Pharyngula

War on Christmas, continued

There is a sign among the various holiday displays at the Illinois state capitol, set there by the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

At the time of the winter solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is just myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

I like it, but then I would. Somebody else didn’t like it, which is his right, of course…but what he doesn’t have the right to do is to try and tear the sign down. William Kelly, who is also a candidate for state comptroller (he got his cheap publicity), has the standard cowardly excuse: think of the children!

The fact that sign was immediately in front of the tree, I found that to be disturbing because any family and any child would run up to that tree with a smile on their face, and they would immediately see that sign.

Hide the wimminfolk and babies! There’s atheists in Springfield!

I find nativity scenes to be disturbing. Am I therefore justified in smashing them with a hammer? I rather doubt that Kelly will be able to comprehend the equivalence of that situation.

Comments

  1. #1 Brian
    December 23, 2009

    Or maybe he’s afraid because he realizes that children are far more susceptible to converting to atheism, not having yet had time for decades of ritual habits and fuzzy thinking to ossify.

  2. #2 F
    December 23, 2009

    Think of the children?

    From what I read here, the sign said nothing about there not really being a Santa Claus.

  3. #3 Sastra
    December 23, 2009

    I think that a positive message — though, had it been a choice left to me, I would have left off the last sentence. They would still complain, of course, but with less of a case. After all, hell and damnation is only implied in the joy they wax over the birth of the “Savior.”

    Still, if government property is going to be used to express support for religion, it also has to allow support for naturalism. And the fact that it’s not the majority view makes it more important that it be featured, not less.

    People always go apeshit when it comes to children, and it’s worse with religion. Among other factors, I suspect there’s a tacit recognition that religious beliefs cannot stand on their own. They are more likely to be accepted if there’s a matter-of-fact assumption that of course everyone agrees they’re true, and this is drummed into people from birth. Diversity is only a good thing if the end result is “look how many different ways there are of acknowledging God!”

  4. #4 bastion of sass
    December 23, 2009

    Maybe in front of the tree wasn’t the best placement for the sign. Wasn’t there a nativity scene in front of which the sign could have been placed?!

  5. #5 pixelfish
    December 23, 2009

    It’s the same verbiage as the sign in Washington State last year, which some nutter stole. Deja vu!

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/12/05/atheists.christmas/

  6. #6 raven
    December 23, 2009

    I’m all for Freethinker/Skeptic displays at Xmas time. It is our holiday too. In fact the pagans started it and the xians stole it. The pagans are stealing it back.

    But the lighthearted humorous seasonal ones work best. Nothing says everyone has to be serious all year around.

    I’ve seen worse. The picture of planes flying into the World Trade center with “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies planes into skyscrapers.” Not very seasonal.

    The tree of knowledge with a tree decorated with great books of the past.
    The phylogenetic tree.
    Squidmas
    Or even just a seasonal display, tree decorated, snowpeople, lights.
    Solstice. Glad we are past the Long Dark.
    An all dinosaur nativity scene. LOL Kids love dinosaurs….

    Someone else should be able to come up with some better ideas. Never was too good at exterior decorating.

    And just where are the Wiccan and Pagan Xmas displays? Don’t tell me they couldn’t come up with any. The Norse and Greek pantheonists are sadly missing as well.

  7. #7 stealthdonkey
    December 23, 2009

    Agree with Raven. Especially with regards to all dinosaur nativity scene. Or even a primate nativity scene would be pretty cool (well, you know, a primate nativity scene with representation outside of the homo sapien branch).

  8. #8 Insightful Ape
    December 23, 2009

    Isn’t that the homophobes’ favorite line-they are parading their lifestyle before our children?

  9. #9 martha
    December 23, 2009

    I vote for positive or lighthearted messages. Atheists already have a rep as a bunch of sourpuss abolitionists.

  10. #10 Moggie
    December 23, 2009

    How many documented cases are there of atheists tearing down religious displays? Since we’re the angry, immoral ones, there must be many more than cases like Kelly’s, right?

  11. #11 Kathy Orlinsky
    December 23, 2009

    I never really liked that sign, just because it’s such a downer. It would also be true to say, “hey you’re going to die someday, so just get used to it!” but I don’t think I’d like to see that as a display.

    Even that sentiment is better expressed the way Richard Dawkins does, stating that we’re the lucky ones because we’re going to die and thus had to have lived.

    So, how about something along the lines of ‘there are no gods, and aren’t you lucky to live in an age of science and enlightenment’?

