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Grief Without God - Comments

melisande's Avatar Comment 1 by melisande

I can't seem to stop crying the past few days....this probably wasn't the best reading material for me in this state.
But it was quite moving.

The odd thing is that though she talks about coming out of the atheism closet , it's still written by "anonymous"...

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 15:34:00 UTC | #17471

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 2 by Steven Mading

I find the tendency of religious groups to exploit the intense emotional pain and separation anxiety of the death of a loved one as a tool to reinforce their propaganda utterly rephrehensable. A co-worker died several years back - he was a nonbeliever and was quite adamant about it. Since he died rather young, unexpectedly of a surprise heart attack, he had no will made out, and no suggestions on record for how to conduct his funeral. So his mourners got the default religious service. - Massively religious. Sheer utter shameless exploitation of the emotions of the survivors. I can't stand going to religious funerals anymore because of the anger that wells up in me - how DARE these people exploit my grief like this. I came here to remember a passed friend. The eulogies by close family and friends are always much more useful than the propaganda-filled eulogies given by the clergy.

Ms Anonymous - you shared a painful memory with us and that took courage. I wish you the best of luck with your book and hope it helps you work through the grief you must be feeling.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 16:40:00 UTC | #17478

eccles's Avatar Comment 3 by eccles

Ms Anonymous. I offer you my condolences as I know that one never really gets over the loss of a loved-one. My parents died in 1995. I am now 66 and still miss my father. My mother was a bigotted Roman Catholic and died in a state of Dementia. The trauma of living with her in those times killed me. No joke I suffered a heart attack in 1999 and was DOA on arrival at the hospital.
I have a great fondness for airplanes and pilots. I also follow NASA very closely. My three most horrible moments were the loss of the APOLLO I crew on the launch pad, especially Gus Grissom who I admired and still do. Then there was the Challenger and Columbia disasters. I believe strongly in NASA and the Manned Space Program and hate the attitude of Geo.Dubya Bush and Congress towards the funding of NASA.

I manage an MSN Group Militant Atheist Materialists http://groups.msn.com/MilitantAtheistMaterialists/materialreality.msnw
I hope you approve of my action. I have posted your story on my Group. If you have any objection notify me and I will remove it immediately. However I find that there are many stories like yours and I think they all should be published somehow. I am Australian and, although the majority of the population is Christian, we do not suffer the extreme religious bigotry that occures in what I now call the "United Christian States of America" I have followed all the efforts of Christian Fundamentalists to have "Creation" taught as "Intelligent Design" alongside the true scientific facts of Evolution. I have all the court transcripts of the famous Scopes "Monkey" Trial in TN in 1925. I also have all the details of the Dover Trial.

All the best to you.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 17:04:00 UTC | #17482

sir_russ's Avatar Comment 4 by sir_russ

Speaking of grief, over at Atheist in a Mini Van, the blogger, possummomma, who seems like a very sweet person is being abused by a Baptist minister, called William, after she proudly posted an essay titled "What I want for Christmas" by her eleven year old daughter talking about the teacher's lack of religious sensitivity, and the senselessness of the assignment in a class having children known to be from families practicing Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

http://possummomma.blogspot.com/index.html

Good essay, smart kid, pathetic Baptist.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 17:18:00 UTC | #17484

CDG's Avatar Comment 5 by CDG

I think most Atheist have had to spend some time in a hospital dealing with the good intentions (ignorance?) of the people that work there. Plus, many friends and families giving the standard gift of prayer for your quick recovery etc...I am an Atheist and I still like them telling me that. I guess, like most, I like them thinking of me even if it means they are asking Santa and its the only way the know.

My friends know I am an Atheist, but it comes up in varying ways. When a mutual friend falls ill and they tell him/her that we are "praying for them" I always say that "I am wishing you well" and everyone know the difference.

Dawkins talks about consciousness raising and I think that one of the frontlines should be the hospital. By being resolute on our beliefs in that environment we may do just that.

Thanks Anonymous, sounds like you had what alot of people hope for in this life. And that puts you ahead of the game...

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 18:09:00 UTC | #17490

-TheCodeCrack-'s Avatar Comment 6 by -TheCodeCrack-

Ms anonymous very moving story, I'm sorry to hear your loss of your husband.

They do talk some 'crap' in hospitals about praying for someone. I had the last rights given to me when I was 17 and going in for surgery of a broken cheek bone. Thats right! I was fine untill old mr last rights man thought he'd make me 'shit' myself before the operation in front of my bewilldered and non-religous parents.

