BELIEF IN LIFE AFTER DEATH HELPS PEOPLE
To the best of my knowledge, no human being alive on earth knows for certain what happens upon his death. There are many hypotheses on what happens after we die but those are unverified beliefs. However, if a person can latch unto a religion that posits God and life after death and he believes it, that belief tends to have positive spillover effects on his life on earth. It tends to cheer him up, in an otherwise dreary universe, with galaxies expanding to heat loss and inevitable death?
Praying to God gives people a sense that there is an all-powerful person out there in the universe who looks after their interests and in subordinating themselves to that power they derive some power; praying thus empowers people. God looks after the praying people’s interests; it is nice to feel that some one is looking after your interests in this impersonal world.
In churches, while people are together praying and singing to their God, they energize each other; group energy is very invigorating and makes people feel powerful, it gives them a feeling that collectively they can achieve whatever they are praying for, and since they do help each other so they may also achieve their personal goals.
BELIEF IN GOD KEEPS SENSE OF MEANINGLESSNESS AWAY
If one looks at the impersonal universe we live in and believes that it is meaningless and purposeless it is depressing, fear and anxiety making, so believing in God gives people a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives and averts depression, fear and anxiety. Those who do not believe in God, atheists, often are regular guests of psychiatrists for psychotropic medications to cheer them up; existential angst is real. Suicide is never far from the minds of unbelievers, especially when they fail in the world.
PRAYING HUMBLES THE HUMAN EGO AND AVERT GRANDIOSITY AND MENTAL DISORDERS
Those who do not believe in God can easily convince themselves that they are powerful and important and in so doing overestimate their power and become mentally ill.
Most mental disorders are rooted in human beings’ desire for worth in a world they perceive themselves to be worthless; their bodies will die and become food for worms, so they seek worth; they give themselves worth.
Human beings are those animals that feel worthless and give themselves worth; worth is an individual and social construct and is not self-evident; nature does not give people worth, indeed, it gives them its opposite; natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes, and assorted diseases kill people at will; nature does not make people feel special; sense of specialness is a self-construct hence is associated with mental disorder, as in narcissism.
If you believe in a powerful God, you could derive worth from it, but if you do not believe in God you could try to give yourself false worth and power by thinking that you are powerful, important.
Paranoia, delusion disorder, mania, schizophrenia and narcissism and personality disorders are rooted in the individual trying to give himself false worth by his self and defending that false worth.
BELIEF THAT UNSEEN FORCES AND PERSONS ARE PROTECTING AND GUIDING ONE
People seem to have an innate need to feel that unseen forces are protecting and guiding them.
The Catholic Church, my church, gratified that need by giving people saints and angels to guide them and they pray to these unseen agents to guide them.
New Age churches, operating outside the parameters of official Christianity, have populated their minds with all kinds of guides, such as avatars, ascended masters, spirit guides, angels, power of crystals and what not.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
In Nigeria, these days folks are quick to saying “to God be the glory;” every other word out of their mouths is praise of God. This is good for it enables them not to exaggerate their egotism.
We live precarious lives; one may not be alive in the next minute. Regardless of what you do, all sorts of mishaps could snuff out your life at any time; the chances of you being alive tomorrow are not necessarily in your hands; what you desire, say, jobs, money, social position are contingent on forces outside your control, so thanking God for your good acknowledges one’s powerlessness; it makes sense to pray to God and thank him for one being alive. This assumes that being alive is a desired value, as my skeptical mind would ask, did God accomplish much by creating people who live in bodies that would die; Christopher Hitchins said that God is not that great, and Richard Dawkins said that belief in God is delusion disorder?
DOES GOD REALLY DO FOR PEOPLE WHAT THEY THANK HIM FOR DOING?
Does God protect one? I had a friend, a good man; he was always praying to God and imploring him to:
“Chineke Nnam, chewe umugi nche,” (God, my father, I implore you to protect your children). Then the man got cancer and died.
I am not saying that God does not protect people; I do not know. I am agnostic; I am not about to deny my state of mind and tell lies to the effect that I know something truthful about God.
However, I do suspect that there is intelligence in this universe but what it is like I have no clue.
Do I pray? No.
I am aware that my not praying to God is indicative of my pride and arrogance. I do not like other people to do for me what I could do for me. Asking God to do something for me, in my mind, is tantamount to begging him. I do not beg anybody to do anything for me. It is either I do it for me or I go without it. I pride myself on being independent.
I could use some humility that acknowledges God as more powerful than me and ask him for help, but the fact is that as a child I was sickly and felt that God abandoned me, did not help me and the idea of God who helps me irritates me.
As to whether God is real or not, that is a subject for philosophical discourse, I do that elsewhere; that is not my purpose in this little vignette on praying.
I do meditate, though. By meditation, I mean what Hindus and Buddhists do. Here, you try to remove from your mind all presuppositions and preconceptions of what reality is and tell you that you do not know who you are, do not know what things are, or for; you accept that your puny ego self does not know much and has incomplete information on any subject, and you tune it out, and try to attain what Buddhists call no self, no ego self, that is, and stay quiet and listen to the universe’s higher intelligence to inform you what the truth is.
Unbelievably, sometimes in meditation you can come to understand something better than you would from only thinking about it through your limited ego mind.
I do what my conscience tells me is right, such as love all people and me and forgive and correct our mistakes.
Love for all people is my God and religion.
It turns out that Mother Theresa of Calcutta, India was an agnostic! We, agnostic Catholics (is that an oxymoron?), tend to do decent work for humanity.