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Nov 23 2011

The most dangerous place to be is between Pharyngula and a poll

Marines at Camp Pendleton erected a large cross on public land in a spontaneous gesture to some fallen comrades — it’s an understandable sentiment, to memorialize dead friends, and no one can fault their intent. But the action was wrong: it’s using government property to promote sectarian religion. It should be taken down and either something more appropriate put in its place, or it should be moved to private land. Unfortunately, the Marines involved are getting defensive, macho, and stupid (Hey! They’re fitting the Marine stereotype!)

“Marines roll deep and the most dangerous place to be is between a Marine and fallen Marines,” posted one person.

That’s nice if this were a battle. This isn’t, unless they really think the proper response to a legal challenge is to whip out their rifles.

So we also have a stupid poll, in which defenders of this cross have to resort to lying and trivializing their own faith (Hey! They’re fitting the Christian stereotype!)

Should Marine Corps OK cross?

Yes, it’s not a religous statement but one of respect. 82%
No, it’s clearly a violation of church and state. 18%

A cross isn’t a religious symbol anymore? Yeah, right. I’d be more sympathetic if they didn’t have to resort to blatant dishonesty to make their case (Hey! They’re fitting the theist stereotype!)

130 comments

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  1. 1
    benjdm

    Poll seems to be broken…

  2. 2
    Dick the Damned

    It worked just fine for me – up to 20% already.

  3. 3
    benjdm

    Nevermind, it’s working again.

  4. 4
    anteprepro

    Worked for me. And it’s currently 80% in favor of the combined option “Yes, I love theocracy/ Yes, I think that a cross has no meaning whatsoever beyond being a generic gravemarket”. Let’s teach this poll a lesson. A Constitutional lesson.

  5. 5
    Glen Davidson

    But see, it’s just a stylized “plus” sign.

    Don’t you get that?

    Glen Davidson

  6. 6
    peterh

    And if one were to raise a Star of David beside it?

  7. 7
    peterh

    “No” is up to 28%, but it’s a flawed poll; one only has to close & reopen ones browser to vote multiple times.

  8. 8
    ShavenYak

    The mighty horde seems to be a bit slow this morning. It’s just now at 28%.

  9. 9
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    And if one were to raise a Star of David beside it?

    It would still be both inappropriate and unconstitutional.

  10. 10
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    “No” is up to 28%, but it’s a flawed poll; one only has to close & reopen ones browser to vote multiple times.

    You must be new here?

  11. 11
    TheDawgLives

    @peterh or better yet, a crescent moon and star…

  12. 12
    ShavenYak

    peterh: I had to delete cookies for it to forget I had voted.

  13. 13
    Crow

    What a biased question.

    So none of those who answered yes on this poll would mind my “Calvin pissing on a cross” bumper sticker? It’s not a religious statement, after all.

    Maybe they erected a lowercase “t” and not a cross. You know, it stands for “Tribute”.

  14. 14
    peterh

    I ought to have said “poorly designed” rather than “flawed.” Yes, I know such polls are always flawed and serve only to preach to whichever choir put them up. My comment about any other symbol alongside was tongue-in-cheek; any such would obviously double or triple the inappropriateness and unconstitutionality.

  15. 15
    Dr Marcus Hill Ph.D. (arguing from his own authority)

    33% now.

  16. 16
    julian

    Marines roll deep and the most dangerous place to be is between a Marine and fallen Marines

    Awwwww

    Aren’t we a cute little motivator. Oh yes we are! Oh yes we are!

  17. 17
    sigma147

    Just a minor point of clarification: The Marine Corps did not sanction the erection of this cross (which is a replacement for an earlier cross that ironically burned down in a fire caused by live fire exercises). The cross was erected by retired Marines and the spouses of Marines who were KIA in Afghanistan, as well as a Marine chaplin (not, as I understand it, acting in an official capacity – ie, acting without official permission). The Marine Corps command at Pendleton is currently considering whether they will require the cross to be removed or not.

    Not that this clarification changes the current situation, but simply to point out that the Marine Corps itself wasn’t condoning this action. As PK notes, it was a couple of Marines (notably a Marine chaplin), retired Marines, and spouses of Marines that went ahead and did this without official sanction.

  18. 18
    RFW

    The war memorial at Cattle Point, Victoria, BC is a perfect example of a dignified, appropriate, but non-religious memorial to war dead. [Yes, I see the Biblical reference in the lower right, but it's merely giving proper credit for the slogan it marks.]

    If a backwater city like Victoria can manage to erect such a dignified, non-religious, but heart-felt memorial, what’s wrong with the Marines?

    It’s appropriate to mark the grave of a specific xtian soldier with a cross, but note that grave markers in the US national cemeteries include ones appropriate to other religions, even Wicca these days. (I don’t think the Church of the FSM yet qualifies.)

    Did those oh-so-butch Marines bother to think about their fallen comrades who were not xtian?

  19. 19
    littlejohn

    “No” is already up to 35%. I’ll try voting again.

  20. 20
    Sastra

    Yes, it’s not a religous statement but one of respect.

    This line of argument is probably one of the most dangerous to freethinkers because it mimics a secular dismissal of religion while actually infusing religion into the secular.

    There are many things which can be interpreted as religious but have for all intents and purposes either lost that meaning or never really had it in the first place. Think of such examples as Cupid, marriage, knocking on wood, or (I would argue) the Christmas tree. The fact that religion is dethroned and defanged as the values of the world take over is a good thing.

    But sometimes people try to make the process go the other way around. Things that rather clearly are specific to supernatural spirituality are declared “secular” or “not religious” in order to make the point that religion reigns so supreme that there IS no division. Believing in God or ‘acknowledging’ God isn’t religious because God’s existence is a well-known FACT of the world. The cross isn’t a religious symbol because Christianity is TRUE. Respect, love, and morality are all secular values only because they’re religious values that everyone is forced to recognize simply by living life.

    Religion, you see, refers to man’s different ways of worshiping God. But there’s some basic substrate of Godly truth which is so universal it can be considered secular. Theism is a noncontroversial rational consensus, one which all normal people agree on.

    This makes atheism perverse. Calling genuinely religious things secular doesn’t even the playing field between believer and non-believer. It puts us outside of not just religion but the world, like cranks and criminals and the insane.

    I hate this line of argument. It’s insidious.

  21. 21
    Brian Engler

    Thanks for posting, PZ!

  22. 22
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    Nobody’s trying to get between you and your fallen buddies. We just want to get you out from between us and our freedom from religion. If only our forces cared to protect that freedom. I don’t want to hear any more “I’m fighting for your freedoms” bullshit as long as you’re going to pull this crap.

  23. 23
    Zinc Avenger

    Of course it’s not religiously motivated! Why, they’d happily replace it with an islamic symbol because that’s how little religious symbols actually mean to them when they’re just using them as a gesture of respect.

  24. 24
    Mr. Fire

    anteprepro:

    Yes, I think that a cross has no meaning whatsoever beyond being a generic gravemarket

    Likely my twisted brain, but that typo still works for me :)

  25. 25
    Human Ape

    65%
    Yes, it’s not a religous statement but one of respect.
    2,521 votes
    35%
    No, it’s clearly a violation of church and state.
    1,377 votes

    2,521 theocrats. Their philosophy is “Marines can throw out the constitution if they want to.” They are disgracing their country and they’re disgracing the Marines.

    In a comment on the MSNBC website an atheist wimp had no problem with letting Marines put up the symbol of their Christian death cult on government property.

  26. 26
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    So none of those who answered yes on this poll would mind my “Calvin pissing on a cross” bumper sticker? It’s not a religious statement, after all.

    Depends. Is it on government-owned property?

    The Marine Corps did not sanction the erection of this cross (which is a replacement for an earlier cross that ironically burned down in a fire caused by live fire exercises).

    Is federally-owned land being set aside for the erection of this cross? If so, it really does not matter.

    As PK notes, it was a couple of Marines (notably a Marine chaplin), retired Marines, and spouses of Marines that went ahead and did this without official sanction.

    If they allow it to continue to stand on publicly owned property, then they have officially sanctioned the Christian torture symbol display.

  27. 27
    Gregory Greenwood

    “Marines roll deep and the most dangerous place to be is between a Marine and fallen Marines,” posted one person.

    This is what happens when you train someone to solve all their problems with a gun. The idea of actually having a reasonable debate on a legitimate issue of the seperation of church and state without pretty much instantly resorting to not very subtle threats seems to be beyond our angry military guy.

