Often times I’ve been asked why I don’t pray, even though I claim to believe in God. Well, here is why I don’t believe in prayer anymore:
I’m a soft-hearted person. But I can also be an indifferent person because that is what reality has trained me to be.
I remember one day I threw a stone at a bird and hit it. I was so sorry about knocking down the little bird. I wondered why I did it and held the little bird gently. Caressing it and praying it doesn’t die. I wished I was a doctor. After a few minutes, the bird got up and flew away. I never threw stones at little birds again.
When I was about 12 years old, I remember returning home one day and seeing a woman holding her son and screaming from the depth of her lungs in anguish. Her son, around my age, just got knocked down by a vehicle. He was dead. I remember looking at her, observing the details of her face, posture, and voice, and feeling nothing. I continued walking.
I remember nursing two little goats that lost their mom. I gave them milk. I gave them water. I thought about them a lot. And, as their health kept deteriorating; I started getting detached. I knew what was coming. And it came. They both died.
When I was 23, a bird fell from the skies. We captured it and tied it to a pole. Then, we started debating if it should be killed or not. I reasoned, “I know it’s a helpless bird, but if we’ve been killing dozens of chickens, what makes this any different?”. No one would agree to kill it, except me. I held it down and as I was about to slit its throat, a flock arrived and squawked at me. I killed the bird nonetheless.
I remember when Fiverr banned my account. I emailed them telling them that I knew they had millions of clients, which meant I wasn’t special to them, but I would love to serve the clients I have on the platform.
I remember when my Dad fell ill. I informed everyone of how deadly this sickness is, and the stages the patients went through before dying. I closely watched my Dad go through all stages.
Multiple times I’ve been starving. And, in those moments of intense hunger, I’ve often thought of how unfeeling the world can be. I’ve meditated on the millions of people that die of hunger and disease. I’ve imagined what it will feel like to get raped. I’ve lived multiple lives and died multiple times.
I see with crystal clarity the ridiculousness of believing or praying: Everything that is set to happen happens. This is not fate, it’s how the world works.
I’ve realized reality does not care about feelings: the little bird, the dead boy, the dead goats, the bird I slew, my dad in my arms, none of it shakes the fabric of reality.
I can feel as deeply as I like. I can cry or laugh, or be indifferent. But the reality is as sturdy as a mountain.
What is “feeling”? Our interpretation of reality.
I walked into a cemetary. There were dozens of corpses. The room reeked. I almost threw up. I was told rats came to nibble the toes of those who weren’t well preserved.
Rotting meat. That’s what I smelled. Disgusting.
And that’s what we all are. Meat. Biodegradable. Naked primates running around the earth. And some never run past their village.
I meditated on these thoughts.
This is reality. If I continue staying hungry, my body will start consuming its fat. Then my muscles. And when all that is left is just bones, I’ll die. Just like the thousand of kids that starve to death daily.
So I ate and felt alive again. The hunger subsided. The clock was reset. And that is just one clock.
Females have a clock for their monthly circles. And we all have our biological clocks. There is the circadian rhythm. The growth spurt of children. The puberty of teens. Then the death of everyone. All these clocks don’t care about our feelings. And these are things that are within us.
And I looked outwards. What do I see? I see society in all its glory, power, and stupidity. Yes, stupidity because it chooses not to look at reality, sometimes.
For example, when we were in NYSC camp. We were told that at least 1 core member dies every year. And their family was compensated with a million naira. Everyone yelled, “God forbid!”. It didn’t take 3 months for 2 Corp members to die. 1 even died in camp.
In Nigeria, politicians know too well that scores of people die during their elections. They know. I know. You know. And there is no amount of prayer or wishing that will change that. People will die.
Back to our biological clock. I pulled up a chart showing how long humans live. For a very long time, humans have only lived up to 45 or so. However, as medicine improved, life expectancy in some places shot up to 85+. It’s still around 55 for Nigeria.
And I asked myself two questions: is it that the people of the past had less faith in their gods? Secondly, is it that the western countries currently have stronger spiritual beliefs than Africans?
Both answers are No. Reality simply doesn’t care about our sentiments.
This is why though I feel a lot, I still manage to feel indifferent because that is what reality has trained me to be.
And so I put on my goggles to see reality for what it is.
What is this reality?
We have subatomic particles, atoms, elements, and molecules. None sharing our sentiments.
We have micro, unicellular, and other multicellular organisms. None sharing our sentiments
We have amphibians, reptiles, mammals, aves, and other primates. None (except maybe the other primates) share our sentiments.
Then there is the society built by us (the sentimental beings).
And what have we built?
Money. Cooperations. Countries. Softwares. weapons. etcetera. None of which inherently shares our sentiments.
Money doesn’t go to help the starving. Corporations often destroy people’s jobs. Countries seldom care for every citizen. Softwares are mindless. And weapons kill just about anyone.
Sentiments and emotions won’t save you. It won’t save anyone. And that is why I try to keep it under control as I observe reality, trying to figure out how to live and thrive in it.
How to make money. How to climb up the corporate ladder. How to get in or out of countries. How to utilize the best software I can. How to stay clear of weapons.
None of which is easy to do at first. And even when you have them figured it is still a constant struggle. They all seem to share the indifference of the wild nature we’ve managed to escape from. The indifferent wild that is full of vicious beasts.
My point is: I don’t pray.
I also don’t whine when painful things happen. I don’t feel like the world has conspired against me. Because I know existence is pain itself – only the dead never experienced it.
And I know that if I’m smart and work hard, I can reduce my suffering and that of those around me.
When things start to go south, I cast away my sentiments and find a solution; solutions that are often indifferent. Like slitting the throat of that bird and making pepper soup out of it.
This is not to say fear and other human emotions are not important. They have their place. Especially when it has to do with inter-human relationships. However, it is important to realize that none of reality is sentimental.
We don’t get money because we are nice. We get it when we do something worth paying for.
We don’t stay healthy because we have a good heart. We stay healthy when we take care of our health.
People like Elon Musk push this to the extremes. He advocates that humanity needs to become a multi-planetary species because an extinction-level event will one day happen, and we better have a backup. No amount of prayer will deflect an asteroid, or stop an Artificial Intelligence bent on killing off humanity. If it were possible, hunger, cancer, and the pandemic(s) would have been prayed away.
Sentiments are good when you want to kiss your lover. Prayers are nice when you want to practice gratitude. But it is not so great when you need to do something!
Read Part 2 of this post: Why You Should Pray [+ 3 Steps To Getting An Answer Almost Every Time]
A Self-Help Writer And Editor Who Keeps It Simple (Yet Elegant)