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January 06, 2013


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kathy a.

i think she was getting at something a little different. the trite "comforts" offered by many when a family member dies -- we have all heard them, things like "this is god's will" or "he's in a better place now" -- are not all that comforting even to family members who are believers. they only really comfort the person who serves them up, because then that person feels she has done her duty, and is thus relieved of having to face the wrenching pain of the bereaved.

you are correct, of course, that nothing will comfort the parent of a dead 6 year old. the simple acknowledgment of such a horrifying grief, though, is better without somebody editorializing about their idea of god. in my opinion. my lack of belief compels me to pay more attention to people in the here and now.

hope you have a good trip back.

Sir Charles


Well I have to agree that in the choice between non-belief and saying "it's God's will" -- a truly rage-inducing sentiment, I'd opt for extolling the virtues of non-belief. I guess I didn't really get what she thought atheism had to offer that was special in this particular circumstance.

Eric Wilde

Safe journeys and Happy New Year. I just arrived at the hotel in New Dehli. Back in Asia for a stay...

I have to agree with the sentiment here, the hard truths of atheism are little comfort; but, the graceless panaceas of religion are just galling. Gods forbid one of my children dies before me; but, if some whack job offers religious platitudes to me I would probably lose sht and punch them in the face.


My first thought on hearing "It's God's will" in situations like a child's death is "How the hell do you know?" followed by "what's your God got against a small child?"

It's presumptive and nonsensical.

kathy a.

and yet, people say that shit. "god's will" does not sound a lot better when a parent has died after a hard illness, either. (dad wasn't a saint, but 3 years of cancer? mom was a bitch on wheels, but boy howdy, an incapacitating stroke + complications? geesh.) i could handle "in a better place" a little more easily, without being very specific about my reasons with those paying respects. if anybody mentioned angels, though, i was drawing on my lamaze breathing and mentally mapping the location of the wine.

Bill H

I'm beginning to like you more and more Sir Charles.

Some years ago I went with my wife to her father's funeral. Her parents were "Christian" fundamentalists; something which she rejected before we met. Fortunately. The pastor was giving some sort of sermon in which he spoke at length about how nonbelievers could not have the wonderful services which we were then engaged in because they were so wrong in their thinking, and wasn't it wonderful that we could comfort ourselves with all of this... Whatever it was that we were supposedly comforting ourselves with. It all sounded insufferably arrogant to me, and my wife suggested leaving while the moron was still blathering. I was happy to oblige her.


wasn't it wonderful that we could comfort ourselves with all of this

What a singularly inappropriate time for a session of oratorical mutual masturbation!

Sir Charles


I'm much more likeable in person.

kathy a.

wow, that takes some special talent, bill -- a minister driving away the daughter of the deceased. "ha, ha, we're going to heaven and you're going to the hellfires" is not one of your more thoughtful religious sentiments.

there is such a thing as a thoughtful religious sentiment. the parts i retained from all those early church years are along the lines of "love one another," "do unto others," "let he who is without sin," the non-violent approach of "turn the other cheek." if one takes these stories as parables illustrating moral and caring behavior in an unkind world, they hold up pretty well.

kathy a.

it's true -- sir charles is great in person. :)

my adopted nephew died of cancer over 10 years ago, after a struggle of nearly 3 years. (i call him my nephew, because he called me auntie. our families were close; he was a classmate and friend of my daughter, and his brother was a good friend of my son.) i spent a LOT of time with that family through the ordeal -- at the hospital, at their home. was asked to be there when the doctor told them there was nothing more to do; was there at their home when he died after a week in a coma.

there is no good way to lose a child. there isn't. nothing can take that pain.

the idea that an atheist cannot offer anything is absurd. this family is buddhist, and obviously i am not. i could not change the course of the cancer. what i could do was keep showing up; keep listening; keep caring. keep in touch with their other friends, so we could work together. i made a "happy quilt." when he was in the hospital (a LOT), i tried to go by every day or 2, even for a moment, and took posters or cards to put on the wall. i took his mom for coffee and let her cry. a bunch of us collaborated and made a "winter wonderland," decorating the exterior of the house to surprise them. we finally talked the family into letting us bring dinner, in rotation. we thought of the other boys in the family, and included them in normal things. as my nephew's brain was consumed by the cancer, his abilities regressed; he had trouble in those last days with preschool puzzles, but he still was so happy doing them.

