My wife, like me, is an atheist (thank god!).  When her dad was dying the last thing he asked her was to accept jesus and go back to church.  She told him she couldn't do that (my wife is a stickler for the truth).  My reaction was to say: you should have just agreed, it would have pleased him, comforted him, made him happy, and done no harm, since when he was dead he'd never know anyway.  She said that if she had done that she'd feel guilty, and would feel compelled to at least try, though she knew it was doomed to failure.

  I don't fault my wife, but I wonder, since it wouldn't have bothered me in the least, how do others think and feel about this issue?

Views: 17

Tags: death, promises, truth

Comment by kris feenstra on May 4, 2011 at 10:21pm

I guess a situation like that is going to vary between any two people.  With my family, I'd probably have done the same thing as your wife in that situation.  The honesty would have been worth something in itself, to me and to my family member.  Really though, I'm the one that has to live with that decision, not them.

Comment by Raven on May 5, 2011 at 1:36am
I feel like there are very very few instances when lying to someone is good. That basically includes protecting someone's life. I would do the same thing as your wife. The truth should always mean more than a lie. To mean it means the person means enough to you to not make up something just to make them happy.
Comment by Graham on May 5, 2011 at 4:56am

Appeasement seems the easy option, to make your loved one feel better at this hardest of times, but what about the next time? What other occasions may you feel obliged to appease another person's point of view to make them feel good (but making you feel less good about yourself), and so compromise your own rights to defend, or even just to silently hold, your own opinions and beliefs?

Asking someone to abandon their beliefs, even as a dying wish, is actually very disrespectful and is the polite end of the evangelism spectrum, which those of religious belief seem to think is their exclusive right. It's the willingness to kow-tow to this one-sided respect that props religion up. We mustn't upset them, no matter that they are quite happy to upset us.

Imagine if a dying atheist asked a Christian or a Moslem to renounce their god. Would they be expected to promise to do so, to appease their departing relative (thus invoking the wrath of their invisible friend)? I very much doubt it.

How you turn down their request is a difficult issue. "No way, Jose!" may be a tad cruel, but a more subtle answer, delivered in a caring tone shouldn't cause undue anxiety.

Comment by Robert Karp on May 5, 2011 at 8:41am
I don't think there would of been anything wrong in saying yes. If your wife in ont secure enough in her non-belief that she would try again because of what she said ,then maybe she is still searching. Because if she is a true atheist, she can say yes to her father without worrying about any reprocussions from any god or anyone judging her actions to be immoral. Part of being an empathetic person is giving love to those who need it at the times they need it the most. She has guilt either way, her dad dies in sorrow knowing his daughter said no or because she lied? Doesnt't make sense. I can say bless you when someone sneezes out of pure habit although i try not to and feel no less secure about my non-belief.
Comment by Doug Reardon on May 5, 2011 at 10:45pm
You have all given me much to think about.
Comment by Karen Azimianaraki on May 5, 2011 at 10:54pm
I am an RN and currently working hospice care so this is what I deal with on a daily basis. The patients that I care for first of all know I am Atheist and the majority love the debate. I know this sounds bizarre but it seems the family has more problems with me than the patients. I don't go in as an Atheist but it come up I will not lie to them. I am there for all the medical care the family are not or not willing to do. I love my job. Most ask me if something happened to me as a child to make me one of "them" I usually laugh and tell them no and go to them and say no I was an old woman and leave it to that. I do ask them when they know if they would rather have a Christain or whatever they say no. In 10 years I have had only one patient say yes. It didn't bother me one bit. My mom has end stage COPD and I am the one taking her shopping and such I humor her and let her say she prays for me,but I WILL NOT lie to her and tell her I would go to church. I don't lie to my patients why to my mom. Hong in there this time in your life is very hard.

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