Review of Sarah Palin’s “Good Tidings and Great Joy”: the Bad

Sarah Palin’s Christmas bookWe’re critiquing Sarah Palin’s book about the War on Christmas, Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas. I’m pulling out the good, the bad, and the ugly in the book. With this post, it’s the Bad.

Palin is determined to play one of the many besieged but brave Christians living out their simple and honest faith, as is their God-given right. She imagines angry atheists lurking behind every lamp pole muttering Scrooge’s words like a mantra, “If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!”

Let’s see if those fears of persecution hold up.

Separation of church and state

Palin enumerates many recent cases where she feels that Christians’ rights in America have been stepped on. Santa Monica is one such case. For decades, the city allowed an elaborate nativity scene on public land, but protests forced the city to assign slots to groups from any religion by lottery. In 2011, atheist organizations won 18 of 21 which, of course, brought the Christians out to protest. Forced to change the rules yet again, the city didn’t allow any displays in 2012.

The city went from one religion showcased, to all religions, to none. This is typical of the evolution in other cases. (If allowing all comers bothers Christians, I don’t know why that is hard to anticipate up front. And why seeing example after example of this progression doesn’t make Christians realize that religious displays on public land just don’t make sense.)

Though atheists are imagined as the Grinch, this isn’t to say that Christians in Santa Monica were muzzled or that churches or front yards couldn’t display Christmas messages, as always. It’s just that citizens’ tax money and the prestige of the government weren’t given to promote Christianity.

We’re seeing more examples in 2013. There’s a “Keep the Saturn in Saturnalia” billboard responding to a “Keep Christ in Christmas” sign in a town in New Jersey, and a Satanist monument is planned to go up next to a Ten Commandments display on public land in Oklahoma City. Here’s an idea: just cut to the chase and avoid all religious displays on public land.

Palin wonders why everyone is mean to Christians with a quote from the president of Fox News:

What the hell is so offensive about putting up a plastic Jewish family on my lawn at Chistmastime? (32)

It’s not. That’s not what we’re talking about. No one cares about Christian or Satanist or Pastafarian displays on private land; it’s religion promoted on public land that’s the issue.

What Would the Constitution Do?

Much is made about “angry atheists” and their darn lawyers. Palin says,

Thanks to a highly technical quirk in constitutional law very few people know about and even fewer understand, [atheists] are very, very influential. An angry atheist with a lawyer is one of the most powerful persons in America. (22)

This odd “quirk” is simply that you needn’t be personally injured to bring a lawsuit against a government—being forced to pray, for example. A violation of First Amendment rights is enough.

She lampoons this with,

This means people can silence their fellow citizens for no other reason than the fact that they were offended. (25)

No, the Constitution was offended. Since the Constitution gives us our rights in this country, that sounds like a big deal. I’m surprised that Palin doesn’t agree.

Her view on this battle is:

the [atheist] Scrooges flex their illegitimately gained legal muscles (39)

with no explanation for what is illegitimate. Her complaint is not that atheists are breaking any law but that they have lawsuits as options to get church/state errors redressed.

Sarah Palin v. Constitution

Sarah Palin was the ninth governor of Alaska and took this oath of office:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Alaska, and that I will faithfully discharge my duties as governor to the best of my ability.

One must then assume that she has read and is thoroughly familiar with the U.S. Constitution, though that assumption is tested throughout this book.

The First Amendment says in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Citizens can exercise religion freely, and government can’t make laws that interfere with that. Government doesn’t have a right to proselytize religion but citizens do. So how is it legal for a government to celebrate a Christian holiday (and only that holiday) on public land?

As mayor, Palin defended a nativity scene on city property:

I was determined [the town of] Wasilla would not contribute to our [moral] decline but would instead acknowledge the Source of all good things in our life and our nation. (51)

This partisan stance sounds odd coming from a defender of the Constitution.

The Constitution calls the shots

When Christian soldiers feel put upon by the travails of living in a country governed by a secular constitution, Palin encourages them to remember,

Through it all, the God who created the heavens and the earth is sovereign. (57)

But, of course, she can believe that and write it and proclaim it to passersby in the public square because of and only because of the Constitution. The Constitution calls the shots in the United States, not the Bible.