  12. #12 Amicus
    December 23, 2009

    “Shoot for the moon; even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”
    Les Brown

  13. #13 black-wolf72
    December 23, 2009

    It’s funny that in this War On Christmas, it’s consistently one-sided regarding where the violent measures come from. Weird how the terms “militant atheist” and “loving Christian” don’t really convey what’s going on.

  14. #14 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 23, 2009

    Kelly supports free speech, as long as it’s speech he agrees with.

  15. #15 Miki Z
    December 23, 2009

    The last time that we were invited to spend the holidays with our extended family (and there’s a reason it was the last time) was when our son was around 8 or 9. He goes off to play with his cousins and about 10 minutes later there is screaming and crying “You hate me! You don’t like me! Why are you hurting me!” from his cousins.

    Apparently our son told his cousins that if God and Jesus saw how they were acting, He wouldn’t like it, so it’s a good thing there’s not a God.

    His defense to us is still one of my favorite moments from him: “What? I didn’t tell them there’s no Santa, you and Mom warned me about that.”

  16. #16 Newfie
    December 23, 2009

    And just where are the Wiccan and Pagan Xmas displays? Don’t tell me they couldn’t come up with any. The Norse and Greek pantheonists are sadly missing as well.

    http://cbs2chicago.com/politics/capitol.atheist.display.2.1387754.html

    This is the second year the Freedom from Religion sign has been at the Illinois State Capitol.

    Haupt said in addition to the sign, the Nativity Scene and the Christmas tree, there is also a Soldiers’ Angels wreath, and a tabletop display from the American Civil Liberties Union that says the group “defends freedom of religion.” A Hanukkah menorah had also been on display until the Jewish Festival of Lights ended on Saturday.

    For the second year in a row, the Capitol also has an aluminum Festivus pole commemorating the fictional holiday created in “Seinfeld.”

  17. #17 devnull73.myopenid.com
    December 23, 2009

    yeh,I dont like that sign much either. Something more positive would be nice.

    You know, there are lots of positive aspects of atheism. It isnt purely a rejection of theism.

    Negative: “Your mind has been muddled by superstitious nonsense!”
    Positive: “Atheism allows you to see the universe as it really is – empowered by a lack of superstitious thought”

  18. #18 Amicus
    December 23, 2009

    Songs to Make You Smile-
    Top Ten Happy Pop Songs

  19. #19 RagingBullwinkle
    December 23, 2009

    The war on Christmas is going well. Troops are mobilizing on the northern front and the tanks are moving in on the left flank. Soon everything not borrowed from Pagan religions will be gone.

  20. #20 Cuttlefish, OM
    December 23, 2009

    My vote:

    http://digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com/2009/12/atheist-christmas-cuttlefish-classic.html

    I personally think mine is positive and light-hearted enough to probably not have anyone burn it down. On the other hand, it may ruffle some feathers a bit, since we atheists get to take the high ground…

  21. #21 monado
    December 23, 2009

    As a common vandal, he’s proven himself to be ineligible for office, since he can’t restrain himself from criminal acts against those who disagree with him.

  22. #22 monado
    December 23, 2009

    Nice one, Dear Cuttle!

    Maybe by next year someone will have contributed a tune and we’ll have video versions going viral.

  23. #23 David B
    December 23, 2009

    Are there laws against vandalism on the wrong side of the pond?

    If so, can they be enforced? Even if the local powers that be are reluctant to enforce?

    Just askin

    David b

  24. #24 mas528
    December 23, 2009

    Stealthdonkey,

    You’re talking about yesterdays
    Homidae creche.

    I propose a gorilla for the baby,

    Two chimpanzees for Mary and Joe,

    Orangutans as Magi
    A horse, and cow and a human to wallow in their own shit.

    (I know pigs are generally very clean, so I figure that with the plastic in the ocean and AGW humans wallowing in their own filth fit much better. And humans are homidae.

    Breaking form somewhat,
    Maybe some vultures as angels and blackbirds as cherubs.

    Maybe the cherubs should be squid.

    I’m going to go to toystores
    next year to find animals for my desktop nat my desktop nativity diorama.

  25. #25 Capital Dan
    December 23, 2009

    As I said on Facebook when I posted this story:

    Oh, you whacky Christians and your destructive ways. No matter how hard you try, I won’t let you ruin MY Christmas.

  26. #26 speedweasel
    December 23, 2009

    stealthdonkey! I never noticed you before. Our names compliment each other perfectly.

