Christians have a monument; Atheists, a petulant middle finger.

Ten-Commandments-HebrewWhen I first saw the headline  I admit being genuinely curious what sort of monument an atheist group would erect.

After all, what is the tie that binds atheism? It seems that by definition “atheists” would reject any attempt to lump them all together with one symbol or phrase that unites and epitomizes an atheist “credo.”

That is, after all, the point of religious monuments. Christians in general will erect a cross, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, a statue of Christ, while we Catholics will include statues of the Blessed Mother or other saints, and a crucifix. Jews have the Star of David or the tablets of the Decalogue. Muslims have the crescent moon.

These things point to a central truth of the faith that all adherents to that faith would immediately recognize and understand and identify with. The item would call to mind the religious duty of the person of faith, the revelation of God to man, the whole she-bang, in some way.

So what would atheists choose to be their monumental sign on the lawn of the courthouse where a monumental tablet of the Ten Commandments sits?

Basically, a middle finger.

 A North Florida county courthouse will soon be home to what’s believed to be the first public monument dedicated to atheism in the nation.

Bradford County has reached a deal to allow American Atheists to install a 1,500-pound granite bench near the county courthouse. The bench will feature quotes from Thomas Jefferson and Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

It will also include a list of punishments for violating the Ten Commandments, including stoning, and will include a quote from the Treaty of Tripoli, a late 18th century peace agreement that declares the U.S. was not founded on Christianity, The Gainesville Sun reported.

That’s it. It’s not a monument “dedicated to” atheism, it’s a monument against Christianity. It does not extol the virtues of, explain the foundational reasons for, or reveal the motivating idea behind anything; rather it attempts to put a thumb in the eye of Christian Americans. It doesn’t even really argue against the existence of God or for a godless universe, just focuses on tearing down Christianity and the Christian underpinnings of America.

They could have gone with something that extolled human achievements or wisdom that they believe occurred apart from any belief in a deity. They could have memorialized accomplishments and good lives of prominent atheists. Heck, they could have taken a stab at a flying spaghetti monster!

For that matter, they could have chosen another, non-Christian, foundational legal code to feature: the Code of Hammurabi, perhaps. Or something that merely said, “You don’t need a deity, just be good to each other.” That would have promoted something somewhat positive.

But no: they chose to raise a petulant middle finger instead.

See: for a Christian believer worth his salt, no quotes from Jefferson, O’Hair, or treaties, and no out-of-the-whole-context-of-salvation history quotes from the Bible will make a whit of difference. We don’t believe America is “founded” upon the Judeo-Christian heritage or that that heritage is vital to the survival of a just Western society just because some of the Founders said so or we want it to be so. We (at least we Catholics) don’t ignore the parts of the Bible that seem hard to square with a just and loving God, because the whole picture of salvation history shows how those things fit in.

A monument like this one is merely a snit. It’s an un-monument. It seeks to tear down rather than build up. But, like all adolescent tantrums, it reveals the immaturity of the perpetrators rather than the stupidity of the targets: the Ten Commandments are not going away, even if some localities bow to pressure to remove their display from public grounds.

But in this instance, this monument to the petulance of some atheists will sit with equal dignity to the Ten Commandments, the words of God that have stood the test of millennia of human history.

But there is an upshot.

It is a bench, after all, so all one has to do to defeat their purpose is, well, sit on it to block the words from view. And, depending on the arrangement, perhaps sitting on it will provide a good vantage point to sit and view and meditate upon … the Ten Commandments!

  • Matt Ferrantino

    *Oops, I mean Catholic Vote. Got my Facebook pages mixed up. 😛

  • Matt Ferrantino

    Wow. Sheesh. Look, there is a GLARINGLY obvious point here that even if, say, one were an atheist, you’d have to give your assent to that Bad Catholic called it:

    That’s a pretty lousy way to celebrate Atheism. I know, like, a zillion ways off the top of my head without even trying to do a hundred times better. My first idea is a Gigantic Black Rice Krispies Box from Mars. (Or was it Jupiter?)
    My second idea is a recreation of the Pioneer Plaque.
    My third idea is the Vulcan Peace Sign.

    And those are actually also half-baked ideas, but that’s better than raw un-baked dumbness.

    I would be Almost Interested in seeing an actually on-topic Humanistic Atheist Monument. One could have done better if they’d erected a great mini-model of “The Black Pearl” next to “The Millenium Falcon”, as few-to-nobody is more Humanist than a Pirate, and they are honestly inspirational folk in their own odd way.

    If all a monument manages to do is make you doubt whether you want to live on this planet anymore because it seems humanity is too much a superstitious and cowardly lot, a better monument would be to nuke the Earth and start over on Mars.

    Find something actually hopeful to talk about- that’s what Monuments are supposed to be….

    I hope plenty of Atheists will be smart enough to realize they need a better monument than a park bench.

    Hang on! Superstitious and Cowardly! THE BATMAN would be a pretty good shot at a concentrated Humanist Monument.

  • Kate O’Hare

    You have it right in the excerpt but not in the text — it’s Madalyn Murray O’HAIR . I’ll claim the airport, but not her.

    • Tom Crowe

      thanks! I’ll update that. (and apologies)

  • Irene Swanson

    ……and may some good but “randomly evolved animal of the species known as canine” come and lift his leg upon it in fitting tribute!

  • BP

    Atheism is NOT a religion or a belief system. It is the rejection of ANY gods. Thus attempts to equate atheism with both past and present BELIEF systems simply masks the discomfort of those who can’t accept the fact that religious faith is belief for no reason.

    • Slats

      You act as if 1) there is or in fact can be any clear scientific evidence to refute the existence of God or of gods as proposed (there is not; that which is usually put forward as such by Dawkins et al. take as their starting point incomprehension of the God proposition), and 2) pretty much every human culture up to a certain point in history didn’t propose the existence of the unseen and supernatural, leaving the burden of proof of rejection of all such on the rejecter. Atheism is a definitive pronouncement on religious matters made without scientific proof (since the nature of the supernatural is that it cannot be empirically observed). Agnostics can legitimately claim that their perspectives are not faith-based religious belief. When atheists try to do the same, it’s an argument in fundamentally bad faith.

  • Gail Finke

    The Treaty of Tripoli? You mean the one where the US agreed to pay off pirates? Yeah. Quote that one. Sheesh.



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