ATHEISTS ADMIT THAT ATHEISM IS A BELIEF SYSTEM. It is about time. Atheism is as much a faith-based system as any God-centered religion. The existence of God can neither be proven nor unproven, no matter all the effort expended on debate. Unbelievers assert their own beliefs as ardently as any church-goer.
That is the single, dominant thread running through the law suit, filed by pious atheists, against the cross to be raised at Ground Zero. The cross, an accidental formation of steel beams left standing in the 9/11 rubble, is intended for display in the proposed 9/11 Memorial Museum designed for the site.
NBC covers the suit briefly here:
“This cross is now a part of the official WTC memorial. No other religions or philosophies will be honored. It will just be a Christian icon, in the middle of OUR memorial,” Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, said in a release.
Silverman added that the memorial must allow atheists and other belief groups to include their own displays of equal size.
There we have it: other belief groups. What Silverman and his fellows in the nihilist pew miss is the fullness of the symbol they despise. Without lapsing into theological language, it is necessary to understand why the cross is a more apt hieroglyph for the site than a shallow atheist like Silverman realizes. The cross, if nothing else to a secular world, has come down the ages as a standing symbol of the delusion of political messianism. That is the burden of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, in which he speaks of “stripping the powers.”
To this day, among those sensitive to imagery, the cross remains an historic rebuke to what the old Romans called libido dominandi —the lust for domination. The men who took down the Twin Towers represented precisely that lust to rule the world, to conquer the kafirs (you and me), and establish a world-wide caliphate submissive to Allah. The cross betokens a radically opposed vision: that the kingdom of God is not of this world.
Mastery over the West and, ultimately, over all humanity has been the mission of Islam since it burst from the Arabian desert in the seventh century. Heedless, we moderns live far from the cross. We count the distance as a gauge of our freedom. But in a post-Christian world, the moral intuitions Christianity succeeded in instilling in human consciousness will gradually dissipate. The belief that every human life is of equal—no, infinite—value will slowly, inexorably be seen as just one more outmoded Christian superstition.
The Silvermans among us should bring greater caution to what they wish for.
© 2011 Maureen Mullarkey