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The Passing

My Wife and I got some very sad new that a friends 4 month old son died last night. He was born with a bad heart and had several surgeries to correct it, but his genes obviously were more faulty that we all hoped. He died in route to a large children’s hospital.
I write this post simply to get a feel how other Atheists deal with these situations. I do not have a God to lean on, I don’t think this fits into a grand design. I feel that the Universe is hostile, so it is, so it shall always be.

  1. August 21, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Dear Mr Ozzel
    You could call me an atheist, but it doesn’t free me from belief. There is no so called god or holy father who rules the world; people do. That is why you, and all the rest of us, find the world hostile. All evil comes from man and every man has responsability for his or her life and therefore, all decisions in life.
    Yet, life is nothing but fair. So why is that?
    I strongly beleive that we are here on earth to learn how to become a better person. Each and every one of us has a beforehand designed rucksack full of “homework” and it’s up to each end everyone to deal with it the very best we can.
    Maybe these parents will help others in the same situation. Maybe it will teach you and your family to appreciate life and your children even more. I obviously don’t know what will happen in your lives in the future, but I do know that we all have to deal with this terribly tragic event one way or another but always try to make the best out of it so that we can go on in life as a better and stronger person.
    My thoughts are with you

  2. August 22, 2009 at 6:49 am

    I have seen senseless things appening to people near me too. I don’t know why, I used to beieve in emergentism, it can’t answer such questions properly. Perhaps the problem is with our way of thinking. May be everything is meaningless, its when we attach significance to the events of life that we feel pain.


  3. August 22, 2009 at 6:54 am

    I wrote a blog post with something similar in mind.
    hope it won’t confuse you further

  4. Anoat Ozzel
    August 22, 2009 at 3:06 pm


    Thank you for your comment. I agree with much of what you say. I would only offer one correction. I do not feel that the Universe is hostile because of man; I feel the universe is hostile intrinsically. I make no distinction between man and the universe. This is why I lack the ability to see the divine, like many religious folks do.

    If you trace the origins of our species, or more significantly of any biologic entity on Earth you will quickly see that they only survived at the price of extinction of many, many others. Ours is a history of genetic conquest, luck and endurance against very unforgiving environmental forces. The paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould articulated this very well in this quote: “We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes-one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximum freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way.”
    Unfortunately, all too often, our bad genes outpace the ability of modern medicine. We find ourselves watching little guys die and elderly living way past any conceivable value.
    I am still curious how other Atheists, including you, would approach this. Should I tell the family that I will pray for them? That would seem a rather trite expression of my grief, or should I just be present and afford them my human company and sympathy for their unimaginable grief?

  5. August 22, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    At times like these, I try to minimize saying anything about my beliefs but focus on the values and the needs of those suffering. It is impossible to offer words that really mean much, I offer help, bring food, send gifts and let them know, unobtrusively that I am a friend. Ideology drops out of the picture at times like those !

  6. August 24, 2009 at 4:36 am

    Not having a God to lean on doesn’t seem to make a difference. I thought I had a God to lean on most of my life, but now that I don’t, and I lean on people instead, I realize I was always leading on “God’s people” back then, and now I just lean on a different set of people in times like this.

    Some of those “God’s people” are still supportive, but many are not, so I simply lean on those who are willing to help and forget about those who have dropped me like a bad habit. Their support was apparently conditional.

    I also learn not to be like that, and to instead support those I care about because I care about them.

    The universe is hostile, but people often have the capacity to soften the many blows we are dealt. Surround yourself with those people.

  7. August 24, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Well said Tony ! Well said !

  8. Anoat Ozzel
    August 24, 2009 at 5:54 pm


    Thank you for the thoughtful reponse. I really enjoy hearing from apostates like yourself and Sabio. Your experiences are very unique and a bit exotic to me, simply because I was never thouroughly indoctrinated, let alone baptised. I am going to work up a post about regarding the clique like atmosphere of Christian circles.


  9. Kelly
    August 25, 2009 at 3:04 am

    Hi Anoat–How sad about the little baby. I had a similar situation happen to me personally and I was (and still am) a non-theist. I never felt the need to turn to god during some difficult times and in fact hated when folks told me “god must have a reason for this” or some other bullshit. “Life” can suck and “life” doesn’t care who lives or dies. It is just the way nature is–I found comfort in that simple fact. It of course doesn’t make the initial pain of losing a baby any less. A friend of mine, who is an atheist, lost her 35 year old son when he had a stroke. She too found it easier to get her head around her son’s death knowing that nature did what nature does and not having to wrestle with “why did god take him now, for what, etc”. Anyway, lend an ear to your friend; listen to their stories of their baby even if they repeat them many, many times, look at their pictures, acknowledge their baby’s birthday and death day anniversaries, make a donation in their baby’s memory but mostly just say “I’m sorry”. Also, check out compassionatefriends.org.

    Thinking of you and your family,


  10. Anoat Ozzel
    August 25, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    The story thickened a bit when my wife and I got more information. Turns out that the child died at the tertiary hospital, not en-route, as I mentioned before. He was given too much of an anti-arrhythmic drug in the hospital, quite literally at the hand of a Doctor. The medications the child was given on the way to the hospital were never charted properly and then once he was stabilized at the hospital, the attending physician re-ordered similar medications which caused the child to lapse into a fatal condition call arrhythmia (no heart beat). They worked on the child for two hours, but were not able to restart his heart.

    The tragic irony here is that the Mother of the child protested with the Doctor that her son was already given the medications en-route to the hospital. Of course, the Doctor did not listen and prescribed the meds anyways.

    If there is a shred of silver lining in this cloud, it is simply that the Doctor admitted his mistake openly. He confronted the Parents and apologized.

    Being a medical provider I am constantly at risk for these types of errors, but it is hard to find compassion when a baby is killed needlessly.

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