  28. 28
    Lurker

    This isn’t a battle we should be fighting. Throughout US history the cross has been used to symbolize recognition of the dead. Not only that, fighting a cross put up by marines is a terrible PR move. I’m all for aggressive atheism (people’s imaginary friends shouldn’t have an impact on my life) but this seems wrong. Let people celebrate/ mourn how they have to.

    Although, now that I think about it, I am troubled that the cross seems to imply that all those who have died are Christians.

    Hmph. No easy answers.

  29. 29
    Cuttlefish

    I’ve been following this story since the LA Times coverage of the cross’s placement. The comments sections of the various outlets have been fascinating–predictably, an awful lot of outrage at most military sites, most republican sites, and on the planet that Fox News hails from. Rare but thoughtful posts pointing out that this is not an attack on the cross, but a defense of the constitution, are shouted down immediately.

    I had great fun here: http://patdollard.com/2011/11/due-to-atheist-objections-marine-corps-may-remove-camp-pendleton-memorial-cross/

  30. 30
    peterh

    Up to 39%.

    In my case, disabling cookies or restarting my browser take about the same amount of time.

  31. 31
    billygutter01

    @ 29

    Of course it’s a battle we should be fighting. PR be damned.

  32. 32
    Zinc Avenger

    @28, Give them an inch, they’ll take a precedent.

    It’s not just a principle, it’s the law.

  33. 33
    Aquaria

    Y’all do know what Marines stands for right?

    “Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Not Essential, Sir!”

    It’s amazing how often it applies.

  34. 34
    Timberwoof

    There’s going to be whining and butt-hurt that some atheists are forcing Marines to remove a war memorial. The war memorial is not the issue: its christian symbolism is.

  35. 35
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    Throughout US history the cross has been used to symbolize recognition of the dead.

    Not for Jewish Americans. Or Muslims. Just because something has always been fucked up doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight it. In fact, that’s all the more reason to dig in.

  36. 36
    Jrobie

    Every Marine takes a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, so I know that the Marines aside from the few bad actors who created this violation of the establishment clause must be appalled.

  37. 37
    ChrisKG

    @Lurker,

    You are wrong. When is a cross not a religious symbol? I am a veteran and it does not represnt me and if you want to tell me it does we have a serious issue. Other faiths do not have crosses to mark their dead. A simple search on Google solves this issue. I suggest you look. http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-69019126/stock-photo-jewish-star-of-david-on-a-grave-stone-at-arlington-national-cemetery.html

  38. 38
    What a Maroon, el papa ateo

    So none of those who answered yes on this poll would mind my “Calvin pissing on a cross” bumper sticker? It’s not a religious statement, after all.

    I’d mind it.

    Not because of the message, but because Bill Watterson has always been clear that he will never license his creations.

    So all those Calvin pissing stickers piss me off.

    Now I’ll go vote. My nephew’s in the Marines, but I’m pretty sure he’s an atheist.

  39. 39
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Lurker:

    I am a veteran. I am not a Christian. Had I died in combat, how would a cross, a specifically Christian symbol, an exclusionary device, honour me?

  40. 40
    Gregory Greenwood

    Sastra @ 20;

    This makes atheism perverse. Calling genuinely religious things secular doesn’t even the playing field between believer and non-believer. It puts us outside of not just religion but the world, like cranks and criminals and the insane.

    This is pretty much SOP for fundies, isn’t it? Marginalise, isolate, demonise and (in certain extreme instances) destroy. It is the same mentality that informs the vile theist canard that ‘you cannot be good without god’ – a neat way of implying that every non-believer is at the very least utterly lacking in anything approaching a moral compass, and at worst is actively evil, and thus a threat to society that (in the eyes of the pious believer) may be legitimately considered as equivalent to a criminal or even that eternally useful boogey man of the modern world; a terrorist, even though they have broken no (sane) law. As you say in your post, the impression of the perversion of atheists in reinforced in the theist mind by the lie of the supposed ubiquity of god. Surely, no normal person would deny god? Would reject the well spring of all that is good and pure? Would ignore the supposedly overwhelming ‘evidence’ of the allegedly self-evidently sky-fairy-forged world around them? Therefore the atheists must be mad, bad and/or dangerous to know.

    From the perspective of the brainwashed fundy the equation is simple:- since atheists have no sense of ethics, since they have no basis for morality, it is inevitable that they will harm their fellow citizens, you see? The last step in the theist pseudo-logic is to ask ‘why wait?’ If the godless baby eaters are certain to do evil, better to contain them now, before they harm others. And if they won’t just roll over peacefully, or if the state won’t obligingly imprison or otherwise ‘deal’ with them? Well, won’t someone think of the children? We have to protect the little, innocent children – whatever it takes

    Of course, the pattern still holds, with only minimal alteration, if you substitute homosexual, feminist, liberal, muslim or immigrant for atheist.

  41. 41
    Dave Dell

    As a former Marine (4 years with a tour at Chu Lai) I want to repeat one of the more common phrases said by non-lifer enlisted men during the time I served, “Fuck the Marine Corps and every fucking thing it stands for.”

    Maybe things are different now. All I know for sure is I don’t trust anyone who’s rice bowl is dependent on the continuation of the wars of the American empire.

  42. 42
    Cuttlefish

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2011/11/23/the-camp-pendleton-cross/

    Dangit, this made me write again, when I should be grading! Could I nicely ask the whole world to stop doing stupid things that make me want to comment on them? Just until I’m done with grading?

  43. 43
    WishfulThinkingRulesAll

    A cross isn’t a religious symbol anymore? Yeah, right.

    Sadly, sometimes that is “right”, isn’t it? Doesn’t our genius Supreme Court subscribe to some BS thing called Ceremonial Deism? Where obviously relgious things, like prayers before government meetings, or objects like crosses can pop up on government land and not be considered religious in certain contexts?

  44. 44
    wendy

    Yay! My vote bumped it to 50%!

  45. 45
    some bastard

    Yes, it’s not a religous statement but one of respect.

    Either way, it would need to go.

    If it is a relious symbol, then it should get the axe.

    If it is not a religous symbol, then it is a reminder of how the Romans used to execute people in an incredibly painful way; and it should still get the axe in favor of, say, a memorial wall.

    Lose/lose for the Xians, here.

  46. 46
    Dave

    51%

  47. 47
    forsythia

    They should have had a third answer in the poll: “of course it isn’t sacred – why would we burn them if it was?”

  48. 48
    A3Kr0n

    The comments on the MAAF’s FaceBook page are amazing. Each one I just want to comment “fuck you!”, and “fuck you!”, and “fuck you!”.

  49. 49
    fcaccin

    sigma147 says:

    as well as a Marine chaplin

    Marine Chaplin is my new hero

  50. 50
    raven

    PZ:

    I’d be more sympathetic if they didn’t have to resort to blatant dishonesty to make their case (Hey! They’re fitting the theist stereotype!)

    Huh? What!!!

    It’s not a stereotype. Lying is a sacred obligation, one of their 3 main sacraments.

  51. 51
    raven

    OT but slightly related. Romney has a Mormon problem. Hate is one of their other sacred obligations. When they aren’t hating eveyone else, they hate each other.

    Mary Ann Chastain/ ABC News:

    “Cult” is the word most Americans used when asked in a new poll to describe how they view Mormons, a view that could hurt GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the primaries.

    In a new survey by the Pew Research Center, about a third of Americans — and the same proportion of Republican voters — say they don’t believe Mormons are Christians. That number expands even further when specific religious groups are questioned.

    More than half of white evangelical Protestants say Mormons aren’t part of the Christian faith.

    It’s 75% of xian pastors.

  52. 52
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    ranve:

    I supspect that is why Romney is staying up near the top of the polls but, everytime another contender is exposed, someone else gets the bounce rather than Romney.

  53. 53
    ButchKitties

    @Lurker If take away the religious meaning of the cross, you’re left with an ancient torture/execution device. How is that appropriate for a memorial?

  54. 54
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    er, soory. That’s raven, not ranve. my bad

  55. 55
    Moggie

    sigma147:

    Just a minor point of clarification: The Marine Corps did not sanction the erection of this cross (which is a replacement for an earlier cross that ironically burned down in a fire caused by live fire exercises).

    The second most dangerous place to be is between a Marine and stuff he’s not supposed to be shooting at.

  56. 56
    Stonyground

    I have seen a war memorial somewhere which had a soldier’s helmet on a rifle and a pair of army boots at the base. Surely something like that would have been appropriate and, being secular, entirely uncontroversial. A rectangular block with names on it would also fit the bill. I find it baffling that the US has this rule about religious symbols on public land and just because they are a majority, Christians think that it applies to everyone else but not them.

