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I realize this is the season for Christmas trees, candy canes and presents, not for jack-o’-lanterns, black cats and witches, but I can’t help pointing out that a rotting ghoul has crawled out of its grave and is sitting around leering at us. Unfortunately this isn’t the kind of creature that goes away if you politely ignore it, so a little house-cleaning is, I think, in order.

You may have heard that Elizabeth Edwards died recently after deciding to forego further treatment for metastatic breast cancer. By all accounts, she came to terms with her illness and departed life peacefully, surrounded by family and friends. She’s not the ghoul I was referring to, of course. No, that dubious honor belongs to a right-wing blogger who took issue with Edwards’ final statement on Facebook just a day before her passing:

You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces – my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human.

But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful. It isn’t possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you I simply say: you know.

Who could take issue with that simple, beautiful statement? Well, apparently, this guy could. His objection? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it – Elizabeth Edwards didn’t spend her last days crying out to an imaginary god to save her life!

Clearly Elizabeth Edwards wants to put her faith in something, be it hope or strength or anything. But not God. I wonder if it’s just bitterness… Still, at her death bed and giving what most folks are calling a final goodbye, Elizabeth Edwards couldn’t find it somewhere down deep to ask for His blessings as she prepares for the hereafter? I guess that nihilism I’ve been discussing reaches up higher into the hard-left precincts than I thought.

Elizabeth Edwards herself, though she claimed membership in the Methodist church, was more of a deist – as in this 2007 interview where she explained that she did believe in a god, just not one who answers prayers. But this wasn’t enough for this shambling, decaying right-wing zombie, who demands that everyone groan their assent to the same dead creed he himself subscribes to. His tactic of preying at others’ funerals reminds me of nothing so much as his fellow bloodsucking undead, Fred Phelps – who, for the record, also attempted to protest Edwards’ death, although he attracted only a handful of the like-minded and they never got closer than a few blocks away.

Hearing right-wing ghouls sneer about how we freethinkers will come to Jesus at the end of our lives is nothing new. But what is new is that they’re now getting upset at people who refuse to conform to their stereotypes, going so far as to petulantly lash out at the dead and dying. Christopher Hitchens, for another example, despite having advanced and likely incurable cancer, is behaving with equanimity and is even continuing to publicly debate religious apologists – something that must enrage them no end, as they were probably rubbing their hands with anticipation for a last-minute conversion. And in our media-oversaturated era, fabricating a deathbed conversion story is no longer as easy as it once was.

Like the ghouls and revenants of myth, these people feed on suffering and death for their own sustenance. To see atheists and other nonbelievers dying peacefully and without fear denies them the food they’ve grown accustomed to, so it’s no wonder they’re upset. Worse, from their perspective, is the thought that this trend of courage might catch on! One day, perhaps sometime in the not-so-distant future, we might have a whole society of humanists who face death without the need for religious consolation – and what would these circling carrion-eaters do then?

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DAYLIGHT ATHEISM Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...