The Sin of Complacency

Posted: August 12, 2015 in atheism, prayer, religion
Tags: , ,

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There are many noble causes in the world. Many reasons to get involved. Many problems, inequalities, and injustices. Unfortunately, much of that is unavoidable. While the world as a whole maintains a kind of balance through natural cycles, rarely is anything evenly distributed and rarely is anything “fair”. By simple luck of the draw, some people are born with much… and some with nothing. It is a myth that anyone and everyone can become a millionaire if they just work hard enough. The deck is stacked. Those who are already rich have more resources at their disposal. More options. More choices. And those born into poverty rarely get out of it.

It is, however, a natural desire for people to want to remedy such blatant inequalities. Some feel it more strongly than others, but we all feel it to some degree or another. We are driven to help one another and build a sense of community, because together we are stronger. We achieve far more and reach far greater heights working together than could ever be accomplished by one person alone. And seeing another person struggling and in pain elicits an emotional reaction. We feel empathy. We CARE. But we also have a tendency to get too comfortable…

One of the great things about religious organizations is their ability to mobilize people and invigorate them to get involved in a cause. Gathering around the message of an inspiring figure, people will often reach out to help the poor, the needy, the destitute, and the afflicted in an effort to follow that example. But if the struggles aren’t made starkly apparent, the ability to connect and feel the empathy that drives people to act is often lost. If people don’t SEE a problem staring them in the face, if people don’t have personal experience with an issue, if people have no way to relate to someone, if people get too comfortable, they become complacent. And nothing breeds complacency more than the religious teachings of an afterlife.

If you live in a developed nation, you probably have many luxuries you don’t even think about. Health care. Food. A roof over your head. Financial security. An education. Water. The problems of war and starvation probably seem distant. You’ve likely seen pictures or videos of gaunt children or ravaged towns, but you cannot relate. You cannot connect. And so, you tell yourself there’s nothing you can do for people so far away. You have your own struggles. You are working hard enough as it is to keep food on your table. Any efforts you would make would be pointless anyway. These problems are impossible to rectify and will always be around. There will always be war and suffering and starving children. And… that’s okay, because this life is only temporary.

Instead of facing the problems, we walk away. We go on with our lives. We ignore it. We’ve gotten so good at ignoring problems that we don’t even recognize the ones in our own backyards. Even in developed nations we have hunger, homelessness, racism, poverty… Even in developed nations we have children born into homes that cannot provide for them. Even in developed nations we have sex trafficking, rape, child molestation, domestic violence, police brutality, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, hate crimes, murder, extremist groups, terrorism, suicide, and much more. Until one of these problems have a direct impact on our lives, we refuse to acknowledge it, because acknowledging it would upset our balance.

Instead… we pray. We turn everything over to a deity and expect Him to solve all the world’s problems. We comfort ourselves with small, random acts of kindness that don’t inconvenience our lives and prayers for intervention on the behalf of those struggling individuals we don’t want to trouble ourselves to recognize. We comfort ourselves with the thought that we’ve done all we can, and the rest is up to God. And we comfort ourselves with the thought that all these inequalities are part of some great plan and will all be worked out in the end. We create a mythical concept of “justice” and believe all discrepancies will be reconciled through some form of karma. And through all of this, we conveniently take the responsibility to act off our own shoulders.

Belief in the afterlife breeds complacency, because it causes people to care less about the here and now. It causes people to assuage their guilty conscience while they continue to enjoy the fruits of their privileged positions in society and ignore the needs of those less fortunate. With this complacency, often comes the justifications. When it is suggested that someone contribute to a cause or submit their profits for redistribution to charities or taxes for the common good, they become possessive and defensive, insisting that they’ve worked hard for their small comforts and they’ve “earned” their position in society. Ignoring the luck and chance that helped them climb up a rigged totem pole over the backs of others unable to “catch a break”, they insist that those living in poverty are just looking for handouts or a free ride.

The real problem though is that wealth and opportunities will never be evenly distributed. The resources of the world are finite, and no person can rightly claim that they’ve “earned” anything more than another. This blatant inequality will only continue to get worse the longer people ignore it and fail to act. Prayers aren’t accomplishing anything. God isn’t doing anything. The world doesn’t HAVE to be like this. If only we will open our eyes, let go of our complacency, and organize around a common goal, we could truly make a difference. We can make a better world.

Each and every one of us needs to get educated about the problems in the world and ways they can get involved. Each and every one of us needs to speak up about inequality and stand up in the face of discrimination. Each and every one of us needs to utilize the resources we have to expose wrongs, fight injustice, and lend a helping hand. Each and every one of us has at the very least a talent that can be re-purposed and re-directed for the good of all. We are all in this together, and complacency will only be our downfall.

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