Thursday, 1 March 2012

"I believed in the sacredness of life": Dutch atheist who saved more than 100 lives during the Holocaust dies aged 91

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Tina Strobos
Reading the obituary of Tina Strobos, who contributed to the rescue of more than 100 Jews in the Netherlands during the Second World War and who has died in New York at the age of 91, I was struck by a line concerning her motivation for risking her own life for such selfless ends. Speaking in 2009, Strobos explained why she participated in the Dutch resistance to the Nazi occupation (she delivered arms and equipment to resistance fighters) and helped to hide Jews to evade deportation to the death camps by hiding them in her attic:
“I never believed in God, but I believed in the sacredness of life.”
The argument over whether it is possible for atheists to be "good" has always struck me as a particularly absurd aspect of the religion debate – of course the non-religious can be good, and you can find evidence of that in the incredible life of someone such as Strobos, as well as in the innumerable actions of people living in less extraordinary times. So I don't offer this quote from Strobos as a contribution to a dispute over who is more moral, the faithful or the faithless. People of faith and people of no faith committed extraordinary acts of bravery and compassion in the face of the slaughter of innocent people during the Holocaust, but at the same time millions, both religious or non-religious, participated, collaborated or stood idly by. That's an uncomfortable truth, whichever side of the God debate you come down on.

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