Unveiling America’s First Public Monument to Atheism

Surprisingly, some of its most vocal critics are other atheists

  • Share
  • Read Later
American Atheists

Following a lawsuit and more than a year of controversy, at noon on Saturday a group called the American Atheists will unveil the United States’ first public monument to atheism in a square outside the Bradford County courthouse in Starke, Florida, near Jacksonville. The five-foot-long, grey granite bench and connecting pillar, which were built and engraved by local masons using granite quarried in Georgia, will feature secular quotes from the Founding Fathers as well as a statement from the organization’s founder, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, encapsulating the 50-year-old group’s views:

“An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty banished, war eliminated.”

As a rule, atheists aren’t big on monuments, due to their religious symbolism. But the 4000-member group decided to erect one anyway after it lost a lawsuit in March that would have forced a local Christian group to remove its own monument – two stone tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments – located in the same public square. Once the atheist bench and attached pillar are in place, the two monuments will stand just a few yards apart in the square’s “Free Speech Zone,” where private citizens are allowed to erect displays.

“We don’t want to establish this monument, we feel we need to establish it,” says American Atheists President David Silverman. “If [Christians] are going to have their religious statements made on public land, we’re also going to have our statements made on public land whether they like it or not.” To drive home their opposition to the tablets, the atheist monument will also be engraved with a list of Old Testament punishments for breaking the Ten Commandments, including stoning and death. The point, says Silverman, is to shed light on the “hateful” side of the Bible.

(MORE: America’s First Atheist Monument is a 1,500-Pound Granite Bench)

Ironically, some of the most vocal criticism of the new atheist monument comes from other atheists, who are annoyed that the monument references the Ten Commandments at all. Luis Perez of Tampa, Florida commented on the group’s Facebook page: “This isn’t a victory for us, it is a victory for the theists. There should be NO representation of any agenda.” Another commenter, David Lavoie, wrote, “I think getting a monument instead of them taking the commandments down is a failure.”

Twenty percent of the U.S. public say they do not identify with any religion, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey. And while the atheist monument has evoked strong reactions, the vast majority of atheists may not care about the monument that much because they are not involved with organized groups in the first place. “They’re not obsessed with fighting religion or arguing about it,” says Phil Zuckerman, a sociology professor at Pitzer College in Claremont, California.

(MORE: Atheists Plan Live Hotline for Religious Doubters)

The group that erected the neighboring Ten Commandments tablets says it has no hard feelings about the new atheist monument. “We’ll bring coolers full of bottled water, be hospitable and kind and show we’re not angry,” says Ken Weaver, one of the leaders of the Community Men’s Fellowship.

Despite the uproar over the monument, it’s actually one of the least provocative gestures the group has made. In the past, American Atheists have flown banners that read “God-LESS America” on Independence Day, run bus ads proclaiming “You don’t need God,” and replaced nativity scenes at a Santa Monica, Calif. park with a sign that read “Religions are all alike — founded upon fables and mythologies.” In contrast, the new monument just looks like a form of biblical criticism. Barry Kosmin, Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College, notes, “The Founding Fathers quotes are not atheist quotes, they’re separationist quotes, because the Founding Fathers don’t qualify as atheists as we define it today.”

 

MORE:Nativity-Scene Battles: Score One for the Atheists

MORE: Packages Sealed with ‘Atheist’ Tape 10 Times More Likely to Disappear, Study Says

282 comments
CharlesBlankenship
CharlesBlankenship

EXPOSE THE GOP,TEALIBAN LIES & ATTEMPTS 2 HIJACK OUR DEMOCRACY & MAKE IT A #Dollarocracy Guess Who Was Atheist & Liberal >   “Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”

~George Washington

CharlesBlankenship
CharlesBlankenship

Gee If Only Someone Instrumental In The Creation of "Our Government" Could Be Quoted As 2 Why Religion Should have no Place In Our Laws & Legislation Someone Like George Washington Maybe.......... “If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so( reference 2 the "Ideology" based Fascism we have today just as he feared) administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”

~George Washington

JasonPlessas
JasonPlessas

Not sure whether to appreciate atheists trying to copy religion...or laugh at their increasingly cringe-worthy attempts. 

JackDorso
JackDorso

Well, at least they won't have to worry about someone desecrating this. I mean, what's the point?