They actually did a test on this 'shit' apparently not the slightest difference in recovery between someone who's prayed for and someone who's not. It's aboslute 'bull' that if a homeless man goes to hospital, no family, he'll have a higher chance of dying becuase no one will prey for him. < That's not right! It's sickning!

Donating all that money was Fantastic! The world would be a much better place if more people were like you.

anyway, good luck with your book your wrighting, I hope you achieve what you want to achieve from it.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 19:34:00 UTC | #17494

Old Coppernose's Avatar Comment 7 by Old Coppernose

Ms Anonymous,

If you see this I am very sorry to hear of your terrible tragedy and I wish you the very best in overcoming your grief. Sometimes the insensitivity of religious people is astonishing. I expect you were too distressed to consider suing that respiratory therapist, but that in my opinion is appalling malpractice, and that person should be pevented from hurting anyone in such a fashion again. Astonishingly, Richard reports a case in "God Delusion" of a woman suing a doctor because he did *not* pray for her husband! I cringed reading some of the phrases, not just in recognition of your pain, but in remembrance of how often I have heard them before - including said to me when I have been in distress.

A depression sufferer, I have found psychiatrists to have hurt more than helped many times myself - to the point where I am now very wary of them. I am saddened however that you should choose to dimiss antidepressants as "little Happy pills". I am sorry they did not work for you, as they sometimes do not for many reasons - but that term is a dismissive one that in my humble opinion is not appropriate as it represents a parody of their actual nature and value.

One of my own tragedies is the loss of a severely depressed brother to suicide three years ago almost to the day. Drug treatment was unable to save his life - though it gave him a fighting chance - and I wonder if the reason might have been that, discharged from hospital, he stopped taking them.

There are of course some controveries over antidepressants in some contexts, but in general the evidence for their effectivness is quite overwhelming. They may have saved the lives of thousands and improved the quality of life of millions. They (apparently) failed to save one brother's life, but they might well have saved the other one's - and mine. Certainly they have made my life much more bearable and rewarding.

I am very glad that you have found some comfort in helping others - it would be sad if you misguidedly influenced someone negatively by perpetuating a stereotype of a scientifically demonstrated effective treatment.

My very best wishes to you

Peter

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 20:09:00 UTC | #17495

Old Coppernose's Avatar Comment 8 by Old Coppernose

They actually did a test on this 'shit' apparently not the slightest difference in recovery between someone who's prayed for and someone who's not.


Interesting the 's word' seems to make it past the botcensor.

They've tested this more than once, and it may actually be worse than this. I think this is in TGD - in one test when people knew they were being prayed for, they actually did worse - perhaps becasue knowing they were being prayed for alarmed them.

In another test, studying the outcomes of a form of brain cancer, by an astonishing coincidence, one of the religious researchers developed precisely that brain cancer while the research was being done, and despite being fervently prayed for by her co-religionists, died of it.

It is tragi-comic the naivety of these people, that they dont realize that if it were demonstrably true that prayer helped, that it would have been demontrated decades or even centuries ago. If there are gods, they shun the spotlight.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 20:34:00 UTC | #17496

Old Coppernose's Avatar Comment 9 by Old Coppernose

They actually did a test on this 'shit' apparently not the slightest difference in recovery between someone who's prayed for and someone who's not.


Interesting the 's word' seems to make it past the botcensor.

They've tested this more than once, and it may actually be worse than this. I think this is in TGD - in one test when people knew they were being prayed for, they actually did worse - perhaps becasue knowing they were being prayed for alarmed them.

In another test, studying the outcomes of a form of brain cancer, by an astonishing coincidence, one of the religious researchers developed precisely that brain cancer while the research was being done, and despite being fervently prayed for by her co-religionists, died of it.

It is tragi-comic the naivety of these people, that they dont realize that if it were demonstrably true that prayer helped, that it would have been demontrated decades or even centuries ago. If there are gods, they shun the spotlight.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 20:39:00 UTC | #17497

Old Coppernose's Avatar Comment 10 by Old Coppernose

Hello Carol,

If you see this I am very sorry to hear of your terrible tragedy and I wish you the very best in overcoming your grief. Sometimes the insensitivity of religious people is astonishing. I expect you were to distressed to consider suing that respiratory therapist, but that in my opinion is appalling malpractice, and that person should be pevented from hurting anyone in such a fashion again. Astonishingly, Richard reports a case in "God Delusion" of a woman suing a doctor because he did *not* pray for her husband! I cringed reading some of the phrases, not just in recognition of your pain, but in remembrance of how often I have heard them before - including said to me when I have been in distress.

