Of All the Places an Atheist Display Would Be Vandalized, This One Caught Me By Surprise… December 24, 2013

Of All the Places an Atheist Display Would Be Vandalized, This One Caught Me By Surprise…

Get this: We’re used to vandalism on atheist billboards and banners, but the latest example of an atheist display getting destroyed took place at a senior center in California, where the Rossmoor Atheist and Agnostic Club had put up a Tree of Knowledge:

Tree of Knowledge in West Chester, Pennsylvania (Carol Everheart Roper)

The Rossmoor Atheist and Agnostic Club “Freethought Tree of Knowledge” was put up on a Dec. 14 and vandalized four days later. The tree was knocked over and all the book covers representing free thinkers were scattered all over the ground.

However, by Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 18, resident Lynne Forrette, her sister and a couple of residents walking by reassembled the tree and fastened the book covers. Then again on Thursday morning, the tree was totally gone and its remnants were destroyed and scattered all over the ground and in nearby bushes. By Friday, Dec. 20, some parts of the tree, some books and the sign were back on the site.

At. A. Senior. Center.

The one place you figure you’d be able to find some mature adults…

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  • NewEnglandBob

    Some people in the older generation can be emphatically dogmatic and rigid. Also racist and bigoted.

  • Lynn

    The terrorists of knowledge acting like the devil they believe in. They solve problems with sky gods and spaghetti monsters.

  • $65180697

    I’m surprised that you find this surprising.

  • bamcintyre

    Old people lose their inhibitions.. Things that somewhat younger people think, the old people just do.

  • newavocation

    You would think as you get older and start dealing with the aches and pains of an aging body and seeing others around you suffer and die, that you would begin to lose your taste for god.

  • Dan Robinson

    Do we know it was seniors who did it? Maybe some local roving gangs of Christian thugs did it.

  • paulalovescats

    No, by that time, your opinions are set in concrete, for good or bad. Whack that thing with your walker!

  • From my frequent trips to a Senior Center (I have family that I visit), it would seem that the older and more bitter a lot of the folks get, the more Holier-than-thou they become. I cannot even begin to imagine the reasons they have for their constant condemnations and contempt for others.

  • $925105

    The holidays just bring out the fundy hate, as if they feel justified for some reason.

  • I cannot even begin to imagine the reasons they have for their constant condemnations and contempt for others.

    Fear, resentment, boredom, and regret.

  • In this month’s issue of “The Myriad of Ways non-Christian things get vandalized by Christians while simultaneously whining that they’re being persecuted into oblivion” …

  • Pseudonym

    Indeed. Perhaps we all should get the hell off their lawn.

  • A3Kr0n

    Oh great. I’ve spent my entire life trying to have better inhibitions, like seeing how many days I can go without being a dickhead on the Internet, and now you’re telling me it’s just going to get worse?

  • RayM

    This was four years ago. I’m sure those charitable christians have seen the error of their ways, and wouldn’t dream of doing something like this again. Right?

  • Brian Macker

    “Of All the Places an Atheist Display Would Be Vandalized, This One Caught Me By Surprise…”
    … but this is the most urgent location for last ditch efforts to save souls before they depart this earth.

  • Brian Macker

    How do you know it wasn’t some kids?

  • Brian Macker

    I’m missing something. Where did the article say this was done by old people. Generally these people are in bad health and not up to late night vandalism. Could have been anyone from what I can tell.

  • Lori

    You don’t hang out with many old folks, do you? Three words—Fox. Geezer. Syndrome.

  • Brian Macker

    Well, Christian vandals. Yes, I don’t know why everyone is assuming its the seniors.

  • Jean

    A roving gang of christian senior thugs!

  • Don Gwinn

    The holiday play this year will be “Fahrenheit 451.”

  • 92JazzQueen .

    I am calling youth vandalism.

  • Drew M.

    Why the surprise? Old people can be assholes too.

  • lorimakesquilts

    LOL Old people are the most entrenched in religion. They’ve already got one foot on the path the heaven, dontcha know. They have to make sure they stay there.

    I can hear ’em now. Get that damn tree off my lawn!!!!

  • L.Long

    Mature adults and religion are the antithesis of each other.

  • Carol Lynn

    Not always true. My mother was 90 when she gave up religion for logical, thought out reasons. She’s a happy atheist at 92 and counting. (But then, she’s always been awesome.)

  • The Starship Maxima

    This need to attack atheist displays is by turns amusing and disturbing.

  • Jack Hillburn

    No, the article was published yesterday. It’s just the graphic Hemant uses that was 4 years ago. Not the tree we’re talking about here.

