Pensacola Taxpayers Have Spent Over $130,000 (So Far) To Defend Giant Cross

Jul 31, 2017

By Hemant Mehta

For years now, atheists have been fighting to remove a giant Christian cross from Bayview Park in Pensacola, Florida. A U.S. District Judge ruled in favor of the atheists this past June, but the city has appealed the decision.

The Pensacola News Journal is now reporting how much money this idiotic fight has cost local taxpayers (so far): $131,801.75.

The city spent at least $131,801.75 from the time it was sued in May 2016 to June 2017, when Judge Roger Vinson ordered the cross removed from the city park, according to documents the News Journal obtained through a public records request.

The key point is that the amount is only going up. Pensacola officials are fighting an appeal they will almost certainly lose.

They could’ve removed the cross for virtually nothing. They had plenty of warnings in advance. The lawsuit was a last resort. I don’t know whether it was bad legal advice or faith-based stubbornness, but they chose to fight a battle despite all the precedent being on the other side. It’s absolutely irresponsible. If I were a taxpayer there, I’d be furious.

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40 comments on “Pensacola Taxpayers Have Spent Over $130,000 (So Far) To Defend Giant Cross

  • Does anyone know how long the cross has been there, and whether it has any historical or cultural significance (apart from the obvious Christian symbolism) for people in that area? The article does not tell us enough about the reasons why the atheists sought the removal of the cross. Was the cross put up fairly recently as a barefaced assertion of Christianity in a public space, in which case it should indeed be removed? Or does the cross have some interesting history behind it, in which case I would rather it were preserved as part of the community’s identity and culture? A community, after all, is defined not only by what binds people within it together but also by what divides them.

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  • @OP – The lawsuit was a last resort. I don’t know whether it was bad legal advice or faith-based stubbornness, but they chose to fight a battle despite all the precedent being on the other side. It’s absolutely irresponsible. If I were a taxpayer there, I’d be furious.

    If I was a taxpayer, I would be calling for a surcharge to be imposed on those elected representatives responsible so as to recover the illegally attributed cost for the tax payers!

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  • Garrick

    Here is the link to a FOX news article that explains the situation of the Pensacola cross.

    It is apparently on public park land and supported by taxpayer dollars. To me, that says it all. But are you recommending a case by case approach? If this was a historically sentimental object to many people in that region, is that of any bearing in this case? If so, I’m sure there are plenty of other religious groups who would be happy to construct their own sentimentally significant religious symbols that they can use as a centerpiece for their own memorial day celebrations and other important celebration days.

    In very short order I predict that the Pensicola park will become nothing other than a religiously themed carnival with many wide eyed children taking in the amusements and badgering their parents for gaudy souvenirs.

    Is it really asking too much for the religious among us to keep their symbols and monuments on their own privately owned houses of worship? If you’re an American you must know that every town center has a plethora of different churches, synagogs and now the occasional mosques as well. This seems sufficient for any and all appeals to their deity of choice. They often occupy the most expensive and visible locations in those town centers.

    I think what it comes down to is this; either everyone has the right to construct a display or else no one does. I don’t see any middle ground here. There is on the part of the religious, a wedge strategy in play. They do not give ground lightly, even when the Constitution comes along and slaps their wrist. This is evident in the tone of the article posted here from FOX news. This is why I chose that particular article.

    If this is a secular society then there are rules to maintain it as such. Consistency in the application of the law is very important here.

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  • 4
    Garrick says:

    LaurieB #3
    It is apparently on public park land and supported by taxpayer dollars.

    Thank you, Laurie. That clarifies the case — clearly a contravention of the constitutional separation of religion and politics. The article was written, naturally enough, for local readers, who presumably knew the background of the case, not for international readers.

    But are you recommending a case by case approach? If this was a historically sentimental object to many people in that region, is that of any bearing in this case?

    My question was not about sentimental value but about the historical provenance of a structure that might have had, and might still have, religious significance. I am thinking of buildings, statues, symbolic structures, that were and may still be expressions of religious beliefs of a past community which remain as part of the local heritage. I would certainly not want to encourage present religious groups in the USA to defy the US Constitution and erect religious symbols in public places at public expense. But I would hate to think that freethinkers (who tend to be atheistic) would ever act like barbaric iconoclasts destroying historically and culturally significant religious art.

