Not all atheists are alike

A few weeks ago there was quite a brouhaha over an atheist challenge to a street sign honoring 9/11 victims. The name of the street is Richards Street but underneath the sign at one intersection is another street sign saying "Seven In Heaven Way" to honor seven local firefighters who were killed on September 11. And so newspapers and media outlets ran with the story. Most news stories seemed fine. One, I recall included quite a few atheists objecting to the complaint on the grounds it was petty or hurtful. Well yesterday American Atheists filed suit to prevent cross-shaped steel girders from the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers from being included in the September 11 memorial. American Atheists president Dave Silverman was quoted by Courthouse News:

Mincing no words, Silverman, who is not a named plaintiff, added: "It [the cross] has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their god, who couldn't be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross. It's a truly ridiculous assertion."

ABC wrote up the lawsuit:

Jane Everhart, who is part of the atheist's suit, derided the cross as nothing more than "ugly piece of wreckage" that "does not represent anything … but horror and death." ...

"The Christian community found a piece of rubble that looked like an icon and they deified it. But really 9/11 had nothing to do with Christianity," said American Atheists president Dave Silverman. "They want a monopoly and we don't want that to happen."

The article talked to the September 11 Memorial folks and they explained that other religious artifacts would also be on display, including a Star of David cut from WTC steel, a Bible fused to a piece of steel that was found during recovery efforts, and a Jewish prayer shawl that was donated by a victim's family member:

In a statement to, the memorial foundation identified the cross as a "symbol of spiritual comfort for the thousands of recovery workers who toiled at ground zero," as well as an "authentic physical reminder" that "tell[s] the story of 9/11 in a way nothing else can."

The article ends with competing quotes. One is from the rescue worker who found the cross after digging three bodies out from the rubble of the collapsed Twin Towers. He says he was overwhelmed upon its discovery and believes it's a beautiful symbol of faith and freedom. He argues that it's a "natural artifact" from Ground Zero. The other quote comes from the communications director for the American Atheists who says she can't visit the memorial so long as there's a cross there.

The article is fine but I wonder if it wouldn't have been improved by including the voices of atheists who are not fans of this lawsuit. Otherwise it gives the impression that all atheists think lawsuits against featuring the remnant beam from the World Trade Center are a good idea.

One other thing. USA Today basically just quoted extensively from the American Atheist press release (which was unwise considering it had some errors of fact). But it mentioned that one of the plaintiffs was a man whose brother had done rescue work at the World Trade Center for two weeks following the attack and died in 2005. We're told that the man wouldn't want a cross to honor his brother unless it's a Lutheran cross.

Now, as you may have picked up from previous blog posts, I am Lutheran. And I have literally no idea what a "Lutheran cross" is. I mean, is it a crucifix? We do like our crucifixes. Is it a plain rustic cross? I guess not, since that's what the cross in question is. Is it something to do with the Lutheran Rose? What is it? I have no idea.

Image via Wikipedia.

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