  • kickinitincrik

    Christians shouldn’t tear them down. They should encourage the placement of these things because it presents atheism as a worldview of the juvenile. The implied message is this, “Atheism: because I’m an asshole and you’re a dumbass.” Imagine a religion taking this tact. You resort to playground shenanigans and older people can sniff that crap out. Playground tactics are necessary when the assumption is that atheists are somehow more intelligent than all others – they have to back it up by struttin’ their stuff and by caricaturing the other side and everyone else walks away saddened by the psychological issues of the bully.

  • EdmondWherever

    Could’ve been staff.

  • If it’s any consolation, to the best of my knowledge, none of the Sacramento 55 have been defaced. Granted, some of them are pretty hard to reach, but a few are reachable.

  • islandbrewer

    Wow. Just … wow. My irony meter just spontaneously combusted reading this comment.

  • onamission5

    Curious– if atheists are assholes for putting up the occasional few dozen monuments to reason, most of which are temporary, then what quality do you assign to Christians with their hundreds of thousands of year ’round displays?

  • The Starship Maxima

    I kinda got what you’re saying, but the condescending snide blurs it greatly.

    Yes, if we, Christians, believe we are right, we should show that we are not afraid of other beliefs, or lack thereof. Let us meet each other on the field of battle of ideas, and let the better idea win.

    But tearing down harmless atheist displays is the real show of an intellectually feeble bully.

  • onamission5

    Yeah, my takeaway from the post is that at least three of the people who kept putting the tree back together were residents of the senior center. I caught no inference that the seniors were the ones vandalizing the display.

  • RayM

    Oh duh…. silly me

  • Castilliano

    Old FoGeeS?
    Old FauxGeez?

  • Guest

    Wow, Hemant. This one hits close to home! About 5 minutes from my house (and home to a number of friends), Rossmoor is a residential enclave on the Orange County/Los Angles County border. It’s traditionally very conservative, lots of older folks and families with children. The schools there are outstanding (my daughter goes to one of them!) but one gets the sense that liberalism is pretty rare around those parts. I’m sure it wasn’t the seniors who vandalized the tree, but neighborhood youth whose parents had groused about it. I have to say, though, I’m impressed that Rossmoor has an Atheist and Agnostic Club at all. Looks like I’ve got a new club to join… 🙂

  • WallofSleep

    “The one place you figure you’d be able to find some mature adults…”

    Heh. You don’t know that many senior citizens, do you?

  • Ed Adams

    a few years ago a documentary about life in a senior center concluded that it was like going back to junior high school (middle school). it’s a myth that age brings wisdom.

  • mojoey

    Not cool.

  • Guest

    This makes me even sadder than other forms of vandalism I’ve seen. You’d think seniors would know how to behave themselves.

  • Guest

    Kids happened to walk into a senior center in order to randomly vandalize and just happened to choose a Tree of Knowledge? Twice?

  • Dan Weeks

    OR adults so close to death that they desperately cling to any hope of surviving it. OR nurses and orderlies who think if themselves as God’s angels on earth.

    I don’t know, apparently willful stupidity knows no age limit.

  • tinker

    Yes it is. And to make that worse, as we age there will be more of us that are tech savvy about the internet;)

  • Noelle

    Aww, this one makes me smile. Those seniors were once those damn kids themselves. I love the idea of octogenarians kicking the shit outa a tree to some gangsta music, then shuffling back to their rooms to turn up their TVs too loud and fall back to sleep. Who says you’re only young once?

  • Christians shouldn’t tear them down. They should follow the law and the U.S. Constitution and help maintain the separation of church and state, for their own protection since Christianity may not be the dominant religion in the future.

    Fixed it for you, kickinitincrik.

  • Noelle

    It doesn’t have to be the seniors of course, but it is a senior center and not a high school. Who’s more likely to be present for the act? It’s a little ageist to assume adolescents are the only ones capable of destruction. Also, it’s a senior center, not a nursing home. Plenty of people over 60 are physically capable of knocking stuff over. And if you talk to enough people on the the birth to death spectrum, you’ll find most adults will say they don’t feel any older in their minds than their mid-twenties.

  • kickinitincrik

    Uh, because the two are not alike. Are you saying that atheism and Christianity are in the same category? Are these hundreds of thousands of year round displays designed to say, “In your face! Atheists.”
    To be fair, the nature of atheism is deconstructive and because of this it becomes quite easy to be an a-hole. Atheism has to bully in order to assert itself. It’s a lack. It has to feed on other worldviews. Christianity and other religions do not need atheism in the same way that atheism needs religion. Atheism exists in the same way that darkness exists. If the world is going to be dark then the light has to go away. And the darkness isn’t anything at all. It’s nothing – it’s a lack of light.

