Living With Pain and Without God

Editor’s Note: I know the writer of this essay very well. I interviewed her for the Dennett-LaScola study of non-believing clergy, work with her on the blog and recently joined her in Toronto to see a documentary in which we both appeared!  

toronto theatre post

She is fit, energetic and cheerful. She tells me excitedly about her family and her many projects. She doesn’t talk about the pain, however, that is a constant in her life. She has made a kind of peace with it that I can’t imagine, never having experienced such pain. She puts it in perspective here.

===========================

By Catherine Dunphy

Late summer I was diagnosed with Lymphocytic Colitis- an autoimmune disease most likely caused by my treatment for another autoimmune disease – Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).

Rheumatoid_arthritis_joint

Needless to say, this new diagnosis has taken some getting used to. Actually, it has upended my life.

It’s hard not to feel smothered by the avalanche of autoimmune diagnoses.

In many ways, it feels like they have hijacked my life. I’m constantly bombarded by pain and symptoms. But I want to move forward, so I keep attempting to manage and medicate – to be as well as I can be.

So much of having a chronic illness is the inertia that grabs hold of your life and stops progress. You are left to just be in that moment – aware of the tediousness of holding out for relief. You look for relief in the form of drugs or in the abyss of sleep that you hope will be restorative.

Mostly it’s an exercise in acceptance. I’m not giving up.

But I know I can’t stop this train track my immune system is blazing down.

I try to appease myself by managing what I eat, how much I eat, when I sleep and for how long. I monitor how much I stand and if I can walk with minimum pain. I think constantly of these little things that most people don’t have to think about at all. And it is exhausting.

In all of this suffering, do I cry out in the wilderness, asking god why I have been forsaken?

Nope. There is no god that can heal me. No faith that can transform bone deformed by inflammation. No saint that can restore me to health.

Samsung Techwin

Giving up the god of my childhood meant giving up an intangible secret meaning that was imprinted in all my suffering.

Now I am confronted by my acceptance that my suffering has no meaning. I am not a beacon of hope for others. I’m not closer to Jesus because I understand suffering. My pain does not purify me. I cannot and will not offer it up.

It just is.

I like to think of my pain experience as similar to the way the moon is scarred by the impact of asteroids colliding with its orbit.

Both events are indeterminate and void of intent. They happened and will continue to happen. There is no stopping it.

I must accept that this is nothing personal. It’s just a statistical anomaly. And I’m an ordinary person, living a chronic reality.

Next step, #tomorrow.

======================

catherinedunphy2Bio: Catherine Dunphy – A humanist, atheist and former Roman Catholic chaplain, Catherine is a member of the Clergy Project and former Executive Director. She is also author of From Apostle to Apostate – the Story of the Clergy Project, published by Pitchstone Press in July, 2015.

>>Photo Credits:By US gov – US gov, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1819650

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASanta_Rosalia.jpg

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • BridgetD

    I have fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed about a year and a half ago at age 22.

    I’m also a former Roman Catholic, and realized that was an agnostic atheist about four years before my diagnosis. No God is necessary to understand or accept my diagnosis. Apparently it runs in the family, so there’s that. It wasn’t anything I’ve done. It’s not a test of some sort. I’m just unlucky. My faith (or lack of it, as it is) is a separate issue entirely.

    It sucks, but we’re not alone.

    • mason lane

      My wife has severe fibromyaligia and the gym 5 times a week for aerobics, light weights, and stretching is what helps the most. Stress, typically from her daughter & granddaughter, and when she gets OCD about things that really don’t deserve the stress or importance she invests in them, really make her pain worse. It’s definitely a chronic pain management situation. Check out all the possible ways to treat, but there’s lot of junk that’s sold to fibro sufferers. Do the research. It’s fortunate you found or had a Dr. that diagnosed the fibro. Hoping the best for you!

      • cadunphy280

        Thanks Mason!

      • NEIL C. REINHARDT

        MASON
        PLEASE READ WHAT I POSTED –I KNOW IT WILL HELP!

    • cadunphy280

      Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    • NEIL C. REINHARDT

      PLEASE READ WHAT I POSTED –I KNOW IT WILL HELP!

  • mason lane

    Catherine, from soil of your pain has grown your beautiful article. I, like so many others, have endured chronic and often depressing lumbar pain from a congenital condition. It is so much better dealing with these human situations without an imaginary God delusion mudding our thought process. Hoping you find more relief. Mason

    • ctcss

      Mason

      As usual, we are on the opposite sides of this. Two points.

