Today American Atheists will reveal their secular monument outside the Bradford County Courthouse. Here it is wearing a burka to protect the on-lookers from its sexiness:
The monument will be placed as the result of a settled lawsuit that challenged the existence of the ten commandments monument on the courthouse lawn. The secular monument, a stone bench, will contain a quote from the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams (and ratified unanimously by Congress), 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. For most of them, let’s just say the punishment is not a hug (and for all of them except the two that are just plane common sense about not killing or stealing, the rest are not even enshrined in our laws – indeed, it would actually be illegal to do so).
I’ve written before why I’m happy about this monument going up:
The point of having the ten commandments on government property isn’t because they are representative of a great moral framework. “No graven images”…oh no! How will society ever get by without that commandment? The godly want the commandments there to imply that to be American means to be Christian, and to suggest that Christianity is, in fact, endorsed by the government. This monument will be a fantastic counterpoint. The ten commandments come only from the bible, but the secular monument will have a direct quote from a document approved unanimously by the earliest of congresses. One speaks far more for what this country is about.
However, believe it or not, without the slab of ten commandments there I wouldn’t want the secular monument. It’s a courthouse, a symbol that is supposed to represent all Americans. There are two ways to accomplish that: to let every faith put up monuments or allow nobody to do so. And frankly, I don’t consider the lawns of government buildings to be the place to advertise our respective positions on religion.
But since Christians insist on doing so, then I must support the inclusion of the secular monument. I must also be happy when a press release from American Atheists plopped into my inbox yesterday which said:
American Atheists President David Silverman will announce on Saturday 6-29 at noon during his monument unveiling speech that the Bradford County Courthouse atheist monument in Starke, Florida is only the first of many. We plan to work with local groups to install a total of FIFTY monuments on government properties nationwide in places where religious monuments currently stand. An anonymous donor is making this possible.
I support this, as they will be going up only where ten commandments monuments exist. Of course, Christians who were just baffled how anybody could possibly be upset about a monument to their beliefs about god being placed prominently on government property will be positively livid when another group does the same thing. They will, as they have in the past, remain completely oblivious to the irony.
But honestly, even though I support the secular monuments going up, I really hope they don’t last. Here’s what I suspect will happen…
Within a few days (if not a few hours), some believers will think to themselves “What’s this? Words approved unanimously by all the founding fathers I claim to think so highly of?” before taking a stand for their morally empowering savior by vandalizing the secular bench (Tucker Carlson has alluded to the same). This will immediately transform the neighboring ten commandments monument into a monument to how atheists don’t generally assume its ok to destroy other people’s property when presented with ideas they dislike (after all, the Christian monument hasn’t been touched), and to how Christianity doesn’t keep people from being assholes. This will provide American Atheists with millions of dollars in free advertising through news stories to talk about how Christianity appears to empower immoral behavior in ways that atheism does not (as if the repeated vandalism of atheist billboards hadn’t already established that). I suspect this will happen repeatedly around the country.
And then my hope is that every religion decides they want a monument on government property. I hope the Jews, Muslims, Pastafarians, Hindus, Jedis, and freaking everybody with a belief about how a wizard or a sentient animal shit the universe into existence with magic uses this precedent (which was set by Christians the moment they put up the ten commandments, not by atheists) to turn government buildings which represent the nobility of law into their own personal, rent-free billboard. I hope this happens enough that our government finally gets sick of trying to maintain religious equality by letting everybody in and decides to establish equality by letting none of them in.
Which is exactly what they should’ve done in the first place.
This is why the founding fathers put the Establishment Clause in there. If you let all faiths in, they’ll always be vying for control. With so many faiths being mutually exclusive, this can only result in religious inequality of some sort (indeed, it already has). If you want true freedom for all religions, the only realistic way to achieve it is to keep them all out of the government (and keep the government out of them). Christians would realize this if only being in the majority hadn’t robbed so many of them of the empathy required to put themselves in other people’s shoes.