Not long ago a celebrity made news by dying peacefully in his sleep. A woman on Facebook noted his passing with the observation that people are destined to die the way they lived. Her words were meant as a tribute to the deceased, but the statement went too far.
Normally, I’d have made no reply as I understood the intent. But words have their impact. In this case, thoughtless words can hurt. Every day, good people die horrible deaths because of war, disease or famine, and so I asked the woman who’d left the comment if she would could imagine how the mother of a child, tortured by cancer, might feel if she were to read that souls die the way they lived.
Knowing what to say at a time of grief is difficult. But too much piety becomes sanctimonious. Too much sanctimonious thinking can lead to righteousness. And too much righteousness leads to intolerance. I do wonder at the number of times I see “amen” on my Facebook page, or requests that I pray for someone or am invited to read an individual’s interpretations of God’s word. In the latter case, I’m never sure anyone has the authority to speak for a deity. Nor do I suppose the Bible, written piecemeal and in different versions over time, is clear to any one individual. Experts have been in dispute over Its [Their] meaning throughout the centuries. (Click)
That 21% of the U. S. population is irreligious seems to have escaped the pious. (Click) Or perhaps, they imagine with enough “amens” and calls for prayer, non-believers can be saved. If so, I thank them for their charity, but they should also know such calls in public spaces seems out-of-place — as if, for example, a Muslim were to throw down a prayer rug and turn toward Mecca at the mall. I guess I would respect his or her right to do so, because I can choose to walk around the worshipper. But at other times, I am given no choice. On those occasions, I’m bound to ask, has the worshipper no obligation to take my feelings into account? Seeing conduct inappropriate to the setting leaves me feeling awkward. I don’t enter a cathedral to buy shoes. Why should any public area be deemed appropriate for religious display?
(Originally Published 8/24/17)
Shall we empty the temples, the churches, the synagogues, and the mosques to pray everywhere else? On Facebook? Amazon? Snap Chat? At a city planning meeting? At the beginning of a football game? The dentist?
If my comments astonish the pious, I am sorry. But frankly, their disregard for non-believers has left me astonished for years.