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If Atheists Want a Creed, They Ought to Have One

Atheist Bench

In Florida, some atheists, peeved that a monument to the Ten Commandments could not be protested out of existence, are planning to erect their own monument, celebrating their beliefs:

A small city in heavily Christian northern Florida is about to become home to the first public monument in the United States dedicated to atheism.
 
Florida members of American Atheists, a national advocacy group, plan to erect a 1,500-pound granite display in front of the Bradford County Courthouse in Starke, Fla., next month, opposite a controversial year-old display of the Ten Commandments outside the same courthouse.
 
“We’d rather there be no monuments at all, but if they are allowed to have the Ten Commandments, we will have our own,” said Ken Loukinen, the director of regional operations for American Atheists who designed the monument.
 
The new structure will feature quotes related to secularism from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and American Atheists founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair…It will stand in a small square in front of the courthouse, opposite the 5-foot, 6-ton Ten Commandments monument sponsored by a Christian group.
...
American Atheists sued Bradford County last July, saying the Christian monument in front of the county courthouse was a public endorsement of religion. In response, the county asked Community Men’s Fellowship, the organization that sponsored the display, to take it down. But the fellowship replied by saying it had “prayerfully considered” the request and would not comply. The county and American Atheists went to a court-ordered mediation in March and settled upon the atheists getting their own monument.

I think this is a good idea, and I think the Christians interviewed made a good response to it:

…the [Community Men's Fellowship] posted a statement on its Facebook page after the settlement was reached saying that “God worked this out.”
 
“On the very first day we were informed of the lawsuit, [member] Dan spoke up and said he believed the Lord had given him a word on how to deal fight this thing. He was right. Praise God,” the statement read. “We want you all to remember that this issue was won on the basis of this being a free speech issue, so don’t be alarmed when the American Atheists want to erect their own sign or monument. It’s their right. As for us, we will continue to honor the Lord and that’s what matters.”

Well done, Christians! Tolerance, rightly reasoned and practiced. Some of our secular leadership could take a lesson.

Atheist Bench2

And the monument is also a bench. As a woman with arthritis in the knees and spine, I appreciate such things, perhaps, more than most. The design is nice. I’m wondering about the quotes being planned for inscription, though. None of them are awful, but if the atheists are meaning purely to represent their celebration of reason I wonder why they would choose quotes that mention religion at all.

For instance, this one:

“The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion”
– 1796 Treaty of Tripoli

Aside from sounding defensive, in this context, why single out the Christians? What is this rebutting, exactly? What about the Jews and the Muslims, those wily monotheists? What about the Hindus and their multi-gods, or the Pagans? Shouldn’t an atheist bench either take issue with all faith traditions, or simply not mention them?

I’m not complaining; it is a free country and the atheists can inscribe what they like, but I’m wondering why they felt a need to specifically mention Christianity?

But then, that leaves me to wonder — given the news that the DOJ is pondering ersatz “blasphemy laws” — is this quote meant to be a dig at Muslims?

“When religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”
– Benjamin Franklin

If the quote is not meant to reference Muslims, I can nevertheless see why some, given the headlines, would take it that way.

Again, I’m not complaining about the quote. I’m just critically thinking it through, and wondering.

Then there's this:

“It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service [writing the Constitution] had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the inspiration of Heaven.”
– John Adams

Again, it seems like a non-sequitur. I read it and think, “well…yeah…so?” Including this quote seems defensive, but what is it rebutting? The Ten Commandments? If it is meant to rebut those Christians who tread near to idolatry of the Constitution, I guess I can see that, except, again, if you’re declaring yourself — your beliefs, your organization, your credo — shouldn’t the quotes be about the reason and secularism you are promoting, rather than turning attention elsewhere?

“An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty banished, war eliminated.”
– American Atheists founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair

Finally, I actually like that this quote; it is entirely secular in scope and doesn’t really discuss religion at all. I still don’t know if I would use it, though, simply because it ends up prompting questions of the reader, that could ultimately defeat the monument’s purpose:

An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church.

But…don’t churches build a lot of hospitals? Are there hospitals built specifically by atheists? Should only government build hospitals?

An atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said.

I understand that people who do not pray still do things, but does prayer exclude action? Do people who pray not do things that must be done? Why must it be an either/or? Is it not possible to be a both/and? What about people like this, and this, and this and this?

An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death.

What does this even mean?

He wants disease conquered, poverty banished, war eliminated.

Putting the exclusionary pronoun aside — no gender-warrior, here — is this line suggesting that only the atheist wants disease conquered, poverty banished and war eliminated? But…haven’t non-atheists worked for centuries and millenia toward those goals?

I’m sorry, I read that line and I simply want to paraphrase my cousin the Capuchin“you want to conquer disease, banish poverty and eliminate war? Well, lah-di-fecking-dah, so do I!” I tend to agree with the psalmist, though, in thinking of all three as elements of the human condition, and hostages to human knowledge and (more treacherously) the vagaries of the human heart.

I’m all for the atheist monument, but I think they could find better, more constructive quotes to mark in granite, like:

“Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?”
– Sandra Day O’Connor

Oh, wait, no. Sorry. Just teasing. Seriously — why not these?

"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear."
– Thomas Jefferson

Better, right? Or this?

"The world is indebted for all triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression."
– Thomas Jefferson

C’mon, give the Catholic girl credit; she’s two-for-two!

"The secular argument, or the liberal argument, is to as much as possible remove taboos so things do not become unmentionable; to let some air into the discussion."
– Christopher Hitchens

That’s not bad. It not only suggests a dutiful broadness that is essential to society, it does it without mentioning religion at all.

“But the philosophical and scientific process which I call ‘secularization’ necessarily involves the divesting of spiritual meaning from the world of nature; the desacralization of politics from human affairs; and the deconsecration of values from the human mind and conduct.”
– Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, Islam and Secularism

That’s pretty good, right? Or…

“Whether we “spiritualize” our life or “secularize” our religion, whether we invite men to a spiritual banquet or simply join them at the secular one, the real life of the world, for which we are told God gave his only begotten Son, remains hopelessly beyond our religious grasp.”
– Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy

In terms of brilliant thinkers, they don’t come much more brilliant than Schmemann.

"The defiance of established authority, religious and secular, social and political, as a world-wide phenomenon may well one day be accounted the outstanding event of the last decade."
–Hannah Arendt

I like that, too, except it does encourage a defiance of all authority, and if secularists want to be the authorities, that might get dicey.

"So in my freshman year at the University of Alabama, learning the literature on evolution, what was known about it biologically, just gradually transformed me by taking me out of literalism and increasingly into a more secular, scientific view of the world."
– E. O. Wilson

Speaks to a common experience, yes? And finally, for the materialist side of things:

"From my point of view, there is a tremendous amount to be said for secular humanism."
– Vidal Sassoon

Anyway, good luck to the atheists on their upcoming unveiling. I have no expectation that any of them will take my genuine congratulations and kindly meant suggestions in the good faith they’re offered, but I do hope to visit the monument one day, and when I rest my weary arthritic bones upon it, I will be grateful and I will say, “thank you, atheists, for beginning your long road and heavy task of healing the world, banishing poverty and eliminating war, with the single step of building a bench.”

Be encouraged. Of such small beginnings, greatness has followed. Ask these folks.
 
 
Originally posted at The Anchoress. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: Friendly Atheist)

Elizabeth Scalia

Written by

Elizabeth Scalia is an award-winning writer, a Benedictine Oblate, and managing editor of the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com, where she blogs as The Anchoress. She is also a columnist at First Things and for The Catholic Answer Magazine. Elizabeth was a featured speaker at the Vatican's much-noted 2011 meeting with bloggers from around the world and has a multi-media presence that includes contributions to NPR, CBS News Online, and a stint as a regular panelist on the Brooklyn-diocese-produced current events program, In the Arena, seen at NETNY.net. She is the author of Caring for the Dying with the Help of Your Catholic Faith (OSV), was a contributor to Disorientation: How to Go to College Without Losing Your Mind (Ascension Press), and her latest book is titled Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life (Ave Maria). Follow Elizabeth through her blog and on Twitter at @TheAnchoress.

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  • primenumbers

    Talk about an article that misses the point..... It's not about " some atheists, peeved that a monument to the Ten Commandments could not be protested out of existence" but that Christians are using Government to promote their religion against the 1st amendment rules in the USA's constitution.

    Here's the story:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/05/29/american-atheists-responds-to-ten-commandments-monument-outside-city-courthouse-with-monument-of-their-own/

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/06/29/american-atheists-unveils-godless-monument-in-front-of-florida-courthouse-and-announces-many-more/

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/07/04/she-cant-say-nice-things-about-the-atheist-monument-because-she-fears-retaliation-from-christians/

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      prime, it seems *you've* missed the point of Elizabeth's article. Her aim wasn't to say the Ten Commandments monument should be allowed, or whether the atheist bench should be allowed.

      The whole post was about the quotes the American Atheists chose for their monuments and whether they accurately defined their mission.

      • epeeist

        prime, it seems *you've* missed the point of Elizabeth's article.

        You do realise that he actually quoted her directly?

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          So that's her paragraph, but she moved past that. The first paragraph was not indicative of the rest of the post, I'm interested to see what is thought of the quotes she suggested. She did say she appreciated the monument.

          • primenumbers

            If the first line of an article has a serious issue about it, why not address that first before moving on?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            You're right, I was just saying that I hope you don't end it there!

          • primenumbers

            Well, I try, but the premise continues to be incorrect reading down the article, see: " if you’re declaring yourself — your beliefs, your organization, your credo — shouldn’t the quotes be about the reason and secularism you are promoting, rather than turning attention elsewhere?" - but that supposes that the purpose of the monument is to promote beliefs. The purposes of the monument is to attack Christians using Governemnt via such 10C monuments on public property to promote their religion.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I get that, and that's a good point that I didn't think of until y'all started it saying it on here. It's not a pro-secularism-in-governance monument, it's an anti-religion-in-governance monument. But would you personally rather see a positive message of pro-secularism-in-governance or a negative one of anti-religion-in-governance.

            I realize the distinction may seem semantic, but I think its important.

          • primenumbers

            I'd personally like to see no such monuments on government property.

            If there's a pro-secular statement, the 1st amendment does pretty good, but obviously, it's the breaking of that which is being protested.

            As for secularism, I like:

            Secularism is the ideal by which everyone is equal under the law regardless of belief or lack of belief with no special privileges for anyone or group based on belief or lack of belief.

          • Rationalist1

            Pro-secularism is a stance that many religious people support and Catholics, with the history of anti-Catholicism in the US, should support as well. Secularism means that the government will not support nor unreasonably hinder any religion or now lack of religion.

            Remember when the Lord's prayer was said in public school, it was almost always the Protestant one. If you check, chances are this monument shows the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments. When Bible verses were read in public schools it was almost always from the Protestant King James version.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I'm not saying I'm not pro-secularist. Personally, I think my vote is mine, and if my vote is informed by my faith, that's my right, as its yours to try to convince me otherwise. So I'm pro-secular because I think all people of all (or no) faith should vote, based on their values, wherever those values come from.

            I'm not, however, pro-secularist in the sense that I think everyone's votes should in no way be influenced by religion (I don't know, does anyone feel that way?).

          • Rationalist1

            No one is saying your vote should not be influenced by your religion or my lack of religion. It's just that the government should not have a hand in promoting a religion.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Agreed. But as always there are areas where the venn diagram overlaps, such as (dare I bring it up) DOMA.

            Now, was DOMA duly enacted policy put forth by the representatives of the people, or was it "forcing religion" on people?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            DOMA wasn't anything but an idea, and an idea not much liked by either side.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            It was passed by huge margins at the time. At the time being, what, less than 20 years ago?