the day he died was horrible; his mom was -- understandably -- a complete mess. the hospice nurse turned up just moments before he died. i ran out immediately after, to get his brother from school and tell him; ran into the buddhist priest on my way out. when we got back, i told the hospice nurse that i was worried about the mother, my friend, who had been saying she wanted to "go with him" -- and she took charge, gathered the morphine and other meds, and i was her witness to flushing them. it was a bad bad day.

anyway, that's my story. it is still painful to remember. but it is why the author's piece -- responding to the notion that atheists cannot offer comfort -- resonated with me.


The atheist has to offer the realization that every wonderful thing in our society was put there by a real person. That society isn't hopeless and needing guidance from some unseen, dispassionate hand. That the universe is beautiful if we want it to be.

And that a person's work, no matter how little, was part of all of this.

I didn't know the crowd here was so non-believing ^-^;

kathy a.

i know that there are some believers here, too. but they tend toward "love one another" part of the spectrum, and away from the hellfire and brimstone take on how one should live this life. (except in the metaphorical sense, e.g. while discussing evil in the political realm, so far as i can tell.)


To each his or her own.



Bill H

Yes, kathy, I am aware of kindly religious sentiment. My father was an Episcopal priest, and a very gentle and loving man. If the church had remained as it was when I grew up in it and as Dad advocated it, I would still be participating in it. I left when it was taken over by the ideology of hubris and ripped apart by internal strife.

big bad wolf

i'm with oddjob.

it is very possible that people are trying to offer solace, in their way. we are on the left tolerant of lots of things that i don't personally approve of---that's a tenant of being on this side. i think we can extend that tolerance to people who offer condolences in terms we don't understand or hold. obviously, if they issue them as judgment on us, not solace, there is reason to be angry, but maybe we shouldn't look for reasons to dispute others in sad moments.


Re: this photo. Are you part of a rum commercial or something, Sir C?

Prup (aka Jim Benton)

I too am with oddjob -- in fact, I disagree with his earlier comment because I agree with his later one. I do not think saying something I have often had to say is 'mutual oratorical masturbation.' When I say that 'my only regret about being an atheist is at times like these, when I cannot say that I will pray for [you,them,that child or parent or pet, etc.] and believe it will do any good. I can do nothing for them -- but whether or not I am right in my disbelief, I can remind you that you always have the memories with you. Hold on to them, stroke them, and call them up when you need to be reminded of them -- and if you want to hope I am wrong, and that an afterlife still exists, and that helps, do it.'

(Actually, I suppose that there are several ways of imagining an afterlife, of different kinds, that do not imply a theistic god. But for most people, they are unable to imagine 'an afterlife' without falling into the Christian/Zoroastrian concept, any more than they can imagine a 'creator' or theistic God other than the Abrahamic one, and this is rarely a time for such fine distinctions.)

I can offer them the consolations of this world, can remind them every morning to wake up grateful for having known the person for however long they did -- and know that someday in the near future they will accept and cherish those consolations -- but people are so used to thinking in terms of 'eternal life,' -- honestly, usually as a spectator on the future more than as a resident of either heaven or hell -- that they, and even I, feel I have failed them when I say that (more gently) at their moment of loss.

Prup (aka Jim Benton)

And yes, I'm back, and something near the Prup of old, before the minor breakdown/burnout/depression that started last Summer. It's taken a while, and, -- warning, i got a LOT of stories to tell -- and advice to ask -- the whole house sale question almost cut one of the props I had left out from under me. This is the story I mentioned where I was wrong about everything until the end and Em deserves a medal for her picking up the slack and taking full charge of the negotiations -- even though they meant dealing with my brother-in-law, never easy.

But it's really been this year, these last eight days, and a few before, that have broken the thing totally, with a wild serendipitous ride that has shown me that its a hell of a lot better to be lucky than smart.

