After the towers fell on September 11, 2001, as the smoke cleared, some people looked over the destruction and noticed a cross-section of steel beams poking up through the rubble. The Xtians among them noted it looked like their religion’s primary icon, the Holy Cross. It looked just as much like a lower-case letter “t”, but whatever. These Xtians, using very poor reasoning (as they’re inclined to do in these matters), took it as a sign of some sort from their God; some vague, half-assed pat on the back of sympathy or something. At any rate, in their trauma it gave them comfort, and that’s fine. But now they’ve installed it as a permanent exhibit in the National 9/11 Museum and some atheists feel like they’ve crossed a line. A group called American Atheists has sued to either have it removed or to force the museum to display symbols for other beliefs just as prominently, including a symbol for atheism.
I’ve been mulling it over for a little bit, but I’m still not sure where I fall on this. On the one hand, I don’t think religion should be involved in the memorial whatsoever. It’s in memory of the victims collectively, and collectively they weren’t Xtians, Jews, Muslims or atheists, they were just people who didn’t deserve what happened to them. But this Xtian symbol will likely be the largest and most prominent of any religious images in the museum. Reportedly there will be a Star of David, a Jewish prayer shawl, and some other nonsense displayed too, but it’s doubtful any of them will rival the cross in size. And after the so-called “ground-zero mosque” controversy, can you imagine them putting a giant symbol of Islam right next to it? Yeah, it ain’t gonna happen. And to make the icon of this one religion more visible and acting as a de facto symbol for all faith, hope, and courage in the face of horror is insensitive and arrogant. People of all kinds, with many different religious beliefs and life philosophies, were affected that day.
On the other hand, if I understand correctly, the museum got some federal funding and it’s on government land, but it’s not really a government building. It’s technically a non-profit and will probably be charging admission fees to cover some of its overhead, so this is a far cry from hanging the Ten Commandments in a federal courthouse. Also, this is a museum memorializing an historical event and the cross does have some (small) historical significance in that people traumatized by the event found this piece of the wreckage from the site meaningful to them and it gave them comfort. It’s delusional, but it’s part of the story.
So I’m still thinking on it. But regardless of whether the cross should stay or go, I think asking for an atheist display is asinine. If they put one in, why shouldn’t someone else sue to include a section honoring the people who preferred boxers to briefs? It’s just silly.