Monday, August 30, 2010

About the 'Ground Zero Mosque'

Lately I've been hearing a lot of disapproval for the mosque, or Islamic community center, that is supposed to be built near the site of the World Trade Center attacks. Christians are not the only ones leading the protests either, as even popular YouTube atheists like Thunderfoot and Pat Condell have expressed distaste for the construction of this mosque. The 'ground zero mosque' is a misnomer on several levels though. Not only is it being built two blocks away from the actual ground zero site, but it is not merely a mosque, since it includes plans for a swimming pool, fitness center, basketball court, and even a September 11th memorial, among other things. Thunderfoot's assertion that this building will be a victory symbol overlooking the 'conquered' WTC site is also ridiculous, because the community center will not have a view of the area from its position.

As much as I hate the word Islamophobia, due to the frequent misuse of it by Muslims against anyone critical of Islam, I am beginning to wonder if Thunderfoot, Pat Condell, and many of these other opponents to the 'mosque' are truly Islamophobes. Without regard for the countless Muslims who are not terrorists, both T-foot and Condell accuse the community center of being funded by terrorist groups, intended as a terrorist victory symbol, and so on. The irony is that, as many people have already pointed out, the site where this building is meant to go was already used by Muslims before this time. We have had almost 9 YEARS to rebuild something at ground zero as a testament to our resilience, but nothing has been done. I get the feeling that if there were towers at the site again, this proposed community center wouldn't even be a topic of conversation.

In Thunderfoot's video, he points out that if a similar event to the WTC attacks had occurred in Saudi Arabia, at the Kabaa, one of Islam's holiest sites, no one would be allowed to build a church nearby, because even access to the area is restricted exclusively to Muslims. This strikes me as a horrible argument against the 'ground zero mosque' though, as it's essentially espousing eye for an eye philosophy, something Thunderfoot has criticized himself in the past. Why sink to the level of Saudi Arabia? This is not about tolerance or equality, it's about standing up for the principles this nation was founded upon. We don't let the terrorists win by allowing Muslims to put a building near ground zero, we let them win if we give fear and paranoia a foothold and turn our backs on the very freedoms that make America a country worth living in.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Illinois Pays $20k to Restore Giant Cross

According to an article on Yahoo news, an atheist is suing the state of Illinois over a $20,000 grant given to restore an 11-story cross monument known as the Bald Knob Cross of Peace (kind of suggestive, isn't it?). Using taxpayer money for a clearly sectarian purpose is unconstitutional, no matter how you spin it, but what really stood out to me was a comment by the monument's administrator and local pastor, Steve McKeown.

"What [the plaintiff] wants is a United States that's free from religion. Our founding fathers never meant that to be the case."

McKeown is partly right - the founding fathers did not want a United States free from religion, but what they did want was a government free from religion. This is not a lawsuit against the cross or Christianity, as McKeown deceptively tries to portray it, but this is a lawsuit against government showing favor to religion, and the founders were very clear in their denouncement of just such a thing. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," the first amendment states. Giving $20,000 of taxpayer money to restore a giant cross is most certainly violating this clause.

It never ceases to amaze me how little understanding or regard some Christians seem to have for separation of church and state. Imagine how irate believers would be if the mosque proposed at Ground Zero in New York City was also accompanied by a $20,000 grant from the state! This is why religion and government must be kept separate, because if we can't accommodate them all (and no, we can't do that), then the only reasonable course is to take a neutral/secular position. Not to mention that taxpayers generally don't like their money being put to uses they disagree with.

Whatever happened to a good ol' fashioned church bake sale, by the way? Religion is great at fundraisers (pass around that collection plate one more time, Billy!), so let them finance their own restoration projects for their own religious monuments.