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SDG

Atheist trying to convert dying mother? Ring any bells?

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SDG   

Can anyone help with this?

It seems to me I recall hearing not terribly long ago about an atheist trying to convince his mother on her deathbed to reject religion.

The story was reported as true, possibly by the atheist himself, who seems not to have realized how pointlessly cruel this was even on an atheist worldview. (Assuming, I mean, that the mother was dying in the confident hope of heaven. If she were dying in fear of hell, that would be another story.)

Does this ring any bells?

Edited by SDG

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Kinch   

^ Sounds like something Richard Dawkins would do, but I can't say that I remember any specific case like that.

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Christopher Hitchens talks--hypothetically--about doing death bed arguments for atheism in this clip that has been going around for a couple of months. Not sure if this is what you are remembering. It doesn't deal with him talking with his mother, but he acknowledges that it would be in "bad taste" and compares it to religious people who do the same.

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Kinch   

^ Thanks for that. 

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Andrew   

Reading Voltaire's biography last year, I learned that he had to rebuff not one but two tag-teaming priests as he was dying (nevertheless, some distasteful rumors about him have persisted through the centuries), but no, I've not run across any such tales of the converse in my reading of the atheist literature.

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Mike_tn   

Reading Voltaire's biography last year, I learned that he had to rebuff not one but two tag-teaming priests as he was dying (nevertheless, some distasteful rumors about him have persisted through the centuries), but no, I've not run across any such tales of the converse in my reading of the atheist literature.

 

Another source dating from the early 1800s says that Voltaire's friends kept the dying Voltaire at a distance from those religious trying to reach him. That it was not Voltaire's dying wishes to be isolated from the religious and he wanted the Anointing of the Sick (formerly known as Last Rites or Extreme Unction) in his final days. It goes on to say however, Voltaire wanted to convert after it was too late and so was denied the opportunity by God which I assume means God supported the intervention of Voltair's friends. The thinking in the last sentence sounds to be in line with SJV's association with Jansenism but I am open to correction on that idea.

Source – The Sermons of the Cure of Ars: The Bad Death.

 

 

Listen carefully and you will see that if we despise God always and if God waits for us during our lives, often, by a just judgment, He will abandon us at the hour of our death, when we would like to return to Him.

 

The idea that one can live in sin and give it all up one day is one of the Devil's traps which will cause you to lose your soul as it has caused so many others to lose theirs. Voltaire, realizing that he was ill, began to reflect upon the state of the sinner who dies with his conscience loaded with sins. He wished to examine his conscience and to see whether God would be willing to pardon him all the sins of his life, which were very great in number. He counted upon the mercy of God, which is infinite, and with this comforting thought in mind, he had brought to him one of those priests whom he had so greatly outraged and calumniated in his writings. He threw himself upon his knees and made a declaration to him of his sins and put into his hands the recantation of all his impieties and his scandals. He began to flatter himself on having achieved the great work of his reconciliation. But he was gravely mistaken. God had abandoned him; you will see how. Death anticipated all spiritual help. Alas! This unfortunate blasphemer felt all his terrors reborn in him. He cried out: “Alas, am I then abandoned by God and men?”

 

Yes, unhappy man, you are. Already your lot and your hope are in Hell. Listen to this godless man; he cries out with that mouth sullied with so many profanities and so much blasphemy against God, His religion, and His ministers.

 

“Ah,” he cried, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, who died for all sinners without distinction, have pity on me!”

 

But, alas! Almost a century of blasphemy and impiety had exhausted the patience of God, Who had already rejected him.

 

He was no more than a victim which the wrath of God fattens for the eternal flames. The priests whom he had so derided but whom, in this moment he so desired, were not there. See him as he falls into convulsions and the horrors of despair, his eyes wild, his face ghastly, his body trembling with terror! He twists and turns and torments himself and seems as if he wants to atone for all those previous blasphemies with which his mouth had been so often sullied. His companions in irreligion, fearing, lest someone might bring him the last Sacraments, something which would have seemed to them to dishonour their cause, brought him to a house in the country, and there, abandoned to his despair…

 

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Andrew   

I'd read that account previously, and my understanding is that it's widely viewed to be apocryphal, akin to the end of life Darwin conversion tale.  It wasn't contained in Voltaire Almighty, which I'm pretty sure is the best current English language bio of the chap.

Edited by Andrew

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