Why Did The Atheist Cross The Road?

Why, so he could be offended of course.  The latest decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the war memorial cross at Mt. Soledad as it stands is unconstitutional.  “[W]e conclude that the Memorial, presently configured and as a whole, primarily conveys a message of government endorsement of religion that violates the Establishment Clause”.  I will not be addressing the legal aspects of the case, but instead the reasoning behind bringing a case such as this.  Atheists regularly make claims they are so terribly offended by religious symbols, so offended they cannot even bear to see them.  What is so offensive about a cross at a war memorial?  What drives this offense, and is it even reasonable to be offended?

On page 46 of the 50 page decision, one of the plaintiffs, Steve Trunk, explained that he was “a veteran who served his country during the Vietnam conflict [but] I am not a Christian and the memorial sends a very clear message to me that the government is honoring Christian war veterans and not non Christians”.  I honestly have to ask, does he really think this?  It is hard for me to believe a reasonable person would conclude that a displayed cross at a war memorial is intended to reject anyone who does not affiliate themself with the cross.  If that is not the intent, and I think it is reasonable to believe it is the case that no exclusion is intended, anyone who is offended is being unreasonable and intentionally disruptive.  After all, the decision states that “it does not mean…that no cross can be part of this veterans’ memorial”.  So what is it?  If crosses at the memorial are permissible, what is so offensive about this one, the size?  The bigger it gets the more offensive it gets?  Who decides the acceptable size to offense ratio?

I have a few questions pertaining to the idea that government endorsement of a particular religion as understood by the atheist.  Think back to the Founding Fathers when they wrote the Constitution.  Reading the letters sent between each other as well as other foundational documents, we see they were very careful and took great consideration to the wording and language they used to convey an idea.  Let’s grant for the sake of argument, when the Founders worded the First Amendment that they intended more than preventing Congress from making a law establishing a religion; but that they also intended for the government to not even show favor to or endorsement of a particular religion.  What is it Atheists think the Founders were trying to prevent?  After all, all the colonies and States required specifically Christians to hold public office, and in the case of Maryland, their Constitution permitted at the discretion of the legislature the power to levy a tax for “the support of the Christian religion” (article XXXIII).  If the idea that endorsing a particular religion was inherently a bad thing, why was the concept not unilaterally adopted by the States; most of the men responsible for the U.S. Constitution were also responsible for their State’s Constitutions as well?

So what follows from endorsement (showing general favor), but not establishment (legislating an official denomination)?  Is there the fear Atheists will be forced into churches?  Perhaps that argument could have been made 400 years ago, but surely not now, and certainly not for the past 100+ years.  It does not seem to me that a real harm is cause by endorsement, other than some hurt feelings.  If this is the case I say those whose religion is not endorsed, whoever it may be, is entirely too sensitive.  The cross was erected in 1954 as part of the larger memorial which was dedicated originally to the veterans of the Korean war two years earlier.  What I would like to know is, what actual harm has anyone suffered?  What actual harm will come to people if the cross is allowed to remain?

Of course, Atheists do not see this in themselves, but it is a glaring example of intolerance.  The fact that a religious symbol cannot be permitted to be displayed for the sole reason they do not like it.  It is not representative of their worldview, and therefore must be removed.  Censorship of dissent is a rather poor reflection of character.  “Tolerance” is the common battle cry used to silence opposing points of view.  Those championing tolerance and inclusion are not after actual tolerance or inclusiveness, they are seeking their view to prevail, and no other.  We are told we must be tolerant and include other’s points of view, well, except for the conservative Christian point of view.  Let’s show some tolerance and leave religious symbols where they are.

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Related Article: Finders Keepers

Comments

  1. Isn’t the cross the only thing constituting this memorial? That’s certainly what it seems like to me, but maybe I’m mistaken. If there were a variety of symbols reflecting all sorts of different grave markers, that seems non-exclusive and would be fine. But it’s just absurd on face to say that a war memorial in the shape of a giant cross is not in any way a government endorsement of Christianity or at least message that Christianity matters more than other religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

    • I’m saying, let’s grant for the sake of argument (I don’t think it is), it is an example of government endorsing Christianity, what follows from that? What is the actual harm? What is so harmful that the cross needs to be removed?

      The first amendment prohibited Congress from establishing by law. This could not be an example of establishment.

      • “What is the actual harm? What is so harmful that the cross needs to be removed?”

        So if you die in service to your country, I can bury you under a giant Muslim crescent and you’d be fine with that?

