Susan Jacoby on the ‘Blessings of Atheism’

Last week, referring to the Sandy Hook massacre, an article in the New York Times posed a very pointed question:

This illustration of religious belief in action, of faith expressed in extremis, an example at once so heart-rending and so affirming, has left behind one prickly question: Where were the humanists? At a time when the percentage of Americans without religious affiliation is growing rapidly, why did the “nones,” as they are colloquially known, seem so absent?

On this site, there were several responses along the lines of, “We were busy taking *real* action by lobbying for gun responsibility measures” or “We weren’t trying to use the tragedy to proselytize” or “We were raising funds for them online.”

In a NYT article of her own in today’s paper, Susan Jacoby cites our withdrawal from the public eye in the wake of tragedies like Sandy Hook as part of the problem with atheism today — and part of why we don’t command influence despite our ever-growing numbers. She urges us to make our presence known:

the most powerful force holding us back is our own reluctance to speak, particularly at moments of high national drama and emotion, with the combination of reason and passion needed to erase the image of the atheist as a bloodless intellectual robot.

The secular community is fearful of seeming to proselytize…

Spoken like someone who rarely goes online…

I don’t actually disagree with her on the big picture — if you turned on the TV and read newspapers, you’d never know atheists were grieving after Sandy Hook. But if you went on the Internet, you would’ve seen atheist bloggers talking about the situation, national organizations releasing their own statements about the tragedy, and fundraisers for the victims’ families.

The bigger question is how we can obtain that influence so that our message goes beyond the computer screen. One suggestion Jacoby has is to share our personal stories. It’s not “logical.” It’s anecdotal. But it’s effective:

I used to avoid personal discussions of my atheism. But over the years, I have changed my mind because such diffidence contributes to the false image of the atheist as someone whose convictions are removed from ordinary experience. It is vital to show that there are indeed atheists in foxholes, and wherever else human beings suffer and die.

I absolutely agree with this. It’s why, when I wrote The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide, it’s almost entirely a series of stories from students who have dealt with all sorts of consequences because of their non-belief. It’s just more relatable than some philosophical treatise.

Jacoby also stresses the fact that being an atheist is a benefit in times of tragedy and we should let the world know that:

It is primarily in the face of suffering, whether the tragedy is individual or collective, that I am forcefully reminded of what atheism has to offer. When I try to help a loved one losing his mind to Alzheimer’s, when I see homeless people shivering in the wake of a deadly storm, when the news media bring me almost obscenely close to the raw grief of bereft parents, I do not have to ask, as all people of faith must, why an all-powerful, all-good God allows such things to happen.

The atheist is free to concentrate on the fate of this world — whether that means visiting a friend in a hospital or advocating for tougher gun control laws — without trying to square things with an unseen overlord in the next. Atheists do not want to deny religious believers the comfort of their faith. We do want our fellow citizens to respect our deeply held conviction that the absence of an afterlife lends a greater, not a lesser, moral importance to our actions on earth.

And no article about what atheists should be doing is complete without trashing the good work everyone else has done:

Today’s secularists must do more than mount defensive campaigns proclaiming that we can be “good without God.” Atheists must stand up instead of calling themselves freethinkers, agnostics, secular humanists or “spiritual, but not religious.”… Atheists may also be secular humanists and freethinkers — I answer to all three — but avoidance of identification with atheism confines us to a closet that encourages us to fade or be pushed into the background when tragedy strikes.

All of those billboard campaigns and bus ads and books — no matter the tone — have helped a different segment of the population come out of the closet as atheists. They may not have used the A word, but it doesn’t matter. To say that we all have to identify as “atheists” is an unnecessary pipe dream. That word is less important than the simple fact that you don’t believe in God.

We should state publicly that we care in moments of crisis, and we cry after disasters, and we comfort those who don’t look to God for answers. In many cases, we are doing that even if the media doesn’t notice. We can do a better job, though, and that’s one of the things local communities do better than individuals.

There is a part of Jacoby’s essay that is undoubtedly good advice and it’s for President Obama. He could have included us in his remarks about Sandy Hook without causing any sort of national controversy if he had just put it this way:

In his speech at an interfaith prayer vigil in Newtown on Dec. 16, President Obama observed that “the world’s religions — so many of them represented here today — start with a simple question: Why are we here? What gives our life meaning?” He could easily have amended that to “the world’s religions and secular philosophies.” He could have said something like, “Whether you are religious or nonreligious, may you find solace in the knowledge that the suffering is ours, but that those we love suffer no more.”

