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Why blame atheists?

Chris Stedman spoke out against marginalizing atheists before the Sinema post, too. He did it for Melissa Harris-Perry’s page at MSNBC a little over a week ago, asking why blame atheists for the Newtown shootings.

The interfaith memorial service in Newtown featured expressions from multiple faiths, including remarks from President Obama that reflected only a theistic perspective.

A non-religious perspective was absent, and this, I think, is a problem. Especially since, in the human search to place blame for this tragedy, nontheists like me have become a target.

A number of influential political and religious public figures have used this heartbreaking massacre as an opportunity to blame or marginalize nonreligious people, and to decry religious pluralism and the separation of church and state.

He gives several examples and then says what’s wrong with them. He does it well, too.

Comments

  1. kpidcoc says

    Hey, give the man credit. it’s a solid argument and, while it pains to acknowledge it,

    Chris Stedman is the Assistant Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, and the author of “Faitheist: How an Athiest Found Common Ground with the Religious.”

    probably plays pretty well.

  2. says

    Small nitpick — her last name seems to be Sinema, not Synema. The “y” in “Kyrsten” just begs to be repeated, doesn’t it? :D

    My own name seems to cause people similar problems — they’re tempted to map “a” at the end of “Hanna” onto the trailing vowel of my first name, turning me into Anna Hanna.

  3. NotAnAtheistAlsoNotAChristian says


    A non-religious perspective was absent, and this, I think, is a problem.

    Why was this perspective absent?

    Were atheists prohibited from speaking at the event? Were they locked out? Somehow barred from entering?

    Were they blocked from having their own event? (I mean.. an atheist (someone who lacks any faith and religion) speaking at an interfaith event (by definition an event that occurs between people of different religions) does seem a bit odd to me, but that’s just me.)

  4. Tony the Queer Shoop (proud supporter of Radical Feminism) says

    @7:
    Why was it absent? I suspect because many people dislike atheists for no rational reason.
    A non religious perspective was missing.
    Why is that important?
    Religions do not have the market cornered on morality.
    Atheists are treated as if they’re invisible.
    Atheists grieve too.
    If the interfaith memorial were truly seeking to be diverse and inclusive, they would include a variety of perspectives that reflect the diverse beliefs of Americans (it was an “interfaith” memorial after all).
    In a way I agree with you that it seems a bit odd, but I see the focus on being a memorial, with “interfaith” being secondary.

  5. NotAnAtheistAlsoNotChristian says


    Why was it absent? I suspect because many people dislike atheists for no rational reason.

    So? I believe that interfaith service had many pastors and many different speakers, not just the President. Did an atheist speaker try to speak and was rejected? Was he /she not allowed? Or did not atheists even try to speak at the event at all?

    You can hardly expect a bishop/priest/reverend/minister/whatever to give an “atheist perspective” any more than I’d expect an atheist leading others in a Christian prayer.

    If an atheist tried to speak at the event, and was rejected/not allowed… that’s one thing. If no atheist even tried to speak at all.. that’s another thing entirely.


    Religions do not have the market cornered on morality.

    Atheists can be moral, that’s true. How do you get from “atheism” to your system of morality though?


    Atheists grieve too.

    True. Shame that atheists can take no comfort from what anyone else says beyond other atheists. (Apparently)
    Also.. how many people involved actually.. were… you know.. atheists? Do you know?


    If the interfaith memorial were truly seeking to be diverse and inclusive, they would include a variety of perspectives that reflect the diverse beliefs of Americans (it was an “interfaith” memorial after all).

    I believe they did.. but atheism isn’t a belief. It’s a “lack of belief”. Now.. if there was some united agreement that there were some actual “atheistic beliefs”.. that’d be one thing. From my time reading things on this blog and others here.. beyond hatred of all religious people I don’t see much uniting atheists.


    In a way I agree with you that it seems a bit odd, but I see the focus on being a memorial, with “interfaith” being secondary.

    If an atheist speaker tried to speak at the ceremony and was rejected, that’s one thing. If there’s some evidence of consciously excluding all atheistic points of view (though I’m not sure what an atheistic point of view on this is.. anyway..) that’s one thing. If no atheist volunteered to speak, and people are complaining now that nobody did their job for them.. I have little pity for you.

    You may hate Christians and Christianity.. but they have, and continue to, put forth an immense amount of effort to get their message out. If you don’t put forth the same effort.. or can’t.. don’t be surprised if you seem “invisible”. Nobody can hear someone who isn’t talking.

  6. dirigible, despite the admins says

    “You may hate Christians and Christianity.”

    Why thank you.

    Who are you talking to, by the way?

  7. NotAnAtheistAlsoNotChristian says

    I find it to be a fair (though general) assumption, that anyone who is an atheist, especially one who posts on atheistic / skeptical blogs has some level of antipathy towards Christians.

    I suppose its possible that you merely strongly dislike Christians and you don’t hate them. That is a strong word.

  8. says

    @11: Many, perhaps most, people who are passionately involved in *any* issue develop “some level of antipathy” towards *some* of their opponents. Sometimes it’s just the natural human tendency to tribalism (wrong and regrettable), sometimes it was the other side that started it (and there’s never been a shortage of Christian antipathy towards atheists) and it’s both hard and non-obligatory to like someone who dislikes you, and sometimes it’s a simple fact that at least some fraction of the opposition really are bigots and scoundrels who deserve scorn and opprobrium. And BTW, neither the OP nor any commenter here has evinced the antipathy that Frank Schaeffer does towards his *fellow* Christians in the linked Salon article.

    But go ahead and complain about atheists, because hey, you’re so much better than both sides, Mr/Ms. Neither-Christian-Nor-Atheist.

  9. NotAnAtheistAlsoNotChristian says

    Many, perhaps most, people who are passionately involved in *any* issue develop “some level of antipathy” towards *some* of their opponents.

    Well, in politics yes. In rational matters, less so.

    I mean, if you have two scientists who disagree on something, (at least IMO) I don’t think you’ll find a lot of antipathy or hatred between them.

    Perhaps you have counterexamples of that.


    And BTW, neither the OP nor any commenter here has evinced the antipathy that Frank Schaeffer does towards his *fellow* Christians in the linked Salon article.

    That’s quite true. He really does hate Christians and Christianity.


    But go ahead and complain about atheists, because hey, you’re so much better than both sides,

    Why do you assume that I think I’m “better” than you? I don’t feel “superior” to you. I just try not to hate Christians. Probably in most other ways, you are superior to me.

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