My Photo

The Out Campaign

Atheist Blogroll

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 05/2005

« The Best Things About the Midwest Humanist and Freethought Conference | Main | Greta Interviewed on "Ask an Atheist" Podcast! »


This latter point cannot be emphasized enough. There's an all-too-common assumption that "non-religious" means "not adhering to the tenets of a specific religious sect." If you aren't talking about Jesus, or Allah, or reincarnation -- if all you're talking about is non-specific ideas of some sort of higher power or some sort of afterlife -- that's typically seen to be "non-religious."

This is an important point and one that's not touched on enough. Twelve Step groups and their fans are particularly bad about this. >.>


So how about something for those of us who are Facebookphobic? Not really the right term, but close enough to describe my reluctance to be joining certain online social networking sites. I would prefer to have as little online presence as possible, so joining places like Facebook just to join another site (within that social network) leaves me cold.
Will there be a choice for us (me)?


I grew up atheist, my parents were agnostic at best and openly areligious so the idea that when someone dies they continue and that should be comforting was not one I encountered in general, nor even at funerals until my mother died. After the funeral, one of my aunt's friends tried to tell me something about how my mother was in a better place now and it was so odd, so contrary, and so silly that I didn't know how to respond.

I knew my mother's body was in an urn waiting to live on my father's mantle, I knew that her brain had ceased to function days earlier and that anything that could be cognizant of better or worse had ended with that, but most of all I knew that she had been to the same damn funeral that I attended. The funeral where no one mentioned an afterlife, no one mentioned spirits, no one mentioned deities, and no one tried to gloss over the fact that someone who had been alive and interacting was now dead and just a memory.

Did I feel anger? Pity. Pity that she was living in a made up world where she could pretend to continuance, pity that she found insufficient comfort in the very real people who were around her, pity that she was so attached to the past that she couldn't join us in the present, pity that she didn't notice this, and I think mostly pity that she wouldn't be aware of how she changed her memory of her lost friends and family to suit her present needs. Belief in afterlife is not a comfort to me, it angers me because of how it hobbles people, but the people who hold that belief I pity.

I know this is my privilege, I didn't have every other person trying to push belief at me as a shared ritual occlusion. My sympathies to those of you who find that your views are the minority and afterlife the assumption.

And the group grew and flourished far beyond her expectations.
...In part because it was promoted on this very blog, of course.

(This is not a criticism.)

Doug Kirk


You could always join it under a pseudonym with a newly created email account.

My grandfather was similarly paranoid about having an identifiable online presence (also facebook and the government tracking his every move and reporting to roving Obaminators, but hey, to each his own) but still wanted to have a facebook page and that's what I set up for him. Never used his real name or contact information once, and now he can keep up with family far away.


I find the assurances by theists that a loved one is somewhere "better" to be just more fishing for validation of their myth-based beliefs. Prating about heaven also means prating about hell (sorry universalists, don't buy it either) and as one of the folks in GC's article says, we know that's what they have to be thinking.

I also find nonsense like "they are in a better place" to be an attempt to invalidate grief said to anyone, atheist or theist. Accept the grief and remember the person well, not some bogey man in the sky.


@Doug, @Stephen: Theoretically, Facebook prohibits registration under a false name, and can kick you off their network for that. In all practicality, they have no good way of checking if your name is real or not since they don't have your credit card or anything, so you just need to make sure your pseudonym is fairly real-sounding.


I decided a long time ago that funerals are for the living and I would be in no position to tell anybody how or when to grieve after I die. I told my kids that I have no expectations - if they want to have a service or memorial it's entirely up to them. I have recorded my own eulogy and they can use it or not as they see fit. That way, if anybody is offended, they can blame the dead guy.

Here is what I recorded (with proper attribution to the Digital Cuttlefish):

When we are dead, we’ll feed the worms
And other stuff that writhes and squirms
And if you cannot come to terms
With that—well, use your head!
There are no ifs nor ands nor buts:
Bacteria within our guts
Will start to eat us; that is what’s
In store, once we are dead.
Yes, life is short and full of toil,
And when we’ve shuffled off this coil
Our carcasses will start to spoil—
There’s nothing wrong with that.
Our share of fish or pigs or cows,
And all the chicken time allows,
Is done. It’s only fair that now’s
The worms’ turn to get fat.
Should we die young, or old and gray,
The laws of nature we’ll obey
And spend our heat in mere decay,
Replenishing the Earth;
“Three score and twelve” may be our years
For love and laughter, hope and fears
And then—mere smoke—life disappears;
No heaven, no rebirth.
And with no heaven up above
Nor hell we ought be frightened of
It’s best we fill our lives with love,
With learning, and with fun!
Don’t waste a lifetime while you wait
For halo, wings, and pearly gate—
This is your life, so get it straight:
You only get the one!
I’ll have no moment lost to prayer,
To cleanse my soul and thus prepare
For passage to… THERE’S NOTHING THERE!
Those moments, all, are wasted!
I’m only here a little time
Before it’s bugs and worms and slime;
I’ll eat and drink my life so I’m
Delicious when I’m tasted!


