Friday, December 13, 2013

Happy Holidays, But Keep the Cross




I may be an atheist, but I'm not a pain in the ass atheist. In my book, a pain in the ass atheist is every bit as bad if not worse than a pain in the ass Christian. Because why the hell be a non-believer if you're just going to get all evangelical about it, go around quoting from your own jaw-droppingly boring catechism.

So there's this cross in a San Diego graveyard that's been honoring dead war veterans for 60 years, and a bunch of PainITA atheists sued the state to take it down. Apparently, the cross rests on government property. And looks like they've won.

"'This is a victory for religious liberty,' said Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's program on freedom of religion and belief who argued the matter for the plaintiffs in a hearing on Thursday." (LA Times)

Shut the fuck up, you self-righteous old windbag, sez I. The only victory here is that you destroyed a piece of history and got your name in the paper.

I'm perfectly comfortable with crosses, Stars of David, Buddhas, and the like. When something bad comes my way and a Catholic or a Muslim says, "I'll pray for you," I don't drone on about why I think the prayer won't work; no, I'm just grateful someone cares.

Let me make an ineffectual gesture of my own, ie, sign someone's petition to keep the cross. A cross in a graveyard can mean something lovely, even to a heathen like me -- I consider it a symbol of respect, hope, and comfort.

39 comments:

Desiree said...

I love how you can be simultaneously reverent and irreverent.

Jean Spitzer said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

When things go south, I take comfort wherever comfort is freely given.

GG

Kalei's Best Friend said...

Nowadays, I think a group of people will protest anything just to see if they can get their way... I agree w/you on the symbol of the cross... these days I think folks have lost their minds its so evident in what's been happening in the news lately.

Marjie said...

I could go all Southern Baptist on you, and holler, "Amen!" or "Preach it, Sister!" But that's just irritating. I'm annoyed about the new custom of selling Holiday Trees and taking upset at Nativity scenes. I'm not a believer, but I am smart enough to recognize where the origins of all of these winter celebrations lies, and I do enjoy them.

If it makes people feel better, I will tell them I'm praying for them when the shit hits the fan. And like you, I take comfort in the fact that they care enough to pray for me, even if I think the gesture is worthless. The sentiment is what matters.

And I'm with you in the umbrage over removing the religious headstone. Some things are personal, and a man's headstone is one of those things.

Trish said...

The only time I get pissy at public displays is when the presumption of christianity is pressed upon us and insisted as "the only way". As when the Columbia disintegrated over NM/TX and crosses were placed, despite one on board was known to be Jewish and the rest onboard were not known to be followers of the Jewish kid. And sometimes, yes, old displays are not always sensitive to the idea that not all want crosses marking memorials. But for fuck's sake, this thing has been here for how many years? And only now someone has thought to petition about it? Not that people shouldn't petition if something is truly offensive, but, really? Put the effort into providing a supplemental monument that DOES memorialize people in a non-denominational manner! Actually, you know, better yet, since the whole religion thing bothers them so much, just hand over your money, you know "In God We Trust" must scare them like crazy! I'll take over the cash and keep them from feeling so put upon!

Banjo52 said...
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Carolynn Anctil said...

Well said. I think Your name should be in the papers. As a byline for this fabulous editorial piece.

Mister Earl said...

Apparently, there has been a cross on top of Mt. Soledad since 1913. It has been replaced twice, and is now part of a veterans memorial. Doesn't bother me. I thought all mountains were supposed to have crosses on them. I think you can see Buenos Aires from Mt. Soledad. At least Sarah Palin can. (PS - the cross in question is not in a graveyard.)

altadenahiker said...

PS, a place of remembrance.

Shell Sherree said...

I'm surprised Hot Cross Buns have slipped under the radar for so long without being renamed Hot Cranky Buns.

Paula said...

I think it's important to point out that the cross in question is not the one you depicted but a huge 43' tall cross that is part of the Mount Soledad War Memorial. My dad is buried in a federal cemetery and religious symbols abound. I think the reason the ACLU doesn't have a problem with headstones but wants the war memorial cross removed has to do with the wishes of individual families expressing their religious beliefs as opposed to the generic use of the cross at the war memorial. From http://www.businessinsider.com/judge-california-cross-ruling-2013-12:

"The Mount Soledad cross has been the subject of litigation since 1989, when two veterans sued San Diego to get it off city land. In 2006, Congress intervened in the dispute, resulting in the federal government taking ownership of the property.

A group of plaintiffs, including the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, then sued. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals court ruled that the dominance of the cross conveyed a message of government endorsement of religion.

