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Christians Vs. Skeptics View On Disabilities


Leo
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I don't know how many people on this site are disabled, or what kind. I realize there is sort of a hierarchy of acceptance in that category: most people polled would rather die than be blind like I am. Less so for paralysis and other disabilities.

Doesn't make sense from a purely rationalist standpoint, but I'll get into that.

Anyway, if you are disabled, or know someone who is, or just observant about this, what have you found? Christians or skeptics / nonChristians to be more accepting? I mean without the qualifiers?

I found among Christians - not all but quite a few - there were a few qualified means of acceptance:

- you're a miracle waiting to happen: (pentecostals / holy laughing / barking dogs from Brownsville, FL)

- God is testing you: Your Baptists and others who are more text-centric or holiness types maybe? Not sure on the holiness word or what groups that works for.

- You're just extra special: Your average church dove who would probably be pickpocketed or pillaged somehow if she were ever to find herself outside the bubble in which they live.

A few more I can't think of now.

Except for my favorite: A guy in a church we went to, who tried to take me on as a project, a marked man. Not because of my blindness, but because I'm  a rationalist and an engineer for a living. You knowk, the endless books on apologetics, to "Convince smart people like you." Except of course they all come up empty since they start with presumption of the argument. Anyway, his response was that God made me blind because I was just too hard hearted and stiff, and that by being blind I was to learn trust. Naturally, depending on one's growing up circumstances, you could just turn out more likely to be quick with your wits instead. That never seemed to occur to him though.

I think what put him off, perhaps, is the presupposition you're supposed to be accessing some inner light or something if you haven't access to external photon energy. Absence of optic nerve is supposed to double presence of spirit? Triple? Seems nonsensical on the face of it, and all the way through. I imagine any number of other disabilities get this treatment also.

For any Christians reading this, this is not  an "all Christians" statement. We're speaking generalities here.

 

Anyway, no such problem among the skeptics that I know. I notice, when meeting up with atheists or skeptics at a pub or meetup, I never get asked the awkward questions that many people (presumably theists) ask. ,

This has been true before and after me accepting my atheism, or outing myself. In my field, I've worked with atheists for years, and many didn't even know I at one point called myself Christian. I simply never brought that dissonant part of my life up. All the questions they would have had, I myself had at the time. And the answers they didn't find convincing, I didn't find convincing either. Double-minded, some of the Christians called me. That was probably a fair assessment.

But, while the pentecostals can get quite hysterical, and put on quite a show, they're not that different in their perspective from the rest of them. Sure, they'd like a dancing bear, or a blind guy to pick up that cane, and with a magnificently sweeping arc, throw it aside and declare himself fully sighted. But nonpentecostal evangelicals were never satisfied with the biological accident answer either: they too wanted an answer of enhanced spirituality, greater conformity, greater trust, and other such things. They were usually the ones to bring up that ex-pop-composer Fanny Crosby, i think the name was. No relation to Bing, I presume. A character unknown to most, and quite unappealing to the enginerering types. No thomas edison there. But their primary reason was Ms. Crosby was also blind, or perhaps whelelchair bound if they are talking to someone in a wheelchair, but an exemplary passive submissive, willing to take what was given, rather than go out and build something better.

Both groups wanted a magic show, and both left quite unsatisfied, at least in my case.

But, in my case at least, no such challenges among the skeptics. And no awkward "how-does-he-do-that" questions among the skeptics either. Not that I mind answering the intelligent question from someone I've gotten to know.

But for me, at least, the differential between the theists and the skeptics is profound. Lest a Christian here think I'm only picking on the Christians, this is after all an ex-Christian site. Trust me: the Wiccans and other brands of woo hoo just like Christians and other theists have their own bizarre ways of explaining away biological accidents too. Occam's Razor seems to elude them all.

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Back when I was a Christian I felt very uncomfortable around disabled people because seeing them confronted the nonsense in my beliefs.  I didn't want to admit my world view could be wrong but an all powerful, all knowing and all good God running the universe does not make sense in a world that is so arbitrary and unfair.  Now I realize that diversity is random.

