Sunday, August 29, 2010

"But they were atheists, so they didn't care..."

Something rather disturbing happened at a party I was at the other night.  You may have heard about this story, where a wedding party's bus was hit by an SUV and a member of the wedding party was killed.  I was out of town at the time, so I never heard anything about it.  When someone at the party was telling me about it, she said something along the lines of the wedding couple being atheists, so they just had the wedding at the hospital after the death of their friend.

I'm sorry, but how the hell does the couple's religion (or lack thereof) have anything to do with that?  Realistically, it's not like postponing the wedding would erase the memory of what happened or make the ceremony any less sad than it was bound to be by that point.  It's a tragic event, no doubt, and it's not the wedding memory that anyone wants to have.  Whether the couple wants that memory to be of their actual wedding day or of the day they had originally planned to get married is completely up to them, and has nothing to do with their religious beliefs.

I barely knew the girl telling the story, but a friend and I exchanged glances after she said this, and we both decided it wasn't worth an argument.  She wasn't necessarily aiming to be offensive; I honestly think she just had no idea how (of if) an atheist can deal with death. 

I can't speak for anyone other than myself, but let me just say that I've dealt with the deaths of family and friends far more often than I'd prefer already.  Without a doubt, I'll encounter it numerous times over the next several years during my medical training.  I'm of the mind that life is just as precious (if not more-so) when you don't believe in an afterlife.  When my grandfather died a couple years ago, much of my family was comforted by the idea that they would see him again someday.  I never shared that comfort (and nor did I start any discussions about the merits of such comforts).  But that doesn't mean that I can't still appreciate and honor the memories that I have of him.  I won't get into any more detail, as I don't aim for this to be that kind of emo blog, but I will say that the idea that atheists are unable to mourn death or appreciate life is absolutely ridiculous.  Some people just need to use their brain a little more often.

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