Why Should Atheists Be Included in Interfaith Services?

As soon as I posted about today’s Interfaith event in Boston at which atheists were excluded, I knew people would argue that we didn’t belong there, that we shouldn’t have been invited, and we shouldn’t have even tried to get representation there. It’s an interfaith event, so why would we have been included in the first place?

For one, if the President and Governor are attending this event in their official capacities, this should be a secular event, not a religious one. I understand that religion will be invoked by the officials — they’re Christians — but there’s no reason for the event itself to be only for the religious. Even the media is billing this as the “official” memorial service, so the more inclusive, the better.

Also, this is a memorial service for the victims, not a Christmas or Easter service for churchgoers. All of us grieve in different ways. To suggest that the victims were all of one faith — or that the community only mourns them in particular religious ways is ignorant and unfair. Obviously, not every religious group can be represented. But the major groups — Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Jews — will all have a person representing them up on stage. There’s no good reason that a Humanist couldn’t have given a message of hope, loss, and love without invoking God.

And while the word “interfaith” seems to, by definition, exclude people without faith, that’s a problem with the word, not the idea behind it, which is to come together despite our religious differences.

Considering that Gallup found nearly 50% of Boston to be non-religious, that’s a serious oversight.

Humanist chaplain Greg Epstein just wrote a piece for CNN about how the godless mourn, too, and it’s a must-read:

So I don’t relish the opportunity — or the need — to say that right now, our community is grieving too, just like any other Boston-area congregation. Boston, in fact, is home to one of the biggest secular/Humanist/atheist/nonreligious communities in the world. (Sure, we don’t know what to call ourselves. But then again neither does the LGBT — or is it GLBT? — or LGBTQ? — community, and that hasn’t stopped them from thriving.) We meet every week. We’re getting ready to open up a large community center. We sponsor service programs where we invite interfaith groups to help us package thousands of meals for hungry kids. You can even join us this Sunday: We’ll be marking our losses together in a memorial gathering.

And when political leaders like Gov. Deval Patrick or President Obama try to make sense of these moments by assembling interfaith services, it is admirable — far better for a politician to bring different religions together than to only recognize one religion’s view of loss as valid. But for goodness’ sake, must the nonreligious continue to be excluded from such gatherings? I’ve seen Humanists knock on the door recently at the interfaith celebrations of political conventions, or after tragedies like Hurricane Sandy or Newtown. We wanted to help and were turned away. I hope this is where people realize: We are part of the community too. We care and want to offer our support just as much as anyone. We, too, are in shock and grief.

We should be included in the mix. It’s disappointing that, once again, the organizers of an interfaith event felt that the non-religious had no reason to be part of such a gathering.

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.

  • Daniel In The Lions’ Den

    Secular folks should not be excluded from the memorial. Maybe there is a better word than “interfaith”, as noted in the post. Maybe just call it an all inclusive memorial. “Healing our city: An Inclusive Service” would be OK. Others can probably think of better.

    • ortcutt

      “Service” also has religious connotations. Why can’t we have a Civic Remembrance Event that includes every Boston resident? In the past, important civic events were commemorated at Faneuil Hall, not at a sectarian Cathedral in an event that links a civic tragedy to religion.

  • Nate Frein

    This is one where I think we need to keep fighting.

    Because this meeting isn’t about faith. It’s about a community coming together to show solidarity after a tragedy. And I think that we, as atheists that are part of that community, need to stand up and say “We should be counted, too. We were hurt, too. We pitched in, too. We are your next door neighbors. We are faces in your crowd. We are at the tables of the same restaurants and we drink at the same bars. And we were there when the tragedy happened.”

    And I think we need to hammer this home. We were excluded. We were told that we were not worth having. And the people that organized that gathering need to made to own up to that.

    • Zachary_Bos

      We’re reaching out to the Governor’s office staff, to invite them to a memorial gathering this Sunday. A chance for them to do right. – Zachary Bos, AA State Director for Mass.; co-chair, Secular Coalition for Mass.

    • AxeGrrl

      this meeting isn’t about faith. It’s about a community coming together to show solidarity after a tragedy.

      THIS x 1000.

      I made precisely the same comment to my father as we watched part of it tonight.

  • Bruce Wright

    I wrote this on Facebook:

    I
    was just up in the break room at work, and watched on the big
    screen community leaders in Boston speaking in a cathedral about the
    resilience of the city and how it will show its strength in dealing with
    this attack. All my heart goes out to Boston, a city I love, a city my
    wife and I chose for our honeymoon.

