Monday, August 25, 2008

Joseph Coveney

Paster Wardle's blog offered a link to a video by a young minister named Rob Wegner. The video takes place in a cemetery and starts with Rob near the monument of Joseph Coveney, a notable free thinker of the mid to late 1800's. After some comments, Rob then moves over to the grave of Del Fehsenfeld, in the same cemetery.

I remember Del. Though I never met him, back in the early 1980's, when I was a church go-er, his Life Action Singers came to my church and performed their musical. Del died back in the late 1980's at a young age.

The differences - Joseph Coveney was an atheist. Del Fehsenfeld was a Christian.

In a nut shell, what Rob Wegner does in his video is point out how much more attractive it is to believe in eternity after death, as apposed to believing that, at death, that is it, no afterlife.

Now, in case you are wondering, especially if you haven't watched the video, no, Rob offers absolutely no evidence that there is an afterlife. Perhaps this video is just to wet our appetite, and perhaps the evidence will follow in subsequent videos, though that is highly doubtful.

Joseph Coveney was a self made man, worked hard, built a fortune, generously supported his community, and lived his entire adult life as an atheist and died at a very old age for his time, 92.
His monument, which was more a monument to free thought than to himself, was defaced by vandals, at least one of whom was the son of a local minister.

One particular comment of Rob"s I take exception with - He says that the news paper of the time described the inscriptions on Josephs monument as "slanderous inscriptions against Christianity", he continues "Now-a-days, slanderous inscriptions against Christianity end up on the New York Times Bestseller List."
I am assuming he is referring to the recent publication of best selling books by the likes of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens.
I have to wonder what it is about those books that Rob finds slanderous?
I think this is very revealing. Rob considers any intellectual oral or written attack on Christianity as slander. Just as most informed Christians today would. Those who speak ill of the faith of a person is almost guaranteed to receive sarcasm or lies in the form of an holy rebuke.

Rob moves on the the headstone of Del Fehsenfeld, the Christian. On the headstone it reads:

HE KNEW GOD
HE LOVED GOD
HE WALKED WITH GOD
HE BELIEVED GOD
HE LIVED AND DIED
FOR THE GLORY OF GOD

Fine. This is what Del believed. But for all that he did, as attested to by the inscription on his headstone, there is not one single shred of evidence that his cause, his God, is real. And while I have no doubt that he truly believed in God, and no doubt that he influenced many more people in his short life than Joseph did in his long life, to what end? Propagating a myth?

I realize that Robs video and Pastor Wardle's blog are intended for one audience, Christians. But they have to expect that non Christians (since we have access to their thoughts on the web) will read, listen, and watch from time to time, just to see what those who consign us heathens to the ash heap they call hell, are saying.

Anyway, here is a tidbit on Joseph Coveney.

The story of the Coveney family in America begins with Joseph, who arrived in New York at the age of 20 in 1825. He seems to have been destitute and without financial assistance from anyone, because his name appears on the Bond Registers for the New York City Almshouse, for June 18, 1825, about a month after his arrival. Joseph Coveney may have lacked money and friendship in his early days in America, but he certainly did not lack ambition. He learned and later mastered the carpentry trade. It was also during his early life in America that he was reading newspaper articles by Thomas Paine, which would later influence his views on religion.
When the California Gold Rush occurred, Joseph went west and earned good money working as a carpenter there. When living in Buchanan, Michigan, he bought a good deal of real estate and became a prosperous farmer. He was well-known and respected in Buchanan for his generosity in providing additional financial support to the public school, but he was most known for his freethinking ideals.

In Ireland Joseph had been an Episcopalian, but he became an atheist after reading the works of Paine and Voltaire. He openly expressed his views to anyone at anytime and his tombstone in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Buchanan is a tribute to his freethinking ideals. The ornate tombstone has become something of a tourist attraction because of its bold and irreverent statements. A few examples are as follows: “Nature is the true God. Science the true religion. The more religion, the more lying. The more Saints, The more Hypocrites.” There was even an article on his death in the New York Times with the headline “Death of an Infidel: Last Words of Joseph Coveney of Michigan were ‘Die as I lived.’”

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