New York Times: Following Newtown tragedy, humanists seem absent


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  • A Scientist Provo, UT
    Dec. 31, 2012 10:35 a.m.

    You ask why "humanists" are "absent" instead of asking why your god is absent?

    Humanists generally do not gather to make a hypocritical show of their beliefs, as do believers.

    But just because nonbelievers do not do their alms in the marketplace, and the press, to be seen of men, does not mean we are "absent".

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Dec. 31, 2012 10:35 a.m.

    Don't think of our absence as a tacit endorsement of religion.It's not. We experience and feel grief, but don't need to display it, certainly not as a group. Sometimes, and I think newtown is expeiencing this, the best thing we can do for them is stay away and not draw attention to ourselves and anyone else.

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    Dec. 31, 2012 10:48 a.m.

    If previous commentors had read the NY Times article in full, they might have noticed that the article explores the issue of humanism's failure to provide the community that religions provide--the sorts of community structures that are very useful in a time of overwhelming tragedy like Newtown.

    It is clear in the article that some humanists have donated money for relief to victims, and others have steered clear of religious events not because they didn't want to help, but because they weren't invited. It is something to applaud when anyone truly helps anyone else, regardless of the faith or politics of the helper.

    It is worthy to note that organization is sometimes necessary to accomplish large things. Organized religion is especially effective in helping sufferers find community support when they badly need it.

    At "a scientist": No need to get defensive. Find a way to help, then help. Rather than blame God, ask yourself what you can do to relieve suffering, then do it. You may be shocked to discover that sometimes sufferers need an affirmation of faith before they need harsh dose of anything else.

  • A Scientist Provo, UT
    Dec. 31, 2012 11:01 a.m.

    Perhaps more to the point, nonbelievers are loathe to show up at a gathering of mourners and tell them that the pain and suffering they are experiencing is all "part of god's plan of happiness", and that they must "taste the bitter in order to appreciate the sweet." I cannot count the times I have heard believers trivialize and dismiss the pain and suffering of others by trite religious cliches, absurd scriptural quotations, and just plain bad theology that is more hurtful than helpful. I have sat disgusted while the devastated parents of a young boy killed by an auto accident were told by a religious leader that God needed the child on the other side more than they needed him here. What a horrible, insensitive, and baseless claim that can, ultimately, only embitter people against such a heartless, cruel god as that. How can anyone love and trust a god who would kill innocent children and rip their sweet lives out of the network of lives of their loved ones? And to what purpose are such explanations given? To preserve belief in the invisible god? And membership (and tithing) for themChurch? Humanists see such things as pointless.

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    Dec. 31, 2012 11:22 a.m.

    @ "A Scientist": You provide no alternatives to the religious things you decry.

    As a rationalist, you know as well as I do that everyone dies. Death does not discriminate on any basis. What would you tell the devastated parents? "Ah, well, we are all only a cosmic accident, and one life doesn't matter any more than another. Use your reason folks, and you will see that it's better to face death as the great nothing. Your kid is gone, and you'll never see him again, so face facts."

    So, if little children die, is it more comforting to know that they are still part of the loving plan of a Heavenly Father, or that they are cosmic dust waiting to be snuffed out by unrelenting nature?

    You may personally refrain from "trite religious cliches, absurd scriptural quotations, and ... [hurtful] theology." OK. What do you offer in it place? Trite humanist cliches, absurd Darwinist quotations, and hurtful atheism?

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Dec. 31, 2012 11:29 a.m.

    Poor secularists, all dressed up for their own inevitable funerals with no place to go.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Dec. 31, 2012 11:40 a.m.

    @ A scientist. Just because you and a few others have failed to observe evidence for the existence of God, that does not mean many others have not observed Him. Their testimonies and personal witnesses are recorded in the Scriptures. Failure to observe is perhaps the saddest commentary for a man's life.

  • eastcoastcoug Danbury, CT
    Dec. 31, 2012 12:29 p.m.

    @ A Scientist

    As one who attended religious services the past weeks in Newtown, your comments are completely baseless and offensive. There is no need to go on the attack here. Everyone feels grief regardless of their religious affiliation and feels it in all its forms and phases (e.g. shock, denial, anger, etc.). This is actually the perfect place for both Science and Religion to play a role together and I have seen the understanding of both play a part in the healing process in this event.

    Wise people will simply say they don't know "why" these things happen. God did not "take" these children, they were taken by a killer for reasons we may likely never know. What God has done is send his Son to suffer and die for us so death is not the end. You can be angry about the way some of us weakly try to help others, or you can grieve with us and recognize we are all human.

  • A Scientist Provo, UT
    Dec. 31, 2012 1:04 p.m.


    I would wager good money I have done more to relive suffering and oppression than 99% of Mormons, probably including yourself.

    I do it because it is humane and right, not to "store up treasures in heaven" or to appease some fictitious "god".

