When I used to be an affable little child running around the house past bedtime, my mother used to threaten me with the demons that punish naughty children. Curiosity had a rather tight grip on me and made me ask her for more stories on these demons. One thing led to another and thus, my introduction to religion had happened discreetly.
As a child, my faith in God could rival a priest’s. God took many shapes and forms and could do all sorts of magical and wonderful things, spreading prosperity and wisdom. While I personally thought some were cooler than the rest because they could fight the demons that I was scared of (using kung fu and laser beams of course), every single one of them had good story arcs. This however would not go on for too long. Years had passed and my belief in God faltered. Mother always told me all religions are a path to the same destination and I believed it could bring the peace the world sorely needed. As a teen, I had seen many atrocities through the television or textbooks. I always wondered why God would let us do such appalling crimes, many in his name too. The journey to becoming an atheist was ephemeral. Every lesson in a science class made the world less magical and the room for imagination smaller. The world seemed more grim and rational. The sheer number of wars waged and lives lost for “the man in the sky” while he preaches peace and love was ironic to me.
My wars against the faith were not liked by my parents naturally. They reduced me to a typical rebel child and dismissed my well-constructed arguments debunking the various religions. I remained an ardent atheist in secrecy, my prayers hollow and lifeless. This went on for quite a while until one incident made me question my stance.
I had acute pain in my finger and noticed it getting bigger. After some expensive scans that I thought were a scam by the doctors to fleece us, they said it was a tumor. The disparaging thoughts about the scans vanished. That night was spent researching the possibility of cancer in “healthy teens” and I didn’t like what I read. After consulting a few doctors regarding my damned finger (which now looked healthy to me out of desperation) it was decided that the best course of action was to perform a biopsy. For those unfamiliar, it is a rather small surgery that determines if the tumor was indeed malignant. I do not remember the scenes in the hospital much but what I recall vividly was the faith in god entering my heart with celerity. I had forgotten many of the prayers by this time and right before they put me under the gas I spoke softly,” Hey god, it’s me, my mom has been a big fan and she will cry if you give me cancer. You must take care of your believers.” Maybe blackmailing the almighty wasn’t the best course of action but I felt pretty smart at the time. One extraordinarily long week later, the results would declare me (drumroll) negative.
The world seemed more colorful and magical to me after I read the report. I realized something that day. I was the kind of person who would find the answers to my own well-put arguments against god if the airplane passed through some turbulence. I called myself an agnostic knowing fully well that I sought God only when I needed him. The respect I found for God was subtracted from the respect I had for myself. I stopped presenting my weekly lectures about how facts beat faith to my parents. Do I think God is real? I do not know. What I do know is, life isn’t so black and white. Maybe it wasn’t God who made men do bad things. My prayers changed too. I only ask him to prove himself real to stop all this suffering. Maybe it is a test, maybe it isn’t. Is God a placebo? Are we being good just because we fear eternal damnation?
While that was a long night of philosophy, the following day proved even longer. The doctors said I needed surgery to remove the small tumor. This “surgery” was a lot more dramatic. I shall try to use the exact words the doctor used. “The tumor has been eroding the bone and it is beyond repair. We need to remove the fingertip and replace it with another. We plan to take a piece of bone from your elbow, carve it into shape and draft it to the finger with a metal rod. Easy”.
All I remember saying was….
” Hey god, it’s me again..”.