A Secular Humanist’s Response to the Tradgedy in Paris

It’s far too easy to casually respond to things like the ISIS attack from 3,000 miles away. My life hasn’t been changed. Currently sitting in a coffee shop, listening to music as the sun sets on a day that seems only half over, my weekend continues as usual. Does changing my Facebook profile to include the French flag affect anyone? No. I don’t know anyone living in France, so the show of solidarity is really only for those who can see my profile. I want to show people that I care, but me caring does nothing other than provide commentary on my character. Do pointless gestures cheapen the sympathy one feels?

I find myself trying to consume every article, every redundant article, re-hashing eyewitness accounts and ongoing investigations and I feel it strange that I feel so compelled to know everything going on, and to be one of the first to know. A fusion of curiosity and concern, I’m not sure if it’s simply a means for engaging in fulfilling conversations about the event itself, or whether my drive is simply to know the most morbid gossip, like a news junkie looking for my next fix.

I’ve heard a lot of speculation about what should come next, be it a military presence in Syria, or strengthening the boarders between European nations. Open boarders between members of the EU is more than reasonable given the size of each country. As an American, I can drive from Pennsylvania to New York with no problem, but the same distance could be the difference between France and Germany. Passing border control would create a stutter in the flow of ideas and people. It would be disappointing to allow fear and terror to spark insulation and isolation.

I cannot imagine what being so close to such carnage is like, and I sympathize with the people effected. What I will not do is say my prayers are with Paris, because I believe society needs to re-imagine the place of personal superstition in larger society. France will have to find a way to deal with the radicalization within her boarders and figure out how to stop violent people from traveling through them. Though radical groups are not indicative of any larger religion, one must admit that groups like the Wesbroro Baptist Church or ISIS and people like Kim Davis or the Boston Bomber are all born of archaic world views that are no longer relevant in the modern world. Though tradition has its place in many people’s lives, overzealous clinging to old thoughts is antithetical to empathy and evolution.

I fear these attacks have woken up another destructive ieology: nationalism. Borders are arbitrary. France is not the only country to experience terrorist attacks, even just in this week. Just as closed-mindedness and closed borders halts the flow of ideas, so does identifying oneself with one’s nation, solely. Tragedy is one of many universal truths, and it should dealt as such. This is an opportunity to pour sympathy to those living in Paris and in Beirut, not ignore our common humanity.

Of course, mourning, compassion and empathy are in order. These are reactions one should have to most events, regardless of one’s personal or emotional reaction to them. If you need to believe in a higher power to grasp meaning from the unforgiving day, by all means, continue believing that. But I wonder what gross good these belief systems do when many of today’s terrorists (anti-abortion activist, al-Shabab with their attack in Kenya) are also religious? How many charitable organizations need to be funded to balance out the negative aspects of religion? Demanding special treatment due to religious ideology is the same as doing so for other ethos. Lumbersexuals need to be allowed to wear beards  and goths their black lipstick as much as Christians need to wear crosses in places where those adornments would otherwise be disallowed. I will not pray for Paris because as the Charlie Hebdo cartoon states: we don’t need more religion.

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5 Comments

  1. I respect your opinion because it is balanced with empathy for those who are affected and a strong conviction in your beliefs. This is how I would like to see more people debating. Rather than attacking people for treating their fellow human beings with compassion, we should be able to show that in the moment and air our opinions without minimising the tremendous losses that others have suffered.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I love to hear a contrary opinion. I want to keep rethinking and examining my views. In the aftermath of tragedies in Paris and Lebanon over the weekend we should be talking with and not attacking each other about how we show compassion. Again, thank you for starting the discussion with a cooler head.

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  2. You wrote this so eloquently with the right balance of sympathy and truth. I completely agree that the issue is radicalism and it does boil down to religion. Debate is good, closing our minds us bad.

    Liked by 1 person

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