Sunday, March 23, 2014
Americans Don’t Like Atheists, Even Those That Died on 9/11
There has been a lot of hoopla recently about American Atheists suing to keep a giant cross out of the National September 11 Museum. They want to keep the cross out of the museum because it would be a religious symbol on government property which violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, but they seem to be willing to settle for being included in the museum along with Jews and Hindus who will have their religious symbols represented.
Most of the hoopla is decidedly negative and not in support of American Atheists. Even one self-described atheist from New York has called them “ingrates” and “truculent” for wanting a plaque in the museum that would say “Atheists died here, too”. One article on this subject stated that “Not all atheists have a pathological need to be hated”, but apparently American Atheists does. They are also apparently “mean-spirited and obnoxious” for taking the issue to court. On FOX News, Megyn Kelly was practically giddy that they had lost in the initial legal stage.
What hasn’t been reported by the media, is that American Atheists made numerous requests to be included by the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, but were ignored.
As is usually the case, public opinion is running against atheists requesting to be recognized as a part of American society, and they probably couldn’t have picked a tougher fight. The events of September 11 are still emotionally wrought, and they are also intimately intertwined with American religious sensibilities. When even an atheist considers Ground Zero to be a holy place and atheist intrusion there a degradation, I would say you’ve hit a particularly raw nerve.
But the sensitivity of the situation makes it even more important to be included in the museum. In fact, that is the very reason American Atheists is asking that Americans who died on 9/11, and who also happened to be atheists, be recognized by their country. Atheists were just as impacted by it as any other group in our society. There are some Americans who gave up their religion or realized for the first time that they were atheists because of the nature of the attack.
Judge Deborah Batts ruled that the cross and its display “help demonstrate how those at ground zero coped with the devastation they witnessed during the rescue and recovery effort.” Yes, it demonstrates how Christians coped with the devastation which is something that should and is being observed and honored. It doesn’t demonstrate how non-religious, atheists, and agnostics coped with the devastation. And apparently nothing that would demonstrate that is allowed in the museum. That is if a majority of Americans who are religious continue to deny the rights and humanity of the minority of Americans who are not.
Atheists serve and die for their country just like other Americans. They pay their taxes just like other Americans. They participate, or at least try to participate in government and perform their civic duties just like other Americans. And some of them died tragically on September 11, 2001....just like other Americans. But since it is generally okay to characterize atheist Americans and American Atheists as ingrates, mean-spirited, and obnoxious, it’s also okay to not only exclude them, but also to berate them for even asking for inclusion.