Nativity Scene Stealers

When the state of Illinois agreed to allow private citizens to place a Nativity scene inside the capitol this Christmas … Continued

When the state of Illinois agreed to allow private citizens to place a Nativity scene inside the capitol this Christmas season, and the ACLU decided not to challenge to decision, Christian supporters were so elated they invited other groups to join in the free holiday expressions.

“If another group, another religion, wants to put up a display here, more power to ‘em,” Thomas Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, told the State Journal-Register. “That’s their right, and they should do it. The more public expressions we have of our different points of view, the better off our democracy will be.”

But now that the Freedom From Religion Foundation wants to add a Winter Solstice display that notes “There is no God,” those ecumenical views are being put to the test.

After the Nativity scene went on display Dec. 2, Chabad of Chicago announced plans to erect a menorah in the Capitol in recognition of Hanukkah. Then the Freedom From Religion Foundation announced that it planned to add a Winter Solstice message that reads: “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.”

Happy holidays, America.

The same holiday collection — Nativity scene, Menorah, Winter Solstice message — already can be found inside the Washington state capitol.

“I happen to be a Christian, and I don’t agree with the display that is up there,” Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire told The Olympian newspaper. “But that doesn’t mean that as governor, I have the right to deny their ability to express their free speech.”

As you might expect, not everyone is filled with joy about that.

“This is political correctness gone mad,” Fox commentator Bill “Jolly” O’Reilly said on his show. He gave viewers Gov. Gregoire’s office number and urged them to call and protest. “(Gov. Gregoire) is a weak, confused leader . . . If cowardly politicians don’t get the message, we can kiss our holiday traditions goodbye.”

A less emotional, more productive response comes from Norman Jameson of North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder, a Southern Baptist publication. In his Dec. 5 column, Jameson suggests that it might be better for the holy day if government limited religious displays in public spaces during the holidays:

During most of my life Christian friends have lamented that Christmas is becoming too secularized; it is losing its religious meaning; businesses have appropriated the religious symbols of Christmas and now they are nothing more than decorations to sell merchandise.

Saints have morphed to Santas; tributes are diluted to toys and holy days are simply holidays. And all this seasonal fiscal flavor is salted with crèches, camels and caravans; stars, sheep and shepherds; wise men, mangers and drummer boys.

If, as the English proverb says, familiarity breeds contempt, it is logical that Christmas symbols floating in the marketplace unattached to their religious meaning will themselves become meaningless. Can it be that when Christians advocate for symbols of faith in public venues that we contribute to the emasculation of their meaning?

Saints have morphed to Santas; tributes are diluted to toys and holy days are simply holidays. And all this seasonal fiscal flavor is salted with crèches, camels and caravans; stars, sheep and shepherds; wise men, mangers and drummer boys.

If, as the English proverb says, familiarity breeds contempt, it is logical that Christmas symbols floating in the marketplace unattached to their religious meaning will themselves become meaningless. Can it be that when Christians advocate for symbols of faith in public venues that we contribute to the emasculation of their meaning?

It’s a strong point, but we don’t have to ask government to do for us what we already can do for ourselves. There are countless more churches than government buildings and many of them are more visible to passersby. Why make Jesus, Mary and Joseph share a stage on the road when they can star in so many places at home?

About

  • EnemyOfTheState

    People like O’Reilly seem to want it both ways: They want to freely express their religion in the public square, but as soon as someone else wants to crash the party they get all Jesusy on us and want only their religion represented.It’s all or nothing, folks. Any preference by the state to the exclusion of other faiths (or no faith) becomes a de facto endorsement.

  • Gavin082

    For a nation that was founded (in part) to escape government sponsored religion, there are an awful lot of Americans (BillO, for example) that missed that fundamental part of the American tradition.Regardless of your particular creed, I can’t see any religion wanting itself associated with the Illinois State Government at the moment. That’s the thing about mixing government and religion. All it does is make both worse.

  • aredant

    I completely agree. Watch while Pleasant View Utah loses in flames to Summum all the while asserting their victimhood and how righteous they are. Reminds me of the corrupt politicians and CEOs that are convicted by a jury of their peers and never have a clue about what they did wrong. If you are so deluded as to think that you have the one true religion, fairness to others goes out the window.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    When I was growing up in a small town in Virginia in the 1950′s, there was zero government commemeration of Christmas; let me repeat: ZERO!There was no Christmas pageant at school and no Christian displays in the court-house. There were some old tattered lights from the 1920′s I think, strung over main street. That was about it.But somehow, we managed to have Christmas. Am I the only person who has this memory? How come everybody else remembers government celebration of Christmas? It just didn’t happen that way! It just didn’t!

  • thebobbob

    They only true and real thing that happens around December 25th is the alignment of the sun and the earth in such a way as to signal more hours of sun for the next three months. Everything else is myth and legend. We do know that JC was born in the Spring, not in December. We do know that the Romans appropriated dozens of Pagan solstice celebrations into one Christian holiday for empire-building reasons. What we don’t know is why people need to insist that their fantasy is the one fantasy that everyone needs to submit to.Keep religious celebrations away from Government. History has shown what happens when the two mix and it isn’t pretty.

  • Carstonio

    Illinois had the issue backward – they should have invited all groups to set up displays in the first place.

  • asoders22

    How about a Christmas tree? Looks nice, and has really nothing to do with any religion.

  • Davoud

    ASODERS22 says “Christmas” tree has nothing to do with any religion? What planet do you live on?Quoting O’Reilly the Liar, even! “…kiss our holiday traditions goodbye.” What nonsense! O! Ye of little faith! Who gives a rat’s fury little kneecaps about your holiday tradition? Celebrate wherever you like, except that it it is your tradition to shove Christmas in everyone’s face, whatever their bent. Keep your faith, but keep it out of my government, out of my schools, and out of my public spaces.

  • asoders22

    Calm down, Davoud. I’m an atheist, and I don’t want to mix government and religion any more than you do.I suggested a Christmas tree because it actually is not a Christian symbol. It’s a fairly recent European tradition, a pretty awkward one to tell the truth – but it looks nice. If you are Jewish you don’t have one, but there is no reason for Christians to have it either. There were no Christmas trees around baby Jesus.