What’s good for the goose …

About a Harvard plan to provide women-only gym time for Muslim women, Palin says,

We all appreciate religious liberty, but it should be liberty for all, not favoritism for some. (182)

She complains at length about thin-skinned atheists, but things apparently change when the shoe’s on the other foot. Is this an outrageously obvious double standard (special favors for Christians are okay, but not for Muslims) or am I missing something? That this doublethink would work with her audience says a lot about what she thinks of them.

Palin quotes a mayor fighting for the right to publicly support only Christmas:

I believe the Constitution deals with freedom of religion, and not freedom against religion or freedom to repress religion. (52)

Is this just a meaningless slogan or does Palin actually mean this? Prove it, Governor. Publicly state that the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion demands that public land be used for displays from all religions or none.

I propose an experiment. Every local U.S. city government that provided a public forum only for a Christian holiday in 2013 must avoid any such displays next year and must instead celebrate the Muslim Eid feast at the end of Ramadan on city property. Give it a try to see how that feels.

You think atheists overreact to a cross on public property? Great—show us your open mindedness by replacing it with a Muslim crescent moon and star. Then we’ll see who’s thin-skinned.

Hell in a handbasket: this is just the beginning, people!

In case Palin’s concerns seem to be overblown, with church/state separation the common-sense solution to allow everyone to get along, she fans the fires of paranoia:

Boiled down to its essence, the “war on Christmas” is the tip of the spear in a larger battle to secularize our culture and make true religious freedom a thing of America’s past. (10)

What is “true religious freedom”? If it’s your “right” to impose Christianity on the rest of us, you betcha I want that gone. But if it’s the ability for you and other Christians to believe and worship as you want and to speak your mind in the state-supported public square, unfettered by government, I want that as much as you do.

[The few malcontents with lawyers eager to wreak havoc] are a part of a larger, orchestrated attempt to strip our heritage from America. (52)

(Dang! Who leaked the Atheist Overthrow Manifesto?)

Uh, no. The “larger, orchestrated attempt” is to return respect to the Constitution. Show me an atheist who wants to deny Christians the right to worship in a way that hurts no one, and I’ll publicly state that I’m on your side. If the Jesus story is a good tiding that brings you great joy, that’s fine. Just don’t celebrate your story (and only your story) in front of my city hall.

The Anti-Defamation League’s guidelines help resolve the “December Dilemma”:

Ask yourself: does the display, in its setting, give the appearance of a government endorsement of a religious message? If yes, the display is impermissible.

Pretty simple advice. But there’s no book if you say that conspiracy fears are unfounded and that there’s an easy way for us all to get along. Conflict sells, not peace.

Conclusion: the Ugly.

Another happy soldier in the War on Christmas.
Tom Flynn’s bumper sticker

About Bob Seidensticker
  • jonch

    “Religious freedom does not mean freedom from religion.”

    – Rick Perry, Governor of Texas

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiQkOT1if24

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      We live in strange times. Thanks.

  • http://batman-news.com Anton

    “Boiled down to its essence, the “war on Christmas” is the tip of the
    spear in a larger battle to secularize our culture and make true
    religious freedom a thing of America’s past.”

    In Palin’s defense, she is a fucking idiot.

    • Kodie

      If not for McCain choosing her to be his running mate, would we even know who she was? Would Palin have had to emerge somehow?

      • http://batman-news.com Anton

        If not for McCain choosing her to be his running mate, would we even know who she was?

        One of the most hilarious moments ever televised was at the close of the 2008 RNC. After this vile woman excoriated Obama for being a community organizer and pandered to the crowd’s white-middle-class paranoia like there was no tomorrow, McCain had to take the stage with her. The entire Palin clan was onstage, the knocked-up daughter that Palin dragged around like a pro-life totem, the special-needs child she carried around like a bean bag, and the rest of her loathesome brood.

        McCain, fully realizing he had gone from a moderate Republican with some chance of success in 2000 to a complete laughing stock without a prayer of defeating the ticket featuring young, charismatic Obama and career politico Biden, looked at these yokels and grimaced. Then he grabbed the mike and asked the Palin-drunk crowd in a sickened wheeze, “Still think I made the wrong choice?”

        Heh heh. Yes, you did, Johnny boy.

