How many times in your life have you been through a hardship? It happens to us more than we would like. Whether you are battling an illness or dealing with the death of a loved one, tough times pay us all a visit. So how do we cope? Is there a mechanism we can use to ease the pain or relieve our stress? Religion offers us a solution, but does it help?
Many religions, including the one I was raised in (Christianity) promise us eternity. They not only guarantee that there is an afterlife, but that there is an afterlife that never ends and is free from sickness, pain, guilt, jealousy, etc…Now, while that may seem wonderful at first glance, is it really?
First of all, an eternity of anything seems like an awfully long time, even for bliss. I can think of many things that I enjoy doing. Writing, reading, photography, getting out into nature, spending time with my family and many other things. I can enjoy doing these things often and enjoy them each immensely. However, sometimes I don’t feel like reading or writing. Sometimes I don’t want to spend time with my family. There are times I would rather be alone and doing absolutely nothing. In short, there is a limit to enjoyment. At some point, things you enjoy doing can lose their luster and become a chore.
Now when it comes to bad things such as pain, misery, loneliness, grief and things of that nature, even a little can be too much. We are constantly looking for ways to relieve our pain and get back to enjoyment once again. An eternity of suffering seems unbelievably unbearable, especially when we consider the fact we have difficulty handling these things in the present. Our short, finite lives are filled with sad and painful times. So what can we do to push aside the bad and bring back in the good?
Well, according to Christians, the relief comes in the form of prayer. If we are loyal to Jesus, believing in things unseen and welcoming him into our hearts, he will answer our prayers and ease our suffering. But is that true? I won’t speak for everyone, but from my own personal experience, I will tell you that the answer is no. I prayed for my sick father to get better and live, yet he still died almost 21 years ago at age 56. My wife and I have lost three children due to miscarriage and premature labor. We prayed for those children as well and we still lost them. I could list a thousand things I have prayed for in my life with nothing to show for those prayers. I see no evidence to suggest that anyone is listening when we pray. So when we are promised a relief to our pain and an answer to our prayers, what are Christians talking about?
The life after this one is over
The relief to our misery is just around the corner. Although answers to our prayers may not come in this life, God hears them and will reward us in the next. How is that, in any way, an answer to anything? Our pain and suffering will be over when we start the next life. Um, whether there is a god or not, once this life is over ALL suffering stops. Period. That is how the human body works. It shuts down when you are dead. There is no scientific evidence to suggest a life beyond this one. There is nothing that can be proven about a Heaven or Hell. The only thing for certain is that your life, on this planet, will cease to be once you expire. That’s it. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, that grieving will end. If you are terminally ill, your suffering will end upon your death. If you are depressed, lonely or miserable in any way, that will end too. So what is religion offering that we don’t already get?
They are offering hope™ They are offering, not only an end to your suffering, but a beginning to paradise. The evidence of this? Years of oral tradition and a book of hearsay based on said oral tradition. Their actual evidence? Nothing. It is a belief. It is a desire. It is faith. There is no guarantee that there is anything beyond this life. Other than an end to it, nothing can be proven. The promises of relief that religion offers, I could give to you as well. Any of us can offer relief. Anyone with a basic understanding of death can tell you that everything stops when you die. The brain controls all of our body, including when and where we feel pain. When the brain dies, it all ends. No more misery. No more loneliness. No more hurting. The end.
So when prayers do nothing, and there is no detectable difference once you offer things up to God, where is your relief? It’s waiting for you after death. Your gifts will come in the next life for being faithful (even to the point of suffering) in this life. It’s a divine I.O.U. with your name written on it. Just be faithful and patient. When you die, you will be rewarded handsomely. That’s the
excuse explanation of how the life of a believer works.
I will be honest, I once feared death. The idea of nothingness. The idea that it is all over. The idea of ceasing to be. It was scary. But if I think about it, the hard times in this life, the hurt, the depressing times, the struggles and all the rest, they will all be gone when this life is over. Without prayer. Without divine assistance. Without submitting to a religion that promotes a lot of hateful and hurtful things. Without having to pick and choose which parts I like and which parts I do not agree with. When this life is over, all of it will end. I have nothing to fear. I have nothing to worry about in this life with regards to the afterlife. Our understanding of death is that it happens. There is nothing more after death that we know of. Claiming there is more and believing there is more is a personal choice. That doesn’t mean that if you believe in more that there is more.
Death, though not a pleasant subject, can be its own reward. Yes, it might hurt for those who are left here to deal with the grief of losing someone, but for the ones who die, all worry is gone. All pain is gone. All of the stress of life is gone. The time here is what is important and is what we should make the most of. Promises of a life to come distract us from the one we have. We will all get our relief one day when we meet our end. In the meantime (at least in my humble opinion) we need to find solutions to our problems we have in our lives here, instead of clasping our hands together in an attempt to wish them away. Dealing with grief, pain, misery and the rest all can be handled in sensible ways, usually by joining together with others who have been through what we’re going through. History has shown that answers to prayers are not coming. It’s time to stop looking up for solutions when they are right in front of us.