Compassionate Atheists

by Preston 9 Replies latest jw friends

  • Preston

    I read this letter in the editorials/letters secion of the New York Times today (Oct. 21, 2001, pg. 14). I thought you guys would find it interesting.

    Atheists at Ground Zero

    To the editor:

    I hope that the old out-of-town proselytizers in Lower Manhattan who approach those upset by terrorism will discover some local secular pleasures and stop preying on New Yorkers ("Delivering the Gospel to Ground Zero's Streets," news article, Oct. 18). Maybe they will learn toleration, and bring it home when they leave.

    Also, contrary to the missionary who said "there are no atheists in the foxhole," we're right here. We donate blood, money and services to relief efforts. We mourn the dead and console each other without prayer services. And we don't need any more tracts thank you.

    Josh Karpf
    Director, NYC Atheists
    NY, October 18, 2001

    end of article

  • JanH

    Thanks for sharing, Preston.

    It may also be worth checking out Philip K. Paulson's article I Was an Atheist in a Foxhole at

    Paulson became an atheist (and humanist) when he was fighting in Vietnam, and remains one to this day.

    - Jan
    "Doctor how can you diagnose someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and then act like I had some choice about barging in here right now?" -- As Good As It Gets

  • Tina

    Excellent find! Thanks! I for one, get tired of that old atheist slam(none in foxholes)...
    And I know for a fact how loving and giving humanists/atheists etc are. They give unconditionally as they have no motive,no message no underlying agenda as many xtians do. Not saying all xtians have an agenda when assisting,but seems to me most do. They'll often mention,this is as jayzuz commanded or jayzuz died for you,or spreading false hopes of a mythical Utopia. Atheists just DO it.No mystical supernatural motivations or reasons. Simply from the heart.

    'The Good,The Bad,The Fundy'

    Special Matinee HORROR!!!!
    'I Was A Teenage JW Pioneer!

  • Trilobite
  • Preston

    Here is the article that was mentioned in Mr. Karpf's letter. Isn't it interesting how some of the professed Christians seem the least compassionate.

    Delivering the Gospel to Ground Zero's Streets


    The Dow was shaky on Wall Street Tuesday, but the men and women who trade in the Lord's Word were experiencing something of a rally.

    By late afternoon, William Bollman had nearly handed out the last of his 2,000 free Bibles, and Brian Biggs, a revved-up street preacher from Tennessee, was drawing an appreciative crowd a few yards from the New York Stock Exchange, although not as large as the one that stopped to watch the teenage choir from New Jersey belt out "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus."

    A block north, just downwind from the smoldering World Trade Center, Dorothy Ivey, her singsong voice both mesmerizing and unnerving, was reminding people about the coming apocalypse while a man held aloft a sign that read, "Repent ye and believe in the Gospel."

    Religious fire and brimstone are flourishing on the circuit of grief and picture-taking that skirts the edge of ground zero. Inspired by the soul- shaking events of Sept. 11, hundreds of earnest missionaries, evangelical orators and New Age healers from across the country have been flocking to Lower Manhattan, staking out patches of pavement and handing out Gospel tracts, hugs or ominous warnings about the Final Days.

    Some say they have come to a wounded — and sinful — city to rescue souls, while others are simply trying to ease the agony of a citizenry still reeling.

    Roy Rosedale, 68, a missionary instructor from Lake Arrowhead, Calif., said the climate of fear and anguish had made it easier to talk about Jesus Christ. "When the bombs are flying, there are no atheists in the foxhole," he said.

    Since late September, he and dozens of other volunteers have handed out nearly two million glossy pamphlets titled "Fallen, but Not Forgotten." The booklets, which document the calamity with essays and striking color photographs, also present Christianity as an aid for healing and recovery.

    Bill Boyd and his wife, Beverly, were quietly distributing a folksy booklet titled "Grief and Stress Management" paid for by their rural congregation in Little Hocking, Ohio. Mr. Boyd, 46, a chaplain for the local sheriff's department, said he and his wife were so moved by events in New York that they hitched a trailer to their motor home and drove 500 miles Sunday night to a church parking lot on Staten Island, where they have been sleeping.