There’s no reason he couldn’t have done that. There’s no reason he can’t say something similar after the next awful event, either.

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.

  • Ibis3

    Without causing national controversy? I don’t think so. There would have been all kinds of “why is Obama politicising this tragedy to emphasize his secular fascist agenda?” and “First they remove God from the schools and evil happens, and now the government can’t even let us grieve the tragedy without kowtowing to the godless.” and “See! Obama’s not a true believer. No believer would put secular philosophies on the same level as God.”

    • C Peterson

      Well, controversy is good. I don’t think it would be real controversy, but rather, it would be Fox and the other blowhard wingnuts flying off the hook again. It would cost Obama nothing in terms of political capital, and would probably even be politically beneficial, given that more and more people seem to be recognizing the wingnut right for what it is- crazy. The more opportunities that can be given for them to blow gaskets, the more Obama is likely to benefit (and the rest of us, as well).

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    I agree that Obama’s speech was a BIG disappointment.

    He could VERY easily have included ALL Americans, rather than leaning so heavily for religious ones.

    It is NOT hard to use inclusive language, even in times of tragedy.

    Being inclusive is important, ESPECIALLY in times of tragedy.

    “While we are a nation of various faiths and worldviews, we can all agree that we should work to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.”

    See, it’s easy. It doesn’t criticize the religious believers, nor leave out the nonbelievers. Pretty easy, especially for politicians with professional speech writers.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I think the secular community is afraid of being demonized as heartless for, well, for the lot of it. I keep feeling like I have to start every comment on the subject with a disclaimer along the lines that I’m not against anyone’s prayer if it makes them feel better .

    • Zugswang

      It’s a catch-22. When we offer expressions of reassurance or comfort, we’re spurned as trying to heartlessly inject politics into tragedy, because so many are stuck in a frame of mind that religion is the singular refuge from the pain of loss, to the exemption of those who suffer but do not believe (Remember, there are those who take offense at the fact that we even exist). Yet if we remain silent, it’s claimed as proof that we do not care.

      But those people who will be offended by our extended hand are not the ones we should be worried about; it’s those to whom we can give aid and comfort.

  • C Peterson

    Susan Jacoby is always a voice of reason. She clearly gets that there can be no such thing as atheist activism, and recognizes the ultimate weakness of most atheist “campaigns” and organizations. I like that she presents “outreach” programs as simply serving the purpose of exposing “activists” (those willing to identify as “atheists”) to the public. Not as conversion platforms, not as fund raisers.

    I think she is spot-on that the single most valuable thing atheists can do is simply to be open about our beliefs (including the lack of belief in deities). Nothing will succeed in advancing the social and political position of atheists so well as atheism becoming linked with ordinary people, talking about exactly the same things everybody talks about.

  • AlaJackd

    Atheism is dead. You spend 364 days a year attacking, making fun, and mocking that which believers hold most dear, then expect us to take you seriously in a time of crisis and loss. Where are your atheist displays mocking Christianity at the numerous religious memorial setups in and around Sandy Hook elementary (some on government property mind you) that you so PROUDLY display any other place and time of the year? You’re concerned with your own relevance, this blog post is proof, and rightfully so! Yours isn’t a reality of caring, love and compassion, but of cold and callousy whose mission it is to destroy the only grain of hope and comfort the family members have left in them at their darkest hour. It’s not a message of giving, but of taking. And THATS where you fail. It’s like a Christian welcoming gifts and gratuities from the Westboro Baptists, whose sole purpose is to condemn, mock, and ridicule.

    • The Captain

      Not one thing in this ridiculous post proves your invisible friend is real.

    • Carmelita Spats

      Preaching ANYTHING at the families of the Sandy Hook victims is not only completely grotesque, but HIGHLY immoral, from a HUMANIST point of view. The grieving families are allowed the FREEDOM AND CHOICE to mourn as THEY wish and anyone using this tragedy for EVANGELISTIC purposes is a filthy toad who triggers the gag reflex, like watching flies feed.
      For fu)k’s sake, this tragedy is NOT about YOU or YOUR ridiculous cult! The atheist/humanist/secularist compassion is shown in ALLOWING VICTIMS TO GRIEVE IN PEACE, IN THEIR OWN WAY. It’s about CHOICE which is a WONDERFUL gift, far more valuable than your counterfeit Christian “compassion”, “caring”, and creepy “cult love”. If you can’t make a distinction between a TRAGEDY where people are allowed to mourn their dead children with peace, choice and freedom and a creepy nativity scene, with an ugly-ass Baby Jesus, on the front steps of a courthouse, then you are two sandwiches short of a picnic and as crazier than an acre of snakes.

