Why must the nation grieve with God? – CNN.com

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The horrific events in Newtown are unfathomable. Asking “why?” is natural at times like this, but intuitively it is clear that there cannot be any good reason for what was truly a senseless massacre.

It is impossible not to grieve with the families in Newtown, Connecticut, who have experienced such tremendous loss, just as it is impossible to not hope for anything that can provide some comfort.

All of us who have had children in primary school at one time or another stopped in our tracks when we heard the news, just as President Barack Obama did, as we tried to imagine how we would have coped had something so horrendous happened in our own child’s school.


But why must the nation grieve with God? After Newtown, a memorial service was held in which 10 clergy and Obama offered Hebrew, Christian and Muslim prayers, with the president stating: ” ‘Let the little children come to me,’ Jesus said, ‘and do not hinder them. For such belongs to the kingdom of Heaven.’ God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on.”

Why must it be a natural expectation that any such national tragedy will be accompanied by prayers, including from the president, to at least one version of the very God, who apparently in his infinite wisdom, decided to call 20 children between the age of 6 and 7 home by having them slaughtered by a deranged gunman in a school that one hopes should have been a place or nourishment, warmth and growth?

We are told the Lord works in mysterious ways but, for many people, to suggest there might be an intelligent deity who could rationally act in such a fashion and that that deity is worth praying to and thanking for “calling them home” seems beyond the pale.

Written By: Lawrence M. Krauss
continue to source article at cnn.com

41 COMMENTS

  1. Why indeed?

    Lip service? Force of habit? Actual belief? Pandering?

    Undoubtedly a bit of all of the above, still I won’t live to see the real change that is coming here.

    Does anyone remember what happened in Norway after their mass shooting? Probably a lot less Kow towing to magic man by those who we wish knew better.

  2. What bothers me most, in events like this one, or when anybody suffers a loss of a loved one, is that they’re practically shamed into feeling sorrow. I’m sure that many have the best of intentions when saying “They’re in a better place now,” but some push it further, pressuring against mourning – you shouldn’t feel bad because it’s the will of our god, or because you shouldn’t wish for them not to be in that better place, or something along those lines. It can lead to a complete disregard for their incredible sense of hurt when what they need most is just support and understanding. Yes, it is hard, it’s incredibly hard, and you will feel a lot of pain for some time to some, and some of that pain will fade over time, but sometimes it will hit you just when you least expect it… but we are here for you all the way. That’s what people need.

  3. In my case it was the quality over quantity of company when my mom died. My family and friends had more impact just sitting there with me in silence than the people who I didn’t know at the funeral that kept talking to me.

  4. There was a school shooting at a Christian School near where I live.

    http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2012/04/02/several-shot-inside-oakland-christian-school/

    As the choppers were hanging overhead I ran into a Christian proselytizer that had solicited me for my soul on a previous occasion. I informed him why the choppers were in the air, and included the detail that it was a Christian school. He seemed to take that as an attack and crossed his arms in disbelief. Why would that be less possible at a Christian school? He must have thought that less possible (even though psycho-killers are typically very religious). He calmed and realized I was telling the truth, and asked why I thought this could happen. I didn’t know yet because it just happened, but I imagine it was a medical issue. He thought this was proof of metaphysical evil… he thought the devil did it.

    To prevent this from happening again, he would recommend prayer and magic, not medicine or security measures. That’s where I see religion as a threat.

  5. RD.net already has some comments regarding this topic. http://richarddawkins.net/discussions/2012/12/18/role-of-religion-as-a-social-institution#.UNttk4US47A

    After all the debating, intellectualizing, research, rational thinking, and dispelling of false information, it seems as if the “yang” approach to changing our world’s perception of reality falls flat when hearts are broken. We are shown that we strongly stand for science, reason, our minds, and thoughts but seem to come up short when it comes to emotions, mending shattered dreams, and difficult personal experiences. It is not to say that this “yin” approach towards the world is non-existent among secularists, but holds little ground in these types of situations and has far to go before it hits mainstream. At times, this softer approach is unknowingly squelched by atheists like a giant burka.

