Today, it was announced that a group calling itself “The American Atheists” filed a lawsuit over a particular item at the 9/11 memorial. Particularly, they are suing to stop the now well-known 9/11 cross, discovered still standing at Ground Zero during the cleanup and made of steel beams from the frame of one of the towers, from being prominently displayed in the soon-to-be-opened 9/11 memorial museum.
In the weeks after the attacks, the fires were fought and human remains were carefully recovered and respectfully removed. In some cases, all that was found was a handful of bone fragments or some clothing. A mangled helmet belonging to one of the Engine 3 firefighters will be on display, as will the mangled Engine 3 itself – it has already been lowered into the museum by crane. As the smoke cleared during the recovery efforts, however, the only beams found still standing had formed a cross. That cross offered a great deal of comfort and inspiration to those who lost and those who helped work on 9/11.
Considering the fact that the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center Foundation is a private organization and is tax-exempt (not to mention the fact that the property is privately owned), the group isn’t likely to win their lawsuit. They are basing their lawsuit solely on the fact that the organization has received government grand funds. That tactic has never worked in the past. The group claims that they favor absolute separation of church and state, meaning that they believe that no mention would be made of religion whatsoever during any event or in any facility that has the slightest fingerprint of government on it.
Most telling about their position, however, is the press release offered by leader Dave Silverman: “The WTC cross has become a Christian icon. It has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their god, who couldn’t be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross. It’s a truly ridiculous assertion.”
That’s not a legal position. It smacks of religious undertones, whether it was meant or not. When I posted the link to the original story on Twitter, I wrote, “atheism: the religion created by those who wish to prove that God does not exist.” User @HatefulAtheist was apparently quite offended. He still hasn’t let go of the fact that I called the move quasi-religion.
He refuses to admit I have a point. Here are a few definitions, taken directly from Merriam-Webster:
RELIGION: 1: the state of a religious 2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices 3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness 4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
Note that there are a few varying definitions, and not all are spiritual. The poster then said that religion must contain “dogma” in order to be a religion. Let’s take a look at that definition…
DOGMA: 1: something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet 2: a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church
Note that the church reference is secondary in this instance. To be sure, let’s take a look at the definition of another word used here…
TENET: a principle, belief, or doctrine generally held to be true; especially : one held in common by members of an organization, movement, or profession
Religion isn’t even mentioned here. My point in all of this is that my opinion is that atheism has to some degree become a religious movement in and of itself. The ardent refusal to believe that God exists has become so important to some that it trumps all other pursuits. You can see multiple open insults in Dave Silverman’s comment; his choice of words is not unlike those of religious leaders in Christianity and Islam. There are leaders in every religion on the planet who take verbal swipes at other faiths and those who openly hold to no faith. In fact, some are quite well-known for such insulting behavior.
When a group is willing to persecute another group so vehemently that they refuse to allow any vestige of that group to be experienced in public, it has become a religion, regardless of the values or beliefs of others who belong to that group. Entire organizations of atheists have been built for the purpose of tearing Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam and other religions down until the public no longer sees references to any established spiritual belief.
To @HatefulAtheist and those like him, I say this: Christians aren’t all anti-gay. There are “open and affirming” churches all over the world, Christian churches that believe that homosexuality is not a sin and congregations that welcome those who are openly gay. Jews aren’t all anti-gay, either. In fact, the IDF – the Israeli military – has long allowed gays to serve openly. These facts do not change reality. The reality I speak of is the fact that most gay people see both religions in an extremely negative light because of the members who really do believe homosexuality to be a sin, some of them preaching borderline hatred against us.
You are entitled to your opinion just as I am entitled to mine. You are as likely to change my mind as I am to change yours. Since I am a believing Christian and you are an atheist, we both know how far that’ll carry us. The difference between you and I is that I don’t see my faith as a religion and, in fact, I bristle at being referred to as religious. You would disagree and pigeonhole me as religious just for believing in God. You can argue with me all day – but I see it this way: if I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.