How Can Atheists be “Offended” By the Ground Zero Cross?

Posted on June 23, 2014


Because some atheists are zealots… yes, just like religious zealots.

I think we all know by now that Lila is a bona fide agnostic, doesn’t pray, and loathes attending church (although she will grit her teeth and attend to support friends at key moments like weddings, memorials, and the like). If you want to torture Lila, come on over and proselytize.

So – yeah, Lila is rather secular, but not anti-religious so long as the faithful do not meddle with me. I am not much bothered by things like “In God We Trust” on our money (hey, it spends just fine), or the Ten Commandments displayed in a courthouse, or manger scenes in front of the public library or whatever.  I still send out Christmas cards, and Christmas is still about Christ, not some bland, flavorless “winter holiday.” Halloween should rightly keep its roots firmly in the traditions of All Hallows Eve, and not be pureed into a “Fall Festival.”

But America is the Land of the Deeply Offended, and the Deeply Offended are generally so injured that they must engage in that all-American pursuit, The Lawsuit. Alas, now we can add atheists to that mix. You’d think they would be a tougher bunch, but apparently not.

American Atheists, an organized group, has actually sued to keep the “Ground Zero Cross” out of the 9/11 museum (unsuccessfully so far). The appeals court is asking the group to explain precisely how the presence of the cross is “offensive” or a Constitutional injury.


I just don’t get it. This cross was part of the structure of the World Trade Center. It was a fairly prominent piece of the rubble following the collapse of the buildings. The cross shape was a spontaneous formation, not an intentional arrangement. Even if one does not believe that Jesus was real or that God is real, those facts are demonstrably real. What else is real: people’s emotions in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. First responders and victims took some comfort from that cross. Just because the cross does nothing for you, does not lessen someone else’s solace.

All of this contributes to the cross’ status as an actual historical artifact, like the preserved ruins of the bombed-out Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin (I guess that’s only safe from atheist lawsuits by virtue of being outside the US). The American Atheists have no legitimate call to try to keep artifacts out of museums just because they have some tangential religious character. What’s next? Removing Stars of David from the Holocaust Museum?

Ironically, American Atheists is so fervent in their quest to “normalize atheism” that they themselves come across as a sort of religious movement.   I mean – when they write that “we are working to normalize atheism and allow more and more people to set aside religious belief and superstition,” does that not smack of… proselytizing? My flesh crawls when Christians try to convert me. Why is it any different to pester religious people to abandon their beliefs? American Atheists even have a plan to launch “the first atheist TV channel.” What would that be about? There are already plenty of channels and TV shows that make no reference to religion, so the only reason I can think of to have an “atheist channel” would be to sit around and discuss atheism, humanism, whatever-ism. Again… that’s mighty parallel to the dogmatic programming of Christian broadcasting channels, and the whole idea turns me off for a lot of the same reasons that religion turns me off.

I’m with defense lawyer Eric Baxter on this one: “Taking personal offense is not an injury that warrants invoking the power of the courts to shut down everything you disagree with. The Constitution is not a personal tool for censoring everyone’s beliefs but your own.”

Amen to that!