What are they and Why?
Near Elberton, Georgia, the self-described “Granite Capital of the World,” stands a weird arrangement of granite that has to be seen to be believed. Five giant stone slabs—four tablets and a central “gnomon stone,” each nineteen feet high—support a huge capstone. The tablets are inscribed front and back in English, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Hindi, Chinese, Spanish, and Swahili. In each language, they present a sort of New Age Ten Commandments. Or maybe it’s a graven image that gravely insults religion. Perhaps it’s an enduring reflection of the ideals of Thomas Paine. Then again, it may be an effort by the Rosicrucians, or perhaps the successful dissemination of Satan’s Ten Commandments, or maybe just an elaborate ad for Elberton’s granite industry. On the four sides of the capstone, in four “dead” languages (archaic Sanskrit, Babylonian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and classical Greek) is inscribed “Let These Be Guidestones to an Age of Reason.”
What in the name of reason is this all about?
In 1979, so the mysterious story goes, a guy calling himself only Mr. R. C. Christian wandered into an Elberton bank and ordered up on behalf of an anonymous group “a monument to conservation”—a complicated granite construction now known as the Georgia Guidestones, or America’s answer to Stonehenge. The mystery remains as to who Mr. Christian really is or was—not Ted Turner, not Satan himself (probably), not the head of Elberton’s Chamber of Commerce (well, probably not)—not even Georgia’s current governor, Sonny Perdue.
The Guidestones attract all sorts of visitors—Wiccans, Druids, dowsers, UFO buffs, New Agers of all stripes, tourists, and even astrology and astronomy buffs. Professional astronomers like John Burgess of North Carolina (retired from Georgia’s Fernbank Observatory) are impressed with the astronomical alignments and the markings atop the capstone, though Burgess says that, even with all our modern computer-assisted calculations, the Guidestones are not quite as accurate and impressive as Stonehenge.
The big rocks were quarried, engraved, and installed over a period of weeks in 1979 and 1980 (not snuck in during the night like Chief Justice Roy Moore’s Ten Commandments rock in neighboring Alabama). They were officially unveiled on March 22, 1980. A local historical committee later added an explanatory tablet that promises a time capsule, though as I write the committee has not gotten around to burying it.
Claimed to weigh 238,000 pounds (one pound of polished granite for every mile between Earth and Moon?), the Guidestones were apparently intended by their mysterious sponsors to tell us great truths like “Avoid petty laws and useless officials.” (Maybe we should add Libertarians to the possible list of conspirators.) Otherwise nostrums include “Rule passion—faith—tradition and all things with tempered reason,” and, twice at the end, “Leave room for nature.” All ten guidelines can easily be seen online (just type “Georgia Guide stones” into your favorite search engine). The first, and perhaps most surprising directive, is “Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.” It is one of the most stringent—to say nothing of permanent—recommendations for an optimum human population. Of course, as some angry Christians point out on anti-Guidestone Web sites, getting there would require the slaughter or attrition of 92.3 percent of the world’s population. But hey, you gotta start somewhere to solve the world’s problems, right?
Ed Buckner is southern director for the Council for Secular Humanism.