He only promises that we do not suffer alone.

“Twenty centuries of Christianity,” I said.  “You’d think we’d learn . . . In this world, He only promises that we don’t suffer alone.” 

A Marine chaplain says this in a short story by Phil Klay about the Iraq War (p 167).  The story is fiction but the point is real.  Most people pray for God to protect them, their families, and their friends.  Many pray only in moments of death and desperation.  But it’s the wrong thing to pray for.  Pray to feel the presence of God.  Period.

Of course it’s not this simple.  Lots of people, including me, pray for more.  Some pray for salvation.  It’s perfectly human, but it’s the wrong way to think about God.

Religion is about meaning, and religion is about suffering.  Buddhism has one answer, don’t cling.  Don’t cling to life, don’t cling to attachments, and don’t cling to yourself.  Christianity has another answer: God will suffer with you.  Your suffering will not be lessened, but you will not be alone.  You will be less subject to your suffering.    

Nietzsche argued that God is dead because there is no longer a convincing answer to the question “why do I suffer?” (Genealogy of Morals, III.28)

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