My wife (a Taiwanese, Christian), my four-year-old daughter and I (an American, atheist) live in Taiwan. We were returning home on the subway in Taipei after a very pleasant dinner with my in-laws and began a quiet conversation about how attached my daughter has become to her grandfather. My father-in-law is now in his late seventies and his health is starting fail so I mentioned to my wife how difficult it will be for my daughter when he passes away. To this my wife replied “Yeah, it will be hard for her when Grandpa’s in heaven.”

No sooner had the words left her mouth when an older woman, probably in her sixties, who had been sitting on the seat next to me sprang up and began shouting at my wife “How do you know he will go to heaven? There is no god! It’s common sense! Are you stupid?” This not only brought the eyes and ears of everyone on the train onto us but also frightened my daughter. The lady kept yelling at us in broken English but we said nothing and when the train arrived at the next stop where we hurriedly exited and took the next train home.

What bothers me about this incident is not the rudeness or the verbal assault of the lady, but rather my own inability to argue in favor of religion or at least a respect and tolerance for others religious beliefs from the point of view of an atheist. I would love to hear back from like-minded people who have had similar experiences or have a good approach to the religious tolerance issue from an atheistic point of view.

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Ain't that the truth aj. Believers won't analyze their religions.

I think you did the right thing.  Usually the best response, to someone like that, is no response at all.

 I've become rather intolerant of christians in this area.  I'm tired of people telling me they're praying for me.  The damned woman who checked me into the same day surgery, for a scope, told me her prayers were with me.   I'm tired of people refusing to sell me beer.  I'm tired of reading the stupid signs that say "Around here we say merry christmas". As; if saying Happy Holidays! is going to bring a bolt of lightning from the heavens! I'm tired of childrens sporting events being prayed at.  I'm tired of being told evolution is only a theory. I'm tired of hearing their is the one true religion.  Theirs being southern baptist or pentecostal.

Thank you, k. hughes. I'm tired of those same things myself!

k. hughes I am tired of that behavior as well. 

From my perspective, the father should have a talk with his wife and daughter about their difference of opinion, that some people believe there is a god or a supernatural being in charge or whatever the belief, and some people believe there is not enough evidence to make a claim of a supernatural being in charge. 

I would go further and tell what evidence there is, what happens after death, according to your best understanding or what other non-believers think happens upon death.

If I were telling my understanding I would say there is no heaven or hell, the body converts to atoms and returns to the universe, while the memories of the consciousness dissolve as the brain decomposes. It may seem gross to some, but this is what I believe. Facts don't hurt as much as fables that are intended to make the naive feel better, and they don't become known as fables until or unless something forces the issue. Tell the facts as known, deal with the pain of loss and grief and move on with living. That is one of the lessons of dying and death. 

The real lesson here is how does one live a life in the here and now, given that pain, grief, anger, sadness, guilt, shame, and fear are all parts of life. A healthy person can separate fact from fiction, learn from each of these emotions and move on.  

Lucky I wasn’t there.  I would have joined the women and berate and harangue your wife for such a dumb remark on a public train.  “Yeah, it will be hard for her when Grandpa’s in heaven.” 

Indeed, makes no sense at all.  If the child loved grandpa, she should be HAPPY that grandpa is doing his thing with the Lord.  After all, what could be better than worshipping some all-powerful, megalomaniacal deity that gets its rocks off by being praised and ass-kissed by its own creation?  It’s gotta be a great way to spend eternity. 

Seriously, the woman has some personal problems but consider that for most of history it’s been the non-believer receiving the brunt of the abuse all the way to immolation for heresy.  The pendulum is beginning to swing the other way and the shoe is on the other foot.



Well, to be fair, if the child loved her grandpa, she would miss him if he moved to the other side of the world or lived any place where she couldn't have a relationship with him.
Well.... Now THERE'S a different perspective. Somethin' to think about!


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