  57. 57
    Epinephrine

    I’ve been to the Normandy American cemetery (as well as our Canadian cemetery at Beny-sur-mer), and I don’t object at all to the use of crosses to mark the graves of Christians and the use of stars of David to mark the graves of Jews, so long as there are options for those of whatever faith (or non-faith). As these represent not the government support or endorsement of a particular religion, but merely the government recognising the religion of the fallen, I don’t see it violating the first amendment. If the option is given to the soldiers (or in the absence of the soldier’s wishes – the family’s wishes) to select how they would like to have their grave marked, it could be viewed as allowing the free expression of religion.

    However, perhaps as a Canadian I am not fully aware of the issues. The cross is to honour 4 dead soldiers – presumably all 4 are Christian? Provided similar monuments can be raised for other soldiers of other religions (and secular monuments for secular soldiers), and that space is provided with equal opportunity for other monuments, I don’t see much of a problem.

  58. 58
    raven

    @Lurker If take away the religious meaning of the cross, you’re left with an ancient torture/execution device. How is that appropriate for a memorial?

    How is that appropriate for a memorial?
    An ancient torture/execution device, pretty much sums up a lot of current US xianity.

  59. 59
    peterh

    The poll’s now tipped to 57% No.

  60. 60
    Ze Madmax

    Epinephrine @ #57:

    However, perhaps as a Canadian I am not fully aware of the issues. The cross is to honour 4 dead soldiers – presumably all 4 are Christian? Provided similar monuments can be raised for other soldiers of other religions (and secular monuments for secular soldiers), and that space is provided with equal opportunity for other monuments, I don’t see much of a problem.

    The issue is that the monument is located on land owned by the U.S. Government. Under the Establishment clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution, the U.S. government cannot show preference for one religion. Allowing this memorial, with its explicit religious imagery to stand is tantamount to endorsement of that specific religion by the government.

    So if the memorial didn’t have any religious imagery, everything would be A-OK. If the memorial had religious imagery and was placed on private property, everything would be A-OK as well.

    Or so goes my understanding.

  61. 61
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    I’ve been to the Normandy American cemetery (as well as our Canadian cemetery at Beny-sur-mer), and I don’t object at all to the use of crosses to mark the graves of Christians and the use of stars of David to mark the graves of Jews, so long as there are options for those of whatever faith (or non-faith).

    And those are graves. For individuals. And notice that the Christian cross is not used for all, only those identifying with one of the thousands of Christian sects.

    The cross is to honour 4 dead soldiers – presumably all 4 are Christian?

    This is not the grave of those Marines. This is not a cemetary. This is a public memorial, built on government property (owned by all US citizens).

    Provided similar monuments can be raised for other soldiers of other religions (and secular monuments for secular soldiers), and that space is provided with equal opportunity for other monuments, I don’t see much of a problem.

    First off, the chances of a Jew, a Muslim or an atheist being honoured that way on a military base, through volunteer action, is small. I suppose the chance is there, but it is small. Second, even if a monument were put up, by a volunteer group on federal land with the crescent of Islam, it would still be wrong. And if the base commandant allowed it to remain, he or she would be providing official government sanction of a religious monument.

  62. 62
    Marius Rowell

    The poll worked for me just now – nice to see the vote is now 42% for okay and 58% for violation of separation of church and state.

  63. 63
    truebutnotuseful

    Silly PZ! Everyone knows the symbol of the ancient Roman torture apparatus equally honors fallen soldiers of all religious (and non-religious) backgrounds!

    I mean, either that or Justice Scalia is some kind of curd-brained fishwanker. But really, what are the odds of that?

  64. 64
    Epinephrine

    This is not the grave of those Marines. This is not a cemetary. This is a public memorial, built on government property (owned by all US citizens).

    Ok, but the American Cemetery in Normandy is also government property, to my knowledge, granted to them by France.

  65. 65
    John Phillips, FCD

    Epinephrine, I don’t necessarily disagree with your sentiment of equality for all when it comes to the appropriate symbol according to the individuals beliefs. But can you really see them allowing that without, as has happened over previous similar instances, the ACLU forcing their hand, sometimes by taking it all the way to the courts.

    That’s why, IMO, it is much better to stick with no religious symbols of any kind on federal land. Except of course, in the case of national cemetries, where the appropriate symbol can be used for each individual and none think it as an endorsement of one belief over another. I.e. your Normandy war cemetries.

    Admittedly, until they started all the crap excuses to cover their asses, I would have put the act down to them simply thinking, though not fully, that this was a good way to honour their family members. However, seeing their actions after, whatever the original intention, it is now moot.

    As someone upthread said, if they had used something like the traditional upside down rifle stuck in the earth with helmet on top, or an equally secular but relevant symbol for soldiers, I would have no problem at all with it, federal land or not. I wouldn’t even complain if they added a plaque mentioning the exact faith of each of the fallen alongside their names, as their beliefs would be then marked as the individual’s and incidental to the symbol rather than the symbol itself.

  66. 66
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Provided similar monuments can be raised for other soldiers of other religions (and secular monuments for secular soldiers), and that space is provided with equal opportunity for other monuments, I don’t see much of a problem.

    If this were a gravesite, like Arlington, and the individual grave markers were crosses, I don’t think they’d have a problem either. The problem is that this is a collective memorial, and thus is a precedent for other such memorials. Even though the US is technically secular, with that anti-establishment clause and all, they have a real problem in practical terms, with government promulgation of Christianity.

    The context for them is completely different than it is here in Canada. There, it’s a cross or nothing. Here, no one would bat an eye if someone wanted subsequently to put up a memorial to honour the sacrifice of First Nations soldiers, Sikh soldiers, Muslim soldiers, or atheist soldiers, with appropriate symbols and signage. Nor, I think would we have a dispute over the appropriateness of a cross to represent a mixed group. The response would likely be: “Oh, yeah, okay, let’s come up with a design that accommodates everyone” before the thing was even off the back of the envelope.

  67. 67
    Anthony K

    Erudite as always, Sastra.

    A point you and others have made before is that the infusion of the religious into the secular always seems to be temporary, subject to revocation at a moment’s notice. The Supreme Court can ceremonialise deism all it likes, but that doesn’t stop the theist on the street from claiming “In God We Trust” on the currency proves the US is officially a Christian country as well as in practice.

    [Whatever] is a religious symbol when they need it to be, and secular when they need it to be. It’s almost magical how quickly and easily it can be one or the other.

    It’s transubstantiation all the way down.

  68. 68
    raven

    Ok, but the American Cemetery in Normandy is also government property, to my knowledge, granted to them by France.

    This is stupid.

    Cemeterys are where they bury dead people. No dead people, no cemetery.

    A random patch of dirt somewhere is not equivalent to a cemetery. This is BTW, not a hard concept to understand.

  69. 69
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    Ok, but the American Cemetery in Normandy is also government property

    That’s fine, since it’s a cemetery, not a memorial. It’s the combination of government property and memorial that’s the problem.

  70. 70
    themadkansan

    just voted, if the poll doesn’t work for you it may be NoScript blocking Newsvine or cookies blocked from the same place.

    was 40/60 in favor of “violation of church and state” just now when I voted.

  71. 71
    tushcloots

    wtf!? It was 40% – 60% and then I voted ‘violation’ it said 40.1% – 59.9%.
    Two of the comrades must have voted at the same time I did, hmmmmmmmm…

  72. 72
    raven

    If they want to put up a secular symbol, why a cross?

    Why not a muppet. Or a cute kitty cat. A cephalopod. A life size statue of Cthulhu. Or the Grim Reaper. A scyth. A mermaid. Pluto, the god of the underworld. Odin’s spear.

    Why instead a cross? Because it is a xian symbol and they are once again attempting to impose their religion on the rest of us.

    This isn’t uncommon. It’s not like we haven’t seen this before. It happens every day, day in, day out.

  73. 73
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    My fellow Americans confuse the hell out of me sometimes. It seems half of them hate secularism because they think it’s the same as atheism. The other half think Christian claptrap is secular just because it’s been in their face every day of their lives. Would it kill them to read a fucking dictionary? If so, I know what I’m getting Pat Roberts for Xmas (though I’ll probably have to write “Bible” on the front to get him to open it).

  74. 74
    Epinephrine

    raven:

    This is stupid. Cemeterys are where they bury dead people. No dead people, no cemetery. A random patch of dirt somewhere is not equivalent to a cemetery. This is BTW, not a hard concept to understand.