      1. I am truly sorry that you and others commenting on Catherine’s post are also dealing with chronic, unkind conditions. Every person, believing or non-believing, runs into troubling problems that they seek solutions for. I am glad that you and others have found helpful solutions for yours. We all have challenges and seek corresponding resources for contending with them.

      2. As they say, one person’s noise/poison is another person’s music/meat. I fully get that you consider the notion of God to be something that muddies your thought processes when dealing with life’s troubling issues and thus, you seek for help elsewhere. That said, personally I wouldn’t want to be without the notion of God as a help. To me, it’s something I find myself relying on when encountering my own issues. But part of this is because the theological notions of God I was taught do not include difficulties or tragedies as being part of God’s plan for His children. I do not think I would find the concept of God to be very comforting or helpful if I thought that He was causing the very problems I wanted help with.

      To me, mortal, material life comes with its own issues and innate betrayals. That’s why I personally am interested in seeking elsewhere than mortality and materiality for my solutions. Thus, seeking after God, Spirit as a source of help ends up being my particular choice. To each their own.

      All the best..

      • mason lane

        It’s always refreshing to know you’re not a “bible” person who thinks there is a sinister God who tests humans like the mythical Job or “leads people into temptation.” Your God, Spirit, notion of the supernatural, seems to have nothing in common with the malignancy revealed in most Evangelical believers today.

        So if I understand correctly, in your belief God helps or can help humans but would never harm them? Is this God in the sense of a personal entity or the force in the Universe a person can align with for “help?” No debate here, just curious.

        So you have a way to find solutions and help in you life that are beyond the mortal or material; the supernatural. Again, I’m curious. Do you make requests to the notion you have of God, or is do you do your best to align with this force and accept whatever the outcome as the help.

        It is interesting how you point out noise-poison … music-meat, and that’s certainly so accurate with we humans. The meme is about what your notion of God isn’t. :) https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cc39206f5fa0dbe5a51c8e7841162369edd8336e3b0867c1371f93bcba5904cb.jpg

      • NEIL C. REINHARDT

        YOU HAVE BEEN CONNED PROOF HERE–
        BY LISTENING TO THIS VIDEO, YOU CAN LEARN HOW THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION WAS TAKEN FROM PREVIOUS RELIGIONS AND HOW MUCH OF WHAT THE MYTHICAL JESUS SUPPOSEDLY SAID ARE EITHER NEARLY DIRECT QUOTES, OR DIRECT QUOTES OF WHAT OTHER ALSO MYTHICAL SAVIORS WHO WERE BEFORE JESUS, REPORTEDLY SAID!

        Any truth seekers should watch, and carefully listen to, the facts presented in this video “The Dark Truth of Religion” has information in it which proves the Christian religion and the story of Jesus are taken from previous religions, thus there nothing new in the Christian religion at all.

        https://www.Youtube.Com/watch?V=a_aajtzr18w

        I say carefully listen because I know if you take a listening comprehension skills test, most of you will have a less than 23% score. And I know this because in a management training course given to all of us in management at NCR’s Electronics Division, we were given a course on how to effectively listen.

  • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

    Ten+ years of degenerative disc disease here, with scoliosis and spondylolisthesis thrown in for good measure. I guess I’m fortunate, in that I became an atheist before these conditions got really debilitating, and I was never in any seriously nutty Christian cult, so no one ever tried to convince me that my chronic pain was part of some sort of special secret mission that I’d been chosen for by a god.

    • NEIL C. REINHARDT

      IAN, PLEASE READ WHAT I POSTED –I KNOW IT WILL HELP!

  • See Noevo

    Catherine,

    How could you possibly have been a Roman Catholic chaplain?

    P.S.
    You can always take comfort in your atheist belief that
    your suffering will soon be over for you’ll soon be dead and gone forever.

    • mason lane

      P.S. One never knows See Noevo … you may precede Catherine into the painless dead and gone forever long before the final exit she doth make. Who are you to say soon for her and not far sooner for yourself? Tempt not the material Universes Forces. :)

      • See Noevo

        “Who are you to say soon for her and not far sooner for yourself”

        It’s all very soon, very quick, relative to the vast expanses of time.

        • NEIL C. REINHARDT

          WHAT IS SAD IS YOU WILL DIE AND NEVER FIND OUT YOU WERE CONNED!