          • Rationalist1

            Because it would have been political suicide to oppose it. Most people were intolerant towards homosexuals then. Now it's shifting to the other direction.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Well, whatever language you want to use, it would've been political suicide because the constituents who voted for the representatives liked traditional marriage. Obviously yes, that has changed, I'm just saying to say "neither side liked it" seem to be wrong, and the political system worked. The will of the people won out over the will of the political upper-class. And I live in Washington DC. I know the political upper-class, and you're right, the probably didn't like it, except it made voters happy.

          • Rationalist1

            And that's why there are Bills of Rights, to prevent this pandering to the public opinion.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Thanks, Daniel, see my edit.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Understood, i was confused.

          • BenS

            This also runs into the question as to whether legal discrimination can be legitimately voted for by the people.

            If the majority of people voted for something called DOWMA (the Defence of White Marriage Act) to allow individual states to refuse black people the right to marry, is that acceptable?

          • Rationalist1

            "legal discrimination " Not with a Bill of Rights

          • Rationalist1

            Sorry - I forgot what Doma is and answered incorrectly.

          • severalspeciesof

            I'm not, however, pro-secularist in the sense that I think everyone's votes should in no way be influenced by religion

            I certainly can take to this. I would hope though, that as a voter one would not vote for laws that would override someone else's equal involvement in the partaking of what the rest of the public is allowed (by law) simply on the grounds of their own religion, though they do have that right...

            (I hope I've said this right)

            Glen

          • severalspeciesof

            it's an anti-religion-in-governance monument.

            Not quite, it's a non-religion in government monument...

          • Ben

            Her snide "appreciation" of the monument is hardly sincere. And her smug faux-naive questions - why would atheists specifically mention Christianity in a country where Christian evangelicals are constantly trying to enshrine their faith in law, hmmm, I wonder? And what is with her bizarre trollish attempt to make out that the Franklin quote is something to do with Islam when it is clearly about separating church and state?

            You can tell from her photo that she's a smug, awful Church lady. I hope she trips over the monument and breaks her hip.

          • severalspeciesof

            I hope she trips over the monument and breaks her hip.

            That was quite uncalled for...

            Glen

          • Rationalist1
          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            What do you mean, these people?

          • Rationalist1

            The jerk who jumped up on the monument during its dedication and started preaching and the moron that threw a toilet seat at the crowd.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Ah yes, Creationists.

            You know, I had talk with an actual Creationist for the first time last month. I had never spoken to one before that. It was... eye-opening? It was something, anyway.

          • BenS

            My advice regarding conversing with creationists is the same as my advice regarding slamming your testicles in the fridge door.

            Try to avoid doing it again.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            He was just.. so sure of the science behind his argument. I was almost convinced, until I remembered dinosaurs.

          • BenS

            The science they put forward, though, never stands up to scrutiny... otherwise scientists in the field it relates to would also support it. Usually it's really fringe stuff based on methodological errors, misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the science / study and cherry picking.

            They might sound sure of the science but invariably, they are either wrong or lying.

            It pains me to see something I love, science, dishonestly subverted in such a way.

          • Rationalist1

            I have relatives (in-laws actually) that are creationists. They think I;m the devil.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Yes, one is taken more seriously when words are used against words, than when words are used against persons. I seem to remember crossing words with E. Scalia, before, over at First Things.

      • 42Oolon

        The point is not to get a message out about atheism. The point is to have an atheist monument to combat any misunderstanding that might occur if there is only a Christian monument about the state and administration of justice's connection to Christianity.

        • josh

          Right. The atheist goal isn't to have the government proselytizing for atheism while it also proselytizes for Christianity or any other religion. The atheists' point is that the government shouldn't be doing any of it.

      • primenumbers

        I just addressed the very first claim made in the article....

        • Rationalist1

          It's your fault for thinking the opening paragraph in an article should set the tone and subject for the article. :-)

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            So when writing a book report on "Moby Dick", I should probably only focus on Ishmael's name--the whale and Captain are irrelevant.

          • primenumbers

            Is the article above a fictional story book?

          • Rationalist1

            No but your shouldn't start the book report saying Moby Dick represents the Republic of Ireland and then not support it.

          • Chicagoish

            She actually quotes from a news article which backs up her claim. "We’d rather there be no monuments at all, but if they are allowed to have the Ten Commandments, we will have our own,” said Ken Loukinen, the director of regional operations for American Atheists who designed the monument." This is not a case of poor writing or misunderstanding the point but merely interpreting the facts.

          • epeeist

            So when writing a book report on "Moby Dick", I should probably only focus on Ishmael's name--the whale and Captain are irrelevant.

            If one is setting out an argument and one's initial premiss is false then it rather undermines the rest the report don't yout think?

  • Joe

    "but does prayer exclude action?" Well said by a Benedictine Oblate on the Feast of St.Benedict!!! Happy Feast day Elizabeth!!

  • 42Oolon

    Atheists do not want a creed. Atheists want public institutions funded by our tax dollars to be neutral with respect to religious positions.

    Allowing a monument inscribing ten commandments from the Bible to be placed at a courthouse, suggests that the government and the administration of justice are more favorable to Christianity or possibly Judaism. The text on the monument are less important than the message it sends: "Do not assume because the 10 commandments are honored here, that the justice you will receive, in the courthouse is in any way reliant on these rules, or that religion."

    All of this was done mostly fun, as is the tone of this post. But there are serious issues at play here. Beyond a technical violation of the constitution, it would be an immoral and disgusting form of justice if the rules and punishments contained in Exodus and Leviticus. This book condones slavery, imposes brutal torturous stoning to death for crimes such as being disobedient to parents, requiring victims to wed their rapist. It is astonishing to me how anyone could suggest that reference to this text is a good idea on a courthouse in a democracy.

  • josh

    Elizabeth, you miss the point in your article. The issue isn't free speech, it is establishment of religion. The ten commandments are explicitly religious and erecting a monument to them on government space is endorsement. It certainly doesn't serve any secular purpose and it's rather obvious that the people who back such monuments want to inject their religion into government. There would be no problem if the Christians had done the right thing and built the monument on their own property, this is a shot across the bow of secularism.

    That's why the atheist response is primarily about the secular character of the US government and why it specifically mentions Christians. If a group of Muslims had any chance of getting a pro-Koran monument built it would make sense to mention them. (Although of course the founding fathers didn't spend much time pointing out that they were explicitly not a Mulsim nation.)

    The alternate quotes you mention are okay but not all directly to the point. And your questions about the quotes they used seem disingenuous.

  • Rationalist1

    I've always wondered by Christian groups are so anxious to put up the ten commandments in public spaces but never put up the penalties proscribed for those that break the commandments. Is it that they are ashamed that breaking practically every commandments entails a death sentence or are they afraid if their followers knew that they would seek to enact the penalties?

    • Andrew G.

      Cecil B. DeMille has a lot to answer for.

      (Most of those "ten commandments" monuments resulted from a publicity stunt to promote the Charlton Heston film.)

  • Andre Boillot

    For instance, this one:

    “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion”
    – 1796 Treaty of Tripoli

    Aside from sounding defensive, in this context, why single out the Christians? What is this rebutting, exactly?

    [...]

    Then there's this:

    “It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service [writing the Constitution] had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the inspiration of Heaven.”
    – John Adams

    Again, it seems like a non-sequitur. I read it and think, “well…yeah…so?” Including this quote seems defensive, but what is it rebutting?

    The author seems blissfully unaware of the scores of pronouncements, from citizens and many of their elected representatives, claiming that the United States is founded on Judeo-Christian values. Or, for that matter, of the outrage that followed a certain President's comments that the United States was not a "Christian nation".

    • Rationalist1

      Or maybe she's really okay with all of those statements, as many here are, and is surprised when anyone thinks otherwise.

      • Andre Boillot

        Yeah, none of this is to say that I think an atheist monument is the right response. In fact, I think some of the quotes they choose are pretty silly things to be carving into stone (as many of the 10 commandments are).

        • Rationalist1

          Perhaps, but the good thing is that as atheists we have a choice of quotes. Christians have no choice as to their 10 commandments. Moses, or probably some later scribe, wrote them and the Christians have no choice but to defend them as the best 10 commandments to carve into stone.

          • Andre Boillot

            Haha. Ok, but what good is the choice if 'The Best of Ms. O’Hair' is what makes the cut?

          • Rationalist1

            I wouldn't have chosen those quotes necessarily either but it's so great to have a choice.

          • Linda

            Christians do have a choice because, of course, the Catholics count them up one way and the Protestants another.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      The author seems blissfully unaware of the scores of pronouncements, from citizens and many of their elected representatives, claiming that the United States is founded on Judeo-Christian values.

      Combined with the complete lack of anyone claiming foundation on Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Confucian etc. values. This is why it is important to jump in and set the history straight: The United States was founded on secular values, in direct recognition of wanting to avoid the kinds of religious wars, purges and other conflicts that had been so common in Europe in the prior centuries. The Founders wanted religious freedom, and secularism in government is how they got it. It is up to us to keep it.

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

        But didn't the "Founders" (at least those who signed the Declaration) all attest to be believers in certain *God-given* inalienable rights of the people, received from their Creator?
        Pretty sure that what passed for "secular" back then doesn't exactly comport with the atheism of today, right? These guys were, at the least, theists, according to the language of the Declaration. Despite religious differences, they at least seemed to agree that God existed...

        • Andre Boillot

          These guys were, at the least, theists, according to the language of the Declaration.

          You mis-spelled 'deist'.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            No I didn't--I just prefer the Greek to the Latin...

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Sounds like you misunderstand the concept of deism, itself.

        • Rationalist1

          So. They also agreed that slavery was okay as well and that women didn't have the right to vote.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            So so. The point to be made is that their "secular" view was clearly not God-less. Thus the government they helped create was not an atheistic government. Which raises the interesting point that, for them, they were not trying to keep "God" out of government--they were trying to keep specific *religions* out of government...
            Not sure they would be trying to keep God's Ten Commandments out either, since the "religions" of the day pretty much held them in common. No single "religion" had custody of the Decalogue--only *God* did.

          • Rationalist1

            Of course it wan't an atheist government, it was a secular government. There's a huge difference.

            If it hadn't been secular do you think Catholicism in America would have survived with all the anti-Catholicism around in colonial times?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            If by "secular government" you mean a government that had no intention of keeping "God" out of it, then we would agree on that point...

          • Rationalist1

            For goodness sakes look up what secular means. It means the government will not promote nor hinder (within reason) a religion.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            --they were trying to keep specific *religions* out of government...

            They were trying to keep all religion out of government. The Establishment Clause specifically states "... respecting an establishment of religion ..." When the government indicates that something like the Decalogue is anything beyond a cultural or historical document, it assigns religious significance, which is out of bounds. The government cannot take any stand that recognizes, endorses or denies any given deity or deities. That is why putting "In God We Trust" on the money or "Under God" in the pledge is flatly unconstitutional, and will have to be fixed when cases with proper standing can be made to force the SCOUTS to rule.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            I think that telling a "deist" Founding Father that the government cannot invoke the name of God and that doing so is unconstitutional would evoke a denial from said Founding Father. Particularly if he was one of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence...
            Simply put, their issue was not with *God*--ever. It was with *each other*.

          • josh

            The constitution and government didn't exist at the time of the Declaration of Independence.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Yes, but I was imagining the idea of asking a Framer/Founder about this question both post-Declaration and post-Constitution....

        • ZenDruid

          Of the 57 or so signers of the Declaration, I could only count a handful who were described as churchmen.

          • Rationalist1

            And only one Catholic and no Jews or Muslims,

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            But how many would you count that believed in God? They all affixed their names to a document claiming inalienable God-given rights to we human creatures...

          • severalspeciesof

            If you notice, they used the word 'Creator', not God, signifying a nod to deism at best...

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Surely you would agree that when they say Creator they mean God, right?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            And besides, before that passage, they say: "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
            "Nature's God"--God as Creator...

