Here is an interesting asymmetry.
The other day a terminally ill friend was talking about how he'd come to grips with his fast-approaching death, and that while he was sad about it, he was comforted by the knowledge of what awaits him in heaven. "Oh, no," I replied. "There is no Heaven or Hell. When you die, you're dead, and your soul, which is a made-up concept in the first place, simply ceases and your life is over. It's really a very comforting thought, you know, that you won't have any more worries."
This didn't really happen, of course. But that fictitious scene was inspired by a close friend of mine whose wife is dying right now. Many years ago, he and I sailed together for thousands of miles in the South Pacific, and although I haven't seen him in decades, he's on my Facebook Friends list and we communicate. Every day, he posts his wife's ups and downs, and every day, their close Christian friends offer support and prayers. And although I feel very much sadness for their dilemma, and wish them the very best, as an atheist it's difficult to know what to say when a close friend asks for prayers.
This got me to thinking about the asymmetry of the situation. If I were terminally ill, most Christians I've known would have no hesitation about praying for me, and telling me that they were doing so. In fact, they'd have no trouble at all telling me my atheist beliefs are simply wrong.
Why is it that in extreme situations, it's OK for Christians to express their beliefs, but not for atheists to do the same?
It happens that I'm very content with the facts. I consider this life to be a magnificent journey, one that must be lived in the here-and-now, because when when it's done, I'm gone. I've done many good things in my time, raised some wonderful children, worked in the environmental and medical sciences to improve the world, and generally lived a moral life that, I hope and believe, has made the world a better place. I know that my life has been worthwhile, and that's enough. I don't need any promise of an afterlife to make me feel better, or to distract me from this life.
More importantly, I don't need religious people trying to convince me that I'm wrong, or offering their sincere but ineffective prayers. If someone told me, "I'll pray for you," what they're really telling me is, "I don't respect your beliefs, so I'm going to waste my time doing something ineffective that won't help you, rather than spending that time doing something for the living."
We need to live in this world, and make our lives good now, because this is the only chance we get.