    Sorry , I didn’t expect to be seen as being stupid – a grave is essentially a monument for a single person, and I am not well versed in specific exceptions to the American rules – the comment was intended to point out that the cemetery and memorial in France is technically on American soil. The site is a memorial and cemetery, and is maintained and paid for at the taxpayer’s expense, so I thought it was a relevant example.

    Thanks everyone for the explanations; as Ibis3 points out, there must be a very different context. Despite Canada being a Christian country (it sucks, but it’s true), we’re quite relaxed about religion, and I imagine that we’d generally have raised a monument with symbols for as many of the religions represented as wee could cram on there, or it would simply have been left secular if that couldn’t be managed (like our Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – the original stone had a cross on it, but the new location lacks any religious markings).

  75. 75
    Anthony K

    Here, no one would bat an eye if someone wanted subsequently to put up a memorial to honour the sacrifice of First Nations soldiers, Sikh soldiers, Muslim soldiers, or atheist soldiers, with appropriate symbols and signage. Nor, I think would we have a dispute over the appropriateness of a cross to represent a mixed group. The response would likely be: “Oh, yeah, okay, let’s come up with a design that accommodates everyone” before the thing was even off the back of the envelope.

    There’s a neighbourhood which lies atop a burial ground of the Papaschase First Nations. When bones were dug up during construction of underground lines and mains (there’s a power plant there), First Nations people would put, oddly enough, crosses up on the site to protest the construction. The band explains that the crosses were meant to exploit the Alberta Cemetaries Act that prohibits disruption of a burial ground marked with a marker or cross until the appropriate archeological permits and designations could be made.

    Since then, this was built as a memorial, replacing the hand-placed crosses. It’s the result of months of consultation with all the stakeholder groups.

    And that’s how we fuckin’ roll up here in the land of Peace, Order, and Good Government, y’all!

  76. 76
    Human Ape

    37%
    Yes, it’s not a religous statement but one of respect.
    2,565 votes

    63%
    No, it’s clearly a violation of church and state.
    4,378 votes

    Wow. I’m impressed. PZ can fix any internet poll.

  77. 77
    tsig

    Isn’t this illegal on the face of it. I don’t think you can build anything on a military base without getting permission, so if they haven’t got the paper, out it goes.

  78. 78
    crowepps

    Discussion of “secular” reminded me of an article History News Network referenced: Our Male Ancestors Stayed Close to Home, While Females Wandered About.
    http://www.livescience.com/17107-human-ancestors-wandered-nsf-bts.html

    I have no opinion on how good the research is or their conclusion, but another reader did question it and I was a little gobsmacked by this reply to his comment:

    “Well it does if you read any of the other articles here on this site there is a leftist secular slant. They constantly project modern ideology onto scientific and historical data. Translation for this one, women started out as gender neutral with their male counter parts. Subjugation of women is a new phenomena. But it’s not. I don’t get why? But at some point this live science outfit just hired a bunch of leftist propagandist, at least one out of Berkeley etc..to push some secular leftist agenda. Think Orwell and revisionist history. Group think etc…”

    There are so many presuppositions in this its hard to unpack them all (although my eyes widened at the implication that ‘good science would show it’s natural for women to be subjugated’) but I’m unable to figure out exactly what about the hypothesis that primitive females left their birth troop for breeding opportunities is ‘leftist’ and how any scientific conclusion at all can be anything OTHER than ‘secular’. As opposed to what? The slant preferred by the commenter: rightest religious?

  79. 79
    'Tis Himself

    a Marine chaplin

    Any relation to Charlie?

  80. 80
    peterh

    Now 65%. Thought you might like to know.

  81. 81
    Guy Chapman (@SceptiGuy)

    Crosses have been used as memorials to the fallen for a long time. Almost every English village has one. I think that in a multicultural society new public memorials should not favour one religion or another, but private ones are private of course.

    I think that to blow this up to a church-and-state conflict is needlessly confrontational. It’s more likely that the people responsible simply did not think about it. They may have comrades of other (or no) faith, if they reflect on this in a calm and measured way then they are more likely to choose to replace the memorial with an alternative design than if they are confronted by a howling mob of skeptics. Skeptics are mainly nerds and not at all scary.

    I don’t think that a cross is the right thing here, but I don’t think a stand-up fight is the right way to resolve it.

  82. 82
    Aquaria

    I think that to blow this up to a church-and-state conflict is needlessly confrontational.

    It is confrontational to have a memorial for all service people to be represented by christardery.

    Sorry you’re too fucking stupid to understand that.

    It’s more likely that the people responsible simply did not think about it.

    Ignorance is no excuse.

    They may have comrades of other (or no) faith, if they reflect on this in a calm and measured way then they are more likely to choose to replace the memorial with an alternative design than if they are confronted by a howling mob of skeptics.

    Pointing out how it’s wrong and unconstitutional = Howling?

    Fuck you, you hysterical fuckface. That’s not howling, liar. That’s pointing out how it’s wrong and unconstitutional. Nothing more.

    Stop being fucking stupid.

    Skeptics are mainly nerds and not at all scary.

    The Constitution is scary–to fuck stains who want to force their delusion on everyone. We have the Constitution on our side. They don’t.

    Who’s tougher now, asshole?

    I don’t think that a cross is the right thing here, but I don’t think a stand-up fight is the right way to resolve it.

    If you’d been born 60 years ago, you would have told Rosa Parks to sit down and give the nice white man that seat. That wasn’t the “right time” for a stand-up fight either to simpering fuckfaced cowards like you.

    Fuck off.

  83. 83
    Atheist Antagonist

    PZ Myers states:


    But the action was wrong: it’s using government property to promote sectarian religion. It should be taken down and either something more appropriate put in its place, or it should be moved to private land.

    Mr Myers shows an insensitivity to the expression of grief in a culture who has reaped huge benefits of its overtly Christian heritage. In fact, without the Christian culture, Atheists have no morality, no ethics on which to base its world, and no example to base its philanthropy on. Could this be reinforced by a Gallup Poll in 2007 stated that 53% of Americans would refuse to vote for an atheist as an American President, up from a same poll in 1999 which revealed 48% would refuse. Ehically and morally, Atheists cannot offer confidence to the people of the United States in leadership of their country.

    Although the United States does not have a census question about religion, and we rely heavily on telephone polls of a limited number of people for the data, it is probable that many households in the United States would claim themselves to adhere to a faith that has a belief in God – whether Muslim, Jewish or Christian. In recent Gallup polls, 40% of Americans claim to go to a attend services nearly every week, and according to an American Religious Identification Survey, between 59% and 86% report a belief in a God.

    Therefore, as many American taxpayers report a belief in God, we can assume that at least part of all public land can be set aside for the use of erecting a cross as a symbol of grief and hope for Marines, and other types of peoples within the community. The cross is two-fold in its meaning to Christians. Yes, it is a symbol of death, but also it is a symbol of HOPE, as the Christian message states that its founder, Jesus, was crucified on the cross, but rose again on the third day. The cross is also a reminder that there is a higher cause to live for, and that self restraint is a highly valued ideal. Marines would benefit from this message – you would agree. They have the capacity to take life in a way that many other Americans do not.

    Finally, the desire to remove all ‘Christian’ symbolism on public land also forms a message that atheists do not respect other religions – not only Christian, but Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or Chinese religions. Each have its own symbols and means of mourning death in its worldview. So the atheist world view would exclude any religious symbolism, ceremony, or traditions as Atheists, by definition, excludes any religious beliefs. This is undemocratic, and hence restrictive in nature. We see this played out in China, Cuba, North Korea, and many former Soviet Union states who upheld a so-called ‘Atheist’ worldview.

  84. 84
    chigau (違う)

    Damn.
    I have to go out.

  85. 85
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Finally, the desire to remove all ‘Christian’ symbolism on public land also forms a message that atheists do not respect other religions

    You aren’t listening fuckwit. We don’t mind INDIVIDUAL notations of religion. A cross for a Xian body is no problem, along with any other type of listing. Our gripe is pretending that the Xian symbol of the cross represents all those in service in the marines. It doesn’t, except in the minds of delusional fools, who try vainly to pretend that this is an Xian nation. Never was, never will be. This is a only a predominantly Xian nation, and leaving out the modifier predominantly is a mother fucking lie.

  86. 86
    Pinkamena, Panic Pony

    Atheist Assholist, you and your self-righteous sit-down-and-shut-up attitude can kiss my pretty pink plot. Same with the previous accommodationist asshole SkeptiLiar, and all before him, and all subsequent ones. Line up, pucker up, and shut up.

  87. 87
    John Morales

    Antagonist to Atheists:

    In fact, without the Christian culture, Atheists have no morality, no ethics on which to base its world, and no example to base its philanthropy on.

    Your opinion doesn’t constitute a ‘fact’, other than in the trivial sense that it is a fact that it is your opinion.

    Ehically and morally, Atheists cannot offer confidence to the people of the United States in leadership of their country.

    Not to those such as you who are so insular and parochial that you rely on platitudes rather than evidence as the basis upon which to grant confidence.

    Confidence in your leadership should be based on competence, not on ideology!

    (Are you familiar with the Euthyphro dilemma?)

    Finally, the desire to remove all ‘Christian’ symbolism on public land also forms a message that atheists do not respect other religions – not only Christian, but Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or Chinese religions.
    [...]
    So the atheist world view would exclude any religious symbolism, ceremony, or traditions as Atheists, by definition, excludes any religious beliefs.

    You are confused; it is true that atheists don’t discriminate specific theistic religions, but the basis for the exclusion of official religious symbolism is the First Amendment of your Constitution, not atheism per se.

  88. 88
    lymanalpha

    I almost voted yes because I thought it said “should Marine Corps OK cross-dressing.”

  89. 89
    DLC

    Seriously. move the cross down the street, or put up a statue of a marine standing at attention in it’s place. This country was founded on freedom, and freedom from religion is equally important as freedom of religion. It’s not just a matter of The Law , but a matter of principle.

  90. 90
    jj7212

    I’m a 13 year Marine Corps veteran (94′-07′). I was stationed at Camp Pendleton for many years. This post is stupid and these comments are stupid. Chaplains are Navy officers, not Marines. I seriously doubt that anyone with commanding authority has promoted this cross. If it’s the Chaplain, some retired Marines, and Marine’s wives who put it up, then it will probably get taken down. The Commanders will take action and do the right thing. Stop fussing about it everyone. This post has people talking shit about the active duty Marines in a matter that is unwarranted and very inappropriate. The stereotypes I’m reading here are stupid, untrue, and show a lack of knowledge about how Marines conduct themselves. Marines are very very smart, believe it or not. Go ahead and think its easy even being a squad leader in an infantry company. I’ll be damned if I let anyone insult the abilities of a Marine’s leadership. The young Corporals and Sergeants get more shit done before 8am than anyone posting here…

  91. 91
    Dahan

    This former Marine believes his fellow Marines should pull their heads out of their collective asses.

  92. 92
    jj7212

    http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmc/leadership_traits.htm

    This is what we teach to Marines from day one of boot camp. Leadership. Secular morals that we live and die by. You might say it’s our bible. It’s the reason Marines have their image. It’s the reason they get accomplish their missions. Let the Marines talk shit about the Marine Corps. Trust me that it all gets kicked out in the open…

  93. 93
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    From what I’ve seen, the correct statue would not be a cross, but the old rifle stuck in the ground with its bayonet, and the old helmet on top of it. Secular, but to the proper point.

  94. 94
    John Morales

    jj7212:

    I seriously doubt that anyone with commanding authority has promoted this cross.

    The issue is not whether “anyone with commanding authority has promoted” it, but why no-one with commanding authority has noted it contravenes the First Amendment and taken appropriate action.

    This post has people talking shit about the active duty Marines in a matter that is unwarranted and very inappropriate.

    Indeed — just not in the way you meant it. :)

  95. 95
    Gregory Greenwood

    Atheist Antagonist @ 83;

    Mr Myers shows an insensitivity to the expression of grief in a culture who has reaped huge benefits of its overtly Christian heritage.

    Maybe if you are a middle class, white, christian male.

    Of course, if you have the bad form to be a homosexual…

    Or transgender…

    Or a member of an ethnic monority…

    Or a woman…

    Or a believer in the ‘wrong’ religion…

    Or a member of the ‘wrong’ sect of the ‘right’ religion…

    Or an atheist…

    Then christianity really wasn’t so much of a boon to you.

    In fact, without the Christian culture, Atheists have no morality, no ethics on which to base its world, and no example to base its philanthropy on.

    Repeating this canard won’t magically make it true, you know. Many christian ‘morals’ are ugly expressions of oppressive pious bigotry, and all the halfway decent stuff, like ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ (which is more properly expressed as the Golden Rule, a moral philosophy that is far from uniquely christian), can be reached by means of entirely secular ethical systems. Consequentialist morality and in particular secular humanism provide a fully functional syetem of rational ethics without a judgemental sky fairy in sight.

    Could this be reinforced by a Gallup Poll in 2007 stated that 53% of Americans would refuse to vote for an atheist as an American President, up from a same poll in 1999 which revealed 48% would refuse. Ehically and morally, Atheists cannot offer confidence to the people of the United States in leadership of their countr

    So… you think that the bigotry directed against atheists is legitimised by the fact that the US is a society so mired in anti-atheist bigotry that atheists are unelectable to high office? You do know what a circular argument is, I take it, because you just trotted out a doozy here. Has it occurred to you that it is not possible to validate discrimination simply because a majority engage in it? If it were, then the suffragettes would have acheived nothing, the civil rights movement would have gone nowhere, and every homosexual would still be in the closet…

    … Unless that is how you think things should be, of course…?

    Although the United States does not have a census question about religion, and we rely heavily on telephone polls of a limited number of people for the data, it is probable that many households in the United States would claim themselves to adhere to a faith that has a belief in God – whether Muslim, Jewish or Christian. In recent Gallup polls, 40% of Americans claim to go to a attend services nearly every week, and according to an American Religious Identification Survey, between 59% and 86% report a belief in a God.

    There was a time when the vast majority of the world’s population believed that the earth was flat, but how many people worry about sailing off the edge of the planet these days? Just because a majority believe somethimng does not make it true. Evidence is the only arbiter of that which exists, and your god is really light in that department.

    Therefore, as many American taxpayers report a belief in God, we can assume that at least part of all public land can be set aside for the use of erecting a cross as a symbol of grief and hope for Marines, and other types of peoples within the community.

    So now you wish to assert that the people with the most cash get to ratify that which exists? A quick history lesson for you; a major purpose of most constitutional documents is to put in place checks and balances to ensure that vulnerable minorities do not exist at the capricious whims of the empowered majority. Without such protections, pogroms become a common occurance and genocide a national pastime. This is why the non-establishment clause exists – to prevent the government becoming nothing more than an instrument of sectarian violence.

    Asserting that a specific, clearly sectarian symbol like the cross is to be placed on publically owned property as a public memorial is tantamount to the government endorsing that symbol and the religion it is associated with, which at a stroke undermines the neutrality of government and diminishes its ability to run the country in the interests of all Americans, including those who don’t believe that a Palestinian carpenter was the son of a Bronze Age god and will one day return as a zombie to destroy the world.

    The cross is two-fold in its meaning to Christians. Yes, it is a symbol of death, but also it is a symbol of HOPE

    To you and your co-religionists, perhaps, to the rest of us it is a grotesque Roman instrument of torture and slow execution, and that is all. Your interpretation is not the only interpretation, and it is no more deserving of being enshrined in law.

    …as the Christian message states that its founder, Jesus, was crucified on the cross, but rose again on the third day.

    And here we have the zombie jesus part – an event that flies in the face of everything we know and for which there is not one shred of scientific evidence. Why should we take this myth any more seriously than Zeus and his lightning bolt pitches? Thor and his thunderous hammer? Or a giant scarab beetle rolling the sun across the sky? Why should the government endorse this irrational belief system rather than any of the literally millions of other (equally irrational) god myths humanity has worshipped throughout its history?

    The cross is also a reminder that there is a higher cause to live for, and that self restraint is a highly valued ideal.

    Absolute subjugation to a blood thirsty, sociopathic tyrant in the sky? That is your idea of a higher cause? I for one aspire to more than this abject, craven obeisance to an imaginary deity for our species.

    And self restraint? In a book that explicitly endorses religious genocide and gleefully anticipates the annihilation of earth and the condemnation of all non-’true christians’(TM) to eternal torture? A book that is a nightmare of ethno-nationalist hatred mongering? I think not.

    Marines would benefit from this message – you would agree. They have the capacity to take life in a way that many other Americans do not.

    In a word, no, I wouldn’t agree. I think that indoctrinating soldiers to believe in a religion that endorses the idea of ‘chosen people’ and ‘red right hands’ of god – that god has impliments on earth to do his bidding and fight his ‘enemies’ – is the height of irresponsibility. Self righteous maniacs with assault rifles is hardly a recipe for anything other than carnage.