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Surely you would agree that when they say Creator they mean God, right?

            No, I would say there were as many possible meanings as there were people making the statement. It was left intentionally vague so they would not have to reach a specific agreement.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            So let me get this right. In the first paragraph they use the word "God," but then they say "Creator", and when they say Creator they don't mean God (which they'd just said) because they want to be intentionally vague? Do I have this right?

          • severalspeciesof

            I think you're mixing the Declaration with the Constitution. The Constitution is what this country is founded on. The Declaration has no 'legal binding', to my knowledge. It's just a declaration...

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Not mixing--rather, considering *all* the historical documentary evidence at hand. The Declaration doesn't have to be legally binding to be historically significant, obviously, and to illuminate the key issue that the Founding Fathers believed in a Creator God who was not off limits despite everything said about religions.

          • severalspeciesof

            Jim, I see your point (and see my edit), but the inclusion of the word God in the declaration doesn't mean they were for including god 'in' the 'government'...

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Right--my point is that I don't see any direct evidence they were *excluding* God from any and all recognition in government. Maybe someone's got something to consider as evidence in this regard?

          • severalspeciesof

            I made this reply to you from a different comment, but it fits here too.

            Here it is:

            Without religion, god is impotent, IMO.

            If you are right in that the founding fathers were OK with 'God as Creator', the 1st Amendment was written then to make sure that 'God' remains impotent in the government, and should remain neutral to 'God'.

            Glen

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Yes, they were not making a theological document. They weren't making a founding document, either (common mistake people make). They were making a separation document that was full of rhetorical devises of persuasion to make the case that rejection of the English monarchy was noble in this case and not to be despised as treason (which, of course, it technically was). The document had to appeal to great emotion because it was asking all to risk hanging in common cause. All of that is why what is said in the Declaration of Independence has no impact on what was later specifically set forth in the laws of the new Nation.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Seriously? You would have me believe that "nature's God" and "Creator" in the Declaration of Independence really refer to *two* different things?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            It would depend on the specific person you asked. The important point is that after considerable debate, all terms referring to any form of deities were excluded from the Constitution, which is what formed the Nation. If you have evidence to the contrary, please state it.

            Got evidence?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Where might I read a record of the "considerable debate"?

            Where might I read an explanation of what the framers meant by the phrase "Blessings of Liberty" in the Constitution?
            Blessing? From Whom?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Where might I read a record of the "considerable debate"?

            Jim, I would direct you to James Madison's notes made during the first Constitutional Convention. But before you even get there I strongly recommend you read "Roger Williams and The Creation of the American Soul" for an understanding of the historical context of the origin of the concept of Separation of Church and State that drove the whole process. Later, that would all be brought to bear in cases such as John Adams re Tripoli and Thomas Jefferson faced with the Danbury Baptists.

          • severalspeciesof

            What Q said below... The Founders weren't idiots. If they meant 'God' and only 'God', they would have written it as 'God', else why something different?...

            Glen

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Well, I'm not an idiot (pretty sure), and I think that theists who use the word "God" in paragraph one and "Creator" (who endows them with certain rights) in paragraph two, are 99.9 percent certain to be referring to the same Supreme Being, since no one believes the Founding Fathers were polytheists, right?

          • severalspeciesof

            Woops, my bad.. You're just speaking to the Declaration. I had at first thought otherwise... I'll blame it on the lack of coffee (or the fact one of my cats keep disturbing me!)

          • primenumbers

            If they'd meant God wouldn't they have said Yaweh or Zeus or equivalent? By saying creator they're affirming deism at best and being rather ambivalent worst.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            They *might* have said "Yahweh" as monotheists, but this is a Jewish name for the one God. As to Zeus, sorry, but that's polytheism, not monotheism. Which is kind of the point here. The founding fathers included, obviously, *monotheists* of multiple descriptions, including deists, but this is why I keep using "theist" for the most part instead of "deists" because they *all* weren't deists...but they all were monotheists.
            And it would appear that none were actually atheists...

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            And it would appear that none were actually atheists...

            There is no way to know how many really believed in any kind of deity. Then, as now, some people kept quiet about their true beliefs to avoid social rejection. (Remember, this was pre-Darwin.) However, it still makes no difference to the question of the basic fact that they constructed a secular government that neither recognizes nor rejects any deity.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Then there must be evidence in the documents that make it clear that their objective was *deity* and not religion. Can you show me? Where in the documents is there an indication that the secular government is supposed to neither recognize nor reject any *deity*?
            I think evidence here is vitally important because I think the evidence of history shows that these men had *not* in fact "relativized" their Creator God as just one "deity" among many possible ones.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Their objective was to have a government that did not get involved in issues of religion or theology. That is why I directed you to all the history of religious conflicts they wanted to avoid in the future.

          • primenumbers

            You weren't really allowed to be an atheist back then, so they'd say they were deists instead.

            Zeus was the head God, and although there were other lesser Gods, is that any different from your religion where you have a head God and Satan and other lesser deities kicking around? In the OT Yahweh appears to acknowledge the existence of other Gods like Baal, so although you only worship the three Gods of your religion, you claim they're just one to avoid polytheism, yet your religion appears to accept that there's plenty more deities out there.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            As to the claim of deists-who-were-really-atheists: got evidence?
            As to the rest, yes, monotheism is very different from polytheism, particularly for those who base their "deism" on reason and nature and not special revelation...

          • primenumbers

            "scare quotes" ? Go read the words of these deists on religion - you could imagine a lot of modern day atheists saying the very same things.

            Do you acknowledge, like Yahweh does, that Baal is an existing God, but that he's lesser than Yahweh? Do you acknowledge that Satan is a deity too?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            No, not scare quotes...just quotes...
            Yahweh doesn't acknowledge Baal as a "lesser god" but as a false god...
            And of course Satan is absolutely NOT a deity....

          • primenumbers

            Baal is acknowledges. Yahweh does not say "Baal does not exist".

            I'm sure Baal uses the very same excuse that your God uses today when he is invoked but fails to light the fires.

            Your denial that Satan is a deity is just semantics. A deity is just a supernatural being.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Be serious. Elijah's smackdown of the existence of Baal and the false idolatry of his prophets was complete, profound, and in their face. Elijah mocks the Baal crowd after the non-existent Baal fails to show up when called upon, suggesting perhaps their god is just "asleep"...
            As regards the nature of Satan, dialogue would probably be improved if you tried avoiding telling other people who they really believe is a god and who isn't...

          • primenumbers

            I am being serious. We ask for evidence of your God, yet none comes. We ask him to strike us down this instant with a bolt of lightning from the sky is he is really there. Yet it doesn't happen. Notice how I continue to type even after asking such proof. Perhaps your God is just sleeping?

            When people do prayer experiments and they get null results, the Christian claim is often that you can't test God in that way, yet of course, that's exactly what Elijah did and got instant results. That means that when we do the lightning test above, or the prayer test, the evidence we have for your God is identical to what the followers of Baal had for theirs.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Well, then the real irony would seem to be your insistence that, in the OT, such testing proves that Yahweh somehow believed in the existence of Baal, while, today, such testing proves automatically that "my God" doesn't really exist.
            I'm pretty sure you shouldn't be able to have this both ways...

          • primenumbers

            I'm not having it both ways because the story is just that - a story that never really happened. However, if you believe it happened I'm saying that what excuse the Baal followers used now is completely and ironically applicable to what Christians use today to excuse the non-appearance of their God.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Sure you can say and believe that. But your original statement suggesting that in this "story" the God Yahweh and his prophet actually believe the existence of the god Baal? Provably false...

          • primenumbers

            So there's nothing wrong with doing the lightning test with God then? And what does it prove when I'm still typing here and there's a noticeable absence of lightning bolts?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            In the Elijah "story," this was no merely random experiment or sampling of God's wrath, but a scene developing from the fact that a prophet of God was told by God to confront the idolaters.
            So I don't think you're in any danger. I'm pretty sure God's not speaking to anyone right now about confronting "primenumbers" with a lightning test about whose God is real and whose is not...

          • primenumbers

            So your God refuses to demonstrate his existence unless it's part of an ancient story? I therefore firmly declare your God does not exist. Any excuse you come up with is just like the excuses the Baal followers made.

          • Susan

            Surely you would agree that when they say Creator they mean God, right?

            Why would you assume they meant your god?

            This is why the word "god" annoys me so much, especially when it's spelled with a big, fat capital G.

            Why couldn't a creator be a hyperdimensional space being in 4th grade who phoned in a science project that earned her a C minus?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Hi, Susan--I have the opposite annoyance: atheist commenters consistent use of "your god"--not that I guess there's much one can do about that, but a theist doesn't consider God to be "my" God....
            In any case, I didn't assume the founding fathers meant "my" God. Never said they did. But in *their* own words, they mean "nature's God," which is why I assume when they say Creator they mean "nature's God." And since they use the *singular*, and since history records it clearly, I know they are *monotheists*. Denying that the Declaration's two mentions of a supreme being are both mentions of a Creator God seems really far-fetched to me...I don't see the point of it...

          • Michael Murray

            "your god"

            It means the god you believe in. As distinct from the god the Hindu guy next door believes in. What would you prefer ? The Christian God ?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Thanks for asking, but that's just it. It doesn't seem practically avoidable. I think I've just got to get used to it....

          • Susan

            Hi Jim,

            I have the opposite annoyance: atheist commenters consistent use of "your god"--not that I guess there's much one can do about that, but a theist doesn't consider God to be "my" God....

            That's obvious. But with all due respect, what a theist considers is not as important as what a theist can demonstrate. Your assumptions and beliefs are one thing and what you can define and demonstrate are a different thing altogether.

            I expect to be held to this standard so I think it's fair to hold other humans to this standard.

            But in *their* own words, they mean "nature's God," which is why I assume when they say Creator they mean "nature's God."

            Well, that can be all kinds of gods and as catholics love their metaphors, it can also be a metaphor. I'm curious about how much reading you've done about the ideas of your founding fathers vs. how much you rely on the interpretation of other people's writing about the ideas of your founding fathers.

            What does Jefferson think of assertions about Yahweh, for starters? Or Payne? Not technically a founding father, but a great influence, as far as I can tell. (I'm a mere Canadian with a different political history who is very impressed with the foundations laid out for your country, under the circumstances.)

            "Creator" does not imply monotheism. It's as useful a term for deism.

            This was before Darwin, remember. It was hard to look at hundreds of millions of years of evolution in one's lifetime and not imagine a designer. Now, there is no need for that hypothesis.

          • ZenDruid

            Paine was the de facto prophet of the Revolution; he provided some of the points of the Declaration in Common Sense; and he was a deist.

          • Susan

            Paine was the de facto prophet of the Revolution; he provided some of the points of the Declaration in Common Sense; and he was a deist.

            I'm curious about how many American catholics particularly (or catholics, in general) have read Thomas Paine's Common Sense.

            I'm not assuming they haven't but I see no indication they have.

            If I were a betting woman, my money would be on David Nichol having taken the time and wanting to know. Not on Jim.

            I hope that doesn't sound snarky, but I can imagine that it might.

            That's my roundabout way of suggesting that Jim read it. It's an easy read. Mr. Paine was quite a guy.

          • Susan

            Also, Paine's Age of Reason.

            Very, very good. I wish he were alive to participate in Strange Notions.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            I wish he were alive to participate in Strange Notions.

            I think he can rely on you for that, Susan.

          • Susan

            I'm not sure I've ever felt less worthy of a friendly statement.

            I'd rather all catholics read something by Paine than any of my comments here.

            Everyone should read at least one article by Paine, if only for the pleasure of engaging with his ideas.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Well, you are getting attention for his words, so others may know about them. Of course, we can never know what someone from the past would make of the questions at hand, now, or react to what is known now. I suspect Paine would have gone even more anti-theist if he had known what Darwin later knew.

