She Can’t Say Nice Things About the Atheist Monument Because She Fears ‘Retaliation from Christians’

Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times has a nice story about American Atheists’ monument now up in front of the Bradford County Courthouse:

AA President Dave Silverman sits on the bench (via @AmericanAtheist)

Most of it rehashes why it’s there in the first place, but I loved two particular bits.

The first is about the Christian group that refused to take its Ten Commandments monument off the property, ultimately leading to AA putting up a monument of its own:

The county at first asked the Christian group to remove the Ten Commandments, but its members threatened their own lawsuit. The law was on their side, Mr. [Charles C.] Haynes [of the Religious Freedom Education Project] said. Courts have ruled that while government entities may not sponsor displays of religion, private groups can sponsor religious displays on public property.

The county, the Christian group and American Atheists then entered into mediation. The county decided to declare the space a “free speech zone,” and the atheists proposed their own monument, said Mr. Loukinen, who participated in the mediation. (Representatives of the men’s fellowship could not be reached for comment, but posted on their Facebook page that “God worked this out.”)

So there you go: God settles court disputes! I guess Christian groups were perfectly fine when the Supreme Court ruled on DOMA and Prop 8 because it was God’s will, right?

And then, there’s this somber moment:

This week, the atheist monument was already drawing visitors. Teenagers in a summer camp from New Hope Baptist Church in Mayo, Fla., about 75 miles away, gathered around it and bowed their heads in prayer. For hours, no one ventured to sit on the atheist bench until David Roberson and a friend arrived from Tampa. Mr. Roberson declared it “fantastic” and took photographs of his friend posing on the bench.

“It’s very inviting,” said his friend, Maria, a nurse who did not want to give her last name because she said she was afraid of retaliation from Christians. “It’s hands on, to include people rather than exclude.”

To paraphrase: I don’t want to say nice things about this bench, because I’m afraid Christians will say nasty things about me.

That’s the reputation Christian churches have made for themselves in America: If you’re not with us, we hate you. I’m not saying that’s an accurate statement, but when church leaders so often say awful things about so many groups of people (like gay people, women, liberals, etc), it’s not hard to believe they’ll also retaliate against anyone who speaks favorably of atheists.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • James Lindsay

    True story on the somber bit. I had to become a lot less public and active on my views because of threats to my employment opportunities as an outspoken atheist. At least there’s the internet.

  • pierre

    Is she wrong to believe that?

    • McAtheist

      From the outside, looking in (from Canada), I would say “no”.

  • DG

    Now, does she have proof that there would be retaliation? I mean, can she name names? Give actual evidence? I mean, really? What Christians? Ones she works with? Her bosses? I mean, this is nothing other than hatred and contempt of Christians as a people to say this. You might as well be talking about Blacks in the south in the 1800s, or Jews in Germany in the 1930s. To believe this about people without evidence says more about the person doing the believing than about the people they’re believing about. Not to mention the irony that in saying this about ‘Christian churches in America’, you’re basically doing the very same thing you’re saying Christian churches in America have earned the reputation of doing – saying bad things. Even if you try, somewhat limply, to qualify it. (by the way, do liberal church leaders speak hatred about women, gays and liberals? Or does that distinction even matter in such a ham fisted post?)

    • WingedBeast

      She doesn’t have to specify. Just take the population of Christians, accept that a percentage of them will be jerkish enough to retaliate against her and that, from the general privileged position Christianity has in this country, feel less social pressure not to retaliate than other Christians.

    • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

      Shirley…

    • nontheist

      You just provided proof! Self-righteous and spiteful!!

    • Steven Hewett

      DG apparently you have not seen what happened to me in my town after returning from Afghanistan. Watch this video and you’ll see her fears are justified. Luckily I’m retired so those who wished me harm concerning my income and those who wanted to run me out of town were unable to do so.

      http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8ucVDpmFz-E

      • Geoff Boulton

        Just listening to some of the things that the ‘Jesus is love’ brigade were saying sent shivers down my spine.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        The link needs repair. I’m going to try to make time to watch that this weekend.

        Hey, someone else lost in the wilds of NC!

    • DougI

      Perhaps either from past experience or hearing Christians talk. Fundies can be quite honest with how they feel about Atheists when they think only fellow fundies are in the room.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Please crawl out from under the rock you currently call home and look at reality.

      This is not “hatred and contempt for Christians.” This is predicting what she would face based on previous actions by other Christians in similar situations. There are hundreds of articles around the internet documenting Christians getting offended at the mere presence of something that supports Atheism. There are also hundreds of articles where politicians, religious leaders or just everyday Joe Christians talk about how evil Atheists are, strawman us, and generally run us to the ground.