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  • Garrick

    I’m wondering if there is an example of historically and culturally significant religious art that we could agree on that would be exempt from the church/state separation. Is there something you know of that could illustrate this?
    Not trying to put you on the spot, just trying to come up with something in my mind and can’t and possibly you have something in mind already.

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  • Garrick, Laurie,

    I just read your comments and questions.

    I have a few comments. I am totally confused about public religious art now. In Italy there is religious art in the form of statues all over the place. They have a different system, but if, say, the original statue of the “Virgin Mary” by Michelangelo (Pièta), were to be displayed in a park in Brooklyn or wherever, could that be exempt from church and state separation?

    When Handel’s Messiah is performed in a public park is that a church and state issue?

    I think art should be distinguished from crosses. But even a crucifix could be considered an expression of art. It is symbolic, and all symbols are artistic.

    I agree with you entirely about that that cross in Pensacola, Laurie; and that was not designed to be perceived as art. But this whole issue is rather confusing.

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  • 8
    Garrick says:

    LaurieB #5

    First I must confess I have added to the confusion by ending message #3 with the word ‘art’ instead of ‘artefacts’, which would have served my meaning much better (I was aware of this moments after posting that message but had to leave it for lack of time). I was speaking more as a historian than as an art-expert. To a historian, even kitsch and trash are useful indicators of how life was lived in the past. My concern was about overzealousness in removing things from a locality simply because they do not fit current attitudes. For example in New Zealand there people zealous to see the grand statues of Queen Victoria in at least three of our main cities removed, because they oppose imperialism etc. I would argue that colonial New Zealand under the reign of Victoria was part of our young nation’s history and should not be forgotten. All the great religions have left monuments of varying artistic value or none to their influence on societies, and these too need to preserved, understood and respected as part of society’s heritage. Europe (as Dan has noted) and Asia and South America have plenty of examples religious artefacts from times when religions were integral parts of life there.

    Given the USA explicit legal separation of politics and religion, I am not sure how you might a religious artefact of public significance there that should be protected as part of American heritage, unless there are things of that sort from prerepublican times that have not been destroyed. Looking forward with hope into the future, when Christian communities will have faded away for lack of interest, I would hope that, say, St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York will be preserved as a heritage building and used in some fitting and edifying way for the public good.

    Since the case reported in the article above has, with your kind help, been shown to be clearly a case of defiance of the law of the land, I am happy that the Christians responsible for the erection of that cross have lost in court and are likely to lose any appeal. And, as Alan4discussion suggests, they ought to be fined appropriately for their fraudulent use of public money.

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  • Garrick #8
    Aug 2, 2017 at 8:49 am

    Looking forward with hope into the future, when Christian communities will have faded away for lack of interest, I would hope that, say, St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York will be preserved as a heritage building and used in some fitting and edifying way for the public good.

    Interestingly when I visited Moscow with a group of space scientists, in the 1970s, St Basil’s Basilica in Red Square and the Kremlin chapels with their religious icons, were preserved by the communist regime as cultural museums.
    The palaces and art galleries of various czars likewise!

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  • 10
    Garrick says:

    Dan #7
    There’s a huge statue of Atlas in front of Rockefeller Center in NYC. Atlas is a Greek myth, but people used to worship the greek Gods and Titans and some still do, presumably. Jesus is a myth too, or will, in the future, be regarded by most of the world as an (ancient) myth.
    The Greek Gods are all over Manhattan and in public places.

    Yes, Dan. That is pretty much how I see this too. Even in the USA in future, you will probably have many Christian edifices and monuments and so on (along with Handel’s Messiah and performances of Palestrina) being maintained or staged etc in public for the public benefit and even at public expense, all as part of society’s cultural heritage. They may just have to make sure that no popish priest is sneakily muttering the words of eucharistic consecration over a wafer and a cup of wine during a performance of Mozart’s Mass in C Minor.

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  • I think the key issue in this case, is that it is a gesture of defiance of constitutional law.
    The cross could just as easily been erected in some church yard, or on private land, with no constitutional problems.

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  • Garrick,

    It’s interesting to reflect about the future. If we’re still here five thousand years from now the Christian cross will be to them what the ancient Egyptian God Amun-Ra is to us now. Just one more bit of information about the past, for historians to teach and for people to learn about or ignore – depending on their inclination.

    (I understand the difference between practical and theoretical division, I think.)

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  • I can easily imagine a different future as well, a brutal totalitarian society where the cross is still used as a symbol of supreme power, where no freedom or equality exists and the people are subjugated by a small group of rulers.

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  • Dan #12
    Aug 2, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    It’s interesting to reflect about the future. If we’re still here five thousand years from now the Christian cross will be to them what the ancient Egyptian God Amun-Ra is to us now.

    There is however a significant difference!

    The Sun God Amun-Ra , was based on the Ancient Egyptians’ deep understanding of astronomy and seasons, where as the Christian cross is based on retrospective speculation – and probably getting the shape of the cross and the method of nailing all wrong!

    Convicts were executed by crucifixion in the Roman Empire as a matter of course, and histories of the time regularly describe the practice, which was designed to make death prolonged, painful and public. After the famous slave uprising led by Spartacus was crushed in 71 BCE, for example, an estimated 6,000 rebels were crucified along a highway leading to the capital as an illustration of Roman power.

    It is therefore an odd fact that archaeological evidence of this punishment — crosses, for example, or perforated skeletons — has never been found anywhere in the world, with one exception: the stone box containing Yehohanan’s remains.

    His name is inscribed in simple letters on one side: Yehohanan, son of Hagakol. (Some scholars, interpreting the letters differently, believe the second name is Hezkil.)

    Inside the box, archaeologists found a heel bone with an iron stake driven through it, indicating that the occupant of the ossuary had been nailed to a cross.

    The position of the stake was evidence of a crucifixion technique that had not previously been known, according to museum curator David Mevorah. In the image of crucifixion made famous by Christian iconography, Jesus is pictured with both feet nailed to the front of the vertical beam of the cross. But this man’s feet had been affixed to the sides of the beam with nails hammered separately through each heel.

    His hands showed no sign of wounds, indicating that they had been tied, rather than nailed, to the horizontal bar.

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  • Garrick

    ‘art’ instead of ‘artefacts’,

    Yes, thank you for that clarification because for some reason, in my mind I can more easily tolerate artifacts from the past than art installations of the present. I do have some appreciation for history and can’t resist the opportunity to go mucking around in old ruins.

    Dan has given the example of an art masterpiece, the Pieta by Michelangelo and asked if it would be ok for that to be displayed in a public park. So I’ve been thinking about that today and as much as I’d love to feast my eyes on that sublime creation, (I’ll be on the next flight to N.Y.) I just can’t bring myself to say it’s ok. I was brought up in the Methodist church and even though I left it as soon as I was allowed, and also rejected every bit of that theology that was imposed upon me, I can’t help but give preferential treatment to Christian works of art that I’ve come to love. I also can hardly resist the fact that by installing these religious masterpieces in the public park that so many people would be able to take it in that couldn’t otherwise gain access to it. This does mean a lot to me. Other factors are influencing me that I’m not so proud of; I would like the government or wealthy private donor to buy the piece away from the Vatican and plop it down firmly on American soil. Yes, not proud of it but snickering over it nonetheless. My bad.

    Now I ask myself, what if it wasn’t a Christian artwork or artifact? What if it was a replica of the Kaaba or large statue of a Hindu goddess? What about a beautifully wrought Star of David? I just can’t think it’s appropriate in a public space even if they are all equally astounding creations. When I feel my own bias coming to the forefront, then I know there’s something rotten in the scenario! If any of these come to be displayed in a private gallery or religious space then there’s no problem at all.

    the grand statues of Queen Victoria

    Here in Boston we have a few historic reminders of our past as a colony of Britain. They are few but they are pointed out to tourists on our historical freedom trail tour. I can’t imagine the uproar if there was any suggestion of their destruction just to eliminate all evidence of imperialism. Bostonians are proud and boastful (to the point of obnoxiousness) of our place in the history of America and we guard all of our artifacts of that war even if they do remind us of colonialism. But I’ve seen a different side to the story in North Africa. After a brutal colonial period and a devastating revolutionary war the French were tossed out on their ear. The North Africans can’t tolerate any reminder of their former oppressors. They converted the many Catholic churches to mosques and proceeded with an assertive Arabization program. There have been some negative consequences of this but there isn’t a tribe there that didn’t lose at least one of their young men in that war and it seems predictable that they would go overboard with the whole thing.

    Many masterpieces have been lost in the destruction of “blasphemous” images by the fundamentalist Muslim groups who consider paganism to be be an insult to Allah. It’s so disheartening to watch the destruction of these beautiful and meaningful objects and everything they mean to us. Between religious intolerance and destruction of war and it’s aftermath, I despair to think of the important artifacts that have been and will be lost to us.

    St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York will be preserved as a heritage building and used in some fitting and edifying way for the public good.

    It would make a stunning dance club, would it not?! Or shall we ask ourselves, what would Jesus do? – and may I remind you that I was brought up in a Protestant church that scorns the ostentatious display put on in every Catholic church here…so I do believe that Jesus (who probably didn’t exist) would want that particular structure converted to low income housing and perhaps some very affordable studio space for starving artists. We will preserve the stained glass windows. 😉

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  • If their goal is to have a cross, as long as they want, for the least amount of money, they should simply move it to private land.

    If their goal is to force the cross down the unwilling throats of non-believers, because they won’t like it, and because it would be good for them, they are going about it the right way.

    The cross is an instrument of torture, much like the ones used at Guantanamo. Google forced me to remove all pictures of such implements from my website. Logically they should force me to remove all crosses too.

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  • I see stories of this form in the news all the time. American Christians believe their religion trumps the constitution. Therefore they should be allowed to do something clearly unconstitutional, like put Christian monuments on public land, teach Christian doctrine in schools, force non-Christians to pray to Yahweh, deny children medical care or interfere with family planning. However, no other religion should get this privilege. We had that Kim Davies thing egged on by Mike Huckabee. If you excused people from the law on religious grounds, because there are so many whacko religions, you might as well not have law.

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  • Laurie,

    But what about what I said about music? Take Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ or a Bach cantata.— How is that different than a statue in this legal context? The only reason I ask is because I can’t come up with an explanation of why I think the former is okay but the latter may not be.

    (I hate St Patrick’s Cathedral. I like the Saint Thomas Episcopal church on 53rd and Fifth. I used to go on there sometimes to listen to the Saint Thomas boy’s choir.)

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  • Dan

    I don’t see any difference between these two art forms in this context. One is a visual religious statement and the other is an auditory one. Do they have to perform this music in the middle of Central Park or the Boston Common? They can perform it just as well if not better in a church or if not then hire the big performance centers like everyone else. I am much more susceptible to the visual arts in this case as I’m nearly ignorant of classical music, sadly, admittedly so.

    Let’s say we allow pop up religious concerts. Will we also provide space for Koran recitations? Torah recitations? Ramadan public services? Hindu productions? Honestly, I’m capable of walking right by this sort of thing with muttering but our public parks will become three ring circuses. Again, there’s no shortage of private facilities available for these rituals.

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  • Laurie,

    Hi! How are you?

    I’m not sure about this one. We may not agree, and you may not agree with what you just wrote if you consider this (and by the way, it’s good to think questions like this through; you realize that they are more difficult to answer then they appear at first glance): if the Beatles were still around and wanted to do a free concert in Central Park to raise money for AIDS research or some other worthy cause, should they be forced not to include the song Let it Be because of the reference to Mother Mary? If someone wanted to have an outdoor screening of Star Wars in a public park should that movie too not be allowed to be shown because “the force” has been interpreted by some to mean “God”? Should public readings of poems by Keats or Shelling or Byron be not allowed because they used the words “soul”and “eternal”? You see how we can unwittingly become oppressive in reverse if we are not very careful? The Taliban bans things. offensive to their cock-eyed religion. Let them. We’re not the Taliban and we shouldn’t insist that all art that could be seen to have a religious aspect be prevented from appearing or being presented in public areas like parks.

    The cross was inappropriate and had to go. But as you see, this issue is, as I said in my first comment, “confusing”; and if one isn’t careful we can end up, unwittingly, doing more harm than good. Banning things is a slippery slope. It must be done with extreme caution.

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  • Dan #21
    Aug 3, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    The religious insinuate their god-delusions into everything they can:- Art sculpture, music , poetry literature, films. (Medicine, science, politics)

    Hundreds of years ago the only patrons of the arts were the ultra-rich aristocrats and the churches! Even the builders were largely employed building castles, palaces, cathedrals monasteries and churches, while most peasants lived in primitive huts!

    Bans should only apply to using state facilities or money in blatant attempts at promoting a particular religion or cult.

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  • Bans should only apply…

    I agree. But if we’re not careful, down the road anything – not just the blatant – even remotely suggestive of “promoting religion” can end up being prevented from being performed or presented in a public venue or if it’s funded by state money. That can happen. Very easily.

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  • Alan

    Bans should only apply to using state facilities or money in blatant attempts at promoting a particular religion or cult.

    So the Pieta in Central Park? I’ll take that as a no.

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  • Laurie, Laurie, Laurie,

    It could also be said to be promoting beauty. It all depends on context.

    One of my all-time favorite fables (for people of all ages) is “The Selfish Giant” by Oscar Wilde. (No spoilers.) Here’s an experiment. Read it and then tell me if you think it would be inappropriate to read that aloud to kids in a public or non-religious school (or whether that would depend on context too).

    Here it is, the full text. And it’s free! It’ll take you ten minutes. Please read it in its entirety and in one sitting, and then get back to me – if and when you wish to.

    (We haven’t debated anything in a while; we’re always in agreement. This is fun.)

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  • LaurieB #25
    Aug 3, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    So the Pieta in Central Park? I’ll take that as a no.

    Muslims would immediately recognise this as Christian idolatry!

    As with “theistic evolution” theists will dress up their delusions as science, art, music, literature or whatever, in order to reach a distracted audience.

    Much of history is infested with the theological culture of the time, just as Saudi Arabia is presently infested with Wahhabi Islam.

    We cannot purge or rewrite historical records, without becoming as dishonest as the proselytisers, but but does not mean we should ignore the lessons of the past and allow abuses to continue.
    It was in recognising these abuses, that the US constitution was written to try to avoid them.

    There are bound to be grey areas, when dealing with historical museum displays or reproduction of historical artefacts. Perhaps confining them to public history museums and art galleries, would solve the problem.

    This cross however is in no way an attempt at an accurate reproduction of an ancient artefact! It is the current badge of a particular religion.

    Widening the issue, numerous people wear religious garments and symbols on public roads and footpaths, although they are restricted by safety issues and dress codes in some businesses.

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  • The Selfish Giant.

    A beautiful story disfigured by a trite Christian trope of eternal reward. The greater sweetness and sadness of total loss and need of a moral urgency always eluded Oscar, nevertheless, a hero of mine.

    Indeed, the story was in part the basis of a play we concocted at school restoring a personal winter. We all eventually get banished from the garden, whilst the young embellish it a while longer.

    (We greatly liked Oscar and later did Salome and a short film of it…)

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  • Dan

    I read The Selfish Giant. I’m with Phil on this one. It starts off with a beautiful message. I was so optimistic, but then, Wilde slammed the door in my face. Stigmata on the delightful boy? Then the whole Christian evil fairy tale blows up the happy story at the end. This is a classic bait and switch. All enticements in the beginning and then trap the reader into the real agenda just when they least expect it.

    I feel violated.

    I did not consent.

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  • Laurie, Phil,

    Well I liked it and was moved by it – particularly the ending. Without the ending the story is trite. It’s about Hate and Love and redemption through Love with a little Christian twist to give it power and universality. (Wilde wasn’t a frigging religious fanatic; he was a an artist who employed certain devices for effect.)

    If some Christian wants to sneak that and other stories like it into the curriculum using the trojan horse of “it’s literature” in order to proselytize or convert then he or she should be fired and exposed and punished for impersonating an educator, and the institution that he represents should be investigated. Otherwise I see nothing wrong with it; if presented in the context of demonstrating the literary power of symbols borrowed from religion as it relates to the fable or parable or allegory, then it really is just literary artistic expression. Christian Imagery and symbolism is part of a firm literary tradition.