  • wa-freethinker

    Don’t forget that the day after our next presidents’ inauguration is our country’s National Day of Prayer. All praise be to the Flying Spagetti Monster!!!! ARGGGGH.

  • timmy2

    Asoders22Yes. The christmas tree is an excellent symbol because it represents the secularization of Christmas. There are zero religious connotations to it, in fact it represents the movement away from the religiosity of the winter solstice.

  • globalone

    Daniel,”When I was growing up in a small town in Virginia in the 1950′s, there was zero government commemeration of Christmas; let me repeat: ZERO!”—> I’m reminded every year of the government’s commemoration of Christmas – IT’S CALLED A NATIONAL AND STATE HOLIDAY.

  • markinirvine

    I don’t know about y’all, but on the morning of December 25, I intend to be in my PJ’s, sitting on the couch, drinking the best hot chocolate in the world and eating the best cinnamon roll in the world while the wife cries because her 17-year-old son has gone on an overseas Boy Scout adventure far far away and is missing Christmas at home for the very first (but probably not the last) time. Good times.

  • dragondancer1814

    I agree with Thomas Brejcha’s quote on the subject of religious displays. Christians are not the only people celebrating a holiday in December; there are many faiths doing so. Christians have Christmas, Jews have Hanukkah, Wiccans and Pagans have Yule (otherwise known as the Winter Solstice), African-Americans have Kwanzaa, and Muslims celebrate the Islamic New Year, to name a few examples of religious observances this month. Freedom of religion means ANY religion, and it also means freedom FROM religion as well. So the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s message ruffles a few Christian feathers, so what? If you are going to put up a display honoring one group’s beliefs, you’d better include everyone else’s. All or nothing, people. What’s it going to be? Public places are for everyone, regardless of religion, and should be all-inclusive. If you want to set up a display that shows only one religion, then do so in front of your house of worship, but quit trying to claim public space for your religious beliefs only. Blessed Yule, everyone!

  • zpthomas

    The main issue that most people have with religious displays in the public square is that it is usually just Christianity that is represented, and that smacks of state preference of a religion. In this day of religious demagoguery and intolerance, the outreach effort of the Christian group was a really nice gesture and actually gives hope that some of the silly hot-button issues (10 Commandments in the courtroom, gay marriage, etc.) might be healed by people actually being reasonable. Although I am libertarian and generally think that government and religion should be fully separate, I think that this was in really bad taste on the atheists’ side. I don’t think the Muslims would display an image of a suicide bomber or that the Christians would display an image of Mohammed in an unfavorable way. This was a nice opportunity where religious pluralism was actually being invited by Christians in the public square, and for the atheist group to create a display insulting all the others just serves to polarize people more and fuel the intolerance.

  • Carstonio

    “—> I’m reminded every year of the government’s commemoration of Christmas – IT’S CALLED A NATIONAL AND STATE HOLIDAY.”Government isn’t really “commemorating” Christmas. There’s a legitimate secular purpose in declaring the day a federal and state holiday, because most government workers would otherwise take leave that day. That purpose would also apply to public schools in New York being closed on Jewish holidays. There would be no such secular purpose if government had the intention of honoring only some religions’ holidays, excluding others solely because they weren’t of the favored religions.

  • asoders22

    Religious people think atheists are offending just by existing. If they open their mouth too, it’s just too much, I guess.The whole thing is silly. Religious people, keep out of official buildings.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    GlobaloneYou are very smug and mocking, aren’t you? I guess that makes you feel very big and superior.So much for that.

  • cletus1

    I went to the county seat of where I grew up over Thanksgiving, and they had a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn. I don’t believe any of it is true, or that Jesus even actually existed, but I could still appreciate it as part of the town’s longstanding tradition. Throwing up a needlessly insulting poster next to it would serve no purpose other than a divisive one. If the atheist organization wanted a display, they should not have been so patronizing and kept it in the tradition of the good part of the holiday season. Though, seeing the forces arrayed against the Washington state display, it seems that many christians are uninterested in anything other than political points, either.

  • pipkin42

    “No one can accuse a manger with overt nastiness”At least these atheists have the courtesy to be up front with their bigotry. Christianity so often presents its intolerant message with a treacly veneer of peace and love. If Bill O’Reilly wants to get all hot and bothered about the “War on Christmas” to up his ratings, fine. What we really have is a War on Hegemony. And I’m all for the breakdown of hegemony, whatever its form.

  • Counterww

    DILD, In my town in the 60′s they had a nativity scene . Big deal.The deal with atheists is that since they have nothing , believe in nothing, they feel a need to mock those that DO- if they wanted to put up a wreath that said- Happy (secular) solstice holiday, fine, but to make comments about the existence of God went too far.Political correctness does not mean you have to be rude. If you don’t want to believe, what the heck is the harm in the nativity scene. It hurts NO ONE.Atheist strike me as having this big chip on their shoulder, thinking that everyone should have their ability to “reason” like they do.Self delusional and not able to walk down the street without making insults.

  • pierrejc2

    counterww:

  • TomfromNJ1

    Say what you want about this debate, but please do not confuse Bill O’Reilly’s views with those of Christianity. For whatever reason (probably ratings as there seems to be evidence from his past that he has held different views from those he now expresses on Fox), he spews hate and Christianity is the opposite of that. We celebrate the birth of One who said “love your enemies,” “turn the other cheek.” “turn your swords into plows,” etc. But in the Christmas season, please know Christianity is not about criticizing signs, or putting up mangers, or any of a number of things. It is about how we love each other, forgiveness, etc.