A depession sufferer, I have found psychiatrists to have hurt more than helped many times myself - to the point where I am now very wary of them. I am saddened however that you should choose to dimiss antidepressants as "little Happy pills". I am sorry they did not work for you, as they sometimes do not for many reasons - but that term is a dismissive one that in my humble opinion is not appropriate as it represents a parody of their actual nature and value.

One of my own tragedies is the loss of a severely depressed brother to suicide three years ago almost to the day. Drug treatment was unable to save his life - though it gave him a fighting chance - and I wonder if the reason might have been that, discharged from hospital, he stopped taking them.

There are of course controveries over antidepressants, but the evidence for their effectivness is quite overwhelming. They may have saved the lives of thousands and improved the quality of life of millions. They (apparently) failed to save one brother's life, but they might have saved the other one's - and mine. Certainly they have made my life much more bearable and rewarding.

I am very glad that you have found some comfort in helping others - it would be sad if you misguidedly influenced someone negatively by perpetuating a stereotype of a scientifically demonstrated effective treatment.

My very best wishes to you

Peter

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 20:42:00 UTC | #17498

SMART's Avatar Comment 11 by SMART

Thank you Carol for writing such a tragic, but compelling story. And good for you that at a time of grieving you didn't immediately revert to childhood (like so many do) and use religion like a soother/dummy.

Carol is right, freedom of religion is important, sort of, but what a civilised society really needs is freedom FROM religion!

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 21:08:00 UTC | #17499

CDG's Avatar Comment 12 by CDG

Hi Carol,

Thanks for coming out. I am sure Wichita is not the most hospitable place for an Atheist but we need all the help we can get.

Chris

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 21:13:00 UTC | #17500

cal_mertes's Avatar Comment 13 by cal_mertes

I've been an atheist for over 40 years and am open about my non-belief although I often just let pass the religious prattle.

Both my elderly parents died in 2005 and they wanted to die.I was saddened and grieved but I knew this was coming for years so I had already done a lot of the grieving and letting-go.

I've never been married though engaged once so I cannot comprehend the grief you feel.


I am disabled with post-traumatic stress disorder from my military service including time with the Marines at DongHa. I've been on antidepressants for about 13 years. Finding the right antidepressant among the many available is really educated guessing and trial and error. The combination I'm on now keeps me at a decent level -- to a level where I can get a little enjoyment from life.

I went thru a flashback and heavy depression about 5 years ago. I was becoming sucidal. My psychiatric nurse practitioner prescribed more and different antidepressants plus anti-anxiety and mood stabilizers. The drugs worked.

I have now cut back somewhat and have tried doing less but then my depression deepens. I also see a cognitive behavioral therapist about once a month now (maintenance level).

I don't know your particular situation. However if you still have significant depression I suggest you try some different antidepressants. Also I know (including my own experience) that some antidepressants stop working for some people after time.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 21:31:00 UTC | #17501

Fedler's Avatar Comment 14 by Fedler

Thanks for sharing, Carol.

One major turning point for me was when my father was killed by a drunk driver a little over a year ago. During his wake service, my very religiuos family all left the church and went across the street to my grandmother's house for food. At that moment, standing in 'god's house' with my father's body, I've never felt more alone and abandoned in my life. I felt it was such an insult for everyone to just up and leave him like that. The religious comfort is certainly not all it's cracked up to be.

I am sorry the priest had the presupposition to assume your husband would want the last rites. While it's difficult to be helpful to someone who is experiencing the death of a loved one, it only makes it worse to dig out the usual catch phrases, i.e. "he's in a better place", "it was god's will", "it happened for a reason", etc.

My best wishes as you cope with the loss and the new you that has emerged as a result.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 22:02:00 UTC | #17502

shadower's Avatar Comment 15 by shadower

you are a strong woman.

Best wishes from me.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 22:10:00 UTC | #17503

Old Coppernose's Avatar Comment 16 by Old Coppernose

I don't know your particular situation. However if you still have significant depression I suggest you try some different antidepressants. Also I know (including my own experience) that some antidepressants stop working for some people after time.


Yes I almost said this myself. Also they can take months to take effect - some need to be given six months trial before they can be discounted as ineffective. Also new ones, with different mechanisms of action are being developed all the time. One of my griefs about the shrinks is that through my own research I know far more about the drugs than they do. For example, drugs in the "Prozac" family (SSRIs) generally have such low toxicity they can actually be taken in much higher doses than the normal maximum. While there have been a handful of fatal overdoses, despite millions of prescriptions written every year, fatal overdoses are almost non-existent, removing the objection that they might represent a suicide risk completely (never a good objection, but I wont go into that). Prozac is about as toxic as table salt - swallow too much of that and you just might kill yourself with that too. Despite this, I've had to fight to drag almost every single pill out of their ignorant hands. They know nothing.

