Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Conniption over Christmas

In Washington state, this sign was put up this holiday season next to a nativity scene, a Chanukah display and some other religious observances. As you might imagine, this played right in to Bill O'Reilly's favorite myth, the War on Christmas.

How dare they!

Some right wing talk radio inspired pinhead stole the sign. I use this term because said pinhead turned the sign in to a local right wing talk radio station, who called the cops. The cops are considering the incident an act of theft, shockingly enough, and are investigating.

I don't need presents this year, but if this guy could spend Christmas in the can, that would certainly add to my holiday spirit.

I can understand why some people would be upset about this sign. While I largely agree with the sentiment, the phrase starting with "Religion is but..." would say that the following definition is all that religion is, and there I disagree. Religion is other things as well, and not all the religious have hardened hearts and enslaved minds.

But those who are the most offended by this are also those whose hearts have been hardened and minds enslaved. Sadly in this country, and in much of the world, the loudest proponents of faith are really big on the One True Faith message, which of course means that everyone else's different faith is just a myth or superstition, like the poster says. Even worse, their One True Faith decides that some people are too wicked or too hypnotized by their superstition to be given full rights of citizenship, or in extreme situations, do not even deserve to live.

I do not think this sign is the best way to start the conversation, but the conversation needs starting. The idea that people who reject faith or have their serious doubts about faith are "a tiny minority" is the first premise in an argument that their voices should not be heard at all. There's a lot more of us than you might think, and as a point of pride, a lot of us did a lot of great work to drag the ignorant, faithful and faithless alike, into this 21st Century with its many modern advantages. Technology and medicine and all the rest of the miraculous scientific advancements we are blessed with are moved forward by people whose first principle is that the natural world can be explained naturally, not supernaturally.

Here endeth the lesson.

Here begineth the conversation.


Tara Mobley said...

I'm fond of the saying "Axial tilt is the reason for the season" as a response to "Jesus is the Reason for the Season."

I don't find the sign offensive, but I'm not one of those One True Faith types. I do think that it is a bit condescending to those of us who view ourselves as both rational and spiritual, but it deserves to be up with the rest of the displays.

I hope they discover who stole it and that whoever it was gets some sort of punishment. I'm not sure what would be the appropriate legal ramifications for that sort of theft, but I hope it is just as harsh for this person as it would be for someone who stole the Christian or Jewish display.

Sherry Peyton said...

I certainly agree it has a right to be there. I wonder at the need for it however. Do atheists really think they can change people's minds? Or vice versa for that matter? I really wonder at this. While Christmas and Jewish displays are meant I believe to express belief, the atheist sign was meant to condemn belief. I'm not sure it makes a lot of sense. Not going to find a lot of support for jailing the thief I suspect, though he/she richly deserves it. I'm just not sure this is the proper forum to elicit the discussion.

Matty Boy said...

Yes, atheists can change people's minds. A lot of people are on the fence, and just hearing someone else state the case clearly can make a difference. People who have doubts and crises often have them because of how they are treated by other people of faith, or by comparing their religious experience with the experiences of those around them.

Even a loner like me understands the value of community, and in some places the first community outside of family is church. I tried, but it didn't work for me. I understand the position of those who think all religions are false doctrines, but I don't agree.

I understand the view that the other displays were "celebrating" their religion, while this display was just deriding the competitors' products. I don't agree with that, either. It states the rationalist view, which must be compared with popular views that aren't.

In these displays, the religionists are putting forward their carrot. It's naive to think many of them, if not most, don't have a stick they are hiding.

FranIAm said...

Stealing that sign is as bad as stealing a religious scene or item.

Everyone is so prickly. Let the sign stay and if people are so sensitive they need to remember that the only person that anyone can change is themselves.

How about starting with being open minded.

CDP said...

You're right that the sign isn't the best start to a conversation; it comes across as arrogant and disdainful. Wouldn't it be funny if someone had put it there as a practical joke, just to see if they could engage the Christmas Warriors?

Padre Mickey said...

Personally, I don't like nacimientos and menorahs and other religious symbols in parks, but if people insist on putting that stuff up, I'm all for the athiest's winter solstice sign.

I live nine degrees from the equator, so solstice really isn't a big deal here.

Stealing is wrong whether one is a theist or atheist or George W. Bush.

Word verification is slycluse, some kinda sneaky loner, I guess.

Padre Mickey said...

It appears that my faith has overwhelmed my spelling skills in the first paragraph. Perdoname.

Karlacita! said...

I've been studying the atheists for many years, and while I don't support religion, I also don't support snarking at it.

Numerous surveys have found that atheists are by far the most reviled group of "others" people can name. The thought is that an atheist can't have morals because morality comes from religion.

Which is so strange to me, because so many religions are either sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, or just plain silly that I am astonished that they would be associated with morality.

After all, Prop 8 was passed for no logical, legal, or considered reason; it was simply a function of reactionary religious bigotry.

Here's the bumper sticker I had made:

NO on 8 meant NO on HATE
Church and State
MUST Separate!

BobManDo said...

The Current "This American Life" show #304 "Heretics" Gives an interesting insight to the Evangelical mind.

"The story of Reverend Carlton Pearson, a renowned evangelical pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who cast aside the idea of Hell, and with it everything he'd worked for over his entire life....
[His] church,...drawing crowds of 5,000 people every Sunday. But several years ago, scandal engulfed the reverend. He didn't have an affair. He didn't embezzle lots of money. His sin was something that to a lot of people is far worse: He stopped believing in Hell."

It is amazing that people are motivated to avoid things... like the pain of hell and create strong and rigid belief systems and habits to "protect" themselves.

OTOH, a good entrepreneur might think... "Hey, I think I'll start my own religion..." Lots of loyal and loving followers, Lots of cash and tax benefits too. Do you wanna Join the "Church of BobManDo"?
(This episode is free for download for a week starting Mon Dec 7.)

dguzman said...

If you have a group of religious displays, does an atheist statement really belong there? I mea, atheism isn't a religion, is it?