LeeMiller
LeeMiller

Perhaps they should instead quote the atheist who murdered and dismembered Madalyn Murray O'Hair and her family so that he could drain the American Atheist bank accounts and buy gold coins?

mrsax2000
mrsax2000

Always amazed at how upset people get when something happens that calls into question their religion or their perception of the world.  Tastes great.  Less filling.  It would be a better world if everyone could just accept the fact that others believe different things.

jayare1
jayare1

And God spake all these words, saying,

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

1.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

2.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

3.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

4.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

5.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

6.

Thou shalt not kill.

7.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8.

Thou shalt not steal.

9.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

10.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

spamthisaddress61
spamthisaddress61

That was really sweet of the heathen to place that bench for the Godly to read and enjoy the commandments in comfort. 

Verimius
Verimius

This may not be the first public monument to atheism as the article claims. There is a monument to Atheists in Foxholes at Lake Hypatia, Alabama.

thehonestdoubter
thehonestdoubter

How long before the followers of the "Good Book" deface public property in the name of Jesus? Unfortunately, my money is on it'll last less than a month before being defaced.  Some people are REALLY sensitive about an opposing view being expressed with just as much conviction as their own.

Verimius
Verimius

How about a monument to Jainism? And Wicca? And Islam (both Shia and Sunni), and Yoruba and Santeria and the Greco-Roman gods and the Norse gods and Scientology and Epicurianism and Animism and Hinduism and Sikhism and all the branches of Christianity and Baha'i and Zoroastrianism and Buddhism and Pastafarianism and on and on and on. 

In fact, I'd like to see the area become so cluttered with monuments that the county would have to remove them all as a hazard to foot traffic.

Cookevie
Cookevie

"If there is no God, then why go through all of the trouble to prove that He does not exist?"  "The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." (Psalm 14:1)

MoreySoffo
MoreySoffo

An old Gahan Wilson cartoon shows a large group of people worshiping Nothing.  A bystander in the back of the crowd asks one of the worshippers, "Is Nothing sacred?"  

JamesBenjaminWales
JamesBenjaminWales

Most of the 10 commandments are good things to live by no matter what religion one believes in and even if one doesn't believe in a higher power at all.  Don't steal, murder, lie, etc.

Inspired
Inspired

Cant we all just get along?  Believe what ever you want to believe. Quit all this arguing and get along at least well enough to make a positive UNITED STATES people. We are making our country weak by not being United. Maybe we can agree to disagree and be done with it. 

CharlesRaymondMiller
CharlesRaymondMiller

I was at the dedication of this secular monument to equality, a value that this nation should stand for and strive to uphold.  What did I see on full display by the protesters?  Racism and Neo-Confederate Nationalism from the League of the South.  Deliberate attempts to interfere with the Right of Assembly and Free Speech by a group of local citizens, blasting bad Christian Country Music and horns during the speeches.  Christian Apologists, ignorant of the penalties proscribed by the so-called 10 Commandments that require them to stone this writer to death.  An attempt by another to desecrate the Atheist Monument.  A statement by another that there is no such thing as atheists.   

I would like to think that that kind of thinking is extremely rare and a product of the event.  Then I see the comments here, some ignorant, some hateful and I am reminded of the fruits the Christianity has born in America.  We have a lot of work to do.

Charles Miller
Regional Director, American Atheists, Alabama


justhowIseeit
justhowIseeit

This monument is an arguing monument- rather than standing on its own beliefs.

JillyA
JillyA

The quotes on the AA bench are verifiable, i.e. they are contemporaneously documented, unlike anything in the Bible. Too bad they don't support your "Christian Nation" ideology. It was not Christianity or the Bible that the Founders looked to for inspiration in writing the Constitution, but the ideals of the Enlightenment. Look it up.

 Regarding hospitals, according to Wikipedia:

"In ancient cultures, religion and medicine were linked. The earliest documented institutions aiming to provide cures were ancient Egyptiantemples. In ancient Greece, temples dedicated to the healer-god Asclepius, known as Asclepieia functioned as centres of medical advice, prognosis, and healing.[2] Asclepeia provided carefully controlled spaces conducive to healing and fulfilled several of the requirements of institutions created for healing.[3] Under his Roman name Æsculapius, he was provided with a temple (291 BC) on an island in the Tiber in Rome, where similar rites were performed.[4]

Have you seen the caduceus, (the staff entwined by a snake) that represents the medical sciences? That is the symbol of the god Asclepius. 

