I have written a couple of times on the decision on the part of the Connecticut Valley Atheists to put a sign up in front of city hall that shows the World Trade Center buildings before 9/11 with the words, “Imagine: No Religion.”
These posts have brought to mind an idea of how I would like to see this situation resolved. It is a fantasy - something that I think will do a whole lot of good. It would be nice . . . .
This would be for the Connecticut Valley Atheists to make arrangements to either replace these images, or to cover them, and to release a statement that goes something like this:
When given an opportunity to put up a holiday display in front of town hall, we decided to put up a sign that showed the World Trade Center towers as they were before 9/11, with the words: “Imagine: No Religion.” That sign was an insult to anybody who accepts some religion, but who would never participate in or condone an act such as 9/11. We were wrong to put up that message, and we apologize for doing so.
Two wrongs do not make a right. We are forced to endure a barrage of writers and speakers who hold up Stalin and Mao Tse Tung and say, in effect, “Imagine: No Atheism.” As if we are somehow personally responsible for crimes committed by other atheists. Crimes we did not commit and do not condone.
That makes us angry. We were not there. We had nothing to do with those events. Yet, we are being held accountable for them.
It is tempting, in the face of that type of bigotry, to strike back and say, ‘How do you like it when others do the same to you? How do you like being blamed, in effect, for acts that you did not participate in and do not condone – simply because the perpetrators happened to be religious?”
Yet the phrase, “Two wrongs do not make a right” is meant to point out the error in that way of thinking. Only hypocrites can treat other people in ways that they would consider wrong if others did the same thing to them.
We live in a country with a pledge that declares that those who are not ‘under God’ are as unpatriotic – as un-American – as any who would support rebellion, tyranny, and injustice for all.
We live in a country that has adopted as its national motto – the most important principle of its political life – the idea that its population must be divided between a “We” who trust in God, and a “They” who do not.
We live in a country where Presidential candidates declare that freedom requires religion, and sitting Presidents insist that no person who thinks that our rights have a source other than God is qualified to be a judge.
We live in a country where we hear these things, not from a few bigoted neighbors, but from our own government and from elected officials who are supposed to represent all Americans, and not just those who agree with them on matters of religion.
In the face of this, it is tempting to find an opportunity to give people a taste of their own medicine, as it were.
However, two wrongs do not make a right. Two wrongs, almost invariably, lead to three wrongs, then four, then five. Our lives are far too short to waste in a society where people compete over who can commit the last and greatest wrong against the other. Somebody needs to refuse to take part in that contest. So, we apologize for the wrongs that we have done, and we resolve to work harder in the future to ensure that we do not do to others those things that we condemn when others do them to us.
[Speaking time: 3 minutes, 20 seconds]
And the world would be a better place.
Note: Any readers who think that the sign is morally defensible – but how think that pointing to the acts of Hitler and Stalin to discredit all atheists is not – are invited to view my previous posts on this subject:
(2) Communication, Causation, and Condemnation – paying particular attention to the section on causation.