Monday, 21 October 2013

Atheists: Don't Be Those Guys!

I'm a confirmed atheist. If you believe in something supernatural I think you are a wrong. I'm not flinging insults here, I even think I'm wrong.

Somethings I particularly hate about most religious folks are their attempts to suppress art, free expression and enforce their worldview on the rest of us. However I have come to realise that religious beliefs are just a human construct and, thus, getting rid of religious belief doesn't really stop puritanical campaigns against art and free expression. Being boring puritans is obviously something that dwells deep within the human psyche, and thus (it turns out) atheists can be killjoys just like anyone else.

Which takes us to the 9/11 Cross argument. Many people will have seen the pictures, or at least heard about, the 9/11 cross (bizarrely some beams that were in a cross shape stayed in a cross shape, it's a miracle!). It is a silly, silly thing and I have to say it was somewhat insulting to the memories of all those who died in the terrorist attacks in New York to have even a small part of their stories overtaken by news of this cross. But they always say funerals are more for the living than the dead, and I suppose that holds up for clean up operations at Ground Zero in the days after 9/11 just as well. And, I'd accept, it probably gave some comfort to some people (the ones who weren't dead and quickly being forgotten as 9/11 was hijacked for political and social purposes).

Whatever one may feel about it, it was a part of the narrative of the post-9/11 cleanup and thus the fact it gets included in the National September 11 Memorial and Museum's collection should be fairly uncontroversial. Not for David Silverman of American Atheists who, after losing a court fight to have it removed, had this to say:

"We are confident that we will eventually win this case and that cross will be removed, or atheists will be allowed to have our own symbol in there,"
Fascinating. What symbol did we have? Did the image of the Flying Spaghetti Monster appear in some shattered glass bringing comfort to atheist rescue workers and clean up crew? There is no doubt atheists died in 9/11 (at the hands of religious nutcases no less!). And they will be remembered by their families and by everyone with a heart. Everything that reminds us of that day should be enough of a memory jog of the horrors that befall so many innocent people (of many different beliefs). The whole rest of the collection in that museum is for secular people. I think we can allow Christians a small token of remembrance of an event that happened after 9/11 that meant something to some people.

"What would Jesus do?" guides many believers (supposedly, though I never feel they quite get it right). I tend to follow the far better guide to moral living "What would a professed believer in Jesus do?". Once you know the answer, do the opposite (which is often actually what Jesus would do, but with less Jewish apocalyptic undertones). Don't be those guys. We shouldn't be launching lawsuits or protests because someone, somewhere has two metal beams stuck together in their museum display.

There is a headteacher (sorry, Principal) in the USA currently suggesting Halloween themed celebrations at school are prohibited due to the separation of church and state. Can you imagine how joyless a life it would be without celebrations and fun? School is horrific enough as it is without the need to take away those small moments of fun we allow kids.

Surely I'm not the only atheist pissed that the Statue of Zeus at Olympia is lost to us? When I went to Thailand I was all over their temples, spirit houses and statues. Accepting religious art, holidays and even their expressions of grief doesn't mean we accept their dodgy beliefs or even accept that one can't have inspiring art, holidays and expressions of grief without religion. It is simply a matter of accepting that beauty, horror and fun are part of the human experience and expressed by EVERYONE. So we atheists need to stop pretending that religious history and culture does not exist and accept that it will always be part of humanity (even if religion itself finally disappears).

Once we accept that, we can enjoy that which is to be enjoyed whilst pointing out to anyone who thinks Zeus is/was a real god that they are very wrong.

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