    If you’re not doing anything this holiday season, we could team up and fight crime.

    Coming to a theatre near you this Christmas…

    STEALTHDONKEY AND SPEEDWEASEL
    &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp in
    &nbsp The Case of the Goats on Fire!

    Huh, huh? :)

  27. #27 Capital Dan
    December 23, 2009

    How about a magic trio, Speedweasel?

    It could be, Stealth Donkey, Speed Weasel and Goat Flambé.

  28. #28 Hypatia's Daughter
    December 23, 2009

    Cuttlefish, your poem is wonderful. I saved a copy and if I may be so brazen, I wish to use it on my Solstice cards next year – with accreditation to you and links to your website (home made & non commercial – just to family & friends, of course).

  29. #29 stealthdonkey
    December 23, 2009

    Funnily enough, the only reason my tag is stealthdonkey is that, when I first needed one, sneakyweasle was already taken.

    Also, it almost goes without saying, but I agree to join with you to fight crime.

  30. #30 destlund
    December 23, 2009

    in
    The Case of the Goats on Fire!

    break glass.

  31. #31 aratina cage
    December 23, 2009

    How can it be hate speech? We love (to laugh at) their widdle baby god!

    *sigh* In a sane world, the sign would be redundant and boring to the extreme.

    Religion is just myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

    Enslavement of the mind, yes. Hitchens had something similar to say to Robert Wright at bloggingheads:

    I think [religion is] an attack on our integrity. It says that we are playthings of the supernatural, that we are excused of our own responsibility, and we wouldn?t even know right from wrong if it wasn?t for divine ordination?revelation. I think [if it were true] that makes us contemptible. It makes you a slave right there… you are by definition an unfree person. So, I believe that the crucial emancipation that every individual in every society ultimately has to make is from religion.

    Way to pick a fight with your emancipators from delusion, William Kelly.

  32. #32 Cuttlefish, OM
    December 23, 2009

    Hypatia’s Daughter–
    Why, that would not be brazen,
    That would be golden!

  33. #33 Insightful Ape
    December 23, 2009

    OK here is my question.
    Do “in your face” messages like this one bring in more members, or the suave (yet not much better tolerated) “be good for goodness sake” etc? Anyone having stats on this?
    For the FFRF the bottom line is membership. And you can’t fault them for using a method that works.

  34. #34 destlund
    December 23, 2009

    Do “in your face” messages like this one bring in more members, or the suave (yet not much better tolerated) “be good for goodness sake” etc? Anyone having stats on this?

    These messages got me to come out of the closet about my [lack of] belief. I was an “agnostic” who considered the Tao Te Ching my holy book because it basically said, “There’s shit you’ll never understand, and that’s okay. Any ‘answer to everything’ is bullshit.” It pretty much shielded me from the religious, while giving myself a Taoist “believer” label that they had to respect. The “in your face” messages, made me finally think, “Hey wait a minute, who the fuck are these people to judge me for not believing in their gods?” I know it’s just personal testimony, but religious people eat that shit up. And I mean it. Now that I’m perfectly willing to discuss nonbelief with the religious, I wonder if I won’t talk some sense into one of them someday.

    My point is, regardless of whether it actually changes any minds, it’s very helpful for those of us who disbelieve, but accept our second-class status as a given.

  35. #35 Zeno
    December 24, 2009

    Brace yourself for the people who use “Merry Christmas” as an assault weapon: namely, the ones who screw their faces up in a hideous scowl and scream it at you if you dare say “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” Those latter salutations kick Baby Jesus out of his manger and make him cry!

    Some Christians aren’t very Christian.

  36. #36 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    December 24, 2009

    Articles like this remind me of why I hate, well, everyone.

  37. #37 destlund
    December 24, 2009

    Brace yourself for the people who use “Merry Christmas” as an assault weapon…

    Hell, I already got that at work. I handle communications, and our director tried to inject “Merry Christmas” via a poem into our holiday card. I mentioned that we probably shouldn’t single out Christians with our holiday message and his response was, “That’s why I put it in there. That’s what this is all about, anyway,” which had me gritting my teeth. I had to point out that statistically, 25% of our members are probably not Christians, after which he let me attribute the poem to him. Which I’m fine with; he can spew whatever he wants, as long as he’s willing to take individual responsibility.

  38. #38 tsg
    December 24, 2009

    When the faithist stop telling me I’m going to hell for not believing in their particular sky fairy, I’ll consider being less “in your face”. Until then, this is exactly what we need.