          • ZenDruid

            Mr. Paine was quite a guy.

            H L Mencken called him a rabble-rouser, and I call that envious praise, coming from a freethinking social critic like Mencken.

            Obama mentioned him in his first inaugural address.

          • ZenDruid

            Freemasons believe in 'a god', but the Catholic god doesn't like Freemasons to begin with. Curiously enough, there were many more of them at the party than Catholics.

            If you were to read one of Washington's first State of the Union addresses [forgot which one], he used virtually every Masonic epithet except 'Grand Architect of the Universe'.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Yes, exactly--the one common belief about God that they all seemed to share is that God existed and that God created the Universe. Beyond that, who knows?

            But this fact is historically important, since it shapes our understanding of what their intentions were in what they said about religion....

          • ZenDruid

            Obviously, religion weighed heavily upon their deliberations, and I think they did the right thing by not allowing preeminence to any one sect, or indeed any one god. They were astute enough to try to forestall the religious wars of the type that riddled European history.

            Otherwise, the Constitution would specify which sect the National Archbishop [who?] belonged to.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            But this fact is historically important, since it shapes our understanding of what their intentions were in what they said about religion....

            Read the history, what was important to them was keeping government out of it.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          But didn't the "Founders" (at least those who signed the Declaration) all attest to be believers in certain *God-given* inalienable rights of the people, received from their Creator?

          Many were religious people, at least deists, and wanted religious freedom. The Declaration was a document of separation by the colonies, that later, would form the U.S., and when it came time to "found" the nation by drafting the Constitution, all divine invocations and references were left out. Then after agreement on the base Constitution, it was quickly amended to provide a right to religious freedom (free practice clause) and to keep the government out of it (establishment clause).

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Yes, these theists were interested in keeping government out of religion while offering religious freedom as a right, but I just want to make sure of a historical fact that I think we should all be able to agree upon: that the Founders held a belief in God, particularly a belief in God as Creator...

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Jim, I don't know what kind of deities, exactly, each one did or did not believe in. What I want you to understand is that their personal beliefs have no significance. What they did was to find what they could agree about for making a new nation. And what they did agree, was that in order to preserve the rights of each and every citizen to believe in this or that deity, or not at all, they needed to keep government out of it.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            But that's not precisely what the documents all suggest--the documents suggest a common belief in God as Creator, and a desire to keep the peace among the many religions by structuring the documents to treat *religion* (not God) as we know they did. Big difference, particularly in how one understands the meaning of the Decalogue as considered in the OP above...

          • josh

            God is religion, do we really have to discuss this? When you put God in government, you are establishing a religion; even if you think it is big tent enough to include multiple sects, it doesn't include me and other atheists. (Not to mention this is the ten commandments we're talking about, so an insult to everyone who isn't an Abrahamist.)

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            God is not religion. God is God. Religion is religion....These were guys who wanted freedom not *from* God their Creator but the freedom to express their *particular* beliefs about God their Creator without government interference...that's my point. And once you establish that what they said was about religion and not directly about God, the way we look at arguments about the Decalogue monuments might change a bit, at least in reference to this history....

          • josh

            Don't be obtuse. God implies religion. Mention of God in a government context is endorsement of religion. The government is supposed to represent me as a citizen, I have no God, therefore it infringes on my rights to use government to promote a Godly agenda, however vague. The founders wanted freedom for their own consciences, whatever they may be. They were smart enough to see that any implication of God would potentially limit that freedom, whether or not they personally would agree with the belief.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Okay. Can you tell me which religion is endorsed by the Declaration's mention of God, or does it endorse *all* religions?

            Can you offer evidence that shows that atheism was even on the radar of the framers of the Constitution? Seriously asking, as I think it would be really helpful to have.
            I just have to believe that theistic Framers who had no problem leaving room in the Constitution for injustices like slavery and male-only suffrage would have worked very hard to make room for atheists...might be an odd way to say it, but I'm pretty convinced of that right now...

          • josh

            The Declaration, if it had been made in the name of the US government somehow, would involve endorsement of all theistic religions, and implicit exclusion of everyone else.

            Slavery and suffrage were very much on the framers radars, but were left as unresolved because of differences of opinions. They compromised. Atheism is a term with which they would have been familiar since it was frequently an accusation against Enlightenment thinkers, although I don't think that many would have self-identified as such in that period. What they had in mind was the devastation wrought in Europe by religious wars and persecution, so they made the wise call to set up a government which was meant to be independent of religion. Religion was to be strictly a matter of one's own conscience. How does that not include atheism?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Yes, that is why I referred Jim to the writings in this comment.

          • Rationalist1

            " I think we should all be able to agree upon: that the Founders held a belief in God, particularly a belief in God as Creator.." as well as slavery and only white mail landowners voting.

          • severalspeciesof

            as well as slavery and only white mail landowners voting.

            I knew it!!! The Post Office was in on this whole country thing from the beginning!!! (sorry, couldn't help myself)

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Your reminder actually help makes my continuing point--both of *those* things were left undisturbed by the framers of the Constitution as well--so why would we think they set out at that same time to set off limits what to them was a shared belief in God as Creator?

          • josh

            You should really consider the use of metaphor and poetry outside of the bible. The founders had a variety of beliefs, but the Creator language suggests an intentionally vague notion of a demiurge that specifically shouldn't be identified with the God of any religion, including Christ.

          • primenumbers

            The God of deism is not the God of theism.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Actually, I'm using the term "theist" in the sense of *mono*-theist. Deists were certainly monotheists. This is pretty simple, I think--a belief in one God as Creator qualifies you as a "theist" (a mono-theist), regardless of whether you are a "deist" or a unitarian or a Trinitarian etc...or a Muslim or a Jew....

          • primenumbers

            I don't think deists get hung up on whether their mono deists or poly deists because if all your deity did was light the blue touch paper, run away and never intervene in what happens afterwards, who really cares how many of these kind of deities there are?

            To categorize deists as theists would be in error as the difference is intervention. A theistic God is one that intervenes and has people make religions for it, a deistic God does not.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            This is inaccurate. Many Deists accept the idea of Divine Providence, and, if the basis of their belief in a Creator *God* (singular, not plural) is reason and nature, then you're talking monotheism.
            Indeed, the monotheistic Creator God is the one bit of theistic common ground to be found in those days, it would seem.
            But, how about some evidence to back your claim?

          • primenumbers

            A theistic God is an interventionary God, whereas the deistic God is not. They made the universe and nature and left it to it's own devices. The two positions are very different so we have to ask why you insist on trying to conflate them?

            The American revolution was pre-darwin, and also in a time where there when England still had very strong blasphemy laws and wouldn't allow non-Christians to be in government for instance. Deist was essentially what practical atheists called themselves.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            There was more than one "flavor" of the philosophy of deism, to be sure, including some who maintained a general belief in Divine Providence (hence deists who still offered prayer, for example). Deism is uncontestably "theism" even if it embraces a much less "interventionary" God than some other theistic views.

            As to deists who were practical atheists, I'm hoping for evidence rather than assertion on this point.

          • primenumbers

            If they believed in an interventionary God they'd be theists, not deists.

            So atheists who call themselves deists to avoid the stigma of atheism and the persecution applied to atheists (blasphemy laws, not able to hold elected office etc.) are going to come out and say "I call myself a deist for political reasons, but don't tell anyone else - I'm actually an atheist"?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Okay, so you haven't any proof. Enough said, then. You're just speculating...

          • primenumbers

            Yet you expect atheists who are calling themselves deists to hide from persecution to stand up and put in their writings that we the public have access to that they are indeed atheists? Yet their writings on religion that we do have are as anti-religious as those of modern day atheists.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            And thus is born a proof-less atheist "mythos" regarding atheism among the Founding Fathers...
            Why can't we take the historical record of their writings at face value? Yes, they were of course anti-religious, because they didn't see their belief in the Creator God as a "religion". It was their "philosophy" based on reason and nature. It permitted their anti-religiosity to co-exist with a ready willingness to invoke "nature's God" when it seemed fitting to do so. And they did so, apparently, despite what they said about religion in the Constitution...

          • primenumbers

            "And thus is born a proof-less atheist "mythos" regarding atheism among the Founding Fathers..." - no.... We say they were deists who didn't believe in an interventionary God and had very very strong criticism of religion.

            "Yes, they were of course anti-religious, because they didn't see their belief in the Creator God as a "religion"." - now you're inventing reasons why they were anti-religious. They give their reasons they were anti-religious - the strong criticisms of religion they present, and there's no need to invent extra "reasons".

            "willingness to invoke "nature's God" when it seemed fitting to do so." - the philosopher's God, synonymous with the laws of nature or physics, not a personal being like your believe in.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            So you think these deists were all "anti-religious" except for their *own* "religion"--deism?
            Or was deism doing its level best to be a "non-religion", like I said?
            As to "nature's God" as non-personal being--evidence please?
            To invoke God as "Creator" one would have to assume the intention to invoke a Supreme Being (the Divine Architect, right?). Non-beings don't create or do architecture...

          • primenumbers

            How is deism a religion? Religion sits on top of theism, not deism, because it's only theism that posits an interventionary God with rules of behaviour etc. to make up the religious content of that religion.

            So your God is now a being is he? Just the other day the Catholics here (you're a Catholic, right?) were telling us God is not a being. Can't you even keep the story straight? You're right that non-beings don't do architecture, but neither do non-spatial non-temporal mind-only entities.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Deism isn't a religion--my exact point. Which is why I used "religion" in quotes above. Invoking God in a deistic sense is therefore *not* religious because deism is not a religion. Agreed?
            And yes I do pretty well keeping the story straight. God isn't a "thing"--but God is a "being"--He's pure being, in fact.

          • primenumbers

            Nah, just like week (or earlier this week, I loose track) I was told he wasn't a being. "Pure being" is pure nonsense I'm afraid.

            When Presidents and the USA currency etc. invoke God today, they're not invoking the God of deism.

          • Rationalist1

            Should we take their anti-Cathoilicism at face value too?

            http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/anti-catholicism-founders

            Shoudl we seek to embrace that?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Yes, if it's part of the historical record supported by evidence that they were anti-Catholic, it needs to be embraced as historically accurate...

          • Rationalist1

            But promote it as the intentions of the founding fathers?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Not exactly sure of your meaning...should we take their anti-Catholic views as our own? No.
            But is it important to note the historical fact of their anti-Catholicism? Absolutely.
            Likewise, the deistic views that gave rise to the treatment of religion in the Constiution not only need to be noted but need to be duly considered when it comes to how we interpret the Constitution.
            If history makes clear that religion, not God the Creator, was the focus of their Constitutional language, then the question of removing "God" from government changes quite a bit...

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Thanks for the clarification, Jim. I think most of us consider monotheists and all types of polytheists to be included in "theists." I know some people consider pantheists to also be deists, but I am not sure that is fair. I don't think the case for Spinoza as a deist is all that good.

            Edit: This comment should be a couple of places farther on the thread.

        • josh

          What they agreed on, at least by the time of the Constitution, was that religion should be strictly kept out of government. What they personally believed isn't really germane.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Yes--exactly: *religion*. But not God...at least as I see the evidence right now. Is there evidence that the framers of the Constitution actually spoke or thought in terms of keeping not only religion but also the invoking of God as Creator out of government?

          • josh

            See below, God is religion. The founders were smart enough to not include any mention of such in the establishing document for the nation. If you want to argue that the nation didn't always live up to that high ideal, you'll get no disagreement since that is the point of the atheist protest being discussed.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Well, I instead think the argument I'm developing based on the evidence is that there was never "that high ideal" to begin with. I'd be open to evidence that clarifies the historical point. Where does the historical record reveal the Framers' explicit effort to keep God and not just "religion" out of government?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            I agree with Josh. The requirement that the government make no pronouncements of religion extends to theology. There is no way the government could make any theological assessment without the potential to step on someone's religious freedom. To maintain our religious freedom, the government has to stay out of religion and therefore, theology.

