July 10, 2015 by kittynh
Forward: This piece is not intended to cause offence. It is written to provoke thought and discourse. While some of the readers may be opposed to the topics discussed herein, the intention is not to attack anyone’s personally held beliefs.
One June 23rd, I learned that a friend of mine was kidnapped in Afghanistan, presumably by the Taliban. It remains unclear at this time if the kidnapping is a simple criminal/ransom situation, or something perhaps more insidious. In any event, this friend of mine is well known within a broad circle of friends who have lived and worked in Afghanistan, and it is tremendously upsetting for me and many of my colleagues to think of someone who worked tirelessly for the Afghan people, and for so many years, to be the victim of such a crime.
Most of my friends know my posture on religion in general. And that posture is <null>. I have studied (and at times practiced) various religions in my lifetime, and at the end of the day, I am an atheist. Of the Dawkinsian/Hitchensian ilk. I’m not dogmatic about it, I’m open to being shown evidence of a deity or deities, but that evidence is going to have to be damned compelling and repeatable, and that deity is going to have a whole lot of explaining to do, before I will become a believer. That said, I have many friends who have religious beliefs, and this really is no concern of mine, assuming that they leave me out of it. This negotiated ‘truce’ if you will is followed by the vast majority of my friends, and matters religious generally are just not discussed, or certainly kept to a superficial level.
So, it came as a surprise to me, that when I announced the tragedy of my friend’s kidnapping, that a number of people responded by saying they would pray for my friend, and in some cases, pray for me. Now, I don’t know my kidnapped friend’s view on religion. She struck me as eminently practical and pragmatic, and I suspect she probably doesn’t hold much truck with religion either, however I won’t pretend to guess her wishes on the matter. As far as prayers for me are concerned, thanks, but really, they are most unnecessary. If you believe the best response at such a time is indeed to pray, then at least let me shape your prayer a little bit, in such a way that would interest me.
Please pray to your deity to explain what morbid fascination he/she/they have, in allowing horrific things to happen, only to be begged and cajoled into perhaps intervening and magicking away a situation? Explain please why there are earthquakes, kidnappings, wars, cancers, gout, toothaches, lost hockey games and losing spins on the roulette wheel. Why does an all-seeing, omnipotent, all-loving deity sit back and allow human suffering on so many levels, and then capriciously seemingly decide to respond to some people’s pleas (and ignore others) and seem to intervene to rectify situations that could much better be handled in a more ‘holistic’ manner, by doing away with the evil in the first place.
Pray not for my safety as I travel, but rather for those people who DO practice religion, that they are able to come to some sort of agreement where they don’t need to kill, maim and torment each other into believing a certain set of rules MUST be the way the world should be governed. For those more moderate believers, pray then for a way that belief doesn’t get manipulated and twisted to support extremism. Surely by now, if one particular religion had it right, then the evidence would be clear to all and there would be nothing more to discuss.
My friend has been in captivity for 17 days at this point, and no news. So apparently all these prayers have not been sufficiently compelling to free someone who could only be described as a force for ‘good’, who genuinely loved Afghanistan and the Afghan people. I guess God is busy.
In closing – if you’re compelled to pray, then go for it I guess. But ultimately, I’d prefer it if you just paused for a moment and thought.
Think about a way to make the horrors the religions – religions of all flavours have wrought on human history go away.
Thinking of you, AdB.
I want to thank my friend for allowing me to post this from his Facebook page. I do not want to use his name here, as he does wonderful work in many dangerous parts of the world. He helps governments in these places become better, making life better for all. I thank him for his work, and hope for the safe recovery of his friend. – Kitty