      If you honestly think that this woman’s reaction is some kind of persecution, then you need to go see a shrink. You have a serious martyrbation issue. You would be much better off if you learned to control it, and came to grips with the fact that not everyone who says things you personally don’t like means to slander you and rob you of your freedoms.

    • KinzuaKid

      What kind of proof would you like? I don’t suppose it matters, since you’ll likely reject any proof that’s offered. How do I know? Countless examples of just the sort of retaliation she mentions are detailed on this blog, daily and yet you ask the question as though it’s to be taken as an honest inquiry instead of the disingenuous trolling that it is. Heck, those examples are detailed on dozens of blogs, news reports and police blotters all over the US every day but you’re not interested in them. We’re pretty clear on what you are interested in, however.

      PS: it’s not irony to call out churches which purport to be all about love and forgiveness for hate and grudge-holding. It’s the hate and grudge-holding that are ironic.

    • TheG

      Sorry, it is more like talking about Germans in Germany, Poland, etc. in the 1930′s or 40′s. Sure, as a Jew, you may not get killed today or tomorrow, but as long as you wear that yellow star (or red “A” in this case), you will be a target that will soon be hit.

      (edit for clarity)

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Consider using Google. Or hey, just read this website, this one right here that you frequent, and you’ll see examples of what Maria is talking about. Would that be too much trouble?

      Your disingenuous race-baiting is childish and evil. You should ask Jesus for forgiveness.

    • Nathan Browett

      you’re an idiot. Maybe go look at some views Americans hold of atheists on the internet, not hard to find. My favorite is, “lets just kill them all and let god sort them out”, or this one is good too “I hope all you atheists get raped and murdered, I hope it’s slow and painful” LOL pull your head out of your ass idiot.

    • The Other Weirdo

      Considering the reaction from Christians every time there’s some sort of atheist victory, especially in high schools, she doesn’t need to provide proof, as it is self-evident.

    • Jim Jones

      Google (atheist billboard vandalized).

      About 93,600 results.

  • http://www.nakedape.net.au/ NakedApe

    Way to go. You Yanks have really got that freedom of speech thing down pat….

    • Geoff Boulton

      Reminds me of one of those IPhone sceenshots I saw – “Are you free?” – “Damn right I am, this is America!” It seems delusional thinking isn’t only restricted to religious beliefs.

      • Distrbnce

        ^the odd perspective of a humorless world

    • WoodyTanaka

      “Yanks”??? This thing’s in Dixie. It’s like referring to the people of Glasgow as “you Englishmen”…

      • Geoff Boulton

        Except that Glasgow’s in Scotland, not England. Anyone here read that other stereotype about Americans, that they don’t know geography?

        • moose

          Um, yeah, that was his point–calling people from Glasgow “Englishmen” would be incorrect. It’s pretty clear he knows where Glasgow is located. He was pointing out that calling people in the south “Yanks” is also incorrect. As someone from New England, I can assure you I have never called myself a Yank–it means something completely different up there, just as it means something different to a non-American. It’s not just Americans who lack geographic knowledge.

          • Nathan Browett

            all Americans are Yanks……………

            • WoodyTanaka

              Yes, in exactly the same way that all UKers are Englishmen.

          • Geoff Boulton

            I’m well aware of the difference between Yankies and Confederates. However, Yanks outside America refers to American in general, not a relic of the Civil War. In any case, it isn’t important, it’s just a bit of leg-pulling. Lighten up folks.

            • moose

              Oh, for goodness’ sake, I was just defending him from what appeared to be an accusation that he didn’t know the difference between England and Scotland. You did basically imply that by mentioning how geographically-illiterate Americans can be. It was just a weird place to write a put-down of “Yanks” because it was a reply to an American who DOES know geography.
              And, yes, I know everyone outside the U.S. uses “Yanks” to refer to us and it has nothing to do with the Civil War. I was just pointing out that in New England, it has a meaning separate from not only the Civil War, but the revolutionary war, as well. It means WASP, especially those who came over on the Mayflower or shortly thereafter. One of the reasons I eventually became atheist was that I was fortunate enough to grow up in an area of the country with a long history of freethinkers. Now that I’m living farther south, I find myself wanting even more to distinguish myself from the people around me. I am truly sorry if I came off as angry–you have no idea what it’s like being surrounded by religious whack-jobs. It’s very tempting to become overly sensitive!