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I am crippled with multiple sclerosis and travel by wheelchair (so it's obvious). I've had lots of Christians volunteer to pray for me, which I find silly but I really don't mind. I usually tell them, "Sure, if it makes you feel better, go right ahead."

 

But, on two occasions so far, I've had Christians tell me that the cause of my condition is unconfessed sins. I usually tell these types to "Go to your own hell."

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I am disabled. I have bilateral hearing loss of about 40ish decibels. I prayed and prayed that god would heal me and it never happened. I function fairly normally with hearing aids, however, I do struggle with comprehension regularly. Hearing aids don't necessarily help you hear better, they just amplify the sounds. If you have trouble with comprehension, as I do, the hearing aids can only do so much.

I used to get really mad at god because I am a musician and I also love to help people and I found my niche in counseling addicts and working with criminals. Both of these things would work out better for me if I could hear. But, I also look at my life like this: If I had my hearing, I would be a very different person, as I would have pursued different careers and probably would not be living where I am now. So, in some respects, I am glad I have this disability, but in many others, I am cursed by it.

I have never really pondered why I have this malady from a Christian standpoint, but I never considered it to be because of my sin or my parents. My ex-wife used to think that god gave me this condition so that I would be a better listener. That was a crock of baloney. I have come to accept it as just something that happened and I just go on with my life as best I can.

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Storm,

That's exactly how I see it, and have always seen it. Only I did, for a short time, take a foray into the faith healing thing. I was more curious than anything, to be honest.

But they don't take to the curious. You have to really believe it. If you attempt to make yourself believe it, you will be up for disappointment.

Hearing loss has got to be difficult, because of the isolation. But I certainly get doing the very best you can with what you have. It used to be kind of a funny irony, a bit sad to be honest: Brought up being hammered in that I was nothing special but that I had to work harder to be accepted. But then also having to play nice for the occasional dove who wanted the blind guy to put on a show, only then to be punished preemptively later, in case I thought I was something special.

All of that could have been avoided with a good dose of rational objectivism and leave the faith stuff to people who came before science and technology.

Oh, and mymistake, I admire your honesty. And no, you didn't offend. I'm gettin too old for that silly shit. lol.

But I can see how people might adopt that position. Provided they haven't listened to the apologetic about disabilities being some kind of purpose, or the doves cooing about some kind of special. The former give answers to some, I guess. The latter can be excused for their ignorance on so many things, disability would be the most minor.

Ironically, I pay a lot less attention to it than most Christians or theists of any sort, those that carry on anyway.

And I've yet to meet a fellow rationally objective atheist who carries on so about disabilities.

As to praying for me to get healed? The best ones are those who have a cold and sniffle and cough while asking me if they can pray for this. Perhaps the maxim of learn to crawl before you can walk, might apply here?

Genetic / biological accident is the best answer to me. Else, all the manikins in the stores who cannot see either, ought to have great purpose.

It's silliness I don't contend with anymore. Not regularly, anyway.

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The issue of disability is a lose/lose for Christians, because firstly they are unable to demonstrate their magical healing powers the Bible most assuredly says they have, secondly their theology implies that illness and disability visit human beings because Adam and Eve ate enchanted fruit. Imagine going up to a the parents of a child, sitting in a wheel chair and saying to their face, that their child is disabled due to a conversation held thousands of years ago, between Eve and a talking serpent.

 

 

 

I’ll add as well, that the Old Testament says they disabled people are an abomination in the sight of the Lord, and he doesn’t want them in His places of worship. Nasty stuff indeed, for a deity that is no respecter of person and who “loves” us. One wonders how Christian parents with disabled children manage to square the circle.

 

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Hi Leo, I'm just across the river in Vancouver, Washington.

 

I was part of the crowd that promoted and believed in miracles. I followed a couple of missionaries (David Hogan and Heidi Baker) that claimed all kinds of healings and dead-raisings, and even participated in praying for a dead pastor to rise. You'll never guess what happened... Yep, he stayed dead. My wife and I prayed for a guy with Parkinson's, really believing and hoping. Still has Parkinson's, though a real-life team of doctors placed a device in his brain that has reduced the shaking dramatically. Some believers would credit God for that, but I never took that approach. I wanted genuine acts of God. Never got them outside of clearing sinuses and such. Not sure why even that happened.

