Beliefs Culture

Court hears atheists’ challenge to Ground Zero cross

A cross formed from a falling steel I-beam at the former World Trade Center towers was placed outside St. Peter's Catholic Church in lower Manhattan where the Rev. Kevin Madigan kept watch over it until its pending move to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Photo by John Munson/The Star-Ledger

NEW YORK (RNS) Atheists are challenging plans to include a 17-foot, cross-shaped beam that became a famous symbol of Ground Zero after 9/11 in a display at the national memorial museum that is scheduled to open this spring.

A cross formed from a falling steel I-beam at the former World Trade Center towers was placed outside St. Peter's Catholic Church in lower Manhattan where the Rev. Kevin Madigan kept watch over it until its pending move to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Photo by John Munson/The Star-Ledger

A cross formed from a fallen steel I-beam at the former World Trade Center towers was placed outside St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Lower Manhattan, where the Rev. Kevin Madigan kept watch over it until its pending move to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Photo by John Munson/The Star-Ledger

In arguments before the the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday (March 6), American Atheists’ lawyer Edwin Kagin said the cross should go back to St. Peter’s Catholic Church, where it spent some time on display, not in a museum built with a mix of public and private funds.

Last year, a lower court rejected a lawsuit filed in 2011by the New Jersey-based American Atheists that said the cross was an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

In his appeal, Kagin said his organization is seeking a similar object to be displayed at the museum, something like a plaque that would say “atheists died here, too.”

“We’re arguing for equal treatment in some way, whatever that might be,” Kagin said after the hearing.

Questions raised by the three-judge panel included whether similar treatment would be needed in a place like the Holocaust Museum, a museum that includes Jewish artifacts but would not be considered an endorsement of Judaism.

The beam was found by rescue workers two days after the terrorist attacks, and it is scheduled to be displayed among 1,000 artifacts in a 100,000-square-foot underground museum. Mark Alcott, a lawyer representing the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, said the artifacts all come from the days surrounding 9/11.

“The museum is a display of history,” Alcott said after the hearing. “Religion was a very important part of it, in this case.”

In his argument for American Atheists, Kagin suggested that the cross became a form of worship for many. American Atheists President David Silverman has previously called it a “working Christian shrine.”

“We’re worried about the alienation of atheists,” he said. “We’re deeply concerned this cross gives one story, and that’s for Christians.”

The judges asked whether a religious artifact in a museum would cause confusion about its current state. “Why can’t an objective observer see it as a religious artifact that was transferred to a secular environment?” Judge Reena Raggi asked.

Raggi also asked Alcott why an object couldn’t be added for atheists. “There’s no constitutional requirement the cross has to be balanced by something else,” Alcott responded. “The museum is not a proponent or opponent of religion.”

Last month, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an amicus brief in defense of the museum’s right to display religious objects in its private exhibit and challenging American Atheists’ right to sue in the first place.

Construction worker Frank Silecchia discovered the beam In the smoldering wreckage of the World Trade Center towers. Silecchia told the Today Show that the cross comforted him, and it soon became a rallying point for first responders. “I was already working 12 hours. I was quite weary and the cross comforted me,” Silecchia said.

“I never stood here before any media and said it’s about religion,” Silecchia said. “But I say it’s about faith — the faith that was crushed on 9/11.”

A decision from the Court of Appeals could take several months.


About the author

Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a national correspondent for RNS, covering how faith intersects with politics, culture and other news. She previously served as online editor for Christianity Today where she remains an editor-at-large.


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  • What is wrong about leaving it in front of the church?
    A church right across the street from the WTC. Which currently uses the cross as a form of advertisement. Why would they want to give it up?

    Not every artifact needs to be put in a single place. St. Paul’s Chapel, which served as the refuge for 1st responders and cleanup people isn’t being compelled to give up its various artifacts for the 9/11 memorial.

  • YES! a resounding YES! HAS ANYBODY STOP TO THINK THAT THIS CROSS WAS NOT MADE BY MAN IT CAME FROM THE RUINS OF 911, TO REMIND US NO MATTER HOW MUCH EVIL IS IN THIS WILL JESUS AND THE PROMISE OF THE CROSS IS STILL WITH US! AMEN! people who do not want it there don’t look at it!!!!!! God gave everybody free will to do good or bad, this was people who decided to do evil!

  • PLEASE EXCUSE MY TYPO I WENT TO PUT THAT THERE IS MUCH EVIL IN THIS WORLD,AND JESUS AND THE PROMISE OF THE CROSS IS STILL WITH US! please excuse my typo getting used to a new computer. the rest I wrote I mean 110% AND MORE!

  • One doesn’t know what is worse–the narrow-mindedness of this atheist organization or its exploitation of one of the most tragic events in American History.
    The interest in this cross came about organically–by that I mean the interest in the cross artifact bubbled up from much media coverage and the effect this particular cross shaped part of the rubble had on those working in the midst of disaster and tragedy.

