The title of this piece caught my eye the other day when it appeared on Google News: "The Blessings of Atheism." I wondered what those might be, so I read it. It's by Susan Jacoby, one of those activist atheists. And the purported blessings she offers are pretty thin stuff. I certainly sympathize with her difficulty in wrestling with the problem of suffering. But it's a little sad, and a little amusing, that she recommends that atheists respond to the grieving with the news that at least when you're dead you won't suffer anymore. Speaking of the president's response to the Connecticut murders, she says
Somewhere in that audience, and in the larger national audience, there were mourners who would have been comforted by the acknowledgment that their lives have meaning even if they do not regard death as the door to another life, but “only perfect rest.”
She's not at all clear as to what that meaning is--something to do with social justice etc., it appears. Fine, as far as that goes, but ultimately she can offer only the counsel that death puts an end to everything, including suffering.
He could have said something like, “Whether you are religious or nonreligious, may you find solace in the knowledge that the suffering is ours, but that those we love suffer no more.”
And in time you'll follow them into nothingness, and suffer no more from their loss. This reminds me of a guy I worked with on the farm many years ago: his response to any vexing problem--a broken piece of machinery, uncooperative cattle--was "A hundred years from now you'll never know it." A useful bit of perspective when one is inconvenienced, but hardly what we're looking for in a philosophy of life.