For the record, I’m an atheist. Not an on-the-fence atheist or an agnostic, but a solid, definite atheist. On some level, this blog is bound to be about how an atheist processes this whole brain tumor thing.
So, let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way:
When someone says “I will pray for you”, what I hear is best wishes from a very kind-hearted person who cares about my well being and wishes to do something for me that they feel will help. I don’t believe it will impact my outcomes because I don’t believe there is a consciousness out there to receive the message, but I understand where the inclination to pray for people who are going through hardship originates and will certainly take it in the generous spirit in which it is intended. Many years ago, when I was a theist, praying for people who were in trouble made me feel like I was taking some action on their behalf. I can respect peoples’ desire to participate in a positive way.
Anyone tempted to veer into “no atheists in foxholes” territory, though, by assuming this situation will compel me to revoke my atheism now that my life is at risk should reconsider that line of reasoning – it really isn’t very nice. People who believe it have veered from a kind impulse to into a self-righteous one. Also, they clearly don’t know me very well.
Philosophically, I would have no human being bend her or his knee in supplication before a god, king, or master of any kind (real or otherwise) – especially not on my behalf.
Instead, for friends inclined to help, I’d like to suggest standing up in honor of humanity’s ongoing search for knowledge and making a donation to the University of Washington Brain Tumor Research Fund, or sending a note to Abe to let him know how great he is. After all, the real heroes in this world are the researchers, physicians, and educators who work tirelessly every day to find cures for this stuff; and the families and friends who do the tough work of caring for their loved ones when they have lemons in their brains.