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Imagine No Religion With Chronic Illness and Disability

Many bloggers in the disability community attribute their undying faith in God to their ability to stay strong when their illness tries to beat them down. This is all well and good, and for them, it’s what keeps them going. This post is in no way meant to diminish their beliefs. However, when reading those uplifting posts, I begin to wonder about those in the disability community who subscribe to no religion.

How do they feel when they are constantly being told to put their faith in a God they don’t believe in to get through the tough times? How do they maintain their will to survive if they have no higher power in which to believe? Can there be hope within those who believe in no heaven? Can we have peace without God? I think we can.

“Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today.”

–“Imagine,” John Lennon, 1971

This iconic and controversial song speaks to the heart of what it means to live your life for today. It speaks of peace amongst all people regardless of their differences. It opens the doors for philosophical and theological debate. And its message can give hope to those who are struggling who do not follow any religious teachings.

Imagine there’s no heaven — nothing after this life that will take away the pain and suffering you experience on a daily basis. No higher power that will make you “whole” for all eternity. Do you just succumb to the trials and tribulations life hurls at you, or do you still strive to do more with this precious life you are living today?

Friedrich Nietzsche stated, “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” (On the Genealogy of Morality, 1887) All humans suffer to some extent in their lives. Even the seemingly happiest of people experience suffering. If we all just succumb to the suffering, we are making nothing out of this life. We are doing nothing to benefit the greater society. Even those who believe there is nothing after this life can contribute in a powerful way to others. Why let our suffering overpower us? Why give in to the pain?

So if there is no God — no Heaven or Hell — what is there to keep us moving forward in this seemingly chaotic existence? In my experience, it is the belief that we are meant to do good. We are all meant to take this life and turn it into something that will benefit others. If we seek to do good for others, our life will then be good and meaningful. Without this, we have no meaning.

I believe we should not seek to do good just so we can relish in the greatness of heaven. We should seek to do good so we can create meaning for our lives, and the lives of others, now. Whether there is or is not a God should not be the determining factor in what we choose to do with our lives. So for all those out there who live with chronic pain and disability who have no religion to lean on, there is something to hope for. There is the hope to make this world a better place. There is hope to “living life in peace.” There is hope to leave a legacy of all the good you have done, despite your limitations, so your spirit can live on in those you’ve touched.

Getty photo by Medioimages.