    As I watched the service,
    which was billed as “interfaith”, I felt more and more excluded as a
    non-believer. The more I watched, the more I felt deliberately
    excluded. They decided NOT to include a humanist speaker, which is a
    real shame because Harvard has a humanist chaplain, the wonderful Greg
    Epstein.

    Harvard’s humanist congregation was hit by tragedy in
    this bombing. A volunteer for the congregation lost her legs. The
    group has been collecting donations for her care and for her daughter
    who was also injured. This act of violence touches all of us, without
    regard to religious views, and humans need healing and solace no matter
    their beliefs.

    But in the official memorial service for the
    city and for the nation, non-believers are excluded. I looked at the
    images of the cathedral, and the people in their religious dress, and
    the candles and the trappings… and I felt so, so distant from my
    fellow travellers on this earth.

  • http://twitter.com/ErnestValdemar Ernest Valdemar

    I’ve maintained an open mind and reserved judgement about the Humanist chaplaincy at Harvard (unlike some atheists), but I really thought that this sort of event — right in their own backyard — was part of their raison d’etre.

    Maybe I’ve been missing some crucial links, but where is their official statement? How hard did they lobby for inclusion? What part of the story am I missing?

  • ortcutt

    Why can’t there be a Remembrance Event that isn’t specifically religious in nature? I’m a Boston resident and I can confirm that this isn’t a very religious city at all. Brunch is a more popular Sunday pastime than church.

  • Claude

    For one, if the President and Governor are attending this event in their official capacities, this should be a secular event, not a religious one.

    Agreed. The thing is, the interfaith service is religious. It is being held in a cathedral. The speakers are religious leaders. The rhetoric is religious (and civic religious). That is all fine, but personally I would find it strange to participate. I would prefer for my sadness not to get drawn up in appeals to Jesus and God and so on.

    Since the president and elected officials are involved, it should be a secular event. That might not be so difficult to effect among Bostonians, but this service is more of a national observance. It makes it a bit more challenging to shift to a more inclusive format.

  • Gus Snarp

    I don’t think atheists should be included in the program as atheists per se, but non-believers in general should be included as members of the community through some kind of secular speaker. Indeed, while I am not one who needs or likes the idea of atheists taking on facets of religious practice, this seems like a case that is right in the wheelhouse of a Humanist chaplaincy. There seems to be no better a test case than this, with Harvard’s Humanist Chaplain so nearby, in an area so much more non-religious than much of the nation, to include a secular participant. It’s downright shameful not to have included a humanist in this event.

  • JET

    I’m really divided on this one. On the one hand, people should be allowed to grieve however they choose. If getting together with people of other faiths makes them feel better then I don’t want to stop them or rain on their parade. I also don’t have a problem with the President or Governor attending to show support for people of faith. OTOH, I have a problem with the “official” event being called an interfaith service. I would rather see the official event be a “Community Gathering” where people are allowed to grieve however they like, but also taking up collections for the victims and the Red Cross available to collect blood donations. Those who want to pray can, while those who want to actually do something productive would be offered the opportunity to do so.

  • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

    “And while the word “interfaith” seems to, by definition, exclude people
    without faith, that’s a problem with the word, not the idea behind it,
    which is to come together despite our religious differences.”

    No, there’s no problem with the word, it means exactly what it sounds like it means. Any ‘interfaith’ project is explicitly, and actually, about excluding the evidence based community. We do the people responsible for this far too much credit when we gloss over that, and act as if our exclusion is some sort of unfortunate oversight – it’s not. The religious community is once again exploiting a tragedy to be deliberately aggressive and exclusive.

  • C Peterson

    Personally, I’m glad that atheism isn’t represented in what is, fundamentally, a religious service.

    My objection is to the service itself, because I don’t believe that memorial services are generally appropriate except by and for people who know each other. I’m aware of all these “community healing” theories that float around, but I am not convinced that this represents anything more than psychobabble. I don’t think memorials, commemorations, and monuments to the victims of criminal acts or large scale accidents are healthy. I don’t think that “grieving” for strangers is healthy. This fairly recent societal trend towards such outpourings doesn’t seem healthy.

