Mr. President, You Represent ALL Americans, Not Only the Religious
I have a simple question today, one that I am not sure anyone will be able to answer. Were all of the families who lost a loved one in Newtown religious? Were the extended family members, like grandparents, aunts and uncles and close friends who are also grieving religious? Were all of the first responders, who in their own way and for obvious reasons, are having a hard time dealing with this tragedy religious? I do not think we know the answers to those questions. Again someone correct me if I am wrong. Here is what we do know: The people I listed above comprised the audience of last night’s vigil in Newton. We also know that this ceremony was broadcast all over the nation, and perhaps many parts of the world.
I don’t really have a problem with all of the various religious figures who spoke at the event. Regardless of the fact that I find their words hollow, certainly most in the audience and many on television did not. Further, it is what they do. They are just doing their jobs and dealing with this tragedy in the manner that is expected from them. I did take issue with one part of the service: President Obama’s speech. If you missed his speech, you can read it here. I found much of his speech to be fantastic, however, when it came to religion, I found much of that troubling.
President Obama made nine references to god (14 if you count the individual references in his opening paraphrasing of scripture). I have a problem with this. President Obama represents a secular government when he speaks. He himself has stated that “he speaks for all Americans”. Well, last night he did not speak for somewhere between 11-19% of Americans, depending on which study you wish to look at.
What I struggled with the most with was some of the wording that he used. I want to highlight some of the parts I found most troubling. Obama began by quoting scripture, I found the entire piece to be absurd, but was really jolted by the end of his quote. He stated:
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.”
Actually President Obama, we do NOT know any of that. In fact, we have a great deal of evidence that would support the notion that heaven is a myth. But that was not what really got to me. What really irked me was describing this earth and our lives here as a “tent”. You know, I own a house and a tent. I have to be honest; I really do not care much for my tents in relation to my house. Obama’s words only serve to cheapen our lives on this planet (a tent) at the expense of much better eternal “house”. This is absurd. It is also something that most atheists will find offensive. Why? It cuts to the center of so many of the discriminating comments that us atheists face—those regarding morality and the purpose of life. It leads people to derisively ask atheists “how can we be good without god?” and “without god, what is the purpose of life?” These questions are a source of great pain for many atheists who are discriminated against. It is absurd questions like these that lead people to trust atheists less than they do rapists. (Yeah…look it up). Obama’s quote, though surely unintended, further propagated the myths that allow discriminating behavior of this nature to thrive. Let me assure you President Obama, my life, the things I care about, this planet are all more valuable to me—and to every other atheist on this planet– than a damn “tent”.
Obama stated in reference to our lives:
“We’ll make mistakes, we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.”
What a great statement…until the last phrase. Are we truly to believe that the tragedy in Newton is nothing more than part of “God’s heavenly plans” that we cannot discern? Is a god who has such a plan worthy of an ounce of your respect? What possible plan could an omniscient and omnipotent god have that he could not better achieve his ends? I challenge any religious person to look at this tragedy and try to square it with you claim your god to be. Without some serious mental gymnastics and suspensions of reason, it cannot be done. Christians always ask for proof that their god doesn’t exist. Here is some proof for you: an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent god would NEVER have allowed what transpired in Newtown to happen. Period. Do not come back with the fallacious and moronic argument of “free will”. It is a cop out and is easily dismissed by any rational atheist. If you’re not sure how, Google it…it won’t be hard to find.
Along the same line of absurd theology Obama stated, “Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” He then read the names of the deceased children (this was incredibly emotional) followed by, “God has called them all home”. What? God/Jesus called the kids “home”? What nonsense is this? Did anyone check with their parents or sisters and brothers first? Further, what type of deity is so pathetic that he would need to “call kids home”? What type of monstrous deity would “call kids home” by have them gunned down by a madman with an assault rifle? This is supposed to make people feel better? Wake Up! If any of this is comforting to you, you are not thinking clearly.
My heart aches for the children, teachers, and staff who died in this senseless attack. My heart is broken when I contemplate the sorrow of their loved ones, who are also victims of this senseless attack. There are not any great words to express the anger and sorrow that many of us feel. However, we need not invoke an absurd deity for comfort (particularly, because if he existed he would share at least some culpability for this tragedy). We do not need the President of a secular government doing just that. You know what President Obama…I can almost guarantee that there are secular people in that community who are hurting as much as anyone, who need comforting as much as anyone, who are trying to come to grips with this tragedy. Your words did nothing for those people. And yet, you are supposed to represent those people as well. I sincerely hope that we never have to deal with a situation like this again. Please allow one of your citizens to give you a bit of advice…if you ever find yourself faced with a situation such as the one in Newtown, please choose your words carefully. You represent all of us; your words should reflect that. All of your citizens need comforting in a time like this. It would behoove you to remember that. By all means, make some references for the religious, you represent them as well, but when all of your words of comfort are religious in nature, you exclude many of your fellow Americans.
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