    I’m tired of this bullshit of how atheists have to couch our statements in conditionals while the faithists can say whatever the hell they want without challenge.

    Faith is not a virtue.

  39. #39 jaranath
    December 24, 2009

    I’m the local FFRF member in charge of the sign. I’m also old commenter rrt, now jaranath ’cause I’m struggling with the other registration methods. Some background:

    Last year, I and some other local FFRF members noticed the Illinois Family Institute’s plans to place a nativity in the Capitol rotunda. The Thomas More Society was also involved (think a Chicago version of the Thomas More Law Center of Dover trial fame), and there were comments from IFI officials that led me to suspect the TMS put the IFI up to it specifically to generate a court battle.

    FFRF sent a sign to a local member, which she placed. Then there was some fun with the sign being stolen, replaced, and otherwise messed with. I stepped in to help around then due to other members’ holiday schedules and health issues, and wound up taking it home after Christmas, placing it again this year, and generally keeping an eye on it, though the Secretary of State and the Capitol Police and staff have been FANTASTIC in that regard since the original theft. They deserve big kudos.

    I agree with others: I’m not entirely comfortable with the sign’s language. But that’s the point. FFRF’s position is that the sign needs to be worded in a way that isn’t hateful, but that DOES leave religious readers uncomfortable, just as the nativity leaves us. I don’t think it’s about membership in this case, but rather attempting to provoke a specific reaction that might lead to the desired outcome (dropping displays.) Baldly stating that religion is myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds accomplishes that provocation nicely. The latter two are undeniable fact, and the former two are at least valid opinion…certainly we think they’re true, and it’s valid to say them. The door swings both ways, and they’re trying to make that abundantly clear.

    Ultimately we’d like the State to disallow any such displays, including ours. As Sastra says, government property is being used to express support for religion, and we’d rather it not be used at all in that way, nor for anti-religion. Especially because when government property is used, it’s usually specifically BECAUSE it’s government property, attempting to associate the speech with the government.

    To that end FFRF hopes that enough displeasure is aroused, especially once you have additional items like the menorah (Lubavitch-backed IIRC), the ACLU display and the Festivus pole, that everybody decides the whole thing’s more trouble than it’s worth and the State stops issuing permits at all.

    Like I said, I’m uncomfortable with the language, too. I’m really quite meek and diplomatic by nature. But at present I agree with the Foundation’s approach, which means it needs to be disturbing. I’m not sure how to do that without some language like that. I’m sure the Foundation would like suggestions, though (nice poem, Cuttle, as always!) Who knows, maybe next year I can proudly place your atheist screed! :)

  40. #40 hyoid
    December 24, 2009

    Amicus @12, I understand what Les means, but we are already among the stars. If fact, we are star stuff. (I know, I know. I just thought I’d say it. Sorry for any inconvenience I may have caused.)

  41. #41 JHS
    December 24, 2009

    Religion is infantile wish fulfillment writ large. Period. It’s remarkable that (most) adults wink knowingly as their children go on and on about Santa and then are Oh So Serious about “Jesus [being] the reason for the season,” etc. At a certain point kids realize and/or are told that Santa isn’t real. Why do adults never realize that that other imaginary friend and supposed benefactor, god, isn’t real, either? The cognitive dissonance boggles my mind.

    (And yes, I put up a tree with lights and decorate the house in general wintry theme; get together with friends and family and celebrate the year’s triumphs, mourn its losses, and express hope for the new year; exchange gifts during said celebration; and generally let those dearest to me know that I love and appreciate them as the year draws to a close. And none of that requires even a hint of religion or credulity in the supernatural.)

  42. #42 dustycrickets
    December 24, 2009

    The phrase “hardened hearts” made me think of this quote by RAW:

    ?The Bible tells us to be like God, and then on page after page it describes God as a mass murderer. This may be the single most important key to the political behavior of Western Civilization.?

    http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2918.Robert_Anton_Wilson

  43. #43 John Morales
    December 24, 2009

    jaranath, thanks for the comment. Always good to hear from the principals.

  44. #44 Holytape
    December 24, 2009

    I find nativity scenes to be disturbing

    That’s because none of the nativity scenes are realistic. They are always too fake and too clean. Mary is always happy and clean, although she just had a bastard child in a barn, with animal feces about. Joseph is always at her side, even though he had just been cuckolded into raising another person’s child as his first born.
    On the other hand realistic nativity scenes are equally disturbing.

