Last week, Barry Saunders, a columnist for The News & Observer, wrote an article in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre. Here’s how he began that article:
No atheists in foxholes? Maybe not, but there are probably no atheists anywhere when Americans hear that college students, studying to make the world and themselves better, have been massacred.
Was I the only person from whose throat escaped an involuntary “Oh, Lord” upon hearing of the campus carnage at Virginia Tech?
I didn’t think so.
Well, that was completely ignorant of him. And atheists (rightfully) got angry, called him up, and sent him emails explaining that we exist during massacres, in foxholes, and amidst any tragedy.
Saunders’ column today provides a response to the atheists. There’s no apology. He apparently doesn’t understand why atheists are upset. And even worse: how could we be upset in the midst of the Virginia Tech shootings?
I honestly thought it was a joke, a poor one, that anybody could take umbrage at a line about atheists in foxholes — especially in light of the national tragedy that was still unfolding in Blacksburg, Va.
Upon realizing that I had somehow stepped on atheists’ toes, I thoughtfully, patiently explained that I thought everybody calls on something when things get hairy.
“No, that is not true,” wrote an atheist named Valinda. “That is a bold face lie and an insult. You are incredibly ignorant and rude. Atheists do not pray. Which word of ‘atheists do not pray’ did you not understand?”
Jason the atheist wrote to call me a bigot and said: “Your saying that I would pray is disrespectful of my conviction. … Again, there are atheists in the wake of this tragedy. We grieve and seek resolution in our own way, and your statements make the situation worse.”
He continued: “I’ve been in combat with bombs dropping and I didn’t pray. I’ve seen others … in combat situations not praying. There are atheists in foxholes.”
Just in case I didn’t believe him, he sent me a link to a Web site called — swear to Darwin — Military Association of Atheists in Foxholes.
Actually, that group is called Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. How did Saunders screw that one up? All you have to do is click on the link to see the group’s name. Maybe going to a website whose name alone proves the foxhole statement wrong is too much to ask of a journalist.
He spends the rest of the column making jokes about atheists. You know, to redeem himself. And lest we get more upset over the foxholes comment, he adds this gem:
Wouldn’t you think that people who so strenuously profess to not believe in a god would be a lot less inhibited, less — hmmm, what’s the scientific word I’m looking for? — anal?
We’re not anal. In fact, I wish more atheists would get riled up when they hear these lies told about them. This incident does go to show, though, that if we respond to columnists like Saunders, they can’t ignore us.
[tags]atheist, atheism, Barry Saunders, The News & Observer, Virginia Tech, massacre, atheists in foxholes, God, Lord, Blacksburg, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers[/tags]