A Monument To Secularism To Answer The Ten Commandments

American Atheists are putting a 1,500 pound granite bench dedicated to secularist values at the Bradford County Courthouse in Florida, after losing a case to have a 10 Commandments monument removed:

The monument features an excerpt from the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams, which declares “The United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion”; and excerpts from the Bible, quoting the biblical punishments for breaking each of the Ten Commandments–many command death.

American Atheists, along with plaintiff Daniel Cooney of Starke, filed suit in May 2012 for the removal of the Ten Commandments monument, citing separation of religion and government because the monument is on government land.

“We have maintained from the beginning that the Ten Commandments doesn’t belong on government property,” said Silverman. “There is no secular purpose for the monument whatsoever and it makes atheists feel like second-class citizens. But if keeping it there means we have the right to install our own monument, then installing our own is exactly what we’ll do.”

“The monument emphasizes the role secularism has played in American history,” said Public Relations Director Dave Muscato. “And the Bible quotes make it clear that the Ten Commandments are not the ‘great moral code’ they’re often portrayed to be. Don’t kill, don’t steal? Of course. But worship only the Judeo-Christian god? That conflicts overtly with the very first right in the Bill of Rights, freedom of religion.”

Good on them. If the government keeps refusing to separate itself from religion, we need to show up every time to demand its displays of religious views be pluralistic and include atheistic representatives. At least that way the message sent is that we are a nation that is home to people with many viewpoints. That’s not a bad message to send.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Kristofer Rhodes

    An awesome idea. Is it a done deal or are they just proposing this? If it’s a proposal and it’s refused, will they have grounds for a new suit?

    • http://camelswithhammers.com/ Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      It’s a done deal. Unveiling soon.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Uh, that’s Bradford County.

    And if the AA has some extra rocks lying around, several other nearby county courthouses could be improved by the same process.

  • Marta L.

    Those Ten Commandments are always such a bad idea. I say that first and foremost as a Christian: they’re bad theology because they’re entirely too reductive and they don’t show the proper respect and love for our (non-Christian, non-theist, whatever) neighbors. And of course as an American citizen I think they run into all kinds of civic problems.

    I wonder, though, if this is the best response. A monument is a great idea – but I think a monument making the positive case for what atheists believe, in explicitly secular terms, would do a better job of communicating what is so beautiful or good about the secular philosophy. I fear this particular quote could be seen as telling religious people what they can’t do rather than celebrating what’s good about atheism. The quote is right and the Ten Commandments monument is wrong for precisely those reasons, but I suspect many religious people would see that and think of the atheists who put it up as being too reactive and negative.

  • Ryan

    Doesn’t this seem like a bit of a “childish” response? “I didn’t get my way, so now I’m going to be as divisive and controversial as possible.” Is this bench actually going to foster dialogue? (something we lack and desperately need) Does quoting Bible verses without context encourage credibility for any faith (or non-faith) perspective? If we want government to be less connected to a particular religion, respond with who you vote for. In the end, lets hope that one day a priest, a rabbi, and a atheist sit down on the bench to eat lunch…I think there is a joke in there somewhere…

    • David Simon

      The Ten Commandments specifically exclude non-Christian Americans. If we can’t get the government that represents us to stop promoting it by repeatedly pointing that out, then it’s only reasonable that we bring attention to this unfairness by taking advantage of the same ridiculous loophole.

      The problem with encouragement to “foster dialogue” (i.e. never say anything offensive), or to use some less noticeable means like voting, is that such a standard seems never to be evenly applied to both sides.

  • JohnH2

    I can see placing the Ten Commandments up at a courthouse along with the Code of Hammurabi, excerpts from the classics of Confucius, and other such things in a display emphasising the importance of the rule of law.

  • http://wateringgoodseeds.tumblr.com/ Shira Coffee

    First off, I found the ought (email coming in a couple minutes!)

    But also, and related to the ought, it seems to me that the reason people of Christian rearing feel that the Ten Commandments are appropriate at courthouses is not ONLY because of evangelism or triumphalism. Rather, I think they feel that these are the words by which people measure and restrain their behavior. As such, it not only seems fitting to display those words in a place of justice, but a call to remove those words feels like an attack on standards of behavior and self-restraint. This is a concern that the quotations on the new bench — which are probably concerned with liberty, though I couldn’t find the exact quotes — are unlikely to address.