  • The atheists don’t seem to get it. There’s nothing wrong with putting a religious symbol in a museum when it’s an artifact from a particular event in history. After the attacks, many people looked to this cross for encouragement and solace. There’s a good reason for including it in a display in the museum.

    And why do lawyers for atheists always make them sound so thin-skinned? Like they can’t bare the sight of a religious symbol, as if they’re vampires or something…

  • Religious people can’t seem to stay focused.

    This cross is a problem because it is an arbitrary religious symbol being placed on a “NATIONAL” GOVERNMENT MONUMENT. The Government can’t endorse a religion.

    This “cross” was not originally built as a ‘crucifix’! It is a random object that happened when towers crashed around it!

    Like the famous JESUS TOAST it is merely a random, arbitrary object upon which religious significance has been placed. Because of the very religious significance placed on this cross by believers it is forbidden to place it on PUBLIC PROPERTY – unless you want to start pulling other religious artifacts out of the old rubble and insert them into the monument equally.

    Put the cross on private land or on church property.

  • @Erica H –
    You don’t even catch yourself.

    You are referring to the cross as a ‘religious symbol’, which is exactly the problem with it. It makes a religious reference out of an arbitrary piece of scrap metal.

    If it had been shaped like a Muslim Crescent – would you be so obliging?

    I’m sure we can find a scrap of iron bent like a crescent somewhere in the rubble to worship Islam too, if that is what you insist on.

  • Here is the museum description I propose:

    This piece of debris was identified as a cross by some first responders. Others saw it only as a harbinger of the anti-Islamic fanaticism that would soon pour over America.

  • I agree that the cross is an artifact of this event. HOWEVER, I think some Christians don’t realize that this “symbol” means different things to different people. Anton pointed out one example. I think the cross is also symbolic of the destructive power of Christianity, that Christianity played a part in creating the hate that drove those men to their act of evil. I think there should be a plazue with the cross that discusses symbols, pointing out how the symbol means different things to different people and let each individual contemplate those different meanings.

  • @Anton,
    Yes. I love that.
    I would add, “Without religion, these buildings would still be standing.”

  • In this case the cross is NOT an endorsement of Christianity. It is an artifact, whether some like it or not. It was photographed and appeared on magazine covers, and is a part of the event. Museus are created to teach, you can’t teach honestly IF you ignore half of the issues because of their religious content or connotation. BUT you can see to it that all sides are heard, honestly and fairly. Even a sign discussing the controversy about placing the cross in the museum would be valuable. Turn opportunties like this into teaching events that help the world understand the WHOLE story.

  • Bull. Pure 100% unadultered bull. Radical Islam chooses to hate all that is not Islam. Christianity did not cause this any more than Judaism is responsible for the holocaust. People who hate are responsible for their own hate.

  • There are many militant atheists who do not support freedom for people to be religious as they hate religion. I see this reaction as one of fear. They are afraid of religious people and religious viewpoints. Religiophobia is real.

  • It might be more accurate to say without radical Islam these buildings would still be standing. I don’t know of any Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, etc… who have flown airplanes into buildings lately.

  • Do you support Islam and its religious values and expressions? Do you support freedom of religion?

  • Bull to you to. Ignoring the history and the actions of individuals that has created this climate of “religious hate” that has affected our world is inexcusable. Until we face the TRUTH about our history we won’t solve the problems of “hate” around the world and especially NOT the problems of the Middle East. Each of us are responsible for our actions, no disagreement there, BUT we have to admit that our words and actions have an affect on others, and that effect can be either good and productive or bad and destructive. That is one responsibility folks like you tend to deny.

  • @SUSAN,

    You may have persuaded me. You make some good points.

    But if the cross becomes a truly religious feature – with pilgrimages, etc. It will have to be removed.

    And I think David Silverman and the Atheists should keep the argument going to ensure that such an outcome doesn’t occur.

  • @John,
    All religion is intolerant. Yet they all masquerade as ‘peace’.
    The only thing to reject then, is the masquerade itself.

    Peace for its own sake – comes with no masquerade. And no Gods.

  • @JOHN,

    Religion commands violence for God’s sake.
    “Kill the non-believers” (Exodus 22:19) is a psychopathic command and is a principle injunction in most religions.

    Hindu Violence: The terrorist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is on a steady offensive against Christians.

    Jewish violence: Jewish groups are demolishing thousands of Palestinian homes because they claim the right to do so.

    Buddhist Violence: Ashin Wirathu headed up terror groups in Myanmar to destroy Muslims. Pol Pot’s movement was motivated by Theravada Buddhism.

    Christian/Muslim/Jewish violence against each other: uncountable dead.

    The Atheist: not motivated to act on behalf of a god’s commands is much less likely to become any sort of terrorist.

    Each group has its Psychopaths
    But only religion encourages psychopathic behavior with holy injunctions for murder.

