Many bloggers in the disability community seek the guidance of their faith to stay strong when their illness tries to beat them down. It is great that their religion to helps see them through the tough times. This post is in no way meant to diminish those beliefs, or speak poorly of any religion. However, when reading all these uplifting posts, I begin to wonder about the smaller disabled community who subscribe to no religion. This post is meant to give them strength when they have no religious teachings to help guide them toward positive thinking.
How do they feel when they are constantly being told to put their faith in a God in which they don’t believe in order to get through the tough times? How do they maintain their will to survive if they have no higher power in which to belive? Do we try to convert them to our belief system in order to save them? In doing this, we are not accepting them as they are, and in turn we are alienating them in the same manner many able-bodied individuals alienate us. Can there be hope within those who believe in no heaven? Can we have peace without God, Allah, Budda, or any other religious figurehead? I think we can.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today.”
~Imagine: John Lennon 1971
This iconic, and controversial song, speaks to the heart of what it means to live your life for today. It speaks of peace amongst all people regardless of their differences. It opens the doors for philosophical and theological debate. For me, it speaks to the heart of religious teachings; that we should all strive to better ourselves and help others when we can regardless of our personal beliefs. And, it’s message can give hope to those who are suffering who do not follow any religious teachings.
Imagine there’s no heaven. There is nothing after this life that will take away the pain and suffering you experience on a daily basis. There is no higher power that will make you “whole” for all eternity. Do you just succumb to the trials and tribulations that this life hurls at you, or do you still strive to do more with this precious life you are living today?
Friedrich Nietzsche stated, “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” (On the Genealogy of Morality, 1887) All humans suffer to some extent in their lives. Even the most seemingly happiest of people experience suffering. If we all just succumb to the suffering we are making nothing out of this life. We are doing nothing to benefit the greater society. Even those who believe there is nothing after this life can contribute in a powerful way to others. Why let our suffering overpower us? Why give in to the pain?
So if there is no higher power- no Heaven or Hell- what is there to keep us moving forward in this seemingly chaotic existence? It is the belief that there is meaning in this life. We are all meant to take this life we endure and turn it into something good. If we seek to do good for others, our life will then be good and meaningful. Without this, we have no meaning.
Nietzsche believed we should not seek to do good just so we can relish in the greatness of heaven, but we should seek to do good so we can create meaning for our lives, and the lives of others, now. Whether there is or is not a God should not be the determining factor in what we choose to do with our lives, regardless if we are religious or not.
So for all those out there who endur chronic pain and disability who have no religion to lean on, there is something to hope for. There is the hope to make this world a better place. There is hope to “living life in peace”. There is hope to leave a legacy of all the good you have done, despite your limitations, so that your spirit can live on in those who you’ve touched. So don’t despair when this chronically ill or disabled life gets you down. Lean on those who love you. They love you because you have touched their lives in meaningful ways. They love you because you are worthy of being loved. Not because of your disability or the struggles you endure, but because of the goodness within you that keeps you fighting.