Headline Muse, 7/29

At the site of a horrible loss,
The Memorial now holds a cross?
The community center
Was told “do not enter”—
Guess we know which religion is boss.

Four individuals, represented by American Atheists, are suing to either remove the Ground Zero Cross from the 9/11 memorial, or to force inclusion of non-Christian (including atheist) memorials of equal stature. As always, the fun reading is not in the article itself, but in the comments. I used to be astonished, now I am simply aware, that people have hugely varying ideas of what atheism is. And of what the First Amendment means. And, while it was important that a Muslim community center should not be built on 9/11 sacred ground because it would be special treatment for one religion, it is crucial (get it?) that the WTC cross remains, because it gave so many Christians comfort.

I am told that, as an atheist, my taking offense at the WTC cross shows that a) I am actually a believer, b) I am illogical, because I shouldn’t care, since I don’t believe, c) I am unamerican, since majority rules here, d) not really an atheist but an anti-theist, e) remarkably thin-skinned, f) pushing my beliefs onto other people (this last, without a trace of irony). In truth, I don’t find crosses offensive; if I did, I’d have a rough go of it, since they are all around us.

I don’t find this particular cross offensive, and think an argument can easily be made for its inclusion in the memorial–it is, after all, a huge part of the history of the aftermath of 9/11. The thing is, context matters. If this cross were, say, part of an exhibit demonstrating that religious extremism may have dire consequences, including 9/11 type events, it would be quite appropriate… but I suspect that many Christians would balk at equating their religion with [their perception of] Islam. If the WTC cross is venerated as a religious symbol, though, it is only proper (and constitutional) to demand equal treatment for other affected groups.

The 9/11 attacks were not an attack on Christianity. They were an attack on America, and were politically as well as religiously motivated. American Atheists is not going to make a lot of friends with this move (judging from the comment threads), but they are in the right. Context is everything; the cross can stay (and American Atheists agrees), if it is not exhibited in such a manner as to elevate one belief system over others.

But hey, this is Headline Muse–your comments don’t have to be about this story, if you have your own headline limerick!

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