    "We didn't come here to be pushy or dogmatic," Mrs. Boyd, 44, said. "We came because we love people, and everyone here has a little void that needs to be filled."

    Not every evangelical visitor was so gentle. As Mr. Biggs bellowed about sin and redemption to a lunchtime throng on Broad Street, his traveling companion from Chattanooga, Jerry Layne, expressed disapproval of New York. "The only difference between hell and New York is one of them is surrounded by water," he said.

    But he and his friend became even more agitated when they made the acquaintance of Abdurahman Haji, a Somali immigrant from Queens who had decided to spend the day bravely talking up Islam to a largely unreceptive crowd.

    Mr. Haji, 33, seemed to take pleasure in buttonholing out-of-town preachers like Mr. Layne, 63, who was wearing a red-white-and-blue necktie, his pants pocket stuffed with a well-worn Bible. "Allah loves you," Mr. Haji said repeatedly, prompting a burst of loveless words from Mr. Layne. "You can believe in Muhammad all you want, but you're still going to hell," he said. Mr. Haji just smiled and moved on.

    For those who live or work on the fringes of ground zero, the frenzy of religious activity is just another reminder of how different their world has become. As Phil Salerni, a born- again Christian and saxophonist from Ohio, alternately played "Amazing Grace" and shouted about the glories of God, a group of stock exchange clerks could barely contain their smirks. "There was always a couple of nut jobs around here, but these days there are more than normal," said Joseph Butler, who works for a securities firm.

    Still, plenty of people, many of them New Yorkers, have been snapping up literature and engaging preachers in soul-searching conversation. Debbie Walcott, 38, on her lunch break from her job at a brokerage firm, stopped to listen to a impassioned sermon about the Devil's role in the destruction of the trade center. In the last six weeks, said Ms. Walcott, who was downtown when the first tower collapsed, she has become more contemplative and spiritual.

    "I think what happened was a wake-up call, but I'm still struggling to figure out what it all means," she said. "It's really difficult to be here every day." With that, she grabbed a pamphlet from the preacher, tucked it into her novel and went back to work.

    end of article

  • Rex B13
    Rex B13

    Hi Tina,

    You seem to be biased and slanted in your comments toward the 'wonderful altruistic atehists' and against the 'xtians who have a motive'.
    Now, I have to speak bluntly but don't mistake this for anger or intention to hurt you. Let me point out your errors from my own view.
    First of all, you don't know 'most Christians' by any stretch of the imagination. Second, you don't know the 'agenda' or lack therof of any atheist.
    Third, you've no idea what the upbringing of the atheist was, i.e., he/she could very well be acting from the very upbringing that you so love to dis.

    Besides that, even with our corrupted nature, there is still a demonstrable conscience evident in al human beings no matter where they are from, even in remote, uncivilized tribes we can see this. Those who have no conscience are sociopaths and very dangerous. The apostle Paul speaks of this conscience in Romans, teaching that "those who do not know the law but live the law are a law unto themselves". Those ones who see "God in creation, follow God's laws in conscience will have the truth of the gospel revealed to them." That is why no one has a valid complaint in judgement.

    Back to my original thoughts:
    I know from personal experience of myself and others that those who follow the teachings of Christ begin to lose their selfishness and start truly loving people for who they are. I've seen my life changed and so have others who truly walk in the "light of the son".
    It is very much the opposite of "oh boy, here is a chance to gain new converts" and ti seems tome that the atheists are quite miffed at seeing their favorite "whipping boys" living their faith and exposing the lies of the atheist left to everyone.