  • Uoughtano

    Tyrants enforce. 40 days and 40 nights

  • Counterww

    Look Pierre- you just illustrated my point. Nasty, radical atheists want to make statements like “idiotic”, and “infantile” (you spelled it wrong in your rush to rant about my post) and obviously have a chip on their shoulder(yours is rather large from my perch) . Again, they could have just made a secular comment without being nasty and in your face about religion, but that does not seem to be the M.O. for people like Barker or you for that matter. Most atheists have some decorum and are not so darn mean- at least the ones I have had face to face dialogue with. The internet emboldens people to be just so impolite.Government is not involved in “religious activity” if they have a manger up there. It’s just a manager, for goodness sake. It’s a baby in some hay. It has no words or accusatory , inflaming statements. That was done by your buds up in Washington.All of you have carried this separation clause past the Founder’s intent.I guess it is in vogue these days with people like Hitchens and Dawkins. Being in your face and nasty that is.

  • pierrejc2

    Counterww:

  • probashi

    Religious statues and symbols don’t bother me. Still, I question the need for such displays in city squares and public buildings. Norman Jameson’s comments quoted by David Walker deserveBut it makes sense that those who wish to express their contrary view about god and religion should have the right to do so. Like it or not, today’s America is not the Judeo-Christian country that some people would like it to be.

  • gwymer

    You go Pierrejc2! Do you know why Christians are so worried about their precious holiday becoming a farce, a meaningless montage of ancient symbols mixed with relentless commerciality? Because they know that is how it has been for a long time now. Nothing survives in America that is not about buying and selling. And most of them actually believe that we live as a Christian nation!Let us celebrate the solstice and the fact that then the days will begin to bring more light than darkness. Now that would be something to celebrate, a hope that someday we would have the cultural solstice so needed in this ill-educated, greedy, backward and dying nation.

  • EnemyOfTheState

    I have absolutely no doubt that if the humanist’s message was softened to something less confrontational, Christians would still object – it’s just in their nature. They’re convinced they own the country and every institution in it, so competing worldviews are not welcome in any venue.The only reason non-Christians are even tolerated is due more to secular laws than to any spiritual restraint on the part of Christians.

  • GWGOLDB

    But why do religious organizations want to put their displays on public property, as opposed to private property? Because it associates the state with their religion, giving the appearance of an endorsement, seemingly bolstering their (weak) case “this is a Christian country!”

  • Counterww

    Secularists being tolerated? really?I don’t think Christians think they “own the country”..that is just plain paranoia… what the truth is that for decades the country had and has a Judeo Christian theme sewed throughout its history. The great minds all had some belief in God or a higher power. So when atheists get in our face, we’ll get right back in theirs. That sign was just a shot to stir things up, and it asserts something that millions of us find to be offensive. Especially during Christmas. It’s mean spirited and illustrates the disdain some atheists have for believers.

  • coloradodog

    In Irish Catholic bigot Bill O’Reilly’s Jesuslandia, there would be no pesky atheists, Muslims, libertarians, Democrats or Mexicans. We would all be saying our Hail Mary’s and singing praises to Saint Ronald Reagan by legal mandate. Thank God he is somewhat isolated to cable on RNC Fox News along with his equally evil twin Hannity instead of spewing his hate speech in the name of poor old Jesus over the public airways like Dobson and Limberger.

  • theScientist

    David:I think you make a good point at the end of your essay. Let the churches display the religious symbols for those who enjoy them and don’t ask the government to do it. This keeps the government neutral towards religion so that government doesn’t influence religion, e.g., persecuting minor sects, and religion doesn’t influence government.

  • Skowronek

    Why are Christians upset that there are other religious, and non-religious displays on public property? Are they afraid that by merely seeing professions of differing beliefs that their ‘own’ followers may be tempted to stray? Are people really that concerned that their own faith is that weak, that they are projecting their fear upon others?If you permit one, you permit all. Otherwise the government is improperly giving the message that one faith is preferred over all others. That may be what some people wish for, but that’s another discussion. If you really want to have your message constrained to your belief alone, isn’t that what the fronts of your houses of worship are for?

  • dgblues

    “If you don’t want to believe, what the heck is the harm in the nativity scene. It hurts NO ONE.”No harm at all, nor in a sign you just happen to disagree with. Nor would there be harm in installing little garden gnome statues, pink flamingos, mojo bags, burning bulls on altars, or rainbow gay pride flags.Only one flush with enough arrogance to believe that an omnipotent creator of the universe actually cares about them as an individual would have the audacity to propose that they alone should be able to display objects of their faith on property co-owned by taxpayers who do not share that faith, and at the same time deny those co-owners that same opportunity to express themselves.My, my. How positively fascist!

  • dgblues

    “…ask artists to produce something that expresses the deepest and highest hopes and promises of the humanist, naturalist, or non-theist way of seeing the world.”It’s already been done, and it’s already on display. It’s called the “Stars and Stripes.”

  • EnemyOfTheState

    Christianity is so weak that even viewing a contrary worldview makes O’Reilly scream like a 12 year old girl.Amusing.

  • EnemyOfTheState

    RE:”That sign was just a shot to stir things up, and it asserts something that millions of us find to be offensive. Especially during Christmas. It’s mean spirited and illustrates the disdain some atheists have for believers.”

  • ecglotfelty

    I personally have no problem with having different displays in the same place. I am a Christian but I’m also an American, which means I support free speech. If I want my message of hope to go out to the people that really need it, then I have to be willing to let others do the same, even if their messages disagree with mine. The Christian faith has lasted for two millenia. I doubt that a pithy little sign in the Washington state capitol spreading falsehoods is going to shipwreck my faith or the faith of billions of other people. The thing that people like Bill-O have to fear is that people have the audacity to DISAGREE WITH THEM. If the atheists want to resurrect a pagan tradition that pretty much died when the Christians took over Rome and had no real meaning to them before except to spread joylessness, misery, and woe, go ahead. Just so they understand that just because someone has the right to free speech doesn’t mean I have the right to read.

  • Carstonio

    The issue is not whether a nativity scene offends non-Christians. The issue is that allowing only a Christian scene on government property, with no other religions allowed to put up their own scenes, represents government favoritism toward one religion. All religions should be invited to put up their own holiday scenes.

