Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Atheist monument is “awkward”

w3xuVBQColumnist tom hoopes from the catholic vote website has written a rather trite top 10 list criticizing the monument that the American Atheists put up recently.

For those unfamiliar with the back story you can read more about it here and here.

Friendly atheist also wrote a response to this article. Let’s take a look at this top 10 list.

1. A quote on it says: “An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church.” Which is awkward, because we really haven’t seen all those hospitals the atheists were going to build …

When atheists groups have as much money as the catholic church we could see if this trend continues. In fact we already have evidence that this is not a very reasonable statement. Bill Gates is an atheist and gives away millions of dollars a year providing for medical treatment. Just look at his program to provide vaccines to low income areas in the world.

2. The hospital quote is also awkward because it clearly should have said: “An atheist believes that monuments to atheism should be built in all 50 states instead of a hospital.”

First off, if the atheist groups had their preference religious groups would not be putting monuments on state property. This monument was put up as a response to a 10 commandments monument put up in front of the same building that cost nearly four times as much as the atheist monument. This was put up because atheists believe that the state should not give preferential treatment to one on religious belief. In order to keep the 10 commandments display up the government had to allow displays from other groups to be put up. They probably thought this would placate everyone and get them to go away, we called their bluff.

3. A quote on the monument says atheists “Want war eliminated.” Which is awkward because warriors like Stalin and Lenin and Mao and Hoxha and Ceaușescu – were all atheists.

Please, this is no more awkward than a Christian saying they are against torture even knowing that Cardinal Ximénes de Cisneros, the man in charge of the Spanish inquisition, was a Christian. The notion that I, or anyone employed by American Atheists, are personally responsible for something Stalin did just because we hold the same opinion about God is just laughable.

4. The monument also mocks the punishments threatened in the Old Testament. Awkward: Far worse brutality was actually committed by the atheist warriors listed above – in our lifetime.

This complaint I found quite interesting, he says that the brutality of atheists like Stalin was worse than God’s brutality. Lets ignore the question of who is the more brutal, and instead notice that he seems to be acknowledging that God’s behavior is in fact brutal, just less so than Stalin. It’s not a problem for me that Stalin was a brutal dictator. I don’t worship Stalin, never have, never will. So the most pertinent question is why he worships someone who he will readily acknowledge has committed brutal acts.

5. The “We want war eliminated” quote is also awkward because all of the other quotes on the monument are from Founding Fathers known for starting a war with England.

Just because a group wants war eliminated doesn't mean they are pacifists who would refuse to fight even if there were no other options. One can be opposed to violence while still acknowledging that it may be needed now and again when presented with people who are willing to use violence to get what they want. This is not awkward at all.

6. It’s awkward that at the dedication, a preacher used the monument to preach Christ, and the free thinkers got mad at his free thinking.

What is awkward is suggesting that Eric Hovind, a man who claims the earth is 6,000 years old, qualifies as a free thinker. To claim that the term “free thinker” applies to anyone who has a thought about anything, no matter how misinformed or inane, would make the term meaningless. Besides people were less angry and more annoyed. Atheists don’t show up in peoples churches and force their way in front of the pulpit to shout at people. We don’t do that because it would make us look like assholes.

7. It’s awkward that the monument has what looks like a biohazard symbol on it.

Uh… here is what the two symbols look like.


Do these really look similar? I feel like this was just a stupid way to fill out his list, since “top 9 awkward facts” wouldn’t have the same ring to it.

8. But the symbol actually shows an atom. J.J. Thomson won the 1906 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering the electron. He was a churchgoer who read the Bible every night. Which is awkward for atheists.

OK, given that he actually knew it was the symbol for an atom, I’m even more certain that number 7 was just a lazy attempt at filler. How exactly is this suppose to be awkward anyway? I suppose if most atheists took the position that no religious person has ever done anything of merit in the history of the world it would be awkward, but I’ve never met an atheist with that opinion.

Atheists acknowledge Isaac Newton for his contributions to science without any awkwardness. Yet it was not Thomson’s or Newton’s religion that led them to these discoveries. In fact it is worth noting that despite Newton’s major contributions most of his work was complete nonsense due to his fascination with alchemy and theology. It’s possible that Newton could have accomplished much more if he hadn’t spent the majority of his carrier writing theological treatises. There is a good reason scientists still use the laws of motion but don’t pay any attention to Newton’s work in alchemy.

9. A quote on the monument says “An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death.” Awkward: atheists Jack Kevorkian (Dr. Death) and Derek Humphry (founder of the Hemlock Society) would disagree

Kevorkian supports the right of people who are dying of degenerative illnesses to choose to end their life early rather than suffer through months of agonizing pain. There is nothing awkward about wanting people to be able to live a long and happy life, while also supporting Kevorkian’s aim in this area.

10. A New Jersey-based group went to Florida to build an atheist monument. That sounds kind of … missionary and proselytizing. Which is awkward for people who are against that kind of thing …

I’m not sure that taking a trip to Florida counts as proselytizing. In any case I don’t think most atheists are against proselytizing in the sense of people on equal social footing debating ideas. We are against teachers proselytizing to their students in part because that is not a position of equal social footing, the teacher is using their authority to force people to listen and to stifle disagreement. However, I’m not opposed to the free exchange of ideas. Indeed it is that very free exchange that is causing religion to loose ground in many debates, like this one for instance.

I think most atheists have pointed out that we would prefer that no religious monuments be placed in front of courthouses or city hall or any other state owned building. If the 10 commandments display had been placed in front of a church or some other privately owned building Christians wouldn’t have heard a peep from us and we certainly wouldn’t have put up our own monument, so in a way they only have themselves to blame.

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