A humanist’s heart on Boston and healing a nation

The Boston tragedy hurt everyone or every age, of every politics, of every history and of every faith. The limbs ripped from bodies that day were not Christian limbs, not Jewish or Atheist or Muslim limbs.

A Police officer stands by as runners pass during the 2013 Boston Marathon.

A Police officer stands by as runners pass during the 2013 Boston Marathon.

They were the flesh of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. Everyone who values life has a reason for anger and sadness, despair and wonder at such a brutal act. Whether we have faith, and whatever that relationship with life may be, we are all affected.

In a time so important for community solidarity, it is both vile and objectionable that the officials organizing the keystone ceremony of grief in the Boston area chose deliberately, and with the coldest consideration, to ignore and exclude a fifth of their community.

“Interfaith” ceremonies are commonplace reaction in times of tragedy. They are supposed to be a demonstration that, beyond ideological boundaries, we value each other equally in the pain we suffer.

The organizers of the Boston interfaith ceremony of grief, endorsed and attended by President Barack Obama, decided that instead of open compassion and acceptance, they should deliberately exclude non-theists from the collective ceremony they planned. In the aftermath of a bombing born of inhumanity, they chose division as a policy by excluding atheists and humanists the most basic representation at the April 18th ceremony.

The Secular Coalition for America reports at least two of the victims in the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday had ties to the humanist community in the greater Boston area: Celeste Corcoran of Lowell, Massachusetts, who lost both her legs at the knees in one of the bomb blasts and her 18 year-old daughter, Sydney, who suffered severe injuries as a result of being hit by shrapnel.

The Secular Coalition for Massachusetts and the Boston atheists report that they repeatedly reached out to the Governor's Office of Community Affairs, the Massachusetts Council of Churches, and the Mayor's Office in an attempt to secure a place at the public table, but were ignored and stonewalled by public officials.

People without faith are no less than those who follow a deity or creed.  To lock the doors on us, only allowing stated “believers” to grieve, is a vile and sectarian act indicative of the blind prejudice behind the acts we decry and the victims we mourn.

If we are to aspire to the humanity and values of a true America, a truly enlightened and caring people, we should open the doors to all those who grieve, disagreements aside.

It has been said that the atheists and humanists should organize their own ceremony of grief and healing.  That, although not welcomed to join the faithful, we have that “equal right”. I find that a cold and inhuman position. Would the “god of love” approve? Separate but equal is not equal, and we have the same right to sit with our President, and among our friends, as we begin to heal our minds, lives and emotions.

I know the majority of those with faith believe in a shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, heart in heart community with those of us who simply and only don’t share doctrine. Sadly, their leaders here showed they do not.

The decision to decide not to believe does not make us less human. As an atheist, I refuse to be pushed to the back of the “grieving bus”, or drink from the “separate fountain of pain”. I applaud an interfaith ceremony, but let it be for all, and not only for those with a supernatural ticket.

We are grieving too. An atheist feels pain as much as a theist. We are American, we are people, we weep the same, whether we believe a god hears us or not.

One Response to “A humanist’s heart on Boston and healing a nation”

  1. Glenn Davis

    Thanks for your article! As a believer myself, it’s often too easy to unintentionally overlook the feelings of others who don’t share in my faith for whatever reason. My partner, who by the way is an Athiest, does his best to point out when this happens. Bringing issues like this out in the open will hopefully make us all more mindful to treat others with the same respect and love with which we wish to be treated. Thanks again for doing just that!


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