This may seem like a PR pitch, but it’s actually a sincere response to a problem that’s happened many times before.
Whenever there’s a mass shooting or attack, there are inevitably a lot of local events in honor of the victims, as there should be. Those events include government officials and religious leaders of all backgrounds. That’s also fine. But atheist voices are often ignored in that mix, as if we have nothing to add to the conversation or no way of dealing with grief.
While it’s true we have no leaders, there are representatives of local and national atheist groups who could certainly speak on behalf of non-religious people in condemning the violence and celebrating the lives that are no longer with us.
To that end, American Atheists’ President David Silverman issued a statement this morning calling on organizers not to exclude us when planning any events honoring the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.
My heart breaks for the victims of this horrendous act of violence and for their families and loved ones. I offer my deepest condolences and support to everyone affected by this devastating tragedy. Our community mourns with you and stands ready to support you as you begin the process of recovery from this senseless act.
To community leaders and organizers, I urge you to ensure that all members of the community are included in the grieving and the response to Sunday’s events. When organizing remembrances, vigils, and memorials, please remember that the atheists and other non-believers in your community are mourning too. While some find comfort in words about “God’s plan” or that victims are “with God,” for others, these words will — at best — ring hollow and — at worst — deepen their grief.
We simply ask that you include your entire community in your response. Reach out to atheist and humanist chaplains or leaders for assistance. Include representatives from as many faith traditions as possible, but I implore you, do not exclude the quarter of Americans who are part of no religion.
American Atheists urges organizers to contact them if they need help in finding local speakers.
Considering how much effort those organizers make to include a variety of religious leaders, making sure there’s somebody representing all those “Nones” shouldn’t be an afterthought.
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