Atheist Hope

by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

"So, yes, religion has to answer for the crusades.  And atheists have to answer for having no meaningful words of hope to provide in crisis."

Excuse me? Just because the reader has witnessed people with faith drawing strength from that "belief [in their] existential choice" does not mean that people without faith have no strength to draw on. My entire family is atheist. We've weathered the death of my mother and grandfather in car crashes, my father's death from cancer, three divorces, one cousin going blind while caring for three special-needs kids, and my own struggles with infertility -- without once any of us needing to deliberately set aside rationality or reason in order to be comforted by an imaginary friend.

We lean on one another. My father died when I was in grade school. My mother didn't tell me he was in God's hands. She told me that she loved me and that she was hurting too, and that together we would survive. When my mother was killed, my grandparents didn't tell me that "everything happens for a reason." They told me they loved me, that they were grieving their daughter (she was their daughter-in-law, but they loved her as their daughter), and that I always had a home with them. My aunt is going through a rough divorce after 40 years of marriage, and she says "we won't ever get over this. But we will get through this."

If people who believe in a deity take comfort from that belief when they're suffering, more power to them. But I greatly resent being TOLD that because I don't believe in the Bearded Sky Fairy that therefore my way of coping with suffering MUST by definition be inferior, empty, hollow, and meaningless. It works for me, and it works for my family. Kindly give me the same respect that I afford you as a theist and don't assume that because you don't understand or agree with our method that it must be stupid or useless.