          • severalspeciesof

            Without religion, god is impotent, IMO.

            If you are right in that the founding fathers were OK with 'God as Creator', the 1st Amendment was written then to make sure that 'God' remains impotent in the government, and should remain neutral to 'God'.

            Glen

          • stanz2reason

            Is there evidence that the framers of the Constitution actually spoke or thought in terms of keeping not only religion but also the invoking of God as Creator out of government?

            It's utterly idiotic to attempt to draw a distinction between religion and God in this instance.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            That's actually very interesting. Had no idea this was utter idiocy. A number of sources seem to refer to "deism" as NOT a religion at all, but rather a philosophy in which it's claimed God as Creator can be known through reason and the natural world *without* any reference to further revelation or anything "Scriptural."
            Therefore, it seems utterly reasonable and not idiotic to ask why one should consider the deistic founding fathers' belief in God the Creator as constituting (pun intended) one of the "religions" they mention in the Constitution when the prevailing view was that deism was not a religion at all...

          • stanz2reason

            It is utterly idiotic because we're referring to God/religion in the context of the type of government they were establishing. It is irrelevant whethere they were theists or deists, buddhists or jewish, pagan or jedi. What matters are the laws they drafted, which very intentionally left the good lord absent from their writings. Whether its God or religious beliefs in general is some bizarre voodoo believer reasoning, wishful thinking that you somehow deserve a special distict seat in public affairs. Lets clear this up now. You do not.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            No--read the documents. They're not referring to "God/religion"--they are referring to *religion*. But they didn't banish *God* from being invoked in the context of government, as the government would go on to demonstrate in many and varied ways (and still does).

          • stanz2reason

            I've read through both the constitution and the bills of rights a few times, which are as a set of laws the only ones necessary in a discussion about the type of country (rather than a more philosophical document like the declaration which speaks towards their thinking rather than the type of country they were setting up... no of is denying that a number of these men were deeply religious). So far as I recall, religion is relegated to not being grounds to prohibit someone from holding office, being protected as a freedom of practice, and most importantly to this discussion the old congress not making laws to establish a religion. Had the founders been any clearer here it would have been drawn in picture form.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Trying to get some kind of support for theism by looking at the religious beliefs of the founders of the U.S. is a mission to nowhere. Most were religious in one way or another, but so were most of the people all around them. That they managed to construct a new nation and its government by explicitly excluding religion, works neither for nor against the existence of any deity or deities. They simply knew that the best protection of religious freedom for the people, was a strictly secular government.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It was entirely predictable that the Catholic Faith would ultimately be persecuted under the principles of the US Constitution.

            What is truly amazing is that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council managed to persuade themselves otherwise.

            The Church is now being persecuted, and the persecution will get much worse.

            No doubt whatever.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            The Church is now being persecuted

            Rick,

            How many practicing Catholics hold political office at the national level in the United States?

            How many professing atheists hold political office at the national level in the United States?

          • Andrew G.

            At the last count, the membership of the US Supreme Court stood at 6 Catholics and 3 Jews. No declared atheist has ever served, though one "agnostic Jew" has.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            How many Catholics are being forced to pay for abortions?

            How many Catholics are being prosecuted for refusing to participate in same sex pseudo-marriages?

            How many Catholics will fall into those two categories in the next five years?

            If you are comfortable seeing Catholics in prison over these issues, then be comfortable.

            If not, then get a clue.

          • Andre Boillot

            And Quakers paying for wars, Catholics for capital punishment, and atheists subsidizing all manner of religious institutions. Welcome to America.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            We agree, Andre. I have previously said that the persecution of the Catholic Faith was inescapably, logically certain under the founding principles of the United States, and could have been avoided only by the previous, powerful unity of the Catholic Church as a force to be reckoned with; that is, a minority group prepared to deliver a bloody nose to anyone who messed with it.

            What is amazing is that the fathers of the Second Vatican Council were able to persuade themselves otherwise.

            The bill for that particular misreading of the signs of the times is now being presented.

          • Andre Boillot

            You misunderstood my point. You don't get to pick and choose (outside of voting for particular representatives) every last thing your tax dollars go towards. None of the examples I listed constitute any meaningful persecution, and none of them are even remotely done in an attempt to target any specific group.

            Saying some Catholics feel persecuted because they almost had to pay for abortions/contraception is as worrisome to me as saying that some Muslims feel persecuted because they have to pay for girls to go to school.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The meaningful persecution begins the very instant some judge is able to put me in prison for following the dictates of my conscience.

            The persecution is perfectly consistent with the principles of the US Constitution.

            It is inconsistent with the principles of the Catholic Church.

            Which was *my* point.

          • Andre Boillot

            I'm curious, what do you think your conscience will have you do that will land you in prison?

            "The persecution is perfectly consistent with the principles of the US Constitution."

            One wonders why you remain the US, having foreseen the coming storm.

          • BenS

            One wonders why you remain the US, having foreseen the coming storm.

            Don't give him ideas! I'm happy for him to stay there.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            One wonders why you remain the US, having foreseen the coming storm.

            I will venture the guess that, unlike so many others who whine about the coming persecution, he—like the early Christian martyrs—looks forward to it as an opportunity to defiantly demonstrate his faith. Many Catholics want to have their cake and eat it too—live comfortably in the United States, make lots of money, gain positions of power and authority, and somehow be exempt from the inevitable conflict between Catholicism and American democracy. He is made of sterner stuff.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Why did Socrates remain in Athens?

            Why did the Christians not flee the lions?

            It is necessary to bear witness to evil, so that the consciences of those perpetrating it from other-than-complete malice can be healed.

            I will perhaps go to prison for refusing to pay for abortions.

            I will perhaps go to prison for refusing to accept in any way, shape, form, action, gesture, or word, the "validity" of the form of insanity currently imposed by legal tyranny as same sex pseudo-marriage.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Why did the Christians not flee the lions?

            I would guess that the barred doors and high walls of the Colosseum had something to do with it.

            "I will perhaps go to prison for refusing to pay for abortions."

            Have you thus far been refusing to do so?

            "I will perhaps go to prison for refusing to accept in any way, shape, form, action, gesture, or word, the "validity" of the form of insanity currently imposed by legal tyranny as same sex pseudo-marriage."

            You don't get sent to jail for merely being a bigot. Unless you had something more pro-active in mind.

          • Max Driffill

            ALso,
            US federal law prevents tax dollars from providing abortion services. There are also, bizarrely, some impediments to insurance companies covering it.

            Rick, or course, is free to feel however he wants about gay couples. So long as he doesn't attack any one at a gay wedding he will probably be free from legal action.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Federal law does not in any way prohibit tax dollars from providing abortion services. In fact Federal tax dollars are used to directly fund the largest US provider of abortion services to the tune of $1 million per *day*.

            The funds are not in any way segregated or accounted for.

            Therefore they are fungible upon receipt and used to fund abortion services.

            As for same-sex pseudo-marriage, there is no question that all Catholics will be persecuted under these statutes, since they will ultimately be required to subject their innocent children to indoctrination in homosexualist propaganda concerning marriage.

            No Catholic will allow this.

            All will go to prison first.

            This is one way to establish how many Catholics we have left.

            The number is certain to be much smaller than the number of baptized, as it was in the times of the Roman Imperial persecutions.

          • Andre Boillot

            How have you managed to avoid paying for abortions thus far?

            "No Catholic will allow this.

            All will go to prison first."

            Of course not, I fully expect that you and others will counter the state with indoctrination of your own, as you've done for centuries. The question remains: how this will lead to your imprisonment?

            You seem awfully light on specifics on both these questions.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Let me assist you.

            I have two sons who are, thankfully, grown and out of the clutches of the homosexualist fanatics who will, in California, begin to subject innocent children to state-mandated indoctrination in the profound lie that marriage involves nothing other than a life-commitment between partners, and has nothing to do with the gender-complementarity of our species, through which gender-complementarity the next generation is generated.

            The insanity of the homosexualist movement extends to forced indoctrination of the contrary lie in the minds of innocent children.

            Now were I a parent, and were my children subjected to this, I would undertake to protect them.

            I suspect there are Catholic parents out there with young, school age children.

            If Catholic schools are forced to teach these lies- as is already the case in Fascist Quebec- then we shall have to resist.

            By all morally justified means.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Fascist Quebec"

            Mon Dieu....c'est pas vrai! Meme le Quebec est tombe aux fascistes?

            And the not paying for abortions, how have you managed that?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            The meaningful persecution begins the very instant some judge is able to put me in prison for following the dictates of my conscience.

            Under what form of government would one not be held accountable for following the dictates of one's conscience? When the Catholic Church had political control, did it exempt people from legal prosecution for following the dictates of their consciences?

            I presume (and correct me if I am wrong) what you mean is that you have a "well formed " conscience, and consequently when you act according to that conscience, your actions will always be lawful. Whereas others may not have "well formed" consciences, and therefore their decisions of conscience do not have to be respected, and they may legitimately be put in jail for acting according to their consciences.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            How many Catholics are being forced to pay for abortions?

            They have already been doing this since the 1990's, when they could have stood their ground and refused. Note that this was -not- government action.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/27/nyregion/new-york-archdiocese-reluctantly-paying-for-birth-control.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

            How many Catholics are being prosecuted for refusing to participate in same sex pseudo-marriages?

            So far, none that I am aware of. Please cite to the contrary.

            How many Catholics will fall into those two categories in the next five years?

            Perhaps some will. In that case, your statement that "The Church is now being persecuted" could be properly phrased as "The Church may be persecuted in future".

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "They have already been doing this since the 1990's, when they could have stood their ground and refused. Note that this was -not- government action."

            >> We agree. This fact does not alter the change which Obamacare and same-sex pseudo-marriage represent.

            Catholics will be going to prison.

            The only question of moral importance is whether you are comfortable supporting that outcome.

            "So far, none that I am aware of. Please cite to the contrary."

            >> See here:

            http://www.minnesotaformarriage.com/consequences-to-redefining-marriage/

            "Perhaps some will. In that case, your statement that "The Church is now being persecuted" could be properly phrased as "The Church may be persecuted in future".

            >> The persecution is now. It will greatly increase with the imposition of same-sex pseudo marriage and Obamacare. See above.

            "And FWIW, as a libertarian conservative, I entirely support the Church's stand on both issues. However, I suspect that rather than sever its hip-and-thigh attachment to the Democratic Party, it will cave on both."

            >> It is possible that the US bishops will cave.

            Not possible that any Catholic will.

            Which leaves us with:

            Catholics will be going to prison.

            If you are comfortable with that, be comfortable.

            If not, now you have the evidence.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Not possible that any Catholic will.

            From the article I linked to above:

            The archdiocese agreed to cover its own health workers long before Cardinal Dolan became archbishop of New York, and even today insists that it has no choice. As a result, about 3,000 full-time workers at ArchCare, also known as the Catholic Health Care System, receive coverage for contraception and voluntary pregnancy termination through their membership in 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, a powerful health care workers union, according to Dave Bates, a spokesman for the union.

            Is it your contention that the leadership of the Archdiocese of New York are not Catholics? I won't be surprised if that is exactly your position.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The failures of the US episcopacy are manifest.

            Your example is a shining black eye.

            No Catholic would willingly participate in such an atrocity.

            "Immediate material cooperation occurs when the organization provides for, contributes to or participates in specific circumstances that are essential to, or are an essential condition for, the principal agent to carry out a specific objectionable action. Directive n. 70 of the Ethical and Religious Directives specifically forbids Catholic health care organizations from engaging in immediate material cooperation in acts judged by the Church to be intrinsically immoral, “such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and direct sterilization.”

            The Archdiocese of New York is not fulfilling its obligations to uphold the Catholic Faith in this matter.

