Vaginas, Penises, Swastikas and Crescent Moons

A Commentary On The World Trade Center Cross

By now, most people are aware that American Atheists, Inc., is suing a few entities in order that the Christian Cross monument be removed.  In fact, American Atheists, Inc.  is suing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the State of New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie (in his official capacity), the City of New York, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (in his official capacity), Silverstien Properties, Inc., the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the World Trade Center Foundation, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, the Church Of The Holy Name Of Jesus, Brian Jordan (an individual), ten John Doe’s and World Trade Center Properties, LLC

This has generated a lot of controversy, not only in the Christian Community, but within the ranks of Atheists, as well.   While I reason that the majority are supportive of our efforts, there remain a vocal contingent of us who think the suit is a waste of time, unpopular, divisive and disrespectful to the beliefs held by other Americans.  Some have stated that we are proselyting by the very act of filing this lawsuit.  To that, I state that religious people proselytize.  Atheists educate.

But I digress…

One of the favored arguments that is coming up with more frequency is that the Cross should be allowed because it was part of the rubble.  While I can understand this reasoning on the surface, when you begin to reflect on what that actually means, you can see how illogical this argument is.  Because something was found in the rubble that resembles or apes a symbol that is worshiped by a certain group, then we should allow others to participate in kind. There was a lot more material other than steel I-beams in that rubble.


  • What if some of the rubble closely resembled a penis? Shouldn’t a penis worshiping religion be allowed to “erect” their monument?
  • What if some of the rubble closely resembled a vagina? Shouldn’t a vagina worshiping cult (NSFW) be allowed to display their holy symbol?
  • What about an I-beam rubble configuration that depicted the Swastika?  Shouldn’t the Hindu’s (like the one used in this article) or Native Americans be allowed to proudly display one?
  • What about rubble that resembles the Crescent Moon?  Shouldn’t Muslims have THEIR symbol side by side with the Christian Cross?

In fact, there are hundreds of religious symbols in the world, and the World Trade Center was an international entity. Perhaps one example of each should be included, as long as some of the rubble resembled their symbols?  By the way, the Christian Cross monument is not exactly as it was found.  There was fabrication work done to it.  Just so you know.  Google it.

Yes, the suit is unpopular with a lot of people, but the point was not to make friends, give away kittens and sing Kumbaya.  When American Atheists, Inc., sued to remove prayer from public schools, it was also a very unpopular idea, even amongst Atheists.  In retrospect, though, it was a pretty damned good idea. This lawsuit does not represent a fight “against” religion, but fight “for” the United States Constitution, particularly the First Amendment.

You may say, “Who does the Cross monument hurt?”  Everyone who is not a Christian, even those who state that they don’t care. Ignorance is no excuse for allowing the abrogation of anyone’s civil rights.  Nearly everything surrounding the Cross is in violation of the First Amendment, and if nothing was done about it because people believe we should accommodate the Christians, then it will set a precedent and Crosses will be popping up all over the place.  As it is, several states had to enact legislation prohibiting roadside memorials due to the clutter of crosses adorning our state highways.

The point is, popular or not, this needs to be done, and it needs the widespread support of everyone who is not a Christian, especially Atheists.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t see the point of it, if you think it is making us look silly and abusive or if it just plain pisses you off.  What does matter is that the Governments of the city of New York and New Jersey, and the Federal Government not promote any specific religion, and do not, in any way, size, shape or form expend any funds in said promotion.

The only reasonable, logical and reasonable alternatives are either a single monument that reflects all beliefs (that would be one helluva monument) a secular monument or no monument at all.

This is a sensitive issue, granted.  But it is also a serious one that needs to be addressed in the courts of law, regardless of public opinion.


Thanks to a tweet by @WilliamAgain for sparking the idea for this.
Al Stefanelli is the Georgia State Director for American Atheists, Inc., and is also the author of “A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World – The Rise Of Atheism On Planet earth.”  He also writes for the National Atheism Examiner.

  14 comments for “Vaginas, Penises, Swastikas and Crescent Moons

  1. September 3, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    I say leave the thing up, floodlight it and put it on a plinth with a bronze plaque with words something like, ‘This crucifix was formed from the rubble of the World Trade Centre which once stood on this spot. It represents the inability of the Christian God to prevent the disaster happening in the first place and proves the Muslim God is the more powerful diety, notwithstanding that both are the same God.

  2. September 3, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I’m not a theist, and I’d rather not see the proliferation of religious iconography in common places, but claiming that the lawsuit is a fight “for the United States Constitution, particularly the First Amendment” is a bit of a stretch, isn’t it?