  • skinnercitycyclist

    It could have been someone from among the non-senior-citizen visitors to the center, or employees.

  • RN from NY

    It’s a lack of knowledge, ability to reason and apply logic. I was in the dark when I was a Catholic, believing in mythology and wasting my time sitting in a church being told how my naturally evolved desires are wrong. Now I see the light thanks to atheism.
    I am grateful to be a freethinker.

  • RN from NY

    Seniors are the worst. They’ve spent their whole lives fixed in their ways, and for these seniors it was fixed in the ways of vandalism and hate for free speech. Why would they change now that they’re old? If anything, they get worse because they may have conditions limiting oxygenation, dementia or delirium caused by illness (delirium can set in very quickly in the elderly).

  • Guest

    True, but those are not “just some kids”. Whoever vandalized this tree – twice – knew exactly what they were doing. They were preventing other Americans from exercising their freedom of speech in a legal, acceptable way.

  • Jeff

    It was Hell’s Grannies!

  • rg57

    “… A. Senior. Center.
    The one place you figure you’d be able to find some mature adults…”

    You haven’t met many seniors.

  • EvidenceBasedDecisions

    Better to invest in shaping the minds of the young, rather than those who have spent a life rejecting reason.

  • EvidenceBasedDecisions


    I think that I found some video of the vandals.

  • Ryan Hite

    Old people being the most mature? Not in america

  • kickinitincrik

    Freethinkers is a euphemistic misnomer for someone who limits their thinking to current materialistic explanations with an unwarranted faith in one’s limited sensory apparatus and reason. It is a very limited way of looking at the universe.

  • onamission5

    Um, actually quite a lot of Christian displays have targeted messages against non believers of all stripes, be they atheists or members of other religions, as well as political stances.

  • Yes, it’s limited. Not cloaking one in unsubstantiated fictions does limit you.

    It limits you to logically-sound reality, but hey…

  • Yes, atheism is nothing but bullying and intimidation. Which is why all atheists indulge in the vicious fiction that everyone who disagrees with them will be tortured forever.

    Grow up.

  • baal

    Kick, you come off as a hatefilled person to me, an atheist.

  • Bill

    WTF! That is retirement community is maybe 2 miles from my house. This is a very progressive community… So I thought!

  • Jon Doee

    Is it just me or did you get a mental image of a group of old farts using canes, walkers and wheelchairs going old school on a tree?

  • One of the problems that seniors face is dementia, which affects people in a variety of ways.

    just as there are happy drunks and mean drunks, there are dementia patients who have lost their self control.

    If it was a patient, the patient may not even remember doing this.


  • DavidMHart

    Freethinkers is a euphemistic misnomer for someone who limits their
    thinking to current materialistic explanations with an unwarranted faith
    in one’s limited sensory apparatus and reason. It is a very limited way
    of looking at the universe.

    Yes, if by ‘limited’ you mean ‘open to evidence where good evidence is offered, but unwilling to accept anything merely on the say-so of ancient books of myths, or on the authority of someone who claims to speak for supernatural beings whose existence has never been demonstrated’.

    I think Jesus and Mo have the perfect cartoon for you.

  • kickinitincrik

    By limited I mean open to types of evidence that fit a certain assumption about the universe. It doesn’t have to be a book or authority. It can be the simple observance of intelligibility in the universe. If I took you into a auto factory where various machines were creating vehicles and I told you that there is no mind behind the machines because the mind is not in the building you’d think I’m an idiot. So if we find a factory even more complex and immense, say…I don’t know, every cell in your body the idiot table somehow gets turned? This is why atheism is delusional. You want the architect to be in the wall of the house. And don’t give me that chance of the gap crap or multiverse of the gap crap or aliens in the gap crap or someday we’ll find out in the gap crap either. Just admit that you base your thinking on a different premise, a postulate – a faith in things hoped for. A certain hope that the universe is designed without a designer – that we live in a program without a programmer and that Jesus was hopefully not an avatar.

  • Jorge Pérez de Lara

    That is one of the effects of religion, in my view: it does not allow you to grow up.

  • DavidMHart

    Thing is, there are some very obvious differences between car factory machines and cells. Firstly, we have good examples of people designing and building car-manufacturing devices, and any other human-designed artifacts we care to name. We have no well-documented examples of any beings designing and building living cells

    (unless you count the recently-discovered technique of creating an artificial genome inside a host-cell, which is not quite the same thing).