I found out the truth at a site called Dr. Ivan's Depression Central, which I recommend. He will answer queries but obviously has to be brief.

Curiously Wichita has an unusual place in antidep history. A few years ago there was controversy that a clinical psychologist's entire patient population was on Prozac or another SSRI - as well as himself - and, not an MD, he did not have prescription priveleges. He wrote a recomendation to their doctors who prescribed it. He was called the "High Priest of Prozac". Last I heard he was being investigated for competence, but I dont know the outcome. It is possible there might have been some kind of backlash in Wichita.

Anyone suffering out there don't despair, check out the site, and fight for the help you need.

P

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 22:12:00 UTC | #17504

The Science Pundit's Avatar Comment 17 by The Science Pundit

Carol,
Your story really moved me. I have to agree with all your friends who found Eric's secular funeral most heartfelt--I've always felt that religious mumbo-jumbo detracts from solemn or joyous (ie. weddings, etc.) events.
For a long time, I've told people that if I were to die young, I would want to go doing something that I loved. From what I've read about Eric, it sounds like that's the way he went. I realize that that's not much consolation for you and the others he left behind, but there should be some comfort in knowing he had a good (albeit short) life.
I truly feel your pain. You are strong and brave.
Keep up the fight,
Javier

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 22:46:00 UTC | #17505

Kergillian's Avatar Comment 18 by Kergillian

This past summer one of my best friends died.

At his service, the Priest kept talking about God and hoe Joe was a Christian who loved Christ and was now at Christ's side. I wanted to stand up an scream! Joe HATED the Christian Church! He was no Christian and he did not believe in Jesus or Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy.

I held my tongue because I knew this service wasn't for Joe. It was for Joe's family, and they WERE Christians.

Joe's death was one of the things that got me off the Agnostic Fencepost and publicly acknowledge my own atheism.

Sat, 27 Jan 2007 23:08:00 UTC | #17506

seals's Avatar Comment 19 by seals

"God never gives us more than we can handle" - This is so blatantly untrue, I wonder how they have the nerve to say it. Another version is "God will not try them beyond their strength". Oh no? happens many times, every day...

I once took prozac during a difficult time, but couldn't notice any effect of the drug either. I find long walks are more effective but of course, everyones' reasons for their depression are different.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 01:16:00 UTC | #17509

Victoria Silverwolf's Avatar Comment 20 by Victoria Silverwolf

What an extraordinarily moving essay. I'm still naive enough to be shocked that a priest would administer the Last Rites without authorization. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 01:36:00 UTC | #17510

Sam's Avatar Comment 21 by Sam

That's the most moving thing i have read in years.

I am just too familiar with this kind of emotional "blackmail" from religious people when a loved one dies. My mother suddenly died when i was about 13. She was an atheist and while she was still alive she made my father promise that if she died before him, she would not have a religious funeral. Her own mother who is a devout christian threatened to boycot the funeral unless they made place for a christian sermon, prayers, psalms and Bible-verses, all so that she could have her own selfish religious needs satisfied.

So we basically ended up having a funeral in two parts: the first part was a beautiful commemoration of the person that my mother had truly been while she was alive. The other half was nothing but an embarrasing parody of a funeral. It was pure hypocracy, but something we had to put up with just to keep peace in the family. I can think of no greater insult to a persons memory than to exploit the occation of his/her death to celebrate and promote a philosophy that the person had been strongly against. As Sam Harris has correcly pointed out, another harmful effect of religion is that it teaches people to deny the real loss of their loved ones instead of learning how to grieve.

I can already hear the christians saying:
"You see? You are just bitter. We can understand that you feel that way [notice the condescending tone] because of your negative experiences in childhood, but there's really no need to take it out on all people of faith like that." In this cheap and cowardly way they hope to reduce any criticism of religion itself to purely personal motives. This is the kind of objections you get when the arguments aren't strong enough to stand on their own merrit.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 01:55:00 UTC | #17512

zoro's Avatar Comment 22 by zoro

Although my story certainly isn't so moving as Carol's, perhaps if I share "the rest of the story", then the reluctance of so many "nonbelievers" to "come out of the closet" (at least in the U.S.) may seem a little more "reasonable" -- and maybe those who choose to do so will be able to choose their paths more wisely, profiting from my mistakes.