    We have very little, if any, roots as strong as religion that are driven deep into our culture. It will take time and a focus on people who will stand up to help people in need without any political agenda. It will take time for people to leave their dependence on religion and find better new alternatives. Yes, the religious way is imperfect but provides a service. It will take time for other options to be formed and accepted. I think it is time that people who excel at working with people through counseling, organizing, and other forms of help step up and do for the simple sake of helping another without any agenda. Until then, we can remind people that family and friends are usually the best at consoling us.

  6. This is precisely why I’m an atheist.

    Any person who could prevent such an occurrence and did nothing would at the very least lose whatever friends they had and would in all likelihood be charged under homicide legislation.

    Any being who could prevent such an occurrence and did nothing, is, similarly, not worthy of worship or veneration, and cannot be considered a source of morality or of moral authority by any rational understanding of the words.

    Any person who can rationalise tragic events of this type as being part of a “Divine Plan” is almost as perverted as a being would could devise such a plan even if they did exist

  7. But why must the nation grieve with God?

    Why must the nation grieve with guns? The answer is obvious!

    Those who live with the gun, die with the gun!

    Those who live with religinuts and guns, are running a very high risk!

  8. Maybe those who prayed for this, after the event, are by implication morally guilty of failing to have prayed in advance to request god to prevent such tragedies.

    And praying is no less rational than the proposal of equipping kindy kids with body armour, automatic weapons, flamethrowers, and hand grenades to deter future attacks. Though these more practical solutions are often not as simple as they seem.

    The devil is in the details. E.g. Firearms for such young children would need to be lighter, with smaller handles, plus barrels would need to be equipped with silencers to protect younger ears from risk of hearing damage. There’s also unpredictable flow on effects that might impact on the willingness of teachers to issue homework. Plus the dropout rate for RE classes might surge if the RE victimised students were fully armed. The resulting decrease in religious indoctrination might diminish the future rate of prayers and perhaps lead to further such tragedies in future.

    Best option might be to do nothing. Which is almost certainly what will be selected as the preferred outcome. There’s a theory that prayer can play a crucial role in this strategy.

  9. I watched the ‘multi-faith’ vigil that night and heard the announcer talk about people of faith and also included people of no faith lumped in together in the tragedy. Then all we saw were the different god faith speechs. And then even Obama did it. I was waiting for the non-religious bit, which Lawrence refers to. It never really came unless you look to perhaps the last lady speaker, but I doubt that was meant as a non-faith position. At first I thought it a good thing that it was multi-faith as that is needed, but generally, those with no faith/religion were not spoken to. I still don’t know if Obama is a believer, or delivers a speech they think people need to hear. Why do I frown when they say that god is taking them home, and the religious feel better about it? Through a violent death???? The justifying of faith is sometimes sickening, but the faithful don’t see through it. And as for the man who reckoned god ignored it all because god has been left out of schools, well, words fail me. What a truly disgusting human being. As far as religion is concerned, “the more I see, the more I know, the more I know, the less I understand.” (as someone once said).

  10. In reply to #2 by Kim Probable:

    It should be socially unacceptable to use the expression “They’re in a better place now” in response to the death of anyone other than someone who died after suffering with a terminal illness. To suggest such a thing to parents grieving over the death of a slaughtered child, is so far beyond the pale that, if you were to turn round to look back at the pale, it would be beyond the horizon. If it were my 5-year-old, my boot would be in their throat before they even got to the word “place”.

    Don’t even get me started on “God has called them all home”. I hope Obama is at home, kicking himself for allowing such a tawdry phrase to issue forth from his lips.

  11. I watched President Obama’s speech and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The second and third paragraphs were the worst for me

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/17/obama-speech-newtown-school-shooting

    For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

    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.

    I’ve always hated this answer to the problem of evil which says that somehow when we see the rewards in heaven we will find that all our suffering in this world was basically irrelevant. “Look to your reward in heaven” has always been the line spun to slaves and the oppressed. Surely President Obama, of all people, would know this ?

