On June 28th the first public Atheist monument was erected outside the Bradford County Courthouse in Starke, Florida. The construction of this monument was spearheaded by local residents whom at first attempted to have a neighboring monument depicting the Ten Commandments removed. Instead of going to court, local authorities simpl sanctioned the construction of this new tribute only a few yards away from the Christian monument.
At first I considered this monument a victory for the not only Atheists, but also those religions that are generally less celebrated in the public, or in this case, in the federal eye. It was after reading the various messages engraved around the outside of the monument itself when I started to feel differently.
One side of the monument reads:
“An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty banished, war eliminated.”
Another side of the monument lists quotes from our nation’s founding fathers such as the following from Thomas Jefferson:
“Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”
And another side of the structure depicts a list of Old-Testament punishments for breaking the Ten Commandments such as cursing, stoning and death as an attempt to publicly expose the “hateful” side of the Bible.
Yes, it is a great sign of progress when Atheist monuments can be erected side-by-side with Christian monuments. However this small victory has been overshadowed by the discreet yet obvious belittling messages the American Atheists aimed towards Christianity.
My real issue is that it seems as if the American Atheists are looking for influence and publicity rather than equal representation. Christianity has had thousands of years to develop into the religion it has become, and thousands of years to round up billions of supporters. A monument outside a courthouse in Florida is going to convince everybody that Christianity is a thoroughly hateful faith, no matter how many quotes you throw on there.
And more importantly, I believe it would be better if those who advocate for Atheism should focus on creating a sense of identity rather than discrediting any particular faith bases group or belief.
My hope is that when American Atheists get another swing at making their mark in the public domain they do so with unique and distinct messages, a little less insult and a little more class.
Write back and let me know what you think!