 

Now I see disabilities as just the way things are. I'd hate to lose any abilities, and I've often imagined what I'd do if I were messed up in a wreck or something. But we never really know until faced with it.

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As a Christian, I did not believe that disabilities were the result of the individual's sin. I did, however, view disabilities as the result of sin in general (we're a fallen race ever since sin entered the world). I did not see the disabled as a "project" for God. They were people God loved, just like those without disabilities.

 

So, the only real change for me now as a nonbeliever is that I obviously don't see disabilities as being the result of "the fall." I recognize that it's just a fact that shit happens. I did not look down on the disabled as a believer, and I don't now either. I do feel bad for those who have to deal with disabilities, though, because it has to suck.

 

Now, regarding people who would rather die than go blind (as mentioned in the OP), I can certainly understand where they're coming from. I think that blindness would be about the worst thing that could happen to me, along with quadriplegia. As much as I love music and would hate to go deaf, I could still do my job if I was deaf. As much as I'd hate to lose the use of my legs, I could still do my job if I was a paraplegic (it would be more difficult, of course, but I could do it). However, if I lost my vision or the use of my hands, then my career would be completely over. My means of supporting my family would disappear, and that would extremely difficult to deal with.

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I had a good friend who was blinded in one eye at about 5 yrs old when his sister tossed him a toy gun that hit him in the eye. His mind couldn't let this be a random accident, since he sees Jesus as in control of everything. He says it happened because he was prideful wanting to be like Roy Rogers he saw on TV. Jesus allowed this to break his pride through years of teasing and mockery so he'd only ever rely on Jesus... In other words his god is a twisted psycho that would stomp on the family cat because it was getting more attention than he. But this makes perfect sense to my old friend. Believers through the centuries have sought this "death of self" that keeps them from being perfect slaves to god's will. Ick.

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Guest ninurta

I'd say I'd want to die rather than live with a disability, until I actually have one. Then my mind will probably change it and I'll learn to enjoy life anyway. With the disability. I already have a mental one. Bipolar tests my ability to cope to my limits sometimes, and I still love living.

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I was born with low vision. It can be partially corrected so that with glasses I can see half of normal. The Christian group I was born into did not believe in faith healing at all but in accepting God's will in this kind of thing. Thus it felt really crazy the day a co-worker prayed over my eyes (in his native language which I could not understand) and told me my eyes would get better. Nothing ever changed, obviously.

 

With a few accommodations I can lead a normal life so far as vision is concerned. Due to other disabilities classified as invisible disabilities and health issues I am unable to work. I notice no difference between the Christians and non-believing community. Members in both communities tend to be patronizing.

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^^^ Sorry to hear about that. For the life of me, I still don't get why people are patronizing over such things. It makes no sense whatsoever.

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Ok here comes my cockeyed generalization for why they are patronizing about disabilities in general, but visual related disabilities in particular.

Diversity types like to talk gender and race, but never disability. Wonder why? Part of diversity training is to tell people to imagine what it's like with the shoe on the other foot. Makes sense: Me, average lower-middle-inome white guy told to check my privilege by rich, super-human. No, seriously, it's not hard: I've seen real racism when I did business in some states in the U.S., was happily called a race traitor and unhappily observed black people being treated in some pretty awful ways.

But, they don't teach people to have the shoe on the other foot wh3en it comes to disabilities. Sometimes they try: sometimes they will blindfold someone and have them stumble crash into things, injure themselves, but that is not being blind.

To put that shoe on the other foot, would actually be to have them think for themselves about limitations they have personally already overcome. And everybody overcomes limitations. Everybody has a disability in one form or another. But that's not how they spin this. They try and make you feel guilty because I can't see.  (Where's the sense in that?) instead of perhaps getting you to think about ways you yourself have overcome challenges, especially those challenges that people around you thought you couldn't do. Or maybe getting you to think about how you've been asked time and again how you could or couldn't do something, and yet you still did it. We all do it. The diversity types have it backwards.

