The Only Athiests in the Congregation? 

On Sunday past Simon and I went to a rememberance service for babies held at the cemetery where Isobel is buried. We had discussed beforehand if it was likely to be a religious service, I thought because the cemetery itself is a municipal and non-denominational one, and because it was in collaboration with the health trust, that the service would be largely secular. 

Unfortunately for us that wasn’t the case. As soon as we opened the order of service and saw the extent of the Christian religious content, we knew we had made a mistake in going, but it would have caused too much of a commotion to walk out. And so we stayed, in a room full to standing room only of bereaved parents, like us, but seemingly not like us. 

The content included a reading about how all the days ordained for us are written in god’s book before they come to be. If someone was planning this life out, I could really have done without the day my daughter died and those that followed! There was the usual pseudo comforting rubbish about heaven. Yawn. The hymn that really baffled me though was the one about how we know we can always trust god. Experience of all those present would suggest otherwise. Who could trust someone who had either decided to kill your child, or stood by and watched them die when they had the power to save them? 
I wondered how others in the congregation felt about the words they were listening to. Were Simon and I the only ones who didn’t believe a word of the assurances of a loving god who cares what happens to those on earth and the promises of seeing their baby again one day? Are we really the only people who finds the idea of a god who could fail to intervene, letting all these babies die and all these families suffer, completely unforgivable? Is it just us who sees the hypocrisy in praising a god when anything good happens, yet failing to hold them to account for the bad? I wondered if the religious content is something that most bereaved parents want or is there just a lack of imagination to plan a beautiful rememberance service without resorting to biblical readings? 

I always used to wonder how my atheism would be affected when someone close to me died. I wondered if I would be so desperate to believe that I would be reunited with them, that I would start to believe in a god and a heaven. If anything, losing Isobel has reinforced my certainty that there is no god, that religion is a man made, politically driven enterprise which preys on humans’ desire to feel that they can have some control over their lives and to allay fears of dying. I’m glad that I don’t have to try and reconcile belief in a loving god with their failure to protect the most vulnerable and most innocent of their people. The idea of Isobel being anywhere without me would cause me extreme distress, not comfort. I am reassured that I don’t think of her as existing anywhere and yet I can still find her in nature, in beauty. I feel all the more keenly my need to make the most of the one life that I have, knowing that is all there is. I find it tragic to think of other bereaved mothers living their days, ticking time away, believing they will be reunited with their baby someday. 

I fully recognise that for some, belief in a god can be a comfort, and I do not wish to offend those who do believe. I know that anything that helps a person to cope with losing their child is a positive thing. I just genuinely don’t understand how anyone in this century can believe, or would even want to. It’s something I really can’t get my head around. 

I would love to have more, fully respectful, discussions on the topic if anyone feels like commenting… 

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “The Only Athiests in the Congregation? 

    1. Absolutely! I don’t understand for those who do believe in a god how they can think it’s a god worth worshipping!! I was raised Catholic too but luckily after our civil wedding (Mum “people will think Simon was married before”), and humanist funeral for Isobel there wasn’t a whisper of a christening for Theo! I am sure it was a lovely family day for you all though x

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I can’t wrap my head around a belief in god in the first place and am utterly baffled that anyone can think a baby’s death can be for some divine reason. I was recently sharing with a woman I work with (who I don’t believe to be particularly religious) how offensive I found the idea of a grand plan or karma. She responded by telling me her theory that this life is some sort of penance for what we’ve done or not done in a previous life. People who live to old age have a lot to atone for- so I was meant to be honoured that Max’s sentence was cut short. I was so stumped I couldn’t even be angry. I just told her it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard. I was really upset at a fellow loss mum recently- though I know it came from a well meant place. She told me that she hoped her baby that died was watching out for me- as though Max was somehow deficient in his rainbow sending skills- but her baby had managed to efficiently send a rainbow. I don’t believe any baby has the power to ‘send rainbows’ and actually even if they could I wouldn’t want Max spending the rest of my life doing stuff for me. Anyway in summary, I so agree with you. Religion seems to be a real comfort for some but in my darkest moments no matter how the odd time I might wish to believe, I categorically don’t. I find comfort that it’s all random chance. We will never see our babies again but we will hold them in our hearts and our families forever. I don’t know if you’ve seen ‘the invention of lying’? Crap film but rings so true!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No I haven’t seen the film but will check it out!

      I completely agree, the whole ‘Angel baby sending siblings’ thing is just silly and offensive to those who don’t have a sibling or who have multiple losses. I think if Isobel was an angel and had any power maybe she’d like to be alive rather than send the odd white feather! I wonder what your colleague thinks we did wrong in our previous live to be shackled with such a penance!!!!

      I think it’s hard as a logical and rational thinking person to talk about religion with people of faith because it just doesn’t respond to logic or reason and they will never shift in their thinking no matter how clear it seems to us!

      Max and Isobel will always be with us, they are in our very DNA and someday we will all be atoms together!

      Like

  2. I’m so glad you wrote this post, I completely agree! Just today I had to block certain blogs from coming up on my feed because I can not bare the ideas about God that you have written about. Sometimes I feel like I want to believe in something but like you, this ‘situation’ has just concreted my atheism. X

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally feel you. When we shared our news on FB this is how I prefaced the longer version of the story.