    Hitler who saw himself on a holy crusade (Mein Kampf) had “Got Mit Uns”(God with Us) on every Nazi belt buckle. Emperor Hirohito of the SHINTO religion had his Kamikaze pilots.

    But look up Rwanda Genocide for a recent Catholic example.
    Religion is the problem. Not ‘how’ it is practiced.

  • @John,
    Yes. Religiophobia is real.
    So is Smallpox-phobia. Just because people are afraid of something doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be.

    A person can be cured of religion. I was.

  • Are you afraid people will come just to see the cross, or to claim miraculous healings by seeing it? That would be another reason to make sure there is a plaque that discusses the various interpretations of the symboloby, it means a symbol of oppression to many, a concept many Christians don’t like accepting or facing. It would be another reason to have a plaque discussing the controvery around the cross, openly and honestly, why people find it offensive. The strict separation of church and state has done us a disservice by making the open and honest discussion of religious concepts TABOO. Discussing such concepts openly and honestly will help many move beyond religion. WHICH is why many Christians I suspect would rather see the cross removed than see an open and honest discussion about what it means in a public museum! Atheists could accomplish their goal by pursuing a different tactic, calling for full information, rather than being seen as the hate religion people calling for its removal.

  • @Susan,

    I am not ‘afraid’ people will come to see the cross.
    It is an arbitrary piece of scrap metal sanctified by shallow Christian idiots as a religious symbol.

    But this is a gravesite. Not a typical PUBLIC memorial.
    Ground zero is where people died and were never recovered.

    It is a matter of PUBLIC property.

    If you are going to erect a cross of any kind to honor the CHRISTIAN victims, this would be a nice cross to erect. By all means do it!

    But understand that this ABSOLUTELY DEMANDS other religious symbols similarly be erected for ALL of the other faiths (including non-faith). So the Atheist symbol must be displayed as well.

    If, however, the Christians would like to display this cross ALONE with NO other symbols – they CAN’T, and they shouldn’t try!

  • @SUSAN,

    “Atheists could accomplish their goal by pursuing a different tactic, calling for full information, rather than being seen as the hate religion people.”

    There is no polite way to tell people their beliefs are delusional.

    Different tactic?
    People once accused of witchcraft tried different tactics and what did that get them? Burned at the stake.

    Religion is untrue, immoral, horrible nonsense. It discourages critical thinking and needlessly represses people’s rights. It is absolutist and without checks and balances, it encourages people to fly planes into buildings…. among other bad things.

    If we look like we hate religion – it is because we do.
    No need to hide it. No desire to hide it.

    I am an Atheist. I am proud of it. It was hard won!
    And if anyone doesn’t like it they can suck an egg.

  • If a piece of scrap metal shaped like the Islamic crescent can be found at the site, I am all in favor of putting it in a very prominent place with a spotlight on it —But as long as it is properly and truthfully labeled–not with politically correct bologna– but with accurate words something like: “The symbol of the religion.— Islam–in whose name the terrorists incinerated 2500 Americans.” And maybe a sidebar display can be put up about the people who died here at the Boston Marathon.

  • Atheist Max you are right there is no polite way to tell people their beliefs are delusional so polite people don’t do it. Rude and crude people do it. There are however ways to demonstrate that their beliefs aren’t quite as true as they claim them to be. That is free and open discussion about beliefs, about the Bible what it says and what it doesn’t say, about other world beliefs and their sacred texts, about secular philosophies and the writings of our worlds great thinkers. You expose people to the full range of ideas, honestly and openly. As to the cross. It isn’t there as a grave marker. The entire museum is the grave marker, the cross is just one tiny item within it. There are many secular symbols in that museum, the damaged fire truck, a prayer shawl of one of the victims, empty shoes, many, many items that are non-religious and non-atheistic, they are truly secular in nature and they are far more powerful than the cross. Atheists seem to endow that cross with more meaning than it deserves!

  • One other thing Atheist Max, religion isn’t immoral, people misuse and abuse religion, they use it to justify and sanctify their behavior. Put the blame where it belongs, with people and their actions. There are good religious people and their are good atheists. Steven Weinberg, physicist and Nobel laureate commented (I paraphrase) that with or without religion, good people will be good and bad people will be bad. He did add that it does take religion to get ordinarily good people to commit evil. BUT religion here can be seen in the broadest sense of the word, any defined doctrine/dogma–Republican, Green Peace Activist, Religious Person, Atheist. As John pointed out people are responsible for their own hate BUT as he refuses to admit, each of us with our words and actions can add fuel to the fires of hate OR we can dampen those fires and promote peace and justice throughout the world for everyone, religious and non-religious, homosexuals and heterosexuals, legals and illegals……..


    You said, “Put the blame where it belongs”..

    That is exactly what I am doing:

    “KILL HOMOSEXUALS” – GOD (Lev. 20:13)

    Religion isn’t ‘good’.
    People are good despite religion.
    Please stop apologizing for those who claim killer gods exist. You haven’t a thread of truth on your side.

