The Cross at Ground Zero

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


  1. “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.”

    I didn’t take you as being prone to such generalisations Maureen! I cannot speak for the any other person, but I have no such ambition, and neither does anyone I know who identifies/practises Islam to varying degrees. That such people are out there goes without saying, but the same could be said for “Mastery of The World” and since Roman times.

    The ground zero cross is an interesting form of accidental sculpture. If it came out looking like a crescent or Star of David I imagine it would have been cut down quite quickly!

    Kind Regards

  2. No one is talking about you, personally, H. But to deny the theological impulse of Islam flies in the face of history. It is dishonest.

    Islam, unlike either Christianity or Judaism, is built on a theological imperative to conquer. That imperative is not the accidental phenomenon of Islam’s adoption by a particular state at a particular period of history. It is intrinsic to Islam. And your comment about the Star of David is, well, a silly and gratuitous—to avoid saying nasty—shot in the dark.

  3. My apologies Maureen. There was no nasty intent behind that comment. I was going to add ‘buddha’ and then thought about whether a steel beams could accidentally make the shape of a buddha and thought it unlikely! I really should know better – I usually avoid engaging in political and religious related discussion online because it’s very easy to be misread when you make glib statements such as the one I did above. I’ll stick to talking about inanimate paintings from now on 🙂

    Kind Regards

  4. Thank you, H. I am grateful for your response. You are generous to send it.

    And, yes, I know just what you mean. We are all on treacherous ground when we step over the unspoken perameters of what passes as art talk. At the same time, we are all immersed in images. What effect they have on us counts. At least to me they do—for better or worse.

  5. “The cross betokens a radically opposed vision: that the kingdom of God is not of this world.”
    Not to Jews, Buddhists and Moslems, it doesn’t (and yes, atheists). It says “Christianity is the one true faith and your beliefs don’t matter.”
    Isn’t the lesson of 9/11 that we need to unite and not divide? And can we not see that using a symbol of one faith, exclusive of others, is hugely divisive?
    What if the Twin Towers had created a Star of David? A swastika? A hammer and sickle? A Nike swoosh? Imagine those images hovering over the wreckage.
    That cross is spitting in the eye of everyone who is not Christian.

  6. “Spitting in the eye” of non-Christians? A hammer and a sickle? The crudity of that is undermines the argument you are trying to make—that the cross is strictly a denominational symbol and the atheist suit is valid.

    You are forgetting that this was not a commissioned work. It was an accident of the blast. As such, it “spits” in no eye but your own, and for reasons I can only guess. The simple cross—not a crucifix—resonates beyond any one denomination, particularly at a site of massacre. And even if you do insist on it as a strictly Christian symbol, that would not be inappropriate. 9/11 was an act of war against a nation founded by Protestant Christians and steeped in the humanist learning they brought with them from England. However many religions are now practiced in our country, all of us owe our freedoms—the very concepts on which it is based—to a Christian vision of the purpose of man and of the state.

    Clearly, you have a problem with that. So do the Islamists.

  7. “…Silverman and his fellows in the nihilist pew…”

    Really? Nihilists because they don’t believe in a God? What logical gymnastics are you doing to convince yourself that makes sense?

  8. Tell me, Jim: Without God, what is there except an abyss, presided over by the absurdist power of our wills?

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