer for help each time.

  • 8. Quester  |  October 19, 2009 at 1:28 am

    Glad to hear you’re recovering quickly!

  • 9. HeIsSailing  |  October 19, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Paul sez:

    I realized early on that they needed to say those prayers not to necessarily make me feel better but to allow them to feel secure about my surgery and that I’d be ok.

    I am glad you included this. I am away from home for a couple of weeks on business travel, and my wife Rosemary is back home and facing minor surgery in the next few days. I want so badly to be home, too be able to help her, to comfort her, to make everything alright – but I am so frustrated to be stuck hundreds of miles away from her..!! So my natural inclination is to pray for her, especially while we are on the phone together. I do not, because I know that nobody is on the receiving end of my prayer, but I feel that urge because I simply feel so helpless..!! It is borne of the frustrating fact that I can not do anything – but I want to do *something*, to feel like I have some kind of control of the situation. I am struck, now more than ever, that *this* is the real ‘power of prayer’ – a placebo for the helpless, and a sense that we have power over the unpredictable and uncontrolable.

    I am glad to read that everything is doing well with you, Paul. I wish you well on your recovery!

  • 10. Joe  |  October 19, 2009 at 6:25 pm


    I wish you all the best. Anything dealing with the spine can be quite serious, so it’s good to hear you are recovering well.

  • 11. Kat  |  October 19, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Glad to hear you’re recovering.

    As for stuff miraculously growing back, here’s a story from the church I used to work for:

    I’m a doubter, but it’s still pretty amazing.

  • 12. LeoPardus  |  October 20, 2009 at 2:20 pm


    Ah thanks. I nearly barfed. I never cease to be amazed that people can make themselves believe such utter nonsense.

  • 13. Pickle 05  |  October 20, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Glad to hear you are recovering so well! It amazes me sometimes what people pray for. If they want to pray for strength or guidance, that’s one thing. But to pray for a cure? If god can cure then why can’t he prevent?

  • 14. paleale  |  October 20, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    If god can cure then why can’t he prevent?

    maybe because he’d get lonely since no one would ever pray to him anymore?

  • 15. Luna  |  October 30, 2009 at 11:39 am

    I’m…moving away from Christianity. It’s hard and scary..and dare I say, traumatic. I’m very much afraid. And I have no God to pray to for comfort. All my life, I have gone to God when I am afraid. but now…when everything seems to be in upheaval, I can’t. I’m not really sure how to deal with the fear and anxiety apart from prayer.

    This story is…encouraging. People can and do get through things even worse than de-converting sans prayer. hm.

  • 16. LeoPardus  |  October 30, 2009 at 2:46 pm


    Stick around and read what’s here. You are just the sort of person this site is for.

  • 17. HeIsSailing  |  October 30, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Moving away from Christianity is very hard – even traumatic, as you say. All the contributors to this site have been there. But we have all pulled through it and are alll the better for it. Write more when you can.

  • 18. Quester  |  October 30, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Hey Luna,

    Feel free to visit our community site as well!

  • 19. Gillian  |  November 25, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Luna,

    I empathise completely with your fear about losing your faith, as i’m going through exactly the same process right now. All I can say is “Hang in there” as the fear will subside and the feeling of being in a strange kind of limbo will be replaced by a sense of excitement and exhilaration about the new possibilities which life has to offer you. This has been my experience, at least, and I can only describe it as a sort of awakening – it feels like I’ve become alive again. A bit of a paradox really as that’s exactly what we’re told becoming a Christian does to us…..

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