  • @SUSAN,

    I hope you are not a teacher. I respect people too much to lie to them.
    Just because you don’t think religious people are worthy of the truth
    doesn’t mean everyone else should sit on their thumbs!

    There is no polite way to tell people their beliefs are delusional.
    But it is immoral and condescending to assume people cannot handle that truth.

    I am deeply grateful to the brave Atheists who fearlessly did the right thing and shared the truth with me when I was a Christian!

    If it were not for their RUDENESS I might never have seen the truth!!

  • Atheist max the Bible is a test, a test to see if you and all others can tell what words if any are the words of God, the words of the Devil OR merely the words of men who claimed though they did not have divine inspiration. If you can’t tell the difference you fail the test. But more than that the Bible is myth and metaphor, poetry and prose. There are calls to do acts of violence as you pointed out with the passage in Luke and Leviticus and calls for compassion Matthew 25:31, the whole passage as well as many other places. The parts that you or anyone picks to highlight and says this here, this here is Gods word and must be obeyed, other parts can be ignored, that tells us about that person’s character, not about God, or Jesus, or what is right or wrong, moral or immoral. Einstein pointed out that the Bible shows the transformation of a religion from one of fear towards one based on morality. BUT not all the writers were making that transition, just as not all people now days have made that transition. BUT those of us who have the intelligence to read the Bible and see what it is can help people make the transition towards that moral and just and peaceful society. OR we can fan the flames of fear and hate. The choice is our to make. One last comment it is important for ALL people to read and understand the Bible and the sacred texts of other world religions. For better and for worse they have influenced the world we live in today, and those that don’t understand the times in which the books were written, the historical events, the people, they will be doomed to repeat the same errors. IF we are going to solve the problems of hate we have to understand what fuels that hate.

  • Susan,

    “the Bible is a test…”

    No. That is sophistry and condescending nonsense.
    The Bible is an ancient compendium of claims: outrageous, contradictory, absolutist, immoral, indecent claims and assertions. Myth and metaphor are employed in service to those ridiculous claims.

    “Kill Homosexuals”
    “Kill Unruly Children.”
    “Kill Non-Believers”
    “Kill Sorcerers”

    Disgraceful to say these things are “myth” and “metaphors”.
    Real life people continue to die because of such immoral injunctions from “holy” books.

    I take no solace from the compassionate passages you refer to. They are just as immoral as coercive commands from the unaccountable Almighty in the sky.

    Religion is bigoted, divisive, racist nonsense.

    “They are dogs” – Jesus (Matthew 15:26)
    “They are swine” – Jesus (Matthew 7:6)
    “They are fools” – Jesus (Matthew 23:7)

  • I don’t deny that there are calls to violent action in the Bible Atheist max. IF that is all you see then I feel sorry for you. You miss much of the good that the Bible as well as other sacred texts have to teach us. People need to read passages that call for violent acts as well as passages that call for compassion so they can make comparisons and decide for themselves which way they will go. IF it was all just about love, love would become meaningless, it needs to be balanced against hate to comprehend what it means. I think Einstein saw the truth, the progression and I think I prefer to listen to him, then you! You are one and there sadly are many like you that prefer to denigrate and belittle others rather than take an honest look at their beliefs and their actions. You are part of the problem, one that prefers to spread fear and hate, but that is your choice. You can live like that, I prefer to follow a more progressive and positive path towards the good.

  • One more thing Atheist max, I suggest you educate yourself about MYTHs. From the Iliad and the Odyssey to the Greek and Roman myths about their Gods, to the American Indian myths, and the Mythical stories in the Bible, the mythical narrative is about choosing which way we will go, the path of evil, fear, hate, violence OR the path of the good, peace, compassion, justice. The moral message is about the struggle within man’s own psyche, and what happens when one chooses the bad side and what happens when one chooses to good. Then it leaves it up to us to make our choice and that is what tests are all about. The mythical journey is a test.

  • @SUSAN,
    NONE of the Bible is TRUE.
    And it spews the very hatreds you are railing against.

    Yet MY rejection of that Biblical hatred
    is precisely what you are scolding me for.
    Religion is an affliction.
    I do not ‘hate’ the afflicted. I hate the affliction.

    Next you will tell me that Hezbollah, Hamas and the KKK are full of great and beautiful ideas for humanity if only we could stop and appreciate their more moderate advocates.

    This is the worst sort of sophistry.
    Defending disgust because you fear the truth.

  • @SUSAN,
    OF COURSE, I am familiar with myth! Don’t be ridiculous.
    because NOBODY living now believes Zeus is real !

    That is my point – Yahweh, Allah, Jesus are not real.
    ADMIT that Yahweh is no more real than Zeus
    and we will be in agreement!

