Skip to comments.The Atheist Response to Sandy Hook: The intellectual and emotional emptiness at the heart of atheism
Posted on 01/15/2013 7:32:50 AM PST by SeekAndFind
Last week the New York Times published an opinion piece that offered atheisms response to the evil/tragedy in which 20 children and six adults were murdered at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut.
What prompted Susan Jacoby to write her piece was a colleague telling her that atheism has nothing to offer when people are suffering.
She wrote the piece, The Blessings of Atheism (It is Here and It is Now! screams the subhead), to prove her colleague wrong by offering a consoling atheist alternative to religions consoling belief in an afterlife. Atheists cannot believe that there is any existence other than this life. But, Jacoby insists, atheists can still offer consolation to people who lose loved ones, such as the parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook.
It is meant as no disrespect to this well-regarded writer that her piece provides one of the finest illustrations of the intellectual and emotional emptiness at the heart of atheism. Jacobys piece actually confirms her colleagues assessment.
Jacoby offers a quote from Robert Green Ingersoll, who died in 1899. Ingersoll, Jacoby writes,
"...was one of the most famous orators of his generation, [and] personified this combination of passion and rationality. Called The Great Agnostic . . . he also frequently delivered secular eulogies at funerals and offered consolation that he clearly considered an important part of his mission. In 1882, at the graveside of a friends child, he declared: They who stand with breaking hearts around this little grave, need have no fear. The larger and the nobler faith in all that is, and is to be, tells us that death, even at its worst, is only perfect rest . . . The dead do not suffer (ellipsis in original)."
I read this quote at least a half dozen times, convinced that I had somehow missed its consoling message. But, alas, there was no consoling message.
The dead do not suffer is atheisms consolation to the parents of murdered children? This sentiment can provide some consolation though still nothing comparable to the affirmation of an afterlife to those who lose a loved one who had been suffering from a debilitating disease. But it not only offers the parents of Sandy Hook no consolation, it actually (unintentionally) insults them: Were these children suffering before their lives were taken? Would they have suffered if they had lived on? Moreover, it is the parents who are suffering, so the fact that their child isnt suffering while decomposing in the grave is of no relevance. And, most germane to our subject, this atheist message offers no consolation at all when compared with the religious message that we humans are not just matter, but possess eternal souls.
Though I am intellectually convinced that only an Intelligence (i.e., God) could have created intelligence, I understand atheism. Anyone observing the terrible amount of unjust human suffering understands the atheist. But even atheists indeed, especially atheists, since they claim that, unlike believers, they are guided solely by reason and intellect have to be intellectually honest. They would have to acknowledge that, in terms of consolation, there is no comparison between The dead do not suffer and Your child lives on and you will be reunited with her.
What we have here is an intellectual unwillingness or a psychological inability on the part of Susan Jacoby and just about all atheist activists (including the New York Times, which featured, not just published, her column) to confront the consequences of their atheism.
If they did, they would have to say something like this to the parents of the murdered children of Sandy Hook:
As atheists, we truly feel awful for you. And we promise to work for more gun control. But the truth is we dont have a single consoling thing to say to you because we atheists recognize that the human being is nothing more than matter, no different from all other matter in the universe except for having self-consciousness. Therefore, when we die, thats it. Moreover, within a tiny speck of time in terms of the universes history, nearly every one of us, including your child, will be completely forgotten, as if we never even existed. Life is a random crapshoot. Our birth and existence are flukes. And you will never see your child again.
An atheist with the courage of her convictions would have written that. But the New York Times would not have published it.
All this column did for me was reconfirm this insight of the Bible: Wisdom begins with reverence for God.
No God, no wisdom (witness your local university). And certainly no consolation.
Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His most recent book is Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He is the founder of PragerUniversity
excellent and so so true
In my consderable experience as a grieving parent with many other contacts of same, even people who question, lash out or lose their religious faith after losing a child are better off than those who don’t have any belief in an eternal spirit at all. In fact those of us who make THEM doubt THEIR beliefs usually offer some comfort in that, over the long term (I have seen this over a period of more than 10 years)
The only comfort in an atheist’s miserable existence is knowing that he/she is vastly smarter than those benighted worshippers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
A Dennis Prager tour de force. Thanks for posting this.