And since the story is rather long, let me put the "punch line" at the outset: in many cases, "coming out" can be dangerous (for oneself and one's family). Cases have been mentioned on this website dealing with damages to one's career as a result of "coming out"; certainly there have been cases of physical harm from "religious kooks" (e.g., John Lennon and of course all the victims of Muslim fanatics); but in my case, with my now being retired and not particularly worried about my death, my concern is with possible repercussions to my children and grandchildren. Thus, although of course I agree that the more who "come out", then the safer it'll be for all of us, yet I consider it to be immoral for me to jeopardize the financial and physical well being of my children and grandchildren to benefit others. Such must be their choices; not mine -- and my grandchildren are too young to make that choice by themselves. Therefore, I continue to remain in the closet, using "zoro", here, and as author of the book posted at my website, I use the pseudonym "A. Zoroaster". But maybe others can identify better approaches for themselves.

Now for the story. I won't go back to the beginning; I sketch that in the Preface of my book (at http://zenofzero.net). Instead, I'll start with something I read (a few months ago) at the Brights homepage (http://www.brightsonline.net/) dealing with the National Public Radio's (NPR's) "This I believe" series. Moved by some of the "essays" that I read (at http://thisibelieve.org/index.php), I submitted the following (restricted to 500 words) to NPR.

****

I don't remember what I was doing when I learned that my oldest child had crashed his car. Most is just a blur. But I do remember that, during the subsequent week, I totally rejected "belief" in God, replacing it with more appreciation for human accomplishments.

During the 30-or-so years since I had refused to go to church any longer, I hadn't given the "God idea" much thought: I was too busy getting my degrees, raising my family, working in science, and so on. What rekindled my thoughts about God was an ignorant cleric who came around to the waiting room outside the intensive-care unit, where I waited days and nights for my son to regain consciousness.

Just as I had seen him do to others, he came to me and asked: "Would you like to pray with me for your son's recovery?" Angrily, I said "No." To me he seemed like a vulture, swooping down to devour the most helpless prey. Everyone in that waiting room was stressed to the limit.

Sitting there, hour after hour, I wondered: should I give in? Should I pray to God for my son's life? I remember my conclusion: "No. The 'God idea' is stupid. It doesn't have a shred of evidence to support it. If I give in and pray, I'd be abandoning science."

Within about an hour, the doctor came to me and said: "Your son has regained consciousness" – and he added: "Thank God." That blew me away: not only because my son would live, but because of that stupid "Thank God."

It wasn't God who should be thanked. Thanks go to the person who saw my son's car go into the irrigation ditch and immediately called 911, to the rescuers (one of whom jumped into the ditch to hold my son's bleeding head above the water, so he wouldn't drown), to the ambulance team, to the doctors and nurses, and so on: to the inventors of the telephone and the automobile, to all the other humans who had created everything from sirens to good roads, to a public knowing what to do when they hear an ambulance, to the developers of all the instruments and capabilities in the hospital, to the inventors and producers of electrical power, and so on, on and on.

I remember telling my other children, while driving home from the hospital the next day, that the only god that should be thanked is the "Human GOD" – an acronym for "Human Greatness On Demand."

During the subsequent quarter century, frequently I've been disturbed by how much harm has come from the ignorant "god idea" – and yet, more frequently, I've been thankful for how much help has come from human intelligence, kindness, bravery, and perseverance.

Think of 9/11 and think of the future. What's needed is not a war on terror but to continue the battle against ignorance, epitomized by the "god idea".

****

Now, for "the rest of the story" (as Paul Harvey would say). Subsequently, our local NPR station contacted me, as shown by the following e-mail (with identities removed):

****

Hello there,

The producers of This I Believe have forwarded us the scripts that have
come from [the local city] that they like, but cannot fit into the national
broadcast, they have encouraged us to use the essays on air and we plan to
do that before the end of the year. We like to invite you to record the
essay with us, but we'd also like to go a bit further and interview you so
we can mix the two elements into something more than just the essay.

Is this something you may be interested in? If so, please contact me so we
can set up a time to have you read the essay over the phone.

****

I talked to my children about the possibility of my agreeing to the interview, and although the idea didn't bother any of them, even my oldest granddaughter (who is 16) couldn't seem to make up her mind -- and it seemed inappropriate for me even to ask the younger ones. So, my decision was as described in the following e-mail, sent back to our local NPR station.

******

Thank you for your recent invitations to record my little "essay" and to be interviewed.

