Susan Jacoby on The Blessings of Atheism

Today’s secularists must do more than mount defensive campaigns proclaiming that we can be “good without God.” Atheists must stand up instead of calling themselves freethinkers, agnostics, secular humanists or “spiritual, but not religious.” The last phrase, translated from the psychobabble, can mean just about anything — that the speaker is an atheist who fears social disapproval or a fence-sitter who wants the theoretical benefits of faith, including hope of eternal life, without the obligations of actually practicing a religion. Atheists may also be secular humanists and freethinkers — I answer to all three — but avoidance of identification with atheism confines us to a closet that encourages us to fade or be pushed into the background when tragedy strikes.

We must speak up as atheists in order to take responsibility for whatever it is humans are responsible for — including violence in our streets and schools. We need to demonstrate that atheism is rooted in empathy as well as intellect. And although atheism is not a religion, we need community-based outreach programs so that our activists will be as recognizable to their neighbors as the clergy.
The Blessings of Atheism

Susan Jacoby has written what is surely one of the most pathetic articles in defense of atheism. Basically, when a tragedy strikes, atheists have to make themselves scarce. This is because the last thing you want to hear after an elementary school class gets mowed down in a senseless tragedy is how God is just a fairytale to make you feel better in a world of chaos and futility. Jacoby spends much of her article tearing down God and religion and says that secularism is a better way. But she does not demonstrate in any way how that is the case. It's like saying that your diet program works by pointing out the flaws in the other diets while your diet just tells people nothing.

The problem with atheism is very simple. It is a negative. It is against something. It isn't for something. As such, the only thing an atheist can say in a tragedy is NOTHING. This is because atheism is the belief in nothing. Now, some atheists may proffer secular humanism or Objectivism or some other philosophy as an alternative to faith. But in the end, there is no comfort in telling the parent of a dead child that they will never see their child again. Only a fool would think there is.

My advice to Susan Jacoby and other atheists in times of tragedy is very simple. You need to shut up. Just shut your mouth. This is the only thing a freethinker can say about any tragedy. There is no comfort in atheism. Pretending that there is is just stupid.