A June 24 story described an impressive unity rally at Marion Square calling for stricter gun laws and activism. The rally was inspired by the horrendous murders at Emanuel AME Church in 2015. One notable exception to this call for unity came from the keynote speaker, the Rev. Dr. Jamal Bryant. He said of Christians who look the other way in the face of injustice, “You are just an apostolic atheist.” In other words, Rev. Bryant warned that apathetic Christians are as bad as atheists.
It’s sad to hear such talk from a Christian leader at a unity rally. We are not and never will be a united city and country as long as people denigrate atheists or any other minority while claiming their particular religion is superior. A significant number of atheists and humanists have always worked for civil rights and social justice, and they continue to be an integral part of this community. When I first heard about the shootings at the AME church, I was reminded of another racist shooting that moved a nation to action.
During the Freedom Summer of 1964, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered in Mississippi for attempting to register African Americans to vote. Goodman and Schwerner were both atheists whose humanist principles inspired them to seek equal justice for all people. The month after their deaths, public outrage helped gain passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
As we determine how to improve conditions in our state, let’s all try to be more civil toward people with thoughtful, opposing views.