Recently a family member of my good atheist friend was admitted to the hospital. It appeared that even after many efforts from doctors, there was no hope about recovery, and the patient was still going through a lot of suffering. I tried comforting my friend by telling him that I too went through the same pain, when my mother died eleven years ago, and my father died last year. My friend felt that experiencing such pain taught me many things and changed me a lot.
While it is true that my parents' suffering and death caused me to look at the world with a more sensitive heart, I do not think these incidents influenced and transformed me a lot. I wept considering it as a part of human tragedy, and moved on with the thought that I would have been with my parents more closely and cared for them even deeper. To be sure, I wept more about Jesus after knowing more about him, and why he died, than about my parents’ death. Knowing more about Jesus, made me also weep more about my parents' death. I am convinced that when we know Jesus personally, we become truly human.
Whenever people (especially atheists) talk about dignity of humans and their suffering, I am tempted to ask "What are you joking about?". I am inclined to scratch my head in humble astonishment, at atheists' responses to the human suffering. What is the big deal about the human suffering, when countless events related to pain and suffering are happening everywhere in this world every day? Imagine reading something in a daily newspaper like "The lion was hungry and massacred two little deers" or "The big whale devoured and murdered a shoal of little fish. Many little fish of the Indian ocean are mourning the death of their friends" or "Torture of millions of hens in restaurants all over the world, caused baby chicks to rebel against inhenity" (Not sure if such word exists. I actually tried using the word 'inhumanity' here).
Why is it that we give so much importance to the human suffering then, and use words such as ‘dignity’ and ‘honor’ while describing the human condition, when there are similar events of suffering that occur so common among the animal kingdom? Someone might say that we should not be expecting to read such things about animals in newspapers because they are natural activities in the animal kingdom. Then isn't it right that the human suffering should be considered normal too to the extent of overlook-able because it is indeed common? But why is it that we feel that humans are somehow privileged than other animals and that we have more values and rights? Is it just because we are being human, are trying to preserve and protect the human kingdom out of mere selfishness? Or is it because humans are more powerful than other animals?
What is anything dignity about such tendencies of humans? Atheists' responses sound like a joke to me or at most a mere speciesism (which implies that humans are assigned with different values and rights, and they are to be treated with a special consideration). We die like every other animal and bird. We seem to make it a big fuss about the pain and suffering of humans as if we carry more intrinsic worth than other animals, but when all it is at the end is mere self-centeredness.
When I first came abroad for furthering my career in 2003, I felt like a free bird. Being far away from my home in India, I found myself free to do anything that I was tempted to do. People often say that pain and suffering of this world turned them away from God and converted them to atheists. I found myself to experience the opposite; that pleasure and success also could turn us away from God, though I am thankful that I never succumbed to any instant gratification and crossed my limits in the world of pleasure. For a brief time, I too felt that there was no God, and as I mentioned in this article, it seemed to me that humans were nothing different from animals.
Without transcendent foundation in God, I feel that human suffering is just a joke. If Jesus is truly the son of God and that he died for humans on the cross showing his love, can it indicate that humans have intrinsic worth? Otherwise, whatever marvelous words we might use to describe the human suffering, I find it that it all turns out to be a dog-eat-dog game at the end. If Jesus and his claims are real, there is a meaning to the human suffering.
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