“I am contemplating on the meaning of my existence, Yaw.”
“And what is that?”
“Yaw, what purpose is there in reciting prayers by rote?”
“Well Mog, rote prayers are the foundation for how to pray to God.”
“But can’t you use your own words?” Mog asked. “I think rote praying serves to engrave religious dogmas in your mind. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth…. And when we are not reciting prayers, we are asking for something. Please let me pass the exams, please let me win the jackpot in the lottery, please protect me at the wheel…. But really, all one has to do is to study hard, buy all the lottery tickets, and drive carefully. It’s rather like a hungry cat asking for it to rain mice. So is the course of our lives decided by God?”
“I don’t think so, Mog. In fact, that kind of thinking is very destructive. That makes people believe that they have no responsibility for their own lives because a god predetermines their fate. That makes us believe that prayer solves problems. So here we are taking a leisurely stroll through life because for centuries the Church has induced us to believe that Someone up there is looking after us. That attitude restricts initiative. The Church has taught the people to know no defence but Christian resignation. But the fact of the matter is, how your life turns out to be is up to you.”
“But Yaw, if there is only one God, then this God is accountable for both good and evil. Suffering, they say, is God’s way of testing our faith. So we pray for deliverance from suffering that He Himself subjects us to, because He is testing our faith? Isn’t there a French Marquis who has lent his name to describe this kind of temperament? And Yaw, can we honestly believe that confession can clear us of sin, both big and small, from petty misconduct to taking someone’s life?”
“The justice system does not think so, Mog.”
“… you know Yaw, during the War, my grandmother walked all night on her bleeding knees from the church door to the altar. She was praying for the safe return of her husband who was captured by Japanese soldiers. She believed that her suffering would make God listen to her plea.
“My grandfather was found tied to a wooden post. He had been blindfolded, and like a practice bag of sand, repeatedly stabbed with a bayonet by the Japanese. He had died a slow and excruciatingly painful death.
“Where was my grandmother’s God when she prayed on her bleeding knees? Where was my grandfather’s God when he surely must have prayed for salvation or a quick death? Their prayers were not unreasonable — praying for a million bucks to fall from the sky could be a lot more to ask for.
“… If only my grandmother had organised a search party for him instead… Yes, I am beginning to have serious doubts about that Someone looking after me.”
update: Dissect Them Alive: Only in the twilight of his life has Mr Makino begun to talk about the secret he carried for more than 60 years. In 1944, as a medical auxiliary in the Imperial Navy, he was stationed on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. There he was party to one of the most notorious and poorly chronicled cruelties of the Japanese war effort — the medical dissection of living prisoners of war.
Over four months before the defeat of the Japanese forces in March 1945, Mr Makino cut open ten Filipino prisoners, including two teenage girls. He amputated their limbs and cut up and removed their livers, kidneys, wombs and still beating hearts for no better reason than to improve his knowledge of anatomy.