            Go ahead and shoot me, but I am just the messenger.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Well said. I quite agree, and I would be delighted to see the Church defy Obama.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            She will.

            Please keep us in your thoughts, until you can keep us in your prayers, since we have long experience in these matters and the flesh is weak.

            Some of us will make the witness.

            God will see to that.

  • cowalker

    if you’re declaring yourself — your beliefs, your organization, your credo — shouldn’t the quotes be about the reason and secularism you are promoting, rather than turning attention elsewhere?

    Since atheism is no more or less than the LACK of BELIEF in a God or gods, I would expect the quotes to be more about what is being rejected than what is being promoted. The American Atheists are putting up this monument, not the Council for Secular Humanism. It's being installed in reaction to a monument that unconstitutionally uses state resources to promote religion. Atheists didn't initiate the project of using state resources to promote their worldview. Apparently the Christians in the city would rather share state resources used for this purpose than give them up themselves. Do two unconstitutional wrongs make a right?
    Sid Collins

    • Rationalist1

      No , but i made the point. If the donor had have just given the $1500 it cost for the statue to some cause then we wouldn't be having this discussion. And if every time religious people put religious statements on public land atheists just gave more money to their cause we'd never get the point across. An ideal situation that is good for all is no religious or atheist statements on public lands.

      • cowalker

        It is very odd to me that Christians don't see where escalating the monument war could lead. On what grounds now would the people of the city prevent the erection of a monument to the Koran or Anton La Vey's Satanist precepts or L. Ron Hubbard's wisdom? None of them, including Ms. Scalia, seem to grasp that it is emphatically NOT a free speech issue. They are confusing battles over billboards and advertisements in buses with the separation of church and state issue.

        Sid Collins

        • Rationalist1

          Agreed. On private property go for it, on public property be secular.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          I am in agreement with R1, that it is best for neither side to do this. In many places the FFRF has been able to get things taken down, but when that does not work I do see the value to match tit-for-tat. The religious side may take a while to realize that they are helping bring more attention to the atheist side than is worth their "monuments," but that may take some time. However, if the arms race of monuments gets out of hand, I do expect the SCOTUS to step in and call it all off.

  • Linda

    As a Catholic I'm curious about which Ten Commandments went up in the first place: the Catholic (3 and 7) or the Protestant (4 and 6)?

    • epeeist

      And why not the text of the replacements?

      The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.
      Exodus 34:1

      • Linda

        It feels like that verse should end: "…God added pointedly."

        • epeeist

          It feels like that verse should end: "…God added pointedly."

          Perhaps he did, which is why Moses never mentioned that the words are in fact different...

          • Linda

            It would seem *someone* noticed as it *is* mentioned.

          • epeeist

            It would seem *someone* noticed as it *is* mentioned.

            Well, yeah eventually. But Moses was obviously backing away slowly...

          • Michael Murray

            So what about the five commandments he dropped ?

          • epeeist

            So what about the five commandments he dropped ?

            There my knowledge fails me. But I do know there was something about blue pills and red pills in the replacement (Exodus 34:19)

          • Susan

            There my knowledge fails me.

            I doubt it, but it's fun to put in the link:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I48hr8HhDv0

            But I do know there was something about blue pills and red pills in the replacement

            Ask Alice when she's ten feet tall.

          • epeeist
            There my knowledge fails me.

            I doubt it, but it's fun to put in the link:

            Ah, you want me to provide an ad hoc auxiliary hypothesis (AKA "making something up").

            Not the same movie but it always brings to mind John Wayne in The Greatest Story Ever Told, (apocryphal as I can't find a link to the story)

            JW: Was this the greatest man who ever lived?
            Director: No John, say it with more awe
            JW: Aw, was this the greatest man who ever lived?

          • Linda

            "We don't want any trouble here, sir. Just put the pieces down…"

        • Max Driffill

          Oh please don't do that. "God added" would totally suffice. We can gather the tone from the surrounding writing without being told by the author.

  • severalspeciesof

    "I have no expectation that any of them will take my genuine
    congratulations and kindly meant suggestions in the good faith they’re
    offered"

    Maybe because it was followed by this rather shallow remark:

    "I will be grateful and I will say, “thank you, atheists, for beginning
    your long road and heavy task of healing the world, banishing poverty
    and eliminating war, with the single step of building a bench.”"

    Glen

    • BenS

      I nearly offered her a 'kindly meant suggestion' but it would both be a medical impossibility and a violation of this board's posting guidelines.

  • stanz2reason

    “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion”

    Aside from sounding defensive, in this context, why single out the Christians? What is this rebutting, exactly?

    This rebutes the utter falsehoods perpetuated by Christians that 'America is a Christian country' or 'Our founders founded the United States as a Christian country'. This rebutes these lies in 2 ways. 1) The very literal "...not in any sense founded on the Christian religion" and 2) the treaty of tripoli was written by and passed by many of the same founders, shedding any illusion that this was a position later adopted by different people. I'll wait for Muslims & Jews to be as vocal as Christians about the United States being founded as a Muslim or Jewish nation respectively before addressing their incorrectness.

    “When religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”– Benjamin Franklin

    If the quote is not meant to reference Muslims, I can nevertheless see why some, given the headlines, would take it that way.

    I'm not a Franklin historian, but I think it addresses religious faiths in general, though I suspect that more likely than not he had Christians or perhaps a specific denomination in mind. I doubt he was addresses Muslims directly.

    “It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service [writing the Constitution] had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the inspiration of Heaven.”– John Adams
    Again, it seems like a non-sequitur. I read it and think, “well…yeah…so?” Including this quote seems defensive, but what is it rebutting?

    This rebuts many of the same dopes who will sit and tell you that the US is a Christian country (when of course it is a secular one with the different denominations of Christianity currently as a majority... an important distinction). The notion that the Consititution was divinely inspired is being declared false by one of the very men responsible for it's creation. This is spelled out as to be obvious to even the most simple person.

    There are countless quotes one could put on a secular bench, and some of those suggested were very good. Alas, there is a finite amount of space on a single bench. I'm sure some of those will show up on future benches.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    I think statements about the relationship between nationalism and religion are important, and do have real consequences. I remember just before the start of the war in Afghanistan, a video clip where a Taliban supporter there held up a U.S. dollar and read the "In God We Trust" off it, and accused us of being hypocrites about secularism. Many people in that part of the world consider the U.S. military operations to be a continuation of the religious wars of the Crusades. Walking back the idea that the U.S. government is a front for Christians trying to take over the world by force is turning out to be not so easy, and things like religious monuments on public property are not helping.

  • ZenDruid

    ...A creed?

    1. Gods were first pushed off their mountaintops into the clouds; then, out of the clouds into space; and ultimately, out of the space-time continuum altogether.

    2. If there is any real human archetype that billions of humans might have in common, it doesn't need a priesthood.

    3. 'Supernatural' is precisely equivalent to 'imaginary'. Imaginary beings tend to cause more problems than they might solve. This is because many humans have weird imaginations. Some of those humans have nothing better to do with their lives than pretend they are proxies for fictional characters. Others are victims of their own imaginations. The more well-established and well-adjusted imaginations explore the same old good-vs-evil trope in positive and creative ways.

    4. Beware of storytellers who claim to be leaders. Especially the supercilious, charismatic, and narcissistic ones. Yet more especially, the ones who derive their storytelling from a schizotypic old patchwork of snuff porn, guilt trips, and outright hallucinations.

    5. The universe as a whole is indifferent to the collisions between galaxies, the self-destruction of stars and their planetary systems, and most certainly, the hopes and wishes of individual members of any life group which managed to evolve into sentience.

    6. We don't beg forgiveness from any imaginary character for being
    human. Nor do we expect posthumous rewards or punishments, as they have
    never been proven to exist.

    7. The only entities that care about humanity belong to humanity. Period.

    • cowalker

      I wouldn't mind seeing that on a monument. It might be appropriate at the World Trade Center site.

      Imaginary beings tend to cause more problems than they might solve.

      Sid Collins

      • ZenDruid

        Thanks. That's my best synthesis of Mark Twain and Lazarus Long.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Try this, "Spit in one hand, and pray in the other, and see what you end up with."

          • ZenDruid

            "Take care of the cojones, and the frijoles will take care of themselves."

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Is that a deepity?

          • ZenDruid

            with Lazarus Long, you can never tell.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            ;-)

  • robtish

    If your guidelines forbid snarky comments then why do you post articles that are nearly 100% snark?

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      It's E. Scalia's manner. It seems snarky but it isn't, really.

      • Michael Murray

        Right. So the substance is not snarky just the appearance. Got it.

    • Ben

      They abandoned all pretence of requiring polite discourse once they started publishing articles by John C. Wright. Contemporary Catholic "thinkers" are too steeped in self-righteousness to stay polite for long, let alone to turn the other cheek like Jesus told them to.

      I looked at this awful Anchoress woman's blog, and she is just disgusted that a lot of women of reproductive age came together to oppose the imposition of her religious beliefs on them in Texas. Because that's what Jesus taught, isn't it - impose your beliefs on everyone by law? Yeah.

  • Max Driffill

    A few questions come to mind when reading this dreadful piece.

    Doest this article contain enough snark, ridicule and other verbal jabs to qualify for deletion? Take the last lovely paragraph which also manages to contradict itself on its mission

    "Anyway, good luck to the atheists on their upcoming unveiling. I have no expectation that any of them will take my genuine congratulations and kindly meant suggestions in the good faith they’re offered, but I do hope to visit the monument one day, and when I rest my weary arthritic bones upon it, I will be grateful and I will say, “thank you, atheists, for beginning your long road and heavy task of healing the world, banishing poverty and eliminating war, with the single step of building a bench.”

    Are these genuine congratulations or an excuse to loose snark? I'm fine with the latter, but I'd rather it not only be allowed for the goose and not for the gander.

    In any event since Elizabeth Scalia seems so baffled by the words of Madelyne Murray O'Hair, I will try to spell out the meaning of the quote.

    “An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church.
    Scalia, offers this:

    But…don’t churches build a lot of hospitals? Are there hospitals built specifically by atheists? Should only government build hospitals?

    Do churches build a lot of hospitals? This seems like what she is trying to say, without any data by way of support. Her suggestion neglects that almost any hospital or medical facility will get huge amounts of financial support from city,state and federal agencies. That is to say, money from a plurality of folks will be present. In any event, Ms Scalia ought to have some data on hand to support her assertion...a recurring problem in these parts.

    O'Hair probably meant that people ought to want to spend money on things like hospitals instead of churches, that one of these was more useful than the other.

    An atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said.

    Part of Scalia's response involves a picture of Agnes Gonhxe Bojhaxhiu, the greatly over praised Teresa of Calcutta. The other part involves the following:

    I understand that people who do not pray still do things, but does prayer exclude action? Do people who pray not do things that must be done? Why must it be an either/or? Is it not possible to be a both/and? What about people like this, and this, and this and this?

    The simple fact is a lot of people just pray. And that is pretending to do something, while not doing anything. Mother Teresa actually serves as a pretty sad example of this. The bulk of her money, and effort served to open nunneries where suffering could be fetishized and not well treated. She offered prayers and prayers only, much more often than she offered actual palliative care. Strangely, when she herself was sick, she did avail herself of excellent medical treatment. Suffering, apparently, was for the other guys.

    An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death.

    Scalia really does appear to enjoy being deliberately obtuse as we can see here: What does this even mean?

    O'Hair is critiquing the obsession with the afterlife.

    He wants disease conquered, poverty banished, war eliminated.”

    Scalia: Putting the exclusionary pronoun aside — no gender-warrior, here — is this line suggesting that only the atheist wants disease conquered, poverty banished and war eliminated? But…haven’t non-atheists worked for centuries and millenia toward those goals?

