One of the issues that Godbots will try to use to demonstrate atheism is inadequate is the scenario of parents with a dead child.
It’s visceral, painful and easily empathized with.
The mistake is that you, as the person speaking to the grieving parents, are not responsible to explain anything to them. You can’t. You can only comfort as best as you can.
Lying to people, giving false comfort, isn’t doing the grievors any favours. It’s actually a little evil to use personal tragedies to advance your own agenda.
The best that anyone can say to anyone who’s grieving, is “I am sorry for your loss.”
Followed by an offer to provide whatever assistance that you actually can do – bring food, help with arrangements, do errands or just stay away and give the grieving time.
Why would telling silly stories about living in the clouds be at all comforting to the parents of a dead child?
“They are in a better place” Nonsense, the best place is with their family.
“They are out of pain” they are also now out of the joys of living.
“They are with god”. Then god’s a jerk for taking the child. If god called them home, doesn’t that make god a kidnapper?
That the parents – or anyone who’s lost someone they love – are grieving is because they know that person is gone.
Not somewhere else, not merely out of pain, not in a better place, but gone.
If people who claim belief in an afterlife really believed that the afterlife was real, then they wouldn’t be grieving – they would be happy that their loved one was in a better place.
You don’t grieve for people in a better place than yourself. Miss them, sure, but not grieve. Death, to someone who believes, shouldn’t be any worse than sending your kid out of state to college.
It’s believers who have to tell themselves stories to cope with the uncertainties of reality. You tell yourselves that:
- you are part of a larger plan to make yourself feel important and connected – and more, to try to give a reason to the events in your life
But, if you want to know why things happen, then look to your own decisions – the things that happen are the consequences of the decisions you make and the decisions of the people you interact with and encounter
- there’s a magical and powerful being looking out for you and caring about you
But, you have to convince yourself of the greater plan in order to explain away painful and negative things – after all, why would such a powerful and loving deity let bad things happen?
A loving and powerful person doesn’t let bad things happen that they could prevent, so this is explained away with the undefined plan – which is little more than Scarlett O’Hara’s “I’ll think about it tomorrow”
You’ve told yourselves is story and you have to keep making excuses and adding patches to hold the story together – but it doesn’t hold.
This is what makes believers angry and needing to force others to buy into the same story; partly to validate the belief and partly to end challenges to it that can’t defended against.
Believers tell another lie and to make them feel good about thinking poorly of others that they are lesser people – immoral, close minded, perpetual teenagers in rebellion.
The reality is that people who are outside of the norm have done a lot more thinking about life and themselves than any mainstream believer who has never considered not accepting the cultural context determined default setting.
People outside of their cultural norms have found the default setting wrong for them and found their own settings. Sort of like the difference of installing software the express default way – or working though the various install options in the customized and expert menu option.
I often feel at odds with the pat expressions and meaningless exchanges others seem to not think about.
Like walking by a person you know and they ask “How are you?”, but they keep walking by; not even waiting for the expected “fine” or “good”.
Why not just smiled and nod to acknowledge each other, without the charade of conversation and asking a question when you’re not interested in the answer.
Although, since my response is “better”, often the person will stop in their tracks and become concerned that I’ve been sick. I’ve now taken to saying “bitter”.
But, the meaningless exchange that’s troubling my thoughts is a rather bizzare idea of being comforting.
When a person is depressed about life or are in the middle of a crisis, I just do not understand what possible relevance or how it’s supposed to be comforting that being told that “other people have it worse.”
Yes, for every single person on the planet, there will be others who are suffering more and still others who are having a rather better time of it. And? This is supposed to mean what?
To a person in crisis or depressed, what other people are or are not experiencing isn’t relevant to their situation and isn’t a solution.
When a person invokes the “other people have it worse” is it nullified by “others have it better”?
Are references to these vague “other people” just another way to say, chin up, stiff upper lip and that other soldier on bad advice?
Vague words of comfort are no comfort at all – and certainly, they do not lead towards solutions to the situation.
Maybe the better thing to say to a person who’s suffered a loss is to acknowledge that no words are comforting at this juncture. They are more honest and don’t have the backfire potential that false or meaningless comfort pat phrases do.
(For example, it’s not at all comforting to hear “your grandparent lived a long life” or “at least they are out of pain now”)
Even offers of help don’t really penetrate the greivor’s brain in the moment, but are generally remembered later as a kindness if followed up by helpful actions.
To a person’s who’s depressed about their current circumstances, being told to buck up isn’t helpful because part of depression is low or no resiliance. You simply do not have the mental, emotional and often physical capacity to pull yourself together, so this only invokes guilt that you’ve failed again or fallen short of the minimum requirements.
Shifting the depressed person to thinking about the future instead of dwelling on the current situation – what they want to be different and reverse engineering how to achieve it gives them goals and something to look forward to. More importantly, it’s a plan of action that can restart the resiliancey, energy and capacity needed. Sometimes you just need a chemical helper for your brain chemistry, antidepressants can be a good friend.
Considering people in disaster zones, Katrina, Tsunami 2004, Haiti Earthquake 2010 – the people in these areas have had their lives utterly disrupted – there’s no question that they have it bad.
But it doesn’t lessen the suffering of the people living with decades of drought, starvation, disease and corrupt governments in Africa.
These just make for sexier headlines because they are big events rather than a continous reality of multiple generations.
And neither of these conditions reduce the suffering of a middle class western person who’s just had a death in their family or circle of friends or lost their job or some other traumatizing event.
Calling a comparason between a person and vague others tends to have the effect of making a person feel guilty for feeling bad when “others have it worse”.
Isn’t that the opposite effect of what the phrase is supposed to accomplish?