CFI Statement on Charleston Shooting: We Must Find Our Common Humanity on Our Shared Journey

June 18, 2015

In our day to day lives, it can be difficult to recognize the common humanity of those who are different from us, those who disagree with us, or those with whom we have little shared experience. In times of tragedy like this, with the senseless loss of nine of our fellow human beings in Charleston, those differences quickly evaporate into meaninglessness, and what we share in common shines brightly against the darkness. It is frustrating that it so often takes heartbreaking events such as this act of terror to make clear what unites us.

The victims of the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church sought wisdom, strength, and community in a different way than those of us at the Center for Inquiry might. But regardless of our differing beliefs, these nine women and men were on the same journey as all of us, navigating our way through this life as best we can, weathering setbacks, celebrating triumphs, and trying to do so with kindness.

Differences in beliefs, politics, and values can be debated vigorously, and these exchanges should be opportunities to learn from one another, and see things from new points of view. Sadly, outrageously, a dangerous few are unable to see the humanity in others. Instead, they use their differences from others to validate a false feeling of superiority—whether racial, religious, or ideological— and to justify acts of violence and terror. As we oppose violence and persecution against our fellow nonbelievers and secularists around the world, so we stand with the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the people of Charleston in defiance of this attempt to strike fear into a community, and we call for those of all belief systems, naturalistic and theistic, progressive and orthodox, to make new efforts to find each other’s common humanity, and find ways to aid each other, no matter our differences, in our shared journey.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at