    Michael

  12. Absolutely agree… though, I have to admit, I saw less of that in the statements of people right after it happened. After a few days and after planning was done, religion reared it’s head. During the first hours, even the religious couldn’t conjure the ridiculous clap-trap.

  13. One possible answer may be found in The Gay Science*, by Nietzsche.

    In TGS, there is a famous parable of the mad man who runs into the market place and asks: “Whither is God?” In reply to his own question, the mad man says: “We have killed [God] [...] God is dead. And he remains dead. And we have killed him.”

    In the next paragraph, the mad man says something that I think lends itself to the question that Lawrence Krauss asks (Why must the nation grieve with God?).

    The mad man says: “How shall we comfort ourselves [...now that we have removed God from the center of our lives]” “What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent?”

    The moral of the story is, without God (and the religious rituals the come with Him) to anchor our lives, to help us through ceremonies such as birth, marriage and death, we need to invent some other ceremonies, some other secular way through which we can manage both everyday and momentous events.

    It seems to me that the secular world has yet to find generally accepted rituals for births, marriages and deaths (yes, some do exists, but they are not yet part of the majority in many countries) that would replace those that religions traditionally offered.

    Until secularists invent their own rituals for such events, and until such rituals and values become common place, we may have to endure the religious laying claim to these things.
    * “gay” as in “happy”, not “gay” as in homosexual.

  14. In reply to #15 by Vorlund:

    Was the gunman a religihooligan? Now that would take some explaining by the xtians.

    They can easily explain it!
    Murdering religihooligans are NOT TRrrooooo believers! (They have gone over to the devil!)
    The Xtian religion virus has ALL the plausible answers for believers! ( even if they ARE the wrong answers! )

  15. As we have come to expect, an excellent piece from Professor Krauss.

    I tried to post earlier but I think my contribution may have gone a little off subject and been snatched away by the moderators.

    Never mind, I couldn’t have expressed myself as cogently as Lawrence Krauss.

    As a father I can’t imagine what those families are going through, and will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

    I suppose turning to your God for comfort is natural if you are religious, and were I a believer I would undoubtedly do exactly the same.

  16. In reply to #14 by RDfan:

    One possible answer may be found in The Gay Science*, by Nietzsche.

    It seems to me that the secular world has yet to find generally accepted rituals for births, marriages and deaths (yes, some do exists, but they are not yet part of the majority in many countries) that would replace those that religions traditionally offered.

    Until secularists invent their own rituals for such events, and until such rituals and values become common place, we may have to endure the religious laying claim to these things.
    * “gay” as in “happy”, not “gay” as in homosexual.

    That is part of an answer to why religion pops up at such moments. But it is no answer to why uniquely amongst western countries it is the US where there is a demand for the leader of the country to mouth the kinds of religious platitudes that Obama came out with. In such a situation no Australian PM would ever make anything but the vaguest allusion to God. They would attend the memorial and speak on behalf of the nation addressing the individuals and nations grief but God would be left to the professionals.

    I think you are underestimating also who common secular weddings and funerals are outside the US. At least in Australia such ceremonies performed by civil celebrants are increasingly common. Support for those suffering is provided by secular health care professionals not by professional religious.

    Michael

  17. In reply to #5 by QuestioningKat:

    I think it is time that people who excel at working with people through counseling, organizing, and other forms of help step up and do for the simple sake of helping another without any agenda.

    But that’s what professional secular counsellors do. Just like doctors, nurses, first attenders, etc.

    Michael

  18. In reply to #19 by mmurray:

    In reply to #5 by QuestioningKat:

    I think it is time that people who excel at working with people through counseling, organizing, and other forms of help step up and do for the simple sake of helping another without any agenda.

    But that’s what professional secular counselors do. Just like doctors, nurses, first attenders, etc.