    • Alex Cohen

      “I don’t think that ‘grieving’ for strangers is healthy.” Well, at least you’re honest in not caring about other people. While we’re at it, why care about the victims of 9/11 and the Holocaust, right? You don’t know em. I guess you’re an Atheist of the Ayn Rand variety?

      • C Peterson

        Who said I don’t care about other people? There is a huge difference between being sad and unhappy that an incident like this occurred, and grieving for the victims. These public outpourings make me think we’re only a step away from what is common in many less developed countries, the ripping of clothes, tearing out of hair, and mournful screaming.

        Sorry, but in this country we have always celebrated our heroes and our successes; we haven’t directed much energy toward public displays of grief. The proper way to honor those who were injured or died is to do something constructive to prevent it from happening again. Services like this strike me as fundamentally geared towards directing attention away from the fact that little real action is being taken, a sort of wishy-washy, feel-good strategy that isn’t helpful, and probably doesn’t even have much psychological benefit (although it certainly supports a victim mentality and a fear-based society).

        • 3lemenope

          Services like this strike me as fundamentally geared towards directing attention away from the fact that little real action is being taken..

          LOLwut?

        • Claude

          probably doesn’t even have much psychological benefit (although it certainly supports a victim mentality and a fear-based society).

          Actually people often find such gatherings therapeutic. People died and had their legs blown off, yet you fret over “a victim mentality” and succumbing to emotional displays like people in “many less developed countries”? Don’t worry, from what little I watched of the service there seemed no threat of unseemly, third-world outbursts.

        • Claude

          probably doesn’t even have much psychological benefit (although it certainly supports a victim mentality and a fear-based society).

          Actually people often find such gatherings therapeutic. People died and had their legs blown off, yet you fret over “a victim mentality” and succumbing to emotional displays like people in “many less developed countries”? Don’t worry, from what little I watched of the service there seemed no threat of unseemly, third-world outbursts.

          • C Peterson

            I’m not convinced such gatherings are actually therapeutic.

            • Claude

              Yet despite your reservations people wish to attend these events and speak of them as positive experiences. Go figure.

              • C Peterson

                That’s not the point. I’m not saying such events should be illegal, nor that people shouldn’t be allowed to attend. All I’m saying is that we seem to be increasingly living in a society that drags out misery, that worships tragedy and disaster, that can’t let go and move on, that can’t find rational ways of dealing with events that have rational solutions (or at least, partial solutions). We weren’t always that way, and I don’t think this trend is a healthy one.

                • Claude

                  What? It’s weird that you’d think I was accusing you of suggesting memorial services should be banned. My rather banal point was that they appear to be therapeutic or beneficial in some way for many people.

                  We weren’t always that way…

                  So when did this golden age of stoicism end?

                • C Peterson

                  I’m not sure. Certainly, 9/11 marked a turning point in this country’s professional grieving- a criminal act that people still can’t put behind them.

  • http://twitter.com/vinimarques Vini Marques

    Atheists complaining that they haven’t been included in an interfaith service is like non-stamp collectors complaining they haven’t been invited to a stamp collectors party. WE DON’T HAVE FAITH. WE’RE NOT IN THEIR CLUB. I don’t want to go sit with them and the pink elephants in their little gathering, and I’m quite comfortable with that, thankyouverymuch.

    • GCT

      Atheists are part of the community too and have every right to grieve and be included in the community.

  • Alex Cohen

    God, you Atheists are pathetic. Can’t you understand that no one grieving wants to hear Atheists say “Yeah, the death of eight year old Martin Richard is sad, but he’s worm food now. Read Richard Dawkins so you can become enlightened.” All you can offer are empty words like “Gee, that’s terrible” or “I hope you feel better.” Nothing you offer gives true meaning. It’s only empty words coming from an empty worldview. Why was the Boston Marathon Massacre objectively wrong?

    I’m surprised there hasn’t yet been calls from this blog to go and protest the faith memorial. I mean, if they’re so bigoted and mean, then you should protest, right? The bottom line is that America was founded on belief in God. Even the very few who weren’t Christians, that literally only includes Thomas Jefferson, still believed in a creator, a moral lawgiver.Jefferson himself wrote “All men are created equal.” This phrase is complete gibberish from an Atheist point of view.

    You absolutely do have the freedom of religion to believe in whatever you want, but the ethics and culture of this country are Christian. So, if you don’t like that, you can always go to some oil rig out in the middle of the ocean and try to rebuild Stalin’s utopia.

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      “Nothing you offer gives true meaning.”