        • Kodie

          I think the reason most people don’t seek political careers is because it’s 90% cheese, and most people are 40-50% cheese, max., and predominantly less.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Thanks for adding to my holiday guffaws with this:

          “One of the most hilarious moments ever televised was at the close of the 2008 RNC. After this vile woman excoriated Obama for being acommunity organizer and pandered to the crowd’s white-middle-class paranoia like there was no tomorrow, McCain had to take the stage with her. The entire Palin clan was onstage, the knocked-up daughter that Palin dragged around like a pro-life totem, the special-needs child she carried around like a bean bag, and the rest of her loathesome brood.”

        • Jonenred

          YA, you are such a liberal wimp. Shouldn’t you be somewhere decapitating unborn babies?

        • Y. A. Warren

          Rather than being a Palin “conservative” who drops bombs on the already born?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Have you seen this hilarious Terry Tate takedown (literally) of Sarah Palin? After gagging through Palin unable to answer a simple question from Katie Kouric, there’s a quite satisfying ending.

          (Gotta click through to watch it on YouTube.)

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07kO9TtHYzQ

      • Jonenred

        Too bad she had McCain, he brought down the ticket. The fact is, you liberals and your god Obama have been devastating for this country.

    • Jonenred

      you ignorant pussy liberals are tough behind a keyboard. Anton, Palin could beat you up with one arm tied behind her back.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Empty hatred serves no purpose here. Clean up your act or get banned.

        • Jonenred

          you mean comments like “In Palin’s defense, she is a fucking idiot”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You got something substantive to say? Y’know, like an actual argument? Then say it. Empty hatred gets you banned.

  • Kodie

    I think this is a witch hunt. Christmas, and the meaning of Christmas to Christians is secure as they want it to be. It is, if they want it to be, a holiday for only Christians to celebrate Jesus. The war on Christmas is created because they have, over generations, imposed the assumption of Christian celebration on the rest of us, and now just about everyone participates or is obligated to to some degree. We might call it “holidays” but it is still because of the overstep of Christmas to the general culture – inclusion by presumption. People who are not Christians drop everything they normally do to go about the process of celebrating Christmas for several weeks on end. People have (maybe more than 1 each) workplaces, two or more sets of families to visit, close friends and semi-regular acquaintances to owe a gift (or be embarrassed), and maybe even neighbors throwing open house parties. Not to mention kids to bring up on the traditions of the season. It’s not like, if you’re not Christian, you don’t go to parties, buy gifts, or whatever – you’re still expected to go and don’t show up empty-handed.

    By contrast, Hanukkah is 8 days long, and I never see things like: prelude to Hanukkah, parties thrown by Jews for all their friends, gifts exchanged between Jews and non-Jews during Hanukkah, an abundance of Hanukkah decorations and store displays, or any parties thrown outside of Hanukkah for the purpose of a Hanukkah-related office gift swap party. “Holidays” means Christmas. Granted, Hanukkah is 7 days longer than Christmas (or 6 if your family has Christmas Eve sentimentality), but it lasts 8 days MAX. Most years, nobody knows when it even is, it’s just close enough to be “included”. Hanukkah does not encompass 30-35 days that Christmas, or “Holidays” does.

    It would rather be back to scale if Christians wanted to hoard the holiday and it diminished to be celebrated on the day (maybe a week prelude to visit different neighbors or relatives, or extend through New Year’s), and yet, the madness that Christmas is would still have to exist. The rest of us apparently like it THAT MUCH to put on a show from Thanksgiving, a full month or so in advance.

    What I’m hearing from Sarah Palin from this review (and generally) is that Christians suspect the commercial tackiness of the Christmas month is what heathens like. No, I think we like parties and gift exchanges and spending time with our families – like normal people generally do. It’s conveniently related to SCHOOL VACATIONS and federal office holidays that grant people the time to travel or host visitors for a few days. If you don’t have time the whole year, it’s like, shit, the year is ending and I haven’t visited my parents/grandparents/cousins/seen the new baby yet this year, and you won’t really be given the time to do so until same time next year.

    Because Christians presumed to turn the world upside-down for the month and go ape for tacky jazz and chaos, and forced it on the culture, or perhaps, just maybe, exploited by the capitalism they cherish as much as Jesus himself.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      And remember that the Puritans declared celebrating Christmas illegal.

