Saturday, December 6, 2008

Solstice Sign--Good or Bad Tactic for Atheists?

I must confess to mixed feelings over the Freedom from Religion Foundation's sign in the Washington state Capitol Rotunda. Nobody detests the unconstitutional lack of separation between church and state more than I do. I understand the feelings and the passion behind it. Whenever a religion tries to use government property as a means of promoting their religious opinions, I am offended. So, if the state government is going to insist on sponsoring religious messages on government property--something that I vehemently oppose--then it only seems fair that an anti-religion group post their own message. The idea is to give Christians a taste of their own medicine, to show them the cost of using the public commons to shove their views down my throat.

Now, what is so bad about a secular sign that celebrates the Winter Solstice? This one was put up for those of us who do not want the government to be seen as pushing the idea that we ought to believe in any god, let alone the god of Christians. The problem in my mind is that most nativity scenes and other Christmas displays do not carry overt messages that one ought to believe in God. That message is somewhat more subtle. The very fact of a nativity scene on public property is a little bit of a victory dance for some Christian groups, and that is why they push for them. But this FFRF sign had the statement: "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds." Ouch. Yeah, I believe that, but I don't want to shove it in people's faces. Especially not in the holiday season. It doesn't make people stop and think "Well, gosh, I never realized how religious messages on public property must be like for nonbelievers!" It makes them stop and think "Well, gosh, I guess those atheists really are nasty, angry people!" Object lessons are designed to make the message giver feel better, not the message receiver.

That said, I have to admit that the FFRF sign has as much right to be in the Capitol Rotunda as religious symbols. I really do, although I would rather that there were no religious messages on public property. And I'm glad that they made an issue of putting something up. I just wish that they had thought of a message that was a little gentler, a little more in tune with the holiday spirit. After all, I want people to respect and tolerate my beliefs. Sometimes that means that I have to make the extra effort not to let my frustration with intolerance make me seem intolerant of their beliefs.


James said...

I think it's the last sentence about religion enslaving people that kinda bugs me.

But when I heard the head of FFRF on Fox "News", he had that odd sorta arrogance that I see associated with so many rationalists.

That arrogance is what turns a lot of folks off to their ideas and proivides fuel to the religious fundys.

In my opinion at least

Anonymous said...

Interesting to point out a separation of church and state when one never actually existed. Stop following the words, and get to the meaning of the words.

Our founders never intended for religion to be banned in government buildings, far from it. They had intended that a robust debate founded in the principles of a populace that had its values entrenched in the belief of a power higher than themselves should take place.

To be offended because you detest one others beliefs is certainly within your right, but you mistake the meaning of our constitution.

Our constitution provides for the rights of all to be heard, not to protect anyone from being spoken to about anything.

To assume that our founders intended for anyone to ban god from government is absurd. A simple reading of the Federalist Papers will give you what was meant.

You have a certain right to not be bothered by religion in your own home, and to be able to walk by those that speak it. But to bar those that would speak it from speaking it from certain places? Your right to not be offended certainly never existed.

We are a country founded on principles of god, but also to keep in mind that we will not always agree with each other.

I am very sorry that you have such a distaste for those that believe and wish to keep to the ideals of our founders, but please remember that just as you have the right to speak your peace, as does everyone else.

To keep what you disagree with out of the public or government domain is something that our founders detested...


Minister David Williams
Agnostic Evangelical Ministries
Salt Lake City, Utah