Sunday, June 24, 2007

Losing God, Gaining Humanity

As an atheist, I don't get to believe in divine intervention. We have to rely on ourselves and on the people around us.

There are times when this seems crushingly unfair.

Humans like control. It's how we've survived. It's an urge that's been wired deep into our minds through thousands of years of evolution. Rather than getting big claws or strong muscles, we learned how to build tools and plant crops - anything to gain advantage and control over the world around us.

When we lose control... when we stare a cold mortality and an indifferent universe in the face... it's natural for us to look - desperately - for a way to control it. Not having control... well, that's just against our nature.

We want to believe that a prayer or a spell or a chant might actually make a difference. If we can't have control directly, then we want to believe that we can appeal to some power, some intelligence greater than us who does have control, and that by giving that power a sacrifice, a bribe, or make a promise... pay tithing, fast for a day... we in some way regain control.

But although the human instinct to find control is powerful, reason and rationality tells us that sometimes we just can't.

And we have to watch in horror, helpless, when the forces of the universe act without regard to our personal whims and wants. A tornado levels our home, a drought destroys our crops, or a cancer eats at our body.

Science has given us control over much of the natural world, but we're still subject to it in far too many uncomfortable ways... and our reminder for that is usually sudden and unexpected. An invisible punch to the gut.

We can take some minor comfort in the thought that in the generations ahead, we may one day gain control over the things we are currently enslaved to... just as today we've created vaccines and weather satellites to help us against what our ancestors were enslaved to... but that does little to help us here and now.

So we stare into the heavens and wish there really were a power out there that could swoop in and save the day.

But in the end, all we really have is each other.

So we struggle together. We cry together. We mourn together. Then we band together and rebuild together.

I want to say that we grow stronger together, that the pain and hurt can ultimately mean something... but sometimes it just doesn't. Sometimes, we lose.

We live our lives, win or lose, and we love and cherish everyone around us until they're gone.

That's all we really can do.

No comments: