Tuesday, March 08, 2005 | One of these days the cross may indeed come down off Mt. Soledad, but don’t hold your breath. The city has had a losing streak on this issue that stretches back to 1991. Now only Councilman Scott Peters and City Attorney Mike Aguirre seem disposed to throw in the towel, or, at least, get it off the mountain and out of view of Phil Paulson.

As I write this, the City Council is fixing to hold yet another meeting to determine the fate of it. Perhaps they will acquiesce and obey the law this time. But what if they don’t? What harm can a mere symbol cause? Most San Diegans are Christians. Doesn’t the majority rule? If it gives such inspiration to so many what can it hurt?

Folks always say “it doesn’t hurt” and that’s true, to a point. A mere religious symbol on public property can’t hurt. Neither could the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings. Neither could opening a school session with a prayer invoked over the loud speaker. Nor could the inscription “In God We Trust” on our currency.

Oh, I suppose an atheist going on trial in a courtroom with the Ten Commandments on display might have a hard time of it. But with so few of us admitting to being atheists that shouldn’t matter, at least not too much. In any case we could just lie about it. Christians tell us that all the time. The theology seems shaky, but it isn’t as shaky as that story about a woman talking to a snake.

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None of symbols or slogans hurt if taken separately, but imagine if you simply had one less god than the rest of the folks. After all the rest of the folks don’t have just one belief represented by that cross. America has no fewer than 1350 separate religions. Only those who disbelieve in all of them, rather than all but one, are singled out for exclusion.

An example might be the front page opinion piece on our largest national paper, USA Today. There, shortly after 9/11, we saw Kathleen Parker claiming the attack on the World Trade Center had a silver lining because it brought us all closer to God. Oh, she also stated that there were no atheists in the World Trade Center.

Do you imagine it stung a bit back in 1987 when vice president George H. W. Bush stated that atheists could not be patriotic, nor could they be citizens.

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Every example is justified by things such as crosses on mountains, the song “God Bless America,” “the pledge of allegiance, and all the rest of the trappings of religion. All will try to prove that, despite what the constitution says, this is a Christian nation. All, like doctor’s cutting on Arden’s leg, whittle away at our rights.

Meanwhile we have to make do with decisions based on emotion and dogma, not science or reasoned thought.

Phil Paulson and I think of all those things when we see that cross on the mountain.

Keith Taylor is a retired Navy officer living in Chula Vista, Calif.

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