An atheist activist and lawyer is stirring up a lot of emotions online after he posted a Facebook status encouraging people to not pray for the victims of the Brussels terror attack.
Andrew Seidel is a staff attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation who also blogs about his beliefs, he told BuzzFeed News.
Seidel often blogs about his feelings regarding prayer and religion, and has spoken out after previous terror attacks such as those in Paris in November.
"We will continue to exercise and cherish our freedoms," he wrote at the time. "We will continue to work to drag their ignorant, arrogantly certain ideologies into the enlightened present — though they might kick, scream, and kill."
So when Islamic terrorists attacked Brussels on Tuesday, Seidel decided to speak out again. His words have garnered a ton of reaction, and have been shared nearly 2,000 times.
To everyone who suggests that we pray for #Brussels, more religion is not the answer to this problem. And while those prayers might make you feel good, that's all they are doing. Instead, try donating to a charity, like the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), that actually gets on the ground and helps people. Or donate to an anti-extremist charity the Maajid Nawaz's Quilliam Foundation and help fight what is likely the cause of these attacks. Pray if you must, but in addition to action, not as a substitute, and don't expect much from your prayers. Religion is not the solution, it's the problem.
#PrayForBrussels? Not so much.
Seidel said he decided to write the post because he feels prayers are ineffective, yet continue to be invoked with every terrorist attack.
He said he wanted to encourage people to act in what he felt was a more productive way.
"If everyone got together and donated two bucks each time, then it would have far more impact," he said.
Some people were incensed by his words, saying he was as intolerant as a terrorist.
"Why be negative? That doesn't do anything for anyone," one person wrote.
But other people agreed with Seidel, saying they were glad someone was speaking out about the issue.
"Prayers do nothing no one can prove they ever did since the time started," one person said.
Seidel said the vitriol that some people were spewing against him for his words "kind of proves the point, I think."
Seidel believes the haters are good people, but when they defend religion online, they turn into something they are not.
"When you mix religion in, they become sort of these unreasonable monsters," he said.
Seidel encourages everyone who is outraged about the Brussels attack to donate to an organization that helps fight violence in the name of religion around the world.
"Violence will never compel our silence," he said.
Stephanie McNeal is a social news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Stephanie McNeal at email@example.com.
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