Monday, December 8, 2008

Strong language

I'm conflicted on this whole 'War on Christmas,' a conflict in which atheists are now fully and officially involved. As I've mentioned before, the religious aspect of Christmas is easily ignored, so there is really little excuse for nativity scenes in state Capitol buildings. They are explicit religious references without much secular context unlike, for example, stars or angels on the tops of Christmas trees.

Therefore, if a nativity scene pops up in a government building, there should be no reason why an atheist group can't put up a message of its own. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has famously installed signs in Washington state and Illinois. I appreciate this, but I find that the message might be a bit over the top:
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
Since this message is actually a protest against the nativity, I suppose it is okay, but it feels just a little ugly, a little bit spiteful and mean. With this sign, atheists surrender a portion of moral high ground. With the last phrase, hardens hearts and enslaves minds, atheists have pushed back hard. It may actually be an appropriate and legitimate response, but I believe that it is a poor tactical decision.

Estimates of the nonreligious population in America range from 5% to 15% - in either case, we are significantly outmatched. This fight (not just the so-called War on Christmas, but the push for legitimacy, the push for representation) will be with us for a long time. We will not gain any friends or allies from religious groups with (public) insults. At this point, I think that atheists should be advertising a more positive agenda - the sign, although I am sure we all agree with the wording, could have ended with "There is only the natural world" and then maybe a call for good cheer or charity or generosity or love or something cheerful.

In a perfect world, of course, there would be no nativities in government buildings and, therefore, no need for protest signs or lawsuits. A tasteful holiday wreath and some tinsel and lights should suffice.

1 comment:

Heather McIntosh said...

I agree with you. This is the first time I've heard of that message. I am surprised that it is so harsh. I thought the FFRF played nicer than that. We should definitely stick with things like the bus ad you mentioned earlier.