Sometimes, I’ve wondered what — if anything — would happen if I had to check into a hospital anytime in the near future and was asked about my religion.
My answer to that question would be NONE. SECULAR HUMANIST. If asked whether I’d like to be visited by a clergymember, the answer would be NO, BUT THANKS FOR ASKING.
My lack of religion has created awkward situations in other settings. During a morning commute in 2012, I sat in the back of a taxicab leaving JFK Airport for Manhattan. Traffic was moving at a snail’s pace, and the driver tried to convert me to Christianity.
Fortunately, the driver knew a little bit (though not nearly enough) about boundaries. He didn’t nag me during the whole trip. Nevertheless, when the car reached a standstill in a traffic jam a couple of blocks away from the hotel, I got out early. Regardless of how the driver interpreted the concept of “moderation,” even a little bit of religious talk was too much for me when I was a captive audience who had spent the night on an airplane. I was also a coffee drinker then, and hadn’t had the first caffeine fix of the day.
If I’m ever ill in the hospital, I don’t want to hear a chaplain addressing religious concepts. My spiritual frame of reference is limited to respecting a personal value system which doesn’t intrude on anyone. I want that same courtesy in return.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the National Health Service is acknowledging the need for hospital chaplains who don’t recognize a higher power or an afterlife. They work alongside chaplains who have religious beliefs, which allows some flexibility for patients. Here’s Harriet Sherwood’s article on the topic in The Guardian: