Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Letter on the Cross in Providence

In response to our letter to Mayor Taveras requesting the removal of an unconstitutional cross on city property, we received the following letter from a sixteen year old. I have withheld the name out of respect for her age.

Dear “Humanists,”
Humanism was defined during the Humanism Movement of Renaissance and in today’s society is defined as “a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual's dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason” (Merriam-Webster dictionary). Humanists support the welfare of humanity. They do not protest and cause a big fuss just because they don’t like how something looks. Humanism is based off of science. You are not using science, you are just whining.
Atheism is the disbelief in a higher power. Only sixteen percent of the entire world is atheist. Take it from a sixteen year old girl who’s been told this multiple times: the world does not revolve around you. To be honest, there is no need for anyone to be offended by a cross or a sign with the word “God” on it. Let me ask you a few questions:
Do people preach at you when you wear atheist symbols? No.
Was this country established because people wanted to be free of religious persecution? Yes.
Is anyone persecuting you because you don’t believe in God? No.
Are these historic statues and signs that you want to take down preaching at you? Not at all.
Let’s be real here. Stop making a fuss and please, just let things be. There is no reason a town should have to remove a historical symbol for you just because it says God on it. The symbol is not telling you that you have to believe in a higher power, it’s simply there because it has always been there.
I’m only sixteen and I’m done listening to this religious war you are trying to start in the United States. And YES, Atheism is a religion whether you would like to admit it or not.
Now, I’m not trying to stir up things. I’m just saying that before you start screaming, again, for people to take things down because they offend you, consider the other people involved. Consider why these things that so terribly offend you were put up and who they are really for.
That banner that you humanists made a school take down was not put up to offend you. It was assembled to symbolize the first graduating class of that school. It again, has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the Cranston High School class of 1963.
What about those veterans that the cross was put up to celebrate them? That cross has nothing to do with you. It’s meant for those veterans, the majority who are religious.
It is one’s choice to practice a religion during adulthood.
Please explain to me how a cross or a banner is hurting anyone.
Thank You,
Name withheld by editor
Humanism is defined in many different ways. Though the definition you provided is fine, I don't think anyone would be satisfied by being limited to the dictionary definition of their beliefs. Can you imagine what would be missing if we limited Judaism or Buddhism to just what is in the dictionary? Entire libraries of books are dedicated to explaining peoples beliefs. A couple of lines from a dictionary could never do them justice.

Humanists do support the well being of humanity, and one of the many ways our group tries to do this is by supporting our Constitutions First Amendment. We believe that religious liberty is of primary importance, and we also believe that the government's role in religion is to have no government role in religion. Allowing religious displays on state owned land mixes church and state, shows favoritism to one particular religion, and makes those that do not believe in that religion feel diminished.

I'm going to assume all the questions you asked and answered are rhetorical, and correct one thing you said. "There is no reason a town should have to remove a historical symbol for you just because it says God on it." The cross in Providence is not historical, in went up within the last couple of months, and was put up in response to the situation in Woonsocket. This is a recent addition to a well maintained median, and really has no place there.

Also, though this has been said many times, atheism is not a religion. It's the absence of religion. Like "off" is a TV channel, or "bald" is a hair color. It should also be noted that we, as a group, don't "whine" or "shout." We explain our position as articulately as we are able, and we ask that the Constitution and the laws of our land be applied fairly.

I appreciate you letter.


  1. I think far too many people think that the complaint is "I'm offended by that religious symbol," when that's not the case. The issue is, "I'm offended that my government is sponsoring religion," or, "I'm offended that my government is promoting one religion over others."

    Although I think the cross is an atrocious symbol (rather like worshiping an electric chair or a vial of Phenobarbital), the mere presence of a cross (or any other religious icon) is not offensive to me. It doesn't burn my eyes, create heartache, or cause me to spontaneously combust. What's offensive is that the government, which is by ALL the people and FOR all the people, is allowing certain people to use government property for proselytizing.

  2. Atheism is not a religion - correct.

    Atheism is the absence of religion - wrong.

    Atheism is the disbelief in the existence of a deity.

    I'm Jewish. I'm an Atheist. And I am no less, or more Jewish than other Jewish people who do believe in a deity. Humanistic Judaism is a Jew is who identifies with the history, culture and future of the Jewish people.

    The request from the Humanists of RI to remove this Christian Cross has nothing to do with offending has all to do with it being un-constitutional. It violates our country's First Amendment's Establishment Clause which calls for the Separation of Church and State. Since this Cross sits on government property it is in direct violation of the Separation of Church and State - thus making it illegal, and therefore it must be removed.