I haven’t been able to find the words to express my feeling for the senseless loss of life at the Tree of Life synagogue. Perhaps it is because it happened just across the bridge from me as opposed to across the country. Maybe it is that the combination of Antwon Rose’s death, the pedophile priests and now a mass shooting, makes raising my children in Pittsburgh seem like an unwise choice. Running from all these issues isn’t the answer, I know that… so how do we stop this?
As a secular humanist my initial response is always to promote tolerance and respect. I may be an Atheist but that does not mean that I do not respect people of faith. I may disagree with their ideology. I may find them to be misguided. I may request that their believes are not forced into my life. Despite all our differences I never wish anything bad to happen to them. I don’t want to see a battle between the believers. I do not want anyone to lose their lives. Kellyanne Conway mentioned anti-religiosity when discussing the tragedy in Pittsburgh. Stating that this is not the time to remove religion from the public forum and that it’s not the time for jokes.
“The late night comedians. The un-funny people on TV shows. It’s always anti-religious. And remember, these people were gunned down in their place of worship’,” Conway continued. “As were the people in South Carolina several years ago. And they were there because they’re people of faith and it’s that faith that needs to bring us together.”
I do agree that this is not a laughing matter. Anyone making light of this horrible act of terrorism is an entirely different level of disgusting that I am unable to comprehend. What I do not agree with is that faith needs to bring us together. Just like politics will not unite us all, religion will always be divisive. These innocent people were killed while worshiping their God. The rest of the people within the Jewish community are going to grieve based upon their belief system. Is this really the best time for Christians to remind them that according to their beliefs, people who follow Judaism will not be going to heaven? Of course not. I am a firm believer that times of grief are off limits to proselytizing. Even if you are promoting a secular/atheist message, don’t do it while someone is in mourning, wait until they have a clear mind.
Their faith can’t bring us together or heal these wounds, but if their faith gives them strength, then we could show them that strength is found in unity. Despite what faith others might hold. I may not believe in an afterlife, but I can understand the psychological need for the comfort it brings. I may not pray to a God, but I do find the benefit in pouring all my feelings out into the void via writing. So, though we are not the same, we are still capable of relating to each other. Perhaps people could look inward and reflect on how thankful they are for the ability to worship as they wish. Maybe they could take that and bump it up to being thankful that we all have the right to worship as we wish. If they could just keep reminding themselves that it is the freedoms of others that allow you to be free, maybe then we could unite.
I still don’t have adequate words for the loved ones of the eleven people killed here in my hometown of Pittsburgh… saying I am sorry isn’t enough and neither is promising to keep you all in my thoughts and heart. Action is needed at this point and so I vow to continue fighting for our freedoms so that these deaths are not in vain… and I will vote on Tuesday to do my part to create a government that wants to protect the citizens of our country.