        • NEIL C. REINHARDT

          YOU ARE A FOOL AS I PRESENTED PROOF YOUR IDIOT RELIGION IS A TOTAL CON!!

          AND YET. YOU ARE SO TOTALLY CLUELESS, SO PROGRAMMED, YOU STILL BELIEVE THE CRAP YOU WERE AS A BABY / CHILD, AND BEFORE THE AGE OF REASON AT SEVEN, BEEN PROGRAMMED TO BELIEVE THE CHRITIAN RELIGION WAS THE ONLY CORRECT RELIGION AND THE CHRITIAN GOD, THE ONLY REAL GOD!

          AND FYI, YOU HAD BEEN PROGRAMMED TO BELIEVE BY THOSE WHO HAD BEEN PROGRAMMED TO BELIEVE BY THOSE WHO HAD BEEN PROGRAMMED TO BELIEVE BY THOSE WHO HAD BEEN PROGRAMMED TO BELIEVE BY THOSE WHO HAD BEEN PROGRAMMED TO BELIEVE BY THOSE WHO HAD BEEN PROGRAMMED TO BELIEVE BY THOSE WHO HAD BEEN PROGRAMMED TO BELIEVE BY THOSE WHO HAD BEEN PROGRAMMED TO BELIEVE BY THOSE WHO HAD BEEN PROGRAMMED TO BELIEVE BY THOSE WHO HAD BEEN PROGRAMMED TO BELIEVE IN THE SAME CHILDISH MYTHYS YOU WERE PROGRAMMED TO BELIEVE IN!

    • carolyntclark

      Yes, “dead and gone forever” is exactly right….for all of us, atheists and faithful christians alike.

      “Many Catholic parishes employ lay ecclesial ministers as “pastoral associates” or “pastoral assistants”, lay people who serve in ministerial or administrative roles, assisting the pastor in his work, but who are not ordained clerics. They are responsible, among other things, for the spiritual care of frail and housebound as well as for running a multitude of tasks associated with the sacramental life of the Church. ”

      L.E.D. (Lay Ecclesiastical Ministers) roles are becoming more comprehensive due to the dwindling priesthood. They baptize, visit the sick in pastoral care, conduct funeral services, preach and distribute the Eucharist in churches that do not have an ordained priest.

      The myth of religion is being recognized.

      • alwayspuzzled

        “The myth of religion is being recognized.”
        Is there nothing more to religion than “in persona Christi”?

      • See Noevo

        “In the Church, we officially use the title “chaplain” only for ordained clerics — that is, bishops, priests and deacons…

        “It is unlawful for the non-ordained faithful to assume titles such as ‘pastor,’ ‘chaplain,’ ‘coordinator,’ ‘moderator’ or other such similar titles which can confuse their role and that of the pastor, who is always a bishop or priest.””

        https://www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly/Article/TabId/535/ArtMID/13567/ArticleID/18404/Who-Can-Be-a-Chaplain.aspx

        • Jim Jones

          Despite their best efforts, churches don’t make the laws.

        • NEIL C. REINHARDT

          BY LISTENING TO THIS VIDEO, YOU CAN LEARN HOW THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION WAS TAKEN FROM PREVIOUS RELIGIONS AND HOW MUCH OF WHAT THE MYTHICAL JESUS SUPPOSEDLY SAID ARE EITHER NEARLY DIRECT QUOTES, OR DIRECT QUOTES OF WHAT OTHER ALSO MYTHICAL SAVIORS WHO WERE BEFORE JESUS, REPORTEDLY SAID!

          Any truth seekers should watch, and carefully listen to, the facts presented in this video “The Dark Truth of Religion” has information in it which proves the Christian religion and the story of Jesus are taken from previous religions, thus there nothing new in the Christian religion at all.

          https://www.Youtube.Com/watch?V=a_aajtzr18w

          I say carefully listen because I know if you take a listening comprehension skills test, most of you will have a less than 23% score. And I know this because in a management training course given to all of us in management at NCR’s Electronics Division, we were given a course on how to effectively listen.

          • See Noevo

            Thanks. I may short NCR this week.

          • Phil Rimmer

            I think NCR means Neil C Reinhardt somewhere deep in his head. He appears to have some cognitive issues He needs help not teasing.

          • NEIL C. REINHARDT

            NO YOU IDIOT! I WORKED FOR NCR WHERE I SUPERVISED 92 EMPLOYEES WHO WERE ASSEMBLING NCR’S CENTERY SERIES MAIN FRAME COMPUTERS!

