I have choices when these kind of emotional outpourings are made public. I can ignore them pretending not to have read them. Sometimes that’s easier than trying to offer comfort to someone I don’t actually know personally. Or I can let her know that I sympathize by a simple posting of support. If I feel a connection to this person, even if only as a result of seeing their comments and interacting with them remotely for years, or because I share with them the same non-belief in God/gods I feel compelled to say something.
Today I left this simple message on the thread: “Thinking of you today, Charlene” (Charlene is not her real name).
Soon thereafter I was flooded by emails advising me of others who have posted to “Charlene’s” thread. Most were simple secular messages of understanding, support and condolence. But then there were a few like these: ”Praying for peace that passes all human understanding through Christ
”God has blessed you as he should.”
WTF??? After all, it’s not like her lack of faith is a secret - her “secular humanist” status is there on the profile page, along with her statement of respect for science and outright rejection of religion as a cause of world misery. Yet there they were- unabashed professions of prayers to Jesus on her behalf and expressions of hopeful supernatural blessings.
Charlene dutifully acknowledged each comment with a “like”, even the religious ones. One can only guess what she really thought. Likely, she accepted them with little concern, a grain of salt, and understanding. In that regard she is a better person than I and that was that. But I know what I thought.
I can't help but wonder what the hell was going through the minds of those who left religious comments. Are they so entrenched in their delusion that they are oblivious to the possibility that their religious offerings, even if meant to comfort in the very best way, is something that an atheist might find inappropriate, insipid, insulting, or just plain offensive? OR they are proffering their religious gibberish knowingly, with calculation, because they sense there may be an opening for proselytizing in this person’s weakened most vulnerable moment…much as a vulture circles weakened prey?
We’ll never know since a friend’s thread is not the appropriate place to launch such an inquiry which invariably would come down to my verbally accosting the offenders at the expense of, and much to the chagrin of Charlene. No matter what the explanation, whether stupidity, insensitivity, or intentional hawking – I find it grotesque.
The only way a religionist could even understand this would be if they posted a similar appeal for support and I offered them something like: “Sorry for your loss, but they are in a state of utter oblivion no more or less so than the oblivion they were in before their birth.”
Or maybe that’s too esoteric for them; perhaps something a little more along the lines of : “May Satan lift your troubles, and carry them away to His place of eternal pain; and may the thought that your loved one may someday join Him in victory against the forces of God bring you comfort.” Then wait and see if they just genteelly “like” my offering, or if they go Jesus crazy on me because I wasn’t respectful toward their religious preferences.
Maybe, just maybe, they’d get it then. Probably not.