    Second, no human-designed machines can replicate themselves indefinitely. A human artifact is, more-or-less by definition, a thing which must be individually manufactured by its designer directly, or by other machines produced by its designer. Whereas living things just go on replicating themselves without any intelligence necessarily required.

    Third, human artifacts are generally for something – they are designed with a purpose in mind. A car is designed to transport people along a road, a food can is designed to preserve food etc – in each case, there will be some function that some humans find valuable that accounts for why people make that artifact. But you cannot say the same thing about living things. What is a lion for? What, for that matter, an antelope? An ichneumon wasp? A cactus plant? The malaria parasite?

    If you think about it, none of those living things have any discernible ultimate purpose imposed from above by someone that might have wanted to make them – about the best you can do is to say that the purpose of a cactus plant is to make more cactus plants etc.

    Now, none of this proves that they weren’t designed by a god, of course, but my point is that your analogy is a clumsy fit – sure, human artifacts and living things may share the feature of complexity, but that doesn’t mean that they must also share the feature of having been consciously designed and built. This would be true only if it could be demonstrated that complexity could only arise as a result of conscious design, and no other means could possibly explain it.

    This is firstly not true – we have some pretty solid explanations of how complexity can arise in the absence of conscious design (you may not like the implications of evolution by natural selection, but you have to admit that it describes a mechanism by which complexity can arise in the absence of conscious design), and secondly, it would apply just as strongly to anything capable of designing a thing capable of designing things – no theist has ever demonstrated a convincing mechanism by which the existence of a god can be explained. Any attempt to claim that a cell needs to have a conscious designer but a god capable of designing a cell does not need a conscious designer (maybe we can call it a ‘meta-god’) rests at some level on some form of special pleading; some attempt to have it both ways.

    So, unless and until someone can demonstrate that
    a) living cells cannot have arisen as a result of unconscious natural selection but need to have been consciously designed, and b) come up with a plausible hypothesis for how such an intelligent designer could have arisen in the first place, then you have no basis for claiming superiority over those who simply follow the best currently available evidence where it leads. Your designer doesn’t need to be ‘in the wall of the house’ – but you do need to be able to demonstrate that it must exist, and a flawed analogy with a car factory doesn’t do that, I’m afraid.

    And no, I don’t have a ‘certain hope’ that we live in a universe without a designer – again, all I am saying is that as far as we can tell the universe doesn’t have a designer, so until someone can demonstrate that it does, the only honest position is to provisionally reject the design hypothesis unless and until good evidence becomes available.

  • Uh, because the two are not alike.

    It’s not hypocrisy when done in the name of religion.


  • Atheism has to bully in order to assert itself.

    Just look at the way science has to defend itself against Creationists pushing anti-science as science.

    Atheists are just pushing back when there are religious attacks on rationality.

    Evolution is science that is continually refined, but it is a fact.

    Creationism is the name for the many different types of alternatives to evolution used for the various anti-science claims in defense of Biblical science.

    Creationism is still popular with a large portion of religious people.

    Heliocentrism is science that is continually refined, but it is a fact.

    Geocentrism is the name for the alternative to heliocentrism used for the various anti-science claims in defense of Biblical science.

    Geocentrism is not as popular because it is much more difficult to pretend that the Earth does not move.


  • And that student’s name? Einstein!

  • Nope. We don’t _want_ the architect to be the wall of the house. We don’t _want_ the answer to be anything in particular, we just try to understand. What Christians do that atheists do not is to pretend they know the architect.

    Your argument is an argument for deism, not for the gods of the Bible (i.e. Elyah (the most high god) and one of his sons, Yahweh (“the LORD” or “Jehovah”)).

  • Excellent comment, DavidMHart!

  • kickinitincrik

    Interesting how you attack the analogy through
    self-replication. You demonstrate that cellular/molecular machinery is more sophisticated than anything that human intelligence make so far. In that way it is a bad analogy but it hardly supports your argument – it simply demands a higher level of intelligence. I also don’t need documentation to tell me that someone built something. I see a mark of intelligibility and I can assume that intelligence is behind it. If I see some scratches on a tree or a single carved letter on a rock I can assume that something intelligent put there – although there is a remote chance that I could be wrong.

    Human artifacts are for something? If you see a lack of purpose in things it might be an issue of perspective. People with aspergers have this issue and there are studies that suggest that atheist psychology leans that way.