    Obsessive compulsive thinking is not productive: we might as well ban the entire Age of Satire and Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno, any number of plays and novels and stories, etc., etc. Don’t you see how absurd that is?

    Anyway, that was my question – perhaps a somewhat superfluous one: should it be banned like the cross itself?

    The message comes at the end. I can easily imagine this story being adapted and turned into a play. I’ll bet this has happened. The ending is changed, the stigmata part is omitted. That’s censorship in reverse, and ruins the piece; and I would feel violated and would leave the theater in anger.

    (I seem to recall having had this discussion about The Little Prince before with the two of you. Déjà vu.)

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  • (I seem to recall having had this discussion about The Little Prince…

    I meant The Selfish Giant, not The Little Prince (although the same argument applies).

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  • Dan

    with a little Christian twist to give it power and universality.

    Power? No. It is a ghastly and perverse hijacking of a more earthy love. A necessary love as Emily Bronte would have it.

    Mervyn Peake had it too…

    “There is a brotherhood among the kindly

    Closer and defter and more integral

    Than any brotherhood of aisle or coven

    For love rang out before the chapel bell. ”

    Universal? No. Exactly the reverse… Parochial.

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  • It’s not always about who is right or wrong and what is rational and not rational! The divine in literature – as it relates to love and when it is expressed well –inspires, adds to the tapestry of culture, augments one’s zest for life, fuels the imagination, allows one to partake in a vision.

    If all writing about love was confined to earthly love, I’d die of boredom.

    Read Plato’s Phaedrus, read Death in Venice, Dante’s La Vita Nuova, Dickens, London’s Martin Eden (certain passages)….. The list goes on and on.

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  • For me

    Love in the face of total personal loss is the purest stuff.

    It is ever debased by “eternity”.

    When eternity is super added, it is like we have failed to grow up sufficiently

    This is why I am anti-theist. It is an aesthetic that I cannot get behind to change.

    Nor am I sure that Mann is not with me.

    Besides, artists certainly can inject piety into their subjects for reasons of pathos.

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  • Okay, I appreciate your point of view. I’m not a theist either. But I don’t share your opinion that such ideas/words as “eternal” debase anything necessarily. On the contrary. Some of the best speeches and poems and dialogue, and by people you admire, make use of potent words like that and others. And if I were absolutely one hundred percent convinced they were mere figures of speech only they wouldn’t have the power that they have to inspire. No, when Shelley and Keats write about the soul they know what they’re talking about, have experienced something that others may not have experienced. I won’t reduce it or denigrate it or judge it unless it strikes me as offensive, improper, or didactic. I think this is a silly dispute and a weird one. You just said they can inject “piety.” Not sure if I’d put it that way, but isn’t that what I am saying they can do and do do with great effect at times?

    Love in the face of total personal loss: the biblical story of Job and Wilde’s De Profundis come to mind.

    I don’t know what Mann thought; I was talking about some of the descriptions of Tadzio in his famous novella.

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  • Dan,

    I must come back to this. Am too tired to organise my thoughts too well.

    Soul=essence. Atheists like Shelley have no suitable alternative. Nor need they have.

    The eternal as used by Emily Bronte was in contrast to the easily changing and fickle Linton. Unchanging throughout ones existence (like the rocks) is its real intent, rather than any residing in paradise. The imagery is anti-ethereal and a notable novelty in the circumstances. Eternal per se is not a problem. It is the hope for eternal life that stinks to high heaven.

    I have no doubt you are uplifted by ideas of eternity. Americans are bathed in such speech from infanthood. Hollywood has endless movies about life after death. It is the cruelest of tricks to play on its youngsters. My poet and playwright friends don’t do this stuff, nor any modern writers that I like and admire, though all can write about love and most importantly loss and sweeten my existence.

    Atheist writers can create theist characters. Injecting such piety into a character, and speech to suit, will have a purpose. I propose pathos will be its primary effect if it is about eternal life.

    Job, De Profundis do not address total loss, i.e. simply ceasing. They address for instance personal losses of the living and a fight between self pity and stoicism.

    Mann was all about loss and its irresistible processes. Eternal beauty is pathos.

