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New York Times: Following Newtown tragedy, humanists seem absent

Published: Saturday, Aug. 29 2015 4:04 a.m. MDT

Mourners exit St. Mary Of The Assumption Church after the funeral of Anne Marie Murphy on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 in Katonah, N.Y.  Murphy was killed when Adam Lanza, walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself.  (Lindsay Niegelberg, Associated Press) Mourners exit St. Mary Of The Assumption Church after the funeral of Anne Marie Murphy on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 in Katonah, N.Y. Murphy was killed when Adam Lanza, walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26, including 20 children, before killing himself. (Lindsay Niegelberg, Associated Press)

Our take: New York Times reporter Samuel G. Freedman examines how in times of crisis — like the Newtown, Conn., shooting — faith has helped mourners cope. Freedman highlights the religious beliefs of the grieving families and community members and notes that although the percentage of Americans without religious affiliation is growing rapidly, the "nones," seem largely absent in the wake of this tragedy.

Since the Newtown massacre on Dec. 14, the tableau of grief and mourning has provided a vivid lesson in the religious variety of America. An interfaith service featuring President Obama, held two days after Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, included clergy members from Bahai, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and both mainline and evangelical Protestant congregations.

The funerals and burials over the past two weeks have taken place in Catholic, Congregational, Mormon and United Methodist houses of worship, among others. They have been held in Protestant megachurches and in a Jewish cemetery. A black Christian youth group traveled from Alabama to perform “Amazing Grace” at several of the services.

In this Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 file photo, a mourner of teacher Anne Marie Murphy, who was killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., hugs an officiate at St. Mary Of The Assumption Church after a funeral service in Katonah, N.Y. As the shock of Newtown's horrific school shooting starts to wear off, as the headlines fade and the therapists leave, residents are seeking a way forward through faith, community and a determination to seize their future.  (Craig Ruttle, Associated Press) In this Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 file photo, a mourner of teacher Anne Marie Murphy, who was killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., hugs an officiate at St. Mary Of The Assumption Church after a funeral service in Katonah, N.Y. As the shock of Newtown's horrific school shooting starts to wear off, as the headlines fade and the therapists leave, residents are seeking a way forward through faith, community and a determination to seize their future. (Craig Ruttle, Associated Press)

This illustration of religious belief in action, of faith expressed in extremis, an example at once so heart-rending and so affirming, has left behind one prickly question: Where were the humanists? At a time when the percentage of Americans without religious affiliation is growing rapidly, why did the “nones,” as they are colloquially known, seem so absent?

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