Hank Fox, the author of Red Neck, Blue Collar Atheist: SImple Thoughts About Reason, Gods and Faith, has written eloquently today about the need for secular grief support in a blog entry called “The Club Nobody Wants to Join.” As always, Hank gets right to the heart of the matter, the emotional experience of grief, and, in this case, the emotional experience of grieving secularly while surrounded by the religious. Here’s a bit:
Grappling with the death of a loved one — human or animal — is monstrously difficult, easily the most jarring event a person can ever undergo. Throwing religion into it, for someone who is NOT religious, only adds to the suffering.
Having a support network for grieving unbelievers is an absolute necessity, in my view. Anything less is, simply, cruel. But it’s a cruelty that’s gone unrecognized, unlamented by society at large. The goddy majority that can’t imagine a life without gods also can’t imagine reacting to life crises, or supporting those who are, without gods. They’ve either left us alone (rarely!), or intruded with fervent preaching — at the hospital, at the memorial service, in the days and weeks following — at a time when the last thing a grieving nonbeliever needs is More. Fucking. Preaching.
Intended or not, the message that blares out at us is “YOUR FEELINGS ARE NOTHING! STOP THIS WHINY GRIEVING AND BELIEVE IN JESUS AND GOD AND HEAVEN!”
Grief Beyond Belief is an alternative. A crucial NECESSARY place where unbelievers can express grief and share stories, where empathy and counseling can take place without the preaching. Where grieving unbelievers can feel visible rather than invisible.
He continues with an exploration of how secular grief fits into the larger picture of secular life, and how a secular philosophy about both can transform the way we all live. It’s a brief, sharp piece of writing from a true cowboy philosopher.