Atheist response to disaster

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Messages: 1 - 3 (3 total)

9/17/2001 9:46 PM
1 out of 3

I want to know how atheists comfort themselves and each other when confronted with disaster and loss such as that which has resulted from the terrorist attacks. As an atheist, what do you say to a friend who has lost a loved one?
Also, what can I say to an atheist friend who has lost someone? "I'm praying for you," or, "He is with God now," which make believers feel better, would not do.

9/19/2001 7:22 PM
2 out of 3

After waiting and waiting for someone to respond to this question, I've decided to make a small effort. I think anyone, atheist or not, responds to tragedy the same way others do. With disgust, unbelief that another human being could commit such an act against another, and the yearning to help in some way that benefits the survivors of such a disaster. Being athesist doesn't mean you have no feelings or morals, it merely means you believe in one less god than everyone else. You offer comfort to the bereaved, sympathy to those in mourning and do your best to help in any way you can. You try to explain to your children that not all people are capable of such monstrous behavior, and shield them as best you can from the ruthless media and any immediate danger while telling them you'll do your best to always try to protect them.

"Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to; or he cannot and does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. But, if God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how come evil is in the world?" -- Epicurus


9/24/2001 8:55 AM
3 out of 3

Good answer, sagess.

I personally just respond with horror and grief as I have seen in many. I applaud and respect the bravery of those who gave their lives to help others or are currently still helping, and all the others (including, unless there have been other reports, the passengers on the fourth plane) who worked to minimize human suffering and death as much as they possibly could. I am both comforted and impressed by the surge of human spirit, from the world's response to our own coming together while at the same time, I feel incredible sorrow because of the staggering number of dead, and every crying news anchor (it really threw me to see Jon Stewart on the Daily Show crying for some reason) seemed to drive it in harder, even more than the eeriely Hollywoodesque explosions did.

"As an atheist, what do you say to a friend who has lost a loved one?"

I've found that this is a difficult question no matter who you are because there is no right response. What I try to do is let the grieving person know that I grieve for their pain and will be there for them whether they need a shoulder to cry on 24/7 or whether they want to be left alone for two weeks. I've also found the best thing to do is listen. A lot of times, people don't need words so much as ears for their grief to fall upon.

"Also, what can I say to an atheist friend who has lost someone? "I'm praying for you," or, "He is with God now," which make believers feel better, would not do."

I'd say the same as above. Be a listener or be someone willing to leave them alone if need be (despite good intentions, some people do prefer to be alone in their initial sorrow and saying "I won't leave you when you're like this" really doesn't help), be a shoulder to cry on. It does depend on the person though, and just try to read into the signals. Sometimes it'll really help someone to talk about good attributes of the person lost, though often that will be too much initially. That's why the primary thing you need to get across verbally is "I'm here for you if you need me" if nothing else, and let them take it from there.


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