  • sparrow4

    enemyofthestate- that was really nice of you. I love december because its such a holiday season-since so many faiths do celebrate holidays this month, it would be a lovely idea to make it more about joyful things we all share in, not about the differences in what we believe (or don’t believe). Atheists always get a bad rap- religious people should understand where their anger comes from- from always being put on the defensive. And while I do think the Solstice statement was really stupid, they have every right to celebrate to put up a display. Just didn’t seem to help their cause by sounding like grinches instead of humanists.I don’t like having religion crammed down my throat either. I think churches should keep their hands off politics.

  • pierrejc2

    counterww:

  • sparrow4

    I guess I really am not that bothered by the christmas displays, as long as other religions or atheists/agnostics have the right to put up a display too. It ought to be an opportunity for us to all get together and show our solidarity despite our differences.I do have to say that the so-called winter Solstice message is nowhere close to that idea. It’s an intentional slap in the face to the religious and secular community both. It conveys no other message than antagonism- they could have used so many other words to express what they believe in, one that would attract people to their message or serve to help open a real dialogue. Instead they chose to express themselves in a petty, offensive and immature way. that’s a shame. Why bother to present a message if it’s not going to celebrate anything, nor present your point of view in a positive way?That display should be refused until they can come up with one that serves the spirit of the season- because their present message does not speak for all of agnosticism, atheism or humanism. Unless you mean to sound like a 5 year old brat in a playground. That beautiful A. Eustace Haydon (thank you for posting that, Racje!) would have been perfect.

  • Counterww

    Enemy of the state-It ‘s not about whether atheists have the right to express themselves- its the message and the antagonistic sign they put up. No one can accuse a manger with overt nastiness but the sign was just plain in your face.You need some decorum classes dude. And some common sense.

  • EnemyOfTheState

    RE”It ‘s not about whether atheists have the right to express themselves- its the message and the antagonistic sign they put up. No one can accuse a manger with overt nastiness but the sign was just plain in your face.”As to my manners – whatever.

  • Mindbeats

    I find what Norman Jameson (or his friends) said ironic although, he shows much more intelligence than most religious right wingers.Complaining that Christmas is being taken over by businesses to sell merchandise and becoming increasingly secularized is funny to me; seeing as Christianity borrowed and stole all of its Christmas “traditions” from other faiths, most of them pagan, to create their own.

  • amithereyet

    Although I’m not an athiest anymore, I can’t help be amused that Christians who have fought so hard to tear down the wall of separation between church and state are now seeing the true repercussions of their crusade. It’s particularly amusing to see the atheists accused of being theologically uppity, an area where Christianity’s history is at least slightly less than spotless over the last two thousand years.But, at root, none of those displays should be there, period.

  • amithereyet

    One additional comment:”No one can accuse a manger with overt nastiness”Implicit in the manger scene is a message that strikes me as one that can reasonably be accused of nastiness: if you do not come to equate the figure born in the manger with God Almighty, then you are going to spend an eternity writhing in fiery torment. If there is something nastier than that, I can’t think of it at the moment.Yes, the manger scene shows the carrot, not the stick. But there is a hell (so to speak) of a stick. The State of Illinois should not be allowing these displays in the Capitol. Maybe Mary and Joseph slipped Rod Blagojovich a campaign contribution?

  • Vermonster1

    I love this time of year! The fake trees go up for sale in the box stores in September. In October, tacky little Santas begin to peek out from the shelves. November brings a nip in the air and mall guards get trampled underfoot greedy pre-dawn shoppers. But the season really doesn’t begin until the fist volley on the WAR on CHRISTMAS! What a joke. We’ve got millions of people out of work, children going hungry, and grandparents living in cold dwellings they can’t afford to heat. If BillO and the other so-called “Christians” lived their lives as Jesus taught us and helped their fellow man, I might have a little more sympathy. God Help America.

  • boyyourenosey

    [email protected] : Sorry, Anthony. You need to actually READ the Constitution. The very first clause of the very First Amendment to the Constitution is the Establishment Clause, the freedom FROM religion guarantee. The freedom OF religion is the second clause. The order represents the Founding Fathers’ belief in the relative importance of each to the people.

  • DWinFC

    The reason for the season is the shortest day of the year, celebrated by all cultures far from the equator because it marks the wonderful reversal to longer days.Anything that has to do with light and warmth or the return of life to the earth should be allowed in the public square: lights, pine trees, yule logs, candles, holly, poinsettias, etc.Religious symbols should be for each person to use to decorate their own house.

  • dotellen

    I agree with MWCOB, who wrote, “I don’t have a problem with the different displays. But don’t use your display to attack someone else’s beliefs.” The solistice display should simply read, “Celebrate the natural world,” or “To every thing there is a season, celebrate the solistice,” or some such.Furthermore, I believe that celebrating the solistice IS a celebration of God, Who tilted our planet’s axis 23 degrees so we can have a variety of seasons. It is a direct manifistation of God’s work, not something written by men for (mostly) political reasons.

  • hohandy

    If Christians want religious displays the way they want, free from any sort of criticism, they are certainly free to do so in their own religious places. Once they insist on putting their religious messages in public places that belong to everyone, they have no right to have any monopoly of the message.

  • lufrank1

    Our Washington State Constitution clearly states that ALL religious cults (of which atheism is one)OR NONE may be displayed on government buildings!Unfortunately, the atheistic placard placed for display in our Washington, wasn’t merely a statement of belief. . .it was an arrogant attack, just as if the Nativity display had included a banner stating that all us non-believers are going to burn in Hell. The nativity scene is not aggressive.

  • hfisher1

    “The reason for the season is the shortest day of the year, celebrated by all cultures far from the equator because it marks the wonderful reversal to longer days.”You left out the sacrifice of virgins to appease the gods and to make sure spring and summer returns. But virgins have become rare and hard to find these days, so I suggest outsourcing. We could buy Indian virgins and sacrifice them with knives Made in China. All the yuletide bling seems to come from the Far East anyway – why not this too?

  • practica1

    The European countries in which Christianity first displaced other rites as part of the established religio-political order and where the people are still paying to support such establishment – Britain, Germany, Iceland – are among the least religiously observant people on Earth.Thomas Paine complained in 1775 about the use of religion to defend bad governance – and now we use governance to defend bad religion.Mixing the two is never good for either – and worst of all for the people who wish either preservation or reform of either one.Joyous Mithrastide, everyone.

