My teammates and I usually say a prayer before each tournament begins. We stand in a circle in which one of us leads the prayer, after which we say amen or amin under our breaths. (Seeing my Muslim and Christian teammates praying in the same circle is quite a remarkable thing.) Sometimes I find this a rather bizarre thing to do. As much as I try to convince myself that a higher power can make us national champions, I cannot really find it in me to make peace with that logic. Standing there, sometimes I open my eyes to see if the others feel as awkward as I do—but they almost always seem to be deep in prayer.
Three out of five of us aren’t “full-fledged” believers, yet we stand there in the circle, asking for a clear mind and His grace. Why we do it, I don’t know. Maybe we just oblige our believer-friends, or maybe, somewhere in us, we have a hint of faith in that higher power. It’s just like before an exam, how I think to myself: If I did really believe in a god, now would be the time to ask Him to let me do well in this exam.
The thought of a higher power having the controls over life is reaffirming, in a way. That we can just work hard, do our parts, leave the rest up to Him, and let everything fall in its place. That we are a part of some grand master plan, pawns in His game of chess. And that if something goes wrong we can soothe and delude ourselves by telling ourselves that it is His will. We won’t have to deal with grief, pain or sadness—those sensations are temporary, but we know that His will is eternal. So long as we have faith in Him we can tell ourselves that everything will be okay.
If anything, religion is something that provides one with a sense of purpose in life—even if it is a false purpose. (I don’t know how the atheist handles the indefiniteness of existence.)
But the thing is: things never turn out the way we want them to, everything falls short at some point or another. It is then hard to reconcile such vile atrocities with “God’s will” or “His plan”. I wonder how long believers can go on honestly thinking that God had a reason for all of the pain in the world. It’s called faith, apparently. Faith in something that is semi-existent, of which there is no proof.
Religion might just be the fairytale we submerge ourselves in because we are, essentially, afraid of death. With religion, the human race can tell itself that there is a chance of eternal happiness after death. Though it is conditional—we must do good in this lifetime to earn our spot in the hereafter—that singsong remains somewhat comforting. Maybe we cannot accept the fact that one day all of us will just turn into zilch and nil. That the whole of our being, having been imbued with love and coloured by experiences, will just dissolve into nothingness.
What if there is no afterlife, and no purpose for our existence? What if our very existence is, in itself, chance?
I’ve always wondered why doctors make so much money, or why they are respected professionals. I have the impression that conventional wisdom states that it’s because medical school is tough and anyone who “makes it” is akin to a Survivor champion.
Here’s what I secretly think: a doctor comes right after God. Medicine is the one thing that has allows us to cheat death, and we’ve done it—countless numbers of times. It is through medicine that we have extended the average human lifespan, and that is just as good as “playing God”. Some might argue that the purpose of medicine is to increase the quality of one’s life, but that notion bears many contradictions. If one truly believes that God is a healer of all things, then why is it that praying itself will not suffice when one is diagnosed with a terminal illness?
We take medication because we want to heal ourselves—in other words, we want to evade the pain that comes with life. At the brink of death, medicine provides us with a huge amount of relief.
But oddly enough, when the time comes for some of us to finally pass on, some of us non-believers choose to say a prayer or two, hoping to find solace in those last words.
salamanda prays when no one is watching.
Image taken from here