              • Geoff Boulton

                I should have made it clearer I was leg-pulling. You have my sympathy having to put up with the nonsense around you. I’m surrounded by 96% Catholics and I know it’s no fun!

        • Sven2547

          (wooooosh)

  • DougI

    Muslims will kill over a cartoon, Christians will kill over a bench. Why hasn’t Rep. Mike Pompeo come out and openly denounced Christians for their behavior?

    • Physeter

      I doubt any Christians would kill over a bench. Muslims are today where Christians were 500 years ago.

      • DougI

        As we’ve seen in Africa, Christians will kill for a lot less than the bench is worth.

      • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

        maybe not a bench but certainly a doctor of an abortion clinic

  • Rain

    When Dave’s tie even looks better than the bench, then something is seriously, seriously wrong.

  • Matt

    I just wish that bench wasn’t so effing ugly :( What’s up with atheists and terrible design of everything they ever do?

    • named

      So everything anyone who does not believe in a god or gods is terrible looking to you?

      Are you sure you aren’t just bigoted? (Not saying anything about the bench specifically, just the insulting of every historical atheist ever)

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Eh, most modern atheist stuff is pretty awful in design. The billboards and now the bench are not aesthetically pleasing. I think you might be reading too much into Matt’s statement.

        That said, I like that the bench is kind of ugly. It makes a statement. It says we didn’t want to do this, we didn’t care enough to make it pretty, and we’re only doing this because we’re making a point. The ugliness isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. It’s part of the statement of the bench.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        *offers a rubber mallet to help with that dislodged kneecap* That doesn’t resemble what he actually wrote or implied. It’s become a common theme that atheist groups don’t make use of graphic designers.

      • Matt

        Hey, relax, I’m an atheist and a designer. I just find it frustrating that whenever the public sees atheist material it’s usually amateur in quality. I know these groups have less money than christian groups, but they can still do better than this.

    • Hat Stealer

      The stuff that the FFRF does is pretty good. Other than that, yeah, American Atheists has a long track record of creating terrible looking stuff.

      • Jim Jones

        Christians have a long track record of creating terrible looking stuff. Things like millions of tortured and murdered bodies. Things like the burned remains of the religious artifacts and worship places of others. Things like empty villages and orphaned children thanks to AIDS or other diseases spread by silly religious theories. There’s no shortage of ugliness that can be related to their foolishness.

        The bench is ugly. Just not as ugly as religion.

        • Hat Stealer

          Then again, they didn’t make that bench.

          (I kid, I kid.)

    • Tobias2772

      Come up with your own design before ytou criticize other’s.

      • Matt

        I’d happily volunteer design time to any of these groups. I’ve also seen plenty of other designers say the same thing. They’re not interested for some reason.

        • Tobias2772

          Matt,
          Wow, I’m really surprised. Why wouldn’t they take the free services of a professional ?? There’s gottta be something else going on here. Can anybody shed any light on why these organizations would avoid this kind of professional help ?? Can you tell me any more, Matt ?

          • Matt

            I assume it’s because they don’t give a shit about design. Some people are just design-blind. I can’t think of any other reason that would make any sense.

  • busterggi

    “That’s the reputation Christian churches have made for themselves in America: If you’re not with us, we hate you. I’m not saying that’s an accurate statement”

    Well then permit me, the Christian churches in America have made the reputation for themselves that if you’re not with them, they hate you.

  • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

    I’m a lot less worried about them saying nasty things to/about her than I am of them hurting her, threatening her family or friends, getting her fired from her job, sabotaging her place of business, or wreaking havoc on her home or personal property. And let’s face it, every single one of us is expecting that bench to be vandalized very soon by one of these self-appointed paladins of the Prince of Peace.

    If Christians were actually in the right, nobody would be worried about what any of ‘em would think or say in response to someone showing support for dissenters. When people fear to say anything except anonymously, that’s a very big signal that something’s terribly wrong.

    • Maria

      Hi, this is Maria from the article. While I think this is a great blog article overall, I feel I need to clarify a few things.

      First, I did not fear saying nice things about the monument. In fact, I did say nice things about it in the article. What I did fear – what I “can’t say” — is my full identity.

      Second, and I think Captain Cassidy said it best, I am not afraid of their words – I am fearful of all the other backlash from the hardcore fundie extremists who have nothing better to do than further their biblical agenda in the literal sense – these “Christian Warriors” who are so famous for violence and vandalism. I have seen online countless pictures of Flying Spaghetti Monster placards broken in half, cars with even the most benign atheist bumper stickers keyed, and much worse unspeakable actions. Also, as an employee AND a business owner, I have to responsibly consider these obligations prior to publicly commenting on ANY subject.