          • NEIL C. REINHARDT

            AND YOU PUNK MENTAL MIDGET. YOU ARE THE ONE WHO BABLY NEEDS MENTAL HELP!

          • Phil Rimmer

            Could be. But you need to fix up your presentational skills if you want to engage more people. 7% upvotes looks like you not winning your propaganda war.

            Stop all the shouty caps and big blocks of text. Learn to use bold and italics and paragraphs if you need emphasis. As it is you throw away any credibility for what might be reasonable arguments by looking hilariously angry or , frankly, mad.

            The NCR stuff is fine. We’ve all had jobs, but seriously there are well educated people here who perhaps understand pretty darn well. NCR doesn’t run through you like candy. And it seriously isn’t working for you as proof of your comprehension skills.

            Oh and fix the link to that youtube video.

          • See Noevo

            And you must be stalking me, searching my profile for my most recent comments. Because this thread is a month old.

          • Phil Rimmer

            I actually wanted to be helpful. I was scouting other sites to explore (I’ve been tracking here for a while) and saw your very recent comment quite by chance and thought to be civil. But I appear to have prodded a very shouty hornets nest.

    • Jim Jones

      So will you be. You won’t be riding around Fantasyland on your Little Pony.

      “Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” – Susan Ertz

    • NEIL C. REINHARDT

      LOOK YOU POOR CONNED AND DELUDED, PROGRAMMED RELIGIOUS ROBOT, INTELLIGENT TRUTH SEEKERS ALL END UP BEING ATHEISTS!

  • Mark Rutledge

    Catherine, after reading your reflection all I have left to say is thank you for your truth and your courage.

  • carolyntclark

    Catherine, I’m sorry for your poor health.
    As you have, I’ve found that all misfortunes i.e., physical, mental, emotional, financial are all more peacefully and effectively dealt with without the twisted thinking required to relate it all to a loving God.
    I hope there’s been reconciliation and support from your Mom.

    • mason lane

      A loving God who suffers from chronic dereliction of duty :)

    • NEIL C. REINHARDT

      YOU HAVE BEEN CONNED AS THERE ARE NO GODS, MUCH LESS LOVING ONES.

  • crden

    Catherine, thank you for your openness. I’m so sorry you’ve got to deal with this.

    My son has several chronic conditions (epilepsy, chronic migraines, potentially still Menieres syndrome although it looks as if he may have outgrown it), and we’re still working to get some of them under control. It’s been a long slog. And like you are, we’re glad we’re not dealing with trying to attribute meaning to his suffering. We find it really difficult to be tactful with some of our religious acquaintances who *do* try to find meaning in this, often in the form of implying that he’s being taught specific lessons or that God is somehow making him extra insightful because of his suffering. No…he’s just a kid who has extra stuff to deal with. I just want people to deal with him for who he is rather than trying to add some sort of weird extra layer on top.

    • NEIL C. REINHARDT

      AS WHAT I JUST POSTED WILL HELP YOU SON. PLEASE READ IT

  • ElizabetB.

    This is such an important topic, Catherine!! So many resonate with it just on this blog. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts. Deep sympathy, and admiration for your spirit!!

    A question I wonder about… in addition to the analogy of asteroids and moon, would it be of any interest/help to think about something like the process of evolution that keeps continuing, so that things that seem to be not “standard” or a “mistake” may be part of the process toward new configurations?

    One thing I am very thankful for… so far only one mention of the idea that God is punishing a sufferer for something they did or didn’t do, or that this is evidence they don’t have enough faith — pretty devastating ideas fairly prevalent in the tradition I grew up in.

    Many thanks again for the crucial theme…. and hopes for imminent medical breakthroughs!!!

  • NEIL C. REINHARDT

    Dear Lady,

    Please do what this Agnostic Atheist Activist has been doing since Sept of 1997 when I was only 63! It is to drink daily, what I consider to be a real, actual miracle, ever since then. It is the juice of a plant grown in many countries in the tropics all around the world. It has been used in India for over 6,000 years and by those in the So. Pacific for over 2,500 years.

    While it’s being grown in many countries, it has many names, the name it most widely known by it’s Tahitian name which is “Noni juice” and I am as positive as I can be, it will both help you as well as reducing your pain. If you want to e-mail me for more information, please do. Neilc@thexyz.Net

    As you know there is a flu epidemic going on which is making people miss work, making them very ill and killing people. Flu vaccine, flu medicine is in short supply and hospitals are filling up. Yet the media will not report on a natural healing miracle! I know, from many years of experience that if I am drinking enough of it, I never get the flu in the first place. If I do get the flu, it is not any where and does not last as long.