  • Tina

    Hi rex,
    I most certainly mentioned that there are christians who help from the heart! And from personal experience ,one org. of them really assists others freely,no covert agenda and that's some of the wonderful folks I know at catholic Charities. One of the things they do that impressed me is they have brought people off the streets,the poor elderly into our clinics for medical aid at their expense.They help find housing etc.
    I've read of your experience of helping from the heart. i think thats wonderful.
    My point is that I know many many atheists/humanists do the same. Scriptural injunction is not a prerequisite to having a conscience. One that reaches out and helps fellow humans in need.
    History is loaded with christian sociopaths. Give me a break.
    atheists have no agenda,as much as you'd like to think so. Unlike some of the proselytizing christians who consider their message part of the 'help'
    I know people raised in agnostic/atheists households that are exemplars in helping and kindness. And they have no agenda.
    You are dissing non christians by implying that altruism is not amongst their qualities.
    And FWYI,I do know many types of folks in many denominations. I grew up among many diverse cultures and beliefs. I know them intimately from childhood up. I have shared in Seders,had friends that were Russian orthodox , RC's(which half my family is) to name a few.
    You dont know my life so it is a baseless assumption for you to tell ME that I dont know xtians.
    I'm always happy to hear when others assist when needed. I just dont care for the ones that do have a covert agenda whilst doing it, for the reason that oftentimes ones needing assistance are emotionally vulnerable. And easy prey at that time. I find it repugnant and unethical that some have manipulated people in that condition. hugs,Tina

    'The Good,The Bad,The Fundy'

    Special Matinee HORROR!!!!
    'I Was A Teenage JW Pioneer!

  • COMF

    First of all, you don't know 'most Christians' by any stretch of the imagination. Second, you don't know the 'agenda' or lack therof of any atheist.

    Oh, the irony, the incredible irony of it all... WW himself, the all-time undisputed champion of the unfounded assumption treated as fact, now arguing against making assumptions.


  • drahcir yarrum
    drahcir yarrum

    The atheist, thiest debate is interesting to me because, when I wake up each day, or go about my activities, I don't think about myself as an atheist. Of course that is exactly what I am, but I don't view myself in those terms. I attend a Presbyterian church with my wife and kids, listen to the sermons and the wonderful music. But I never view the sermons as anything more than mythology. But I do see numerous charitable activities being done by the church (and other churches) for people in need in our community and in foreign countries and view them as a good thing, regardless the motives. I see myself and believers as part of the same larger community, the difference is that they believe and I don't.

    My kids enjoy Sunday School with their friends and probably learn things from the Bible that shouldn't be taken literally, but they will be able to sort those things out when they are adults. For now, they are learning some moral lessons that I think they need as well as a sense that those of us who have, have a responsibility to help those who don't have. Sure they can learn these things in a secular setting, but the issue really isn't where they learn them, but that they learn them. Another benefit to church attendance for adults is the concept of networking with others in the community who might help you in your career or business.

    As a JW, I was taught to have contempt and distrust for "church" people. I believed that they were insincere and not to be trusted. Well I can tell you that the people I've met in traditional churches are just like people I meet in the secular world. Some phoney and some sincere. Some with ulterior motives and some without. So for me, being an atheist is just a matter of intellectual honesty. It must have been similar in ancient Greece and Rome where the masses believed in the pantheon of gods and goddesses, but some didn't.

    I have disagreements with the extreme elements of any religion, whether Christian, Jewish or Islamic. I don't want religion determining life choices for me. But I don't view atheism for me as an us against them scenario.

    I am not suggesting that anyone else attend church because I really don't think it's something one should suggest to others. I just don't have a problem as an unbeliever, associating with believers.

  • Rex B13
    Rex B13

    Too bad, Drahcir. You are very much missing the whole point of 'church'. I guess this is just an example of 'election'. Maybe someday you will be called. I hope so.

    Hey COMF,
    Is Mom's SBC church 'evangelistic' or 'dead'?
    Have you found out that you are very much still a sin? You are not by any stretch of the imagination, C.O.M.F. I know that you had to have heard the gospel, the invitation is there yet you are still hardened against it? May I pray for you?

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