    Michael

    Ok then – name the fully secular counselors that led the masses of people gathered together. Can you recall what they said? I’ll count the quoting of Mr. Rodgers as one. Can you name who else these people turned to? Was this fully free of religion? Now list the religious quotes, churches, and religious leaders involved. If you do some googling- you can get a lot of info. Religion and religious agenda will sneak its way into a counseling session. Most therapists are not fully secular. I recall posts here that voiced a concern over encounters with theist psychologists. A further issue is that a massive group of people gathered together can be found usually at a candlelight vigil (which starts at the school and ends in a church) or a gathering at the funeral parlor or at a church. There is no secular ceremony strong enough to fully unite people when in grief. Religion always finds a way in. As I previously stated, this will take time.

  19. America did not demand that Obama give this speech Michael. I don’t care what anyone thinks would of, could of, may have happened had he given a different speech either. Anybody can claim whatever they want in these situations -see talking heads on TV whenever e.g. but had he said, the risk would have been, could have offended, these people are important to, probably not feeling secure she may have been talking to x, y, z, though clearly he ran the risk of blah, blah, blah.

    He could have given a different speech and he should have. But I suppose he actually believes the nonsense he said.

  20. You are so right. My son was murdered in 2005. I can say from experience that what the parents of Newtown are experiencing is far and away the most devastating loss. It is traumatic and terrible beyond words, and it doesn’t go away in a few weeks or months, or even years. What others need to know is that facile religious platitudes are like kicks in the face after a brutal beating. “He/she is in a better place” – what an insult to the parenting and loving home of mom and dad. “God wanted him/her in heaven” – Nice of God to send a crazed gunman to deliver them to the pearly gates. Imagine the absolute terror of the children as the bullets ripped into their classmates and teachers. Nice, God. “God works in mysterious ways” – and despicably horrible ways, apparently. “You’ll see him/her again someday” – Really? Can you guarantee that? I’d rather see him living and breathing right now.

    All any shocked, agonized grieving parent really wants is just to have their child back, and no one and nothing can ever give that to them. No one else can understand or feel their grief unless they’ve been through it themselves. Others need to realize, as you pointed out, that the best thing they can do is just to listen, to try to help out with practical matters, and just to be there. Just be there.

    Sorry about the long rant, but this post struck a nerve. Today is my son’s birthday and he isn’t here. He’ll never be here.In reply to #2 by Kim Probable:

    What bothers me most, in events like this one, or when anybody suffers a loss of a loved one, is that they’re practically shamed into feeling sorrow. I’m sure that many have the best of intentions when saying “They’re in a better place now,” but some push it further, pressuring against mourning – you shouldn’t feel bad because it’s the will of our god, or because you shouldn’t wish for them not to be in that better place, or something along those lines. It can lead to a complete disregard for their incredible sense of hurt when what they need most is just support and understanding. Yes, it is hard, it’s incredibly hard, and you will feel a lot of pain for some time to some, and some of that pain will fade over time, but sometimes it will hit you just when you least expect it… but we are here for you all the way. That’s what people need.

  21. When individuals die (even from misfortune) it is a possible to celebrate the assumed purpose and the achievement of that individual. Even for a child. The bringing of joy to their parents and friends. Their adventures in life. Consolation of some sort is to be got from an individual’s life even in the face of a cruel fate.

    There is no such meaningful collective “celebration” of many lives lost to a single tragedy, (though there is mutual support for relatives and the kindnesses of strangers).

    I am no fan of this “bulk grieving” which can find no bulk purpose except to presume everyone lost was loved in equal measure and missed etc. Or the life degrading religious pap declaring they’re not really dead.

    What would be meaningful though is a proper political response to the tragedy, that makes this lost life, and this, the lives that made a difference in future.

    What collective response would make a difference, is a group of local citizens offering their time effort and money to support the families for as long as they needed. To help raise awareness of the tragedy and its causes, to reduce the chances of its future occurrence and to try to make this child’s life and this still able to make a difference in the world.

    Doing something useful would be good.

  22. I seem to remember Obama saying something about including “those of no faith” in his first inaugural address. Has he forgotten this? How dare he suggest that they are not included in the wish for comfort. Hypocrite.

