Atheists, in the broadest sense, do not believe in the existence of deities or of God. An atheist is, to quote the group American Atheists:
“… accepts that he can get no help through prayer, but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and to enjoy it. An atheist accepts that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help lead to a life of fulfillment.”
I had 2 uncles who I’d like to say reached the fulfillment of their lives–both intelligible, driven and successful in their chosen calling. One was a ship captain, the other chose to be a gunsmith and farmer in the province. And they were both atheists until the very end of their lives, despite prayers from us relatives.
The World From an Empirical Perspective
One of my uncles, the ship captain who I fondly called “Uncle Captain”, traveled to a lot of places in his heyday. He was a non-practicing Muslim in his youth and did not believe in the existence of God at all. It was his personal belief that if God was alive and existing, he should prove himself in the flesh and explain himself. The very fact that there was evil in the world gave him the idea that God did not exist at all and that man was created by mere accident–a belief that evolution theorists espouse.
He found the adage “man disposes, but God disposes” greatly amusing. He loved William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus, and was fascinated at being the “master of his fate” and “captain of his soul”. His success as a captain and businessman he attributed to his own doing, never because of God’s infinite goodness.
He was a important part of my youth and gave me and my brother fatherly advice on a lot of things. He was a bachelor till the very end and wanted us to remain single to have the liberty of moving around without thinking of other people being left behind. This has rubbed off on my brother who remains a bachelor to this day, while I chose to get married and have a family of my own–much to his dismay.
Living on Their Godless Own
My other uncle, the farmer, likewise believed that God was an figment of man’s creation, sort of like Machiavelli’s idea of religion as being an opium of the masses. After this life man had nowhere to go, so better enjoy life now. Like Uncle Captain, Uncle Pinky (yes, he had a girl’s name for some reason) believed destiny was something you alone can determine. There is no other being that determines that. God does not exist. Prayer is futile.
During their prime of their existence, both my uncles were idolized by many of their nephews and nieces (including me). They were highly successful and had a lot of friends. They were very smart cookies. But every time we asked them to pray with us, they refused it.
In Twilight There Was Despair
But all things soon must come to an end. Eventually, fame soon gave way to old age and retirement. Despite their volatile temper, they soon had to be cared for by relatives separately. Life seemed to be getting dark for both, and it scared them to expect what was on the other side.
My Uncle Pinky suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to walk around by himself. We would pray over him to ask for his healing, but he pooh-poohed it and challenged God to heal him so he would finally believe in his existence. He didn’t and went on to die angry at everyone and at God.
Uncle Captain had a similar fate years later. He suffered from prostate cancer for more than a year, but what finally did him in was a stroke. As he lay dying with my mother on his bedside praying, my mother said that my uncle was in throes of pain and could not help but shake his head over something that nobody near him could see. He breathed his last with a picture of pain on his face, unable to utter whatever he was feeling or seeing at that time. They did not practice any religion during their existence, but since they were originally Muslim, they were buried in Islamic rites.
Reflecting on their deaths, it was sad and dark to see them leave with despair on their faces. I have seen some people die with a smile on their faces, but these deaths left us very heavy and sad. Life is dark at the end of the tunnel in atheism. Believe me, I have seen it in the way my uncles died. There is nothing but despair.
Despite their passing we remain steadfast that somehow, God will hear our prayers to give them relief despite their rejection of His existence.