  45. #45 Frankencone
    December 24, 2009

    So says someone who uses a snuff scene as their religious symbol of choice. Ah, the hypocrisy. It is so delicious and fulfilling.

  46. #46 Jimmy
    December 24, 2009

    Thanks for the great explanation, jaranath! Your goal is most laudable and appreciated. A few more pissed of Jeebans can only be a good thing. Of course I’m also reminded why I truly hate this time of year. In the words of Linus from Peanuts, “I love humanity, it’s people I can’t stand.”

  47. #47 mtgap.wordpress.com
    December 24, 2009

    I just want to announce that this is my first Pharyngula Christmas. (I discovered Pharyngula about ten months ago.) I feel like my rational and religion-free life is more enriched than ever. Thank you, readers of Pharyngula and PZ Myers!

  48. #48 neon-elf.myopenid.com
    December 24, 2009

    It’s my first Pharyngula Squidmas, too.
    Looking forward to a 2010 full of poll crashing, humour, interesting discussions with intelligent people, idiotic fundy trolls, and all the other good things I’ve found here. And not forgetting…GOATS ON FIRE!!!

  49. #49 Rorschach
    December 24, 2009

    PZ said :

    I find nativity scenes to be disturbing

    Why ? They dont bother me at all, I just ignore then, I assume in the US they are more in your face then over here, the worst you get here is the xmas displays at Myer, and they’re actually quite nice.

    I wished everyone at work happy holidays today,I think they just thought I dont know what the right english equivalent for the german version of “merry xmas” is, or maybe they just thought that I’m weird.

    Rutee @ 36,

    Articles like this remind me of why I hate, well, everyone.

    I feel similar at times and think I want to despair over mankind, but it is not a state of mind that is beneficial for your physical and mental health in the long run…:-)

  50. #50 neon-elf.myopenid.com
    December 24, 2009

    @Rorschach:

    When I was little (back in the dim dark ages) going into the city from the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne to look at the Myer windows was a big deal every Xmas.

    Thanks for reminding me of enjoyable childhood moments I’d forgotten.

  51. #51 Jesu Ad Nauseum
    December 24, 2009

    I really think nativity scenes would be better if they were set up to depict Mary actually giving birth to Jesus. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a dilated vagina!

  52. #52 Rorschach
    December 24, 2009

    If i see one more “ad nauseum” here( yes I’m also talking to you Sven !) I swear I’m going to start posting latin lessons.

    ;)

  53. #53 WilliamJansen
    December 24, 2009

    Well, the bigger and broader story is that the police did their job, protected the display and it still stands proud as a sign of diversity of opinions. Good job by most involved.

  54. #54 MadScientist
    December 24, 2009

    This christmas thing is like the jesus zombie – it just won’t stay dead!

    And for Garrison Keillor, I’ll have my own parties and sing any damn song I want to, even if it’s a ripoff of some christmas song. I never liked your bird book anyway. How dare the jesus cultists tell the rest of the world to go away when they stole these good ol’ pagan traditions. Imagine – if they didn’t ape these pagan parties, they’d be even more hellishly boring! They might have to invent magic underwear or something in a desperate attempt to appear cool.

    Jingle bells, jesus smells …

  55. #55 raven
    December 24, 2009

    I find nativity scenes trite and boring. A bunch of plastic animals staring at a few plastic people. That is why I think it is time for an all dinosaur nativity scene.

    The trees with the ornaments and the lights are great though.

  56. #56 pixelfish
    December 24, 2009

    I like Christmas as a cultural celebration (particularly some of the German and Scandanavian traditions) as long as I’m free to adapt and pick and choose the aspects of it that I celebrate. (Which, of course, I am. It’s only peeps like Keillor who get their knickers in a twist about it.)

    And as long as folks are not using public funds to promote one religion, I generally have no problem with whatever displays private institutions put up.

    (My boyfriend wishes the Christmas-time buskers would stop busking in front of his poorly sealed office window though, and I can not say I blame him. He can hear them through his headphones and he’s trying to script.)

    Anyway, I think Garrison Keillor is a grinchly grinch of the highest order, willing to deny pleasures of holiday celebration to those who believe differently. His heart is two sizes too small, evidently.

  57. #57 Sven DiMilo
    December 24, 2009

    “ad nauseum”

    nauseam. right.
    thanks for the schoolin’

  58. #58 Sven DiMilo
    December 24, 2009

    Speaking of nausea, need a good retch this morning?