    To kill for Zeus is ridiculous.
    Why would you foolishly think killing for Yahweh is somehow not just as ridiculous?

  • Wait a minute. Kagin. Sounds like a Jewish name. Hmmm. I wonder if Mr. Kagin protested the Holocaust memorial museum – an ENTIRE MUSEUM built with public funds on public lands. no, of course he didn’t. Much more fun for him to pretend to be an atheist and try to get Christian symbols removed and weaken Christianity in this nation. How utterly sickening.

  • Why shouldn’t it be in the Museum? If those beams had formed a 6 pointed star, nobody would have the balls to dare say it shouldn’t be in the museum. Enough of the anti-Christianism already.

  • You’ve never heard of Jewish terrorism? I suggest you research the Lavon Affair, the King David Hotel bombing, the Semiramis hotel bombing, the USS Liberty bombing, the Nakba, and so forth. all lterrorist acts committed against CHRISTIANS of American British and Arab heritage.

  • Erica, that lawyer is Jewish. Kagin is a Jewish name. Think about it. No wonder he wants that cross gone; Christianity offends him. Like so many other Jews and Muslims, he has an axe to grind with Christians.

  • Oh, and the president of the American Atheists association is David Silverman, another Jewish name. See a pattern here? You should.

  • @MIKE,
    Looks like you are just another Christian bigot like your leader:

    “They are dogs” – Jesus (Matthew 15:26)
    “They are swine” – Jesus (Matthew 7:6)
    “They are fools” – Jesus (Matthew 23:7)

    David Silverman is one of the greatest Americans of our time.
    He is brave and honest. He is doing great work on behalf of Atheists – AND RELIGIOUS PEOPLE – by insisting on church/state separation at every opportunity.

    Oh, even when I was a Christian
    I was a better Christian than you’ll ever be. Racism is disgusting.

  • Susan humphrys, perhaps this is the problem…./?
    “It aint those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”
    – Mark Twain

  • People did die for Zeus, he had his moment in the sun then he was replaced with another idea. God,Allah, Jehovah, these too shall pass. I am not denying that there is great evil in this world, nor do I deny that people never commit evil so joyfully as when they do it with religious fervor. I think that idea is from Pascal, can’t remember for sure. BUT the evil is NOT religion, and we know this because there are many, many religious people that are good, honest, hard working, non-judgmental, not hypocritical , non-violent, good citizens of the world. TO deny that they exist, to imply that they too are evil because they believe in what you call a lie– is EVIL. To spread false information about the Bible about religion is EVIL. The Bible is what it is, good and bad and what we choose to get from that book tells the world about our character, it doesn’t tell us anything about God or Jesus or virtue or morality or ethics. It simply shows who we are.

  • BUT Twain left it to our imagination to figure out what it was that he understood that bothered him! But I suspect you didn’t grasp that point! Did he understand the full depth and breadth of the book, did he see both sides of the story, or the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say? What did he see, just the evil and not the good, did he see the conflicts and was he concerned that the Bible wasn’t clearer? Did he see how people would misuse and abuse the Bible to justify their actions? To assume that Mark Twain only saw the evil is to delude yourself.

  • Enough of the phony cries of persecution. Every time a Christian is told “no” they get all whiny. My issue is not the same as the atheist lawsuit. It is with the nature of downtown Manhattan.

    9/11 affected the entire city. Many of the courthouses, firehouses, public transportation hubs, police stations all maintain their own little memorials to those lost to it. I don’t like the idea of putting it all in one place.

    It shouldn’t be there because not everything related to 9/11 needs to be under one roof, where admission is charged. It sanitizes the event too much for me. I feel like the event is slowly getting erased by all of this.

    Something which is being revered these days as a religious icon does not need to be taken from the grounds of a church. It diminishes the one of the oldest churches in the city. The Cross brought attention to one of the most overlooked historically significant buildings in the area, St. Peter’s Church. Its a nice looking Greco-Roman Style building surrounded by ugly non-descript steel and glass and is one of the few buildings left of the early 19th Century in that area.

    As I said before St. Paul’s Chapel (across the street from the WTC) has its own memorial/exhibit and unique artifacts as well of the event. People from all over the world are stopping by to this historic church. This was George Washington’s church of choice for the first two years of his presidency. But before 9/11 nobody paid much attention to it.

    Rather than have everything under one roof, where the event can be reinterpreted and edited for an official stance, it is better to keep things spread out. What better way to see the religious view of the event than in the houses of worship most affected by it.

  • Buddhists/Shintoists used to fly airplanes into ships back in the day.
    The suicide bomber belt was invented by Hindus in Sri Lanka.
    Jews were the first fundamentalist religious insurgents. The word “zealot” comes Josephus’s description of them.

  • I find the atheist is far more willing to restrict the religious rights of others using some form of rhetoric or rationalistic argument than resorting to physical violence. There are many forms of tyranny. One is violating the principles of freedom in the name of some self-generated elitism that is driving by a unquestioned faith that somehow that elite knows what is best for all of humanity.