    Finally, the desire to remove all ‘Christian’ symbolism on public land also forms a message that atheists do not respect other religions – not only Christian, but Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or Chinese religions. Each have its own symbols and means of mourning death in its worldview. So the atheist world view would exclude any religious symbolism, ceremony, or traditions as Atheists, by definition, excludes any religious beliefs. This is undemocratic, and hence restrictive in nature. We see this played out in China, Cuba, North Korea, and many former Soviet Union states who upheld a so-called ‘Atheist’ worldview.

    We are not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed their chosen burial rites and a personal grave marker that reflects their beliefs – we are saying that the state should take no action that endorses any religion. Atheists are under no obligation to respect anyone’s faith – all we must do is tolerate it by accepting the right of others to believe whatever unevidenced rubbish they choose, but this implies a quid pro quo – they have to accept our right to not believe as they believe, and christians are very bad at doing that, as their attempts to do such things as shoe-horn creationism into the education system and deny equal rights to homosexuals shows.

    And finally, communism is not the same thing as atheism. Most communists were atheist in so far as they did not believe in a supernatural godhead, but the communist societies instead replaced god with something else that was accorded comparable unchallengeable moral authority – the ‘worker’s utopia’. In many respects, communism was structurally similar to monotheistic religion in terms of the belief in the absolute moral rectitude of their ideology and the veneration, bordering on deification, of unaccountable (predominantly male) authority figures. Communists may be atheist in the strictest sense, but communism is in no way the inevitable outcome of atheism.

  96. 96
    Gregory Greenwood

    jj7212 @ 90;

    Your concern is noted

  97. 97
    truebutnotuseful

    Atheist Antagonist says:

    …a Gallup Poll in 2007 stated that 53% of Americans would refuse to vote for an atheist as an American President, up from a same poll in 1999 which revealed 48% would refuse.

    Your fallacious appeal to popularity is both irrelevant to the topic at hand and fails to provide evidence for the invisible space wizard you call ‘God.’ 53% of U.S. citizens could say they refuse to vote for a candidate who doesn’t believe in unicorns but that wouldn’t make unicorns real, now would it?

    In fact, without the Christian culture, Atheists have no morality, no ethics on which to base its world, and no example to base its philanthropy on.

    If the only source of YOUR morality and ethics is your belief in some magical big brother god, then please do humankind a favor and never stop believing in that fairytale. But since you brought it up, you might as well be aware that some of us actually value human life and the human experience as an end in itself. And, possessing empathy, have an interest in not inflicting harm on others that we would not want inflicted on ourselves, and helping others in a way we ourselves would like to be helped.

    Maybe you’ve heard of the Golden Rule? It was in existence for quite some time before people started co-opting it in the name of your old pal Jesus.

    Therefore, as many American taxpayers report a belief in God, we can assume that at least part of all public land can be set aside for the use of erecting a cross as a symbol of grief and hope for Marines, and other types of peoples within the community.

    Upon reading this sentence, I am left with two conclusions:

    1. Either you are very stupid for being unfamiliar with the Establishment Clause in the Constitution, or

    2. You are familiar with the Establishment Clause but are very stupid for thinking it does not apply in this instance.

    So, are you stupid for the first reason or the second reason?

    So the atheist world view would exclude any religious symbolism, ceremony, or traditions as Atheists, by definition, excludes any religious beliefs.

    If you’re talking about permanent fixtures on public land, then yes. And that’s a secular “world view,” not an “atheist world view.”

    Now go read the Establishment Clause and don’t come back until you’ve written a 500 word essay about it. And a separate 500 word essay about how stupid your post was.

    …better make the second essay 1,000 words.

  98. 98
    Crudely Wrott

    Poll results as of 8:40 PM Eastern Time:

    Yes — 31% with 2,591 votes
    No — 69% with 5,665 votes

    It seems reasonable that not all of those No votes came from readers of this blog. Is there another horde out there?
    Ahoy, mateys!

  99. 99
    Ray, rude-ass yankee

    Gregory Greenwood@95, Bravo, sir! Well written.

  100. 100
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Crosses have been used as memorials to the fallen for a long time. Almost every English village has one

    You do realize that there is an official state religion in England? And that there is not one in the United States? Do you even care?

    I think that in a multicultural society new public memorials should not favour one religion or another, but private ones are private of course.

    Fine, but this is not a publicly funded memorial, it is a privately funded memorial placed on public land.

    I think that to blow this up to a church-and-state conflict is needlessly confrontational.

    Confrontation is the only way to stop it. Accomodationism will merely feed the sense of privilege of Christians.

    It’s more likely that the people responsible simply did not think about it.

    Which is exactly what a sense of privilege does. It allows people to do things with no thought.

    They may have comrades of other (or no) faith,

    But they elected to erect an exclusionary explicitly Christian symbol.

    if they reflect on this in a calm and measured way then they are more likely to choose to replace the memorial with an alternative design than if they are confronted by a howling mob of skeptics.

    I disagree. If they are asked to reflect on this in a calm and measured way, they will not be able to see past their sense of privilege as Christians. By actively confronting them, they are forced to see the inherent conflict between their desired private action on public land and the United States Constitution, which is what the members of the military are sworn to protect.

    Skeptics are mainly nerds and not at all scary.

    I am a skeptic. I am also a disabled veteran. And trust me. I can be scary. No, that is not a threat, that is just honesty.

    I don’t think that a cross is the right thing here, but I don’t think a stand-up fight is the right way to resolve it.

    Mr Myers shows an insensitivity to the expression of grief in a culture who has reaped huge benefits of its overtly Christian heritage.

    No one, NO ONE, is saying, writing, or even implying that Christians cannot find solace in religion. Putting up a private religious monument on public land is not an expression of grief, it is an expression of privilege.

    Citing poll numbers is meaningless. Read the Constitution of the United States of America. Pay close attention to all the places in which it says that, in the even of a majority, the Constitution may be ignored; or the places where it says that the United States is a Christian nation and that Christians have a special place and the Constitution does not apply to them. Do you see those parts of the Constitution? No? Are you sure? Because quoting poll numbers in regard to a Constitutionally gauranteed right would imply that you think that it is there.

    I seriously doubt that anyone with commanding authority has promoted this cross

    Is the commandant of the base ordering that it be removed? If not, he is providing official support and sanction for the unconstitutional monument.

    You claim to have been a member of the United States military. So was I. Do you remember your oath? The one promising to defend the United States Constitution?

  101. 101
    jj7212

    I’ll have to research this cross thing a little more… How long has it been up? I’m sure that it will eventually get taken down, but I think it could be slow to come down if it has to go up any chain of command. The Chain of Command can be slow sometimes and I’m sure that the Chain of Command will at least be sensitive to those who put it up. Marines are family, not people we talk down to.

    Keep in mind too that this whole ‘cross’ thing might be of concern for PZ and the rest of us, but it’s probably the least of concern at Camp Pendleton. Marines are busy enough doing what they do without all the distractions. Relgious issues are extrememly rare there and most Marines aren’t so religious anyways. You ever hear us talk to each other? lol

  102. 102
    John Morales

    [OT]

    Relgious issues are extrememly rare there and most Marines aren’t so religious anyways.

    So what the fuck are chaplains doing amongst you mob, if not to appease the religious?

  103. 103
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    As a former Marine myself, I don’t see why a cross would be a particularly meaningful symbol in the first place. The Eagle, Globe, and Anchor work just fine 100% of the time. I don’t know about other units, but when I was on active duty with the 10th Marines we commemorated things with artillery shell casings with carved wood ends on them. I’m sure other units have their own traditions, and none of them violate church-state separation.

  104. 104
    John Morales

    Improbable Joe,

    As a former Marine myself, I don’t see why a cross would be a particularly meaningful symbol in the first place. The Eagle, Globe, and Anchor work just fine 100% of the time.

    Indeed — unless you were a Christian Marine, whenceupon it would represent religious (rather than military) symbolism.

    (Or even what Nerd of Redhead wrote @93)

  105. 105
    britomart

    My father enlisted in the Marines the day after Pearl Harbor and served thru August of 1945. He earned two purple hearts, one at Peleliu. He was an atheist, a very strong atheist. He always said he served with many other atheists and the ‘no atheists in foxholes’ canard would really get him going . He would have been furious at this. Erect a memorial for all Marines, not just a few. Don’t Marines always pride them selves on leaving no Marines behind?

  106. 106
    Crudely Wrott

    It’s been about three and three quarter hours since my post at #98. Since then the Yes votes have increased by 7 (count ‘em, 7) votes while the No votes have increased by 412.

    Yes — 30%
    No — 70%

    This is just too easy. If only shaking sense into our fellow citizens was as effortless . . . Aaaarrrrr, and to be surrrrre.

