We Need A Statement:
Though Not Religious, We Care!
Jonathan F. Dill

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Jonathan F. Dill"
Subject: Re: response to recent events
Date: September 14, 2001 6:57 PM

I have issued calls to donate money to the Red Cross, and have denounced Bush's orders that we pray to a deity who is either powerless or uncaring or nonexistent.

I have also suggested that this incident might spell the beginning of the end of America's love affair with Fundamentalist Christianity. The dust has settled only because of the rain. The shock and pain has not yet subsided.

Still, we are hearing many murmurs from all over the World asking us:

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"To which God are we asked to pray,
the One Who was in charge, Tuesday?"

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I think the best we can do is to say what we can in the language we are capable of using, and to say it to those whom we think might listen and understand. This is the one question that nobody but the most extremist fundamentalists (such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson) will certainly ask themselves. And in asking, the answers tend to come.

If you have anything specific you'd like help putting into words, I'd be more than glad to help. But really, it's not the wording but the questions that will do the most for us right now. If we can ask the right questions, the human mind cannot help but grasp for a reasonable, logical answer. This is true even in cult members who have been trained to substitute the cult's menu of rhetoric for rational thought (or so former cult deprogrammer Ted Patrick once told me). If so, then think of what asking the right questions will do for the relatively unshackled mind!

Besides, not only am I just one man, I am a significantly impaired man at that -- particularly impaired as a result of what is happening to our country and our people. I still can barely contain myself to formulate my thoughts and don't much trust what I do write. So I will continue to post the words of those who write to us. Also, I vehemently and wholeheartedly encourage atheists to express their views: tell the government, the press and their fellow citizens what it feels like to be an atheist amidst all this. In doing this, wordsmithing skills are not pertinent at all: a cry of pain has no correct or incorrect grammatical construction.

I heard from several atheists during the aftermaths of both the Oklahoma City bombing and the Columbine school shootings. Atheists in these communities did not know how to respond to the ubiquitous public religiosity that was associated with every remembrance and memorial and public expression of grief. They tell me they felt left out and even second-class -- as if the only "proper" way to consol the grieving is through religious talk or ritual.

Since we don't have time to learn how to respond or object (or even what we're supposed to do when this happens) and still remain ourselves, we're just going to have to do the best we can with what we've got. If this ends up offending a few people, the least that will happen will be that a few people will see what happens when they define society or good behavior in ways that push aside or eliminate large segments of society.

So, since there is no correct or incorrect way either to cry out in pain or to comfort those in pain, please -- just go ahead and do it to the best of your abilities. I cannot overemphasize that the very worst that will happen is that a few people will have to taste the fruit of their own policies of cultural exclusivism.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

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From: "Jonathan F. Dill"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: response to recent events
Date: September 14, 2001 9:35 PM

Hello Cliff,

Thanks, as always, for a dose of sanity. I guess the message that I want to send is that actions in the real world are what make a difference, not prayers and wishes.

However, contrary to popular opinion, I think that for many people, times like this cause people to cling more tightly to their religion rather than to question its validity. It's as if, stranded in the seas of uncertainty, people hold tightly to what they believe is a life preserver. The problem is that clinging to that "life preserver" may keep people from taking the necessary actions, such as trying to "swim" if that is what is warranted. Ultimately, it is all about fear and uncertainty, and wanting to find some source of control where there is none beyond controlling our own actions.

I know that in times of hardship, I have myself wished that I could find solace in prayer and the belief in some greater good or overriding order of the universe that would make things alright. At one very difficult time in my life, I even became "religious" and pursued becoming a minister, but ultimately I found that it did not relieve the emptiness that I felt. Now my goal is to help atheists to find solace and happiness in the real world, with real people.

I find some solace in the goodness of other people, for example the outpouring of support and the heroic efforts of the rescue workers in the wake of this tragedy.


"Jonathan F. Dill"
CARB IT Coordinator
Experimental Support Site

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