Religion can make you happy, and prayer is not infectious after all

Earlier this evening, I came across a discussion about how religion makes people happy too, started by a fellow atheist on a social utility website and it somehow reminded me of an incident that occurred yesterday.

I may have committed a cardinal atheist sin on Sunday – I joined in a prayer circle, holding hands with a policewoman from De Deur Police Station on the left and an HIV-positive kid on the right.

Yeah, that’s right; but I couldn’t help myself as I was caught up in the moment of gratitude and happiness being expressed by a group of AIDS orphans and their adult minders. And in case you think I’m intimating that holding hands with an HIV-positive person or a police officer for that matter, as being an atheist cardinal sin; I’m not. I’m referring to the prayer circle. The prayer meant nothing to me; but it felt good to feel good together with others, who usually don’t have much to feel good about.

And how did I come to be in this strange position? You see, I, together with a few friends, were helping some police officers from the local Police Station feed these abandoned kids at an AIDS orphanage. The police usually find them abandoned and then bring them over to these “safe” houses (or places of safety) where they can get treatment and care, until they are more permanently taken care of by the social welfare system.

While we were standing around in the kitchen, the visiting pastor and the rest of the group spontaneously grabbed hands to form a prayer circle and I was caught in the middle of it. I’m still alive and well (for those who think that it is deadly to hold hands with an HIV-positive person or a police officer for that matter), and the intense prayer hasn’t convinced me to accept Jesus; so no harm done.

One thing though: I did feel a tinge of envy, when I later saw the pastor get behind the wheel of that shiny new Nissan Navarra pick-up truck, with a full house of extras, parked outside…