      Nothing religion offers is true meaning, because it’s not true.

      “It’s only empty words coming from
      an empty worldview”

      On the contrary, we value this world, and the people in it, for themselves. Not for the pleasure they supposedly bring some non-existent god.

      “Why was the Boston Marathon Massacre objectively
      wrong?”

      If you can’t answer that question from within yourself, without relying on some outside entity to tell you that inflicting pain and suffering is wrong, then you have absolutely no moral sense.

      • Alex Cohen

        I suppose I’ll respond to this. Or rather, the last two claims. For my purposes, I’m not going to argue for the veracity of Christian belief. I am a Christian, but right now, I’m merely arguing for faith as a comforter for those in pain and as a moral compass.

        “On the contrary, we value this world, and the people in it, for themselves. Not for the pleasure they supposedly bring some non-existent god.” Now, this actually sounds pretty good at first blush, I’ll admit, but all you really have to do is look at 20th century history to debunk this. After Nietzsche in Germany, Lenin in Russia, and even the Scopes Trial in America, Christianity looked like it was on its way out. Get rid of religion, and the world would inherit a utopia based on secular ideals.

        One problem though, right? It didn’t happen. Or at least a utopia wasn’t built. Communism isn’t just a random philosophy that just coincidentally attracted Atheists. Literally every Communist despot that has ever been was an Atheist. Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and Castro… I think those are the worst ones, at least. Communism could not exist without Atheism. The idea of a “Worker’s Paradise” is based on a utopian fantasy that says mankind is inherently good and reasonable. We don’t need an institution like the Christian church to hold back our inner depravity, because there isn’t any.

        Well, look at Stalin’s gulags and killing fields, and tell me that worked out. The worst regimes in history have been Atheistic. That’s a fact. You think there hasn’t been a society that has suffered because it was too reasonable, as Sam Harris states? Well, look up the League of Militant Atheists in the Soviet Union. I think you’ll be surprised at your own ignorance.

        Finally, your claim that I have “absolutely no moral sense” for basing my morality on God, is easy to disprove. So, presumably your statement means that you believe your morality is objective. You’re aware of what the word “objective” means, right? Its definition is that something is valid regardless of something else. That the truth is not influenced by your personal feelings.

        Well, Stalin and Ayn Rand (both at completely opposite ends of the political spectrum) disagree with you. Ayn Rand doesn’t believe in altruism at all, which would defeat the purpose of grieving for strangers. While Stalin would murder millions just for the greater good. Someone’s wrong here. Someone’s wasting their time. If you Atheists can’t even agree on basics, then your morality is not objective. It’s personal preference. You can’t call murder objectively wrong.

        Well, that’s it I guess. Have fun.

        • DavidMHart

          How does ceasing to believe in gods logically commit anyone to the belief that the ideal society is a totalitarian command economy with no freedom of expression and no regard for individual rights? Seriously, answer that.

          After all, every Wahhabi theocrat who wants to execute little girls for the crime of learning to read has been a Muslim, and every witch-torturing, heretic-burning Catholic inquisitor has been a Christian, but no one ever takes seriously the proposition that being a Christian logically compels you to burn people who disagree with you, or that being a Muslim logically requires you to kill little girls who try to learn to read.

          The fact is that all of these Communist regimes were imposed on their populations by leaders that were as dogmatic in their beliefs as religious dogmatists are about theirs. And yes, being a Communist does seem to have historically entailed being an atheist (though not necessarily – there have been religious Communists).
          But non-belief in gods does not in any way commit you to favouring any political system, except in so far as one is likely to reject political systems that are based on supernatural claims.

          If non-belief in gods lead inevitably to totalitarian collectivist societies, we would expect the Netherlands, Sweden, Japan, Denmark, New Zealand etc – among the least religious countries in the world – to be drifting down that route. And yet they remain relatively prosperous, stable, open societies where political differences are tolerated and no one is sent to the gulags for expressing an unpopular opinion. If you think that atheism has a causal link to Communism you’ll have a hard time explaining that. If, on the other hand, you view Communism and religions as both being types of dogmatic utopian ideologies that fail to accurately describe reality, and therefore cause people to suffer in the guise of doing good, then it becomes easy to see that there might be a causal link in the opposite direction – because utopian ideologies have a hard time rubbing along together, tending to see each other as a threat. Thus it would be as natural for Communism to see (say) Christianity as a rival ideology that it could not accommodate as it would be for Christianity to see (say) Islam as a rival ideology such that you could not logically subscribe to both at the same time. The League of Militant Atheists may not have believed in supernatural bullshit, but they did believe in other stuff that was equally unsupported by the evidence (namely the Communist party line) – and thus cannot be held up as an example of people who were truly surveying all the evidence impartially.

          tl;dr – dogmatic Communist regimes are not what happen when people become too skeptical about the supernatural, they are what happens when dogmatic Communists seize power.