      Some atheists may consider this cowardly – but for me, this is where my comfort zone is at this point in my life.

      Thanks for your blog on this article – it’s great, however, I just wanted to shed light on where I was coming from.

      Sincerely,

      Maria

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    I wonder what exactly those children from New Hope Baptist Church were told (by an adult) to pray for?

    • MD

      For lightning to strike the bench?

      I hope the kids read some of the quotes on the bench. Regardless of its aesthetic merits, the bench will hopefully get some people thinking.

      • ByTor

        Agrred. I suspect it’s words will have more long term impact and influence #hope

  • Rain

    http://jacksonville.com/news/florida/2013-06-15/story/atheists-monument-will-sit-alongside-ten-commandments-latest-speech

    He thinks including punishments for the laws of the Old Testament misses a major point about Christianity — God took that judgment for us through the death of Jesus, he said

    Yeah because we’re so clueless even though we heard that a million times already. Oh aren’t you so warranted in your beliefs because the people that don’t believe your beliefs Just Don’t Get It™.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Well, you clearly just don’t understand the Sophisticated Theology™ of “It only applies when we say so.”

    • Stev84

      Never mind the immorality and barbarity of requiring a human sacrifice instead of simply forgiving.

      • sane37

        Or the stupidity of believing the that your imaginary friend is real.

  • Squirrelek379

    I don’t blame her for thinking that there would be some form of retaliation. It’s certainly unfortunate, and I think that things are getting better, but it will be years before we don’t see things like this anymore.

  • RandomNews

    The next quote in the article is more disturbing in my opinion:

    “This is something we thought we would never experience in a small town,” he [Chad Reddish] said. “It points out how many people don’t believe in God, and have different opinions.”

    • Tobias2772

      RN,
      I find it hopeful. This guys is, perhaps for the first time, realizing that not everyone feels or believes the way that he does. Maybe he will deal with that realization is a positive manner – maybe not. But at least he has to deal with the idea that we are a diverse people. Here’s hoping that he is humane with that idea.

  • Free

    The bench represents the freedom of speech protected by the US Constitution. For every deemed legal display of religion, the atheist has the freedom to the same. You win some you lose some. As a Christian if I were to state my views on homosexuality in public I would be labeled and fear being ostracized. I have heard of Christians crying “persecution” on these blogs. Isn’t this post about atheist “persecution”? Don’t we all experience opposition? Opposition is a better word in most cases for persecution. Leave persecution for those that best fit the definition.

    • baal

      Um, the atheistic bench isn’t there as a monument to free speech. It’s there to make a point by using a ‘limited public forum’. Did you read the OP? Xtians put up a pro-xtian monument on governmental land. That looks like the government is sponsoring xtians. Atheists sued under the establishment clause (which is near free speech in the first amendment). The court said the xtian monument gets to stay but to show the government really isn’t establishing christianity, others can put up monuments and so we did. History has shown that xtians hate reminders of reason and are willing to ditch their endorsement from government if it means they can shove atheists back in the closet. Oddly enough, atheists are ok with -0- monuments that deal with religion on public lands.

      • Free

        Agreed. I would expect more expressions of the Atheist faith in the public arena as a result of this “victory”

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Noting that you’re another nasty little liar for Jesus with that “faith” gibberish so I can treat you as such in the future. Enjoy.

    • blasphemous_kansan

      “Isn’t this post about atheist “persecution”? ”

      Nope. Cute equivalency attempt, though.
      We done here?

    • Bill Santagata

      Freedom of speech does not include the right to place permanent monuments on government property. The “lawyer” from the Religious Freedom Project has it wrong. The Supreme Court explicitly ruled in Pleasant Grove City v. Summum that permanent monuments on government property, even those donated by private parties, constitute government speech and therefore subject to the limits of the Establishment Clause.

      The 10 Commandments is saved in this case because the government is *voluntarily* opening up the area so that it becomes a “limited public forum” : any religion can put a monument there, so the government is no longer showing favoritism for one religion over another.

  • ORAXX

    Not all Christians, certainly, are mean spirited and vindictive. However, some of the most mean spirited and vindictive people I’ve ever known, have been people who made an awful lot of noise about their Christianity.

  • Steve

    Kind of disappointed in David Silverman. The first words on the monument are “An atheist believes”. As president of AA, I’d think he’d know better than to give the go-ahead for that lumping of all atheists into a particular belief.

