April 15, 2007

June Callwood RIP: Canada's Conscience Was Also An Atheist

She didn't believe in God. She believed in kindness instead.

One of Canada's icons passed away yesterday. June Callwood: journalist, author, and humanitarian extraordinaire died after gallantly losing her fight with cancer.

Normally, I don't blog about these things. I never met her, like many bloggers who have written tributes have. I never read any of her books either. But then again, I haven't read many of anyone's books:) I'm writing this because her life and death completely contradicts many of the assumptions made by theists regarding atheists.

A quick biography from FICCDAT:

"Known as "Canada's Conscience," June Callwood's career has been marked by compassion and a strong concern for social justice, especially on issues affecting children and women. A prolific and versatile author, she has written more than 30 books and countless magazine articles. Her career in television has included the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program In Touch (1975-78), and the recent Caregiving with June Callwood, a program that provides assistance to people caring for parents, spouses or others.

Despite a busy writing life, she has also founded and co-founded more than 50 social action organizations, including Nellie's hostel for women, Jessie's, a centre for teenage parents, Casey House Hospice for AIDS patients, and PEN Canada. Her extensive volunteer work has been recognized by many honours including the Order of Canada (1986), and "Woman of the Year," B'nai B'rith, (1969). She is an Honourary Marching Mother of Ontario March of Dimes."

Here is her last interview. I believe it was done around a month ago:

Of note, she has accepted death, and contrary to the old theist claim that atheists become believers when death approaches, she is very firm that there is no God and no afterlife. And she is completely fine with it.

She made a point about being in her 80's and accepting death. I think this is part of the evolution process too. My guess is that most people in their 80's and 90's who are dying, are just content with the idea of dying regardless of beliefs or lack thereof. The body and mind is content with the idea that their time has come just like the spider Charlotte, and she wasn't even one years old.

She also made mention of the fact that humans almost have the need to do good for each other. It makes us satisfied. And we don't need to buy into a religion and their doctrines to "hold a door open for one another." Our morality and ethics don't come from God; we evolved them. And those who do not consider God, don't go out and rape and pillage. That is just theist baloney. We are hardwired so that if we do something good for someone, we get a bit of a rush in our brains, and subconsciously (and/or consciously) we know there is also a good chance that the other person will do something good because of your act. For social animals likes humans, this behaviour helps our species live to see a next generation.

She was married to the same man, sportswriter Trent Frayne, for 62 years. How many theists can make the same claim?

She went through tragedy when her youngest son died at 20 in a car crash. A drunk driver killed him. She went on to turn it into a positive (as best anyone could) by founding a now famous Aids hospice in her son's name: The Casey House. A longer biography and tribute can be found at their website here.

Upon doing a blog search, I found a tribute to her by a believer. The last paragraph is disturbing:

"Her end of life discussion was sad for she is an atheist. I wish her the best as she goes on to the next life. I will pray for her."

Oh, I get it. Her next life will be in hell, despite how good a person she was on earth. That is why she needs you to pray for her. And how will your praying help her? Got that one figured out yet?

Actually, that comment by the theist was very sad.


  1. What's disturbing about that sentiment and well-wish for her is not the thought behind it (for the purpose of the prayer is to improve her afterlife, and keep her out of hell), but rather, the conviction that it matters to another person.

    The afterlife is between me and God (if he exists; I am truly agnostic on that); what will happen to me then makes no difference to anyone else here and now. The same goes for anyone and everyone.

  2. Why do they have to state that they will pray for an atheist? Surely if god exists it makes no difference to god if they pray privately for someone or publicly.

    I think they are just trying to get extra brownin points by publicaly stating their intentions.

  3. I posted a comment on the persons blog...I asked why was it sad that she was an atheist? I truly don't understand why that person would even post that. Okay, I feel sad that, that person is a christian....sounds kinda shallow if you ask me.

  4. Anyone who thinks they have an afterlife would not be living their lives to the full. Enjoying all that life has to offer is our way of laughing in the face of mortality. Enduring pain and suffering by looking forward to the afterlife is one way of coping, I suppose, but it does make life meaningless and pointless. Suffering and pain are meaningless because misery isn't handed out to us according to our actions. Children with cancer is one example. Finding pleasure despite adversity is how the life force within us helps us cope. If this wasn't true then there would be an epidemic of suicides.

  5. Off-topic, but you are in the news:

  6. Elder, thanks. Totally out of context. He didn't publish his letters I see. I can't believe this guy used to be a teacher.

  7. Not all theists belive that good atheists go to hell. Most of catolics I know think that good people go to heaven no metter belief (or lack of it). Still, I don't know if it's a rule.