  • klaud6

    Atheists will not hinder in the rejoicings of holidays of Christmas by their own writing that is not God.

  • wpfree

    It’s sad that the WaPo, consistently scooped by tabloids, publishes hate speech, from its own “religion” writers. Beyond that, not a word about Palin’s church being torched. The WaPo pays ethnic Jew Weingarten to ridicule Christians, fail to report church arson, and carries the atheist’s point of view. Bizarro.

  • wpfree

    The Church of the Flaming A-holes is the atheistic church. When does believing in nothing allow one to trash another’s belief? Could you imagine a “Jews are evil” poster? But Christians are fair game. As always. Palin’s church was burned down. Christians are mocked. Some “liberal” point of view, eh?

  • EnemyOfTheState

    “t’s sad that the WaPo, consistently scooped by tabloids, publishes hate speech, from its own “religion” writers. Beyond that, not a word about Palin’s church being torched.”

  • treetopflyer

    “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”Obsess over your enemy, become your enemy.

  • astorg

    As an agnostic, I find both the Xtians and the Atheists to be toy-throwing children. I believe that religious displays as well as anti-religious displays should not be on government property. It’s not political correctness that compels me to write this: it’s for civility’s sake. And Menorahs don’t belong there either. Personally, I find all patriarchal religions offensive. Women have been victims of these system of beliefs for far too long. But to call spirituality and an acknowledgment of the mysteries of the great beyond to be the fantasies of the simple-minded is antagonistic and just as dogmatic a form of fundamentalism as the extremely religious.

  • B2O2

    If the primitive peoples of our domestic Taliban feel the need to put up worshipful displays to their mythical Volcano God, they need to do it on the front lawns of their own Christian Madrassas. THE CONSTITUTION EXPLICITLY STATES THAT MY TAX MONEY IS NOT TO BE USED TO PROMOTE THEIR MURDEROUS AND IGNORANT SUPERSTITIONS. Why is this so hard to understand? These religious nutcakes are every bit as objectionable as the regime our troops are fighting in Afghanistan. They should NOT get to ignore the Constitution just because they have a loudmouthed FauxNews commentator cheering for them.

  • EnemyOfTheState

    RE:”The WaPo pays ethnic Jew Weingarten to ridicule Christians, fail to report church arson, and carries the atheist’s point of view. Bizarro.”2) What do you mean “ethnic Jew” and what does that have to do with anything? Does that bother you and your Aryan buddies?3) The Post DID report on Palin’s church – I just read it. You might bother to do a little research before you post your blather.

  • indra1888

    I am an atheist and I’m saddened by the display and its mean spirited message. Yes, I find the “poor, discriminated Christian” line a little tiresome in light of Christianity’s obvious dominance in our society, but in this case, they’ve got good cause to be offended. The only way this democratic experiment works is if we tolerate each other, even if we find our neighbors’ beliefs baffling. No, I don’t think Jesus is the only reason for the season, at least he’s not the reason I celebrate over the holidays (yes, there is more than one, btw). However, there is no possible point to this display, other than to be inflammatory and provocative. And I’m willing to bet most humanists worthy of the label would be very uncomfortable with such a silly attack.

  • edallan

    In that part of the Freedom from Religion sign was gratuitously hurtful and also proselytizing, that part was inappropriate for display in a government building. However, if a government agency does agree to allow people to put up exhibits of “show-and-tell” about what they believe in, then anyone and everyone should be permitted such a display, whether they are Christians, Wiccans, Jews, Zoroastrians, followers of Thor, Wotan, Zeus, Aten, L. Ron Hubbard or the Great Pumpkin, Buddhists, Druids, nothing in particular, Baal, Moloch, whatever.

  • malph

    It seems a lot of people are a little confused when it comes to the First Amendment. Nobody here has the authority to interpret the Constitution, only the Supreme Court has.That particular body has made it quite clear, on more than one occasion, that the First Amendment protects both freedom OF religion, as well as freedom FROM religion.Some of you fools need to have a look at the majority opinion of ‘Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet.’

  • jimjoyce1

    Christians have long despised, pitied, stigmatized, and demonized non-believers. Now—when believers see their worldview come under fire, they cry foul.And to say that atheists believe in nothing is an asinine assertion. Most “believe” in many of the same virtues that religious folks profess to value—only we don’t need the threat of Hell to behave, and we don’t fear inclusion of those different from ourselves.Happy Holidays!

  • johng1

    I want to make a pilgrimage to that atheist display. I also want to throw a pie in Bill O’Reilly’s ugly mug.

  • johng1

    Thank “god” the pendulum is swinging our way. I will die a happy man because the those of logical thinking will, by that time, outnumber the “believers.” Once we free ourselves from these lies based on fairy tales, humanity will enter a new renaissance.

  • mhr614

    Liberal fascists are not a whit better than the the old-time version of fascists. The behavior of the immature leftwingers who cause disturbances around Christmas displays are a mere foretaste of what they are capable of. The Bolsheviks of Russia also displayed the same type of anti-Christian behavior and that led to mass killings of religious people, the looting of churches and the creation of countries that banned religion. Atheists are quite capable of acting like totalitarians- and they call themselves “brights”-

  • [email protected]

    We are the government. We are a diverse people. People of faith have just as much right as people without faith to display whatever on public grounds. We own them too. You do not have a right to take away ours. Until the Constitution is revised, it’s Freedom of Religion not Freedom from Religion. If you don’t like that, tough.

  • ebleas

    “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.”While I firmly support the concept of free speech, this was a perhaps harse statement, which I feel was unnecessary and counterproductive to the message that atheists should be sending. First, if religions can post religious symbols on public grounds, then anti-religious groups should have the same right. The calls for those who oppose religion to “just shut up” is against the free spirit on which this country was founded. But I still feel that a softer, more gentle message would have been more appropriate here. Like it or not, people are quite sensitive regarding their religious views, and statements such as the above are only going to drive them further away from logic and reason. As the saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

  • stephenrhymer

    They’re at it again. Santa’s little helper, masquerading as conservative talk show hosts Bill O’Reily, is at it again. Mr. O’Reily and his team of “Merry Christmas” pranksters are rallying the troops once again to defend a holiday that has morphed from pagan ritual to celebrated religious event to secular “get out your credit card” spending spree akin to a shark’s feeding frenzy.It is time for American Christians to show my faith the same respect I show to theirs.

