My Dad is terminally ill with a rare cancer.  It has been a terrible thing to go down this path with him.  I do feel helpless in the fact that there isn't anything, other than being there, that I can do for him.  It's tough when you are a Type A in a situation that you can not change or control.

When the majority of people find out, they, of course, tell me they are praying for him.  While it doesn't really bother me, because they are helpless as well, I find that as time goes on, I want to say something to them.  If I, from a practical standpoint, can't do anything, what in the hell is prayer going to do for him?  Do people think that by praying that they can actually change the outcome in anyway?  And if by some crazy chance his health does change, will they accept credit it for it, because it was due to their prayers?

My family has steadily moved away from religion in the past several years, but I am the only who is not a believer.  I know that they secretly pray for my dad to recover and I think they have that right, but when they talk about miracles happening, I want to slap them for it.  If medicine and doctors can't fix him, where is this miracle going to come from?

I haven't voiced any of these thoughts to friends or family, but have any of you been in this place and if so (or even if not, but put yourself here) what did you do/say?  

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This is a classic instance of where no possible good can come from an atheist intervention. You'll just look insensitive and worse.

My father died recently and the only time I let my atheism come up was when my sister asked me if I wanted to join a procession to carry his ashes up to the altar of his church. I admitted that, not being religious, I wasn't comfortable with that idea, which she accepted.

I did attend his memorial service and helped to bury his ashes on the church grounds.

Can you imagine how disrespectful it would have been to use my father's death to springboard into a discussion of my atheism?

My father's death and his memorializing was about him, not about me. It was my last chance to give him what he would have wanted.

My Dad is 87 and developing early dimentia. His best friend is 100% mentally but losing muscle control such that is is almost unable to swallow and has only two fingers which work.

That said, have I been in your place? Doubt it but I'm trying with the irrational hope that I can offer something which will help your circumstances. Foolish, right?

It's also some preparation as can see the clock ticking so am very grateful for your sharing.

As for people praying, I hate that! IMO, it is intrusive and manipulative. Regardless, I recall mention of a study regarding the effectiveness of prayer which I think concluded that prayer had no effect excepting for a negative effect when an ill person knew that that others were praying on their behalf. In that context, I would tell them that I would appreciate their not praying but that they should, under no circumstances relate that they were praying to the person who was ill.

Funerals are a terrible plague, IMO, because of the blatant promotion of religion. You might give that subject some thought also as funerals with their "final step" context can be what many people recall.

As is obvious, I am struggling with this subject also so hope that my reflections do not increase your pain.

Sometimes, I think, we all wish for a bit of magic in our lives, but we all know it won't happen. I lost both of my parents at different times and I miss them. All we can do is to make what time we have with them the best we can. There is nothing more than we can do than that. I don't think most teens realize that one day their parents won't be there for them anymore. They don't seem to realize that life isn't forever and things change.

We need to make the best, not only of our parents but of our families as well. Creating unnecessary strife and rancor is totally unproductive.


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