      Ugly Ass Baby Jesus: See the pic:

      • AlaJackd

        Yet, you are the ones who will tell Christian families their dead babies are simply dead and covered in cold dirt, and there’s no such thing as a soul. Right on! :D

        • http://twitter.com/TCarschaleir Riccardo Battilani

          What is best: helping a grieving parent cope with his or her loss or telling him or her a lie, giving her false hopes, and then using those false hopes for self-promotion? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that most religious people help people out of genuine goodwill with no self-promotion in mind, but please don’t assume that because we don’t believe in an afterlife we’re somehow unsuited for helping people.
          And besides, we’re not telling people not to believe in whatever they want, we’re simply helping them. If they want to believe in an afterlife, that’s fine with me.

          • AlaJackd

            I’ve made no assumption of the sort in which you speak. It’s not that atheists are unsuited to help people, it’s that you spend the majority of your own time mocking, debasing, attacking, and insulting the beliefs of Christians. Apparently you DO have a problem with Christians believing in an afterlife, otherwise you wouldn’t waste all your time and energy trying to tell us it’s a myth, and forcing us to remove such beliefs from our lives. Your only platform is no platform. That is, your only reason for existence is to bash, ridicule, and insult believers.

            • http://twitter.com/TCarschaleir Riccardo Battilani

              Ok, here’s a quick bullet list:
              1) We wouldn’t “mock” believers as much as we do if believers stopped comparing us to dictators, saying we’re the cause of every problem in the world and going around spreading the kind of disparaging comments you’re spreading right now
              2)We’re not forcing anyone to change his or her beliefs, we’re just challenging them. Every belief can be challenged, and you’re welcome to challenge atheism or humanism if you want. I don’t care what you believe so long as that belief doesn’t result in suffering for someone else or in a breach of the law. The idea that religion can not be challenged is a privilege you’ve been building up for the past three millennia, and which is fortunately losing out
              3) To say that our only reason for existence is to insult believers is incredibly self-centered and frankly prejudiced

              • AlaJackd

                Apparently you don’t get what I just said. Nobody is saying you can’t insult, mock, and ridicule our beliefs – cults such as Westboro Baptist do it all the time, and you are free to do the same. And you do, as proven from your numerous picketing and court battles against believers. We’re just saying actions have consequences. You spend all your time and energy insulting us and waging legal battles, yet in this instance where religious symbols are being prominently displayed on government grounds in Newtown, you’re quiet. Why?

                • http://twitter.com/TCarschaleir Riccardo Battilani

                  Because we respect the right of people to believe and grieve in whatever way they want, and because this instance is not government endorsing religion, but religion responding to a situation in their way.

                • AlaJackd

                  So you’ve no problem with government endorsed religion in times of crisis and loss?

                • http://twitter.com/TCarschaleir Riccardo Battilani

                  We have, but we don’t make a fuss because we understand it’s a sensitive time and we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.

                • AlaJackd

                  So then you’re cowards and only take up your stance when it’s most convenient and easiest for you. Very well, then.

                • http://twitter.com/TCarschaleir Riccardo Battilani

                  Just admit it: you wish we were there making a fuss about the displays so you could call us assholes and feel good that we stooped down to the level of those bastard picketing funerals and making the already difficult decision of a woman to have an abortion even more difficult by insulting and taunting her.

                • Alan Bell

                  Because atheists are decent people. We don’t want to hurt people particularly at a time of great sadness. We know what it is to be sad about death, we don’t have any illusions that people are going to a better place or anything like that.
                  You seem to think we are missing a trick by having taste and decency.

                • AlaJackd

                  Very well, that is kind and respectable. However, don’t expect much return from an investment of insults, ridicule, and attacks on our beliefs in the good times, then try to console us in the bad times. Best just to be quiet.

                • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

                  “Best just to be quiet”

                  Practice what you preach, buddy.

        • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

          Re: “Yet, you are the ones who will tell Christian families their dead babies are simply dead and covered in cold dirt, and there’s no such thing as a soul.”

          Yes, because souls do not exist. If you can provide objective, verifiable evidence that they do, I’d love to know about it. Please provide it. Until then, to say souls do not exist, is not wrong. What is wrong, is being so childish about your belief in souls that you cannot withstand hearing anyone say they don’t.

          I can and will say it: Souls do not exist. Souls do not exist. Souls do not exist.

          So there. What do you plan to do to me, now that I’ve typed it three times? Go ahead. I dare you.

          • AlaJackd

            Well, don’t tell ME that souls do not exist, I’ve not lost a child in the Newtown massacre. Take your message to the families of the victims. By all means, let your voice be heard my friend. Westboro Baptists tell us their children are in hell, you’ve every right to tell them they’re nowhere but underground. Have you the balls?

            • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

              Re: “Take your message to the families of the victims.”

              Are you suggesting that telling them souls exist, will actually help them? Really? How so? Do tell. I want a detailed explanation of the exact mechanism for how that works.

              Until you can do so, I will assume you’re just another sanctimoniously-outraged twit who’s so obsessed with his own dour religionism that he can’t tolerate anyone saying s/he disagrees with you and will scramble for any excuse not to hear any dissent.

              Also … I love how you’ve appointed yourself the spokesman and defender for the Newtown survivors. It’s remarkable that you’ve personally appropriated them as a kind of “human shield” you hide behind. Somehow my telling you I don’t believe in your souls is a kind of insult to them, therefore I’m not permitted to say they don’t exist? What a cowardly and dastardly little stunt.

              If you had any courage, you’d step out from behind them, and produce the objective, verifiable evidence for souls’ existence, that I asked for previously. If not, take your crybaby whining and sniveling to someone else who actually cares what you think.

              Your game of self-righteousness is noted, but dismissed. I’m not playing. Go find someone else stupid enough to fall for your childish antics. And grow up, fercryinoutloud.

              Lastly … souls don’t exist, souls don’t exist, souls don’t exist.

        • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

          Well, when my friend’s 1-year-old died, I told her to hold her baby’s memory close to her heart and he’d live on through her love and memories. Telling her that her child is “dead and covered in cold dirt” would have been unnecessary, true, but unecessary.

          You seem to confuse “atheist” with “asshole”. Here’s a tip, all groups have assholes. Like the good Christian friends of my grandma that chose her funeral as the time to remind me that I’m hellbound and a hortible granddaughter for not accepting Jesus.

          Grow up and look around. As someone posted above to you: Get the log out of your own eye before getting on your brother’s case.

          • AlaJackd

            Fitting for an atheist to be preaching about assholes. The only time you DON’T whine and cry about public prayer vigils and religious symbols on government property and led by government officials is when you know you’ll be FLOORED in the public eye for being the cold and callous fools that you are. So not only are you assholes, you’re cowards.

            • http://twitter.com/TCarschaleir Riccardo Battilani

              Thank you for proving her point.

            • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

              *yawn* Your shit is played out and you’re late for an appointment with three goats. Buh-bye.

              • AlaJackd

                Bye bye now. Get back with me when you have the balls to confront the town of Newtown to remove their public prayer vigils.

                • http://twitter.com/TCarschaleir Riccardo Battilani

                  My suggestion to people in this comment thread: ignore him, as he’s clearly here only to taunt us.

                • AlaJackd

                  Contrary, I’m only here to help. You need tough love in order for your movement to be taken seriously and to really make a difference in people’s lives. I find it endlessly hilarious and ironic that you all insult and ridicule Christianity, then want to take a page from our playbook when it comes to community, organization, and how to love and care for the sick and despaired. Here’s a word of advice. Let your secular humanism stand on it’s own two feet without ever insulting or debasing Christianity. So far, you’re only known for what you destroy, not what you DO.

                • http://twitter.com/TCarschaleir Riccardo Battilani

                  1) If “though love” means “hate, snark and taunting” then no thanks.
                  2) Community, organization and love and care for the sick and despaired existed LONG before Christianity was even a concept.
                  3) Do you want a list of secular humanists and the things they did? I could provide you with one and you’d be surprised at the enormous record of good deeds we have.

