It’s been an intense week.
Last Wednesday I was told of a tumour in my spine after experiencing some pain and immobility in my neck and right arm. I was operated on the following day (coincidentally the 66th anniversary of the 1949 Chinese Revolution) and have since been bed-bound and unable to do a great deal, this being the reason why I didn’t post last Friday. The bonus is the fact that the food in Leeds General Infirmary is actually quite good, and the downside is, well… cancer, but it can’t be helped; it’s the problem with having naturaly revolutionary cells.
Between now and last Wednesday I’ve worried about various things, but one thought that stands out is religion. Before I go into more depth, I’ll stress that I’m an atheist. Religion, the way I see it, is a reactionary and backward tendency that has stood alongside man throughout history, yet has always blinded communities and corrupted rational thought. As society has advanced, so has our depth of knowledge and understanding of the world and, as a result, religious influence has decreased in many ways, but that’s not to say it isn’t an issue. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the persisting cultural backwardness in the southern USA, and the political situation in Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Iran are all different manifestations of the same illness. Religion does to society what cancer is doing to my spine.
And then, of course, there is another side to this kind of faith, this being comfort, the reason it exists in the first place. I think it’s obvious that if it wasn’t for how deeply these spiritual teachings have already impacted upon our histories and cultures, we (in a much wiser era) would be far less easily convinced by the arguments they have to offer today, and the most important reason why mankind still clings to these outdated ideas is the sense of safety and security they continue to provide. Religion is an effective distraction and an inviting alternative to the harsh realities of day-to-day life, and this is why we swallow it today just like we’ve done for centuries. It is, in the language of Marx, opium for the masses, just like the oral morphine I’ve been taking to deal with post-operative pain (although unlike Islam, Christianity or Judaism, I’m still baffled as to why people develop addictions to this substance – I can’t say I’ve noticed it make more difference than paracetamol!)
Yet this is where God comes in to my story, because, just as I’ve swallowed the morphine, I’ve also been praying: my prayers tending to follow the lines of ‘Dear God, if you exist, I’d be so grateful if you would show mercy’. This isn’t to say I’m any more convinced of God’s existence than I was last month; I just took the view that it was worth it, in case I’m wrong. I know religious people who have prayed for me, too, and I welcome their thoughts and prayers as well, despite feeling slightly hypocritical given my own vehement atheism. If God does exist, I’d rather be spared than damned, and I see no wrong in telling him, even though rationality tells me there’s nobody on the other side of the void. And, after all, while mainstream Marxism rejects religious influence in societal matters, it doesn’t necessarily reject private beliefs. In the end, I suppose I’m only harming my pride.
As it happens, I have little reason to believe there’s a lot going on in heaven for me. On Wednesday I was told my that my cancer, on a I – IV grading system, fell into the most aggressive, Grade IV category. No one could commit to giving me a death date, but I’m left with the impressesion that, after chemotherapy, radiotherapy and physiotherapy (to regain movement), all of which should begin next week, I’ll have months to live. This was obviously terrible news, though it perhaps takes some of the pressure off as it makes me more assured in my godlessness, and I also can’t help but feel slightly proud that it’s my spinal cells which have done this. In revolutionary terms, they definitely quality as extremists. They’d dwarf the various coups in Argentina, which overthrew and replaced different governments in the region, or the revolutionary movements in the little communist countries like Vietnam or Afghanistan. My cells certainly take after the Bolsheviks here; if the February Revolution was my initial diagnosis, the October Revolution was my conversation two days ago. The shooting of the Romanov family is yet to come, but we sure these cells will take no prisoners there either. It’s also interesting to see that, due to their rapid growth and malignancy, they follow in the internationalist line, bent on spreading the revolution worldwide. Ideologically speaking, I can’t really complain.
But meanwhile, I’ll probably keep trying these things. It seems the logical option to utilise the means you have, in the hope that something may change. I certainly don’t feel any sensible reason why anything will, but our complete lack of evidence on the subject makes it just as possible as it does ridiculous, so it would be irrational to rule out ideas of God, heaven or the metaphysical world entirely. And, whilst still a card-carrying member of the physical one, I’ll hopefully keep reading, studying, and blogging.
I suppose we’ll just have to see how it goes from there…