    We have to note that Scalia is pretty passive aggressive as writers go. You cannot, for instance, put aside something you bring up. The critique, brief as it was, is made. And the critique, to be plain, is that O'Hair used a common literary convention of her time (and Catholic priests on EWTN and elsewhere continue to do this with their constant use of man instead of the more inclusive human). Bravo Elizabeth.

    But to answer her more general question, no, the implication is not that only atheists want these positive outcomes. Atheists, and more generally secularists are not content to wait for the the return Jesus for such outcomes, or defeatist about the chance for success. Nor are atheists generally as obstructionist with regard to policies that could limit violence, sickness, and poverty. One cannot help but notice that Christianity often, and the RCC cannot be exempted here, oppose measures that would improve lives. Consider the empowerment of women, which has been bitterly opposed since progressives began advocating for it. There were no priests at Seneca Falls.

    And to her last question, in which she clearly assumes the answer is yes, a bit of history might cause her to shy away from this rhetorical flourish. It neglects the myriad irredentist claims, and other sectarian strife caused by religion over the ages. This fighting draws a red line right from antiquity to today. Tutsis, for instance, may not entirely think the RCC had served them well as they were being systematically wiped out.

    In 2006, Father Athanase Seromba was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for his role in the massacre of 2000 Tutsis. The court heard that Seromba lured the Tutsis to the church, where they believed they would find refuge. When they arrived, he ordered bulldozers to crush the refugees within and Hutu militias to kill any survivors.

    Given the history of religious war, and sectarian intransigence I think it is safe to say that believers are not always the best at suing for peace.

    • Rationalist1

      An undecided viewer coming to this site and reading E. Scalia's article and Max's response would appreciate the difference in approach, difference in content and difference in snark and I would be will to bet that there would be greater sympathy for the unbelieving point if view. Now obviously I'm biased and believers may think that E Scalia's article sets the right impression of what believers are like,. but the moderators of this site may think on this and bring articles more of the caliber of Max's response, if they can.

      • Joe

        Max is just incredibly naive if he thinks the Catholic Church is just useless.

        http://www.ncregister.com/blog/matthew-archbold/what-if-the-church-went-galt

        Are there any atheist hospitals?

        • Michael Murray

          Are there secular hospitals is the correct question. The answer is yes. At least in Australia. There are also some rather famous secular medical charities.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Médecins_Sans_Frontières

          • Joe
          • Michael Murray

            So you tell me what the long term population should be for a sustainable first world living standard for everybody ? Suggestions I have seen are 1 billion. Even if we level out around 7 billion in 2040 the damage will have been enormous. The damage is already enormous with extinctions and land and environment degradation driven by too many humans.

            The RCC has great influence globally. It could have chosen to help.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Nice to see Parson Malthus still has his defenders, even after his math proved we all starved to death a couple of centuries ago.

        • epeeist

          Are there any atheist hospitals?

          None of the hospitals in Britain's NHS are associated with religion in any way.

        • BenS

          What a silly article you've linked to.

          What if the Catholic church disappeared?, it asks, and the proceeds to give 'what ifs' of some very silly examples.

          So if the church disappeared, X number of schools would be gone? Well, no they wouldn't, not unless god scooped up the buildings as well. And, unless all the teachers were catholics, the staff would remain as well. So, the church disappears but leaves the school buildings behind. Surely it's not behind the wit of man to put some teachers in the schools and carry on as normal with barely a week's blip at this magical disappearance of the church.

          And what if the Catholic hospitals disappeared? Well, I live in the UK, not a third world country like the US, so over here it would make... no difference - as our health care is guaranteed by the government and the NHS is everywhere. Back to America, though! So, the church disappears? So what? The hospitals are still there (unless the mighty hand of god is scooping up all the buildings) so, again, hardly a problem. 84 million extra patients to deal with? Not really, as the country would also be down 78 million Catholics, too. Unless god scooped up the church but left the poor believers behind.

          The rest of the woeful points tend to focus on funding issues for various bits and bats, again, not an issue as the church doesn't make any money. It doesn't create wealth at all, it doesn't make anything or provide value added services that can't simply be provided by someone else. All it does is take other peoples' money and push it around. So if the church disappears, the money doesn't go anywhere, it stays in peoples' pockets as the church isn't bludging it off them to spend on anti-condom campaigns in Africa.

          So, the church disappears? Can't say it would the blindest bit of difference to non-catholics at all. I think they'd be more upset if their local milkman disappeared.

        • primenumbers

          More importantly are there any actual Christian Hospitals where Christian prayer is used to heal the sick and reduce suffering? The fact that Christians (on the whole, other than those whacky Christian Scientists and the like) acknowledge that medicine is the best route to healing, not prayer makes for even so called "Christian hospitals" testaments to how ineffectual Christianity is at healing the sick.

          • Michael Murray

            A year or so back I had to have a colonoscopy. I discovered too late that the specialist only seemed work at the Calvary hospitals in town. It was rather hard to notice it was a religious hospital though. The only sign was a crucifix high up on the wall in recovery. Probably raised by BP a few points.

          • primenumbers

            I'm sure it did raise your BP. It would mine too.

          • BenS

            This extremely valid point slipped me by when I was reading the article and having my brain melted by its inanity. You're right, of course.

            Christian hospitals would be ones that used Christian techniques to heal their patients - ones that use surgery and medicine honed through years of testing with the scientific method owe more to science than to a picture of the virgin mary above the door. They're scientific hospitals, not christian ones.

            Are there any Christian hospitals?

          • primenumbers

            Mention of some here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,753915,00.html where Christianity is used to heal rather than medicine.

          • Michael Murray

            OK I blame you for this. I followed your link and the most read article was spray on condoms.

            http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1832445,00.html

          • BenS

            Good lord. Christian science healing.

            "Is looking after your bedridden Grandma causing a strain for your family? Is Grandad's laboured wheezing causing you all sleepless nights? Bring them to our 'no anaesthetics, only prayer' surgical theatre and we'll take care of the problem for you!

            Drive-through service also available."

          • Rationalist1
          • Michael Murray

            No, no, god created us with free will and brains so we could learn medicine. All the good things come from god. He also gave us a bunch of really nasty diseases for us to practice our medicine on. He's so good like that.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Christian hospitals would be ones that used Christian techniques to heal their patients"

            >> Like the scientific method itself.

          • Rationalist1

            No, like Lourdes and Fatima.

        • Martin Snigg

          Dr Oz Guinness has a talk online somewhere about just what the Christian revolution brought to the world, and David Bentley Hart's 'Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies' is a recent work.

          It beggars belief that it can be seriously contended that the anthropology brought to the ancient world by Jesus Christ has been of no account or of negative value. The idea that the institutions of care (The parable of the Good Samaritan: the parable that changed the world; "with the Bible we can now look the white man in the eye" from Guinness talk) and the project of institutional science are all born in Christian soil. The only possible position (though still strains credulity) is that Christianity was some kind of booster rocket, lifting humanity into a developmental stage that now no longer needs it. Immediate rejoinder is how mechanical and artificial that analogy is, where seed, soil and flowering better corresponds to the organic dynamism of human culture and development.

          As Lezsek Kolakowski (former Marxist) wrote "

          [Christianity’s] strength in this interpretation is
          manifested in its ability to build a barrier against hatred in the consciousness of individuals “as we forgive those who trespass against us”. This challenge thrown down to human nature remains. If Christians are to be found only among those who know how to meet this challenge, who are disciples of Jesus in the sense that they do not escape from the struggle, but are free from hatred – how many have there been, and how many are there now in the world? I do not know. I do not know whether there were more in the Middle Ages than there are now. However many there are, they are the salt of the earth, and European civilization would be a desert without them.
          Modernity on Endless Trial

          The decline in the quality of atheism is appalling and deeply foreboding because the varieties popular today are a function of the banality of much Christianity - e.g. various megachurch "bourgeois first, Christian second, churches. ?

          • Michael Murray

            The utility of Christianity tells us nothing about it's truth.

          • Martin Snigg

            Michael the argument was that Christianity retarded human progress when it clearly was essential to the existence of the various goods claimed by atheist secularism for itself. It clearly is the case that if someone wants to grow a flower they will care about what works to bring that about - they will care about the utility value of water, nutrients, CO2 and light. Of course crucifixion has limited 'utility' value by worldly standards, and Christ Himself said that "they will persecute you on my account" "the world hates you, but be of good cheer, for they hated me first". But if we want institutions of care and concern to survive we will want to understand their origins. We live on the cut-flower of Christian culture and it is withering rapidly.

          • Max Driffill

            It is strange that many Christians want to claim credit for science, while conveniently neglecting how often and ferociously Christianity has railed agains its findings and its researchers throughout history.

            Also charity isn't unique to Christianity.

        • Max Driffill

          Joe,
          You might try reading what I said and not responding to what you imagine me to have said. I said a hospital is generally considered more useful than a church by atheists. I think this is probably objectively true too, given a hospital can serve a plurality of people without any sectarian disputes. I'll take a secular hospital welcoming to the masses vs an ideological Catholic institution that may deny me or my loved one critical medical care based on specific interpretations of ancient texts or the pronouncements of allegedly infallible people.

          Also, I doubt very much that Church orgs fund, wholly, any hospital effort. They will get help from city and state, and will probably do local fund drives. The RCC could sell a lot of its costumes, and its riches and build any large number of hospitals I imagine. A great deal of church wealth goes toward propping up its opulent facade. I know there are many who are deeply impressed with Christian charity. But much of it looks like political fundraising that has a minor humanitarian arm.

          Prayer is certainly useless to everyone except the person praying, who probably derives some gratification from the act.

    • Mary Kay

      I have to say that, as a women, I feel more "empowered" by the Church than by secular society. that's my two cents.

      • Max Driffill

        Mary Kay,
        Perhaps you could expand with more cents? I'd be curious to hear how and why you think you have been more empowered by the RCC?
        Does it bother you that the RCC bitterly opposed suffrage?
        Does it bother you that RCC allows nuns absolutely no say in the Church (I would direct you to the patronizing manner in which Church fathers recently went after the Women Religious)?

        I am genuinely curious.
        Thanks in advance.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

    I wanted to leave this comment closer to the "top" of the combox heap, though it's a result of ongoing discussion (and discovery on my part) below of some intriguing angles regarding our Founding Fathers and the embrace of "deism" that helped shape not only the Declaration of Independence but also touches on the content of the Constitution itself.

    The argument regarding the Constitution is that what it says about "religion" *necessarily* extends also to *God* (God "is" religion). But here's the thing: "Deism" would appear to be described by many of its practitioners as definitely *not* a "religion" but rather a "philosophy" acknowledging God's existence as Creator based on the evidence of reason and nature but *not* on Holy Books or Divine Revelation of any kind.

    So it would seem historically anachronistic to conflate what the Constitution says about religion as applying also to the "Creator God" of a *non*-religion like deism.

    That is, the "secular" government formed by the Constitution was designed to keep religion, not reference to God the Creator, in check so to speak. I think this is made most clear by keeping in mind that deists weren't viewing their acknowledment of God as Creator as a "religion"...
    So, if there is *any* documentary evidence from that period that refutes this claim, I ask help in finding it. Likewise, if you know supporting evidence, I'd love to see it.

    • Mikegalanx

      The Constitution was, after great debate, specifically written to exclude all reference to God- that's why it was so heatedly denounced by many Christians over the following decades.

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

        As someone once famously said:
        Got evidence?
        Give me some kind of record of this "great debate" about *God*, and then I can consider your assertion more carefully...

    • Susan

      That is, the "secular" government formed by the Constitution was designed to keep religion, not reference to God the Creator, in check so to speak. I think this is made most clear by keeping in mind that deists weren't viewing their acknowledment of God as Creator as a "religion"...

      It's terribly important to acknowledge that in many cases, their references to "creator" bore no resemblance to your belief in Yahweh and in many ways directly challenged those beliefs, but they took great pains to establish a government that allowed people to believe what they choose.

