Author Topic: Comforting beliefs  (Read 2810 times)

Comforting beliefs
« on: May 24, 2015, 10:22:59 PM »
I've been an atheist for a fair few years now. I was originally sent to a Catholic primary school, my parents weren't particularly religious but my fathers side of the family kind of pressured them to ensure me and my brother were educated in the "Catholic way". I never took it seriously looking back and as a teenager I moved to a sort of deism since I couldn't resolve the idea of an all loving god with the concept of Hell or eternal punishment. I figured that god was just the primary cause of the universe and has been hands off ever since. I came to realise that was just a cop out to make myself feel better so now I consider myself a strong atheist. I don't believe in any gods due to the lack of evidence but I don't claim that there is NO god since I can't honestly say that (I could be wrong but it's pretty damn unlikely).
 
I had a real problem accepting that there is no afterlife, it was quite frightening in its own way but I came to terms with it since I didn't have an issue before I was born so non-existence cant be so bad. The difficulty I have now is that one of my colleagues lost her mother last year and she is visiting a psychic to go and talk to her. I find myself having to bite my tongue around her when she talks about it and can only say to her that she shouldn't ask for my opinion since it will bring her no comfort. The only thing that I could think of that would be even slightly comforting is the idea that the universe produced her mother once so, hypothetically, it could do so again in the future. My choices seem to be avoid the subject or use maths.
 
I know I'm going to meet people in this situation like this in the future so my question is, is there anything I can say or do that doesn't make me sound like an absolute dick telling them that their loved one is gone and they will never see them again?
Tempus Edax Rerum

Offline stromboli

Re: Comforting beliefs
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2015, 11:19:28 PM »
Welcome to the forum and the answer to your question is no. Death and the belief in an afterlife is the central belief of every religion; the bible, koran et al are most correctly labeled books of the dead, because that is what they are. I posted a thread not long ago on why theists dislike atheists, and their/our view of death is the main reason.

I was a theist for many years and buried many people, and I guarantee bringing up an atheist viewpoint in a funeral of grieving theist is a bad move. Discussing it in aftermath or under other circumstances, sure.  Regardless of your stance, dealing with death is a personal issue. My family were all staunch Mormons and believe me, being an atheist in a crowd like that makes you feel like a glaring beacon of wrongness, but in the end, you can sidestep the issue and nod your head comfortingly, which is about the only honest response you can give.
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Re: Comforting beliefs
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2015, 11:26:39 PM »
Unrelated to the topic, but in reference to your name....

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Offline TomFoolery

Re: Comforting beliefs
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2015, 11:26:49 PM »
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I know I'm going to meet people in this situation like this in the future so my question is, is there anything I can say or do that doesn't make me sound like an absolute dick telling them that their loved one is gone and they will never see them again?

Well, are you required to inform a person that when their loved one is dead they are nothing but worm food and will never be seen or heard from again? It seems to me you could keep that belief to yourself where grieving people are involved. I certainly do, and when prompted usually say something neutral relevant to the specific situation. Some personal favorites are:

He/She will be greatly missed.
He/She lived a life anyone would be proud of.
He/She is no longer suffering. (He/She is in a better place could also technically work in this situation, if they were truly in agony, being cold and dead in the ground seems like a better place to me than in a hospital bed hooked to wires and ventilators but hey, go with what feels right...)
He/She really enjoyed life, and you can honor them by enjoying your own.
How can you be sure my refusal to agree with your claim a symptom of my ignorance and not yours?

Re: Comforting beliefs
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2015, 07:16:41 AM »
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Unrelated to the topic, but in reference to your name....

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I use this name as my online personality in mmo's and anywhere else that calls for an avatar and you are probably only the third person to get the reference lol.

To the other two that responded I agree, I'm avoiding the subject like the plague it's just that we sit opposite each other at work so I can't exactly walk away. Funny thing is that she isn't particularly a believer herself. She says she is going because her mom was.
Tempus Edax Rerum

Offline SGOS

Re: Comforting beliefs
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2015, 10:17:35 AM »
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I know I'm going to meet people in this situation like this in the future so my question is, is there anything I can say or do that doesn't make me sound like an absolute dick telling them that their loved one is gone and they will never see them again?

No, there is nothing you can say that won't seem dickish.  Don't go there.  Funerals are not the place to talk about oblivion.  Funerals are rituals where I think about the person's life, and say good bye, even if I say it into thin air.  It's a time of grief, where people are struggling in their own way.  They are having a hard enough time.  You can say something like, "I'm going to miss Ole Jeb," but stop there.  However, if fucking up funerals and causing misery for others is your thing, you can join the Westboro Baptist Church.

Re: Comforting beliefs
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2015, 10:51:42 AM »
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I know I'm going to meet people in this situation like this in the future so my question is, is there anything I can say or do that doesn't make me sound like an absolute dick telling them that their loved one is gone and they will never see them again?
My atheistic outlook is for me.  I do not require all others to think as I do.  I don't need their support (not that support isn't wonderful to have) to think as I do.  So, if a person is wrestling with grief, I don't use this as a time to put down or clue them into reality.  I support them in a manner that is meaningful to them and gets them through that tough time.  It's like when my wife comes to me and asks "Does this dress make me look fat?"  I am careful what I say.  I like telling the truth.  Should I say what I really think?  Or should I reply with something that will make her feel better?  I opt for feel better.  Theology can wait for another day.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

Re: Comforting beliefs
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2015, 05:05:11 AM »
Thanks for the replies guys. I would like to emphasise I don't seek out people who are in this situation to upset them I'm just seeking a way to deal with it when I find myself there without trampling all over their feelings. Guess there is no easy answer to it, I'll just have to keep ducking.
Tempus Edax Rerum

Offline SGOS

Re: Comforting beliefs
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2015, 07:41:50 AM »
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I would like to emphasise I don't seek out people who are in this situation to upset them I'm just seeking a way to deal with it when I find myself there without trampling all over their feelings. Guess there is no easy answer to it, I'll just have to keep ducking.

I have an atheist friend who's 20 something son died in an automobile accident.  I can't think of many things more traumatic than that, and it's taken him years to get over it.  In one of our discussions, he said he was having a hard time accepting that his son was dead.  He said he felt like his son was still alive someplace.

It didn't seem like the time for a lecture about nonexistence, and at the moment, the only thing that came to mind was, "Wherever your son is, he's not suffering."  My friend nodded his head, like he could at least accept that and was OK with it.  It might be something you could say to a theist, although I would try not to say anything about the state of death, unless the person was trying to elicit something from me, and then I would make it as generic as possible.  "I'm sorry for you loss," is always highly appropriate, but it's said so many times at a funeral that it almost sounds like everyone is reading a script, but the idea of that comment is spot on.

"People handle grief in different ways."  I have a friend that cautioned me with that comment as I was on my way to a family funeral.  I didn't really know what he meant, but as it turned out, there was a period at the funeral where some real shit started to fly.  You don't know how people are going to react under grief.  It's a time for thoughtful consideration before saying anything.

 

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