I’ve had a variation of this conversation a few times. I meet someone and the topic of why I’m in Peoria comes up. I talk about the choices that my sisters and I have made to take care of my mother, to which the well meaning person I’m talking to says something like, “There will be a special reward for you in heaven.”
As an atheist, I’m really not sure how I should respond. Usually, I’m polite and nod and say nothing. Like I said, they mean well. It’s difficult to know what to say in that situation. I believe they are trying to say that I’m making a good choice by being here. They certainly don’t mean to say something awkward. Instead they wish to comfort me. They have no idea that I don’t share their belief in the afterlife or god.
I could respond by saying, “Well, I don’t believe there is a heaven. And even if there is one, I don’t believe in your god and therefore I won’t be in heaven to get my present. I’m choosing to do this because it’s the right thing to do.” However, I don’t say this because it would be a monumentally jerky thing to say given the circumstances. I think I’m already responding to it in the best way I can respond, by simply letting it slide. Still there is something about them saying it, and the underlying assumptions, that bothers me.