        • DavidMHart

          Also, with regard to the question of having no moral sense, I think the point is that if you genuinely need an all-powerful supernatural being to tell you that indiscriminately murdering civilians is wrong; if you can’t work that out for yourself, then you are lacking a properly calibrated moral compass … because presumably if that same all-powerful supernatural being then told you that there were some circumstances in which indiscriminately murdering civilians was mandatory, you’d have to be okay with that – he’s all powerful, after all, so he must know best.

          In reality, of course, you don’t actually believe that unless you are a psychopath. You know that bombing a marathon is wrong because of the harm and suffering it causes to the victims – because all moral questions eventually boil down at some level to questions of how to minimise suffering – you’re just substituting your god or gods for your own ability to judge right and wrong and pretending that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference without a supernatural power, probably without realising that you’re doing it.

          But think about it this way: if you came to the conclusion tomorrow that you had been mistaken about god(s) and that the most likely number of gods in the universe was in fact zero, would that make you even slightly more likely to place explosive devices in an unsuspecting crowd unless you also acquired some new ideology that would require violence of you? I think not – so why should it be any different for anyone else?

        • http://www.facebook.com/billhaines.net Bill Haines

          Getting back to the present again:
          http://www.utne.com/Mind-Body/the-worlds-happiest-countries-are-the-least-religious.aspx

          And you can’t call murder objectively wrong either, since your deity explicitly endorses it in some cases and apparently does it himself:
          http://www.evilbible.com/Murder.htm

          Are we having fun yet?

        • Glasofruix

          And Stalin had a moustache, so every man with facial hair out there is a potential tyrant. Frankly, your argument is getting a bit stale.

        • GCT

          For my purposes, I’m not going to argue for the veracity of Christian belief.

          At least you have enough sense not to fight that losing cause.

          …I’m merely arguing for faith as a comforter for those in pain and as a moral compass.

          How does faith act as a comforter? It does not. And, you are aware that the people who perpetrated this act seem to have some sort of faith, right? And, your moral compass is not moral. If you have to keep from bombing others simply because you think some sky daddy will be mad at you, then you are not as morally advanced as us atheists.

          Get rid of religion, and the world would inherit a utopia based on secular ideals.

          It’s not like the more secular a country is, the more happy the people are or anything, right? Oh wait, yes, it is like that.

          Communism isn’t just a random philosophy that just coincidentally attracted Atheists.

          Nope, communism is an economic system.

          Literally every Communist despot that has ever been was an Atheist. Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and Castro… I think those are the worst ones, at least.

          They were totalitarian despots that created cults of personality where they were the defacto religious leaders. This had nothing to do with atheism. Of course, we could also play the same game and mention Hitler, the Inquisition, monarchs of Europe, etc.

          We don’t need an institution like the Christian church to hold back our inner depravity, because there isn’t any.

          Because the church has been soooooo good at doing that throughout history, right?

          You think there hasn’t been a society that has suffered because it was too reasonable, as Sam Harris states?

          Yes, because there’s nothing reasonable about creating quasi-religious leaders and cults of personality.

          Finally, your claim that I have “absolutely no moral sense” for basing my morality on God, is easy to disprove.

          Then do so. You have claimed it’s so easy, and yet have not even attempted to do so. What is objective about claiming that what you believe god wants,without any evidence is actually and objectively moral? Nothing.

          Well, Stalin and Ayn Rand (both at completely opposite ends of the political spectrum) disagree with you.

          And, you’re a bigot for thinking that you can pin all the views/ideas/whatever of some minority of a minority group on the whole group. That is the very definition of bigotry.

          If you Atheists can’t even agree on basics, then your morality is not objective. It’s personal preference. You can’t call murder objectively wrong.

          How incredibly stupid of you. It’s as if you think that all Xians agree on all matters. I doubt that you could find agreement on the most basic of matters, meaning that by your own argument, Xian morality can’t call murder objectively wrong. Do you even think for a second before writing your idiotic screeds?