  • theobserver4

    mhr614 Author Profile Page:Liberal fascists are not a whit better than the the old-time version of fascists. The behavior of the immature leftwingers who cause disturbances around Christmas displays are a mere foretaste of what they are capable of. The Bolsheviks of Russia also displayed the same type of anti-Christian behavior and that led to mass killings of religious people, the looting of churches and the creation of countries that banned religion. Atheists are quite capable of acting like totalitarians- and they call themselves “brights”–Don’t confuse Atheists with liberals and fascists. I’m surely socially liberal and find these antics to be counter productive and weak minded. When given the opportunity to voice their message for the holidays the Atheist group decided to slap those with faith right in the face. Seems like a spoiled childish message to me.

  • yumatom

    Go for it. There’s nothing holy about religion. Atheists are sort of one anyway.

  • thinkfirst1

    MY take is similar to steveryhmer and others who note that people have “hijacked” Chritmas for their own means. O’Reilly uses this time to keep his tunnel-vision viewers and merchants use this time to balance thier books (Black Friday). In this country, we are blessed with the freedom of religion, or not, as you so choose. Take the religious symbols to your church or place of worship and practice what you preach.

  • hyjanks

    “That’s their right, and they should do it. The more public expressions we have of our different points of view, the better off our democracy will be.”

  • willemkraal

    WE ALL KNOW THAT ALL THIS GOD/JEZUS BS IS A TOTAL FRAUD A 24/7 MONEY GRABBING SCAM!! YOU CAN HAVE A GREAT HOLIDAY SEASON WITHOUT THIS HOKUS/POKUS I HAVE DONE IT FOR 73 YEARS SO PERHAPS YOU MAY WANT TO TRY IT AND BE A BETTER PERSON FOR IT!! HAVE A MARY XMAS!

  • drj9000

    I get the feeling from my free from mandatory religion, thankfully secular Canadian vantage point that religionistas down there would love to return to the good old days of burning heretics at the stake. Come to think of it it wasn’t all that long ago. You guys really need to move on, heck it’s the 21st century for goodness sake.

  • TonyQ82

    Poor Bill O’Reilly, gallant spokesman for the most oppressed group in the country–white heterosexual Christian males. If you ask me Christianity has been waging war on rational thought and progress for humanity for centuries. It’s long past time the forces of reason fought back.

  • mwcob

    I don’t have a problem with the different displays. But don’t use your display to attack someone else’s beliefs. After years of complaining that people don’t respect their atheist beliefs, they’ve become what they sought to dispel – bitter, partisan bickering naysayers. If Atheism has something positive to add to the discussion – by all means tell us about it. But just putting up a pointless sign attacking everyone else – what’s the point?

  • terryking228

    stephenrhymer: Thanks for a thoughtful and balanced comment. Among the others….

  • Ecoclimber

    It’s not about the sign but the words used to foster hatred and bigotry toward a constitutionally protected class of people. This billboard promotes and generates hatred and bigotry toward one’s religious belief by stating that “Religion is but a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” Take out the word Religion and use Gay Lifestyle in its place or how about “Islam is but a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds” Would the governor allow such a sign to be displayed? I don’t think so! They’d be shaken in their boots afraid of offending those groups. But Christians are now open season for this society. While secular society can only offer relative moralism where everyone becomes their own god by choosing which laws, morals and values, they wish to uphold. Societies decline into secular humanism will only breed anarchy steeped in hedonism and narcissism. Moral corruption is spreading throughout society at an alarming rate. Suddenly you’ll find yourself falling asleep one night in Bedford Falls only to wake up in Pottersville.It’s one thing that atheist are allowed to display a sign that simply states there is no God. But at this time of the year having a sign which attacks the beliefs of other religions celebrating at this time of year, Christians, Jews and Muslims, is crossing the line into hatred and bigotry.Governor Gregoire of Washington shows complete hypocrisy when the governor in one breath makes a statement that we need to be sensitive to other religions and cultures by calling a Christmas Tree a Holiday Tree and then allows a sign that is so patently offensive to all religions….Pure Hypocrisy!

  • paulc2

    Saying that Religion is evil and saying that people do evil in the name of religion are two very different things. Evil people will exploit anything to get their way but they are not following their religion (at least not my Catholic faith) when they do so. The entire moral dogma of the Catholic Church can be summarized with the Great Commandment: Love God with all your heart and Love your Neighbor as yourself. When people do Evil in the name of Religion, you will always find under the covers that they did it for some other reason like for love of Power of love of Money.Actually, for men to do large scale evil, they need a way to get people to band together. While religion can provide that ready made organization, so can other affiliations, like nationality, and race, unions, and political party. For instance, Hitler was able to rally his support, not on the basis of religion, but on the Arian race. Stalin used both “Mother Russia” and of course the communist party. This does not make all nations, races or political parties evil, any more than religions are evil. Its the people that exploit them that are evil.Evil people can also manipulate people into organizing against Groups. In 64AD, Nero turned attention away from the burning of Rome by persecuting Christians. In this case it was the state propagating evil against Religion.

  • jims1

    How does the term “religion,” as used in the atheists’ display, somehow reference Christianity more than it does Islam?

  • Mindbeats

    ya, because atheism is the cause of your imagined spread of moral corruption. How are you altar boys faring these days?

  • Carstonio

    Religion is not necessarily bad for individuals or society. What is bad is any ideology that includes both absolutism and authoritarianism. While this describes many fundamentalist varieties of religion, it is by no means limited to religion.