                  Frankly, I’m sick of Christians claiming that they have an exclusive monopoly on good deeds and caring acts. It’s insulting, arrogant and just plain wrong.

                • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

                  Why would I? Unlike you, I’m not a douchebag. Again, you’re doing that whole “lump them all together” thing. I find it hard to believe that anyone can honestly be *that* obtuse so you must be a troll. Like I said, there’s some goats waiting on you, I wouldn’t keep them waiting.

                • Octoberfurst

                  You really are kind of a retarded parrot. You keep saying the same thing over and over again. While believers may be delusional there is no reason that any atheist would want to try to take away what comfort they get via their religion during a tragedy such as what happened in Newtown. It would serve no purpose. Let them grieve in their own way. And did it ever occur to you that perhaps some of those parents who had children killed were atheists and they have to put with with religious morons saying that this happened because “God was taken out of public schools.” That’s pretty offensive if you ask me. And you keep harping about religious displays on public ground. Some examples would be nice. In short, you’re basically a angry, stupid troll who thinks his shit doesn’t stink & who’s trying to make an issue of nothing. Why don’t you go over to some Christian site where you can bask in your own self-importance with like-minded dolts?

        • Chi

          Atheists don’t believe their kids are dead and covered in dirt. Their bodies are, but everyone believes that because we see it happen at the funeral. Atheists merely believe their children are no longer, just as they were before they were born (which isn’t a disagreeable state for the children, only for those they’ve left behind).

          On the other hand, Christians will tell them their children are in a better place, but that God is essentially holding them hostage – if you want to see them again you’d better do what he says, or else he’ll ditch you in the middle of a fiery lake for all eternity.

          • http://twitter.com/TCarschaleir Riccardo Battilani

            Yeah they generally tend to forget the whole “eternal screaming burning torture” bit when they’re trying to show off their benevolent religion.

          • AlaJackd

            Only problem with this is that believers well, believe differently from you and you spend all your precious time and energy whining and telling us we’re full of shit, then expect the same believers to welcome your condolences in a time of great loss. Good luck with that.

    • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

      Oh you poor thing! How horrific it must be for you to have to be faced with those awful, insolent atheists who dare make clear that they refuse to believe as you do! Why, it can’t be tolerated?

      As for “attacking, making fun, and mocking” … well, gee, I keep hearing all kinds of believers like yourself doing precisely that to atheists and non-believers, all the time. You compare atheists with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and other murderous tyrants. You claim they’re “communists” who want to “take over” the country and abolish religion. You claim they’ve ruined your sacred country. You blame them for things like the Newtown and Aurora massacres, earthquakes, terror attacks, hurricanes, and more.

      In short, you theists are every bit as vile and insulting toward non-believers as you say atheists are toward you. That’s called “hypocrisy,” and your own Jesus clearly and specifically ordered you never to be hypocritical. So for your own eternal soul’s stake, stop it already.

      The cold fact is that the US is a free country. People are free to believe, or not believe, as they wish. They are, furthermore, free to critique beliefs and call out those who hold those beliefs, whenever they feel like it. Don’t like it? Too bad. It’s immature of you to expect total, unequivocal obeisance to your own beliefs by every American and to not want there to be any dissent. Grow up already.

      • AlaJackd

        Oh you’ve misunderstood me completely. I never said you didn’t have the RIGHT to disagree with believers. Understand however, that the more you mock, ridicule, and attack believers, the LESS serious we take you, especially in a moment of crisis and loss. Actions have consequences. It’s like Christians suddenly taking the Westboro Baptists serious after they’ve desecrated everything for which they believe and stand. So go ahead, petition the town of Newton to remove their Christian crosses and symbols from public squares. I dare you.

        • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

          Re: “Understand however, that the more you mock, ridicule, and attack believers, the LESS serious we take you, especially in a moment of crisis and loss.”

          When your own kind stops doing precisely the same to non-believers, THEN … and ONLY then … can you make such a demand of them. Until you do, you remain a hypocrite: Decrying something that others do, but engaging in that same behavior yourself.