      • AxeGrrl

        “Why was the Boston Marathon Massacre objectively
        wrong?”

        If you can’t answer that question from within yourself, without relying on some outside entity to tell you that inflicting pain and suffering is wrong, then you have absolutely no moral sense.
        Bingo!

    • Gary

      That’s absurd. Nobody is going to say, “sorry he’s worm food.” To a nonreligious person, hearing the words “He lived a great, happy life” or “I’m sorry for your loss” or “I want you to know that I’m thinking about you” or “I know it’s very hard right now, but you will get through this and I am here to help you any way I can” would likely provide considerable meaning and comfort. What certainly wouldn’t are words like “I’ll pray for you” or “god works in mysterious ways” or “he is with god now”. To me and other nonreligious people, those are the empty words.

    • Claude

      You are being mean-spirited and absurd, and you are attacking a straw man. As I mentioned elsewhere on this thread, I personally don’t care about not being represented at an interfaith service, but I can certainly understand why other atheist/agnostic/skeptics would want to participate. This kind of tragedy affects the entire country, and atheists/humanists are Bostonians and Americans. Did you not read Greg Epstein’s piece? Did it sound like the sentiments of a heartless proselytizer? All he was asking was the opportunity to express the sympathy, sorrow and determination of people who happen to be non-religious. Sorry, no, the US is not “a Christian nation.” It’s a pluralistic republic.

    • http://www.facebook.com/billhaines.net Bill Haines

      “The bottom line is that America was founded on belief in God.”

      Wrong, America was founded on the belief that government derives just power only from consent of the governed, not any divine right of kings.

      “Even the very few who weren’t Christians, that literally only includes Thomas Jefferson [...]”

      Wrong again, and ironic that you use the term ‘literally,’ since you forgot or are ignorant of Thomas Paine.

      “still believed in a creator, a moral lawgiver.”

      So? A lot of them held slaves in bondage, they overwhelmingly regarded anyone but northern Europeans as inferior, none of them thought women are the equals of men. They had some great ideals, but by modern standards they were ignorant bigots in other ways.

      “‘All men are created equal.’ This phrase is complete gibberish from an Atheist point of view.”

      Pretty much. But a lot of us like this other thing Jefferson wrote, called the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. You might want to check it out sometime — you know, since it repudiates what you’re saying here. Can we get back to the present now?

      “[...] the ethics and culture of this country are Christian.”

      Wrong yet again, the United States doesn’t now and never has had a single ethics or culture. The majority’s always been ‘Christian,’ but you people disagree with each other so much, you can’t even settle who should be included in the use of that very term. We’re not defined by the majority anyway, that’s our strength, and you know nothing of America if you don’t know this. E Pluribus Unum.

      And if you don’t like that, you can always move to some other country where religion rules daily life, like Iran.

    • GCT

      God, you Atheists are pathetic.

      Coming from a bigot, this is rich.

      Can’t you understand that no one grieving wants to hear Atheists say “Yeah, the death of eight year old Martin Richard is sad, but he’s worm food now. Read Richard Dawkins so you can become enlightened.”

      Nice straw man.

      Nothing you offer gives true meaning.

      And, goddidit is “true meaning”?

      Why was the Boston Marathon Massacre objectively wrong?

      We have better answers for that than you do. Your answer would be, “Because I believe god says so based on nothing but faith.” That’s a crappy way to base a moral system, it’s not objective, etc.

      The bottom line is that America was founded on belief in God.

      Which is why the Constitution was derided as an atheist document? Go learn some history before confirming how ignorant and foolish you are.

      You absolutely do have the freedom of religion to believe in whatever you want, but the ethics and culture of this country are Christian. So, if you don’t like that, you can always go to some oil rig out in the middle of the ocean and try to rebuild Stalin’s utopia.

      I love this part. You have religious freedom to taste my bigoted religious privilege and if you don’t like it, GTFO. Then, you are have to bring up Stalin because you are ignorant of world history as well as American history. Well, bigot, you should be ashamed of yourself.

  • rwlawoffice

    As a Christian, I see no reason not to have included the humanist chaplin at the service.

    • Gus Snarp

      Thank you. It’s refreshing to see someone I heartily disagree with on most issues show their common decency and humanity.

    • Guesty von Guestheim

      Thank you for the display of basic human decency. It is a shame that not all your brothers in Christ, such as that chap below, are capable of such an act.