The Obama administration and the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, which erected the cross, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, supported by 20 U.S. states and various veterans groups in arguing the cross should be allowed as part of the memorial.

In June 2012, the Supreme Court declined to take the case, letting the Ninth Circuit’s ruling stand. In ordering that the cross be taken down, Burns said on Thursday he did not agree with the Ninth Circuit’s ruling but that his hands were tied.

The cross, located between the Pacific Ocean and a major interstate highway, is surrounded by walls displaying granite plaques that commemorate veterans or veterans groups. Easter services were held annually at the cross from 1954 until at least 2000, according to court documents."

I once viewed a video of Christopher Hitchens debate a Christian, John Lennox, "Is God Great?". This took place in Birmingham, AL, and what made the debate so priceless was how clueless Hitchens was that he was mostly behaving like a redneck selling an evangelical, fundamentalist atheist screed and in the process managed to insult nearly everyone in attendance including Southern women as a group who he apparently thought were dumb, pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen.

Personally, I like the separation of church and state, it keeps government out of it and the rest of us free to debate the issue of faith however we please.

Ann Erdman said...

It's beyond me why these crosses can't just be grandfathered in. They're part of the history of these properties, government or not.

Bellis said...

You said it, Ann. Leave historical things alone! That's quite a debate you've stirred, Karin. I'm easy about God - I don't believe right now, but I'd like to reserve a place in church in case I have a huge personal tragedy and need the comfort of a supernatural being endorsed by a lot of supposedly sensible people.

Lori Elliott Webster said...

Ha - what Shell said!

Petrea Burchard said...

I can see both sides of this one--it's historical, yet separation of church and state is vital, etc.

Could be this is backlash against the vociferous-of-late Christian right. But being as bad as they are doesn't make us good.

altadenahiker said...
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Birdman said...

Help me!
I have agnostic-like leaning but do enjoy Christmas and everything associated with the season, even the religious stuff. Do I need counseling?

Pasadena Adjacent said...


Tear down that bitch of a wall and put a window where it ought to be

altadenahiker said...

Ok, Joan

Sharon said...

I can see both sides of this issue, though I think feelings often go deeper than the symbol that one person or group wants to put up or take down. Historically, none of the reason for this season happened when or how many believe it did. I still enjoy the lights and music, and in my neck of the woods snow makes it that much more celebratory, though much less authentic. I think there's room in the universe for all that we believe ~

Doris Finch said...

Ah, KB, what a masterpiece of rude reverence wrapping a core of common sense! Self righteous piety, in truth an ideological dictator, loves to present itself as a moral good. You know how to cut da grease. We should grandfather history but find ways to honor those other respected dead who should also be well memorialized. I recall a cemetery on Gotland,a Swedish island in the Baltic. A deeply Lutheran place with tall steepled churches all over the tiny island. There in the middle of the large cemetery was another sacred space, surrounded by a low wall. Hebrew writing told the story of liberated Jews from WWII, too weak to survive for long, who had been welcomed to this small community. Space was found among the deceased locals and there they were buried with great reverence and presumably proper ritual. If hidebound Lutherans in a little place can find room for the Other, can't we tolerate each other a bit better?

Banjo52 said...
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Doug Indeap said...

I understand that you pride yourself for being an atheist who is not a pain in the ass and is “perfectly comfortable with crosses . . . and the like.” That’s great.

That’s also, entirely irrelevant to whether the government’s display of this cross is constitutional or not. We’re not talking about the freedom of individuals to say or do something others find offensive; each of us has that freedom. We’re talking about the government weighing in to promote religion. Under our Constitution, our government has no business doing that--REGARDLESS of whether anyone is offended.

While the First Amendment thus constrains government from promoting (or opposing) religion without regard to whether anyone is offended, a court may address the issue only in a suit by someone with "standing" (sufficient personal stake in a matter) to bring suit; in order to show such standing, a litigant may allege he is offended or otherwise harmed by the government's failure to follow the law; the question whether someone has standing to sue is entirely separate from the question whether the government has violated the Constitution. Why direct your ire at those who seek to uphold the Constitution, rather than those who would flout it. Sure, the ACLU could buck up and get as comfortable as you—but then that wouldn’t get it into court.

To the extent you think the government's religious display a trifle that can safely be overlooked, you might consider James Madison's argument against a mere three pence tax proposed in his day for support of churches: "The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?" Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (1785). In other words, if you let the government get away with illegitimate trifles, you'll be hard put to later defend against more serious abridgments of the Constitution.

