Thomas Jefferson wrote in an 1802 letter, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”
While this quoted separation is never actually in the written words of the Constitution, the First Amendment has nevertheless continued to prove itself extremely controversial to the hearts and minds of Americans.
Last week in Bradford County, Fla., a group of atheists decided to erect America’s first “atheist monument,” near a small Christian group’s display of the 10 commandments found in the Bible’s Old Testament.
Regardless of your personal interpretation of morality and law, this monument’s commencement may seem like something completely irrelevant to the progression of this country.
Digging a little deeper, however, this “monument” becomes the epitome of secular hate toward all things religious.
The monument, according to The Huffington Post, will display “Biblical quotes that supporters say correspond to the Ten Commandments, such as Deuteronomy 13:10, which says to ‘stone him with stones’ so ‘that he die’ in reference to people who worship other gods.’”
To put this in perspective, let’s reverse things. Imagine that the atheists of the world have some sort of religious text, and that they peacefully built a monument near a public courthouse in Arizona. Would it be appropriate for a Christian group to mock this text by erecting a nearby monument solely for the purpose of belittling the concept of atheism by using the text of its own “holy” book? Would it be appropriate for them to engrave logical arguments against atheism onto it?
Of course not.
The Florida-based Christian group is merely using this monument as a peaceful way of expressing what they believe is important to their god; they aren’t using it as a platform to attack any other faiths.
This is the main difference between the two monuments, and it’s a profound difference that serves to pointlessly magnify the spiritual and cultural battle in the U.S.
While I vehemently disagree, yet sympathize with secularists who are trying to remove all aspects of religion from society, I cannot help but think that this monument’s purpose is not to attempt to “spread” atheism; instead, it is an attempt to publicly belittle religion.
Why not, for instance, erect a monument without Biblical quotes?
Why not quote Friedrich Nietzsche or some other prominent atheist?
I understand that atheism is inherently at odds with any form of religion that adheres to any concept of “god,” but that doesn’t give atheists the right to act so lewd and disrespectfully toward other religions.
Simply, I do not question the legality of the monument; rather, I question the legitimacy of its premises and the purposes behind its erection.
Respect is something that transcends religion. It is something that atheists, Christians, Muslims, Mormons and members of every religion should consider highly important.
Remember the Florida pastor who made it a national point to burn every Quran he could get his hands on? As a Christian, I’m deeply saddened at this and even more frustrated with the fact that this pastor apparently did not believe that the peaceful free market of ideas could not produce a victor.
What is this man trying to prove? Even if the burning was just a publicity stunt, it’s disrespectful, contradictory and ridiculous. Every Christian should condemn it, regardless of the holy book being burned.
Perhaps spiritual respect is too much to ask, but it is crucial to the peaceful act of worship in America.
Tell Sean what you think about the atheist monument at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @sean_mccauley