          Since you don’t seem to have read the article I linked to that explains how your own Jesus ordered you never to be hypocritical, and why you need to stop being a hypocrite, I’ll put some of those Bible verses here:

          You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Mt 7:5)

          Or how can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,” when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. (Lk 6:42)

          The apostle James, widely assumed to have been Jesus’ brother, also condemned hypocrisy:

          But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. (Jas 3:17)

          Your mortal soul, and the mortal souls of the many millions of other hypocritical Christians out there, are in peril. I’d be careful if I were you, lest any of you hear Jesus say these words to you at the Judgement:

          “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Mt 7:23)

          or:

          “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.” (Mt 25:45)

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Understand however, that the more you mock, ridicule, and attack believerspeople on this blog, the LESS serious we take you.

          • AlaJackd

            Very well. Just realize mine is not a case that needs to be taken, well, anywhere. Yours on the other hand, needs all the help it can get. May want to keep that in mind next time you want to whine about a Christmas display.

    • dan

      Reaching the conclusion that science suggests that there is no designer, or at least not one born of a virgin, it not “dead”, it like saying gravity is dead. Go jump out a window to find out.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

    It didn’t seem to me like atheists were being quiet about it at all. I’d have guessed it had to do with whom the media found most interesting.

  • AlaJackd

    Place your “Mythical God” posters beside this, I dare you…. And you wonder why nobody takes you serious. http://abcnews.go.com/meta/search/imageDetail?format=plain&source=http://abcnews.go.com/images/US/ap_sandy_hook_memorial_crosses_jt_121222

    • chris

      Those crosses are likely for the children that were from Christian families, and therefore entirely appropriate. I imagine the boy from the Jewish family had a Star of David memorial that didn’t make the photo.

  • SeekerLancer

    The difference is when a Church helps someone they take advantage of the free public relations boost. When an atheist or non-religious group helps someone they don’t try to take any credit for any specific group of people.

    • AlaJackd

      And THIS, ladies and gentlemen is why you’re irrelevant.

      • http://twitter.com/TCarschaleir Riccardo Battilani

        So, because we help people without expecting anything in return and we don’t jump up and down screaming “Hey! Look at us! We’re so good and compassionate!”, that means we’re inferior to religious people?

        • AlaJackd

          Are you saying Christians in Newtown are jumping up and down screaming “Hey! Look at us! We’re so good and compassionate!”?? If so, take your complaint to the Christian believers in Newtown who are praying and helping the families of the dead. Go on. Tell them they’re just grandstanding. I DARE YOU.

          • http://twitter.com/TCarschaleir Riccardo Battilani

            No I’m not saying it. You are saying it. By replying to SeekerLancer’s comment the way you did, you gave the impression that the reason we atheists are inferior to religious people is that we don’t flaunt our benevolence. And thanks for completely ignoring my point and instead launching on an ad hominem and slimy emotional attack.

          • Glasofruix

            Usually when xtians “help” someone, it’s to score points to use on that one way ticket to heaven.

          • dan

            If they are trying to identify themselves other than American, they are grandstanding. Argue otherwise,… using logic.

      • Artor

        So relevancy is defined entirely by attention-whoring? Thanks for clearing that up. You’re well on your way to becoming significant. Keep up the good work.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Re: “I don’t actually disagree with her on the big picture — if you turned on the TV and read newspapers, you’d never know atheists were grieving after Sandy Hook.”

    True enough, but is this the fault of atheists or other non-believers? Given the tendency of the mass media to pander to theists, how reasonable is it to expect any such coverage? Coercing such coverage, by doing something big and splashy, enough to get the media to pay attention anyway, might have backfired by being viewed (and reported as) an effort by non-believers to use the massacre to get attention to themselves, rather than as a genuine assistance campaign.

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      I agree. Why would we have used Sandy Hook to push ourselves into the spotlight? I mean, it’s really not relevant to the situation. If some of the victims’ families were atheists and needed help and public support, then I think it would have been appropriate, but not otherwise.

  • The Captain

    I’m getting a bit tired of this kind of line on thinking. Where are “atheist during tragedies” the same place everyone else is. Atheist don’t run and hide when bad stuff happens, it’s just that atheism does not tell us how we should respond to a tragedy. That’s for stuff like secular humanism and the like to do. “Atheism” doesn’t give you a set of rules like religion on how you must respond. So every atheist does it different.

    Stop letting the religious define what atheism is!

    When the religious people show up to “help” they do so to show out. When they ask why other groups of people (arbitrary defined) don’t also do this it shows that they do it more for themselves than for the victims. They are trying to gain publicity points. But there is no need to play this stupid game. Secular humanist can (and do) help in many ways but stop falling for this PR trap that the religious exploit every time there is a tragedy.

