May 27, 2010 - 6:34 pm
By way of introduction, this is something I posted to my personal cancer blog almost a year ago (!) shortly after I first got my cancer diagnosis. I'm not looking to (re?)start any theist v. atheist battles, just curious given the opportunity to ask a group of fellow cancer survivors (some of whom I hope might share my viewpoint) how they've dealt with this.
"So - only a few days after posting my cancer announcement, I've run into my first minor internal conflict. Among the responses I've received have been quite a few assurances that I'm being prayed for, or added to the prayer list at the respondent's church, etc. Every single one of these is from a good person that cares about me, and is trying to express that in a way that fits their particular set of beliefs.
I suppress, of course, the brief impulse to respond by telling them not to waste breath or time on my behalf - if nothing else, that would be incredibly rude. Despite (because of?) having been raised in a moderately religious (Adventist) family, I am a self-described atheist, and have been for years. But the subject mostly hasn't come up in coversation with family - I think I shocked my sister a bit when I did go into a brief rant on the phone with her. If I didn't have anything good to say about a hypothetical omniscient/omnipotent god before, I have even less now as a cancer patient.
So I virtually smile, nod politely, and murmur some kind of fuzzy expression of gratitude for their well-intended prayer offers. But there's going to be that shock coming sooner or later. I've made it very clear to Aereyal that whether it happens in a year or forty, there's to be zero religious bullshit at any post-mortem gathering for me. No priests or preachers, no platitudes about "going to a better place". I want a Dead Man's Party for those who knew me - the sort of event I'd have enjoyed if I wasn't the past-tense Guest of Honor at this one. This is likely to be a bit of culture shock for any friends and (mostly) family that didn't know me quite as well as they thought.
And I can't help wondering if I don't owe them, myself, and atheism in general a bit more truth now, rather than that surprise later. Or not."