    In 1957, I was a very in shape healthy 22 yr old lifeguard in Miami beach, when flu epidemic killed hundreds, of not thousands, and it damn near killed me. And I got the flu every year until Sept of 1997, when I started drinking his natural healing miracle.

    Starting in around Jan. Of 1998, I wrote the TV networks and to various others begging them to first research, and then report on this natural healing miracle as it would benefit all who know of it. Only as the drug companies and all connected to legal drugs in any way would lose trillions of dollars if all knew the truth about it, no one has reported on “Noni juice” so most have no idea it can effectively treat and/or cure over ninety (-90-) different medical problem on both the inside and the out sides of our bodies. It does the same for our pets and livestock.

    I have personally used it to cure athlete’s foot and toe nail fungus in half the time as normal. Three times, I have put it on burns, this instantly stopped the pain and eliminated scaring. I have put in my mouth to stop toothache pain, to cure headaches, to stop sore muscle pain from sports.

    Smokers found the more Noni Juice they drank, the less their desire to smoke!!! Can you think of an easier, simpler way to stop smoking?

    HOW MANY LIVES A YEAR WOULD BE SAVED IF THIS ABOUT STOPPING SMOKING A COMMON KNOWLEDGE?

    HOW MANY PEOPLE A YEAR WOULD BE HELPED IF WHAT NONI JUICE DOES FOR BURNS WAS COMMON KNOWLEDGE?

    Just this stopping smoking, what it does for burns and stopping all these different pains, is reason enough every one should know about Noni Juice

    Think about this,

    If all knew there was one natural fruit, grown in the tropics all around the world, which, for over 6,000 years, has been very effectively treating and/or curing over ninety (90) different medical problems. It not only makes no difference if they are on the insides or outsides of our bodies, it does the same for all animals, reptiles and birds as well, when clinical trials prove Noni Juice not only increases our energy levels over 20%, it boosts our immune systems over 20%, and when a university in France reported their research showed Noni juice is 70%, or more, as effective in treating pain as is morphine, would it not cost drug companies, all who sell legal drugs and the medical profession, trillions of dollars a year?

    And when you consider all of the above plus thinking of the billions of dollars in lost revenue newspapers, magazines, radio stations and TV networks would, from lost advertising of un-necessary drugs now replaced by Noni juice, I hope you can see why I think there may be an actual conspiracy which is keeping Noni Juice from being very well known!

    When smokers who were drinking Noni Juice for various reasons found the more Noni Juice they drank, the LESS desire to smoke they had, they reported this. So now, smokers who want to stop smoking, are drinking Noni Juice.

    SHOULD NOT THE FACT THAT DRINKING NONI JUICE CAUSES THE LOSS OF THE DESIRE TO SMOKE, ALONE BE SUFFICIENT FOR WHAT NONI JUICE DOES, BE MADE PUBLIC?

    So far, I have used Noni Juice three times to immediately stop the pain of being burnt and to stop any scarring.

    Anywho, this this Agnostic Atheist Activist, considers Noni Juice is a real, actual natural healing “Miracle”!

    I AM POSITIVE YOUR DRINKING NONI JUICE WILL HELP YOU & WILL MOST PROBABLY REDUCE YOUR PAIN

    Dr. Neil Solomon, who a both John Hopkins trained and taught there, ore a syndicated medical articles for 18 year and was the state of Maryland First Secretary of Health and Welfare. He like most of us, stated out being skeptical that Noni Juice could do what as reported. Only after research and use proved it true, he is now a Noni nut like me.

    Please, watch Dr. Neil Solomon’s videos on Noni juice.

    https://www.Youtube.Com/watch?V=8qckdjcth7g

    https://www.Youtube.Com/watch?V=ibjt5yaqirk

    LAST, WHILE I PAID $38.00 FOR A 32 OZ. BOTTLE FROM MORINDA THE MULTI-LEVEL MARKING COMPANY WHICH GOT ME STARTED DR,INKING & LOVING THIS MIRACLE, I JUST GOT TWO 32 OZ. “Dynamic Health Noni Juice” BOTTLES FOR ONLY $22.22 FROM AMAZON

    DRINKING JUST TWO OZ. A DAY ON AN EMPTY SHOMACH WORKS FOR MOST