I've had the joy of tweaking a few wingnut fanatics over at Weasel Zippers, particularly over their blog headline: CBS Going After Religion, Hints Mother Teresa was as an Atheist... For those of you who missed it, letters from Mother Theresa during the last years of her life indicate that she had completely lost her faith and was following the motions because it frightened her. She wanted those letters destroyed because she knew it would undermine the cause of religion, but people released them anyway and CBS, in a rare display of journalism, let us know about it.
Right now religious apologists are going on about how the "Heavenly Father" worked through her in spite of her tribulations. It's a classic religionist argument that assumes the existence of God when no such existence has been or can be verified. This guy knows it only because he believes it and has that belief reinforced by other believers. I'm no psychologist, but I think they call that wish fulfillment.
I have to call bullshit. Mother Theresa was a very frightened, very pathetic individual. She ignored the millions of dollars in donations that she could have used to create better facilities and buy better resources to help the sick and poor she was famous for helping. She carefully hid the fact that she no longer believed in God or the religion she was following so as not to tarnish the good name of the Roman Catholic Church. She wrote letters agonizing over her lack of faith, but begged that the letters be destroyed. Evidence suggests she died without ever reconciling her loss of faith. And when you have no belief in God, that's called "atheism." So Mother Theresa, one of the celebrities of the religious world in the Twentieth Century and famous for her self sacrifice, was an atheist on the day she died. No wonder religionists are upset.
It underscores the point that we really do not need a religion or God to goad us into altruistic works. We can find our own rationale for it, even if that rationale isn't quite so rational. In spite of this revelation, no one is belittling the efforts Mother Theresa made toward easing the suffering of her fellow human beings. People have already pointed out that she could have done so much more without much trouble simply by accepting the help other people offered her. She refused, and now it may be apparently because she was too caught up in her own internal suffering to pay attention. I can now understand that she was a small-minded person given a glimpse of a larger world, and all it did was frighten her. That makes her a thoroughly tragic individual, and I will pity her and those like her always.