    Jameson and I lost our daughter this week. She was due on May 14. We appreciate your thoughts, love and condolences. It is a very sad time for us and we’re working through this difficult unexpected turn of events together. We aren’t religious and prefer no comments about this being part of any “greater plan” /etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so glad you were able to say that. Did people respect your wishes? We spread the word that we didn’t want any mention of god etc after Isobel was born but we still received a number of cards with religious references. One of them annoyed me so much it went straight in the bin! I can’t even remember what exactly it said now! But it must have been bad!

      Like

  4. This is exactly how I feel on the topic. I have never believed in religious or a greater power. I find no comfort in heaven, angels, or a better place. I respect those that do have that, but I just can’t and don’t want too. It doesn’t make logical sense to me, I am too factual and too scientific. There is no better place, and to say that suggests that we are all living in a place lesser than them – so I often ask people to choose who they would have rather died at birth to go to that better place. It baffles me. Even the non-religious spout religious inspired comfort words – and I don’t believe that they truly mean them, I think it’s a fake comfort to help them cope, not us.

    I do like to entertain believing in nature and things like robins etc, there are things I will say and believe in that I probably would have rolled my eyes at before – but I don’t deep deep down believe, but I like to pretend because it a small comfort for that split second. And I do say that Leo sent us a Robin with our second pregnancy (that we miscarried) because I think it eases my guilt of moving forward with more children so quickly and also makes them linked in my head someway. But I know Leo has no such power.

    It’s all quite complex isn’t it, we are taught religious notions as a society regardless of our religious beliefs – and this is very true in regards to death and I think it just overcomplicates it as adults.

    It’s okay that they died. And that’s it. They died. I don’t really believe anything happens after that – other than we continue to love and be comfort by their once existence. Xxx

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I know what you mean about fake comfort and sometimes it’s just part of that desperation to try and make things better. I even found myself saying something to an old school friend who miscarried a twin about her little boy having someone to watch over him. After I said it I couldn’t understand why I’d said it as I don’t remotely believe that and she probably knows I don’t! But that was what came out in the moment!

      I think being remembered with love is the best way of living on after death and all of our babies are lucky enough to to have that x

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I was brought up religious but lost it at a young age. I still have an appreciation for the idea of it (as I think it is comforting) but I simply can’t believe it – and to me, the cornerstone of all of it is actually believing in it. I’d like to, really, because religious people seem to have that comfort, but then I also agree it is a horrible thought to think of our lost ones somewhere without us.

    As an adoptee as well as infertile, I get incensed when people tell me “It’s God’s plan”. Why would God take me away from my birth family just for kicks? Why would God give children to people who don’t deserve them, who hurt them, and not to people who could be wonderful parents? It’s just a ridiculous concept and it’s meant to be comforting I suppose but really it’s rubbing salt in the wound.

    Like

    1. Oh gods mysterious plan! If your prayers are answered it’s because god is good, if they aren’t it’s because god’s ways are mysterious. So annoying!!!!

      I work in mental health with children and many of them have been abused in various awful ways. There is absolutely no way in any world that any benevolent god to make a plan to let children grow up having those horrendous experiences and other children who would have been loved and treasured are chosen to die as babies. There is clearly no grand plan, just random chance! Completely ridiculous! But how are we the minority in the baby loss community?!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for writing this post – I’ve often felt like the only bereaved man who doesn’t believe in God and believe my child is in a ‘better place’. I realise people say these things as they want to make us feel better but I find it all very hurtful. We were invited to a service of rememberance and I was so keen to go until I relied it was in a church and changed my mind. I so wish there was a non religious gathering we could go to just to remember our little ones without all the hocus pocus.
    When my son died I remember being asked if we wanted to see the chaplain and I snapped at the doctor saying I did not want to hear any talk of God or Jesus ever. I was probably a little rude but I just can’t reconcile myself with there being a God that sees fit to take our children from us, it just seems completely insane to me. And if I am wrong and there is indeed some ‘being’ or God letting us suffer like this then I want to go and see him/it right now and tell him/it what I think and give it a punch in the face on our behalf!!! X

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So true! I have no idea how people believe in an all powerful and all loving god, the two things are just mutually exclusive when you look at this world of ours!

      I would love to arrange a humanist rememberance service, there are so many beautiful secular pieces of writing and music that would make a lovely service!

      Like

  7. I will be honest with you from the start so you can choose to read further or not. I do believe with all my heart in a loving, holy heavenly Father who loves us so much He too experienced the death of his Child so one day we could live with Him eternally. I have no words of comfort for you or any arguments to explain away the pain we experience in this life. For no matter what I said, it would seem like empty platitudes to try to erase a depth of pain and sorrow that will not be expunged. This I do know, my heavenly Father waits to hold you in His arms of love and comfort you as only He can. Will it change what happened? No. But it is always a comfort to know someone shares our pain and truly understands the loss we feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are no words or comfort or arguments because religion makes no logical sense. It’s not something you can defend from a logical position, only from a faith position but faith without evidence is not something I value.

      Why would an omnipotent god need to sacrifice his son?

      Thankfully I have found people who share my pain and understand, they are other bereaved parents, they are real and they are tangible.

      Thank you for commenting though. I know that your belief must be a comfort to you and therefore you would imagine it would be so for others. I do appreciate your sentiments. However I have no need of your god or any of the other gods that have been invented through the history of mankind.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your reply. If your question concerning God’s sacrificing his Son is more than rhetorical I will be glad to answer it but if not, I will not impose my beliefs on you. Again, I am sorry for your loss.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s