Monday, May 29, 2017

To pray or not to pray

I don't believe in the power of prayer, mostly because I don't believe in any prayer-answering entities and so constantly wonder who exactly one prays to. It's also a bad habit I have, asking this question when people talk about praying. I apologize if I've asked you this question or if I've given you a look when you spoke about praying.

What got me thinking about prayers is the current situation in Sri Lanka. A few people asked that we #PrayForSriLanka, like we prayed for Paris or wherever else a bomb went off killing a few dozen people who were usually white non-Muslims.

But then praying is easy. Sharing a post about praying for Sri Lanka is easy. Even I, an atheist, can share such a post. Even I can pretend there's someone up in the skies (which is where, by the way, these cursed rains came/come from) who will listen to me and magically make the rain stop, the collected water disappear and undo the landslides.

And I accept the argument that praying is personal in the sense that it offers the person who is doing the praying comfort and solace and whatnot. And sure, when you are helpless even words that will have no effect on your circumstances seem better than nothing. Hell, I still mutter 'namo Buddhaaya, namo Dhammaya, namo Sangaaya' even when I switch off all the lights and have to make that walk to the bed in complete darkness.

So I'm not here to say that praying doesn't help in this way. It has that effect and if you believe in a prayer-granting entity, whether it's some god or a tree or the sky or whatever, then good for you. Keep praying.

However, do you know what would have happened if everyone just sat on their asses or prayer rugs or whatever and prayed?

This may seem slightly off topic, but I have a love-hate relationship with Twitter. I love that I get to talk about whatever, whenever. But I hate the cliques and negativity and drama. And yet, there's one thing that Twitter, or rather the Sri Lankan Twitter community, is good at, and that's being there for people when their help is needed.

I don't think I saw more than two or three #PrayForSriLanka tweets. Everything I saw were updates about what's happening where, donations being made, people volunteering to help, whether by donating Rs. 100, buying dry rations, working with organizations or offering people transport or a place to stay until things clear up.

And this is what happens when people actually do something instead of praying for our country, changing profile pictures or sharing #PrayForSriLanka posts. And maybe this is why we don't need anyone to pray for Sri Lanka.

Because if there's one thing this year's and last year's floods taught us, it is this: We are not a people that waits for the government to do anything. We don't wait for the president or prime minister to do anything (because, quite honestly, they won't. All they can do is tax the shit out of us and use that money to make sure our asshole politicians travel in vehicles most us will never be able to afford even if we sell everything we own, including all our organs).

We are a people that do. I can't plead not guilty to having made jokes about how lazy Sri Lankans are. But during such disasters, we get off our asses and actually do whatever we can to help people. And this, I think, is much more effective than praying.

But this is just my opinion. And I have a lot of not-very-good opinions. So you can tell me to shut up. You can tell me to stop talking about things I don't understand. You can tell me about all the stories you've heard about how praying actually does work.

Because religion is a sensitive topic, isn't it? I try to stay away from such discussions but even a joke about god or a question about religious people vs. human rights can spark arguments. So if you want to pray for me, okay, sure, go for it. It may do me some good actually.

But before you do any of that, please make use of that time and effort to make a donation or to help out. And then...

Then we'll talk*

*I'm kidding about this. We will never talk. I won't reply to your messages/comments or answer your calls, so don't bother. It's not because you pray and I don't or because I know you are going to preach to me. It's because I suck at communicating.