  23. I don’t begrudge the religious their fix of comfort from their delusionmeisters in such times. I can’t imagine their pain and don’t ever want to feel it.
    It reminds me a little of Alan Carr’s book about giving up smoking. Of course there are times when we think we really need a cigarette (I have stopped now), but think of the non-smoker in the same situation. They don’t “need” a cigarette because they have never been addicted.
    No one would begrudge a smoker having a cigarette after a traumatic experience, but the non-smoker doesn’t need one in the same circumstance because they have never become addicted to the “need” to smoke.
    The same applies here. They wouldn’t need to hear God has brought them home etc … if they had never become addicted to the idea in the first place.
    I don’t begrudge them their comfort fix now, but better to never have become addicted. And I would lockup and throw away the key all those who profit from the grief by suggesting it happened because there are not enough addicts or not a strong enough addiction.

  24. In reply to #25 by Rosbif:

    I don’t begrudge the religious their fix of comfort from their delusionmeisters in such times. I can’t imagine their pain and don’t ever want to feel it.

    I think I do though, especially if they have other kids. I believe children can be remarkably resilient about death if they are not lied too. In short, I don’t really believe they are consoled by the idea of heaven. Not in my experience anyway. Besides, most religious people seem utterly unconsoled. In at least one study (Wijngaards-de Meij et al 2005) following the death of a child “… nonreligious parents reported being less depressed than religious parents,…” I think psychologically, if you are one of C.S.Lewis’s faking-it-for-for-the-promise Christians as most are, you might not get the long term closure. Are they really dead or not?

    You have to be Westboro nuts to buy into it.

  25. Being able to believe these children are in a “better place” could very well be a step toward being ok with sending them there. This belief in a “better place” may just be the tipping point between it’s ok to kill and it’s not ok to kill.

  26. Any human being on this Earth who was a decent person and had the power to help save those children in Newtown would have. What does this say about an all powerful God? A. He doesn’t exist. B. He exists and is absolutely worthless. People pray to God to help them all the time, meaning they believe he has the power to intervene in their lives. If he has the power to answer prayers like people think,then he chose not to this time,and is unworthy of the God title.

  27. In reply to #20 by QuestioningKat:

    Ok then – name the fully secular counselors that led the masses of people gathered together.

    I wasn’t suggesting they did or that such a thing was likely in the current USA. In any case the only bit I watch from the other side of the world was President Obama’s speech.

    Michael

  28. Annoyingly, anytime there’s a narrow escape from disaster—a pilot safely grounding a crashing plane, a surgeon succeeding in a touch and go operation—then it’s a miracle, thank god!

    But when tragedy happens, we must grieve with god?

    All of the credit; none of the blame.

  29. These ceremonial mass-grievings are a political distraction, and theological proselytising.
    They have very little to do with emotionally helping the relatives and friends of the victims.
    Many more people are regularly killed in Africa and nobody even bothers to ask where the weapons or the money to buy them, came from!

  30. Its difficult to understand how even the president thinks its ok to rationalise such a tragedy on behalf of the poor parents. To imply that he knows that it is the wish/right of his imaginary god to claim the lives of the children is unbelievable when the fact of it is that it was simply a senseless brutal killing of innocents by a madman.

  31. In reply to #26 by phil rimmer:
    >

    You have to be Westboro nuts to buy into it.

    Don’t say Westboro…They planned on showing up at the last school shooting in Chardon. seriously!

    mmurray, anysecularists get drowned out here. The news media adds to the problem.

  32. In reply to #34 by QuestioningKat:

    In reply to #26 by phil rimmer

    Don’t say Westboro..

    And rinse…

    I had in mind the closing scene of a documentary about WBC by UK filmmaker Louis Theroux. A return visit to them after Nate left and some more family losses to common sense had occurred. It was Nate’s mom interviewed about her feelings that some of her brood were going to hell and she seemed not to care one iota. She was calm. It was devastating to see that her own access to heaven was all that she was charged with attending to, her one clear duty. This is heaven in the heads of psychopaths, when heaven truly can wipe away all fears……..and all traces of humanity too.