I can only hint, without giving details, but I have had a business idea floating a round for a few years. one that seemed 'good but impossible for a few years, probably impractical for a few years after that.' The perfect 'blue sky dream' that was at least a way of talking myself to sleep, imagining it actually happening as I 'knew' it couldn't.

But a few days before New Years' I started checking some things out of pure curiosity on the subject of the idea, a subject I thought I knew a fair amount about. (I'm being deliberately obscure because this is a 'forehead-slapper.' You know, 'why didn't I think of that.' Now maybe someone will come up with the idea independently -- and the only thing I have is an idea and a plan to make it into a business -- and those are the breaks, but until I have something in process, I'm not going to mention it publicly.)

Every single time I went to Google, or to Wikipedia, I wound up with information that showed me that -- unlike six months ago -- this was now possible and practical, and that the contacts and information and cooperation I needed, which i thought would be impossible to get, had become very possible and that there was even a central location to get the information and make the contacts.

Now I can't discuss the specifics in public yet -- I trust every one of you, but I don't know who might lurk or be drawn here -- but I'd love to talk it over with some of you in e-mail (jimbentn at verizon dot com), and -- while even I think the afterlife/consolation discussion is more interesting, I hope I'm not threadjacking by asking a couple of general questions, particularly of the lawyers.

The first has to do with lawyers in fact, and legal ethics. We used a family friend as a lawyer during the house sale -- I won't be moving, btw, except from the ground floor to the second floor, we negotiated ten years free rent as part of our proceeds from the sale. That lawyer is not the best around -- there was one point where the contract was written so it had us selling our new landlord's house to them instead of our own, and there was a hilarious typo in the lease that I caught. (I'm used to fast and sloppy or slow and careful, but slow and sloppy is a new one.)

My question -- and here's hoping the lawyer never sees this, I like the person as a person, just not as a professional -- is first whether it is possible for anyone to screw up something as simple as an artilce of incorporation, and second whether it is considered ethical to use a lawyer for a task like that when you have no intention of using the person for anything else involving the company.

And one other one. I am planning on using a very descriptive company name, one that will 'reveal the secret' hoping to establish priority by doing so. Am I right in that, and, once the process gets started, am I right that, at that point, telling you all about it will again work to establish the priority.

(And yes, I am considering that I am still as crazy as I was last year, only on the opposite and of the 'bi-pole' and I may be, but I don't think so, and am watching myself carefully. Em's skepticism helps here too.)

Prup (aka Jim Benton)

Aaaarrrgh. So much is going on I am making mistakes in the rush -- the House sale negotiation is technically not final yet and we have the move to do and repainting -- to remove my brother-in-law's color scheme and echoes -- and other things as well as the business.

But I goofed above on the e-mail address which is dot NET not dot com.

Oh, and the sort of year it's being... there are about five words most commonly associated with the subject of the business. One of them turned up in the capcha for the last post.


I disagree with his earlier comment because I agree with his later one

You're certainly free to do so, but I found the pastor's comments, in the context in which they were offered, insufferably smug, and consequently not at all consistent with the teachings of Jesus, and therefore unchristian.

Prup (aka Jim Benton)

right, on rereading it, I was making a general comment, you were referring to Bill H's experience, and I agree with you in this case. I'm rushing everything these days.


Context is everything. :)

kathy a.

BBW, yes. i know that most people are doing their best to offer solace, and try to take it in that spirit. nobody has the magic words at such times.

apologies for going on. i'm not an evangelical athiest; it is just where i came out personally. (for an athiest, i have an unusual number of minister friends.) for a bunch of reasons, i've spent more time thinking about grief over the last 10-15-20 years or so than is strictly healthy.


Rhetorical question: I'm a parent whose child attends a school where a decision is made to have teachers and/or administrators, and also too, an armed NRA posse, arrive armed at my neighborhood school. I strongly object. To say the least. What are my rights?

kathy a.

damned if i know, nancy, except [a] this isn't what you signed up for, and [b] perhaps more helpfully -- the school district has some serious liability issues if there is shootin' going on. i would try to find like-minded families to complain, and also complain up and down the chain of command, with the idea of attracting the attention of the lawyers for the school and/or district.

armed NRA posse. what could possibly go wrong????

