Hell is Other People

There’s a lot to think about in Boston right now.

There was a bombing and a shooting.  Two ethnic Chechens were implicated in the bombing, and one of them is in custody right now, to likely face a farce of an “enemy combatant” trial as soon as the feds are done fabricating a tie to international terrorist groups.  [EDIT: He got a regular trial, thank the stars.] Hateful mooks have been subjecting an Indian-American family to a torrent of threats and insults because their son went missing a few months ago and was also suspected, forcing them to shut down the site they used to help them find him.

Amidst all of the maneuvering, it’d have been easy to miss a few tidbits that highlight the ongoing nightmare of being a nonbeliever in the United States.

A large, public memorial service for the dead and injured took place on the 18th, featuring representatives and speeches from several Christian groups (including one in Spanish) as well as a rabbi and a speaker from the American Islamic Congress.  The event was large and communal enough that President Obama himself attended.

Not presenting were the Harvard Humanist Community, who were specifically excluded from participation in the memorial service despite losing some of their own to the blast.

The state of Massachusetts, a state that is 22% irreligious, felt the need to host a memorial service for the victims of a massacre that included nonbelievers and specifically exclude nonbelievers from the event.  Despite repeated, ongoing, public requests to be part of the event and counsel and console their bereft in the same manner as the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish groups would.

One would imagine this went without saying, but apparently not.  Nonreligious people have the same need to grieve and the same need for support during the grieving process as religious people. We are just as much a part of the United States’s ideological landscape as religious people of various stripes. Numerically, we’re a much larger part than Jews, Muslims, or Mormons, and more so in Massachusetts, 11th in the country for nonreligious people. Yet, in this large, public memorial service in which members of all manner of worldviews were scheduled to counsel their adherents and help them come to grips with this tragedy, and which government officials up to and including the president himself made public presentations, nonbelievers were excluded without comment.

Always we are the Other, unwelcome, feared by the 78% of Massachusetts that isn’t us.

When the families of those nonbelievers killed in the attack came to make their peace with the dead and try to make sense of their loss, they did not receive the counsel they needed.  They did not hear someone empathizing with their loss and recognizing the permanence of that loss.  They did not hear someone reminding them that the life tragically cut short left a legacy that will reverberate through the world, forever leaving it a different place than it would have been without them, and have a chance to draw hope from that idea.  The things nonbelievers need to hear—they were not said.

No, the state of Massachusetts felt the need to set up an “interfaith” environment where all participants would feel free to keep religious ideas of death front and center, and let ideas of “a better place” and “God’s plan” mar the grief of any nonbelievers who had the misfortune to have their tragedy so appropriated.  With the assent of every level of government our country has.

The state of Massachusetts told 22% of its people: You’re not welcome here.
Your grief is not our grief.
Your pain is not our pain.
Your loss is not our loss.
You’re our baker and accountant and biologist and forklift driver and waiter and student and soldier and marathon runner, but you are notpart of our community.
And when the rest of us weep for what and who we have lost, we will not weep with you.

Your loss is your loss.  It is not ours.

The world condemns Turkey’s oppression of 20% of its people.  But Massachusetts?  If anyone notices, they’ll celebrate.

Atheists don’t grieve anyway, right?  We’re all emotionless hedonistic nihilistic joyless pleasure robots when we’re not raping everything in sight just because there’s no Hell and we’re all just random molecules anyway, amirite?

When you’re an atheist, hell is other people.

Especially people who see you bawling because someone you love is dead and respond by telling you fuck off.

And they tell us we’re the monsters.
Hell is Other People

5 thoughts on “Hell is Other People

  1. 3

    You're welcome! It's somewhat of a contradiction, but atheists can be just as spiritual as any religious person. They can marvel in awe at the world and, yes, they also grieve and feel.

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