DSimon: I'm aware of that, but what it boils down to is I detest their privacy policy (remember their entire fortune is made selling what they learn about their users to advertisers; that's the core of their business), so am unwilling to agree to it.

With two exceptions, plus businesses I exchange money with, I'm much more hardline: I don't use web sites that require registration in any form. I contribute to Wikipedia but not OpenStreetMap. I comment here but not on Pharyngula.

Occasionally I'll grab a user ID from BugMeNot, but I usually can't be bothered.


Vaguely related to this, I'm never sure what to say to a grieving religious person.

A relative of mine's wife has a fatal brain tumor; it's a matter of months at this point. I've never met the woman but I have met her husband, so I wanted to send a sympathy email. Problem is, EVERYONE else in the family is saying how she's in their prayers and to pray for her and stuff like that. I'm stuck awkwardly trying to communicate "this is terrible and I feel bad for you" to someone I know but am not close with, and I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb by deliberately avoiding the word "prayer". And then her husband bounces right back with "please keep her in your prayers".

There's some important social function that relgion is serving here that I haven't figured out a good substitute for yet.


Rootboy, regular human sympathy would be an excellent substitute, but the problem is as you point out: being secular under such circumstances sends its own weird message, and is often interpreted as hostility. There's no good reason for that, but that's the way things currently are. :-\


I agree with the poster above about facebook. I too detest their stance on privacy issues and flat out refuse to be a part of the group (frequently at the expense of potential friendships with people I meet at college).

With that said, I would really like to be a part of this group. My grandmother passed recently and I've been really struggling with her death and thinking about deaths of future loved ones. Is there any chance of Ms. Hensler moving this to an actual webpage?


Thank you for this Greta. (First time commenter here; I've been a reader since December). Very timely, as my grandfather died two days before you posted this article. My family is Catholic, and although the younger generations aren't that into it, my grandfather and his second wife were quite devout. It has been fairly alienating to sit through all these religous rites and listen to his wife insist, "He's with us, I know he's with us", and tell me he's in heaven helping me with my job search. Ugh. I suppose I'm luckier than many people who've commented here and on AlterNet, who are just surrounded my religious messages coming from everyone. Most people around us are just saying "sorry for your loss", and that isn't considered "weird".

I think that stuff would be easier to take if non-belief were more socially acceptable. In that case it would be easier to have that attitude mentioned in the article: being grateful for the intent behind the message, grateful that someone was at least attempting to comfort you. When you've received messages all your life that if you don't believe, there is something wrong with you, it's a lot harder. You feel like you have to smile and nod and pretend to agree, and if you don't agree you're lost and incomplete at best, and a force for evil at worst. It's terrible for a grieving person to feel this pressure to pretend, to cover up who they are, on top of everything else they're going through.

I got to serve as a pallbearer during the ceremony, and I was glad for that. I was afraid I'd be asked to read a Bible passage about heaven and Jeebus, which definitely would have felt dishonest and wrong. This way I got to be involved in a way that didn't require me to feel phony.

As for the Facebook group, I also second the idea of moving it to a webpage. In addition to the privacy concerns, I think this would be better done on a web-based forum or something.

Rebecca Hensler

This is Rebecca Hensler, founder of Grief Beyond Belief.

First of all, Grief Beyond Belief's success owes a great deal to Greta and her blog. Not just for her advice and for her work helping promote the site on other atheist blogs as well as on her own, but also for her willingness to be awoken in the morning by my pre-launch panic attack :-)

Secondly, Grief Beyond Belief will eventually expand to its own website. However, creating and administrating a website will involve additional work, and until there is a functional team working on the project, rather than one individual, the FB page will have to be enough. The current timeline is for a website to launch next summer. (The paid summer break afforded public school educators is the only thing that made this project feasible in the first place. Hooray for the teachers union.)

Thank you all for the kind comments and support.


Poor Greta,
Your understanding of progressive religious thought is still stunted by not understanding what its all about. It's OK for you to be an atheist. Stop feeling so guilty that you have to write, write, write about it. You seem not to understand that faith is not a function of mind, but of will. Thinking just doesn't do it.

herve leger dresses

I am grateful that I have identified this blog. As a final point one thing not a crap, which we examine incredibly usually. The weblog is lovingly operated and updated. So it need to be, thank you for this welcome transform.


InterestingI layout on your blog. I really enjoyed reading it and also I will be back to read more in the future

Vancouver Web Design

Strictly speaking, most “atheists” do not declare that God does not exist.
They declare that the existence of God is as probably as the one of Santa Claus, the fairies and other supernatural entities.
They are as sure as the non-existence of god as are of the non-existence of fairies.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Subscribe/ Donate to This Blog!

Books of mine

Greta on SSA Speakers Bureau

  • Greta Christina is on the Speakers Bureau of the Secular Students Alliance. Invite her to speak to your group!

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz

Powered by Rollyo

Some Favorite Posts and Conversations: Atheism

Some Favorite Posts and Conversations: Sex

Some Favorite Posts: Art, Politics, Other Stuff