Prup (aka Jim Benton)

This is not exactly a theoretical question, at least not for the residents of Spring Lake, Utah. Of course, "Utah law allows teachers to have concealed weapon in classrooms, but the district doesn't advocate for that, Thomas said" and Thomas is the principal of the High School.

What gets to me, reading the comments, is the fear -- and claims of a higher rate of crime and drugs -- in this community of 469 people as of the 2000 census. And this is in the Mormon stronghold of Utah, in the Provo (home of Brigham Young University) census area. (

Ironically, Wikipedia for Provo says:
In 2009, Provo was listed in Where to Retire magazine as an "enticing city for new careers." Provo was also listed in National Geographic Adventure magazine's "where to live and play" as a cultural hub. In 2010 Forbes rated Provo one of the top 10 places to raise a family.)

Prup (aka Jim Benton)

And -- again thanks to Steve Benen and the Maddow Blog, we have another example of NRA influence. And this one is scary, because, unlike the meddling in elections, which gets noticed in the press and blogs, this rarely gets noticed out of the immediate area. I had not heard anyone mention the specific part the NRA's objections to his votes on Supreme Court confirmations played in Dick Lugar's defeat, for example.

The article doesn't mention specific examples, but certainly implies that the NRA works for some confirmations as well as opposing others, and that's even more serious. A blocked confirmation can, at least theoretically, be resubmitted, but a mistaken confirmation only ends with death or retirement -- only 5 judges have been impeached since 1986 and none in the 50 years before that.

kathy a.

let the good times roll: a list of every registered pistol permit holder in NYC. death threats already. these permits are public records, under state law.

far as i can tell, the 2d amendment does not whisper a word about a right to *secretly* pack heat. the "well-regulated" part of it suggests the opposite.


SirC -- Circle one re Stanley. All is/is not forgiven. :) Two weeks. Dang.

I spared you the documentary series of footage of doggers waiting for their families while kenneled. They were waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting s'more.

Seriously -- hope you had a great r & r. Your photos are no doubt being turned into screen savers.

I have nothing more to offer about our gun-fetishists. There is no communicating with people who require military weaponry in order to function. Not much more to say.

Except that when parents mobilize in regard to arming teachers, the national *conversation* should get quite loud.


Here's a thoughtful start out of Kansas. The author's run-up refers to the intransigent paternalism run-wild in the KS legislature. But then:

I have written here about my twin daughters, they are seven years old and in the first grade… just like those first graders in Newtown. And this I know… when a child is shot 11 times while sitting in their classroom, it is time for change. When 20 children are shot in this manner… it is time for drastic change. I will not allow my children to be victims of terrorist acts committed by a gun-toting madman, nor will I allow them to be a prop for the NRA to sell more weapons to their cult-like masses, nor will I remain silent while the Mike Huckabees of the world to use this tragedy to push a Christian agenda into my public school.

My politically liberal sister, who doesn't enjoy living in Kansas City, MO in part because of the politics of Missouri, rolls her eyes when you mention Kansas when talking politics.

Prup (aka Jim Benton)

Damn, oddjob, that's baaaad news, since he'll be replaced, almost certainly, with another Manchin, a very blue dog.

And, oddjob, can you please e-mail me (jimbentn at verizon dot net). I have started the incorporation proceedings on this idea of mine, and will probably talk a little about it once it's going -- which means contacting someone I need to wotk with me on it to be certain I can get it going -- and that will take a little time. But there's a question I particularly want to ask you, your feel on something and someone. And I'll gladly discuss this thing with any one of you in e-mail, just not in public yet.

This is going to be a fun few months, very 'interesting' (in the Chinese sense). Trying to keep up here while I am starting a business with a targeted roll-out, if possible, in November, while moving upstairs is going to be hard enough, but once we are there, the new owners of the house are demolishing the whole first floor, deepening the basement by two feet, and making a lot of needed repairs. Between the noise and the dust -- and remember I still am not free to travel much so have to do most of it over the phone -- I think I am going to look back to the entire last sixty years as an oasis of calm and peace -- even the times that got me to live at the Men's Shelter or commit myself. I'd be planning on pulling my hair out if I had enough left on my head to get a grip on.


With apologies, I prefer to keep myself anonymous.

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