    • Distrbnce

      Such is the problem with not being a religion… All we really agree on is that we are unconvinced by the myriad god-stories.

    • Mario Strada

      That’s a quote. I supposed they either had to find a different quote or take that as it is. It is from the founder of AA after all.

  • Philo Vaihinger

    And why finish the list of what an atheist does believe with a few choice delusions from the liberal internationalist peacenik list?

    • blasphemous_kansan

      Was this supposed to make sense?

    • Matt D

      What are you talking about?

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Mostly he’s talking about his obsessive white persecution complex, if you check his history. The twit actually complains. MORE THAN ONCE, that Frederick Douglas didn’t think much of people who kept slaves.

  • magna

    Is anyone worried that this “free for all” approach by the courts will open the way for bigger/more monuments from religious groups? This little bench won’t mean much when a 100ft stone ark is built next to it.

  • Chris

    The best part of the whole story is that last quote. Boo hoo, sorry you don’t like being reminded not everyone believes your silly mythology. Get over it.

  • Maria

    Hi, this is Maria from the article. While I think this is a great blog article overall, I feel I need to clarify a few things.

    First, I did not fear saying nice things about the monument. In fact, I did say nice things about it in the article. What I did fear – what I “can’t say” — is my full identity.

    Second, and I think Captain Cassidy said it best, I am not afraid of their words – I am fearful of all the other backlash from the hardcore fundie extremists who have nothing better to do than further their biblical agenda in the literal sense – these “Christian Warriors” who are so famous for violence and vandalism. I have seen online countless pictures of Flying Spaghetti Monster placards broken in half, cars with even the most benign atheist bumper stickers keyed, and much worse unspeakable actions. Also, as an emploHi, this is Maria from the article. While I think this is a great blog article overall, I feel I need to clarify a few things.

    First, I did not fear saying nice things about the monument. In fact, I did say nice things about it in the article. What I did fear – what I “can’t say” — is my full identity.

    Second, and I think Captain Cassidy said it best, I am not afraid of their words – I am fearful of all the other backlash from the hardcore fundie extremists who have nothing better to do than further their biblical agenda in the literal sense – these “Christian Warriors” who are so famous for violence and vandalism. I have seen online countless pictures of Flying Spaghetti Monster placards broken in half, cars with even the most benign atheist bumper stickers keyed, and much worse unspeakable actions. Also, as an employee AND a business owner, I have to responsibly consider these obligations prior to publicly commenting on ANY subject.

    Some atheists may consider this cowardly – but for me, this is where my comfort zone is at this point in my life.

    Thanks for your blog on this article – it’s great, however, I just wanted to shed light on where I was coming from.

    Sincerely,

    Maria

    • Maria

      See corrected comment reposted above. :-)

  • Maria

    (Corrected post)

    Hi, this is Maria from the article. While I think this is a great blog article overall, I feel I need to clarify a few things.

    First, I did not fear saying nice things about the monument. In fact, I did say nice things about it in the article. What I did fear – what I “can’t say” — is my full identity.

    Second, and I think Captain Cassidy said it best, I am not afraid of their words – I am fearful of all the other backlash from the hardcore fundie extremists who have nothing better to do than further their biblical agenda in the literal sense – these “Christian Warriors” who are so famous for violence and vandalism. I have seen online countless pictures of Flying Spaghetti Monster placards broken in half, cars with even the most benign atheist bumper stickers keyed, and much worse unspeakable actions. Also, as an employee AND a business owner, I have to responsibly consider these obligations prior to publicly commenting on ANY subject.

    Some atheists may consider this cowardly – but for me, this is where my comfort zone is at this point in my life.

    Thanks for your blog on this article – it’s great, however, I just wanted to shed light on where I was coming from.

    Sincerely,

    Maria

  • John Brockman

    I think the important takeaway is that, clearly, Silverman’s ass is wet in that picture.

  • May Hemm

    this is also the same excuse so many Xtians hate gays for they are FEARFUL that if they admit that they TOO are gay then they will be BANISHED by the losers they call friends and family…sad isn’t it that FEAR not only runs the Churches but also that ppl so INTERESTED in how and with who someone ELSE is having sex. ah Fear…what a Pitiful group of people BELIEVE IN THAT!

    • May Hemm

      THIS is why If I need a contractor or a repair done and I see a FISH symbol on their auto, I say I am looking for someone who knows how to work not someone expecting to get anything done on their knees praying. And that I do say!


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