Your "history" teacher is ignorant or lying to you. Shame on him/her for feeding you erroneous information.



realitycheck100
realitycheck100

Fascinating. I learned in a history class that the concept of a hospital was begun by the Christians. That's why you see so many hospitals still under a Christian denominational covering today because it's the historical legacy. Do they even know that? Also the country was historically founded by Christians and anyone knows who has studied many of the founders that they were believers and attended christian church. To put that on the monument is a complete lie and a denial of our heritage and factual history to write what they wrote. At least live in the factual truth even if you don't believe in God don't erect a monument that has a bunch of lame statements on it that are lies and that anyone historically can read through! They could have done better than that. It's kind of laughable! I get the impression they really don't know what they believe.

DaveWinstonSmith
DaveWinstonSmith

I think they forgot some parts for their "monument" : “An atheist believes God should be eradicated from ALL American ideals, both public and private. And any mention of God to an atheist, should be considered a 'hate crime'. Punishable to the highest extent of the 'law'."

RichardMiller1
RichardMiller1

Bonus!You are free to live in a society where you are not stoned for not believing!.Shut up!

phoebefeline
phoebefeline

Can you sit on the bench or is it just for looks?

edlf
edlf

I join those who do not give a hoot what atheists believe or what they do not believe, and they should not concern themselves with what non-atheists believe or what they do not believe.   I cannot understand why anyone should be concerned what others than themselves may or may not believe.  I also do not understand why some church-goers return each Sunday to be told by their minister what sinners they are.  It apparently does not suffice for these sinners to confess their sins because they must re-confess them again each Sunday if not each day.  It would bother me if I were to be sinning and confessing all the time, i.e., why should I confess my sins if I must continually re-confess them?

tomu18
tomu18

Stalin shook his fist at God on his death bed...

Hitler replaced the Bible with Mein Kampf in class rooms.

 Mussolini, Mao Xedong, Pol Pot...20th century hall of shame.  Millions dead and counting...

uhpharmd
uhpharmd

Last I checked there are no Atheist hospitals anywhere in the world. There are ,on the other, plenty of Christian hospitals all over the world. I see that this small group that CNN chose to make a national story out of uses the atom as their symbol. They're are only a handful of societies that glorified the pursuit science above all else. They appeared only in the 20th century and were responsible for the bloodiest century in human history. Atheism is a social and moral dead end. The greatest atheists in human history told me so in their writings. Be careful who and what you chose to worship.

ScottHollington
ScottHollington

I support freedom of religion.  I support the freedom of individuals to be free from religion.

This is not an atheist monument.  This is an anti-christian monument.  The Christian monument is a list of traditional moral values as taught by the Christian bible.  It is a guideline for morality that the Christian religion teaches.  Much as if a Buddhist were to build a monument proclaiming the eightfold path and right intentions.

Atheist literally means "no belief".  There is no moral code or moral good that an atheist can profess, because there is no church of atheism, no leader.  Instead, this monument concentrates on undermining Christianity.  The monument selects historical quotes which, out of context, disparage the role of Christianity in the foundation of the United States.  The atheist monument also has quotes from the Christian bible, intended to portray Christianity in a negative light.  These quotes are all from the old testament--the pre-Christian part of the bible.  Finally, there is a reasonable quote about atheism and their beliefs.  However, rather than simply saying "an atheist believes in building hospitals"  the quote adds "instead of a church".  A final, anti-religious pot-shot.  


LogicReason
LogicReason

Die fahne hoch! Die Reihen fest geschlossen!

AA marschiert mit ruhig festem Schritt.

Kamraden, die Kirchen und Reaktion erschossen,

Marschier'n im Geist in unser'n Reihen mit.

Kamraden, die Kirchen und Reaktion erschossen,

Marschier'n im Geist in unser'n Reihen mit.

OrangeBlackTeal
OrangeBlackTeal

It's funny listening to both Atheists and Christians argue about having morals, either equal to or superior to the other, while calling each other names. SMH.

NickGonzalez21
NickGonzalez21

I never thought I would live to see the  Atheist view point so openly discussed.  How refreshing!

When "Under God", was added to our Pledge of Allegiance, I was afraid we were going to be a "Christian Nation".

This I no longer fear.

Reason trumps Superstition!

