The Freedom From Religion Foundation has won the right to post an anti-religion display next to a Christmas tree and a naticity scene in the Capitol rotunda in Washington State:
An atheist group has unveiled an anti-religion placard in the state Capitol, joining a Christian Nativity scene and “holiday tree” on display during December.
The atheists’ sign was installed Monday by Washington members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national group based in Madison, Wis.
With a nod to the winter solstice – the year’s shortest day occurring in late December – the placard reads: “At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”
I like it!
Now, this is the place where one gets lectured about how anytime an atheist does something other than sit quietly in his home, he is just going to inflame religious folks and start a backlash. That is nonsense for two reasons. The first is simply that the way you gain social acceptance for a point of view is by making it so ubiquitous and visbile that people eventually come to accept it as normal. The second is typified by the article itself:
[Local real estate agent Ron] Wesselius agrees with the state’s decision to allow the atheist display and says to let the public decide what to believe.
On Monday, the Nativity scene and atheist sign were installed alongside each other in a hallway between the state Senate and House chambers, separated by a large bust of the state’s namesake, George Washington.
Asked whether he was bothered by the atheist display next to his Nativity scene, Wesselius said, “I think the Nativity scene will speak for itself.” But he added, “I appreciate freedom of speech and freedom of access. That’s why they’re in there, and hey – you know, that’s great.”
Mr. Wesselius was the fellow who fought for the nativity scene. I suspect his reaction is pretty typical of religious folks generally, most of whom do not get bent out of shape by being reminded there are atheists around. Most religious folks will greet the atheist display with a shrug of the shoulders (which is, after all, how atheists generally respond to the ubiquitous religious displays with which they disagree), or perhaps with a raise of the eyebrows due to the novelty of it. The signficant fraction of the church-going public for whom church is about socializing, as opposed to getting right with God, will probably smile inwardly.
Alas, it is inevitable that not everyone will be so even-tempered about the situation. Here’s Bill O’Reilly explaining the true significance of the display:
Now, this is political correctness gone mad. There’s no reason whatsoever to allow an anti-religious sign to be posted alongside a Christmas display. It is inappropriate and out of context.
Christmas is a federal holiday honoring a religious man, Jesus. We also honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in this country. Does that mean we have to put up a sign next to his likeness to appease those who may not like his religious affiliation? Of course not.
The buck stops with Governor Gregoire, who refused to even issue a statement about this, and she walks past that sign everyday. She is a weak, confused leader who is allowing a small fanatical group parity in Christmas displays.
I mean, how crazy is this? What’s next, an atheist display next to the “Welcome to Corpus Christi, Texas” sign?
Governor Gregoire’s phone number is 360-902-4111, and you should respectfully tell her how you feel about this, because if cowardly politicians don’t get the message, we can kiss our traditions goodbye in this country.
If atheists want a public holiday honoring the Winter Solstice, fine. Petition your congressperson. We don’t celebrate Ramadan in this country because our traditions are Judeo-Christian, not Muslim, not agnostic.
Washington state is ground zero for just about every nutty secular cause on earth. But this time, the state has embarrassed itself and the nation.
I wonder if O’Reilly understands that Jesus was not a Christian. And the national holiday for Christmas has nothing to do with honoring Jesus as a man of great accomplishment who happened to be religious. It is not comparable to the holiday for Martin Luther King. The holiday was actually established in the 1870’s as part of the general Christian revival in America at that time. I have no problem with that. Christmas is important to so many people that it makes sense on practical grounds to make it a holiday (just as some or all of Rosh Hoshanah is often a holiday in areas with large Jewish populations.) But let us please drop any nonsense that Christmas is a secular holiday recognized by all. This is not Thanksgivign, for heaven’s sake.
And the context here is simply that the Government is not allowed to endorse one particular religious view over another, which it would surely be doing if it made its space open only to representatives of one particular religion.
Personally, I would prefer that government buildings remain free of annoying religious baubles. Those Christians who simply must have visual reminders of their holidays will simply have to make do with decorating their homes, their churches, and any private businesses that care to participate. But if we are going to get the government involved in the religion business, we had better be willing to tolerate some basic fairness as we do so.