I came out of retirement this past Monday to help a friend handle a case in Bradford County. I enjoyed being back in harness, but at the end of the proceedings, I was sure that I did not want to go back into the full time practice of law. In keeping with my motto of “Get to court early and often,” I got up before sunrise and drove to Starke, arriving before the courthouse was unlocked. One of the first things I noticed was the gigantic statue containing the Ten Commandments. It was a beautiful piece of sculpture, but it caused me to do some thinking. The Ten Commandments, which embodies precepts that are foundational to Western law, are quite properly displayed at courthouses. As I recall, however, the original tablets containing the Ten Commandments were small enough to be carried by hand and be placed in a box about the size of a cedar chest. Exodus 25:10. Moses would have needed a forklift to get this set of commandments down from Mount Sinai. How does this ostentatious display square with Jesus’ injunction in the Sermon on the Mount? Matthew 6:1-6.
Near the Ten Commandments I saw a stone bench covered with engraved quotations. It was the American Atheists’ monument to—what? As near as I could figure, it was not a monument to anything. It was instead a monument against theism in general and Christianity in particular. On one part of the monument they had engraved Biblically ordained punishments for violations of each of the Ten Commandments. These punishments are severe by modern standards, and the message seemed to be “See what troglodytes these Christians are? Who could possibly worship such a God as the one they worship?” At least I think that’s what they were saying. The other message I read into the inscription was “It’s okay to break the Ten Commandments.” I could not help but think that the American Atheists needed a good dose of St. Augustine’s principles of Biblical interpretation (See my previous post on St. Augustine). If they’re going to engage in fair criticism of Christians by quoting scripture, they should at least try to understand proper Christian reading of those scriptures. Instead they look for the most unflattering reading possible, regardless of whether true Christians interpret the scriptures in that way.
The next thing I noticed was that they had also inscribed a number of quotations from our Founding Fathers. The problem is that none of the men they quoted were atheists. John Adams was a Christian, and Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were Deists. In the age of our Founding Fathers, Deism was a sort of watered down form of Christianity which denied the divinity of Christ, but which treasured his moral teachings. In other words, Deists believed there was a god (with a lowercase g). Couldn’t the American Atheists find a quote from a Founding Father who was a card-carrying atheist? Apparently not.
The only actual atheist they quoted was Madelyn O’Hair, founder of their association. Her quote was as follows: “An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated.” I wondered how many hospitals the American Atheists have built? I couldn’t find any on Google. How many hospitals have Christian churches built? When it comes to doing good deeds, what charities has O’Hair’s American Atheists founded? I couldn’t find any. I did find a post by an atheist who claimed that any charity not founded by a church was an atheist charity. It seems he is an adherent of the motto “who is not against us is with us.” I wonder where he may have gotten such an idea? [Hint: Read Mark 9:40].
I don’t see how O’Hair can fairly characterize Christians as people who wish to be uninvolved in life and to escape into death. Those who truly follow the teachings of Christ are fully involved in life, to include building hospitals and doing acts of benevolence. They do not see their Christianity as an escape into death, but an escape from death.
O’Hair’s last proclamation that an atheist wants to see “disease conquered, poverty vanished, [and] war eliminated” seeks to falsely portray Christians as wanting to see disease rampant, poverty endemic, and war waged. Her statement is both counterfactual and illogical in the extreme.
As a monument against Christianity, the American Atheists’ statue is a monument to hatred and bigotry. They hate theists in general and Christians in particular, and they feel that they are the intellectual and moral superiors of Christians. This is the message of their monument. It has no place in front of a courthouse because it seeks the dis-establishment of religion.
I wish, rather than allowing the American Atheists to erect their monument to hatred, that the Ten Commandments had been taken down. The Ten Commandments should be graven on the hearts of every Christian. Why do they need to be graven on gigantic rocks outside courthouses?