        • Is that what the suit was about? The deceased soldiers? Where was this outcry in 1954-88? Did no one care about the soldiers then? I think the fact that Atheists have been able to set a few precedents and now can move a bit harder with secularization.

          Or is it about a disdain for Christianity and its symbiology.

          • CThe fact that this suit took a long time to materialize does not mean that the issue was voided a long time go. The primacy of Christianity in America has been long established. It is only in the last 20 years that suits like this have really started springing up and challenging that primacy. And you express the typical Christian oppression in your piece. Christians are not oppressed, quite the contrary, actually. Dismantling the primacy of Christianity is what you see occurring. Putting your religion on par with other religions is not oppression, it is equality.

            Contrary to what you would like to believe, this suit was not brought by just atheists, a Jewish group was also among the plaintiffs. And, as Christians complaining about these decisions often do, you failed to answer the question. Are you OK with being buried under Muslim Crescent? How about if the pledge said one nation, under Vishnu” would you find that acceptable?

            It is all pretty humorous, actually. Christians like to think that anything endorsing their religion should not offend anyone. But put the shoe on the other foot and replace Christian endorsement with some other religion, and suddenly you fail to see things as unoffensive.

          • “Where was this outcry in 1954-88?”

            Hiding, because to admit you were an atheist would be massively more damaging to your person and/or career than it is now. (And it’s not exactly harmless to your reputation nowadays.)

            “Or is it about a disdain for Christianity and its symbiology.”

            It is about the disdain for government endorsed religion of any sort.

            A Jewish soldier is just as patriotic and worthy of respect as a Christian one, and he doesn’t deserve being buried under the symbol of a religion he doesn’t believe in, any more than a Christian soldier should be buried under a crescent or a star of David.

            Just because these things have been up for a while does not mean that they should be allowed to stay. If you break the law (or the Constitution), even if nobody says anything about it for years it doesn’t make it suddenly legal and constitutional.

  2. Well, I see myself as an atheist. I do not believe in any gods. I do not know if they or any other “supernatural phenomenon” exist. They have really made no difference in my life. Neither I or any of my atheist countrymen (whom I know quite a few) are in any way annoyed or offended by our national flag, wich is a blue cross on white. I see it only as a historically and culturally natural symbol for our nation. I have never heard that any atheist finn would have been offended by the crosses on our military memorials. For our troops serving in the Middle-East it might have a different effect in the eyes of the local population there, to have the cross sewn on their uniform. Even if it is only a national enblem to us, it is a symbol of many heinous things to a number of people there.

    People are easily ouraged about questions of faith and convictions wether they are religious or atheists. Some people are more easily hurt than others. There are idiots among all people, what ever their convictions, for sure. It is rather harsh to point at all atheists to be easily offended by religious symbols. Maybe it would be more fruitfull to try to examine why some of them are like that. Why do they find religious symbols threatening? Why do some religious people find atheists in general so threatening? I think those are a small minority even among atheists, but a noisy one. However, as these are delicate matters. I think it is important to address them, and point out when people get over the line of common sense. This is why I continue to read and comment your blog (for now at least).

    Without some conversation between different world wievs there can not be understanding and without understanding there is little tolerance. Without tolerance life will become unbearable.

  3. Your attempt to cast the founding fathers as accepting of endorsed religion is a bit faltering. Amazing, how these men that wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution neglected to mention God, Jesus or Christianity in any part of these documents (other than the date at the end of the constitution which was the only standard representation of dates at the time). Maybe it was just a giant, cumulative brain fart?

    And, as I pointed out in my first post, your claims of others being too sensitive is laughable. Look at your post, for instance. You are all bent out of shape at the mere removal of a Christian symbol. Perhaps you are being just too sensitive? :) I wonder, if they were replacing the cross with a Muslim Crescent, would you not have written that article or, perhaps, would your article have been even more incensed? I mean, what actual harm could come from replacing crosses around America with Crescents? Does this help to illustrate the ridiculousness of your argument?

    • I’m not bent out of shape due to its potential removal, but the feigned offense the plaintiffs are usinf to have it removed. Have you read “Finders Keepers” on the nature of Christianity in government?

      • Nope. I have not.

        Why do you call it a feigned offense? You do not think that the Jews and atheists offended by it are really offended? It is quite the bold claim to make that you know the feelings of others.

        • Well, if they are so offended, that the cross is so offensive to them that it cannot be permitted to continue to exist, then they are bigots.

          • I do not think that they are claiming that the cross cannot exist. But I agree with you, some of the militant atheists out there are bigots. They are not alone though. Bigots come in every race, creed, color and religion.

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