A Dennis Prager tour de force. Thanks for posting this.
Many atheists I have encountered are quite arrogant about their intelligence, and in fact, many do seem quite intelligent. But as you point out, intelligence is not wisdom.
Apart for a transcendent God establishing objective moral standards of right and wrong what could ever make suffering (or anything else for that matter) "unjust"?
Dennis Praeger is a very wise man.
NRO website has so many popups and ads I can’t even justify going there to read an article anymore.
One thing I have seen more than once is that atheists not only deny the existence of God but they hate him as well. Makes no sense but it is instructive.
Wisdom is more valuable than intelligence in the long run.
To me, the capacity to, and experience of, loving another and being fulfilled by the love of another shoots gaping holes through the premise of atheism. Love transcends flesh and matter. It matters that a person is willing to sacrifice self for the well-being of another. The willingness and devotion involved with such self-denial implies that, deep down whether we admit it or not, atheist or not, we all believe intrinsicly that there is more than just the physical world than we see.
Atheism offers no resurrection, proving its authenticity.
Other atheist consolations for Sandy Hook:
1. Think of the savings in education costs!
2. YOU are still alive, so stop complaining!
3. Think of the economic stimulus! There’s spending on funerals, spending on new security measures. We’re in an economic downturn and every bit helps!
4. Flying Spaghetti Monster! LOL! That never gets old.
OK, I’ll stop now...
I cannot imagine how I could have coped with the loss of one of my sons without my religion.
I truly pity the nonbeliever, but I have yet to meet one who was not an arrogant twit.
But for its truth? Not so much.
Probably the only one here tho :-)
People with weak uncertain or challenged faith struggle with the concept that “God” is unjust impotent or uncaring ... or worse... and took their child or simply let evil occur and let them die. This concept reassures atheists who do not want to believe there is such a God, or if there is- to respect or submit to Him.
Over 10 years of networking with grieving parents, I believe that people who have faith or who can find it, come to the idea that God did not “take” their child, but received them at the moment of death, and that each of us no matter what age has a personal connection God and with His presence at the separation of spirit from body at end of life, it's not an impersonal process that is in the control of a 3rd party, even a loving parent, and as a result none of us is ever really alone and will all follow the same path, when it is our time.
I saw an interview with this doctor on FOX Business and look forward to getting his book
After their sin, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of God. God asked, “Where are you?” After the Sandy Hook sin, atheists asked, “Where was God?”
God asked the correct question.
I was going to say that. There is no concept of “justice” beyond an individual’s opinion, unless there is an ultimate Judge Who is above us all.
Mr. Prager is correct that this seems to be the "secularist" response from all sides (including some who profess religion). However, a true rationalist would observe that gun control does not prevent murders, and therefore he would favor more gun ownership and bearing-of-arms by law-abiding citizens, not less, if he truly wants to prevent murders. (I believe there are many who really don't want to prevent murders, but do want to disarm opposition to tyranny.)
If atheists are supporting gun control, they are doing so based on a faith - that trying to take away tools will prevent harmful acts - which operates in despite of reason.
“I read this quote at least a half dozen times, convinced that I had somehow missed its consoling message. But, alas, there was no consoling message.”
—Ingersoll was referring to Hell. Many Christians believe that most people end up there. So Ingersoll is saying that if there is no afterlife, you don’t have to worry about your loved ones being in a place of eternal torment for all of eternity.
Misses the point entirely.
It doesn’t matter one whit if atheism (or any other religion) does (or doesn’t) offer some comfort to those that grieve for the dead. What matters is: is it the truth?
Hinduism offers comfort, but is it the truth?
Islam offers comfort, but is it the truth?
Unless a religion (including atheism) is expousing the truth, then it’s just a made up story to make people feel good. The fact that a religion makes you feel good in times of trouble is not a reason to believe in it.
RE: “It doesnt matter one whit if atheism (or any other religion) does (or doesnt) offer some comfort to those that grieve for the dead.”
If *all* religions are a “made up story”, then the comfort they offer *is* all that really matters.