A while ago I read a great blog post by Amanda over at Musings from a Misfit Named Amanda regarding Christians who think they are being persecuted and prayer in school among other topics. Amanda was recounting an online conversation she had with a person who believes a moment of silence is a compromise for those people who do not want public prayer. That person wrote, “That’s why I say having a few moments of silence is the best option-those who want to pray can pray quietly, and those who don’t can simply reflect on the situation, or whatever they choose to do. If it’s silent, everyone can do what they want w/o bothering others :)  It won’t kill anyone to be quiet for a few moments lol-both sides should just respect the other’s rights, even if their beliefs r different, is what I’m getting at…”

This stuck with me for quite some time, getting me angrier and angrier until finally I felt the need to post my opinion.

As an atheist, I am entirely opposed to forced public prayer, whether it be in schools, or any other public forum (unless, of course it is in the confines of a church/mosque/temple with other, like-minded individuals.) But, at the risk of stating an unpopular opinion, I am also against a forced/organized/national “moment of silence”. For example, to commemorate a tragic event like the events of September 11th, 2001, I think a moment of silence is insulting. Insulting to all of the people who rushed to ground zero to save survivors and dig bodies out of the rubble and debris. Insulting to all those who lost loved ones in the attacks. Insulting to all the people who are now suffering from Cancer and other deadly diseases as a result of actively helping rescue others from the wreckage. These people could still use financial and legislative help. My suggestion is, instead of using a ‘moment of silence’ to bow your head and look sad and thoughtful, why not use it to write a check to a first responders charity… or a letter to the Federal Government, demanding that insurers cover the ailments of first responders and area residents. If more people had gone that route, perhaps it would not have taken 11 years before the President officially recognized the need to financially compensate these people.

Is it just me, or does a ‘Moment of Silence’ look an awful lot like prayer? To me it’s a lot of pomp and circumstance accomplishing absolutely nothing. Perhaps people should remember the words of Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”  and actually do something to help others instead of just stand there doing nothing.

7 thoughts on “Shhhhhhh

  1. It doesn’t just like like prayer, it is prayer but stealthily not called prayer so everyone in the know can pray while those clueless non-believers are hoodwinked into letting it happen without complaining. I think in your example a good use of the moment is to shout loudly how fucking useless it is to stand quietly, hanging your heads, get out your check books and DO something.

  2. I don’t see anything wrong with people taking a moment of reflection, especially if that moment leads them to write a check to one of the very admirable causes that you cited. If more people on the left or the right took a moment to think before they spoke, then my country would be better served.

    And I may be an atheist, but I still call out to the universe, I still wish upon a star and I am still capable of wonder. Someone can call it a moment of prayer, but I name it a moment of felicity… just me, the universe and a little gratitude.

    Thinking before one speaks is not doing nothing. It helps make our actions count.

    1. I absolutely agree that more people should think before they speak, but that was not what I was talking about. When people choose to be silent and think that their silence is somehow helping the situation it is a problem for me. I would like to know just how many people, following a national moment of silence are moved into action, and how many come out of it thinking that they have done their part simply by being silent for that moment. I would venture to guess that the latter group far exceeds the former.

  3. I totally agree with you. That thought had never crossed my mind. Even if you can’t donate money, spend the time to write a letter or volunteer to help people in hospitals and hospices that have been effected. Or even take a moment to tell other people so maybe spreading the word about doing something will ignite more people to take action. Wonderful. Thank you.

  4. A moment of silence may be respectful and whatnot, but if you think about it, it’s only a gesture of respect because we made it that way. You’re totally right, it doesn’t actually serve any other purpose other than carrying on another tradition. Personally, I wouldn’t mind standing there for a few moments and participating in paying my respects to those who have passed, but at that moment I’d also be thinking, “What could we be doing for their friends and families?” One could argue that actions speak louder than words, but standing passively with a bowed head doesn’t seem like “action” to me.

  5. I would only ask one question in regards to the thoughts presented regarding a moment of silence as a sign of respect. That question is “What would you do out of respect at a graveside?” Would you write checks? I sincerely hope not. Would you write letters or have a rally? Would you “shout loudly how fucking useless it is to stand quietly” No, you would respectfully remain quiet, bowed head or no bowed head, perceived prayer or no perceived prayer. Perhaps I’m the only one who feels this way, but, were I someone who deserved some sign of respect, I would be more honored by the simple gift of life’s most precious commodity, time, in my honor. The act(ion) of keeping oneself silent for a moment is not, in my opinion, passive or useless.

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