America’s First Atheist Monument is a 1,500-Pound Granite Bench

And weirdly, it owes its existence to the Ten Commandments.

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Sean Fraser / American Atheists

The existing Ten Commandments monument, pictured outside the Bradford County Courthouse

The first U.S. public monument to Atheism is set to be unveiled outside a Florida courthouse later this month. It’s a granite bench engraved with secularist quotes. And weirdly, it owes its existence to the Ten Commandments.

Here’s how it happened. In October 2011, Bradford County, Florida established a “Free Speech Forum” outside its courthouse, allowing private groups to place monuments at their own expense. Last May, the Community Men’s Fellowship, a local Christian group, took advantage of that arrangement, placing a 5-foot, 6-ton stone slab engraved with the Bible’s Ten Commandments.

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But that violated separation of church and state principles—or so alleged advocacy group American Atheists, which took Bradford County to court. Faced with a costly legal battle, the county asked the Community Men’s Fellowship to remove their monument. They refused.

So the case ended in a compromise: the Ten Commandments slab would stay, but American Atheists would be allowed to put up their own monument, as well. Hence, the 1,500 lb granite bench, which will be engraved with secularist quotes from figures like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, as well as American Atheists founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

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“We have maintained from the beginning that the Ten Commandments doesn’t belong on government property,” said American Atheists President David Silverman in a press release. “There is no secular purpose for the monument whatsoever and it makes atheists feel like second-class citizens. But if keeping it there means we have the right to install our own monument, then installing our own is exactly what we’ll do.”

The bench will also feature quotes from the Bible listing punishments for breaking the Ten Commandments, like execution—a move that’s designed to “make it clear that the Ten Commandments are not the ‘great moral code’ they’re often portrayed to be,” as American Atheists Public Relations Director Dave Muscato has said.

The Community Men’s Fellowship’s Ken Weaver told the Christian Post that while they don’t agree with American Atheists’ stance on religion, they do believe in their right to freely express their beliefs. “God worked this out,” said the group in a Facebook statement.

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This kerfuffle is just the latest in a growing number of conflicts about public displays of religion in the U.S., as the Huffington Post notes. In February, for example, a district judge dismissed an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, ruling that another Ten Commandments display in front of a Florida courthouse could remain. Similar quarrels have erupted over Ten Commandments displays in public schools in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, in a new Gallup poll, three quarters of Americans say that religion is losing influence on life in the U.S.—the most negative evaluation of the impact of religion in America since 1970.

MORE: Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011): A Career in Quotes

854 comments
Seresviel
Seresviel

Would be happy to see a monument inscribed with "No gods or kings, only man" outside every courthouse.

Bernadette@Jesus247
Bernadette@Jesus247

Atheist do believe in God, because if they didn't they would not be trying to prove He does not exist. God will show him self real to the whole world real soon.  God destroyed the world once because of Sodomy and unbelief and he can do it again. The people who don't believe that there is a God in heaven are in big trouble when they die. 

MikeBMartisko
MikeBMartisko

Does anyone know where I can find the contect of the monuments statements?  I don't understand what their beef is with the punishments for disobeying the 10 Commandments, if they don't obey them, and they don't believe, they will not be receiving those punishmets.  Or is it that they do believe, and they fear the punishment for not acknowledging that belief?

sigzero
sigzero

"The bench will also feature quotes from the Bible listing punishments for breaking the Ten Commandments"

Yes, because their argument cannot stand on its own merits. If you have to tear down the beliefs of someone else to validate yours, you have lost.

MarioArana
MarioArana

J e s u s loves everyone: religious nuts, atheists, judges, lawyers, and scientists. J e s u s invites everyone to experience abundant life in HIM! He is a gentleman and He will not beg nor force a n y o n e to love Him back. Anyone interested read the gospel of John. Read "More than a Carpenter," "Mere Christianity" or "The Case for Christ." No debate, no monument will matter in the end, what will matter is what YOU believe... Jesus loves you beyond what you can ever imagine... 

RichyBocaz
RichyBocaz

Wrong title. America is a continent not just one country. It should say...US’s First Atheist Monument


RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

This is nuts. First Christians, then atheists, next I suppose some Muslim group will want their own monument. Then the Buddhists. Then the Mormons. Then the Rastafarians. And so on.. There's no end to religious foolishness or the many forms it can take. Why not just stop with some nice bushes and flowers, that EVERYBODY can enjoy?

joestuffsda
joestuffsda

Deists, not atheists; they're one step above atheists, but still hell-bound for the fool has said in his heart there is no God..

philnaustin
philnaustin

Sounds more like an Anti-Christian monument, than a pro-Atheist Monument, designed to criticize the 10 commandments (when you read the details on the monument).   Seems to be similar to the Atheist billboards that made fun of Mormons and Catholics last year.

Dear Atheists, it seems more like you are lashing out at others, than trying to show that you live to a higher standard. I would suggest you take a higher road.
However if your goal is actually to lash out at organized religion, show some balls, and pick on the Muslims....then we'd all be impressed.

MarkNichols
MarkNichols

@Bernadette@Jesus247So Christians do believe in Allah, because if they didn't they would not be trying to prove he does not exist. Ragnarok, will show himself to the whole world real soon. Enlili destroyed the world once because of overpopulation. and he can do it again. The people that don't believe that there is a Zeus on Mt. Olympus are in big trouble when they die.  

MarkNichols
MarkNichols

@MikeBMartisko It's called hypocrisy. If the commandments were really the source of law, then the punishments listed in the bible should apply. 

