In periods following great tragedy, like we saw at Newtown, churches provide a lot of comfort to survivors and the community at large, albeit with their wishful statements that “the victims are in a better place” or that “this was all part of God’s plan.”
Atheists don’t have the luxury of false hope. But that does make it tougher to cope with loss. It’s even harder when you’re trying to explain death to children without invoking the supernatural.
The Washington Post‘s Michelle Boorstein explores that very issue:
So when [Julie Drizin] pulled her 9- and 13-year-olds together this week in their Takoma Park home to tell them about the slaughter of 20 elementary school students in Newtown, Conn., her words were plain: Something horrible happened, and we feel sad about it, and you are safe.
And that was it.
“I’ve explained to them [in the past] that some people believe God is waiting for them, but I don’t believe that. I believe when you die, it’s over and you live on in the memory of people you love and who love you,” she said this week. “I can’t offer them the comfort of a better place. Despite all the evils and problems in the world, this is the heaven — we’re living in the heaven and it’s the one we work to make. It’s not a paradise.”
This is what facing death and suffering looks like in an atheist home.