And then, in terms of visual disabilities, I think there's some deep-seated fear. You lose vision, you've lost a huge frame of reference. Now i haven't, I've never had vision. Just like you can't see in infrared. If a honeybee were intelligent enough to contemplate your situation, she would be horrified that you can't see in infrared, because in her world, infrared is a major part of how she interacts and navigates. But you losing sight, or a bee losing access to infrared, would be losing not just vision but the tools you use to interact. It's pretty complex, but apparently very deep emotionally for people, as they forget all kinds of norms for interacting with people.

A woman who would consider it creepy or rapy for a man to ask her how she wiped herself, might easily ask a blind guy how he wiped himself, or lived without being able to have sex.

A man who might give a fellow a fat lip for asking if he was being a responsible father or a deadbeat, might himself ask a blind guy if he had someone else to look after his children, you know, since you really can't be a father.

I'm not sure if it's reptilian or what, but for some people, you can nearly see the inhibitions switch off on approaching one subject, someone with a disability, and then click back on and be offended like most people would, when it's another issue.

Ask yourself in all their diversity literature, where in it do you find disabilities? At the back? I'm pickin on them just a bit, because they purport to lead the charge on this one.

I don't personally draw distinctions. As I said, everyone has some kind of disability: chrionc pain, back issues, joint trouble, even having to use reading glasses in the hot sun, when it hurts their eyes. We all deal with stuff, we're all human.

I have just found that among self-confessed skeptics / atheists, they tend to have a more realistic attitude, meaning questions they ask when they ask, tend to be reasonable questions. And they're capable of observation and analysis. Many others, due to some kind of limitation or fear factor, no matter how much observation they do, cannot analyze.

Whether it's their fault, or a switch that gets thrown, or what, I'll leave that to behaviorists to decide.

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To me, Christians patronize because many of them believe that sin played a role in the disability. We humans tend to judge others through the highly subjective filter of our minds. We naturally tend to think that we are better than everyone else because we mostly have it together and that we aren't as bad as so and so because I don't do sin x, I just do sin y, which is not as bad in my eyes.

 

To Christians, our disabilities are outward signs that someone is being punished for a sin committed in the past, or even the present. The bible teaches that Jews believed that disabilities and deformities are a result of sin. I think that, if at the least, on a subconscious level, many Christians still feel this way. Anything that isn't perfect is the result of our living in a fallen world.

 

Natural human pride leads to patronization of those with disabilities, or even different skin color, or sex. We only relate to others through our own experiences and what we have learned through them. Christianity warps those experiences because it tries to change what is natural to something that is not natural. Why? I don't know, but it sure makes the world worse off than  better, despite the fact that Christians think they are changing the world for the better.

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I've been thinking about it, and I guess it's a general tendency in the culture at large, but exaggerated in Christian culture, to have a very narrow and conformist idea of how people should be. We don't deal well with people who don't fit the cultural mold, for whatever reason. The Christian subculture, I think, amplifies this general trend, because it relies so heavily on peer pressure, and bullying people to conform in order to reinforce the belief system and hold the community together. Toe the line, or you're not "one of us" is the general message. It's a very narrow and xenophobic ideal, no matter what version of "godly" behavior and attributes you choose. Let's face it, if it's a belief system that wants to arbitrate what clothes you wear, or the music you listen to, it's not going to be kind to anyone who is different in any other way, either. 

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I've been thinking about it, and I guess it's a general tendency in the culture at large, but exaggerated in Christian culture, to have a very narrow and conformist idea of how people should be. We don't deal well with people who don't fit the cultural mold, for whatever reason. The Christian subculture, I think, amplifies this general trend, because it relies so heavily on peer pressure, and bullying people to conform in order to reinforce the belief system and hold the community together. Toe the line, or you're not "one of us" is the general message. It's a very narrow and xenophobic ideal, no matter what version of "godly" behavior and attributes you choose. Let's face it, if it's a belief system that wants to arbitrate what clothes you wear, or the music you listen to, it's not going to be kind to anyone who is different in any other way, either. 

It all boils down to this: People are afraid of what they don't understand.

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