NYC Atheists Invited to Mayor’s Interfaith Breakfast January 8, 2010

NYC Atheists Invited to Mayor’s Interfaith Breakfast

After seven years of not being invited to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s annual interfaith breakfast, the New York City Atheists were finally invited this year.

“I also want to welcome, for the first time, those who don’t profess a faith but who do love our city,” the mayor said.

Jane Everhart, director of communications for New York City Atheists and a guest, was enthusiastic about the warm reception. She said that when Mr. Bloomberg first mentioned “the new people who aren’t connected to any faith but who love this city just the same,” everyone else in the room turned to look, and “this Episcopalian priest turned around and kind of saluted me, and smiled, and it was like ‘hey, welcome guys.’ ”

This all happened thanks to Nazli Parvizi, commissioner of the Community Affairs Unit, and an atheist herself.

“I always do my best to make sure every group is represented,” said Ms. Parvizi, who is an atheist herself. “I guess all these times I’ve ignored my own religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs, and so we reached out to atheist societies.”

This is a welcome move from Mayor Bloomberg. For most, this may not seem like a big deal, but it shows that our efforts in getting publicity for our cause (e.g. bus campaigns and billboards) are working. People are noticing us and including us in conversations we might not have been a part of otherwise.

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  • Claudia

    All in all, excellent news. I am a little concerned about this though:

    Ms. Everhart’s only concern was that the invocation, presented by members of six different faiths, did not include any nonbelievers. She said that Dr. Ed Buckner, president of American Atheists, gave “an invocation that was about ending all invocations.”

    I think its great that the invocation be inclusive, and certainly think atheists (who absolutely must be a bigger group in NYC than many on that list) should be included. However I don’t really see that an invocation about ending invocations is appropiate for that kind of venue. You’re supposed to be there to collaborate with other folks on common issues, not to debate. Doing an invocation about how there shouldn’t be any invocation is a little like those invocations saying “only through Jesus Christ are we saved”. Fine for church, or your local humanist group, but not so appropriate when you’re in the room with a bunch of different people. It’s pretty simple to do an inclusive non-religious invocation, and I think more appropriate. Hopefully I’m reading it wrong and that wasn’t her intention.

  • Trace

    “… you like me, right now, you like me!”

  • muggle

    “I guess all these times I’ve ignored my own religious beliefs or lack of religious beliefs, and so we reached out to atheist societies.”

    Sigh. Now if we could only stop referring to nonbelief as a lack which does more to validify belief than nonbelief. I’m really super tired of the irreligious calling it a lack which implies it’s missing something. It’s bad enough when the religious do this. Why do we continue doing this to ourself?

    Also, am I crazy for asking this, but shouldn’t we rather be working to end an interfaith breakfast? Why should religious groups have any more of an ear to the mayor than John Q. Public? We need to end their special status. Not give it a leg up. It’s okay if you give me token status.

    Seriously, isn’t the inclusion of the Atheist group more designed to shut them the hell up on whether or not it should take place at all? I’m sad to see it working so well. They’d have accomplished more with a press release why they were declining to participate than they are by joining in. Shame on them.

  • I miss NYC. *sigh*
    I can imagine how much money religious causes pump into NYC and why the mayor hosts an interfaith b’fast. It’d be fun to watch who ate the eggs and eschewed the bacon. Anyway, I digress (not that you’re surprised), the best thing about living in NYC is that your faith doesn’t effect your daily life – at least it never did mine. Unlike where I live now……. /bitterness

    This is a positive inclusion, imo.

    /senseless post.

  • echoecho

    When I first read this I thought it was a great way to start my morning – go New York!

    But the more I think of it, the more I wonder whether it was really appropriate to invite an atheist. As noted above, showing up at an interfaith breakfast and making an invocation about ending all invocations seems… not particularly effective, though true.

    We say again and again that atheism is NOT a religion, and then accept invitations to interfaith breakfasts – what kind of message does that send?

    Now, if they had invited the secular humanists, that would have been a different story, and would have been more appropriate for the breakfast. Not that the two categories don’t overlap extensively, but the label matters.

  • Strangel

    Bloomberg has to be a closet atheist….

  • Epistaxis

    Bonus points for “who is an atheist herself” instead of “self-described,” “admitted,” “avowed,” etc.

  • Ron in Houston

    I’ll bet the Episcopal priest was probably at least an agnostic and maybe a closeted atheist.

  • TheLoneIguana

    “It’s a trap!”

  • GoGO

    We should not be aiming for an end to interfaith breakfasts. The mayor’s job is to represent all groups equally and bringing people of various faiths together is no different than his public celebrations of events such as Harlem Week, the West Indian Day Parade or the Yankees Parade.

    The main point is that he’s not there for personal religious reasons but rather views the interfaith community as a group of people who have incredible power to reach people — especially immigrant communities that avoid contact with government at all costs.

    On issues as important as gun control and youth violence, it’s important to reach as many people as possible. Celebrating the diversity of religious beliefs and the city’s long-held tolerance while imparting a message to take back to the communities they serve is a wonderful thing and a great thing for atheists, as well as every other group to be a part of.

    Muggle should be less concerned about trying to shut anyone up since the infighting between and amongst any of these groups has nothing to do with how government functions or what events they choose to hold or not hold — it’s arrogant to think that it even matters.

    As for the invocations and ethical-cultural societies or secular humanists — they were reached out to and did not respond to invitations to be speakers or attendees at the bfast. The NYC Atheists creates a forum for dialogue and education for folks from all walks of life and who call themselves many things aside or instead of atheists – and are much more diverse than the name would imply at first glance.

  • Strangel, I think you’re right. I think most politicians are closet atheist though and only use faith for votes.
    /conspiracy theory

  • muggle

    GoGo, I’m not trying to shut them up. I’m just saying they shouldn’t be granted special access to be heard by government any more than the rest of us. As I said, they’re trying to shut us up. And we’re rolling over and playing dead for them?

    (And so nice of you to tell me to shut up instead of reading what I wrote and politely considering what I said. Yep, you’re the broadminded one of the two of us. Uh huh.)

    Frankly, I’m no fan of secular humanism but they’ve made a better impression on this one. Government should not be mixing church and state for convenience’s sake. And I call b.s. on religion being the only avenue to address tough issues. It isn’t and throughout history has done more harm than good so I say it isn’t even the best or one of the best.

    In any case, we don’t have to kiss its ass. Even if that’s what it took to address the ills you mention, it wouldn’t be worth sacrificing our freedom for. Those who’d sacrifice freedom for safety deserve neither and all that.

    Maybe then NYC Atheists should rename themself if they don’t want to be misunderstood. Gee, somehow I mistook them for an Atheist group. And wasn’t that what this leader said she was?

  • Amy G

    I don’t understand why faithless atheists would want to go to an interFAITH breakfast. Doesn’t this just fuel the whole “Atheism is a religion, too” argument? I think it’s kinda silly, imo.

  • Matt D

    I’m with Amy G and echoecho on this.

    Why would an atheist want to be invited to an interFAITH breakfast? It’s an oymron. It adds fuel to the “atheism is a religion argument”

    And I’ll bet they got the shitty table near the kitchen!

    This is the great paradox of atheism – athiests aren’t “for” anything (sure many of us share humanist viewpoints, but that’s not the same thing). That’s why I like the FFRF – they are “for” something.