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  • Hi, my good friend,

    Let me just reply to that one. This is an interesting topic. Henceforth it will be discussed (if we choose to continue discussing it) on the open thread.

    Okay. To each his own. I think beauty IS eternal and I like this polysemous word, to use your language. Eternity is a sublime concept, a rich, mysterious and potent concept. It can also be said to be a bad, boring, tired and insidious concept, when used by shallow and manipulative people. Context.

    That has value which is not a function of time. Eternity is, for me, something other than life after death. That notion is for simpletons. Come on. (I am exhausted too.)

    By the way, Bronte can form whatever view of existence she wants. And I can think what I want.

    I agree with you about characters. They do not necessarily represent the author’s philosophy; they are characters. So many imbeciles can’t distinguish between an author and his or her characters, right?

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  • Eternity is an abstract. Like the geometric abstracts point, line, area / surface (triangle: three points define an area; circle), volume (tetrahedron; sphere). These are fitting examples for PlatO’s otherwise muddles cave concept)

    Eternity, beyond that, is a human illusion. Brought about by our, on geological or astronomical time-scales, short blip of a life-span. We (and all other life) are jacked-up bacteria; well, they’re prokaryotes, so jacked-up amoeba, they’re prokaryotes like us.

    The eternal ice? Sloppy colloquial use in German for glaciers. Oops! Just within the times of photography, they have massively shrunk. Greenland? Eh, no. Antarctica? Slower, but also no. There appear to have been times on earth with no glaciation at all.

    But glaciers are cheetahs compared to tectonic plates. Pangea (not the first monocontinent)? Na, broke up into Laurasia and Gondwana. Then they went and broke into smaller pieces. Or mountains. The Appalachians? Used to be as high perhaps as the Himalayas, at least as the Andes. Erm, yeah.

    Our Sun? Got a few billion years left, but then => red giant => white dwarf. Galaxies? “Our” Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy are heading for each other, with some incredibly complex waltzing of around 1.5 trillion stars starting at around 4.5 billion years from now (which would mean our sun would be dancing along as a red giant by then).

    The numbers I just mentioned are pretty much for dimensions that we are not really able to grasp, no more than eternity. Just too big for brains, made for medium-sized object moving at medium speed for medium periods of time. (Just like when we get into the realms of micro, nano and co. for smallness leaves us scratching our heads with, if we are honest, incomprehension. More microorganisms in and on our bodies that we have cells in our bodies, including our brains. Just don’t tell that to anyone with a handwashing neurosis).

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  • Eternal. Not infinite time. “That has value which is not a function of time.” Just trying to raise the discussion to a higher lever. Eternity has other (aesthetic and moral) meanings, meanings that are outside the sphere of mathematics and time. It need not be seen as something linear or temporal (or spatial).

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  • Dan #39

    “Eternity has other (aesthetic and moral) meanings …”
    Meanings limited to the oh-so-limited human mind (brain).

    As for aesthetics I will freely confess that I do not feel competent to discuss this matter – though I would also by gut feeling not consider this to be a deficiency – how shall I put it …

    I have the German translation (hardcover) of “The God Delusion” including the afterword – possibly originally for the English paperback – including a shredding of the pompous objections by theologians that RD had not considered writings by Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Karl Rahner, Jürgen Moltmann and whatnot, answered by P.Z. Myers in a savage satire, supposedly seriously written by a fawning courtier taking serious umbrage at the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” (those nonexistent ones) – a just cause for hysterical laughter.

    Morals. Yes, we humans have developed some morals (likely before we developed religion, that being a development needed by control freaks to justify their freakiness), the Golden Rule probably being our best effort. Though even that may be something that we have “only” been able to codify, something that our nearer or farther relatives may also have followed on some level – just never managed to write it down.

    So again, for me, eternity remains a human illusion. As is all of philosophy (which may at some earlier time have included practically all of human thought, including what we now call natural sciences). Which also, contrary to the Roman Curial Church’s parochial view, included theology as a very narrow subset) Oh, it allows us to exercise that balloon part of our brain called the cerebral cortex (exactly what we’re doing now – it can be fun!), but from entropy’s point of view all we’re producing is heat.

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