    What do I offer to those who have suffered loss? Companionship without meaningless preaching; love and concern without dismissing or trivializing their loss or proselytizing. Unlike most religionists, I do not prey upon the vulnerable and suffering in order to recruit for a business.

    The preciousness of life is grounded in its temporariness. False hopes that life goes on beyond the grave are merely well-practiced, institutionalized defense mechanisms and denial of reality. At the time of loss is NOT the time to preach. Period.

  • eastcoastcoug Danbury, CT
    Dec. 31, 2012 1:59 p.m.

    @ a Scientist,

    A wise boss once told me that when you're in a hole, stop digging....

    No one I know in this tragedy is involved in proselyting. Far from it. Our ward and stake in CT came together to grieve and support one another. Stop the anger at what we are doing and just leave it alone. You don't know our motives or understand our feelings. Other than to vent your anger, what is your purpose in blogging here today?

    I applaud you for your efforts to do service for a good cause. It is so important we divert our energy towards improving the lot of others since there is so much need in the world. btw - you might like to hear that the local mission president has declared a moratorium on proselyting in the areas the missionaries served in after Hurricane Sandy. I'm sure if you look for good works done for the right reasons, by people of all stripes, you will find them.

  • A Scientist Provo, UT
    Dec. 31, 2012 3:55 p.m.


    No holes here. And no anger.

    "You don't know our motives or understand our feelings."

    I live among LDS. I attend services every week with my LDS wife. I DO know your motives and understand your feelings. I have been to more LDS funerals than I can count, and there is always preaching and "recruiting."

    "I'm sure if you look for good works done for the right reasons, by people of all stripes, you will find them."

    I agree. Unfortunately, the religionists are the ones who have the most difficulty with this. Too many believe that atheists have no morals, no ethics, and cannot possibly be good people.

    The article in the New York Times, despite its claims, IS a "gotcha", criticizing nonbelievers for being "absent" in the aftermath of this horrible massacre, as if we lack (of "lag") humanity, empathy, and "community".

    I disagree. The families of the victims chose religious funerals and services. The fact that nonbelievers were not invited to officially represent non-belief should not be taken as our "absence".

    We are here and growing in numbers. And we are just as good, worthy, hard-working, patriotic, family-oriented, as any believers.

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    Dec. 31, 2012 4:32 p.m.

    @ a "scientist": I applaud all the good you do.

    I agree with you that, at the time of a great loss, it is not always appropriate to preach. But I have found as I have counseled people at the death of a loved one (and I have counseled many--both in my profession and in Church), that sometimes they want to be taught something that will comfort them. Preaching sometimes has its place; teaching (not preaching) is very useful; sometimes silent respect is best. We should give grievers what they need, and sometimes we must organize to do it.

    I submit to you again that to comfort people sometimes it is necessary to say what is appropriate--or at least not say what is inappropriate. Atheists such as yourself have different needs than their believing neighbors, and those needs should be fulfilled--and vice versa.

    I also submit that organization (ie organized religion) is very useful and efficient at these times. An individual can only do a fraction of the good of the organization? My ward frequently feeds the families and friends of the grief stricken. They clean houses, and wash and dress bodies. All collaborative activities.

  • lost in DC West Jordan, UT
    Jan. 4, 2013 11:40 a.m.

    A scientist,

    why the continued attacks? are you still trying to convince yourself?

  • HotGlobe SAN RAFAEL, CA
    Jan. 5, 2013 7:59 a.m.

    "At a time when the percentage of Americans without religious affiliation is growing rapidly, why did the nones, as they are colloquially known, seem so absent?" One might as well ask why there are so few people who don't own pets at the pet store. There is no organization of people who get together to celebrate their atheism and do good works in Nogod's name. Individually, however, you can be sure that atheists will, on average, be working harder to eliminate guns than religious people.

  • The Scientist Provo, UT
    Jan. 7, 2013 5:16 p.m.

    lost in DC wrote:

    "A scientist, why the continued attacks? are you still trying to convince yourself?"

    I have seen good, innocent people defrauded of large sums of money by people who tell them superstitious stories. I have seen people risk and lose their health and their lives based on religious promises, false hopes in "spiritual" teachings, and other such nonsense.

    I have witnessed strangers as well as close family members, who were very good people, humiliated, denigrated, personally attacked as "unrighteous" and "unworthy", using stories from these horrible religious doctrines.

    Telling people that a loving god is putting them through this suffering, evil and misery in order to "test" them, or that it is all part of this god's "plan", is inhumane, unethical, and indistinguishable from the stories and justifications abusers foist on their victims.

    I need no convincing nor re-convincing. But apparently you do, else why go back to Church?

    But I will not stand idly by while charlatans continue to exploit good people, prey upon them in moments of tragedy like this, and denounce those who do not believe in the fairy stories as less humane, less caring, or less equipped to offer comfort.