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Will Yale Humanist Obelisk Increase Religious Tolerance?

Yale Humanists Erect Sculpture, Aim for Inclusion
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Yale Humanists Erect Sculpture, Aim for Inclusion

Christmas is a time for celebration in New Haven, as the Yale community so well knows. Walking through the Green, one notices the Christmas tree, Nativity scene, and menorah in the park. This year, the Green had a temporary addition to these festive symbols – the Obelisk.

Will Yale Humanist Obelisk Increase Religious Tolerance?[/tweetthis]

Looking at the 12-foot steel structure with its nine sides, a visitor would not be able to tell its significance. But as Chris Stedman, author, and head of the Yale Humanist Community acknowledges, the Obelisk represents much of the area’s history. It celebrates inclusion.

Years ago, Puritans arrived and built nine neighborhoods around the New Haven Green. The design the strictly religious sect used was supposedly inspired by the bible.

The Obelisk sits in the Green, on the very land that these Puritans designated for the religious community. However, it does not represent any specific faith. The Obelisk, paying homage to the eponymous Elihu Yale’s son’s obelisk grave and the New Haven lighthouse, stands as a reminder that community is more important to everyone, whether religious or non-religious.

The location of the steel sculpture is not the only feature of the Obelisk that hints at its inclusive message. As designed by local architect Edwin ‘Ted’ Salmon, the sculpture has human figures each from a seemingly different neighborhood in New Haven. Stedman stated that the idea behind the figures and the blue light that shines from within the sculpture is that the Obelisk becomes a symbol of ‘hope, beauty, and light,’ bringing together people from all walks of life with their varied beliefs and values.

Stedman is an advocate for inclusion. He celebrates the fact that even those that do not subscribe to any religious belief have their own contributions to make regarding value and ethics, as does the sculpture that sits in the heart of New Haven.


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