  • trueheading

    If we are to adhere to the Constitution of the United States then I have no problem with an atheist group supporting their belief. True Christians should not judge those who do not agree practice or agree with the followings of their specific church doctrine. I won’t even say that God would judge them because to an Atheist it doesn’t matter if they are to be judged. I believe it is your right as a US Citizen to pick and choose what you will and won’t believe in… be it a God, Mother Nature, or Nothing. As for Bill O’Reilly I have no idea what he is trying to do other than create a hatred for those who are “Non-Believers”. Would he have us resurrect the Salem Witch Trials for all atheists? I used to think he was worth listening to but as time has gone on I have realized he sometimes just opens his mouth, inserts his foot, and chews vigorously. I am a Republican (by party designation but I am more in line with the Libertarian Party) who was raised in an Episcopalian family, yet I no longer practice my religion by attending church regularly. I see no problem with people stating their beliefs. I too have realized most religions were developed to keep people fearful of acting in ways that were detrimental to the common good of human society. In essence, I look at the Ten Commandments not as a religious symbol but more as a Common Sense way we should all treat one another.I am all for Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion. No where does it state in the Constitution that you have to practice any religion. It only states you have the right to practice any religion and that the Federal & State Governments are prohibited from declaring any one religion or church. Those rights came about because the Episcopal Church is the only recognized church in England, hence the reason it is called the “The Church of England”. You can practice any established religion in the United Kingdom but only the Episcopal Church is recognized by the monarchy and government. We fought the Revolutionary War to separate ourselves from an oppressive government; so therefore, unless we are to become what we fought to separate ourselves from over 230 years ago then I suggest we all reread the Constitution and Bill of Rights to insure this never happens again.Merry ChristmasAs for Bill O’Reilly I have no idea what he is trying to do other than create a hatred for those who are “Non-Believers”. Would he have us resurrect the Salem Witch Trials for all athiests? I used to think he was worth listening to but as time has gone on I have realized he sometimes just opens his mouth, inserts his foot, and chews vigorously.

  • themidnightsun

    The nice thing about being in a democratic society is that we must hear all voices, no matter how small or insignificant they seem. However “hear” and “listen to” are completely different. I believe, that as a society that is based in the ideals of freedom and tolerance, we are obligated to let all religions be heard. I believe that we should hear and be heard respectfully. We are very good at being divisive in this country we call the United States. It’s a strange thing. We point fingers at each other and saying how different we are. We ridicule others for being different. We form factions and ostracize all others who are “too different”. Perhaps it’s time to change that.We need to be more accepting and inclusive if we are to survive through the current century. Divisive tactics only lead to fear, hate, and introversion. We need to be more than previous generations were. We need to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them. We cannot justify our actions in the present by the actions of others in the past. That is no way to live.Perhaps the sign was not all that appropriate. Perhaps it was. That is your judgment to make. But perhaps there is a reason why the people who put up the scene felt it was necessary to include those words. We, as a people, should look at the cause, not the symptom, and work to correct it. If they feel that they are not being heard, perhaps we should treat them with more equity in our society.I am not a Christian. However, I still enjoy seeing nativity scenes by the road. I am not Pagan, however I still enjoy a Christmas tree. I am not Jewish, however I still enjoy the menorahs and the stories. I am not or African descent, however I still like the teachings in Kwanzaa. May happiness follow you wherever you go.

  • kerryberger

    If “believers” can have a nativity scene on public government property and state capitols, then “non-believers” should be able to put up displays of their own, along with every other brand of religion or non-religion. A pluralistic society is one that accepts and accommodates all of its citizens. Just because we don’t believe what other’s may think does not mean we should go out of our way to disrespect them. That is what is strong about America and unifies us as a people. When we start to discriminate because some views are totally divergent or different from our own, then we are violating our Constitution. On the other hand, I do believe that a place of worship or one’s home is the most appropriate place for a nativity scene. It should not be placed on Government property since it can be perceived as favoring one religion over another. That’s a no no.

  • FUZZYTRUTHSEEKER

    kerryberger,I fully appreciate the points you make. However, I also believe that this uncompromising all-or-none philosophy is faulty.Just like, in semantics, there are ‘known knowns’, ‘known unknowns’, ‘known knowable unknowns’, and ‘kown unknowables’, so, in morality/ethics, there are the moral universals (variants of ‘unto others’ that are generally acceptable, in all their formulations), there are context-relative standards of morality. For example, the ethics of behaviour in an elevator is at significant variance with the ethics of behaviour on Fifth avenue. Another example: democratic, ten-times-more-populous India’s less favourable ranking, by ten points, on the Hunger Index tells a different governance story compared to war-torn and barely-democratic Pakistan’s rather respectable index by the numbers. Morality is also evolutionary: the horrors of the American civil war to preserve the Union (which initially did not seek to abolish slavery but only to prevent from secession the northern states which had been denied the right to have the practice slavery extended to these states) may have been an achievement worthy of the most glorious moral acclaim for its time, but would have been unacceptable as a strategy to vanquish South Africa’s apartheid regime in 1991 or 1994.

  • segeny

    Hey, Davey-boy, the atheist sign is not a ‘display’ but a rude attack on religion. Of course, they would have to attack, because a ‘display’ would be simply an empty sign.

  • luispanagi

    I hope someone will form an equivalent of the “Minute Men” force to go around and torch all the so-called “Nativity” displays. Pagans!

  • Garak

    Al Qaeda and the Taliban agree wholeheartedly with Segny, Ecoclimber, theobserver4, fuzzytruthseeker, and the rest of the christo-fascists. Religion is supreme. No one may challenge it. All must live by it. Hence, 9/11.

  • jackaroe

    RE: ” “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” can not be substantiated.”It does not have to be substantiated. We are talking about beliefs here. Even though I am an atheist I do not believe the above statement, but the people of Freedom From Religion Foundation obviously do. Why should they be required to substantiate their beliefs when no one else is? Where is the proof behind other displays? I don’t like that atheists are attacking religion with unsubstantiated statements, but it doesn’t seem fair to disallow that as long as Christians are permitted to declare that non-believers are going to hell.