I've given your invitations some thought and during the Thanksgiving break, discussed possibilities with family members. Let me summarize this way:

• Given that there have been so many violent offenses against "atheists" ("nonbelievers", "infidels", etc.) -- undoubtedly stimulated by the injunctions to kill them that are found in various "holy books", including the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon,

• Given such stupid statements as the first President Bush's "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God", and

• Given the recent "hate mail" including "death threats" received by such "atheists" as Michael Newdow, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Salman Rushdie, and many others,

then I assume that you'll understand why I'm reluctant to accept your invitations, both for my own safety and for the safety of my family.

On the other hand, I think that the reluctance (even fear) of "Brights" to "come out of the closet" is, itself, an important, "news-worthy" story -- reflecting a serious social problem and one that I'd like to try to help solve. To be blunt, any society is sick when the well being of people is threatened if they express their opinions about something as seemingly esotoric as how life began and how the universe was created. After all, those are "scientific questions" and, therefore, should be "off limits" to all religions! In addition, there is the social question: is it desirable to have scientific questions settled by slick lawyers in courts, weapons in the streets, and the return of the torture rack? Besides, in reality, there are no atheists: we just think that, given the odds and the options, Pascal's wager is a foolish bet.

Consequently, my conclusion is this: I'd be willing to accept your invitations -- provided that my anonymity is preserved, e.g., through my use of the pseudonym [xxx xxxxxx]… If this is agreeable to you, then please contact me...

*****

In response to that, I received the following e-mail -- undoubtedly meant NOT for me but for others at the local NPR station.

*****

You gotta READ THIS!!!!!!! Um...do we really want this guy to do our "This
I believe?" Kinda odd.

*****

After responding to the author of that note and contacting the station manager, the Director of Programming and Assistant General Manager's response was as follows.

****

XXX [the station manager] passed along your note for my response. Please accept our apologies that one of our employees was careless in both her response and her use of e-mail.

Given that you appear to have some detailed concerns about how the content of your original essay might be received by listeners, then perhaps it is best if we close our communication on this topic.

****

To me that suggested the Program Director, also, wanted nothing to do with me or the topic. My response was twofold. One was to respond to the e-mail as follows.

****

Thank you for your response. I agree: it's best to close discussion on the topic. In this closing communication, however, perhaps you both may be interested in the following two thoughts.

1. Yesterday (with my continued writing on my current book thwarted by my anger), I spent some time looking into the origin of the This I Believe series, and found the following quotations from its founder, Edward R. Murrow, to be "inspiring":

This I Believe.

By that name, we present the personal philosophies of thoughtful men and women in all walks of life. In this brief space, a banker or a butcher, a painter or a social worker, people of all kinds who need have nothing more in common than integrity, a real honesty, will write about the rules they live by, the things they have found to be the basic values in their lives.

Except for those who think in terms of pious platitudes or dogma or narrow prejudice (and those thoughts we aren't interested in), people don't speak their beliefs easily, or publicly...

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it...

If we confuse dissent with disloyalty – if we deny the right of the individual to be wrong, unpopular, eccentric, or unorthodox – if we deny the essence of racial equality then hundreds of millions in Asia and Africa who are shopping about for a new allegiance will conclude that we are concerned to defend a myth and our present privileged status. Every act that denies or limits the freedom of the individual in this country costs us the… confidence of men and women who aspire to that freedom and independence of which we speak and for which our ancestors fought...

I have always been on the side of the heretics against those who burned them, because the heretics so often turned out to be right. Dead, but right...

Just once in a while let us exalt the importance of ideas and information...

No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.


2. An additional idea of his (copied below) suggested something else to me. His statement is:

One of the basic troubles with radio and television news is that both instruments have grown up as an incompatible combination of show business, advertising, and news. Each of the three is a rather bizarre and demanding profession. And when you get all three under one roof, the dust never settles. The top management of the networks with a few notable exceptions, has been trained in advertising, research, sales, or show business. But by the nature of the coporate structure, they also make the final and crucial decisions having to do with news and public affairs. Frequently they have neither the time nor the competence to do this.

I have no experience with what he describes, but upon reconsidering YYYY's

You gotta READ THIS!!!!!!! Um...do we really want this guy to do our "This I believe?" Kinda odd.

my thought was this: print, radio, and television reporters, editors, directors, and executives consider themselves the "gate keepers" of communications -- as they are -- but all the walls have been breached by the internet!

So, in concluding my communications with [your radio station], I'll now get back to working on my book -- which I'll soon "publish" -- on the internet!

