One of the prime appeals of religion is a father figure who watches over everyone and everything. I’m a lifelong atheist, so I don’t think about a personal God who listens and watches over me. Yet, I know that the faithful need a higher power they feel is watching over them. That desire to be noticed is very important to most people. People cling to the concept of God for just a few reasons despite all the endless varieties of religions and their verbose theologies. They don’t want to die, they want to be protected, they want someone to always care about them, and they want divine justice.
Last night I watched TB Silent Killer on the PBS documentary series Frontline. This incredibly intense show on drug resistant tuberculosis in Africa was very hard to see, but I think very important not to miss. Follow the link to watch the show. It answers my question: Who is watching us if there is no God? We have to watch each other, either personally, or by films like this, or on the news, or by any other form of journalism, and even by the Internet and smartphones. People have always wanted a God to watch over us, but as we evolve and learn about the scientific nature of reality, it’s obvious there is no father figure watching us 24×7.
What people want is to be saved from death and suffering. The people in TB Silent Killer suffered greatly for months and years, and often died. They felt no one was watching, that no one cared, and most importantly, no one would rescue them from their fates. And they hated the unfairness that they were sick when others were not. It wasn’t a just reality to them. Watch this film to see how deeply you care, and contemplate possible answers.
As a self-aware species, and as we become enlightened and realize there is no magic in the sky, we have to learn how to create substitutes for all those hopes we put into God. We really do want a superior being that cares for every sparrow that falls from a tree. I can understand that desire. I believe the human race has to become its own father figure. We have to care for everyone else on Earth, and for all the animals too. We have to learn to answer each other’s prayers.
At end end of the show they asked each person what hope they had. Most of the people were waiting for death, for after years of suffering, their hope of being rescued was long gone. But the little girl they featured, Nokubheka, said she wanted people to invent safe pills that would cure TB. She had been taking highly toxic medicines for months. And she was right. The way to answer her prayer is for science to find a cure for TB. That should be something everyone wants because TB is airborne and it’s fast becoming drug resistant. The show teaches about MDR TB (multi-drug-resistant TB) and XDR TB (extensively drug-resistant TB). Remember how AIDS began in Africa, well it was a hard to spread retrovirus. TB is very easy to spread, and it’s airborne. You don’t have to have sex with the infected to catch it, just stand near them. Yes, you should watch this show. You should care.
While watching the show I also wondered how else we could help these people, or anyone that suffers a horrible disease like them. All the victims in this documentary talked about being lonely, afraid, isolated, and bored. Because of their contagion, they have to be isolated, but I wondered if they would have been happier if they had the Internet or smartphones. Maybe a charity could be created that provides a social network for the sick and dying – one that would create a sense of being watched and cared for. Call it The Sparrow. It might even be a substitute for the desire to have a caring father figure watch over them.
When it comes down to it, we can plead for magic from an invisible being, or we can answer our own prayers with our own real abilities.
JWH – 3/26/14