Atheists unveiled the nation’s first public monument to secularism outside a county courthouse in Florida last week — a 1,500-pound gray granite bench engraved with quotations extolling the separation of church and state.
The group American Atheists said it had decided to put up its own monument only after failing to force Bradford County to remove the six-ton statue of the Ten Commandments that a Christian group had put up nearby.
The atheist group has vowed to erect 50 more such monuments around the country on public sites where the Ten Commandments now stand alone. It says that an anonymous donor will foot that bill — the monument in Florida cost about $6,000 — and that it is hearing from atheists who are already offering to serve as plaintiffs in lawsuits if there is opposition and lead the charge in their communities.
“True equality means all or none,” said Ken Loukinen, a retired firefighter in Florida who volunteers as director of state and regional operations for American Atheists. “Christianity has had an unfair privilege for at least the last 150 years. We want to level the playing field by stripping them of privilege, and bringing them to equality with all other ideologies.”
The atheists’ monument-building campaign is a new tactic in a long-running battle over the boundary between church and state. Having failed to persuade the courts that it is unconstitutional for a private organization to put up Christian monuments on government property, the atheists figured they should get in the game.
But building monuments to atheism from sea to shining sea is not really their goal. They figure that once atheists join the fray, every other group under the sun will demand the same privilege — including some that Christians might find objectionable, like pagans and Satanists. In the end, the atheists hope, local governments and school boards will decide that it is simpler to say no to everyone…
There are hundreds of Ten Commandments monuments and plaques across the country, many erected in the 1950s and ’60s by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a charitable group based in Grove City, Ohio…
In Starke, the atheists’ monument is dwarfed by the Ten Commandments…At one end of the six-foot-long granite bench is a four-foot-tall square-top pillar bearing quotations from John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who founded American Atheists in 1963.
“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,” Adams is quoted as saying.
I’d read enough science by the age of thirteen to become an atheist. I’d studied sufficient philosophy by the age of eighteen to become a materialist, able to embrace the dialectics of science and history.
I don’t care what you wish to believe as long as your deeds do not harm others, keep them from knowledge or prevent them from ordering their own life’s decisions. That puts me in opposition to pretty much all of the hypocrites and opportunists who quote religion as part of their political mantra.