  59. #59 pixelfish
    December 24, 2009

    Thanks, I didn’t know that either. (ie. ad nauseam)

  60. #60 Sven DiMilo
    December 24, 2009

    (oops…meant to link to Coyne’s post, not my stupid comment. But feel free to retch at that, too.

  61. #61 Q.E.D
    December 24, 2009

    Zeno @35

    “Brace yourself for the people who use “Merry Christmas” as an assault weapon: namely, the ones who screw their faces up in a hideous scowl and scream it at you if you dare say “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.”

    This just happened to me in an email from the rowing club of my alma mater, Georgetown. After asking for money the letter signed off: “Merry Christmas in the season of the birth of our Lord and Saviour”. The university was founded buy Jesuits so I had no problems with the “Merry Christmas” bit but the “our lord and saviour” stuff was just an aggressive, unsupported truth claim. So I wrote back reminding him that I support my university and my GU rowing association but he may be alienating the many non-christians that attended Georgetown. Some of whom have quite a few dollars to donate (our Middle East studies building was funded by a single, non-christian donor)

    Fund raising fail

  62. #62 zhu-wuneng
    December 24, 2009

    I gave up religion a while back, am fairly certain the god I was worshiping doesn’t exist and never did. I have come to believe that it is not only important but necessary for the future of civilization to break the back of organized religion. And yet…I don’t really feel like using Christmas as a platform to do so. I think using it as a chance to advertise makes atheists look (rightly or wrongly) like a bunch of scrooges and won’t provoke thought from anyone, just seem like a triumphalist “yeah, us too!” type of statement.

    The “Merry Christmas”-as-weapon people….Jesus, tell me about it. Once around 6 years ago I was delivering lunch to a local right wing radio host, a G.Gordon Liddy Clone with a big US flag hung on the studio wall. As he gave me my customary dollar tip, he growled “Merry Christmas” with all the joy of a wolverine. It was really weird.

  63. #63 Andyman
    December 24, 2009

    If God was real, I would like to ask him the following for christmas:

    “You took away my favourite actor Patrick Swayze. You took away my favourite actress Brittany Murphy. You took away my favourite singer Michael Jackson so just to let you know, my favourite politician is Michele Bachmann and my favourite pundit Rush Limbaugh.”

  64. #64 Judy L.
    December 24, 2009

    December isn’t the season of the birth of Jesus, it was a time chosen by committee 300 years after the supposed life of Jesus so that Christians could have a holiday during the Winter Solstice.

    It irks me that Christians think their religious imagery is either beautiful or innocuous and lack the imagination to conceive that others may view it otherwise. The central image in Christianity is a crucifix: a man in the throes of being violently tortured to death, which to the rational viewer is simply harrowing and and obscene. It’s just become such a banal image that most of us don’t see that it’s just as awful as say, the image of a baby being roasted on a spit.

    That said, the Freedom from Religion sign mentioned doesn’t sound very festive (unless is was festooned with pretty lights, as all things should be this time of year, when the days are short and it’s cold and dreary outside). My stepfather used to put up a holiday lighted decoration on his lawn: a big bright dollar sign.

  65. #65 daveau
    December 24, 2009

    It seems a bit disingenuous of Mr Kelly, since his kids are probably illiterate…

  66. #66 Sven DiMilo
    December 24, 2009

    Notice that you never see the word “merry” in any other context? Why is that the only acceptable adjective?

  67. #67 Miki Z
    December 24, 2009

    This year the local mall (I live in Japan) got “Merry Christmas” (“me-ri kurisumasu”) spelled right, but last year the whole mall was festooned with “Merry Chritmas” decorations.

  68. #68 zhu-wuneng
    December 24, 2009

    Miki, I live in China right now and it’s exactly the same here. I think we have more Christians than Japan, though.

  69. #69 Miki Z
    December 24, 2009

    Probably by a lot. The estimate here is 2% Christian, about half the proportion estimated for China.

  70. #70 Sven DiMilo
    December 24, 2009

    me-ri sukuwidumasu to all!

  71. #71 Miki Z
    December 24, 2009

    This is the time of year when the street vendors sell not only roasted chestnuts but roasted squid. The roasted squid (also squid jerky) is available all year, but usually only at the grocer.

  72. #72 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawnTAiIRbRIpbzIZTtwLDKEdcE21mgEUtpI
    December 24, 2009

    I found that to be disturbing because any family and any child would run up to that tree with a smile on their face, and they would immediately see that sign.