  • If you define all religion by necessity as intolerant, I would suggest you include the philosophy of atheism as it seems most intolerant of religious people.

  • People are GOOD because people are NATURALLY good.
    We evolved social skills like kinship – they are OUR TRAITS.
    Morality is evolved.

    Yet Religion, like a bully, grabs and CLAIMS the credit when people do good works. It is an unfounded claim – there isn’t a whiff of evidence for it.

    The Bible wrongfully denigrates humanity, says humans are ‘nothing’, ‘worthless’ and ‘sinful’. That is the true EVIL in your argument.
    You defend this Bible nonsense.

    ALL religious groups do charitable missionary work to conscript new adherents – you will not deny Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Queda, The KKK, The Mormons and Farrakan’s Nation of Islam their vast charity work in Palestine, Yemen, Georgia, Philidelphia and Africa – would you?

    What good is such charity if it holds people hostage to those wicked beliefs?

    Meanwhile as you credit religion, you deny the Atheist doctors who work at “Doctors Without Borders” their rightful place in humanity though their donated time comes without any religious promotions!
    And the Atheist nurses? And the Atheist diplomats who navigate the nonsensical religious laws for the benefit of earthquake victims.

    Religion doesn’t do good. People do good!
    And they do good in spite of religion – which is constantly IN THE WAY of doing good!

    “Kill Homosexuals.”
    “Kill Sorcerers”
    “Kill Unruly Children”

    Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? …. ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’(Matthew 15:3)

    Yeah, Thanks a lot Jesus!

    To the trash heap with religion and these ridiculous, cruel, inhuman commands!

  • @JOHN,

    I am intolerant of cancer, not the cancer patient.

    You seem not to understand
    the nature of the religious affliction.
    My compassion is for the coerced, the indoctrinated, the imprisoned – people such as I once was – stifled by their priests and preachers to be fearful of Hell and fearful of thinking clearly.

    Religion poisons everything.

  • In other words, instead of committing destructive and murderous acts in furtherance of their beliefs, atheists are more likely to use more peaceful socialized methods like rule of law, arguments, debate, discussions.

    Letting people think for themselves rather than use violence and coercion. Oh how tyrannical it is to appeal to reason and civilized behavior!

  • John,
    Hubris is the realm of the people who claim ‘They know’ – people like you, for example.

    I admit that I cannot prove or disprove God. He may exist.
    But I see no reason to believe in it. And I do not believe.
    Atheism, a lack of belief not a claim.
    And I am also an Agnostic, one who ‘does not know’.

    But you ……religious people claim to KNOW. You KNOW GOD! You claim to KNOW what he wants and how He wants it!

    Now THAT is hubris!

  • Placing the cross into a centralized public place detracts from the churches in the area. It directs people away from the historical nature of the area and the role of those churches during 9/11.

    I am surprised Christians are not annoyed over this. Here you have the best advertisement for tourists to walk inside these churches being carted off and tucked away out of the public eye.


Mark Twain was an atheist.
    If he saw good in the Bible it didn’t add up to more than a fortune cookie.

    “It (The Bible) is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and a good moral or two; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”

- Mark Twain

    “A God who could make good children as easily a bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave is angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell–mouths mercy, and invented hell–mouths Golden Rules and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him!”
    – Mark Twain

    “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
 – Mark Twain

  • I do not deny the good that Atheists do Max and I don’t appreciate you accusing me unjustly, or shall I just flat say lying about me. Jesus, if you can believe the Bible is responsible for the Sermon on the Mount a truly beautiful piece and very similar by the way to thoughts in the Tao teh Ching. Ecclesiastes is another beautiful piece and has a similar counterpart in the Tao teh Ching. The Golden Rule was reitterated by Jesus, if you can believe the Bible, and it first appeared with those pagan Greeks, and there is also a similar sentiment in the Tao teh Ching, in the Analects of Confuscius. From the dawn of time religions have served several different purposes. From the dawn of time unscrupulous men realized that it could be a powerful tool to manipulate and control people to gain wealth and territory, to rid the land one man coveted of the “others”, those that weren’t like them and it has been used that way by many.From the dawn of time it has also helped people become better people AND no denying it has helped some people become worse people. You seem to have fully bought into Christian dualism, things are either all good or they are all bad/evil. In Taoism we are taught about the concept of Yin and Yang, complimentary parts of one whole. In all things good there is an element of the bad, in all things bad there is an element of the good. Assets can be liabilities and liabilities can be assets. Understanding this complimentary aspect of reality, of being human, is a great step forward in the development of human spirituality, intellect, emotional and physical well being. You have latched onto a red herring, a straw dog, or to put it another way, your attack on religion is like Don Quiote tilting at windmills.

  • @SUSAN,
    No. The Sermon on the Mount is not beautiful. Sorry. It is full of immorality.

