Someone we love dies. Our grief is not about how much we value the person as a person but how we responded to them and caused ourselves to feel about them. It is caused by human factors rather than spiritual. Nobody suffers on the basis that God made and valued the person.
Bereavement is not complete until you find some happiness in the thought that the person does not exist any more. They didn't exist before they were born and that doesn't bother you.  You knew them and you want to be with them that is why their non-existence after dying bothers you.  But be careful what you wish for.  And it should not be about you.  Asking for them to live on means that if you get your wish they might be damaged or barely conscious or capable of being injured.  There is a comfort in feeling you know that they cannot be injured any more or brought back to be hurt etc. God and religion just harm people by saying and acting different.  Just keep the good they did going by helping people in their honour.  That is the way to keep them alive.

The atheist and the Christian (you can substitute any religion of your choice here) have to face one question in life and that is the only question that matters. It is, "There is nothing I can do to guarantee that I will not suffer or die. In that sense, I have to succumb to despair. I am not saying, I have no hope. I am saying I hope for the best in all things except the one thing. So how do I be as happy as possible in the face of the suffering and death that can happen to me? I can try - others have managed it. Others have succeeded."

It may be as important to know what the answer is not, as it is to know what the answer is.  If so then be neutral.  But we may feel that knowing that God is not the answer is the most important thing.  Neutral or being dismissive of God in this way mean one thing.  That it is clear that it is unnecessary, prejudiced and unfair and silly to say that God's love is the antidote to sin and evil and the sense that life is useless and not want to hear any other answers.  Moreover, God by definition is that which you cannot be neutral about for he is supposedly the reason you exist and so being neutral is like being a closet or confused atheist.

Christians hold that those who die estranged from God will be barred from Heavenly Happiness forever and will suffer in Hell for all eternity. If somebody dies without having made any sign of sorrow to God for living in sin, the Church will tell the relatives and friends, “Don’t underestimate the grace and power of Almighty God. God may have reached him and found this lost sheep.” In other words, God is going to make a special effort to convert the sinner in danger of death! How could that console people who don’t see much reason to be confident about God working to stop paedophile priests sinning? And the Church does not really believe its own answer for it says that we should never underestimate the power of the human heart to disparage the ways of God and says that hearts are good at deceiving and blinding their owners. Jesus said the Jews were confident in their hearts that they were holy but they were not (Luke 16).

We conclude that the comfort people report from faith in God comes not from God but from the way they distort their own perception and it comes from their ignorance. It is a placebo and a placebo by definition should be short-term.  Religious people need their faith challenged gently and kindly. Do not argue that it helps them therefore you must protect their faith by saying nothing that undermines it.


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