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Platitudes of the Pious

By Priscilla ~

My husband had a long awaited kidney transplant earlier this year. I’m happy to say that even though I had considered myself an atheist for a relatively short time, I did not feel the impulse to pray during the surgery, and felt quite peaceful about the situation. In fact, when I was a Christian I was always fearful because I knew that prayer was pointless: God could refuse to help for whatever mysterious reason, and I would have to submit to his will and on top of that, praise him! Now that I knew that my god was imaginary, if something bad happened it was not a punishment for some obscure sin, or because some deity decided so, but only because, well, shit happens.

Of course, I wanted everything to go well, but I trusted the expertise of the surgeons and hoped for the best. There was nothing else I could do, and I had to accept it, embrace the uncertainty. I spent four or five hours in the waiting room reading the last chapters of The Selfish Gene (I have been devouring all the books I didn’t dare to read before) and receiving fascinating hourly updates from the OR nurse.

When the surgeon finished, he came to the waiting room and reassured me that everything was fine, and that it was a very nice and healthy kidney because it belonged to a teenager. I couldn’t help but think about the grieving family of the kid whose kidney my husband inherited. They remained anonymous, but I felt sad for them, happy for us…it was a bittersweet feeling, but however, I kept them in my thoughts.

Many people had been praying that my husband would get a kidney transplant, which implicitly meant they were asking their god to end the life of a young, healthy person. I can’t say the same about most of my Christian family and friends. They immediately gave God –and their prayers- the credit for my husband’s surgery and recovery. If you think about it, they were in an indirect way giving themselves credit. I made a point of casually mentioning that the kidney was young and healthy because it belonged to a teenager who probably died in a tragic accident, just to see their reaction. I mean, how could they praise a god that kills a young person while saving another? Isn’t he powerful enough to save both? They know my husband is not a churchgoer. So they couldn’t even say: “God saved him because he was his loyal servant and maybe took the teenager’s life because he or she was being disobedient.”

Anyway, after that comment, they would stop and say something like: “Poor kid”, and keep going on and on about how blessed my husband was, and how “God is good, you see?” and other eye-rolling inducing platitudes. I wasn’t surprised, though. Many people had been praying that my husband would get a kidney transplant, which implicitly meant they were asking their god to end the life of a young, healthy person. I thought that was outrageous, but how I could tell them that? They truly cared about my husband. Of course, I also wanted my husband to get a kidney, but I know that everyday people die tragically, and organ donation is a great medical advance. Today we’re receiving this benefit; tomorrow, who knows, I could become the donor. That’s life, and it does not depend on the will of some god playing favorites.

A last thing to add to this sort of rant is how much it bothers me the way people rationalize the suffering of a loved one. No, my sweetheart was not sick so that I could become stronger. No, his illness was not for my benefit or anyone else’s. There is no explanation for his kidney failure other than a scientific one. I know they all had good intentions and I appreciate the sentiment, but how annoying!

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