These are my thoughts based on a post written by a christian as a response to a post by an atheist on grief, entitled Grieving as an atheist- a surprising dilemma. I urge to read the two links to get the correct picture of the matter at hand.

A while back a dear friend of mine lost a baby boy, a small baby. When I went to see him, all those who had come to see him told him how his boy was in a good place- how they know is for another day- that god had his reasons for calling him. I don’t know and still can’t see how those words, no matter how reassuring they sound is of any help. I didn’t tell him much that evening, but I think just being there with him was sufficient. I recall back when my mum died, just knowing my friends were close by was enough for me and we would, to just distract ourselves from all the grief, tell jokes with one another. The passing of a loved one is indeed depressing to say the least and it is not any less for the atheist. To, however, presume there is something magical about telling those bereaved that their relative, friend, child or parent is another place I don’t think is a solution and does not make death any richer!

I  have a big problem when the OP writes

Ms. White is correct on a surface level. Being a friend is important and being a friend in the time of crisis is necessary, but if there is no answer to the grave, if there is no word of assurance which can be offered, friendship does not become a substitute

because the author here feels that since he believes in a heaven or whatever place people go after they die, to be a friend is on correct on the surface! I contend that all you really need is to know there are friends who will listen, offer a helping hand and most of all allow you to cry on their shoulders. It is only when you experience loss do you realize the hollowness of such words as be strong and so and so is in heaven. The only reason sometimes I don’t mourn when I think of ma is knowing that she is at rest, free from all willing and desiring. Do I miss her? Yes every moment!

As I have said in a number of articles, atheism answers to one question and the rest are for grabs. To claim that atheism is bleak because there are no talk of gods is to pretend to be unaware of atheistic religions and is to express an ignorance that shows how one holds their chosen religion in a place of privilege inspite of any evidence to the contrary. It is to act like a child, who having seen no other toys, thinks his wire toy is the best that can ever be!

If to believe that a god loves you and waits to meet you in heaven gives your life meaning, be my guest! I don’t ask you to live my life for me. If after looking at life and seeing it having no meaning or purpose beyond that which we give it is sufficient for me, why should it bother you? I ask though, if the religious person believes their lives have some special meaning, why do they get bored? And what, tell me, is this meaning? Is it same for the Jew as for the Muslim or the different gods have different demands or offer different meanings?

In the face of death, the words of the writer of Ecclesiastes ring true when he says in Ecclesiastes 3

19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.

The OP’s conclusion contradicts everything he has said about atheism and death. He writes,

As Christians, we must be clear that we do not believe in the hope an afterlife simply because it offers us a therapeutic response to death. Rather, we believe in the hope of heaven because of the truths found in Scripture namely, that Christ has come, Christ has defeated sin, and Christ has conquered the grave. There is a peace which comes to us and a satisfaction we can have by our faith in these great truths.

If this is not therapeutic and is told for that reason among others, then someone please educate me on what is meant by therapeutic.

I urge the author of the post to spend time to read Ingersoll’s address at his brother’s funeral, to read letter SERVIUS SULPICIUS TO CICERO on the loss of his daughter Tulia, where there is no mention of heaven or hell but still moving or to read the letter by Epicurus to Menoeceus where he tells him, in part,

Accustom yourself to believe that death is nothing to us, for good and evil imply awareness, and death is the privation of all awareness; therefore a right understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not by adding to life an unlimited time, but by taking away the yearning after immortality. For life has no terror; for those who thoroughly apprehend that there are no terrors for them in ceasing to live. Foolish, therefore, is the person who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not.

And if at the end you still find this as bleak, then you need help.

Painful as it is to lose a loved one, a close friend, telling them they are going to heaven or that you are praying for them is a hollow reassurance. There is much more value in being by their side, listening to their sorrows and offering a helping hand when necessary. This my friends are my thoughts on the matter and I contend here there is nothing bleak about knowing that when I die, I will be no more. It makes this life worth living and fighting for.

Grieving as an atheist

I need no sympathy from you!

I recently commented on a post on a random blog on a post where the OP[I don’t feel like linking the post today] had written something to the effect that atheists need sympathy and had tried to set rules for the game. In short he/she said any discussions with christians has to be centred on Jesus, not god.  He says in part

So in looking at atheism, which is not merely a rejection of christianity, but of any ‘religion’ that may be described as theistic, I do have a great deal of sympathy. After all, if the existence of God had been proved there would be no need for much further discussion and we could all agree. But the fact remains that God’s existence has not been proved. There is still doubt and disbelief, and that is not entirely irrational.

I certainly have a problem with this especially that we require sympathy, but in general I think he was generally polite. There is one guy who commented and whom I think needs help. Am going to let his comment just stand as it is for you to see the problem with some of the religious, who tell us their’s is a religion of peace and love until you stop believing in their chosen god and then you are ripe for hell.

He makes the oft repeated mistake that people are born with a knowledge of a god and that the universe proves this point. I need not say more about his comment. Read on you atheists, you are going straight to hell and there god shall wait to punish you hundreds time over!

I think the problem with having “sympathy” for atheists, from this kind of perspective, is that it gives too much credence to their position. You did mention Romans 1 in your previous post. I don’t think Romans 1 is a weak argument for God, I think Romans 1 is more fundamental. Here’s v18-30:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:18-30 ESV)

I don’t think Paul is arguing here that mankind should just be able to look around at the world and say “ah, clearly, God exists” (although that is an aspect of it). I think he’s actually saying that every single person is born with a knowledge of God. God has set eternity in the hearts of mankind (Eccl 3:11). I think the point Paul is trying to make is that no-one who has ever lived has a valid excuse to not believe in God. All of us are born with that knowledge, those who deny it are actually suppressing the truth. In other words, I don’t think there *is* such a thing as an honest atheist.

And this leads me on to the second thing I’d want to say. I would also not want to concede ground to those who want to judge God’s existence on entirely rational grounds, given the above. The Fall had an effect on our minds, our reason (“the noetic effects of the fall”, which is I think how theologians might put it). We cannot simply reason our way to God.

So if we say “I think it’s understandable to believe that God doesn’t exist, after all there’s not very much evidence” – it is basically conceding ground to the atheist that “reason” or rationalism is the correct way of going about determining whether God exists or not.

I feel that it’s important to bear in mind that it is not us who puts God in the dock and demand that he prove himself to us. I’d see humanity as being on the run from God, trying to flee from the inescapable fact that his existence is plain to us, in rebellion against Him, and that ultimately God will hold everyone culpable for unbelief.

something totally different

Those of you who are deeply in love must find this passage that am about to share in Anna Karenina deeply amusing. Levin has been married three months to Kitty. He comes home one evening to find her in low spirits with quite an attitude. Tolstoy, the very great narrator tells us

[…] It was only then, for the first time, that he clearly understood what he had not understood when he led her out of the church after the wedding. He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began. He felt this from the agonizing sensation of division that he experienced at that instant. He was offended for the first instant, but that very same second he felt that he could not be offended by her, that she was himself. He felt for the first moment as a man feels when, having suddenly received a violent blow from behind, he turns around, angry and eager to avenge himself, to look for his antagonist, and finds that it is he himself who has accidentally struck himself, that there is no one to be angry with, and that he must put up with and try to soothe the pain.