  • A3Kr0n

    I’m not a baseball fan, and I don’t get upset when the president throws out the first ball and I’m not invited.

    • Gary

      A more proper analogy is that you are on the baseball team, not a fan. Still not upset?

  • LesterBallard

    I watched some of this while at dialysis today. I was reminded why I don’t care about being part of an interfaith service. Talk of faith and god and “they’re in Heaven now” makes me sick.

  • SJH

    I wouldn’t have a problem with having atheists at an interfaith event. Just like most of the other religious, the atheists would be asked to be respectful to other beliefs and I’m sure they would accommodate. I’m not sure why they would want to be there given that the purpose of such an event is not only to mourn but also relate to God as a community and worship. So there might be a point at which the atheist is uncomfortable. But if they want to be there and are respectful about it then I don’t see why they would have to be excluded.

    • GCT

      That shouldn’t be the point of this though. The point should be to bring the community together. Why do you assume that the community togetherness has to revolve around god, especially in an area like Boston where there are probably more of us than you?

      • SJH

        I don’t think that community togetherness has to revolve around God but if I were seeking community, I would want God to be present and welcome so I would go to a place where God would be actively included. If atheists wanted to be there as well, it wouldn’t bother me. I would likely also participate in secular ways as well in order to be involved in the larger non-Christian community.

        • GCT

          I don’t think that community togetherness has to revolve around God…If atheists wanted to be there as well, it wouldn’t bother me. I would likely also participate in secular ways as well in order to be involved in the larger non-Christian community.

          Again, you treat us as if we’re an after-thought. Oh, those atheists…I guess if they really want to be part of the community, then I guess I can allow them to attend if they’re really respectful and sit there silently while we do god, god, god, god, god stuff and they get no representation. Then, if they want to be part of the community, we can have another one later just for them, because separate but equal has worked wonders in all other cases where it’s been tried.

  • LesterBallard

    Well, we’re not the only ones who didn’t like it; from a “True Christian”, Tony Miano; “Listening to the FBI press conference regarding yesterday’s bombing in Boston. One of the first announcements by the governor of Massachusetts made was about the “interfaith” prayer service being organized for the city.
    Sadly, instead of petitioning the one, true, sovereign God who either allowed or caused yesterday’s tragic event, the city’s clergy (along with professing Christians) will gather to lift their voices to false gods. They will blaspheme the only God, while expecting the Dagons, Baals, and Molechs of our age–gods that are blind, deaf, mute, powerless, and demonic–to answer their prayers.

    And the LORD God should bless this country, why?

    Repent, America! Repent!”

  • rgcustomer

    The real question is why there should be interfaith services at all. If a community is hurt, the first thing that shouldn’t happen is dividing people up by whether they believe or not.

    If there’s going to be group grieving and support, we should all be permitted, as individuals, not as members of groups.

    • AxeGrrl

      If a community is hurt, the first thing that shouldn’t happen is dividing people up by whether they believe or not.

      Perfectly said.

  • newavocation

    Interfaith meetings or gatherings are a joke. The ones I’ve attended are more like a cease-fire meeting, to get anything accomplished attendees need to shelve their beauty pageant entries so they can approach the task at hand in a “humanistic” way. To put their differences aside means leaving their religions at home. Humanists, freethinkers or atheists I think are needed at these gatherings to be the neutral party or referee.

  • Erp

    I think Governor Deval Patrick did say a few things that were more inclusive: First he stated when he was speaking from his faith rather than assuming everyone there was in that tradition, “In my faith tradition, scripture teaches”. He also said “I’m thankful for those who have given blood to the hospitals, money to the OneFund, and prayers and messages of consolation and encouragement from all over the world” where prayers are matched with messages of consolation and encouragement and not left to stand on their own. And finally he said “And America is not organized the way countries are usually organized. We are not organized around a common language or religion or even culture. We are organized around a handful of civic ideals. And we
    have defined those ideals, through time and through struggle, as equality, opportunity, freedom and fair play” with its mention that the US is not organized around a common religion.

    In contrast Obama said “Scripture tells us” without specifying whose scripture. He also used the phrase “Our prayers” when it could have easily been “Our prayers and thoughts” and so a bit more inclusive.

    Not all groups could be represented but the ceremony could still be inclusive with the language and ritual (though I doubt the ritual could get too inclusive in a Catholic cathedral).


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