Most of my life I have been very superstitious. Just the thought of an upcoming Friday the 13th made me very anxious. Anything with the number 13 made me very nervous. I would avoid black cats, walking under ladders, and of course a broken mirror caused me great distress. I had lucky numbers and unlucky numbers. The same was true for colors. Along with all my superstitions I also suffered from extreme obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) which is superstition gone mad. OCD is manifested by many ridiculous rituals. I used to tap each door knob I walked by seven times and if I didn’t feel I did it right I had to do it again. My shoes had to be placed a certain way, my shirts had to hang in the same direction. I had to rinse my hair a certain way or I would have to do it again. With the obsessive compulsive disorder I became a prisoner to my rituals. They controlled my life. With OCD one gets this irrational belief it they don’t perform their daily rituals something will go terribly wrong.
Now I could never have called myself religious (I’ve always seen through the bullshit of organized religion), but I truly believed in a loving God and the power of prayer. Each day I also had very specific prayer rituals I would perform at specific times. I always felt that if I didn’t perform my prayers correctly that something would go terribly wrong. I prayed to God often and gave thanks in huge doses when I felt the loving God in which I believed blessed me with something nice, or got me out of a jam.
In March of 2006 I opened a huge can of internet worms and completely read myself out of God belief. By reading a few well written articles refuting religion, I became an atheist virtually over night. The hardest adjustment from the start was living my life without prayer. I never realized how ingrained into my mind set the prayer process was. Shortly after my de-conversion my wife had an abnormal mammogram and had to go in for further tests. I was very scared, but realized for the first time in my life that to pray would be futile. Thankfully even without prayers the additional tests proved to be negative.
As my God belief and my need to pray completely faded into oblivion, a wonderful thing happened. All of my superstitions and OCD neuroses slowly faded away and are now completely gone. When my mind no longer believed a God had any control over my life's outcomes, it became obvious that superstitious thoughts or actions certainly couldn't effect any outcomes either. I never considered religion to be a superstition, but now as I look at if from a different perspective I realize that religion and superstition are exactly the same. Ironically I prayed thousands of times over for God to deliver me from my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but it was only cured when my God belief flew completely out the window. This has been by far the most wonderful by product of my atheism. Atheism essentially cured me of a serious life altering psychological disorder.
Along with the passing of all my superstitions and my OCD, I have also thrown out a couple other commonly held beliefs. Gone is my belief in intuition or the “hunch.” For instance how common is if for someone to say they were thinking of a friend they hadn’t heard from in years when the phone suddenly rang and it was this person. Many call that intuition where as I now know it is nothing but coincidence. So often people will often say they had a hunch something would happen and it did. It’s all coincidence when you really analyze the million thoughts that go through one’s head in a given day. It’s a simple matter of counting the few hits of our thought processes and ignoring all the misses.
I work at a very busy big city hospital and despite the popular notion, I no longer believe that a full moon causes increased ER activity. Sure there are nights when we are busy during a full moon, but there are many crazy nights without a full moon and many mundane nights when the moon is full. It’s all about statistical averages and laws of chance and nothing more. I will say that on very warm summer nights we are often very crazy for obvious reasons. When the nights are hot people are out doing crazy shit in the big city. On a side note, one fact that is funny about my workplace is the fact that the number 13 does not exist. They won’t even end a room number in 13 as in 413. They just opened a brand new intensive care unit this week and it goes from ICU 12 to ICU 14. The same holds true for the new cardiac intensive care unit slated to open next week. It just cracks me up how the number 13 ensues so much fear into mainstream society that a hospital must make the appropriate accommodations. We have 14 operating rooms and it goes 10, 11, 12 then A and B. We are only ten stories high so they don’t have to do any deceptive floor numbering.
In conclusion I am just blown away by the unexpected benefits my atheism has brought fourth. Only one who has been a prisoner to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder will ever know where I have been. It can sometimes drive one near the point insanity. I would love to send this letter to a leading specialist in the treatment of OCD and see if they have ever seen this sort of thing before. Is there anyone out there who can relate to my story?
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)