  • nuke41

    Humans are aggressive, tribal, and highly territorial by nature. Religion can be a great thing when it comes to individuals, but when it involves two or more people it becomes the greatest source of evil on the planet.

  • Carstonio

    “In essence I look at the Ten Commandments not as a religious symbol but more as a Common Sense way we should all treat one another.”You would have a point if we were talking about the second half of the Commandments. But the first half constitutes explicitly sectarian doctrine – not worshiping other gods, no graven images, not taking the god’s name in vain, keeping the Sabbath. Those would seem to have nothing to do with human relations.

  • R49Thomas

    Since atheists believe there is no God, wouldn’t an atheist display consist of nothing?

  • johng1

    Carstonio wrote: “In essence I look at the Ten Commandments not as a religious symbol but more as a Common Sense way we should all treat one another.” You would have a point if we were talking about the second half of the Commandments. But the first half constitutes explicitly sectarian doctrine – not worshiping other gods, no graven images, not taking the god’s name in vain, keeping the Sabbath. Those would seem to have nothing to do with human relations.Yes. We can disregard that crazy stuff and keep the practical things.

  • jaxas

    O’Reilly’s reaction is typical of right wing political pundits. They have appropriated the phrase “traditional values” to hurl about when what they really mean is “conservative political values”. What O’Reilly and others like him–Limbaugh, Hannity and a legion of prominent religious conservatives like James Dobson and Pat Robertson–really are after is a sort of enforced belief system that favors conservative political values. And, part and parcel of this desire is to have government power reserved only for those who are of like mind with them.All I can say is that they must have a weak faith if it cannot withstand the challenge presented by atheism or agnosticism.

  • icoleman

    “When the state of Illinois agreed to allow private citizens to place a Nativity scene inside the capitol this Christmas season, and the ACLU decided not to challenge to decision, Christian supporters were so elated they invited other groups to join in the free holiday expressions.”That’s great! And you know, it’s only taken 40 years of ACLU lawsuits to bring a sea-change in the attitudes of a few of the more progressive of this country’s Christianists.

  • edwhitey

    Typical that the pundits and right wing fundies scream for the right to display their symbols as religious freedom but dont want others to display as well. Freedom obviously counts only if you are Christian. Lets see some more religious and non-religious displays. Equal time for everyone!

  • paulc2

    I wonder why it is so important for certain athiests to denounce religion and the religious. There are many references here that suggest that Religion is bad for individuals and society, yet there is no reasonable data given to support those statements. In fact, the statement in the capital, “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” can not be substantiated. How can the athiests show that religion is only a myth or a superstition. Furthermore, where is the data that shows religion hardens hearts and enslaves minds? I, as a Catholic, would say that religion opens both my heart and mind to love others. Conversely, the athiest’s statement here is in fact mean spirited. What is its purpose other than to protest and demean the beliefs of others? If they had love in their hearts, they would just accept the fact that the religious make up 90+% of the population and they want to celebrate their holy days. In the hypothetical, if you were a Yankee fan living in Boston, would you make a protest when the city of Boston expended considerable funds to celebrate the Red Sox world series championships or would you just acknowledge that the majority had a reason to celebrate?

  • hrndnwmn

    I like Christmas trees and all the decorations, but it would feel so liberating to me to see the Freedom From Religion display! Makes me want to travel to Illinois. If only I had something like that to see when I was young, agnostic and religiously closeted to my over-the-top Catholic family. Yes, Virginia, I don’t have to believe in Santa Claus and the “true meaning of Christmas.” Freedom of religion indeed!

  • EnemyOfTheState

    RE: ” “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” can not be substantiated.”And, yes, there have been plenty of similar deeds by non-religious governments. But your assertion is that there is no substantiation for the charge tha religion ‘hardens hearts and enslaves minds.’ I have just provided the examples.

  • gaijinsamurai

    PAULC2 said:******”There are many references here that suggest that Religion is bad for individuals and society, yet there is no reasonable data given to support those statements.”*******A very incomplete list:Islamic terror, the wars of religion, the crusades, the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Jerry Falwell, and the murder of so-called Abortion doctors.

  • leibowde84

    I don’t think that anyone should be able to put up Christmas Decorations that are directly related to religion. All aren’t, so just put up some of them. As for the atheists, it seems like they are on a mission, which is a noble one, even if you don’t agree with it. They are trying to enlighten and have people question their faith and beliefs (and if anyone says that questioning beliefs is wrong, they are ignorant/paranoid, and you can quote me on that), both of which are extremely important and necessary.

  • Carstonio

    “If its the former, maybe if done with the right tone it causes the athiest to rethink their position. If its the latter, I think it would be easy for the athiest to brush off, since they don’t believe in Hell anyway.”The issue isn’t atheism, since Christianity and Islam teach hell for believers in other religions. Even when the concern for the person’s soul is honest, what the Christian or Muslim is saying is that eternal suffering is warranted and deserved.

  • paulc2

    jackaroe : You wrote:It does not have to be substantiated. We are talking about beliefs here. Even though I am an atheist I do not believe the above statement, but the people of Freedom From Religion Foundation obviously do. Why should they be required to substantiate their beliefs when no one else is? Where is the proof behind other displays? I don’t like that atheists are attacking religion with unsubstantiated statements, but it doesn’t seem fair to disallow that as long as Christians are permitted to declare that non-believers are going to hell.==> Any time you disparage someone elses beliefs, you should have to substantiate what you say. A simple Creche or a lighted Menora is not making a negative statement about anyone’s beliefs. Its simply there as a reminder to believers about their faith. If you see no value in it, you are free to ignore it with no harm done. When someone slaps a sign up next to one of these symbols saying that their faith harden’s hearts and enslaves minds, it is mor difficult to ignore. As for believers telling Athiests that they are going to Hell, this statement brings up many thoughts. One is the tone that a believer uses when telling an athiest this. Is it a cautionary one, out of real concern for the athiest’s soul. Or was it mean spirited condemnation. If its the former, maybe if done with the right tone it causes the athiest to rethink their position. If its the latter, I think it would be easy for the athiest to brush off, since they don’t believe in Hell anyway.

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