The Asymmetry of Intolerance
A group of Christians have just filed a lawsuit to have a statue of Nietzsche on Federal land near a Montana ski slope removed because they found a single person who says she's offended.
The vast majority of conservatives, including Christians, would find that lawsuit to be bizarre. Of course Christians, being tolerant, have done no such thing. Atheists, however, have sued to have a statue of Jesus on Federal land near to a ski slope, placed there at the request of WWII veterans back in 1955, removed. At first the litigants, a bigoted group of haters who have no tolerance for the personal beliefs of others, didn't bother to produce anyone who was in fact bothered by the statue. When forced to, the bigots managed to dig up one person who was bothered.
Some might question the use of "bigoted haters" to describe an organization which exists to drive the free speech expression of religious people off public property. However given that many atheists who support anti-Christian crusades also believe it's fine for the government to fund "Piss Christ", a crucifix in a jar of the "artists" urine, and a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary covered in cow dung it's clear that these atheist extremists do not believe in the free speech rights of Christians; one cannot declare Federal funding of religious statues so long as they are designed to attack faith to be okay while declaring that the same statues -- minus feces -- are prohibited on Federal land.
The simple fact is that people of faith, and good people in general, are not offended by the symbols of other faiths. No Catholic has called for removing a statue of Buddha from a public spot in any major city's Chinatown. Similarly no Protestant has ever called for the removal of a crucifix from the outside of a Catholic church. Islamic symbols aren't common in the U.S. but Christians haven't filed suit to make Muslims remove minarets from their mosques. In fact, Christians have been effusive in their support for Jewish religious symbols right next to Christian ones on public property.
Finally people of faith haven't sued to remove statues of atheists from public property. The only group in America today which has no tolerance for the symbols which represent the heartfelt belief of others are atheists. They believe that all others should tolerate atheist symbols and anti-religious art but that atheists can have a zero tolerance policy for religious expression.
This latest atheist lawsuit is one in a long stream of such suits aimed at eliminating the free speech rights of Americans of faith. The Constitution says that the Federal, government -- not state governments -- is prohibited from establishing a religion. The Founders' writings make clear that the intent was not to prevent any expression of religious belief on public property but rather to avoid a situation where the government endorsed one specific brand of Christianity, a la the Church of England.
In fact the Founders were very clear in the First Amendment that religious speech and actions were very highly protected. The First Amendment says: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Notice that the First Amendment protects all aspects of an individual exercising their religion, not just an individual's right to go to church.
Clearly then, as Americans we have the right to have religious statues on public land, which is an exercise of our faiths, so long as we don't restrict which religions can have statues. By supporting a diversity of statues, artwork, or tablets on public property Americans are rejecting the right of the government to pick one faith and elevate it above all others while endorsing the rights of all Americans, no matter what their faith, to have their views memorialized on public land when appropriate.
The atheist perspective is that only atheists have First Amendment rights on public land. They base their reasoning on the dubious proposition that atheism is not a religion and that the Constitution is restricting religious liberty rather than defending it.
The thought of atheism being a religion may sound a bit odd to most. All the same, it's clear that atheism is in fact a full-blown religion identical in nature to any other faith.
First note that since science cannot prove that there is no God and science cannot explain everything that goes on in the universe -- it may be able to someday, but that day is far in the future if ever -- atheists have to reject God based on faith; their faith that God is implausible. Atheists tend to confuse their belief that God is unlikely with fact and declare that they don't have to defend their beliefs.
Second while Atheists don't have a god, neither do Buddhists, yet who would question that Buddhism is a religion? While there are dictionary definitions of religion that do seem to require a god there is also this one which is actually more accurate in that it covers Buddhism:
...a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
This brings up a key point. Given that people of faith do not summon lightning to smite their foes and that Heaven isn't visible, what is religion in a purely worldly light?
The answer is that religion, in a purely worldly way, consists of the moral principles of an individual irrespective of their source.
Therefore, from a general diversity and tolerance based perspective, the religion of an individual consists of the moral perspectives that guide her actions in society. Everyone has moral beliefs -- even serial killers, although clearly few of us would agree with a serial killer's moral compass -- so everyone has "religion".
Atheists attempt to introduce an artificial dichotomy based on the source of a person's moral principles. Atheist extremists say that you can quote Nietzsche on morality but not Jesus at a public school graduation. Why? If Jesus is God then it would be smart to quote Him, and if he is not God then he's a man, and hence no different from Nietzsche. The inconsistency in atheistic reasoning can be seen in that if one could show that Jesus was not God it would be okay to quote him at a graduation and have a statue of him on public land. Clearly saying we should honor a man more than we should honor God is a somewhat odd perspective.
In reality, atheist extremists are attempting to do what the Constitution expressly forbids: have the Federal government endorse one particular faith above all others. Atheists wish to allow symbols of the atheist faith -- that there is no god -- and sayings to be allowed on public lands, in public speeches, and in government documents while banning the symbols of all other faiths. This is nothing less than having the Federal government endorse one faith, Atheism, above all others.
In an America where we're informed that the most vile exploitive types of pornography are protected as free speech, where it's legal to erect a statue of a Meso-American god on public land, where it's perfectly legitimate to erect a statue of Nietzsche on public land, we must stop tolerating the attempts by atheists to establish their faith as the one and only faith favored by the government.