AnnaBlutarsky
AnnaBlutarsky

I hope they'll stick to building hospitals and not public monuments.. I wish I could unsee this bench.

rbwphd
rbwphd

Actions speak louder than words or beliefs.

DavidErickson1
DavidErickson1

As a Christian I seem to like this monument. It only reenforces what Jesus did for us on the cross. Living by the law brings death but living in Christ brings life. Atheists seem to believe in Jesus' teaching. Even their monument proclaims biblical truths, and seems to speak the words of the Christian believe. Their statement of faith sounds very Christ Like: “An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty banished, war eliminated.”

1. What faith has built the most hospitals in the world?

2. What faith says, "Faith w/out works is dead faith?"

3. What faith believes every child and person is entitled to life?

4. What faith says, "Love your enemies"?

- Followers of Christ!

TheSmartestMan
TheSmartestMan

There is no logic, sense or reason in the Bible...all things needed to create fair and just laws.

TomBower
TomBower

Religion needs to be held up for the sham that it is. Why? Because there is a fundamentalist movement in this country...a very dangerous movement that would like to see Christianity take an active role in shaping our laws. They would have creationist nonsense taught in our schools and try to pass evolution off as wrong. They are already attempting to pass laws regarding abortion, contraception and gay marriage, ALL of which are based on nothing but religious dogma.

Read "The Family" by Jeff Sharlet (2007) and you'll be afraid...VERY afraid. These people are even worse than the fundies....and they are in our government in very high places.

We must be vigilant, not apathetic and adopt a "live and let live" attitude.

These sociopaths need to know that they are being watched.

Dr_D_
Dr_D_

I am not an atheist for I feel the presence of a great all-encompassing power in every object around myself. But I do say that we should do more than talk, should not use religion or god as medium to escape life's miseries. Rather we should strive to mitigate the problems of poverty, hunger, disease, and more importantly the destructive wars. I want to add  here that passive religions are okay for harmonious community living but not the missionary religions. Whatever has happened has happened. Mankind is now on the threshold of a great beginning and we should spiritualize our religious beliefs by discarding the forms and going only for the contents. We will then all converge and a life of peace based on mutual respect and understanding is then possible and unavoidable. Our beliefs, religious or otherwise, must unify, not segregate.

criticalthinkerr
criticalthinkerr

I pity rather than laugh at any adult who believes in Santa Claus.

Any adult should be able to disprove Santa Claus on the bassis that it is physically impossible for one man to deliver toys around the world in one night.

Believing in things that are OBVIOUSLY physically impossible is quite often a sign of insanity!

DavidThompson
DavidThompson

Theists have ridiculed and subjected as many people as possible to create conformity and credulity.  We are in an era now where information is rapidly replacing ignorance and passivity is being replace by a collective voice that won't be quieted by authoritarian rule.  The game is over and theist need to learn that their aggressive voice will be matched by non-theist voices.  Reason will win out over superstition.

Dr_D_
Dr_D_

It makes little difference in the present world to one's everyday life whether one is a theist, an atheist or an agnostic. Prayers alone can not alleviate the pain of tooth ache. Whatever obstructs the welfare of mankind should give way to what is for our good. Remember the golden proverb: What is one man's meat is another' man's poison. We have to exercise our choices with great prudence.

jrobinson
jrobinson

First; theists put up monuments to CELEBRATE their religions, not rub atheists' noses in it. If you think that's what's going on, that says more about YOU, than it does the theists.

Second, if an atheist wants to CELEBRATE their "religion"/belief set and create a monument, they are allowed to, it is a free country... but if the only reason you want a monument is to "do battle" with the theists, and rub their noses in it - then that's hardly the right motivation, is it?

Thirdly; while I understand their desire to minimize christianity's contribution to the founding of the country... to say the the "government of the united states of america is not in any sense founded on the christian religion" is just ludicrous. Not only were many christian ideas and themes woven into our documents and culture, all of the founding fathers were happy to give christians a place at the table - even the atheist ones. This new kind of atheism, is more like bigotry than kind of belief system in its' own right. Our founding fathers were apparently much more tolerant than this bunch.

And lastly... the constant harping on christianity over any other religion has only underlined that this isn't about their beliefs at all... it's an offshoot of their own discomfort with christianity. Hating christians isn't really a religion; its religious bigotry. It's a shame they can't tell the difference. Christian bashing is the new gay bashing; leftist dudes do it to impress their chicks.

