Atheists Left Out of Boston Interfaith Memorial

This is one of those places where I don’t really know where I stand. Basically, like when every national tragedy happens, the Humanist community requested to be allowed to partake in the inevitable interfaith service to commemorate those injured or killed. And just like every other time, they were turned away at the door, because I suppose atheists don’t mourn, or a city that’s almost 50% non-religious doesn’t have any non-religious friends and relatives of the victims.

And the thing is, I get that it’s an interfaith service, but it’s also generally accepted that things like this are the official memorial for those who were lost or hurt, and shouldn’t we be able to give a message of hope about humanity and how even in the face of such horrible things, we bond together to overcome? Isn’t that a worthy message, even if it doesn’t invoke a supernatural being (that allowed the tragedy to happen in the first place, I might add)?

And let’s not forget that when there are no Humanists speaking, people will inevitably start asking “Where were the atheists when this all happened? Why didn’t they do anything?” The answer to the first question is, of course, actually doing practical things, which makes the answer to the second question self-evident, but because we were not on the dais with the president, those actions get overlooked.

On the other hand, JT makes some excellent points, primarily that we shouldn’t have to beg in order to offer public sympathy and help to the non-religious who may be grieving. We can hold vigils, we can hold memorials, we can offer counseling services and do everything the interfaith service can. Plus we are already working the hell out of charities to help the families of victims. This should be enough, and if we get overlooked in the process, at least we’ll know that we did what we could to contribute, even when it was made clear we weren’t wanted.

Both of these arguments are valid and they both make sense to me, so I’m not sure where to stand on it. The one thing I can say, though, is that regardless, it’s ludicrous that atheists were actively denied a part in this. How we approach that denial, I couldn’t say, but there is no reason why a community of good will that addresses a significant portion of those who will be in attendance should not be allowed to help those who wish to grieve without having to lean on an invisible, intangible, and silent being for comfort.

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One thought on “Atheists Left Out of Boston Interfaith Memorial

  1. I don’t think you have to choose a “side” here. You can request to be part of the “main” or “official” grieving service, and be legitimately angry when turned away, while still holding your own ceremonies and offering your own help, either instead of or in addition to the religious ones.

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