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An Atheist’s Come-to-Jesus Moment
Pat Santy was a NASA flight surgeon during the early years of the Space Shuttle Program. She is best known for her blog, Dr. Sanity, which ran from 2004 through 2012. For years she was an avowed atheist. “Prodigal Daughter: A Journey with Mary,” by Patricia A. Santy, MD, OP, recounts her return to the Catholic faith.
To outsiders, it seemed Santy had it all. She was a successful doctor, specializing in psychiatry. She became a flight surgeon at Johnson Space Center, on track to become an astronaut. She established a successful psychiatric practice. Later, she became a nationally-known blogger.
Her success seemed more remarkable due to an unpromising start. She was the child of divorce (when it was unusual, especially for Catholics). She financed her own way through college.
Yet, as Santy recounts, surface appearances were deceptive. She grew up in a dysfunctional family. A devout Catholic as a child, she abandoned her faith when her parents divorced, and became an atheist after her mother remarried to a man, who molested her.
She transferred her faith to worship of science and rationality. Mix in ’60s California’s “if it feels good, do it” culture and self-centered feminism. The results were predictable. She made herself the center of her universe; setting her own whims first.
Ending up pregnant, she had an abortion because the baby was inconvenient. She married a man she knew from high school, but never really committed to the marriage. Unconsciously mimicking her mother’s behavior, Santy abandoning him for a man she thought her soul mate. Only then did she discover that man, with whom she had a torrid online affair, had similar (and simultaneous) virtual affairs with many other women.
Despite her own verdict, she was not completely selfish. Unable to have children, she adopted one, committing herself to motherhood. As a flight surgeon on the Challenger flight, she put the needs of the astronauts’ families ahead of NASA’s desire for spin control, sacrificing her dream of becoming an astronaut.
Following divorce, she retreated to California, to put her life back together. There she reconnected with her childhood religion. She frequently criticized modern society’s malignant narcissism on her blog before she realized it dominated her own life.
“Prodigal Daughter” charts her recovery and redemption in a powerful and personal story, focused on her Catholicism. While occasionally painful reading, it is rewarding for any person of faith.
“Prodigal Daughter: A Journey with Mary,” by Patricia A. Santy, MD, OP, New Hope Publications, 2020, 165 pages, $17.95 (trade paperback)
This review was written by Mark Lardas who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.Published in Religion & Philosophy
What a beautiful tale of redemption and hope. Thanks.
The Dr. Sanity blog was one of my regular go-to sites. Glad to hear she’s returned to her faith.
Plenty of folks get mad at God and declare themselves atheists. They don’t understand why life is as it is, and then they go and demonstrate why.
Sad. Abused child, broken home. I have a lot of sympathy for her. She made a lot of bad decisions, like having unprotected sex and then killing her baby. Like many people with her background, she struggles making good moral decisions.
It’s a shame she continues to make a bad moral decision by believing in something that doesn’t exist and for which there is no evidence. She’s struggling to find something that isn’t there. Very sad.
May I recommend “Five Proofs for the Existence of God” by Dr. Edward Feser.
It’s a shame Skyler continues to make bad moral decisions by refusing to believe in the most self-evidently existing being for whose existence there is overwhelming evidence for any rational, sane person. Very, very sad.
Good that you have such an open mind.
But he is consistent.
You believe wholeheartedly in a proposition for which there is no evidence.
Broken toggle switches are consistent too. Useless, but consistent.
What is it that you think I believe? I don’t believe in fairy tales. Why do you think I believe anything? Why should I waste time with some worthless claim to prove god exists? The conclusion is already apparent and wishing there to be one doesn’t make it so. Celebrating someone’s fall from what should have been a logical position, is more often a symptom of not really having a good grasp of reality from the get go. In this case, it’s probably a result of a very difficult childhood. Her atheism wasn’t born of reason but likely of rebellion. It’s very sad that she still suffers. Perhaps she always will. I don’t celebrate people whose lives are mangled.
Wishing that there isn’t one doesn’t make it so either.
Great review. Thanks for alerting us to this book.
Atheism is, itself, a religion, Skyler. Agnosticism does not require faith. Atheism does. I have never been to the Continent of Africa. It requires faith for me to believe in it or to disbelieve it. Or, I can say, “The preponderance of the evidence seems to indicate that it exists, but I do not know for certain.” In your case, you may have seen nothing that convinces you that there is a God. You may even believe there is no evidence. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is a leap of faith to say there is no God. Enjoy your religion and your faith, youngster.
By definition, it is not.
I’ve been to Africa. It’s there. There is plenty of evidence for it.
Whether you agree that there is no god or not does not change whether there is one or not. I don’t “believe” in a god. I do not have any “answers.” I am not required to have any, nor do I need any. I know that magic is not real. There is plenty of evidence that there is no such thing as magic. If there is a god, and there isn’t, it would not be something magical, mystical, or anthropomorphic.
Incorrect, by definition, it requires a leap of faith. As I said, agnosticism is not a religion. Atheism is.
Skyler’s faith in atheism is strong, however.
We had noticed.
But has he?
Do fish notice the water?
This is the most infuriating part of religious arguments. I have no “faith.” I “know” there are no magical beings. There are no monsters under the bed, and there is no Santa Claus.
I have no proof there is a G-d, however I have related several ESP experiences, that have convinced me there are other worldly entities, of whom the benevolent have convinced me there is a G-d. I wasn’t insane as a child, nor as a young adult, nor as a mature woman. I also do not believe in magic. G-d has never presented it’s self as male or female nor as magical. A lot of the old testament bible stories were taken from the stories of ancient kingdoms from 4 to 7,000 thousands of years BC. Per Leonard Cottrell in “Lost Worlds.”
But then I don’t believe in hell either, unless it is what we make for ourselves or others for us.
There is not so much scriptural basis for the belief. There are about three or four words in the Bible that are translated as “Hell,” and none of them means what modern people envision. That came later. One of the words literally just means “the grave” with no connotation of life after death.
Can you prove it? If you can, why does belief in them persist? It sounds like you haven’t done a very good job of proving it. And the reason for that is because you cannot prove it. What you consider to be your knowledge is merely solidified opinion. In other words, you are taking it on faith.
I “know” that I am a handsome and sexy fellow. Most women have disagreed over time. It must be their fault that they do not see the plain truth.
I’m not clear why this is a big deal for you? Why do you care what we think? Why do you care that we call you a person of faith in terms of atheism? If faith doesn’t matter to you, why don’t you ignore our observations?
It’s his religion, and we have the nerve to call it a religion.