A benchmark for atheists 10

This is from the Washington Post:

A group of atheists unveiled a monument to their non-belief in God … to sit alongside a granite slab that lists the Ten Commandments in front of the Bradford County [Florida] courthouse.

As a small group of protesters blasted Christian country music and waved “Honk for Jesus” signs, the atheists celebrated what they believe is the first atheist monument allowed on government property in the United States. …

American Atheists sued to try to have the stone slab with the Ten Commandments removed from the courthouse lawn in this rural, conservative town in northern Florida. Their demand was not met, but they were told they could erect their own monument in “what is described as a free–speech zone”.

It ‘s not just a monument, however:

“When you look at this monument, the first thing you will notice is that it has a function. . . we selected to place this monument in the form of a bench,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists. …

The event – on Saturday June 29, 3013 – made a small stir:

About 200 people attended the unveiling. Most were supportive, although there were protesters, including a group from the Florida League of the South that had signs that said, “Yankees Go Home.” …

After the 1,500-pound granite bench was unveiled, people rushed to have their pictures taken on it. The bench bears quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of American Atheists. It also has a list of Old Testament punishments for violating the Ten Commandments, including death and stoning.

The event did not pass entirely without drama. A Christian “jumped atop the peak of the monument and shouted his thanks to the atheists for giving him a platform to declare that Jesus is real.” [He isn’t – ed.] But “atheists shouted at him, and he stepped down after about a minute”. …

The atheists said they expected protesters.

“There always are,” said Rick Wingrove, director of a Washington, D.C., area office of American Atheists. “We protest their events, they protests our events. As long as everybody’s cordial and let people speak. This is our day, not theirs. We’re fine with them being here.”

Could we now have a monument to non-belief in socialism in the grounds of the White House?  

  • Ralph

    Public property should not be used to advance any political, theist or atheist
    opinions.

    • liz

      I agree, but since it was already being used to display the 10 commandments, why not?
      I personally wouldn’t have protested for the removal of the 10 commandments to begin with. It seems counter-productive to atheism to be aggressively against something like that, which can be seen as part of our historical culture rather than religious only.
      But the atheist monument may have some positive results for some.

  • Someone

    Why the Jefferson quote on the monument. He was a Christian and a Jesuist. Ever heard of his New Testament he put together?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson_Bible

    • liz

      Actually he was more of a Deist. He didn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus, which would disqualify him from being a Christian.
      Although he may not have been a full fledged atheist, he still recognized the detrimental nature of organized religion, and the importance of allowing Reason to reign in its place.

    • Jillian Becker

      Jefferson is generally regarded as a deist (one who believe in a creator god who did not then interest himself in his creation or the affairs of men). Jefferson was definitely not a Christian. And he staunchly defended atheism from contumely.

      These quotations come from Wikipedia here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson_and_religion

      In 1786, the Virginia General Assembly passed Jefferson’s Bill for Religious Freedom, which he had first submitted in 1779. … The law reads: “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious
      opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by
      argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

      In his 1787 Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson stated: “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth…”

      Jefferson did not shrink from questioning the existence of
      God. In a 1787 letter to his nephew and ward, Peter Carr, who was at school, Jefferson offered the following advice: “Fix Reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a
      God … ”

      Jefferson’s views on Jesus and the Bible were mixed, but
      were progressively far from what was and is largely considered orthodox in Christianity. Jefferson stated in a letter in 1819, “You say you are a Calvinist. I am not. I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.”

  • WmarkW

    The above two posts crystalize a discussion atheists need to have, about what the lack of a “trade dress” of a religion limits atheism’s appeal. Atheism qua atheism does not immediately lend itself to creating inspiring architecture, art, or music, nor to forming a community for weekly singing, inspiration or rituals. Even literature, which is probably atheism’s best cultural expression, gets rather tiresome after you’ve read “God does not exist” enough times.
    I recently read “Religion for Atheists” by Alain Botton, and while I don’t agree with all his conclusions or recommendations, he makes some useful observations about what religion does, even if you don’t believe in it.

    • liz

      The effort to create community around atheism is hindered by both religion and the left, as so many things are. Christians have hijacked conservatism and given it a bad name among atheists, and leftists have hijacked atheism and given it a worse name than it already had among Christians.

    • Andrew

      Sam Harris described atheism in this speech as a means of clearing the way for a better conversation:

      I’d prefer it remain that way. Anything useful about religion is useful not because of its connection with religion, but because the behavior or trait itself has benefits. Symbolism, community, and storytelling do not need Joshua or Muhammad’s murderous armies to lend them value. Harris argues elsewhere* that atheism is not as alluring or fulfilling as intellectual honesty, and I wholeheartedly agree with him.

      I’ve long been a fan of Harris for his willingness to scavenge these useful vestiges of religion and leave behind the rotting dogma. He’s particularly good on the subject of consciousness, which will be the theme of his next book. Just don’t ask him about economic policy and he won’t disappoint.

      * Just in case HTML no longer works here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODz7kRS2XPs&t=4m6s

  • Kelly

    This kind of thing always makes me cringe a little. Atheism isn’t a religion, and stuff like this just plays into the (often disingenuous) insistence by religious people that it is. Atheists aren’t religious, so we don’t need public monuments to our lack of belief. I also find the use of the atomic symbol worrisome here. It seems to be elevating science to the status of a religion — which is to say, unquestioned, infallible, and to be defended with mindless aggression. As an atheist, I want no part of this kind of thing.

    • liz

      I have cringed at other stuff the American Atheists have done, but not so much with this one. It at least gets some statements out there that support the legitimacy of atheism, and that might cause some who read them to think. So many Christians are so ignorant about atheism, regarding it with fear and loathing. Maybe reading something rational that Jefferson or Adams said will have a positive effect.
      But I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t long before some “defender of the faith” just can’t resist smothering it with graffiti.