An Atheist from Aurora Reflects on the Tragedy

Daniel Florien, my Patheos colleague, lives in Aurora, Colorado. He wasn’t at the theater that night, but his account of what happened and his analysis of the aftermath deserve a few minutes of your time:

… It’s comforting to think people are in a better place, that God saved lives, that Satan was behind the incident, and that there is a Master Plan behind such tragedy.

It’s an empty comfort, however. Brains must be partially shut off to partake in it. Faith must trump fact. If the foundations of the comfort are analyzed rationally, cognitive dissonance arrives and hope fades.

For instance, if God saved lives in this tragedy — as some claim — then he didn’t save other lives. With that logic, since he saved people, he could have saved others, but he did not.

Consider this: If I had the power to save everyone at the theater because I was all-powerful and all-knowing and all-loving and all-whatever, and I didn’t do it, wouldn’t I be evil — or at least greatly negligent? With great power comes great responsibility. Their God does not seem up for the task.

Read the whole thing. It’s incredibly powerful.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • FTFKDad

    Bill Maher did shows in Denver and Colorado Springs Friday/Saturday (I was at the Saturday show). he told the audience he was giving away proceeds of both shows to the Aurora victims fund as well as funds supporting the recent wildfires in Colorado. He got a standing ovation (of course) because of that. He might not be all-powerful or even all-knowing, but he certainly has done something positive. Just wanted you to know.

    • UnNews

      Shhhhh, don’t tell Elli Pemberton this.

  • NewEnglandBob

    This is also excellent:

    “Dealing with death: How does an atheist cope?”

    http://atheistcamel.blogspot.com/2012/07/dealing-with-death-how-does-atheist-cope.html?m=1

    • newavocation

      Thank you! I love the comment by Padraic regarding death.

      My thoughts on death are incredibly bleak.

      When I die, I will be gone. period.

      People will remember me for a time, then they will die. Before long, no one will remember me. Any mark I ever left on the world will have turned to dust and blown away.

      Then, someday, our sun will swell into a red giant, consuming the inner planets, including earth, laying waste to any trace of life in the solar system. And then, unless we’ve found a way off the planet, any memory of the human race will have been annihilated.

      Even if we have mastered interstellar travel and spread to other planets, entropy will have its way with the universe and nothing will remain but pervasive infrared radiation. Unless the universe itself has a memory, there will be no one and nothing to remember that life ever breathed anywhere.

      And you know what? I still prefer that to believing a lie.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QPVVPRJ7QKLPU6TF5B4IZTENTI No

    It really is disgusting how some have talked about “miracles” being worked in Aurora. The most prominent one I’ve seen, at least online, is the highlighting of how a woman survived being shot by Holmes due to a peculiar defect in her cranium. While being saved in such a way is indeed interesting in its unlikeliness (and I would note it took modern science and forensics to come up with that finding, not religion, for them to go about touting this as miraculous), what would be even greater is if the shooting of anyone there never happened.

    Apparently violent times are the only moments where some peoples’ god is capable of showing itself…in entirely ineffective ways. But, we usually hear that ineffectiveness passed off as some version of “man’s sin” in a world where god has “given us free will” and that it’s the free will of the good that must counter that of the evil.

    Who can respect this kind of thinking? It’s willful denialism, and it’s especially disrespectful of the dead to think so little of them that we aren’t supposed to consider what really happened and how we might prevent it in the future (after being given dozens of opportunities in the last 20 years to address these acts). No, instead, let’s fawn over how there are now “12 new angels in heaven” and how much god “loved” them. Why are god’s feelings even in question? What about the state the families of the victims have been left in?

    Such unfathomably childish and self-serving behavior.

  • Elli Pemberton

    It makes me sad that we haven’t seen atheists rally together to donate money to help pay for hospital fees or something.

    • Devon

      HA!

    • UnNews

      So you are saying that you are only good if you make sure you get a PR campaign behind you to show that you helped someone out?

      Exactly why did your god kill those 12 people and also wound almost 60 others?

      And exactly what did YOU donate?  $0.00.

  • Daniel Florien

    Thanks for the link, Hemant! Really glad you enjoyed it.

  • Elise

    Oh, Hemant, most of the article rings true, but as someone who has been seeing a psychiatrist for four years in attempt to deal with debilitating anxiety, I found his two paragraphs expressing disgust that a mental patient could by weapons really, really upsetting. I posted a comment to this extent on the original article, if anyone would care to read it.