I was listening to my local NPR station the other day and came across an interesting story. Artists created a mural in Philadelphia and surprise, surprise, Christians were offended and destroyed the mural because that’s what people do when they are offended.
The mural says, “This goddam phenomenal world” and is apparently a quote from a J.D. Salinger book. But since the mural was mere blocks away from churches, religious believers got offended by the word “goddam.” For the record, every place is mere blocks away from churches in America. Churches are like weeds. There is pretty much a church on every other street corner.
Within hours of the mural’s completion, someone (almost certainly a Christian someone) painted over the offending word. Could you imagine if someone went around and painted over some religious art or vandalized a religious billboard or sign? Fox News would be talking about evil atheists and the war on Christians in America. But when Christians do it, no one even bats on eye. Even the NPR news story attempts to justify the vandalism and only used this story as part of a larger story not even about vandalism.
They pointed out that the woman who was responsible for creating the mural didn’t go around and ask the churches for permission first. Because every time religious people put up religious murals, signs, and billboards, they always ask atheist leaders for our permission, right? Keep in mind that the mural was legal. They didn’t just paint over some random wall without the owner’s permission or without a government permit. No, the problem was that a small handful of religious people were offended.
Now, I don’t really know the context of the quote because I have not read that particular book, but I do like the quote itself because we do live in a phenomenal world. The universe is amazing and our world is full of wonders and mysteries that we as a species are just beginning to explore and understand. It is an incredibly uplifting quote from that standpoint. But because religious believers are offended, destroying this uplifting message through vandalism is justified even by NPR’s standards.
I am outraged by this. I am offended that they are offended. I am even more offended that their offensiveness has led them to vandalize this work of art and that the media has either been completely silent or has justified the vandalism.
Again, if a church mural was vandalized, you would see prominent atheists apologizing on behalf of the greater atheist community. We would denounce the vandalism and there would probably even be some campaign for atheists to donate to undo the vandalism. As a humanistic atheist, I support free speech even when it is speech I don’t agree with. So if there were a mural that said something like, “Jesus died for your sins” which implies that you would be tortured for eternity if you are not a Christian, I would defend their right to have that mural. If it were vandalized, I would be against the vandals. I wouldn’t try to justify the hate nor would I make excuses like, how no one asked my personal permission or consulted local atheist bloggers or sought the opinion of the local atheist meetup group or society of ethical culture group.
It really pisses me off that Christians get offended by everything and then feel justified in destroying anything that offends them. We live in America and if you get offended by some piece of art, well then, that is your fucking problem. You don’t have the right to destroy someone else’s art because you feel offended.
When Christmas comes around and atheist complain about the church/state violations of Jesus Crèches on public property, Christians always claim that atheists have no right to be offended or that our being offended means nothing to them. Even though it has nothing to do with atheists being offended but rather has to do with the merging to church and state and the erosion of the Jeffersonian Wall.
My point here is that they belittle the idea of being “offended” at Christmas even though that really has nothing to do with anything, but then they turn around and cry about how offended they are at this or that and actually break the law to rid the world of anything and everything that offends them.
There are surely plenty of Christians who don’t do this and who don’t support vandalizing art that might offend fundamentalist sensibilities, but why aren’t they speaking out about this? Why aren’t they raising funds to restore this mural? Where are the moderate religious believers who are willing to stand up to the extremists who destroy other people’s art?
Here is a link to the artists’ blog post about this incident.
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