Atheists to Give Speeches at Pennsylvania’s State Capitol Building on 9/11

In Pennsylvania, the PA Nonbelievers have reserved space in front of the Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg this Sunday to hold their own 10th Anniversary Remembrance of 9/11.

Featured speakers include David Silverman, president of American Atheists, and Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. Silverman will address the actions of the passengers of Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, while Torpy will speak on the ethical dilemma of the wars resulting from 9/11. Additionally, local and regional guest speakers will talk generally about 9/11 from a rational and atheistic viewpoint.

For anyone concerned, this isn’t supposed to be a forum to push atheism or bash religion — and it would be counterproductive if anyone tried to use it for either of those things. It’s just giving voice to some atheists’ perspectives of the tragic events.

Justin Vacula spoke with Silverman about what he plans to talk about:

Silverman notes that the actions of Americans, especially those who combated the hijackers of Flight 93, rather than their prayers, made all the difference on 9/11 and, incidentally, it was religion in the first place, Silverman says, that was “the conduit for 9/11.” Silverman, when reflecting on Islam in the wake of 9/11, says that this 9/11 remembrance event will be a great chance for atheists to speak to ‘moderate Muslims’ and also notes that “people have to own what their religions do.”

While the Bible and Koran are full of calls for violence against people who disagree with what’s written in them, I hope Dave makes clear that most people who follow those faiths have no problem repudiating the extremists and dismissing the worst parts of their holy books. We can always use more moderates on our side and we can call them dishonest for cherry-picking which parts of their holy books they follow. But we can’t ignore that just about every church and mosque around the country renounce what the extremists in their midst do.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://partlysunnyblog.com PartlySunny

    For a moment, when I saw your tweet, I thought we’d been asked to be part of the official commemoration. Pie in the sky thinking, huh.:( Maybe someday.

    • Rieux

      With regard to the official commemoration in New York City particularly, there is not going to be a religious or clergy element to the event at all. To my mind, that’s considerably better than including a token atheist along with a bunch of religious luminaries. Leave religion out entirely.

      If that practice caught on society-wide, the very need for atheist organizations and visibility and identity would be questionable.

      • http://partlysunnyblog.com PartlySunny

        That’s good to know — thank you. And I agree with you whole-heartedly. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see the point of this type of presentation.  Is it necessary to point out that religion was responsible?  There will be so many people grieving over the anniversary of this horrendous act, it just seems like grinding salt in the wound.  It really sounds like the atheists are going, “we’re better than you because we don’t believe in your god that caused these awful things.”  While I believe that to be true (or something along those lines), I don’t think this is the time or place to say so.

    Just me.

  • Kevin Bates

    I’m all for bringing up that rather than praying, passengers on flight 93 actually did something productive instead.

  • Sailor

    As a non-American I find Americans wallowing in the 9/11 stuff unbelievably. Does anyone know anywhere else in the world where some terrorist attack (or even something like the blitz in London) is give so much attention?

    • Rachel

      It’s not just you. There are plenty of us Americans who find it unbelievable as well. We’re not all wallowing.

      • Sailor

        Yes it is the media I am really complaining about. I have had to shut off NPR for a few days.

    • Smacky15

      The event took place in the age of video and 24 hour news. America is oversaturated with news, thus the world will be oversaturated with news. Considering all of the coverage, the continuous implications of the attack, and the need to remember the lost, I’m shocked that there are days when we don’t hear about it.

    • Renshia

      nothing like a memorial to invigorate all the fear that is being used to keep Americans in check as they slowly strip all their civil rights away.

    • David Brown

      May I add the perspective of a Brit who grew up wth 25 years of ongoing domestic terrorism, and without wishing to stick it to my US cousins, that was paid for in part by US citizens (NORAID). Most Brits find this constant daily bleating about 9/11 distasteful, laughable, and a little hypocritical. To be frank,  it makes you look weak and cry babyish.

      If you have a day to commemorate 9/11, now about another for the victims of McVeigh and Oklahoma….then another for the victims of the Olympic bomber, the Anthrax mailer, and days for every single attack on abortion providers such as Dr George Tiller. Then add all the Klan church attacks and lynchings, presdential and political assassinations, etc etc. Hell…you can have a memorial almost every day of the year!

      The best way to memorialse such events is to try to make sure they stop happening and the people who were harmed and live on are well looked after for the rest of their lives. At the moment, from this side of the pond, all we see are flag wrapped mea culpas, crocodle tears and sabre rattlng, victims left choking ther lungs up because tax cuts are more important than a society’s duty to survivors, and heapin helpins o hypocrisy pie.

  • http://evolutionguide.blogspot.com/ William

    According to George Friedman of STRATFOR the terrorism was inevitable not because of religion but because they Islamic world was starting to become stronger economically and they were trying to send a message to other groups that the US could be challenged.

  • Sarah Moglia

    You know American politics have reached a low point when you want to pat someone on the back for getting the word “repudiate” right.

  • Anonymous

    Not to rain on everybody’s parade but it’s quite a mess along the Susquehanna river including Harrisburg. I’m not really sure how well travel is going to be going to and from the city.

  • Anonymous

    I wish that someone would try to explore the terrorists’ motives in one of these speeches.  Why do they hate the West?  What did they hope to achieve?  How have we thwarted them?  We still haven’t addressed the causes and we have done nothing to stop it happening again except stir up even more hatred against the West and almost bankrupt ourselves in the process.

    They have used their religion to justify some pretty horrible things but that’s no different from the way some Christians act.  When Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and atheists come together to denounce terrorism that’s a good thing but religion still exists to be used as a justification.  There are still no checks and balances to stop it happening again.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    “this isn’t supposed to be a forum to push atheism or bash religion”

    ” it was religion in the first place, Silverman says, that was “the conduit for 9/11.””wait wut? If Silverman will be saying things like that at the event, it is certainly being used as a forum to bash religion.

  • Peter Mahoney

    David Silverman SHOULD use this as an opportunity to point out 9/11 as one of the tragic problems with people believing in fantasies (such as after-lifes that will reward them for killing people in this life).


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