“An Atheist Chaplain and a Death Row Inmate’s Final Hours”

Emma Goldberg writes for The New Yorker:

The gray Oklahoma skies opened into a drizzle. Moss wondered what he had to offer Hancock in these final hours, when ordinary wisdom seemed to fail and prayers, in this case, were irrelevant. Heaven, hell, salvation: He had talked about it all with Hancock, but neither of them really believed in anything but people. What humans were capable of doing, for themselves and to one another. Both men were atheists.

There is an adage that says there are no atheists in foxholes — even skeptics will pray when facing death. But Hancock, in the time leading up to his execution, only became more insistent about his nonbelief. He and his chaplain were both confident that there was no God who might grant last-minute salvation, if only they produced a desperate prayer. They had only one another.

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