    Why would a convincing mechanism need to be used to explain a creator? In order to do such a thing you’d have to relegate the creator to be just another object in the universe. The creator, by definition, cannot be contingent on anything in this universe. You’re mixing categories. It’s like asking me to prove the existence of Ford through the mechanics of my car engine – that demands another category. The same thing can be said of purpose. Engine mechanics isn’t going to tell me the purpose of why the car was designed (to make money).This is one of the fundamental flaws of atheistic argumentation. You mix categories in order to make a point. Natural selection, while it has some explanatory power is inadequate on a number of levels and it does not provide answers for the framework in which it functions. Again, the mechanics of something can only tell you so much.

    Now one nice thing about mechanisms is that it can cause you to look for the mechanic and for the purpose. You’d need something akin to a manual. Christians call that the Bible.

  • Brian Stack

    Rossmoor is a 9000 member 55+ aged residential community, so assuming it was a resident or two is a pretty safe bet. I live in Rossmoor and have been in contact with the group who put the tree up. Apparently one of their members saw two folks old enough to be residents knocking it over early one morning last week. Rossmoor is a gated community free of roving bands of vandals youth.
    As far as your knowledge of the health and fitness of our mature population Brian, I’d say major fail. Get to know some seniors.

  • brianmacker

    I didn’t make assumptions or a prediction so it can’t be a “major fail”. I in fact wrote, “I’m missing something”. None of the info you just provided was in the article.

    My wife works in a senior center and both she and I are old enough to move into this Rossmoor senior center. The people in her senior center are mostly in wheel chairs, and lots of them are senile. We don’t think of ourselves as “old people” who need the care of a senior center. Heck, I have friends who are retired in their late 60s who are not in a senior center. One of our friends and neighbors just entered a rest home but she’s only because she was too frail to be by herself any more.

    Nor do we segregate based on age. My friends run from young kids, to kids in their twenties, parents in their thirties, to seniors. I thought the article was about some place people go to be cared for. I had no idea that there was a market demand for people my age to segregate themselves from the community based on age. I’m not sure why anyone would do this.

    I learned at a very young age that news stories tend to be highly inaccurate, so I tend to be skeptical of them even when they actually contain claims. This article had about as close to zero information as is possible. I don’t think asking for more info before jumping to conclusions is a major fail.

    You misinterpreted my comment. You assumed all sorts of inaccurate information about me. You didn’t take into account that things may be done different in different places. Do you think you are a major fail?

  • brianmacker

    He was claiming it was “old people” and I don’t think of people who are in the 50s and 60s as “old people”. It seems a little silly to be calling someone “ageist” that was just classified as “old people”. I’m in my mid fifties. Perhaps it is “a little ageist” to be referring to people who are in their 50s and 60s as “old people”.

    Then again bamcintyre seems like he’s an “old people” himself using your definition. When I see a guy in his late 50’s to 60’s referring to others as “old people” I tend to think in the 70s-80s range. He didn’t say “old people like me”.

    When I was young and moved from Minnesota to NY people used to get confused when I’d ask for a “pop”, and I also remember some confusion on the terms “regular” vs “medium” sized drinks, sneakers vs tennis shoes, and the like. There are regional differences in language.

    So perhaps there is some language and behavioral differences between the west and east coast. Where I come from people who are called “old people” and need to live in senior centers aren’t out late at night vandalizing stuff.

    Then again, maybe I don’t know the difference between a senior center, a rest home, an assisted living facility, a retirement home, etc. I thought they were euphemisms for places they put “old people” to rot. We call places where high functioning seniors go “retirement communities”.

    “It’s a little ageist to assume adolescents are the only ones capable of destruction.”

    Oh, please. I didn’t assume it was adolescents. I just didn’t think it was wheelchair bound, barely walking, old people. For all I knew it might be adult children of the seniors put away in the senior center, or anyone else who happened to pass by and didn’t like it. I was imagining around 15-50 people living in this senior center, because there was no info.

    Turns out this is a retirement community, not someplace you stick old people.

  • Noelle

    Fair enough. A Senior Center is a place that’s open during the day and offers activities, like dance, yoga, and other exercise classes. They often have a cafe and offer other social activities. Most advertise that their services are encouraged for those 60 and over. They are not live-in facilities with nursing staff.

    What age is one considered a senior citizen? That depends on who you ask. Some places offer a “senior discount” as young as 50 or 55. Others say 60 or 62. Of course, old is a relative term. I’ve known many people over 70 who say they feel plenty young. In 20 years, you may not feel up to being referred to as old either.

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