RustyYates
RustyYates

Another Starke reminder that atheists are on the rise. Muahahahaha!

KenCurrie
KenCurrie

Wow, Time and CNN, I'm surprised you didn't wait until tomorrow and post this on the Religion page.  That's your usual modus operandi: offending people of faith.

kamikrazee
kamikrazee

This is an improvement, (maybe).      Atheism is as much a religion as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, (or any of the other well or lesser known sects).    The fact that atheism claims to promote a negative does not make its doctrines superior, or more compatible  with or to the Constitution.

With this, it at least attempts to be seen on equal terms with others, rather than seeking a tacit endorsement from government by banning the others, (thus endorsing the negative).

Now if they will behave like the others, put up the monument, make a couple of speeches, go away and shut up.


eqxander
eqxander

For almost 2,000 years, since Justinian made Christianity the state religion of a crumbling Roman Empire, Christianity has waged HOLY WAR upon the rest of humanity in one form or another.

Maybe if Christians were nicer to others, others would be nicer to them.

elhamb3166
elhamb3166

Upon a simple pedestal sits a dull black cube about 12 inches a side.  No known means exists to open the cube (if indeed it is hollow).   Not X-ray nor ultrasound nor any similar means can penetrate the cube to reveal its contents (if indeed it contains anything).  It cannot be removed from the pedestal so its density or true weight cannot be determined.  All that can be said is that there on the pedestal is a dull black cube about 12 inches on a side.

Inside the cube there is a golden orb.

Inside the cube is empty space.

So it is with God, either you believe thus He exists or you do not believe thus He does not exist.  There is no grey area, you cannot partly believe. 

TerryT.Magyar
TerryT.Magyar

Religion is nothing more than a belief system. for some it's Jesus, or Buddha, or Mohammad. Multiple deities, a single God or perhaps three. For native Americans it is a Great Spirit. In the case of atheists, it's "no god".

For too many years the federal govt. has promoted the religious belief of atheists, over that of Christianity. Go figure.

JamesLoughran
JamesLoughran

Let's face it people, the magical supernatural believers are terrified beyond reason  of non existence after death. The whole reason to live cannot imagine not living, it goes against every natural instinct to survive. That argument against giving up the hope of ever lasting life is a lost cause, unless we follow other denominations who believe we are the continuing energy ( which cannot be destroyed) that continues forever. We, perhaps, do not go to "heaven", nor do we come back, we move on, forever,  in the flow of energy, not elimination, just ego and memory death. Let it go.

Of course the universe and reality always surprises us, everything possible is ...possible, so the best thing to do is accept and get in the front seat of the roller coaster of life, raise your arms over your head and laugh as loud as you can.

There was a young lady named Bright,
Whose speed was far faster than light.
She went out one day,
In a relative way,
And returned the previous night!
-- Reginald Buller


ClariceHair
ClariceHair

Notice the surname SILVERMAN.  He is a Jew who HATES Christianity.  He is a BIGOT.  The saying on the monument is right out of the Marxist Manifesto.  He is a MARXIST and calls himself an atheist.  Marxists were atheists too.  LEFT WING JEWRY HAS BEEN ATTACKING CHRISTIANITY WORLDWIDE FOR OVER A HUNDRED YEARS.  Wake up America.  Our culture wars, radical feminism, homosexuality, prayer out of school, abortion, mass immigration of third worlders, the works- the biggest loudest voices, the deepest pockets are left wing Jews (communists).  From the Frankfurt school forward, a tiny percentage of the population has been destroying everything in sight/

ChristopherLane
ChristopherLane

Atheists are fine, no problem at all.

The people who insult my religion, can suck the fat one between my legs.

Some of the most educated, and important scientists that ever lived had faith in the Allmighty.

Being a person of faith does not exclude one from education, intelligence, or good manners.

Being an atheist is no guarantee of class, or intelligence.

Assuming you know more than "Ignorant Jews" who "invented some magical being from their own superstitions" its actually one of the most moronic things I have heard.

"Magical beings from superstition" have been part and parcel to humanity since time immemorial, long before Jews.

There is clear evidence that "enlightenment" is a required function of our evolution.  

And in this day and age, "enlightenment" dosnt have to mean "religion" at all.

Find the TED talk about it.


KennethHowell
KennethHowell

I am not an atheist, but the monument is a classic work!