Atheists Cry Also
by Frank Greene
The following article is from the Secular
Humanist Bulletin, Volume 17, Number 4.
In the days that followed the tragedy of September 11, the news reports were
full of stories about people turning to religion for comfort and understanding.
As a nontheist, I could not do this. I felt left out of the public mourning for
the loss of so many other human beings. My pain and sorrow were multiplied and
twisted tight about my heart because I believe that the life that was taken away
from so many innocent people was the only life they will ever have. I had no god
to wipe away my tears with assurances that loved ones would be seen again, that
evil would be turned into good, and that God would avenge us.
I have no god to console me, no angels to guide me. I cry in anger when I
learn that the men who did this believe they are doing God's will-that God wants
them to murder other human beings who do not agree with them; that God will
grant them eternal life for giving their lives to take the lives of others.
Mingled in my tears I taste the stinging salt of the tears of Northern Ireland,
Palestine, Israel, Macedonia, and other blood-drenched lands torn by unholy
jihads, crusades of destruction, and inquisitions of fire. Religion against
religion, race against race, ethnic group against ethnic group, brother against
brother, urged on by a schizophrenic god cheering for both sides.
What is the sense in Jerry Falwell and Pat Robinson's blaming the attacks on
pagans, abortionists, feminists, homosexuals, the American Civil Liberties
Union, and People for the American Way? These mean and small men, who offer us
only a god of punishment and revenge, continue to sow seeds of hatred and
division that can only bloom in violence. Shame!
But I know I am not alone, not abandoned. As a humanist I find hope in
humanity, in my fellow human beings. As I watched the televised gatherings in
famous places of worship I realized that the real point was not religion, but
humans getting together to embrace, to touch, to hold, to sing, to talk, to say
out loud that life is worth living, that freedom from fear is precious and must
not be taken away. When I attended a candlelight vigil in an attempt to find a
catharsis for my confusion, the emptiness I had felt began to subside. I found
no answers-I didn't expect any-but I did have a little more hope. People getting
together to express the oneness of their humanity is hopeful.
Only peace, not violence, can come from this. I have been able to find
comfort in the arts, listening to music, attending theater-a reminder of the
best that humans can create, sharing our oneness in human achievements. But the
true greatness of humanity is shown by the altruism of the firefighters, the
police, and the medical personnel, many giving their lives in the attempt to
save lives-no sermons, no revelation from God, just a job to be done.
This is the sad lesson to be learned here-and it is essential that we learn
it. As Americans we must look to our "sacred texts," the Constitution
and Bill of Rights, to reaffirm our freedoms and the dignity of each human
being. We must also reaffirm and respect the wisdom of our Founding Fathers that
religion must be kept out of politics. The Taliban have shown in such a
terrifying way that religious fanatics can pick and choose from the Koran to
justify hate and destruction. All the history of the Crusades, religious wars of
the past, and the religious/political bloodshed going on in so many places in
the world today have shown that mixing religion and politics can be a very
volatile combination. Let us separate church and state so that we do not
Frank Greene is editor of the WASHLINE, the newsletter of
the Washington Area Secular Humanists.
Both the New York Times and the Washington Post declined to
publish this piece.