“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

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What do you do when you realize that not only has God forsaken you, but you have forsaken God?

“My God, my God, I have forsaken you.”

There was once a preacher who possessed an unusual but powerful gift. Far from encouraging people’s religious beliefs, he found that from an early age, when he prayed for people, they would lose their religious beliefs, beliefs about the prophets, about the sacred Scriptures, even about God. Now he rarely prayed for others, instead limiting himself to sermons.

One day, however, whilst travelling across the country, he found himself in conversation with a businessman who happened to be going in the same direction. This businessman was very wealthy, having made his money in the world of international banking. The conversation had begun because the businessman possessed a deep faith and had noticed the preacher reading from the Bible. He introduced himself and they began to talk. As they chatted together, the rich man told the preacher all about his faith in God and his love of Christ. It turned out that although he worked hard in his work he was not really interested in worldly goods.

“The world of business is a cold one,” he confided to the preacher, “and in my line of work there are situations in which I find myself that challenge my Christian convictions. I try to remain true to my faith. Indeed, it is my faith that stops me from getting too caught up in that heartless world of work, reminding me that I am really a man of God.”

The preacher thought for a moment and then asked, “Can I pray for you?”

The businessman readily agreed, not knowing what he was letting himself in for. And sure enough, after the preached had said his simple prayer, the businessman opened his eyes in astonishment. “What a fool I have been for all these years,” he said. “There is no God who is looking out for me, there are no sacred texts to guide me, there is no spirit to inspire me.”

They parted company and the businessman returned home to work. But now that he no longer had any religious beliefs to make him question his work and to hold it lightly, knowing himself to be, deep down, a man of God, he was no longer able to continue with it. Faced with the fact that he was now just a hard-nosed businessman working in a corrupt system, he began to despise himself. And so, shortly after his meeting with the preacher, he gave up his line of work completely, gave the money he had accumulated to the poor, and started to use his considerable expertise helping a local charity.

One day, years later, he happened upon the preacher again. He ran up to him and fell to his knees. “Thank you,” he cried, “for helping me to lose my religion and find my faith.”

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  1. Abigail March 28, 2013

    Oh! My mom saw this documentary! She said it was really good! I haven’t seen it yet, but from what I know of the plot, it really speaks to the power of placebo–people’s expectations, externalized onto some object or person, become their own healing.

    Funny story about the pastor and the businessman. :) I think a lot of people fear that the outcome of the story could fall the other way: the businessman no longer had a set of principles to guide him towards integrity, so he became deeply cruel and ruthless, robbing, extorting, and twisting things to his advantage more than ever before. Kind of like in “Shawshank Redemption”… when the main character, a banker says, “before I went to prison, I was straight as an arrow. I had to go to prison to become a criminal.”

  2. Timothy March 28, 2013

    It is a scary moment when I realize that God is holding me back. My ideas, my understandings, my learning in life cannot fathom the depth of the sacred. When I think I know something, I remember St Augustine’s words: si comprehendis non est deus. It’s true, you know; when I think I have “God” in a box, somehow “God” escapes.

    I am a christian of many years, but for the past several years, I have felt a growing sense of searching, of uneasiness, of inability to faithfully practice my “religion”; yet, I sense a more profound closeness to the divine/sacred. I have given up some of my foundational beliefs – beliefs that my faith tradition tells me are necessary for “salvation”. I have allowed myself to question more and know less, and yet, I don’t know that I grasp the meaning of “being forsaken by God”. I feel I am explaining my sense of how I am the one who forsakes rather than the forsaken one.

    I truly wish I had the courage to forsake religion completely. That for me takes time and acceptance of self.


  3. Ronald W Alliston March 28, 2013

    Being abandoned by God is an awful feeling, it causes fear in me, more than I already had. I guess it’s what is destined though and through little twinges of experiencing God it seems to make sense at times.

    Guilt when I realize that I had pushed God away.

    To try my best to act like I’m free from all laws, there I think is the beginning of a genuine relationship with God.

  4. […] Forsaken […]

  5. Mahq March 29, 2013

    I like the look of this ‘Kumare’ film, reminds me somewhat of ‘Borat’ and Danny Wallace’s ‘Join Me’ book. Along similar lines but more apt for Week 2’s Freud study is the ‘Fear & Faith’ programmes by UK psychological illusionist Derren Brown, in which he conducts experiments like testing a drug on people that he tells them will help them overcome their fears but is revealed to be a placebo. He also ‘converts’ an atheist scientist to belief in God using mind techniques but then ‘de-converts’ her. In another show, ‘Messiah’, he gives people a religious experience supposedly just by touching them. Makes you wonder what techniques are used in religion to convert others? Seems like Kumare did not have to try too hard! People seem to be so desperate to believe, they’ll fall for anything, sometimes. Some people are more compliant than others, though and, like Borat, Kumare no doubt chose his targets carefully

    How does it feel to be forsaken by God?

    When Jesus says that line on the cross, I’m not convinced he meant it solely in the way that AfL have taken it – it’s a kind of prayer based on the start of Psalm 22, which ends with the line ‘he has accomplished it’ (i.e. God has not forsaken at all, he has acted) that is paraphrased by Jesus when he is about to die on the cross in Luke and John’s gospel – ‘it is fulfilled (or ‘finished’)’. The gospels are meant to give a full picture of Christ’s mission, so you have to think that he said both, as long as they weren’t merely attributed to him by the gospel writers, who were quoting the Old Testament to give a frame of reference?

    At the start of Psalm 22, David questions God’s perceived absence during a difficult time in his life but goes on to worship him and to put his trust and faith in God. This is what I have tried to do whenever I have felt forsaken by God, usually when I continue to struggle with something I have prayed God would remove and my prayers have not been answered, or when things are not going how I want them to. Looking at it from an AfL perspective, though, perhaps this was just a neurotic response used to perpetuate the comforting illusion created by my childhood indoctrination into a religion founded on an absurd belief which has been long used as a system of societal control that has now become the best way of bringing about truth and liberation to the world? :)

    How does it feel to forsake God?

    Reading the story of the preacher and the businessman (where does it come from?) I felt like I finally got Atheism For Lent and pyrotheology in a way that I had not before now. Applying the businessman’s thinking to my own life, there are a lot of things I feel compelled to do as a Christian which I would feel freer if I did not have to do them (not that I always do do them!), like talking to people about God, giving to charity, being nice to others – although the last two are not bound to religion.

    In your own words, what does it mean to lose your religion in order to find faith?

    The ending of the story could have easily gone the other way, with the businessman losing his spirituality altogether and becoming hard-nosed and corrupt. I take it to mean that one loses the ideas and habits imposed on one by other people and the community to find that holy seed of faith within born from something Other.

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