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Dennis Prager
Dennis Prager
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The Atheist Response to Sandy Hook

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Last week the New York Times published an opinion piece that offered atheism's 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 religion's 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. Jacoby's piece actually confirms her colleague's assessment.

Jacoby offers a quote from Robert Green Ingersoll, who died in 1899. He "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 friend's 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 atheism's 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 isn't 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 to 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 don't 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, that's it. Moreover, within a tiny speck of time in terms of the universe's 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's latest book, "Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph," was published April 24 by HarperCollins. He is a nationally syndicated radio show host and creator of PragerUniversity.Com.

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Comments

3 Comments | Post Comment
Yes, cause there is nothing more consoling than bullshit when your child has been murdered. Please, take your white Jesus and STFU.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Diana
Tue Jan 15, 2013 9:09 AM
"Atheists cannot believe that there is any existence other than this life."

This is not true at all. Aside from the fact that atheism is the lack of belief in a creator god or gods, and means nothing more than that, there is no guideline about what you can or can't believe as an atheist. There are plenty of atheistic religions such as Buddhism, Jains, some pagan and Hindu philosophies and Scientology has no defined god. This is all pretty common knowledge, but even if its outside your realm of expertise, a quick search on google can inform you about atheism if you find you need to write about it but don't actually know jack. What else have you stated without doing an ounce of research?
Comment: #2
Posted by: Moppits
Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:54 AM
It's impossible to 'prove' a 'belief'. Having said that, they should have released photos of the childrens bodies. The coroner made it a point to say many children were shot more than once. Those bullets would have split those little bodies apart and made a real mess. Releasing photos may have made those who 'believe' our gun laws don't need to change into 'proof' that they do. Dead is dead on this planet. Where the dead go if they go anywhere is debatable. What happens to the physical aspect of dead is the mess and gore of bullet torn flesh & leaking, squirting blood gets cleaned up, examined, buried or burned.

WTF is wrong with our culture that we glorify violence and can't stop those who choose to act it out? That is the question which is as unanswerable as the afterlife question but should garner so much more publicity and conversation.
Comment: #3
Posted by: morgan
Fri Jan 18, 2013 6:25 PM
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