AndreyGorohovschi
AndreyGorohovschi

@sigzero 

For the love of life.

Atheists DO NOT HAVE ANY ARGUMENTS.

WE DO NOT BELIEVE YOUR ARGUMENTS.

Da FAQ

eagleonehws
eagleonehws

@MarioArana... Sorry, people... You are so into your own hole ... You are fostering your own opinion as to look down on atheists as a second  class ... What are you going to do? Perhaps declare Atheism a religion so you won't be arguing over something that doesn't exist ... Fact is, I do not need your dream because it has nothing to do with my reality ... 

KevinBuckeye
KevinBuckeye

@MarioArana Your arrogance is astounding.Middle-Eastern Mythology (Cross,Crescent,and Star) will fade away in time...And your lies along with you. :)

JennOfCincy
JennOfCincy

@RichyBocazAmerica is not a continent. The Americas are two continents. North America is the northern continent of The Americas. South America is the southern continent of The Americas.

America is not a continent.

AndreyGorohovschi
AndreyGorohovschi

@joestuffsda 

And there reason to believe there is a hell is .... <crickets for centuries>

And the reason to believe that quote is ..... <crickets for centuries>


You might as well do a rain dance to wish us ill; it also highlights the joyful nature of your character.

Piacevole
Piacevole

@joestuffsda I'll say it out loud, in print.  I'll also note that the likelihood of either heaven or hell is exceedingly remote.

eagleonehws
eagleonehws

@philnaustin Atheists did not place the 10 Commandment marker on government property, now did they? ...

KevinBuckeye
KevinBuckeye

@philnaustin That is a government building! Separation of Church and State,remember? Or,do you have selective memory?

Piacevole
Piacevole

@philnaustin I don't have any brief for Muslims any more than for Christians, but they aren't as ubiquitous in the United States as are Christians of various sects.  Christians have an exceedingly deeply ingrained sense of entitlement in America, and if they got shaken out of their complacency, that would be a good thing.

As for Islam, it's about 600 years younger than Christianity, and consider what Christianity was doing 600 years ago: the Inquisitions.  Religions probably have the same general curve of maturity as do individual people, just over a longer time span.

It's also possible that, like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, they might eventually be outgrown.

tokerjnk
tokerjnk

@MarkNichols @Bernadette@Jesus247 

Let's compare the effort atheists put into smearing and mocking religion with that Christians put into Allah/Ragnarok/Zeus/etc, shall we? And you do know Allah means God...

tokerjnk
tokerjnk

@MarkNichols

So a moral guide for behaviour, and particular punishments for said behaviour, are inextricably linked? 0 for 2, Mark.

tokerjnk
tokerjnk

@AndreyGorohovschi

Atheists have no arguments? Is that really what you think, Andrey? Though to be fair, the caps to make a compelling...argument. :)

tokerjnk
tokerjnk

@KevinBuckeye

What an odd and useless response to someone who expresses a belief of universal acceptance and love. I'm not sure what you think "arrogance" and "lies" mean, but comprehension is not your strong point. More substance and relevance in the future, please, Kevin.

philnaustin
philnaustin

@Piacevole@philnaustin
I believe that you may have proved my point.  This isn't about pro-Atheist.
This is about "[christian] entitlement in America".   It's an attack on specific religions. 

I am all for a pro-Atheist monument, as long as it doesn't attack other religions.  However, other articles I have read describe the monument as pointing out flaws in the 10 commandments. 

Why bring in the 10 commandments?



joestuffsda
joestuffsda

@Piacevole @philnaustin  

It better not to mix Catholicism with Christianity. The Waldensians and others had to go underground while the martyrdom was going on.

philnaustin
philnaustin

@AndreyGorohovschi @philnaustin 
I believe that my point has been proved by my comments below.  This isn't about pro-Atheist.
This is about, as Piacevole said it "[christian] entitlement in America".   It's an attack on specific religions.  However, let's face it, no one, not even the Atheists are going to risk angering Muslims. 

AndreyGorohovschi
AndreyGorohovschi

@tokerjnk @AndreyGorohovschi 

Apparently your disbelief in my magical dragon is an argument against the existence of my magical dragon.

The joke's on you, I get to play with my magical dragon.


BTW.
Look up "Kissing Hank's ass"

Piacevole
Piacevole

@philnaustin @Piacevole Perhaps the ten commandments were brought up because they were the subject of the display that initiated this situation.

AndreyGorohovschi
AndreyGorohovschi

@philnaustin @Piacevole

"I am all for a pro-Atheist monument, as long as it doesn't attack other religions."

And when the religions are attacking us, do we have a right to defend ourselves?

Piacevole
Piacevole

@philnaustin @AndreyGorohovschi The group which erected the original monument about the ten commandments was a 'Christian group.'  The bench set up by the atheist group apparently (judging from the article) simply has secular quotations.  How is this an "attack on specific religions?" 

AndreyGorohovschi
AndreyGorohovschi

@philnaustin @AndreyGorohovschi

ok, first of all you mixing two things together. Atheist have had defended the rational disbelief in deities against Muslims on multiple occasions.


Second of all this isn't an attack on "specific religions" it is the law that government must stay out of ANY religion. This is a defensive move.


So far that law has been broken on multiple occasions.
1) In God we trust on the money
2) Government sponsored bible studies
3) Belief in deity required to hold office in multiple states.


That's a breach in contract that "We the people" agree on.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/files/2008/01/addiscartoon1.jpg