    The Bible was our first book in Western Civilization – and the first printed book. For that reason it is important and should be studied. It was our first common literature, our first history, our first healthcare, our first science book…etc.

    But it is dangerous nonsense to call it “holy scripture”.

    The Golden Rule
    is just ancient secular morality – the oldest moral code – it requires no gods. Jesus’ version is no better than what preceded him by centuries. If you teach The Golden Rule to your children that does NOT mean you are a God. It only means you know The Golden Rule.

    The Sermon on the Mount
    is mostly over-rated, self-contradictory nonsense.
    Like a parlor trick, Jesus fits any mold you construct:

    “Blessed are the meek” is immoral if you are a slave or oppressed.
    “Blessed are the poor” is fundamentally immoral.

    “Pray in public” – Jesus (Sermon on the Mount)
    “DO NOT pray in public” – Jesus (Sermon on the Mount)

    “Love your enemies.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:44)
    “Kill enemies.” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

    “Do not judge others” – Jesus (Matthew 7:1)
    Judge harshly: “remove your blessings” – Jesus (Matthew 10:3)

    “Blessed are the peace makers” – Jesus (Matthew 5:9)
    “I come NOT TO BRING PEACE but a sword.” – Jesus (Matthew 10)

    Really. What use is such preaching other than to damage one’s self worth?

    Is beautiful, yes. AND it was written by an Atheist.
    Scholars have known this for decades.
    The injunction at its end to worship God is a transparent later ADD-ON to “fix” its overwhelming Atheism. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” is the Atheist’s view of the limits of our existence – no nonsense about eternity here!

    Religion WORKS AGAINST:
    Honesty of evidence, All Science, Reason, free inquiry, evolution, women’s rights, homosexual rights, Church State separation, establishment clause of the US Constitution, Socratic method, contraception and sexual health, mental health, intellectual freedom, International Peace, Middle East diplomacy

    Religion PROMOTES:
    Duplicity, Bigotry, Misogyny, Surrender to Eschatological Armageddon, Gullibility, Vicarious Redemption, Theocracies, Ignorance of Scientific and Medical methods, Intellectual repression, superstition, Faith Healers and other Con men, Surrender to unaccountable authority, pseudo-science, para-psychology, sexual repression, genital mutilation, Israeli settlements, Islamic hegemony, honor killings, faith-based suicide bombings, holy war, holy terror, etc…

    Religion sanctifies evil behavior
    by forgiving it unconditionally.
    All you have to do is “say the word” and you are forgiven.
    Such an evil preachment!

    Some religious people acknowledge the Bible is nonsense on most important questions. Good for them!

    The Bible does NOT deserve to be called “Holy Scripture” – it is mythology and should be on the same shelf with

    The Bible is just a compendium of ancient ideas. To claim it is more than that is immoral.

  • In the example you gave Mark Twain is decrying against mans claims about God. Does that make all religion and religious people evil? Of course not because many religious people have understood what Twain also understood. As you pointed out to confirm my point Twain saw the totality, the good and the bad. AND that has been my point from the start, the Bible is what it is, what WE choose to take from it, tells the world about our character, not about God or religion.

  • Your first quote makes my point perfectly. Twain saw the good and the bad in the Bible. In your second point what is he decrying, God or the God created by men? He starts with “a God who could”. He is pointing out the inconsistencies of mens claims about God. As he and I have already pointed out there is good and bad, contradictions and outright errors in the Bible. NONE of this however means that religion and religious people are Evil.

  • Now Max there is nothing immoral about “Blessed are the Meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” even IF you are a slave. That was written at a time when the Roman empire was the example of “might makes right”. Here jesus, if he actually said this, is saying the opposite to a people that were generally pastoralists, not military men. So what if Ecelsiastes was written by an Atheist, who cares? The point is it is a beautiful piece and contains the same idea as found in the Tao teh Ching as does the Sermon on the Mount. I already pointed out the “Golden Rule” is found in many different religions and secular philosophies and the wisdom stands on its own merits as does the wisdom found in the Sermon on the Mount and in Eclesiasteses and with other passages in the Bible and other sacred texts. In your other points you are using “RELIGION” in a way that applies to it’s broadest use of the word, a defined doctrine/dogma, and applies to Green Peace Activists, as well as die hard members of the Republican Party, which I pointed out earlier. Blind obedience is the problem, not Catholicism, or being a Baptist, or a Lutheran, or Jewish, or a Muslim. AND this is the critical point, ALL religions, are ONLY as good or as bad as their individual members make them out to be AND that goes for Theistic Religions, Diests, Polytheists, Atheists, Green Peace activists, and those die hard Republicans. Now if you want to say the Bible does not deserve to be called “Holy scripture” that is making a whole different argument and we were originally discussing whether religion is or is not evil. Personally I think all books are “holy”, to be valued and respected, even those books that I personally find offensive.