Doug Indeap said...

I understand that you pride yourself for being an atheist who is not a pain in the ass and is “perfectly comfortable with crosses . . . and the like.” That’s great.

That’s also, entirely irrelevant to whether the government’s display of this cross is constitutional or not. We’re not talking about the freedom of individuals to say or do something others find offensive; each of us has that freedom. We’re talking about the government weighing in to promote religion. Under our Constitution, our government has no business doing that--REGARDLESS of whether anyone is offended.

While the First Amendment thus constrains government from promoting (or opposing) religion without regard to whether anyone is offended, a court may address the issue only in a suit by someone with "standing" (sufficient personal stake in a matter) to bring suit; in order to show such standing, a litigant may allege he is offended or otherwise harmed by the government's failure to follow the law; the question whether someone has standing to sue is entirely separate from the question whether the government has violated the Constitution. Why direct your ire at those who seek to uphold the Constitution, rather than those who would flout it. Sure, the ACLU could buck up and get as comfortable as you—but then that wouldn’t get it into court.

To the extent you think the government's religious display a trifle that can safely be overlooked, you might consider James Madison's argument against a mere three pence tax proposed in his day for support of churches: "The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?" Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (1785). In other words, if you let the government get away with illegitimate trifles, you'll be hard put to later defend against more serious abridgments of the Constitution.

altadenahiker said...

I don't think the intent of the Constitution was to trump common sense and reason.

Doris Finch said...

What our founders thought, or meant to impose, is by now a matter of interpretation, sort of like saying "What would Jesus say?" As such, it is colored by our own assumptions and prejudices. Perhaps it is safe to say that they did intend to leave a construct within which we could govern ourselves rationally given whatever challenges might arise. We have no idea what they would make of our modern world. It would seem that we should be able to do that, respecting traditions while adjusting to and allowing for the new and previously unconsidered. Given that most people express some kind of religious belief, no matter how irrational that may seem to some of us,couldn't we honor that belief for war dead [war being the ultimate irrationality but I'm not going there tonight]and just figure a way to make it more inclusive?

Doug Indeap said...

It is important to distinguish between “individual" and "government" speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square--far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views--publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties, they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

With respect to symbols and such, generally, if a monument is displayed “by” a government on its land, then that likely will be regarded as “government speech” to be assessed for compliance with the establishment clause. If a monument is displayed by a private person or group on government land, it may well be regarded as “individual speech” to be evaluated under the free exercise clause. In the latter case, the government, of course, cannot discriminate against particular religions and thus generally must allow other persons or groups equal opportunity to express their religious views on the government land. In sorting this out, much depends on the details of each case.

Wake Forest University has published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere—and it covers this subject. I commend it to you. http://tiny.cc/6nnnx

Janet said...

I just had a thought, reading all these comments. Do you remember how outraged people were when the Taliban destroyed Buddhist sculptures - I think in Alghanistan? I think the cases are parallel - people of one belief system wanting to remove signs of the belief system of others.

altadenahiker said...

I do remember that, Janet. And now wonder where that stands, or doesn't. Here's the latest I can find

Petrea Burchard said...

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/put-a-satanic-monument-at-ok-capitol

For real.

Petrea Burchard said...

Oops.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2234294/Thou-shalt-misspell-Oklahoma-Ten-Commandments-monument-installed-spelling-mistakes.html

Banjo52 said...
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Paula said...

This is how the great State of Florida handles these things:

http://www.npr.org/2013/12/11/250200281/florida-man-airs-grievances-with-festivus-pole-in-capitol

Pat Tillett said...

Great post Karin! I totally agree with you. I BELIEVE to my core that there is no god and that the whole thing is nothing more than a fairy tale.

Having said that, I'm not bothered by the presence of that big cross in the slightest bit.

I'm also not a "pain in the ass atheist." However, I can be when people try to convince me that there is a god, that the Gap Theory isn't silly to the point of being asinine, and that many catholic priests don't bugger young boys.
................
I don't know who originally said it, but...

"When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That is my religion."

Sorry, I just couldn't find a way to say this in less words.



patrizzi said...

This is why I can't bring myself to join clubs or groups or even work for a big corporation again. It seems no matter how good its reputation, there's always at least one psychopath on its board of directors that wants to saboutage all the good and drag everyone down with it.

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John Evans said...

Karin, you fount of common sense, thank you.

TheChieftess said...

Lovely...and quite reasonable sentiments Hiker!!! Political correctness is out of control...