Monday, February 17, 2014

Thoughtless, Stupid or Calculated? It’s hard to tell with religionists.

I was scrolling through my facebook homepage when I saw a posting from a long time facebook friend, atheist of course. It seems today was the anniversary of the death of two beloved people in her life and it is resting heavily on her.  People who share these kinds of events and their feelings are looking for support from their community of friends, even if that consoling is coming from what in reality are total strangers. 
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
     Jesus our Lord."
”May God bless............”
”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.


NewEnglandBob said...

For those mindless ones, saying "I'm praying for you" is just an inanity similar to "god bless you", neither of which they actually mean. They just speak without thinking.

Beth Purkhiser said...

Many Christians don't believe there is any such thing as an atheist. They think that we "know" god and are just rebelling against him by pretending to deny him. I'm sure there are a few who are just genuinely trying to show sympathy in the kindest way they know - but I do think there is also a sizable number who take it as an opportunity to evangelize. I know there are any number of churches that actually preach that their members should watch for these opportunities to evangelize, and even tell them that it's a sin to avoid those opportunities.

Riley the Atheist Dog said...

My 22 year old daughter just went through some very scary stuff with two malignant melanomas, one on each palm. There's a happy ending - the sites were excised and the "margins", as they say in the cancer treatment business, were all clear. A couple of other precautionary biopsies were done at the time of the two excisions. They came back negative as well, so the result was the best it could be under the circumstances. My daughter is now cancer free and all done except for recovery from the surgery (which is proceeding well) and frequent follow-ups with her dermatologist.

But there was a two month period where none of us knew how bad it would be. We knew the first two biopsies, though malignant, were treatable without radiation or chemo, but we had no idea what was coming with the latter two. When I was discussing this with my mother, she said even though my daughter and I are both atheists, she was going to pray for my daughter's good health every day.

Now I could have mentioned the absurdity of suggesting an almighty god that had chosen to afflict a young, otherwise healthy woman with the most deadly form of skin cancer in two separate spots, that this almighty god would just say "Oops, my bad" in response to my mother's prayer and fix everything, but what would I have achieved? I think my mother's praying is an example of one of the few occasions that religion is actually helpful. Her prayers did no harm to me or my daughter, and they provided a distressed elderly woman with the belief that she was doing something, anything, in response to a stressful and potentially tragic situation.

So I thanked her.

Anonymous said...

I confess that the only way I know of to respond to such situations is with "You and your family are in my thoughts".

WhyNot said...

I don't know why you are getting your panties in such a knot: Charlene's only expressing her distress because of her loss. Who cares if it involves what you may call irrational reasonaing involving a "god"? It's not as if she was screaming for the introduction of compulsary born-again teachings at school, right?

Baehler said...

Love your blog; I read it & share snippits of it often (esp. christianity broken down on the side..) Anyway, regarding the post- i only (only?) have 180 FB 'friends', mostly ppl i went to school with, family, extended family, etc and a good portion of those from friends/extended family are posting this same drivel to MY status'- i could not be more clear as to my passion against religion & it being the worst offender against humanity ever and it continues almost as sort of an attack. I would explode if i got that opportunistic preaching on such an outreach for comfort as did 'charlene' ! I'm constantly seriously on the edge of deleting 'friends' of these ppl and of anyone else whose majority of posts are religious.. I wouldn't have very many friends left, but i think it would be worth my peace of mind, THANK YOU for your intelligent blog!

Anonymous said...

'Charlene dutifully acknowledged each comment with a “like”'

Uh, what? Why? Why would she "like" receiving such trash sympathy? I'm not a big social media person, but I sure wouldn't "dutifuly like" some random stranger moron's bullshit about my situation.

Are we dutifully bound to "like" a post from Ayman al-Zawahiri if he expresses sympathy for my 9/11 relative? To "like" an empathic message from FDR to my Japanese forefathers for my post lamenting how they were not only incarcerated but lost their homes and other ownings?

Perhaps if my post is about unConstituional surveillance and James Clapper contributes "oh so sorry" on the page, I should "like" that bullshit?

Grow some fucking balls and stop auto-"like"-ing everything.