*****

My second response was to proceed directly to putting my (draft) book on the internet (even though I hadn't originally planned to do so until it was finished), posting an additional chapter every week, i.e., continuing at the rate at which I had been sending chapters (or letters) to my 16-year-old granddaughter during the prior 30 weeks.

And I apologize for the length of all the above, but maybe it'll help some other people who are wrestling with the questions "When will it be safe to come out?" and "How?"

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 06:37:00 UTC | #17519

Pastafarian's Avatar Comment 23 by Pastafarian

Carol,

Thank you for your bravery and integrity in the most trying of circumstances, and for sharing the experience with us. You are an example to us all.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 08:55:00 UTC | #17531

fonex_86's Avatar Comment 24 by fonex_86

gimlibengloin(26),

Unfortunately, what you percieve as "imaginary" is vividly real to me, from personal experience. And Sam isn't attempting "...to prejudice... listeners even further against Christians and any argument they might make" any more than xians are attempting to prejudice THEIR listeners against atheists and any argument those might make.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 10:14:00 UTC | #17538

diamat1's Avatar Comment 25 by diamat1

Re funerals -I have for a long time felt insulted by those Christian funerals where the deceased was practically ignored and a "service" full of religious platitudes and hymns was substituted for true celebration of a life. I think that is changing, at least in New Zealand.
My last funeral (for my nephew) had no religious content. It comprised of music my nephew loved (Pink Floyd which was very appropriate in his case) and contributions, stories, from family and friends remembering him. It was a great celebration of his life and is certainly the way I would want to be sent off.
I think there are more and more funerals like this. And even some Christian funerals are including time for family and friends to make contributions to remember the deceased. Wouldn't be at all surprised if this celebration of a life becomes more and more important and the religious component less and less.
Celebration of the person's life has far more meaning than the impersonal (arrogant?) religious components. This is even worse when we know that the person's beliefs were not religious - surely that's insulting to the deceased.
I guess it is important that we let family know what we want for our own funerals.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 12:25:00 UTC | #17547

woollybear's Avatar Comment 26 by woollybear

Carol, thank you for posting this. Although I haven't experienced anything near the depth of this kind of tragedy, I have lost friends and relatives and have attended both formal religious funerals and non-religious memorials. The most moving were those arranged by friends of the deceased and without religious content. A recent one was held outdoors in the mountains (a friend who was outdoorsy). People got up and told their favorite stories of our friend, there was a table set up with a memorial book for the family, there were posters with photos of the deceased and the ceremony ended with bagpipes. We had food and gathered around talking. No one says he's in a better place or any other sorts of nonsense. What I think the important difference about this is, that the church tells us what we should be feeling, what we should think, how we should handle life transitions. When we take these matters into our own hands, they become more meaningful. Religion can only give you shallow platitudes. I've long thought that saying about God not giving us more than we can handle was bs. I don't know how that got started.
Be strong.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 13:11:00 UTC | #17551

Sam's Avatar Comment 27 by Sam

gimlibengloin wrote:
Sam provided no evidence of Xn's in his "personal experience" making such comments but instead chose to attribute to Xns a response which he said, "I can already hear" but which clearly he can't have been hearing.

What i actually meant to say was that i get this exact objection so often that i might as well go ahead and answer it in advance.

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 13:22:00 UTC | #17552

ksskidude's Avatar Comment 28 by ksskidude

carol,

thank you for sharing your story with us. life can be hard enough, without having these idiots tell us it was "in the plan."

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 19:05:00 UTC | #17570

andmarsmi's Avatar Comment 29 by andmarsmi

Before I say what I have to say, allow me to offer my condolences for your loss. It must be terrible to lose someone you love so much.

However, your posting left a deep impression on me, and I'd like to make a few observations.

You claim to be an atheist, but the way you write seems to imply more of a refusal to believe, based on the way you feel you've been treated, rather than a non-belief based on any objective argument. It seems to me that your reasons for not believing in God (why are we all using capital G's for an entity we don't believe in?) are the polar opposite of those you criticise for believing. While they can't understand why we can't accept that a God created the universe and gives meaning to our lives, you can't accept that a God would take the meaning out of yours. These are two sides of the same argument, based on different points of view. Also, it's not really an argument, because both focus on God's intentions. And He doesn't exist, right? Just because you can't accept that a God would take away your husband and leave your children without a father doesn't mean there is no God. It's a rather egocentric argument, as if, for some reason, because Eric was a "good man" and you're a "good woman" and your kids are "good kids", you believe that you should have been spared a tragedy. As Steven Weinberg says, the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.

