by Ed Buckner
The following article is from the Secular
Humanist Bulletin, Volume 17, Number 4.
At about 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the 11th of September, most of the Center for
Inquiry staff gathered, as we always do on Tuesday mornings, for our weekly
Monday-morning-meeting-on-Tuesday. We were not far along in the meeting,
starting to discuss something (probably no one can now remember exactly what),
when SHB Managing Editor Andrea Szalanski came into the room, looking and
sounding distraught. (Andrea works, by her own choice, only part-time and does
not always attend the Tuesday meetings.) She happened to be the first among us
to hear and pass along the early news about the horrors of terrorism being
violently brought home to America.
By the time you read this, it will have been about three months since
September 11, but it seems so much longer. We have since shed tears, worried,
and engaged in all kinds of speculation (much of it angry), but we here at the
Council don't claim to have any easy answers for terrorism or the aftermath of
September 11. We know that all secular humanists everywhere join us in extending
heartfelt sympathy to the families and friends of the thousands of Americans who
died and to those who were injured in the attacks. We also sympathize with the
many who have suffered since, from grief or worry or anthrax. We know that all
secular humanists do not agree on what should be done now. We will all, I hope,
remember that freedom does not come easily and cannot be maintained without
courage and a conscious effort to protect minority rights.
Those of us Americans who lack religion have been under another kind of
attack during these difficult days. It has not been anything as immediately
threatening or painful as terrorism, but it has been disheartening. Religious
opportunists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have insulted us, attempted to
minimize our role in American society, egregiously violated the separation of
church and state, and then seemingly dared us to defend our rights and
reputations. One of the most maddening of the many columns that have seemed to
be aimed directly at us was one by Kathleen Parker in USA Today. I wish that all
Americans had missed the chance to read it, but, in case you were one who did,
it's reprinted in full in this issue. You need to see what we're up against. (We
submitted an op-ed of our own in response, but USA Today chose not to accept it.
Watch your mail for a letter from me soon that will offer you a copy of our
response- along with a Buffalo nickel-if you'll help us out.)
Thanks to excellent work from the Council staff, we have had some success in
getting responses into the media (see the
article by Katherine Bourdonnay). We must not miss any chance to protect our
rights and reputation-and yours.
We're also making progress in many other ways, including much better support
from here for local secular humanists, but our contributions are way down (many
of our largest donors have been hit hard by the recession). The upshot of all
this is that September 11 means that mutual support among secular
humanists-emotional, financial, and other kinds of support-is going to be
crucial in the tough times ahead. Please let us know if you need something from
us or have ideas about what we should be doing.
Dr. Ed Buckner is the executive director of the Council for