I have been struggling all my life with all sorts of problems. Being born in a dictatorship, like the Cuban, we had a lot of money problems. Even though my parents are intellectuals, and had good or respectable jobs, their salary was never enough. Their two combined paychecks equal about 30 bucks a month. You can imagine what we could buy with that.
The situation of the Cuban economy was dire and tricky. Having two different economies within one, it was difficult to get food, clothes or anything for the matter. You see, the Cuban government sells the basic goods in its currency, but rationalized. If you want to buy other stuff, say, spam or canned food, you have to go to the dollar groceries, were, everything is way overpriced. So, needing to buy the basics (chicken, eggs, rice, beans, etc) with Cuban pesos, we were left with little money to exchange into CUC (equivalent to US dollars in Cuba) or dollars. In the end, it was never enough. My parents went hungry just to give me more food and keep me fed. They often hid their sadness and worries so I could be a happy kid. I always noticed.
My folks used to say “God will squeeze you, but never choke you”. Like if it was him testing your will and endurance. And we used to go to church, every Saturday and Sunday. Most of the times it was just me and my mom, but my dad would come along too sometimes. I read the Bible, I went to mass and was really into it. I loved the stories in it, the teachings and key messages. But later on, I started reading philosophy and science. Little by little I started getting away from the church, religion, and God. I even started to negate him and argue with people about his existence. That, until I learned that God wasn’t the problem.
A big part of my adult life I spend it reading, looking for answers, searching for new knowledge. I read about San Agustín, Servio Sulpicio and others. And when I looked into the terms religere-relinquere, which are par of the origins of the word religion. I learned about other religions and analyzed the process of praying. In the end, I’ve come to understand that, we humans pray a lot. Even without noticing. Sometimes we are talking to ourselves, saying “I hope this goes my way”, “I wish I could get that job” or “It would be nice to get that promotion”. I can’t help but notice that this conversations or thoughts are in a way praying. Who are we talking to when we pray but ourselves? The difference is that when we pray to God we use the words “please God”, “help me God”, “Lord give me” or “Lord grant me”. And that’s what religion teaches us. To ask and leave everything in Gods hands, when in fact we should be using ours to accomplish what we want or need.
I’m sure my parents prayed to God for us to leave Cuba. Even so, it wasn’t easy. It took us over a year of paperwork many difficulties and sacrifices for it to happen. But we made it. I’m sure that you will think that it was he who made it happen. And yes, he probably did make it happen. But it was my mom, my dad, friends and myself who did everything.
My point here is not to question Gods will, power or existence. My point here is the fact that religion makes people think we need God every day, every second of our lives. That we have to ask for strength, knowledge, and perseverance from him. That, if it's his will, it will happen, and if it's not, it won't. When in fact, most of the times the things that don’t happen to us are because we didn’t try enough. Every day I hear the words “if it is Gods will” when you ask someone if they are going to do something or go somewhere. Why won’t it be his will? I ask myself. Why won’t he let you do the things you want and worked for? Why would he give you free-will and then take it away?
Religion. Religion makes us think God is the one who decides for us. That he already has a destiny written for you. But if that was so, what God would create the destiny of a rapist, a thief or a killer and on the other side, the people who suffer them?