    Asking where atheist are during tragedies makes as much sense as asking where are the bald people during such things, since neither says how we should respond.

    • AlaJackd

      You are your own worst enemy.

      • C Peterson

        Nonsense. Many atheists are complaining about the religious nature of Newtown memorials. But you largely only see that in “atheist” forums; for the most part, atheists don’t have much of a public platform to be heard, and wise atheists would never tie their atheism to their comments about something like the Newtown tragedy.

        • AlaJackd

          So where is the FFRF on this one? Are you cowards?

          • The Captain

            Want my address so you can come try to “punch” my mouth?

            You’re one little internet tough guy. I think all your complaints about atheist the PR they get doesn’t hold a candle to the reenforcing of the belief that religious people are just a bunch ignorant bullies like you. Fortunately I never back down form bullies so feel free to try it with me tough guy.

            Oh, not one of your little threats in any way proves your imaginary friend is real.

            • AlaJackd

              Why, no. It’s not me who’s lost a dear child in the Newtown massacre. However, if I were to ever lose one of my precious children and you offered up your insolent ridicule and insult toward me and my beliefs, as you do when it most suits you and the opposition is null, then yes, I’d punch you square in the mouth.

              • http://twitter.com/TCarschaleir Riccardo Battilani

                I really don’t understand you. You’re coming here screaming that we’re ridiculing the beliefs of the victims of the Newtown massacre while NO ONE has done so ONCE in this thread. There is literally no one saying “those stupid parents should stop believing that stupid shit, their kids are dead and buried and who cares”. All this “insulting and mocking” of the parent’s beliefs exist only in your head.

              • The Captain

                Yet somehow I don’t think you’d support the right of an atheist who loses a child to punch a xtian in the mouth if they put the child’s name of a religious display for instance would you?

              • baal

                Make up your mind. Either atheists (secularists really) are cowards for not fighting post-SandyHook expressions of faith or we’re “insolent” and “insulting” if we do?

          • C Peterson

            FFRF is not really an atheist organization. It’s a secularist organization, and there’s been no legal violation of state/church separation in the Newtown responses. There’s nothing in FFRF’s charter that argues for a response.

            • AlaJackd

              Public grounds are decorated with religious displays, all of which the FFRF have sought legal action in other circumstances. Funny how they’re quiet on this one.

              • http://twitter.com/TCarschaleir Riccardo Battilani

                Ok if your only defense is repeating the exact same thing ad nauseam, then I think we have no more to discuss.

              • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                Which ‘public grounds’ and ‘decorated by whom’ are critical here. Details?

                (Decorated by whom matters if anyone thinks a secular decoration would not also be tolerated)

          • Rory

            You’re right, what terrible people we are for not kicking people when they’re down. How dare we let human decency supersede our principles.

      • The Captain

        Also I am more than man enough to sand by my principles anytime you asshat. And the constitution does not disappear because a child is dead. Mine, yours, or anyones rights are not dependent on who has the most recent dead child. Just because someone loose a kid does not mean they can violate the constitution. And if you don;t think I’m man enough to stand by that, you are more than welcome to come by and find out.

      • Octoberfurst

        You know when you go on and blab about us not standing up for our principals you may wish to look at your own Christian community first . Does the Bible not say that ONLY believers in Christ go to Heaven? But every sermon I have heard for the victims of the massacre mention that they are “all in Heaven now.” So all 26 victims were Bible-believing Christians? I know that one kid was Jewish. And what about the 6 adult victims? Were they all Christians? So if the ministers were really being honest they would say that the victims MAY be in Heaven or they MAY be in Hell depending on whether they accepted Christ or not. But they never do that. Why? Could it be that they would be–to quote you–”floored by public opinion.”? Gee why don’t they have the balls to say what their theology says? Why aren’t they telling it like it is? Are they gutless wonders? According to you they should be.

        • http://www.skeptimusprime.com/ Dylan Walker

          Exactly. There is also a little thing called compassion. Most reasonable people are not going to turn a tragedy like this into a way to push their political agenda. If atheists were complaining people would be calling them jerks instead of cowards.

          Meanwhile Mike Huckabe actually DID turn this tragedy into a way to promote his political agenda.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X