My newborn daughter was recently born and officially diagnosed as a Deaf-Blind. Of course, we are feeling heartbroken. For a Deaf person like me who completely depend on the ability to see, being blind is the worst nightmare. I cannot imagine living without sight. So, the fact that my daughter is both Deaf-Blind, it had a devastating impact on us. But we are thankful that our cherished Facebook community of friends has poured in their sympathies & words of comfort. Actually, most of them offered their prayers. And that is fine with us. Yes, I know, I am still and actually an Atheist. And, yes, I am saying clearly that I am okay with the prayers being offered on my daughter’s behalf.
Because we know that there is no immediate cure for blindness and deafness. Our rational minds understand that it is a permanent condition. Our hope lies with the future technology and science (but per se, there is no cure yet). But we will not pity our daughter. We will not isolate her. We will teach her how to be independent and confident woman. We know that despite disabilities, she still has a bright future. Therefore, we know that “God” will not cure her. There is no such thing as invisible Creator with a powerful magic wand. That is what we believe.
Secondly, we have understood prayers as expressions of compassion and a yearning of wanting to help, but yet feeling helpless, from a community of various beliefs. When my Christian friend says, “I will pray for you,” I will say, “thank you.” When a Wiccan say, “I am sending you positive thought,” I will say “thank you.” When a non-religious individual, say, “I am with you in this time of difficult,” I will say “thank you.” I will appreciate them all the same. In those times, it is better to bite the tongue and view the situation as an opportunity to be humans together. We all feel the pain together, had shed the tears, and can comfort each other. It is the kind of time where we can rise beyond the beliefs and the great religious divide as humans beings with same feelings and emotions.
Thirdly, I am reminded how precious life is. The very act of living arising out of primordial soup is actually an act of biological miracle. That is why the life itself can be overwhelming. That is why prayers are actually expressions of being overwhelmed. I understand how the idea of having a powerful God who has the ability to cure any kind of sickness, is actually very comforting. Just an irrational, albeit normal reaction to the complexity and perils of daily living. Our ancestors survived through mass extinctions. They survived through many life’s perils for millions of years. They fought their way to the top of the food chain. Despite humanity’s greatest accomplishments, errors still appear in the genes. The life occurs because the tiny, complex strands of DNA made life possible. DNA can look like a miracle. Then there are many other factors that make life possible on Earth. One error can easily appear in any of those process. We are literally made of billions of cells. If something have gone wrong, we are profoundly and tragically affected. Thousands of babies are born disabled every year because something went wrong during the pregnancy. I wish that on nobody. Not a Muslim. Not a Christian. Not a Buddhist. Not a Hindu. No humans should ever suffer this tragedy. Unfortunately, that is just life. Also, due to unfortunate accidents and disasters, thousands of children become disabled every year. Behind every natural disaster or 911 calls, someone got hurt and if they are unlucky, it can be permanent. If you lose an eye or an arm in an accident and your life is profoundly and permanently affected. That is why thousands of adults become disabled every year, either from the brutal form of wars or accidents. So, we are brutally reminded how fragile the life is. Any of us can die easily in this struggle of survival of the fittest. We don’t like to be reminded of out fragility and morality. It is easier for people to close their eyes and utter a prayer. So, I do understand and I am okay with it.
Now to my final point, the superstition has a powerful pull. When this tragedy occurs, it is easy to imagine that you have done something wrong to earn this punishment. Parents berate themselves, thinking that it is a divine or karmic punishment. It is not. It is just simply an accident or a misfortune occurrence. An error that went astray. It is easy to imagine a God as a Zeus-like image, holding a thunder and ready to strike you down. We may tremble and imagine that he is looking down onto us with displeasure and with arm arched back, ready to throw down the thunder. I have good news! This image is a complete myth! (You know that, right?) However, the Life itself can be a frightening concept. We see deaths and tragedy on a daily basis. We are reminded how death is so common. Life is filled with millions of coincidences, albeit good or bad. All of us would experience tragedy at some point in our life and there is not much we can do about it. But the good news is, there is no need to appease the wrath of gods by offering prayers or sacrifices. No amount of sacrifices will ever make it right. There is no coming worldwide apocalypse where billions of people will be slaughtered in the name of god. That is simply just “Life.” So, I understand how superstition can take advantage of their vulnerability. They irrationally hope it can be undone via mere actions of prayers. In the words of Sage Jesus, (not the Son of God, by the way), said, “this man is born blind not because his parents or he was a sinner.” Let stop his words at this point and view it as an interpretation of life. God could not ever heal my daughter blindness and deafness. Instead, we are going to learn how to live with it. Yet, we shall emerge victoriously and tackle life boldly. We did nothing wrong to deserve this. We are mere humans with a positive viewpoint on life.
So this Atheist would say ‘thank you’ for your prayers and your thoughtfulness. Because in the end, being humans altogether is what is more important.