Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Christmas Message from Atheists

At the Washington State Capital, Freedom From Religion Foundation (headed by Dan Barker) was permitted to place a plaque next to the two (2) other Holiday displays. A “Holiday Tree” and a Nativity Scene. The plaque reads:
At this season of the winter solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

According to Mark Impomeni this is “an offensive message of intolerance.”

I see it more as an exercise of freedom of speech. If you want a Nativity, why can’t the Jewish community have its Menorah? Or the atheist community have some plaque like this?

Frankly, if you want the REAL meaning of Christmas displayed, I would think the shopkeepers should be entitled to put up a great big metal green Dollar Sign.


  1. Many believers have an issue with this hardens hearts and enslaves minds
    These sentiments are unproven and obviously based on biased conjecture. Have atheists researched this? I must have missed the release of the research results forming these conclusions.

  2. Roman,

    Do you think religion can harden hearts and enslave minds? Having been on both sides of the fence—I can certainly relate to the sentiment. While my experience is only anecdotal, after discussing with dozens of deconverts who share the same sentiment, reading 100’s of atheists who share the same sentiment, and 1000’s of theists who portray such a sentiment to me…I guess I would wonder when enough anecdotal incidents constitute sufficient research.

    Does every single religion harden every single heart and enslave every single mind? No. Does it have the propensity? The religion I am most associated with absolutely does.

    Believers may have an issue. At what point should we start criticizing each other’s displays? I have an issue with the wise men at the Nativity scene. Not historical. As well as the Manager. And the stable. And the angels. Yet I can understand why they are included within the Christian tradition.

    Why do you think, of all the words they could have chosen to put on that plaque, they put that particular phrase?

  3. Nice try to sugarcoat the sentiments of the display. IMHO, these two displays convey two very different messages. One is a celebration of an event while the other is a general criticism. Not by any means wrong but very much inappropriate.

  4. Roman,

    I have three area of questions:

    1) I was quite serious about my previous question; I was curious as to your response.

    Why do you think, of all the words they could have chosen to put on that plaque, they put that particular phrase?

    The reason I ask: I am currently intrigued by how well we understand each other’s position. I don’t expect a theist to agree with me, of course—but I wonder if they understand why I am an atheist. Why I say the things I say. Why certain things are important to me; others are not.

    I can understand why a Christian would revere a Nativity Scene. I can understand why they are upset over an atheist plaque. I can understand why they say the things they say.

    Can they understand me?

    For this reason, I am starting off at the very basic—can you understand why those words were chosen? Why an atheist would go out of their way to write that particular phrase out of all the choices available? What was important to them to convey?

    Do you think they wrote it to anger Christians? To make a point? To emphasize something in particular?

    2) So what if it is a criticism? Is Christianity immune from criticism? Are there certain periods of time that it is entitled to a “stay of execution” (as it were) and we non-Christians cannot criticize its beliefs?

    Understand I like Nativity Scenes. I (personally) find it a pleasant story—akin to a display of Santa’s workshop. But I also understand why others would not. I understand the point of putting up a plaque saying, “Hey, wait a minute. Not all of us buy this tale as historical.” Why should Christianity become sacrosanct at certain times of the year?

    3) I was interested in your term “inappropriate.” What determines who gets to decide what is “appropriate” or not? The majority? The tradition? Certain congresspeople?

    What if we found a Nativity scene “inappropriate”? Does that mean it must go down? What if a Jew was offended? And where do you draw the line in “majority” (if that is what you use)? Neighborhood? City? County? State? Country? If a city has a 51% majority of Jews—should a nativity scene be considered “inappropriate” if the county has a 51% majority of Christians?

  5. If I had to guess, the phrase hardens hearts and enslaves minds was placed there to state that theists' general outlook on life and society is somehow different in a negative and counterproductive way from what it normally would be if the concept of a deity never existed in the first place.

  6. Fair enough.

    O.K, if you thought something was negative and counter-productive on society, would you speak out against it?

    If so—what’s wrong with our doing the same thing.

  7. There is really nothing wrong with expressing one's oppinion even though it may be criticism. It is also not wrong to object to the criticism when it is unfounded and prejudicial in nature.
    Why throw a wet blanket on a festive display, so to speak? What possible goal was there? Practically speaking, this radical approach will more than likely not de-convert believers but will instead harden hearts by insulted theists against atheists. When one side implies that the other side is somewhat lesser in stature, the only result will be animosity. In order to avoid this outcome,the governor should have insisted on placing the displays in separate areas and not right next to each other. Wrong, NO. Inappropriate, YES.
    Personally, I do find the sign offensive but not enough to trigger any kind of animosity because there certainly are some religious zealots whose hardened hearts and enslaved minds are dangerous to society. Just slip in "for some" between the words "that" and "hardens"... and it would take out the offensive tone of the sentiment.

  8. I have to admit - I find the plaque pretty stupid - and I can see how it can be offensive.

    The tree is a sign of the season - evokes no real response except 'let's decorate this green thing'.

    The nativity scene, true or not, is basically a scene of people gathering together in a manger to meet Jesus (as a baby). The message is fairly open to one's personal opinion on the said subject.

    The plaque is a plaque with words and a message. Is Dan Barker's atheists community that simple they could not create something for their own community - a symbol of some sort for the season? A globe would of been nice. But its a stupid plaque with a message on it - and that message is clear.

    'Religion is but myth'

    That's not creative and sure as hell not in the X-mas spirit of things - it's too damn dumb to be worth decorating - and the message is actually more on the negative side with all its 'no's'.

    I don't know Barker - but I do suggest he take some type of activity designed to release his creative juices. A globe goddammit!