How Logic and Reason Help Me Lead a (Relatively) Fear-Free Life

Mysteriously paralyzed, my atheism kept me calm while totally vulnerable.

This is the first and only time this has ever happened to me, but a few nights ago I had a very strange occurrence. I woke up at about 4:00 AM, in the near pitch-blackness of my bedroom, and found myself paralyzed. I tried to sit up, but couldn’t. I tried to lift an arm, and could not, so I started trying every little part of my body that I could think of, and somehow, nothing was working. My mind and body had been disconnected.

This reminded me of that scene in ET when the kid wakes up to see the alien and can’t move and he tries to scream and his throat is all dry. I thought to myself, that’s what’s happening to me. Somehow, some connections in my brain simply misfired. Since we all got here through evolution, which is basically a system of randomness, naturally, our minds and bodies would be a disorganized and hacked together hodgepodge of different technologies. In the programming world, we call them “kludges”, some code you write that works, but you know it’s not the proper or organized way to do it. Well, if you really study the human mind and body, you will find kludge after kludge after kludge, which somehow all works together (for the most part) due to millions of years of intense QA testing, or as the scientists call it, “natural selection”.

But once in a while, our mind or body hits an unforeseen situation and it just glitches out. As I lay in my bed wondering how long I would be trapped and helpless, I realized this was simply a glitch in my programming and I just sighed internally. Then I thought, you know, if I was a superstitious or religious person, I would be terrified out of my mind right now, and I’d almost say I laughed at the thought, even though I couldn’t make any movements or sound.

Then I heard voices. Whispering.

My first thought was that I was hearing someone upstairs or downstairs talking. I focused, but no, the sound was clearly whispering, coming from somewhere just behind me. It got louder and louder, and I focused on it, trying to make out what the voice was saying.

Is someone playing a prank on me? I thought. One of my buddies broke into my house, gave me a paralyzing drug and is now whispering in my ear to give me a good scare.

No, none of my friends are that creative. It’s just a glitch of the mind.

So as I listened to this whispering, I tried again to move, and could not. My body was frozen. I tried to scream, hoping maybe I could get the neighbors to come down. Or maybe if I just heard some noises from the neighbors it would snap my mind out of this trance. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make a sound.

I thought maybe I could just wait it out, but decided that it would probably be better for me to keep trying, hoping I could find a different perspective on the situation that would force my mind to reload whatever software it uses to control the rest of my body.

But throughout this whole thing, I was thinking in the back of my mind that this would be a completely different situation if I was spiritual or religious. This would be a sign from the devil, or some evil presence trying to steal my soul. A spiritual believer would have been traumatized for days over this, but because I’m an atheist, it’s just another funny story about how evolution did not create a perfect or even logically organized creature.

Then, all of a sudden, something changed in my mind. I can’t put a finger on what it was exactly, I just suddenly knew that I was no longer paralyzed. The voices faded away. I tried moving my arms, and bingo, they worked. Then I tested my legs and they worked. A moment later I was crawling out of bed to walk around my room, making sure my body was back to normal. I went to the kitchen to grab a bite to eat, and that was that.

So that’s what it’s like when you’re an atheist and something scary happens. You don’t get scared unless there’s an actual, logical reason to get scared. I can’t tell you how much of a benefit this has been for me over the years, knowing that I alone command my life and emotions. It breaks my heart to see so many people still living in fear of things they know don’t exist and know could never happen.

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