Atheist Sign Stolen

As I write this, Bill O'Reilly has devoted a major chunk of his show to how “out of control” the situation in Washington is. He dug up some troll of a preacher to declare that Christmas is the most sacred of Christian holidays (which is absurd). And he's lambasting Governor Gregoire for her fecklessness.

The occasion for this is that the big sign was stolen today.

An anti-religion placard posted alongside Christmas displays drew a thief, a preacher, a part-time elf and a security detail to the state Capitol on Friday, as a weeklong uproar over religious speech hit a bizarre peak.

It all started Monday, when the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation unveiled a winter solstice sign in the grand marble hallways around the Capitol Rotunda.

The sign's atheistic message - reading in part that "religion is but myth and superstition" - drew top billing on conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly's TV show.

Several days of angry messages to Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire followed, and on Friday morning, someone removed the atheists' sign and apparently hustled it out of the Capitol.

Not to worry! The sign has been recovered. The article goes on to describe some of the other shenanigans that have surrounded the sign.

Meanwhile, I'm beginning to think O'Reilly may have a point about Gregoire. Here's the statement her office released about the sign:

Last year, after a federal lawsuit was filed against the state of Washington by the Alliance Defense Fund, the state's Department of General Administration set forth a policy allowing individuals or groups to sponsor a display regardless of that individual's or group's views.

The Legislative Building belongs to all citizens of Washington state, and houses the state Legislature, as well as the offices of several state-elected executives, including the governor. The U.S. Supreme Court has been consistent and clear that, under the Constitution's First Amendment, once government admits one religious display or viewpoint onto public property, it may not discriminate against the content of other displays, including the viewpoints of non-believers.

Don't look at us! We don't want this infernal sign! We're being forced to by those mean 'ol courts.

This is good news, folks. I still believe that it is a small minority of people who get worked up about things like this. Most people, regardless of what they think of the sign, are not going to be impressed by thieves and self-promoting preachers.

O'Reilly is on in the background as I write this. He has moved on to whining about how bad it is that Prop 8 supporters are sometimes referred to as bigots by Prop 8 opponents. Cry me a river.


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"O'Reilly is on in the background as I write this. He has moved on to whining about how bad it is that Prop 8 supporters are sometimes referred to as bigots by Prop 8 opponents. Cry me a river."

Yeah, a whole class of people just their rights voted away, but clearly gay-rights opponents are suffering more for such reasons.

I'd love to see a serious study comparing the reaction of atheists to the presence of religion (excluding unconstitutional establishment of religion in government, of course) to the reaction of theists to the presence of atheism.

IOW, I think it's pretty telling that the mere statement of "Hey, you know you might be wrong about that" seems so much more threatening coming from an atheist than coming from a theist.

"He dug up some troll of a preacher to declare that Christmas is the most sacred of Christian holidays (which is absurd)."

It's absurd? So which holiday IS the most sacred Christian holiday, then? Or perhaps you're implying that it's not a Christian holiday at all. I guess you prefer to believe in Santa Claus, who was, after all, based on a Saint. But it's not a Christian holiday.

MC -

I think you'll find that Easter is generally considered more sacred than Christmas. Jesus' death (and subsequent resurrection) was far more significant than his birth. In the United States Christmas was not considered an especially big deal until roughly the 1870's.

Two Years Before the Mastby Richard Henry Dana, original copyright 1840:

p. 56: Thursday, December 25th. This day was Christmas, but it brought us no holiday. The only change was that we had a "plum duff" for dinner, and the crew quarrelled with the steward because he did not give us our usual allowance of molasses to eat with it.

p. 154: There's no danger of Catholicism's spreading in New England, unless the Church cuts down her holidays; Yankees can't afford the time. American shipmasters get nearly three weeks' more labor out of their crews, in the course of a year, than the masters of vessels from Catholic countries. As Yankees don't usually keep Christmas, and shipmasters at sea never know when Thanksgiving comes, Jack has no festival at all.

By Reginald Selkirk (not verified) on 06 Dec 2008 #permalink

O'Reilly is on in the background as I write this. He has moved on to whining about how bad it is that Prop 8 supporters are sometimes referred to as bigots by Prop 8 opponents.

Yeah, why is everybody being so mean to those bigots? Bigots just can't catch a break these days. It's intolerance, I tells ya!

By Alex, FCD (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

As I just got done posting on my blog, while I agree with the contents of the sign, I thought the sign was in poor taste. In the general scheme of things, though, a sign saying that the plastic Jesus isn't real, really isn't a big deal.

MC, early radical Protestants didn't celebrate Christmas at all on the whole, which is why it's ironic that it's radical Protestants who are leading all this brouhaha today. The Pilgrims regarded it, quite reasonably, as pagan and ignored it; their co-thinkers back in England formally abolished it as a holiday when they came to power in the 1640s.

On the other hand, Easter marks the core events of what Christianity is all about: "He... was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into Hell. On the third day he rose again from the dead..." Without this claim, Christianity is essentially meaningless, and Jesus' ministry was at best the career of an important prophet, as Muslims believe.

I'm not a believer, but I find it fascinating to watch millions of people working themselves up into a lather in defence of a religion, when they evidently don't have the first understanding of it themselves.