  107. 107
    Marcus Ranum

    It’s not religiously motivated at all; I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if the cross was upside down…

  108. 108
    jj7212

    @ John Morales

    Actually, the chaplains are hardly ever seen at a work area on base. Sometimes during big training exercises, the chaplain might come around just to say hi and let people at least know who he is, but they never really talk about religion, which is good. They’re pretty cool sometimes. I hafta admit. My unit was an all male unit. During down time, my Marines would be in the tent doing stuff, to include reading porn mags. Whenever the chaplain was spotted nearby, I was always the first to yell “Chaplain’s here! Hide the fuck books!” haha! Marine humor… lol I’ve never been prosyletized at work. Chaplains are just there if Marines wish to seek religious counceling. There are many many other resources for counceling, not just religous. Stressfull job, ya know.

  109. 109
    John Morales

    jj7212, thanks for responding.

  110. 110
    hotshoe

    Erect a memorial for all Marines, not just a few. Don’t Marines always pride them selves on leaving no Marines behind?

    Yeah, good point. They’re supposed to.

    Except there are a few christards who pride themselves on leaving behind everyone who doesn’t fall for their exact flavor of stupid…

    Turns out “no” is not very close to zero; closer to 32% are left behind in this case.

  111. 111
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Most communists were atheist in so far as they did not believe in a supernatural godhead, but the communist societies instead replaced god with something else that was accorded comparable unchallengeable moral authority – the ‘worker’s utopia’.

    But the capitalist societies instead replaced god with a tripartite idealism that was accorded comparable unchallengeable moral authority – the mythos of perpetual class mobility, the wisdom of the markets, and their child the self-actualizing individual.

    Utopia? Who are the communists advancing such a notion; can you quote them? That’ll be interesting, as I know I can easily show the contrary:

    “Communism [is] a real political-economic system that has to work in the messy world of real people, many of whom are evil and more of whom are at best ignorant and at worst stupid. [...] Furthermore, even if a communist government were to win that civil war, it would probably have to repress Christian fascist ideology — indeed it’s arguable that it would be irresponsible not to do so. Radically changing the economic foundations of a three-hundred million person country is going to cause profound dislocations, suffering and some deaths. The government will make mistakes, serious mistakes, and those mistakes will also cause real suffering and death. In short even the best case of a communist revolution would entail that some bad shit would go down.”

    In many respects, communism was structurally similar to monotheistic religion in terms of the belief in the absolute moral rectitude of their ideology and the veneration, bordering on deification, of unaccountable (predominantly male) authority figures.

    Khrushchev denounced Stalin. Deng denounced Mao. When’s the last time the bishop of Rome denounced another pope?

    For that matter, where are the French politicians today who will denounce de Gaulle? The English MPs who will denounce Churchill? The American senators today who will denounce Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln?

    And how shall we account for the pervasiveness of the cult of constitutional originalism which reliably predicts the behavior of several Supreme Court judges even now?

  112. 112
    John Morales

    [OT]

    ahs,

    When’s the last time the bishop of Rome denounced another pope?

    I dunno if it was the last time, but this is too good an opportunity to pass up mentioning the Cadaver Synod.

    (And so I have)

  113. 113
    Ron Obvious

    “Roll deep”?! Are they a street gang or something?

  114. 114
    Pinkamena, Panic Pony

    Marcus Ranum @#107: It’s not religiously motivated at all; I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if the cross was upside down…

    Considering the inverted cross is the symbol of St. Peter, I don’t think it’d matter that much to them, unless they’re virulently anti-Catholic.

  115. 115
    Guy Chapman (@SceptiGuy)

    @Aquaria: Are you aware of the impact that being strident and abusive has on the persuasiveness of your argument?

    Just so you know, I am not, as you put it, stupid. I am just not inclined to see things like this in black and white. The suggestion that because I advocate a softer approach to this then I am the kind of bigot who would have supported segregation is gratuitously offensive and utterly wrong.

    What I am saying is, as far as I can tell this memorial was erected by some Marines, not by the Marine Corps as a body corporate. The way to fix the issue is to talk to those Marines and help them understand why it might not have been smart to go with a symbol that would actually be offensive to some of their brothers in arms. Escalation will likely encourage them to dig in and assume a bunker mentality, which is a normal human reaction especially among fighting troops.

    It is a memorial to the fallen. Destroying the memorial, as some advocate, might be terribly hurtful to some families. Any resolution demands tact and sensitivity. I could be misreading it, but that is how it looks to me. I haven’t seen any evidence that the US armed forces are, as a matter of course, erecting sectarian monuments, it seems to be a one-off, and it should be treated as such.

    Feel free to show me where I’m factually wrong or misunderstanding something but please don’t denigrate me as stupid just because you happen to disagree with me; that is straight out of the book of logical fallacies and is the antithesis of what a rational skeptic should do.

  116. 116
    Scott

    The “nos” have it – way over 80% at this point.

  117. 117
    Guy Chapman (@SceptiGuy)

    @”Father Ogvorbis O’Moron” (Funny handle, like it).

    Here’s the weird thing. I propose that a less confrontational approach might work better, given the sensitive nature of the subject matter (a memorial to the fallen). Several people have chosen tot take that as uncritical support for the memorial, a defence of the privileged position of one religion, or whatever. I wasn’t suggesting any of those things. All I am suggesting is that telling a group of marines that their memorial to fallen comrades is an outrage and must be torn down /right now/ is perhaps not the best way to proceed.

    The relevance of English war memorials is that the important thing is the memorial, not its shape. Polish Catholics do not complain that the services for the Few are conducted in the Anglican rite despite the Poles having been the bravest and most successful pilots. Gurkhas do not complain that the village war memorial is a cross, though they are predominantly Hindu. Representatives of the Sikh batallions lay wreaths on memorial crosses. Do you see the point I am trying to make here? A memorial is a gesture of respect. As I said above, a Christian memorial is the wrong choice here for many reasons, but in dealing with the problem of a wrong-shaped memorial one should start from the point of view of those who erected it; I think it unlikely that the set about this as an exercise in evangelism, it is much more likely that they simply didn’t think it through. I imagine that some at least are mortified at the reaction caused by something intended as a gesture of respect for fallen comrades.

    Is it really so outrageous to suggest consideration for the other party in this dispute? It seems to me ironic that in demanding respect for the constitution, itself designed to respect freedom of religion, there is an implicit and in some cases overt lack of respect for the motives of the marines who erected the memorial. Now, I could be wrong, maybe one of them did stand up and say “yes, we erected this as an explicitly Christian monument and as an act of faith and witness”. Maybe they did, in which case it was very wrong, but maybe they just erected a cross because they associate that with memorials and simply failed to think through the implications or erecting that monument in that place. In which case the path of least resistance would seem to be that path which offers them a graceful exit from a situation they very probably did not intend.

    I’m not American (obviously) but it seems to me as a reasonably frequent visitor to the States that US culture is if anything more respectful to the individual than English culture. The assumption that because X is wrong, then it must be evil and come form base motivations, is nothing like the sense of fair play and even handedness I associate with my US friends.

  118. 118
    Guy Chapman (@SceptiGuy)

    Oh, I feel I should point out a bit of personal context: a friend of mine works for the War Graves Commission. They have had to deal with issues of religious symbolism for a long time.

  119. 119
    Pinkamena, Panic Pony

    So, Guy, the teal deer version of your whining is that you’re a tone troll. Good to know, now take your porcupine and begone.

  120. 120
    Guy Chapman (@SceptiGuy)

    @Pinkamena I reserve trenchant comment for dangerous loons like homeopaths, I don’t think misguided marines fall into the same category; evidently I’m in a minority of one here.

  121. 121
    peterh

    @ # 117;

    Now “down” to 77%.

  122. 122
    Gregory Greenwood

    ahs ॐ @ 112;

    But the capitalist societies instead replaced god with a tripartite idealism that was accorded comparable unchallengeable moral authority – the mythos of perpetual class mobility, the wisdom of the markets, and their child the self-actualizing individual.

    I have never contested the parallels between capitalistic systems and religions – indeed, the clearest example of a pseudo-religious belief system operating within the capitalist mindset is Adam Smith’s idea of the Invisible Hand of the free market which is often used by contemporary conservatives to claim that the abstract social construct of the market has actual agency equivalent to that of a person, and indeed is automatically a more ‘efficient’ (and thus, for some reason, ‘better’) source of leadership in society than a government formed of actual elected officials. And all this before we even get to the pervasive myth that the US was created with the intent of being a ‘nation under god’. However, the fact that there are parallels to religion in capitalistic systems does nothing to counter my argument that such parallels may also be found in communism.

