Taxi driver: [translated from Filipino] "A lot of people nowadays tend to forget who owns our lives as we go about making a living. The people at Cagayan De Oro and Japan deserved it, you know. Hey, I think we can assume that they wanted to get rich too. They didn't pray enough."
Me: "...what lovely weather we're having today."
They didn't pray enough.
There are just so many things wrong about the above statement. It was a terrible, terrible thing to say.
A part of me wants to get angry. Really angry. When a person believes that someone else deserved what great misfortune befell them because they simply "didn't live up to my god's standards, what lazy bums", that makes me very, very wary of this person.
And really and truly, the best thing anyone can ever do to help out is to really give aid. Send useable clothes, food, supplies, medicine, clean drinking water. Get in touch with the Red Cross. Send money, if you can. With the Cagayan De Oro calamities happening right before Christmas Day, I would think whatever help you and other people send will be the best gift they'll ever receive.
I wanted to get angry and answer back, but I decided not to.
Number one: In some cases, arguing with a believer is useless, much more when that person's already pretty much decided on what he believes, and there's not much room for a new idea to sink in and get processed. I've tried to be a polite atheist with someone like him, and see where that got me. It's also an important skill, I've learned, to choose your battles wisely.
Secondly: A good friend Anna calmed me down with this: "Just feel sorry for him --- he doesn't know any better."
This is what I think, and this is just me: For a lot of people in my country, religion has become the poor man's "science". He knows no other explanation for how the world works, and can't be bothered to explore other perspectives, empirical or otherwise. This is what happens when a great big number of the population live below the poverty level, and have no access to a good education.
They can't help it. Religion is something that was passed on to them as a means of survival, and they know no other way to live. Rock of Ages cleft for me, because Life is so goddamn hard, and I need the money.
This brings to mind the first few lines in the preface for Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion:
As a child, my wife hated her school and wished she could leave. Years later, when she was in her twenties, she disclosed this unhappy fact to her parents, and her mother was aghast: ‘But darling, why didn't you come to us and tell us?’ Lalla's reply is my text for today: ‘But I didn't know I could.’
I didn't know I could.
A part of me now wonders if things could have turned out any differently if I had spoken up. Would I have been able to get my point across within that fifteen-minute drive? Would he have yelled at me? Listened to me? Driven me out of his cab, screaming, "Away from me, Satan"? I guess now I'll never know.
Ah, and Thirdly: It was such a pleasant day. The sun was high, clouds wafted by, the sky was blue, and it was lovely and warm. I wanted to savor that moment while it lasted, and I wasn't going to let anything spoil it for me. Best to appreciate these moments and be thankful for them while they're still here.