A family member died this past week and I watched with a breaking heart as some prayed for a miracle that never came. I watched with an empathetic mind as some wrestled with the very real struggle of justifying the death: “God must have wanted him in heaven more than on earth,” was the go-to phrase. As I watched and empathized, I was reminded of the ways in which religion would cheat a soul. I was reminded of the freedom and clarity that come with atheism.
I remember the days of praying with desperate hope for a miracle that would delay the finality of death (even though there was no evidence anywhere for me to believe that a miracle would occur). I remember hanging on to any glimpse of good news: the blood counts were down, the iron counts were up, the kidneys are working again – each was a sign that a supernatural healing was just around the corner. Death would be cheated this one time.
Death is never one to allow itself to be cheated. It always came, always claimed the soul it taunted for months. No amount of praying would dissuade it from its duty. No god could stop its arrival.
I remember my struggle to make sense out of a no-win situation when the inevitable would happen. I recall finding excuses because the reality was too hard to accept; buffering my psyche with outdated memes “thy will be done” “god is in control” “so-and-so is with the lord now.” I remember admonishing my self – obviously my faith was weak.
What a mental mess we allow ourselves to be as we work through the conflict of believing in the supernatural and dealing with the fallout when the supernatural doesn’t manifest itself.
As I watch family members work through the conflict – trying to fit together the notion that an omnipotent/omnipresent god refused to defy nature this one time and keep death from claiming its prize – I am thankful for the clarity that atheism brings to such circumstances. There’s no emotional roller coaster, no disappointment in a benevolent being, no chastising myself for weak faith. No futile reconciliation exercise in order to come to terms with the failed hope of a miracle healing.
I am saddened by the loss of life. But I am consoled by the many ways in which that life will live on: through children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, and neighbors. I am inspired to live my life better. I accept the reminder that time is short, we are mortal, death will not be cheated. I am grateful for the lesson that there is clarity with atheism.
Peace comes with understanding, it does not pass it.