    So? It’s not like it’s porn. I mean seriously? How sexually repressed do you have to be in order to find a sign encouraging reasoned thought to be offensive? Someone should put up a collage of pictures of what happens to an Iraqi child when it encounters an undetonated US munition. By the time these fuckheads are done looking at mince that used to be children, maybe they’ll have a little more perspective on what’s offensive.

  73. #73 Sven DiMilo
    December 24, 2009

    One look at that sign and bam! 12 years of hard brainwashing work down the tubes.

  74. #74 Andyman
    December 24, 2009

    @#70

    Let’s write that in katakana, the Japanese version used for transcripting foreign words

    ??????????

  75. #75 Antiochus Epiphanes
    December 24, 2009

    There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.

    This is the most liberating idea in the history of the world. Maybe a bumper sticker should read:

    There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. Smile! You are NOT on candid camera

    Still have this holiday bullshit, though. Urgh. Nothing like 70 degrees with 90% humidity in E. Texas to put one in the spirit of things. Hell…I could live inside a Norman Rockwell painting and I would still want to set the whole thing ablaze.

  76. #76 CalGeorge
    December 24, 2009

    “There is only our natural world.”

    Plus a whole lot of kooky people who refuse to live in it.

  77. #77 Legion
    December 24, 2009

    Xian zealots who wish to curb free speech should be careful about what they wish for.

    If saying “Religion is just myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds,” is considered hate speech, then they’ve painted themselves into a corner, because by simply preaching their gospel, they are saying that those who do not believe as they do are evil people.

    This is hateful to Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Wiccans, Pastafarians, and Atheists.

    Sooo, they better watch out,
    better not cry,
    better not pout,
    we’re tellin’ you why,
    Atheists are coming, to town.

  78. #78 blf
    December 24, 2009

    I find nativity scenes trite and boring. A bunch of plastic animals staring at a few plastic people.

    In the seaside village I’m currently in in France, there’s a display—not a nativity scene—with real live animals (piglets, geese, sheep, and so on). It’s apparently a local tradition, or so I’m guessing, as it’s been constructed every year that I’ve been here. Whilst it’s in the square behind the main church, I’ve no idea if they have anything to do with it or not. It’s not religious at all (unless you worship animals), and the children certainly like it.

    I imagine the animals are none-too-happy about the current weather, albeit they have shelters and are obviously well cared for.

  79. #79 tsg
    December 24, 2009

    Brace yourself for the people who use “Merry Christmas” as an assault weapon: namely, the ones who screw their faces up in a hideous scowl and scream it at you if you dare say “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.”

    A few “friends” on Facebook are currently wishing everyone a “Merry CHRISTmas”.

    Only a Christian could find a way to be offended by someone saying “Happy Holidays” to them….

  80. #80 Sven DiMilo
    December 24, 2009

    I’m sorry. Really I am. Just one more time, I promise:
    http://i.imgur.com/HoFee.jpg

  81. #81 Sven DiMilo
    December 24, 2009
  82. #82 Sven DiMilo
    December 24, 2009

    tee-hee:
    http://i48.tinypic.com/2dl69vs.jpg

    ok I’m done

  83. #83 VonWatters
    December 24, 2009

    Talking of nativity scenes there’s a more realistic one in the Guardian today, complete with half-meter separation wall and guard tower.
    http://tinyurl.com/ydafk69

  84. #84 Mr T
    December 24, 2009

    Don’t you people realize the proper spelling is “naïveté scène“?

    Now, back to our regularly scheduled War!

    Fight ’til the very end!

  85. #85 Zeno
    December 24, 2009

    Fight ’til the very end!

    Don’t you people realize that “till” is a perfectly good English word and no one ever needs to use the apostrophized version of “until”?

  86. #86 aratina cage
    December 24, 2009

    Sven,

    Super Saturnalia to you, too!

  87. #87 blf
    December 24, 2009

    ok I’m done

    Should we start a pool? Winner feeds the Kraken of her/his choice a special holiday treat—Sven.

    Happy MonkeysMunchies!

  88. #88 Mr T
    December 24, 2009

    Zeno: it’s a fine word. I thought both are acceptable.

    Till I till the soil, I’ll keep the money in the till.

  89. #89 aratina cage
    December 24, 2009

    Don’t you people realize that “till” is a perfectly good English word

    As seen in many a hymnal and heard in many a hymn for us ex-Dog-botherers.

  90. #90 Kemist
    December 24, 2009

    My stepfather used to put up a holiday lighted decoration on his lawn: a big bright dollar sign.

    He at least understood that consumption is the reason for the season.