Also, Id like to stand up for our deluded religious brethren. Every person who tried to console you was doing the best they could, the best they knew how. Fine, you didn't like the way they did it, and some of them sound pretty ignorant, but their ignorance neither proves nor disproves the existence of any God. What you, I, or they "think" or "believe" is totally irrelevant. At least they did something. They tried to help a woman in distress. How would you have felt in an atheist had tried to console you in the following manner?

"I'm sorry but your husbands dead. I'd like to say he's in a better place, but he's not anywhere. He's just ceased to exist. Gone. Erased. But don't grieve, the memes he strived to perfect fly on. So he didn't die in vain.

Don't ask yourself "why?" Eric was not special. Except to you, and those few others who loved him. He was one out of six billion. Insignificant. Like any of us. So don't waste time grieving, because you'll be dead soon too. And your kids not long after that. Maybe even before. Who knows? As some famous scientist said (it may even have been Richard Dawkins, I can't remember), **** happens, so, instead of asking "Why me?" when it does, we should be asking "Why not me?" when it doesn't.

Death is only natural after all, so what's all the fuss about? Grief is just an emotion. A neurological state. It's not "real". So get over it and get on with your life. And, let's not kid ourselves, what on earth did you expect anyway? Eric was a test pilot. He was an intelligent man who volunteered to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Did you think he was immortal? Did you think that, because he was doing a "good thing", probability didn't apply to him? That some kind of "God" or "benevolent force" had his back? Eric was an atheist. He knew the risks and accepted them. So, while you are busy telling the world what a wonderful human being he was, which may well be true, another truth is that he put his reasons for doing his job above the distress he knew his demise would cause his wife and children. So was he selfless, selfish or just stupid? So, don't grieve. He knew what he was doing, he knew the consequences of an accident and he went ahead and did it anyway. If you loved him, you'd accept that. Eric died doing what he loved doing. Be happy. Not everyone gets that chance.

Move on. The entity you knew as "Eric" was a mere accident. A product of chance, time and natural selection. He was, as you and I are, nothing more than a "complicated" vehicle for his "stupid" genes. However, while Eric was mortal, his genes are not. Thankfully, they live on. So, in a way, the most important part of "Eric" hasn't really gone anywhere. He's still with you, inside your two beautiful children. So stop thinking about "Eric", who no longer exists, and think about them, who do. Get on with what's left of your life. Stop grieving. Be happy. Be strong. For their sake.

They've lost their father, don't let them lose their mother to her pointless grief. Don't make them spend the formative years of their lives watching an unhappy mother. Don't criticise others for having found meaning to their existence. Find your own. Be an example to your kids and show them how to find a meaning that makes life worthwhile. Perhaps that is the greatest legacy Eric leaves behind. He was, after all, a man who found meaning without using God. He found something to do that was important to him. And he was prepared to die doing it. So follow his example. Teach your children how to follow his example. But perhaps doing something safer, on the ground.

Seven years grieving is not a good example. Since there is no "God", no "karma", no celestial bank account of good deeds to heal you, all the charity work in the world is meaningless. Unless, of couse, you are doing it for the same reasons Eric flew planes, because it's the most important thing in the world. From the way you talk, it doesn't sound like it is. By fighting grief, all you do is keep it alive. Move on. Leave it behind. Try.

And why write a book about the past? About something that's gone? Why perpetuate the grief? Thinking about the past every day for seven years hasn't helped cure you so be intelligent. Do something different. Why not write a book about the future? About how Eric's legacy, his genes and his memes live on? About how his example can help put meaning in life. Yours seems to have died with Eric. Look forwards, not backwards.

So, would you prefer that, or a simple: "He's in a better place now."? Maybe he is. No one can prove anything one way or the other. Yet.

We're all alive for the blink of an eye. Let's try and be thankful and make the most of his pointless gift that's landed on our laps. Let's not waste it. Let's find our own meanings. Like I said, I'm sorry for your loss. But get over it and stop spreading your depressive memes like a disease. Do something positive. Like Eric did. You spent 20 years at his side. Did you learn nothing?

Mon, 29 Jan 2007 04:25:00 UTC | #17619

Logicel's Avatar Comment 30 by Logicel

andmarsmi, I admire your passionate comment very much. I have read it twice so far and I am speechless. Thank you for the time and effort spent to elucidate some very tricky and tough points regarding non-theism and grieving.

Mon, 29 Jan 2007 05:24:00 UTC | #17624