    As a refresher to those who might not have read it, here’s the First Amendment in its entirety:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    In the case of including the cross in the museum exhibition (not the memorial — there is no religious iconography planned for the memorial grounds) of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, I don’t think that includes Congress making a law respecting the establishing of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

    So… go ahead, American Atheists, Inc., and oppose the cross for a variety of reasons if you must. But don’t play the First Amendment card. If you do, religious iconography — an important part of our national history — will have to be removed from every museum in the country, and that’s awfully close to trying to revise history. You don’t want to be known for that.

    • September 3, 2011 at 9:01 pm

      “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion … ” (which by the 14th Amendment also applies to state and local governments) means that our government is a secular government without respect to a particular religion. Respecting a particular religion above others is state establishment of a religion. And no, religious iconography is NOT a part of our national history. Where did you get that idea from? Talk about trying to revise history. Also the 9/11 Memorial is public property, not private property. Any display on public property must represent the entire public, not just a part of it, even if that part is the majority. And your comment about religious iconography having to be removed from “every museum in the country” is ridiculous. The first phrase of the 1st Amendment doesn’t apply to private property or individuals, only to the government, and thus public property.

      • September 4, 2011 at 2:10 pm

        Like it or not, David, religious iconography and religion is part of our national history. Heck, the original colonists were, at least partially, fleeing religious persecution. Religion plays a part in our history, as it does in the history of pretty much every nation in the western world. That’s not the same thing as saying “we’re a Christian nation,” or “the founding fathers were all Christian.” Make the distinction.

        You wrote, “The 9/11 memorial is public property…” Again, there are no plans to display the cross on the memorial grounds — have you looked at the plans? The cross will be part of the 9/11 museum. Somebody let me know if I’m mistaken, and provide a source, please.

        You also wrote, “Any display on public property must represent the entire public, not just a part of it, even if that part is the majority.” Thing is, the purpose of a museum is to document the history of a thing and, again, like it or not, that cross is part of the history of the ground zero experience.

        Also… if we take what you wrote to heart, there should be an intelligent design exhibit in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, right?

        Take my comment about removing religious iconography from every museum in the country to mean every state or federal museum in the country — like, say, the Smithsonian (search “religious” in the exhibits on their website and see how much religious iconography is in a federally funded museum.)

  3. September 3, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    If it remains part of the memorial when I visit New York, I would love to be arrested for throwing tomatoes at it.

    • September 3, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      Kristin — again, it’s not planned to be part of the memorial. It’s an exhibit in the museum. I hope you’re kidding.

  4. September 3, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    A symbol is only as powerful or has as much meaning as you assign it to. To me, it could just as easily be endorsing any company or organisation with a lower case letter t in it’s name. Or it could be seen as discrimination against vampires. Hell it could even be used by Atheists to point to christians and say “See this? This shows what your god DIDN’T do to prevent 9/11!” as one earlier comment pointed out.. Giving in to peradollia is no better than people giving into vague impressions about the size of the hole in the pentagon to suggest that 9/11 was an inside job.

    And it is also a terrible analogy to compare this to endorsing prayer in schools. One is a direct religious act invoking one particular religion. This is a piece of vital support structure that can easily be recognised as such, unlike a slab of concrete. Really, lets choose our battles better and avoid petty mythologising by christians who take anything they can grab at as a sign from their god and lets fight what actually matters. Such as Atheist discrimination and homophobic politicians!

  5. September 3, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    I think the cross is a horrible representation, representing a system of thought not fit for man’s existence. In reality, what the cross represents is the very same moral code which brought down the towers. In fact, the men who boarded those jetliners, crashing them into the towers lived by the very same code of morality as the ill-fated carpenter from Nazareth. Like Jesus, the murderers perpetually sacrificed themselves because their moral code demands sacrifice. While assuming the role of sanctioning victim they couldn’t actualize their moral ideals without someone who is willing to collect off of the sacrifice. Jesus assuming the role of sanctioning victim couldn’t reach his ideal until he sacrificed himself. The collector of that sacrifice, the sacrifice he made upon the cross, his followers, the Christian also live by the very same moral code. For them, Jesus is seen as a man of virtue, whose virtue is found in his willingness to sacrifice his life for their benefit. Hitler was a man who (like the Christian) collected off of the sacrifices of those who thought it was their duty to sacrifice themselves, those who couldn’t actualize their moral ideals without someone willing to collect their sacrifice. On one hand, you have the sanctioning victim (Jesus, who sacrifices) and on the other hand you have tyrannical victimizer (the Christian, who collects off of the sacrifice). On one hand you have (hijackers, who sacrifice) and on the other you have (Bin Laden, who collects off the sacrifice). The very same principles apply, the moral code smelling with the stench of sacrifice, the immorality of those who sacrifice and the hideous immorality of those who collect. A rational man does not sacrifice himself for others, neither does he sacrifice others for himself…

    • September 4, 2011 at 2:12 pm

      “A rational man does not sacrifice himself for others…”

      Research the evolutionary advantages of altruism.