      There is also "freedom of speech" which is a very good way of requiring people to subject their ideas to evidence and reason if they expect those ideas to be taken seriously enough to influence a constitutional democracy and to feel safe doing so.

      Considering what they were facing and what they knew at the time, I think they did a brilliant job.

      As with all the dead thinkers that are brought up on this site, I regret that they aren't here to respond to the world as it is now with all the new evidence and ensuing complications that come with that.

      Still, I am astonished at their insight and their foresight and I wish people would refer to their writings directly when discussing the foundations of your country.

      It's frustrating when people cherry pick in order to support ideas that seem to be in direct conflict with what they thought desperately mattered in establishing a healthy democracy, ideas that have allowed all of us to have this discussion with no chance that some of us might be burned at the stake for questioning the majority or authority.

      I'm grateful to them for that. The U.S.A. for all of its flaws was and remains a part of undermining monarchies and theocracies. An idea with ideals that has changed the shape of human society.

      I'm very glad they didn't leave the catholics in charge. That wouldn't have boded well.

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

        It actually doesn't make one bit of difference whether the God the Creator that stands at the root of deism and freemasonry "resembles" Yahweh, Allah, or the Blessed Trinity. What does matter is whether the historical record is properly understood regarding what the Constitution says or doesn't say about God and what it says or doesn't say about religion....

    • Rationalist1

      The only time that God, Creator, Jesus or Lord is mentioned in the Constitution is at the very bottom in the signatory section where it says "Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven". Hardly enough to get too excited about.

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

        But the "not-mentioning-God" thing supports my point as well. The US Constituion says *nothing* about prohibiting the invocation of the Creator God in government...

        • Rationalist1

          Except for that pesky First Amendment.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Do you mean *this* First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."?
            The one that doesn't mention God at all?

          • primenumbers

            Mentioning God is respecting the establishment of religion.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            So, each time a US president, in the course of his public office, invokes the name of God in a speech or text, he is respecting the establishment of religion??
            Which religion?

          • primenumbers

            It doesn't matter which religion because the 1st doesn't mention "a religion", but "religion".

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Or maybe, since the First Amendment doesn't mention *God* but mentions religion, maybe it's really talking about religion and not God...

          • primenumbers

            And what religion is it they're talking about that doesn't have a God?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            I'm sure every religion they'd had in mind had "God". But "God" wasn't the problem. At all.
            They all *agreed*--even the deists--that God existed and was Creator.
            The problem was *each other*--not God. The problem was religion itself in its various forms...the problem was the factionalism this created, and the myriad consequences of warring factions...

          • primenumbers

            "They all *agreed*--even the deists--that God existed and was Creator. " - no. They didn't believe in your God or else they'd be Christians, not deists. The God of deism is not your God and nothing remotely like your God.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            "Nothing remotely like your God"? Pretty strongly stated.
            Particularly since "my God" is also the Supreme Being, the Creator, the Divine Architect (so to speak). And "my God" is knowable through both reason and nature.
            Jews, for example, believe in "my God" and aren't Christians, are they? We Christians even will say that Islam's Allah is the "one God" worshipped albeit much differently.
            Saying the same thing about a deist is not only historically accurate but is theologically quite tolerable...
            And yet, it's beside my original point: deists were anti-religion, not anti-God.
            If they were anti-God, they would have been atheists, not deists...

          • primenumbers

            "Pretty strongly stated" - pretty obvious that if the God they believed in was like the Christian God, they'd be Christians not deists....

            "And "my God" is knowable through both reason and nature" - you believe that for sure, but if there's one thing this site has shown us, such a belief lacks solid justification.

            "Jews, for example, believe in "my God" and aren't Christians, are they?" - and as if by magic Jews become Trinitarians! Of course they don't believe in your 3-in-1 God.

            "We Christians even will say that Islam's Allah is the "one God" worshipped albeit much differently" - sure you appease the Muslims. That's one of the major problems with Christians of today and you just need to look to Europe to see how well that policy of appeasement is progressing.

            Atheists are not anti-God. Where on earth do you get that from? How can we be against something we don't believe in? Similarly deists can be against your God (because they didn't believe in your God) yet still believe the universe was created by some utterly unknown deity. About all they believed in was such a creator exists, and they didn't go beyond that to posit properties of this creator, to make him a personal being or even a being or anything intelligible at all. The position of deism is vastly closer to agnosticism and atheism than any theism.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Did the deist signers of the Declaration of Independence believe in a Supreme Being, "Nature's God," who is Creator and who has endowed us with certain inalienable rights?

          • primenumbers

            How can you believe in a supreme being when your concept of God is completely mysterious. You keep tacking Christian language onto deistic belief. Why don't you look up their written words to see what they believed exactly, rather than a committee document?

          • epeeist

            Did the deist signers of the Declaration of Independence believe in a Supreme Being, "Nature's God," who is Creator and who has endowed us with certain inalienable rights?

            You need to read some of the history from around that time. Natural religion was a feature of the Enlightenment, some of the ideas of which fed into your declaration of independence.

          • Andre Boillot

            "And "my God" is knowable through both reason and nature."

            I'm curious, did you reason your way to your God before or after being exposed to your faith's idea of God?

            ""Nothing remotely like your God"? Pretty strongly stated.Particularly since "my God" is also the Supreme Being, the Creator, the Divine Architect (so to speak)."

            I'm not sure how pointing out that there is some overlap between deistic and theistic conceptions of god (let alone the full Catholic understanding of God), serves to make an especially strong argument here.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            I've been put in the position of having to defend the existence of this overlap by those who appear to be trying to dissociate the deism of the founding fathers from monotheism....and the "overlap" is the crucial common ground that appears to have allowed the founding fathers to find some consensus as they sought to build a nation...
            And it helps us see that it was religion--not God the Creator--being dealt with constitutionally...

          • Andre Boillot

            "And it helps us see that it was religion--not God the Creator--being dealt with constitutionally..."

            I agree that the founders weren't likely atheists, and that they weren't trying to divorce the Declaration, or the nation, from a "creator".

            "the "overlap" is the crucial common ground that appears to have allowed the founding fathers to find some consensus as they sought to build a nation..."

            Sure, but that common ground is common to almost all people of every faith. It would be like trying to rebut a claim that a wooden cart is nothing like a Ferrari by saying they both have wheels.

  • reader_gl

    “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion”
    – 1796 Treaty of Tripoli

    The politicians are like drunkards, in the morning they repent half of what they said last night.
    In other words, this statement says that the U.S. is not in any sense concentrated on the "We, people of America". Maybe the stars on that day in 1796 were in wrong positions?

  • Alejandro I. Sanchez

    Having a secular government in a religious nation has been a real blessing for religious people as well as the non-religious. So in that sense I'm glad atheists are able to participate with their own monuments and not feel inhibited to do so by our government. After all this is their country too. My only critique of this monument is that I don't know of anyone who would connect the stated goals/quotes of atheists written on this bench to actual American atheism. When one reads the late O'hair's quote I doubt one would say to themselves "Yea, that's what American atheism is all about.". Instead atheism today has become synonymous with anti-religious secularism and political correctness. That's why these quotes do make sense in a way. So with that said it would be more reasonable to call this monument a monument to secularism rather than to atheism.

    But I would also say that if atheists want to join the religious world in building hospitals, doing charitable works, engaging the world by helping to end disease, banish poverty and eliminate war, they're more than welcome to join us. Then, I too will say with Mrs. Scalia “thank you, atheists, for beginning your long road and heavy task of healing the world, banishing poverty and eliminating war, with the single step of building a bench.”

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Hi Alejandro, nice comment. I don't think you are going to see "Atheism," itself, doing anything. Organized groups of individual atheists do things, such as when a relief fund was gathered to help the people of Haiti by the Richard Dawkins Foundation after the big earthquake. But atheism does not have any specific social goals other than protecting people's rights to non-belief and standing in the way of perceived bad acts by religions (e.g. imprisonment or death for blasphemy in Muslim countries or burning children to death as witches in Africa), and as I have written elsewhere, not all atheists support the atheism movement.

      However, atheists working as individual persons are in social and civic development organizations around the world. Sometimes they are in organization where they have to keep quiet about not believing, or even pretend to have faith in order to get along. You are going to see good works from good people, be they people of faith, or not, and the ones that are not, need not be carrying a banner of an "ism" while they do what they do.

      • Alejandro I. Sanchez

        Thanks Q. I agree with you, good people will do good works whether they believe or disbelieve in God, as you've pointed out. I also agree with you that atheism in general does not have any specific goals which is why I find O'Hair's quote especially challenging to accept. But since the American Atheist group, who is responsible for this monument, most likely does not speak for all American atheists I guess my critique is directed more so to their group. To them I'd ask: Other than in courtrooms, where is your group actually promoting the things in which your founder stood for that is stated on your monument?

  • Roger Hane

    A creed for atheists? Forget it. It would be as impossibly hard for all atheists to agree upon and follow a single creed as it is for Christians to do the same thing.

  • VelikaBuna

    They could have picked better quotes that is for sure. I find these quotes so detached from reality that i read them as a humor, although most people take them very seriously.

  • http://shackra.bitbucket.org/ shackra sislock

    An atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said.

    Ora et Labora

  • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

    I'm not an atheist, so this is just an outsider's perspective. Atheists here, please let me know what you think.

    Maybe I'm too partial to Latin, but I'd go with Spinoza's statement at the end of his Ethics:

    Qui enim posset fieri si salus in promptu esset et sine magno labore reperiri posset ut ab omnibus fere negligeretur? Sed omnia præclara tam difficilia quam rara sunt.

    (Elwes Translation: How would it be possible, if salvation were ready to our hand, and could without great labour be found, that it should be by almost all men neglected? But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.)

    That's Spinoza's reason atheists are always the minority and the reason why people should cast out their superstitions anyway. I don't think this principle has been stated better, although maybe it is at odds with some of the new atheists. Not that that's a bad thing.

    • Michael Murray

      That's Spinoza's reason atheists are always the minority

      Do you think they are ? I know that people tick the box of a religion in census forms and the RCC likes to count anyone baptised as Catholic as one of the flock. But I suspect the number of atheists or apatheists is far higher than we think. At least outside the US. Look at how people actually behave (count them by the fruits of their labours):

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimacy_(law)#Extramarital_births

      or look at what Census Christians really believe:

      http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/644941-rdfrs-uk-ipsos-mori-poll-1-how-religious-are-uk-christians

      My feeling is the future holds an increasing indifference to both theism and atheism bought on by the lack of relevance of religion to modern lives.

      • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

        I'm pretty sure atheists are and always have been in the minority. I think it's very likely that the number of atheists is higher than the polls show. But it would have to be about 10 times higher in order for atheists to be the majority (and if that was the case, how do people explain polls that suggest around 50% of people in the US accept a 6000 year old earth?).

        Will atheists always be a minority? Maybe not, but if atheism ever becomes the majority position, I don't think anyone will bother calling it atheism. It would be like me labelling my politics as non-Benthamite or anti-Whig.

        Maybe in the future more people will be indifferent. I'm very indifferent: agnostic is too strong a commitment for me. I'm not even that. Indifferent people won't be building atheism benches, I think. The people who do this sort of thing are almost certainly a minority.

        Neither of us can be entirely indifferent, or else we wouldn't be commenting here.

        • Michael Murray

          (and if that was the case, how do people explain polls that suggest around 50% of people in the US accept a 6000 year old earth?).

          The US is unusual in these respects.

          Maybe not, but if atheism ever becomes the majority position, I don't think anyone will bother calling it atheism. It would be like me labelling my politics as non-Benthamite or anti-Whig.

          I agree completely.

          Indifferent people won't be building atheism benches, I think.

          Neither would I. I don't understand atheism benches or atheism Sunday services.