    Of course, it is important to note that the religion parallel applies equally well to fascist societies – what is the invokation of the absolute imperative to serve and defend the ‘fatherland’ if not a god substitute?

    Utopia? Who are the communists advancing such a notion; can you quote them? That’ll be interesting, as I know I can easily show the contrary:

    OK, that is my sloppy use of language. It might be better to say that, in many communist societies, the ‘revolution’ (first its consumation, and later its maintainence against counter-revolutionaries) assumed a level of moral authority that eclipsed all other considerations, in a fashion not entirely dissimilar to the moral weight attached to religious observance and obeisance to god’s notional ‘will’ among Abrahamic religions.

    Certainly, many communist societies showed no reticence whatsoever in using lethal force in defence of the revolution, as can be seen by Moa Tse-tung’s campaign to suppress counter revolutionaries and the various Soviet purges. Then there are the at times violent schisms between different arms of communism that can be viewed as being reminiscient of sectarian clashes among religious believers, as can be seen in the division between Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyite forms of communism.

    Khrushchev denounced Stalin. Deng denounced Mao. When’s the last time the bishop of Rome denounced another pope?

    For that matter, where are the French politicians today who will denounce de Gaulle? The English MPs who will denounce Churchill? The American senators today who will denounce Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln?

    And yet one must also account for the formalised cults of personality that built up around leaders like Moa and the ‘dear leader’ Kim Jong-il and to a lesser extent Lenin. Criticism of leaders like Stalin would often prove bad for one’s health, though that is a common factor among the more violent type of tyrant, but the role of Commissars as political officers enforcing ideological comformity and ‘purity’ have clear parallels to the activities of the Inquisition several centuries earlier, and a component of that ideological purity was not criticising the leadership.

    It was one thing for one senior official or military officer or a member of the Politbeureau to challenge and criticise the established leadership, another for a mere non-olympian drawn from the very ordinary proletariat that communism notionally champions. By analogy, historically it is OK for a cardinal or other senior cleric to condemn another cleric, or even in numbers to challenge the legitimacy of the pope, but for an ordinary citizen to do so during the period when the church held the quite literal power of life and death? Such an act would be rash, to put it mildly.

    To be clear, I am not saying that communism is a religion – it is quite clearly a political ideology. What I am trying to demonstrate is that the canard that atheism leads inevitably to communism -> communist societies have done terrible things -> therefore atheism is dangerous, doesn’t make any sense. I would argue that communism (whatever its rights and wrongs), in terms of its structure as an ideology, has as much in common with religion as it does with atheism.

  123. 123
    Cuttlefish

    Another Pendleton Cross Poll. Just put up 5 minutes ago; I was apparently the very first vote.

    http://camppendleton.patch.com/articles/poll-camp-pendleton-cross-stay-up-or-take-down

  124. 124
    crowepps

    Guy Chapman at #116 — Your suggestion assumes that those Marines did not already understand at the time they put it up that their symbol would be offensive.

    Our military has been going through a several years long, loud, rancorous controversy about excessive evangelical religiosity, about inappropriate pressure brought to bear on troops to convert, about whether the chaplain corps has lost its ability to respect the conscience of all troops, about whether PTSD and depression are appropriately treated by sending someone to the Chaplain for a Come to Jesus Prayer, and about exclusively Christian memorials being erected on federal land.

    I find it very unlikely that these Marines and the chaplain who failed to check with command about this private expedition could be totally unaware of all these issues, considering they have been getting a lot of play in our media and particularly in the military media. Of course they did this on purpose. Just because they’re Christians doesn’t mean they’re stupid.

  125. 125
    Guy Chapman (@SceptiGuy)

    @Crowepps I don’t dispute it, but I am mindful of Hanlon’s Razor: never attribute to malice that which could adequately be explained by incompetence (or perhaps foolishness in this case).

  126. 126
    crowepps

    I don’t attribute it to malice. I attribute it to arrogance and self-righteousness. American Christians like no role better than that of persecuted martyr suffering for their faith.

  127. 127
    djfav

    @Cuttlefish

    lol I put a bot on the other poll you linked to and got this:

    “Request denied: source address is sending an excessive volume of requests.”

    First time that’s ever happened. I hope the party van doesn’t show up.

  128. 128
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Gregory,

    However, the fact that there are parallels to religion in capitalistic systems does nothing to counter my argument that such parallels may also be found in communism.

    It just makes it a trivial observation. There are no societies which lack such parallels. This is because religion piggybacks on (or, if you prefer, is parasitic upon) other human behaviors.

    Where there is power to be had, someone will take it. This is not a subset of religious or pseudoreligious behavior. Rather, religion is a subset of power-seeking behavior. (More precisely, it is many other things in addition to that—agency hyper-detection, for instance—but as it manifests in the organization of society, well, the organization of society is simply the politics of power: who gets what and how they keep it.

    It might be better to say that, in many communist societies, the ‘revolution’ (first its consumation, and later its maintainence against counter-revolutionaries) assumed a level of moral authority that eclipsed all other considerations

    It is everywhere the same. The ostensible democracies call it national security, the rule of law enforced by the state’s monopoly on legitimate violence.

    Certainly, many communist societies showed no reticence whatsoever in using lethal force in defence of the revolution

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shays%27_Rebellion

    Then there are the at times violent schisms between different arms of communism that can be viewed as being reminiscient of sectarian clashes among religious believers, as can be seen in the division between Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyite forms of communism.

    Yeah, if you want to completely divorce the discussion from the historical political reasons for Trotsky’s exile, you can say anything about it. It might as well be reminiscient of the Jimbo Wales and Larry Sanger saga, GNU versus BSD, Linux versus Windows versus Apple.

  129. 129
    strange gods before me ॐ

    And yet one must also account for the formalised cults of personality that built up around leaders like Moa and the ‘dear leader’ Kim Jong-il and to a lesser extent Lenin

    So too with Robespierre. How to account for that?

    Here’s a question, and I really don’t know the answer: has a communist government ever taken away actually-existing freedom of speech that had previously been allowed to the common woman or man?

    I know it didn’t happen in Russia. There has never been freedom of speech for the commoner in Russia, except in ancient days when warlords lacked the ability to punish dissent.

    Hitchens: «it would be nice to know if [Martin Amis] wishes that the Russian civil war, and the wars of intervention, had gone the other way. There are some reasons to think that had that been the case, the common word for fascism would have been a Russian one, not an Italian one. The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was brought to the West by the White emigration; even Boris Pasternak, in Doctor Zhivago, wrote with a shudder about life in the White-dominated regions. Major General William Graves, who commanded the American Expeditionary Force during the 1918 invasion of Siberia (an event thoroughly airbrushed from all American textbooks), wrote in his memoirs about the pervasive, lethal anti-Semitism that dominated the Russian right wing and added, “I doubt if history will show any country in the world during the last fifty years where murder could be committed so safely, and with less danger of punishment, than in Siberia during the reign of Admiral Kolchak.” Thus “the collapse in the value of human life,” as Amis describes the situation in post-revolutionary Russia, had begun some time before, perhaps in the marshes of Tannenberg, and was to make itself felt in other post-World War I societies as well.«

    +++++
    Here’s something I think is illustrative: the White Terror in Taiwan. The anti-communist Kuomintang’s behavior at that time was indistinguishable from the behavior of the Maoists. I wonder, is there an example in history where communists fought against opponents who demonstrated any respect for human rights?

    I expect what we’re really seeing here is that there are some situational factors which give rise to this kind of repression by those who have the power to repress; thinking of this as “like religion” is too narrow because religion is just one of many manifestations; these situational factors happen to correlate with the widespread poverty and desperation that precedes many sorts of political revolution.

  130. 130
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    Here’s something I think is illustrative: the White Terror in Taiwan. The anti-communist Kuomintang’s behavior at that time was indistinguishable from the behavior of the Maoists. I wonder, is there an example in history where communists fought against opponents who demonstrated any respect for human rights?

    You’ll get that with any military dictatorship. Any kind of authoritarian regime will tend to

    a) not tolerate dissent, and competing ideologies. This can happen to communists as well as Islamists (see Egypt)
    b) will try to manifacture legitimacy, by creating some kind of personality cult. That can be a monarchy, as well as junta leaders.

    Under General Suharto’s rule, communists were hunted down mercilessly, even on Bali (and anyone who did not have an officially sanctioned religion on their ID card was suspect)

    In militarist Japan, communists were hunted down too.

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