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prayerIt’s been one of those mornings. Not to my liking by a long shot. Even Bear looked up with disgust as if to say, “Oh good grief, grow up, it’s raining, stop your silly complaining and take a nap.” Which he then preceded to return to.

I didn’t go to church today. I should have, and could have, but I didn’t. I woke up several times during the night and heard the rain whipping against the house, thinking of the lane getting worse and worse with each drop. The holes fill in the in low spots, and become large enough for the dogs to leisurely take a bath in. By 5:30, I decided I wouldn’t go.

The Contrarian had worked long and hard to smooth it out. I could get out, but I would have torn it up a lot doing so. Set and satisfied with my decision, it helped not a bit when the Contrarian encouraged me to go. “Actually, tearing it up might help some, it will give me so ridges to pull dirt from and help smooth it even better.” Now my damned excuse was gone! My mood deteriorated further. Worse yet, by 8 the rain has ceased and the sky brightened as the weather people, my enemy today, said the break would last until evening when all hell would break loose again for some more hours of soggy goodness.

“Blessed by you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, for rains to feed all life on your earth.” I mumbled this through tight jaws, spitting out the words. I’d learned this Jewish blessing a few days earlier. Blessings were to be poured out at the rate of 100 per day, everything after Universe, created by the speaker to honor God for something close at hand–the mixer that kneaded the dough, the vacuum that sucked up the dust, the eyes that looked over slowly budding trees.

Then I recalled a post. Wounded Bird and Mimi wrote a post on how hope is the defining element of Christianity.  I think that is essentially true. We are a people of hope, we Christians. We hope for things unseen. We believe that Jesus was the Christ, the son of God. We believe that if we are faithful, however we define that, we will be with Jesus in heaven, however we define that. It is a hope for the future.

But then, hope is always for the future isn’t it? Hope is defined as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out well.” According to Webster’s Dictionary at least. Notice that  hope is not irrational, it is the feeling that what is wanted CAN be had.

That is comforting. But hope is not the property of faith, far from it. It is clearly ingrained in the human psyche. The fact that we are here today is proof enough of that. If we lived without hope, then we would simply sit and rot. The race would have been extinct soon after it came to be.

Lack of hope is the nemesis of depression. It is the essential definition of this insidious disease after all, the feeling of utter hopelessness. Nothing can be more corrosive to the human mind. In fact, if it remains unchecked for too long, the mind gives up and destroys itself. People who are hopeful don’t kill themselves.

We know what Christians hope for, eternal life with God. Some other faiths have hopes for after lives as well and this is also easy to understand.

But what is the hope of the atheist? Or any faith-filled person whose religion has no such belief in a continuation of some sort?

I have been at a loss to understand what there is to hope for absent an afterlife frankly. I see people living in conditions that make me weep with frustration and sadness. I see people wracked with chronic pain and chronic disability that makes life difficult beyond measure. I see people spending thirty and forty years working eight hours a day at a job they hate. The list goes on and on. How do they continue I ask myself? How?

After all, if death  comes to all, and it does seem that way, then why do we strive? Why do we fight to leave legacies of achievement? We will not be here to see the accolades. Has Yul Brennar gained anything tangible because his movie “The Magnificent Seven,” is being shown today? He’s long dead, and if with God, I’m sure he’s way too busy to notice.

The only clear answer I ever get is that that those with children have reason to struggle, sacrifice and otherwise keep on steppin’ because everyone wants their kids to have it better than they did. That is pretty much true for every parent, though I’m sure there are exceptions. But then, we know what will come. They will, no matter how comfy we make them, still move toward inevitable death, wherein their triumphs will be meaningless, at least to them, and who else counts when you’re dead?

Sorry to be so depressing. But I’m a believer, and I have hope of that afterlife after all. But I can’t come up with a reason for the others. I just can’t seem to fathom in my dark moments how you keep on getting on with it, without this. Maybe Marx was right when he called religion the “opiate of the masses,” the thing that keeps them passive, and quiet while they are being exploited.

If Marx was right, it changes nothing really. That doesn’t make religion or faith invalid in the least, it just means we ought not fall subject to its being used to keep us passive to our own exploitation. Marx was speaking of Europe. Archbishop Oscar Romero could have said the same thing about Latin America.

What upsets me at moments like this, is that this is misuse of faith as far as I’m concerned. Using it to carry my hope for me. For indeed, as I said, it seems utterly ingrained in us all. I just don’t know where it comes from. Perhaps from that same place that allows us up to the moment of death to think without thinking that somehow we will escape it. It causes us to use that so funny phrase at every age, “if something happens to me,. . . .” IF???? Did you say IF? We never use WHEN, and the appropriate word is WHEN!!!!

So somebody come forth and explain to me the altruistic reasoning that allows the non-believer to have hope. Cuz, I feel mighty rotten in using my faith as a crutch. I want to love my God because he’s God, because he’s worth loving, and not just because he’s holding the best ever Christmas present ever devised, and promising it to me one day.

As Oscar Wilde said, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Tell me of your stars.

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