  33. In reply to #27 by aquilacane:

    Being able to believe these children are in a “better place” could very well be a step toward being ok with sending them there. This belief in a “better place” may just be the tipping point between it’s ok to kill and it’s not ok to kill.
    That’s exactly what Andrea Yates claims she was thinking when she drowned her five children in the bathtub. She was a Christian fundamentalist (seh was also diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and psychosis) who claimed to believe that her children were in danger of damnation once they reached the “age of accountability” at around 8 to 10 years old. She was simply assuring that they went to heaven – a “better place”.

  34. In reply to #37 by Sue Blue:

    In reply to #27 by aquilacane:
    That’s exactly what Andrea Yates claims she was thinking when she drowned her five children in the bathtub. She was a Christian fundamentalist (seh was also diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and psychosis) who claimed to believe that her children were in danger of damnation once they reached the “age of accountability” at around 8 to 10 years old. She was simply assuring that they went to heaven – a “better place”.
    Being able to believe these children are in a “better place” could very well be a step toward being ok with sending them there. This belief in a “better place” may just be the tipping point between it’s ok to kill and it’s not ok to kill.
    That’s exactly what Andrea Yates claims she was thinking when she drowned her five children in the bathtub. She was a Christian fundamentalist (seh was also diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and psychosis) who claimed to believe that her children were in danger of damnation once they reached the “age of accountability” at around 8 to 10 years old. She was simply assuring that they went to heaven – a “better place”.

  35. Damn it – what is with this new commenting system? The replies I make to other commenters come out with run-on sentences or don’t show up at all or don’t include the original comment. There’s no editing anymore, either! Can we go back to the other system, please?!!

  36. In reply to #36 by QuestioningKat:

    Damn it Phil! I spoke too early. Westboro is planning on picketing the Connecticut elementary school shootings.

    This loathsome bacterial infection shouldn’t be suppressed with antibiotics before the country builds up its own natural resistance. The human chain is great. It demonstrates eloquently the feelings of the very great majority of Americans. The fact that WBC are being biblical literalists simply draws the attention of those, who feel like them but are afraid to voice their views, to the fact that the great bulk of the general public find those ideas repellant.

    Free speech must remain protected, even hate speech. We must never lose sight of the enemy or where they are. Don’t sign a petition for their suppression on hate grounds.

  37. If any atheist/Humanist families are involved, they could use a HUMANIST OFFICIANT AT THE FUNERAL.

    wikipedia
    A Humanist officiant (or Humanist celebrant) is a person who performs secular humanist celebrancy services for weddings, funerals, child namings, coming of age ceremonies, and other rituals.
    Some Humanist officiants are ordained or accredited members of the Ontario Humanist Society (OHS), Humanist Association of Canada (HAC), the American Humanist Association (AHA), the British Humanist Association (BHA), the Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS), the Society for Humanistic Judaism (SHJ), the American Ethical Union (AEU), or the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).

    Laws in each state of the United States vary about who has the right to perform wedding services, but Humanist Celebrants or Officiants are usually categorized as “clergy” and have the same rights and responsibilities as ordained clergy.[1]
    In Canada and in states that legally recognize same-sex unions within the US, Humanist officiants perform LGBT marriage ceremonies.[2][3]

    The Humanist Society, an adjunct of the American Humanist Association, maintains a list of Humanist Celebrants.

    The British Humanist Association organises a network of celebrants or officiants across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.[5][6][7]
    A similar network exists in Scotland, where, following a June 2005 ruling by the Registrar General, officiants or celebrants of the Humanist Society of Scotland are permitted to conduct legal wedding ceremonies.[8]
    Scotland is one of only six countries in the world where Humanist wedding ceremonies are legal, the others being Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and some parts of the USA.[8]
    In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the current legal position is that a Humanist wedding or partnership ceremony must be supplemented by a process of obtaining a civil marriage or partnership certificate through a Register Office.[9]

    Non-religious funerals are legal within the UK. Humanist officiants are familiar with the procedures of cremation and burial, and are trained and experienced in devising and conducting suitable ceremonies.

    My mother’s Humanist funeral was conducted (in England) by a Humanist Celebrant.

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