I just heard on the news that President Obama will attend an interfaith service for the Boston bombing victims and their families on Thursday, April 18th. My thoughts immediately went to the Newtown interfaith service shortly after the Sandy Hook massacre there, and how humanists, atheists, and freethinkers were not represented. I haven’t been able to find out if that was because no group asked to be included, or if they did ask but were turned away.
Nevertheless, I think it would be a very good thing for a Boston-based secular group to at least ask to be included to make some remarks, so that we nonbelievers can add our voice to the support of those who have been harmed. This happens to fall on National Ask an Atheist Day, so it seems to me to be all the more appropriate that nonbelievers be included.
At the very least — and I sincerely hope it does not happen — if they are turned away from speaking at the service, then atheists can say that we wanted to participate, but we were not welcomed. I was frustrated by opportunistic atheist haters who decried our absence in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings, despite the fact that several atheist and humanist groups quickly raised substantial funds in support of the grieving families.
We are people. We feel grief, outrage, helplessness, frustration, confusion, and resolve just as much as any believing person does when horrific things happen to our fellow humans. We want to lend our voice as well as our hands to the well-being of those in need. We are a legitimate part of the world community and a legitimate part of the Boston community. We should be permitted to participate fully in our communities in times of happiness and times of pain.