    • Mequa
      September 5, 2011 at 9:36 am

      Why does Al attract all the Randroids?

      Since you are clearly a disciple of Ayn Rand, answer me this:
      A man needs round-the-clock medical care to survive. He can’t foot the bills himself without state assistance, or he would DIE. Due to circumstances beyond his control, he can’t survive without state-assisted help.

      Should he vote away his literally life-saving welfare in order to maximise other people’s liberty?
      If so, then that would be terribly altruistic and self-sacrificial of him, no?

      And here’s the rub. Since self-interest is predicated on survival, and in fact is viewed as the highest virtue in “Objectivism”, this creates a serious dilemma for those who cannot survive without the assistance of others, for whatever reason.

      “A rational man does not sacrifice himself for others, neither does he sacrifice others for himself” is only applicable when survival is possible without the sacrifices of others. Otherwise, the individual seeking to survive is forced to choose between sacrificing himself or others. You can’t fuck with survival, to put it bluntly, and to expect such a person to “make the ultimate sacrifice” while simultaneously promoting non-sacrificial self-interest is downright hypocritical.

      Having said that, I wholeheartedly agree with the choice of a non-sacrificial way of life. Having been disempowered by Christian morals while younger, I personally made the decision to reject altruism as an ideal to uphold my life to, and choose an ideal of rational self-interest. Only this is more in line with classical Epicureanism in my case, and I don’t go with the hubris of trying to build a political system based on it which leads to the kind of contradictions seen above. I’d rather take an apolitical approach and devote my energies to cutting through all the bullshit, rather than trying to remake the world.

      P.S. Evolutionary advantages of altruism are great for the species, but not so much for the individual being sacrificed. The thing is, if the ex-Christian elects to make the Faustian leap out of an altruistic personal morality, an aversion to being the sacrificial lamb can be utterly visceral, and override both Darwinian ends and the preachy moralising of others.

  6. September 4, 2011 at 12:14 am

    First, I want to make clear that I am an ardent and unapologetic atheist. I argue frequently against religious incursions in politics, education and other aspects of public life. I am inclined almost by reflex to oppose what seems at first to be an overt religious expression by our government. However, as Matthew Wayne Selznick dutifully pointed out (and most on the atheist side seem to conveniently forget in their arguments), the cross is NOT going to be displayed on the memorial grounds but is a part of the museum exhibition. Moreover, contrary to the cynical argument posed in this article, other religious imagery WILL be present along with the cross in the museum. It is a historical fact that during the cleanup this item was found and that a lot of people, particularly those who endangered their own lives to recover the bodies of those who died, found solace and strength in the iconography that they associated with the cross. This historical fact is relevant to a comprehensive retelling of what happened that day and in the aftermath, which the museum is meant to be. To argue that the cross should not be a part of the memorial, particularly not central to it, is important and is in line with supporting and defending the first amendment. Arguing that it should not be a part of the memorial is revisionist history at best and myopic, misguided, and wasteful at worst. We have bigger fish to fry.

  7. September 4, 2011 at 2:33 am

    How do they knew that this cross found in the rouble was the upstanding Christian one and non the inverted Satanist one ?

  8. John M.
    September 4, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    If the cross had to be manipulated to look like the christians wanted it to then the point is moot and junk is junk. Remember the piece of structural steel behind the fireman that looked like some welder had cut it with a torch? That piece was also manipulated, by an insider.

  9. Messenger
    September 16, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Its all a conspiracy man, you all sound like a bunch of lunatic’s whom had been raped by a religious uncle or church representative. Don’t claim to be fighting for the constitution when you clearly do not understand what was meant by the constitution even being written. This country became a GREAT nation because of religion, and because of men willing to sacrifice themselves allow idiots like you to even speak in a public setting. So you and anyone like you seem to be the only hypocrites. But I guess I am speaking beyond that which CLEARLY you have no understanding. And though you protest religion, your little group constitute a religion or religious group. Think about it I know it might hurt your few remaining cells but try.

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