  91. #91 recovering catholic
    December 24, 2009

    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank PZ for linking to Champaign Illinois’ own Phil Ferguson, secularist, humanist, atheist, and owner of the new blog Skeptic Money!

  92. #92 Qwerty
    December 24, 2009

    Ahhh… We just had the annual Christmas event in my department at work. The traditional playing of “Oh, Holy Night” sung by a man whose voice gets more off-key and screechier as the song continues. We all laughed.

  93. #93 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    December 24, 2009

    “I feel similar at times and think I want to despair over mankind, but it is not a state of mind that is beneficial for your physical and mental health in the long run…:-)”

    I don’t really despair about it, it just reminds me of why I hate Christians (Which in turn reminds me of why I hate both religion and atheists, etc). I’m usually perfectly fine with everyone, since I’m usually not thinking of when they’re being idiots.

  94. #94 SEF
    December 24, 2009

    @ Sven DiMilo #66:

    Notice that you never see the word “merry” in any other context?

    In the UK there’s Robin Hood and his merry men. There’s also the merry merry month of May (which even UnSAnians should know about, judging by the Apollo moon landings)

  95. #95 destlund
    December 24, 2009

    Oh yes, I make merry at every opportunity.

  96. #96 SEF
    December 24, 2009

    @ monado #22:

    Tunes are easy. Many carols/hymns have picked up several over the years. The one which first fitted itself to Cuttlefish’s verse in my head was a very simple 6/8 thing which goes (in C):

    C | F G F E D C | D C D ½E G.
    C | F G F E D C | D C D C+

    twice over. Except it then demanded to have a sort of refrain, picking up on a section of the last line each time:

    – | F++ E+ C | D C D E+ (or ½E G.)
    – | F++ E+ C | D C D C+

    eg “No gods, just people we know” x2
    or “No gods, just people we love” x2
    or “‘No gods!’ we’ve wanted to say” x2
    or “No gods, no son-of-god’s birth” x2
    or “No gods the rest of the year” x2

    … but all sorts of tunes would work.

  97. #97 Peter G.
    December 24, 2009

    Oh Boy! It’s almost time to make Mary. Only if she’s in the mood of course.

  98. #98 Meathead
    December 24, 2009

    Just remember those atheist signs are just as much an offense against Hanukkah, when, though the temple elders had only one GOAT, which should only have burned for one night, it miraculously burned for 8. Just keep that in mind you godless cretins!

  99. #99 Meathead
    December 24, 2009

    Kemist:

    He at least understood that consumption is the reason for the season.

    Wait, so Jebus came to save us from TB?

  100. #100 Peter G.
    December 24, 2009

    One can generally find a silver ling to any cloud if one looks hard enough. Life sized nativity scenes, for example, are the perfect site for dead stock disposal while the dumps are closed.

  101. #101 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 24, 2009

    A couple of days ago I wished someone “happy holidays.” He growled at me “You mean ‘Merry Christmas’.” So I replied “Okay, unhappy holidays.”

  102. #102 Amicus
    December 24, 2009
  103. #103 Zebra
    December 26, 2009

    Had to laugh yesterday, saw a house with multi-colored “Christmas” lights arranged out front in the shape of…a crucifix.

    “Merry Wintertime Reminder of Salvation by Torture & Human Sacrifice”?

  104. #104 raven
    December 26, 2009

    “Merry Wintertime Reminder of Salvation by Torture & Human Sacrifice”?

    LOL, that is funny. I like it.

    Merry Wintertime Depiction of a Roman Execution Method to you too.

  105. #105 Peter Clarke
    December 27, 2009

    Though I understand the frustration of the sentiment that the celebration for xmas was originally a pagan celebration for the winter solstice I believe that an opportunity was missed again by Atheists. The idea of the winter solstice was apparent before christianity and was a powerful and emotional time for the communities that celebrated it. So would the original identity be better and a more effective approach by any atheist? The days are getting longer, the Sun is rising into the sky and the days of harvest is approaching when the food supplies were diminishing. Let our atheist approach move away from the god attack which seems to fall on ignorant ears and celebrate Nature and its wonder and how important the survival of our and every species is linked to this most wonderful event. Telling the local populace that the depths of winter is now passed and we approach the longer days of spring is a more powerful and embracing attitude that most people may accept.

  106. #106 Notagod
    January 3, 2010

    Peter Clarke,

    As far as I am concerned Peter, the christians owe atheists respect before that can happen. Atheists have been trampled by christians for long enough.

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