  • @SUSAN,
    How is Jesus/Yahweh NOT EVIL if the Bible’s only commands
    are all Evil – coupled as they ALL ARE to the immoral threat of HELL?

    Furthermore, look at how Jesus/Yahweh behaves.
    Should we call any of this MORAL? :

    Jesus didn’t forgive his enemies – he sent them to Hell! (Mark 16:16)
    Jesus cursed his enemies – “Thou Fools!”, “swine!”(Matt. 23:17)
    Jesus stole things – “untie them” “and bring them to me” (Matt. 21:2-3)
    Jesus destroyed his enemies – “execute them in front of me”(Luke 19:27)
    He didn’t love most of his neighbors, – They are ‘Dogs’!(Matthew 15:26)
    Jesus told people to judge others – “Remove your blessings”!(Matt 10:14)
    He was bigoted – “They are swine” (Matthew 7:6)
    Jesus violently whipped people – attack on the temple (John 2:5)
    He didn’t want peace – “I do not bring peace.”(Matt 10:34)
    Jesus lied to people – “He went in secret” (John 7:8-13)
    Jesus prepared for war – “if you have money, buy a sword” (Luke 22:36-37)

    “Utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.” (1 Samuel 15:3)
    “have sex with comely women as you wish.” (Deuteronomy 21:10-14)
    “Save for yourselves every girl who is a virgin.” (Numbers 31:18)
    “Enslave everyone in the villages even if they surrender.” (Deut. 20:10)
    “Kill my enemies” (Luke 19:27)
    “I the Lord…create evil” (Isaiah 45:7)
    “Do not make peace with your neighbor on the land” (EXODUS 34:15)
    “remove your blessing of peace” (Matt 10:14)
    “submit to your husbands” (Ephesians 5:22)
    “Raping a neighbor’s wife is a correct punishment.” (2 Samuel 12:11)

    There are alternatives to Religion.
    The world needs them desperately.

  • @SUSAN,

    But God says ‘Might DOES make right’:

    “I have wiped out many nations, devastating their fortress walls and towers. their cities are now deserted; their streets are in silent ruin. There are no survivors to even tell what happened. I thought, ‘Surely they will have reverence for me now! Surely they will listen to my warnings, so I won’t need to strike again.’ But no!” (Zephaniah 3:16)

    The injunction to ‘be meek’ is immoral.
    One must have courage in the face of such things. Not meekness.

  • @SUSAN,
    You said, “Blind obedience is the problem”
    Are you ready to admit that Religion then, is evil?

    Religion: “Obedience to a supernatural power considered to be Divine and absolute.” (Websters)

    Atheism is the lack of belief in a claim that a god exists, it is not a religion. Atheism is an opinion. Not a claim.
    Christianity/Islam/Judaism are CLAIMS.

    Show me convincing evidence of a God and I am ready to change my mind.
    Without such evidence, I am convinced such god claims are indeed ‘evil’.

  • Bruce Springsteen could easily have been changed from Bruce Springstein! This means “The Ghost of Tom Joad” album was really part and parcel with the great world wide Jewish anti-capitalist conspiracy!!


  • You should read ALL of the definitions for the word “religion” Max. The broadest definition is any defined doctrine/dogma which includes Atheism in the mix as well as i pointed out earlier Green Peace activists and the Republican party. ANY religion in this broad sense is subject to abuse and misuse, your failure to realize the broad implications of this are a serious problem for you and the rest of us. I try to distinguish between Religion ( with a capital R, when I am speaking of one of the world’s great Religions which includes Buddhism which does not have a doctrine about “obedience to a supranatural power”) and religion when I use the word in the broadest sense of it’s meaning. You don’t seem to be able to distinguish between the many uses of the word and that adds to your incoherent arguments. The problem is when a religion is abused and misused which is what Fanatics and Extremists do. The Fanatic/Extremeist is the problem NOT the religion or Religion! Fanatics/Extremists have no room to tolerate different opinions, dissent, new ideas (good or bad), it is their way or no way. They will twist and distort anything: Science, their Sacred Text, Rationality and Logic IF it suits their purpose. They will use anyone to further their aims: parents, siblings, friends other members of the group. YOUR failure as well as that of many to put the blame where it rightly belongs, with the fanatics and extremists, adds to the problem. Your words simply make the fanatic/extremists more fanatical and more extreme. Fanatcis and extremists are the problem, NOT religion or Religions.

  • Greenpeace Activism is not “A religion.”
    THE REPUBLICAN PARTY is not “A religion”.

    This is religion:
    “Slay the apostates wherever you find them” – Quran

    That is not extremist.
    It is simply, the religion.

  • Then why is the judge in this case restricting the freedom of Atheist to display their symbol at the museum…
    Declaring a rights to freedom includes the Atheist to express their own as well…

  • How about the narrow mindedness of the judge in not allowing the Atheist to display their own symbol? What a hypocrite!