      • Surprise123

        Yes, and, as Americans, we should believe how the Puritans interpreted all things should be the last word on every subject.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No, we should remember that Christmas as an important Christian holiday is a recent tradition.

        • Surprise123

          Don’t know what you mean by important, and don’t know what you mean by recent. According to Wikipedia (I know, I know, not necessarily the most authoritative of sources), Christmas in the land of my ancestors, England, was a pretty big deal in the Middle Ages: it involved holy, ivy, mistletoe, evergreens, caroling, and gift giving. Of course, there was the battle between those Christians who thought Christianity should be a faith of austerity and solemnity (aka Puritans), versus those Christians who thought that, at least at midwinter, it should be a faith of joyous celebration.
          Now, if you’re talking about what I call “Clausmas,” the more popular secular holiday celebrated by many people throughout the year, many of whom who do not call themselves Christian, then “yes,” THAT is a much more recent development.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Our modern Christmas is a Victorian invention. What celebrations there were before were a refocusing of the pagan holidays (Yule, Saturnalia, etc.).

          Enjoy Christmas all you want, but let’s not pretend that it’s fundamental to Christianity. The 2nc century church fathers wouldn’t recognize this holiday.

        • Surprise123

          As I stated, “holy, ivy, mistletoe, evergreens, caroling, and gift giving” (the predominate practices of my modern Christmas) were all common in the MEDIEVAL land of my Christian ancestors. And, whether or not they were a “refocusing of the pagan holiday” (which, of course, they were) is beside the point. I’m sure that the Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslim faiths incorporated some of the pre-existing cultural and religious practices of the societies they entered, too, over the millennia. Hannukah in America is not Hannukah in Israel: Jewish Americans get to decide what is fundamental to their religion in this country, and what is not. And, a gift-swapping winter Jewish holiday may be “fundamental” to Jews in America (and particularly non-ultra orthodox jews) as a defense against the all-pervasive gift-swapping winter craziness of “Clausmas.”

          By the way, are we still arguing “semantics”? How do YOU define “fundamental”?

          “but let’s not pretend that it’s fundamental to Christianity. And, I repeat: “let’s let those who call themselves Christian (or, who even, at the very least, identify with Christian culture – people such as myself), decide just how fundamental Christmas is to their own religious / spiritual identity.

          “The 2nc century church fathers wouldn’t recognize this holiday.” 2nd century church fathers couldn’t agree on what was “fundamental” to Christianity, either. You had Trinitarians, and Gnostics, and all kinds of other groups trying to make sense of it all.

          Look, if non-Christians want to appropriate Christmas as a secular holiday, that’s cool; or, if people of other faiths want to imbue it with meaning that aligns with their own spiritual, religious, or cultural meaning, that’s cool, too. But, regarding those who closely identify with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and the Christian faith, please pay them the respect of being able to determine what is and what is not fundamental to their own religious and spiritual practice…whether they’re Mormons, or Catholics, or Puritans, or Baptists, or merely Episcopalian students of the rabbi Yeshua Ben Ioseph.

        • Kodie

          But, regarding those who closely identify with the teachings of Jesus of
          Nazareth and the Christian faith, please pay them the respect of being
          able to determine what is and what is not fundamental to their own
          religious and spiritual practice…whether they’re Mormons, or
          Catholics, or Puritans, or Baptists, or merely Episcopalian students of
          the rabbi Yeshua Ben Ioseph.

          Who are you talking about?

          Do Christians get to determine that a vital fundamental element of their religious or spiritual Christmas is to presume official U.S. government endorsement by having their displays on the town hall lot? Is that the thing we’re supposed to back off?

          Or was there something else, that you largely imagined?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          How do YOU define “fundamental”?

          In this context, original or foundational. If it’s a newfangled tradition, it’s not fundamental. It may well be important or cherished or valuable, but I wouldn’t call it fundamental.

          If you want to say that some new tradition has become fundamental, that’s fine, but the religion needs to have an asterisk next to it to indicate that it’s a new religion (or variant). But, obviously, that’s just what would be needed to keep to my definition.

          2nd century church fathers couldn’t agree on what was “fundamental” to Christianity, either.

          Yes, very true.

    • JohnH2

      “Hanukkah”

      Is actually one of the most minor Jewish holidays. The High Holy Days and Sukkot are much more important within Judaism, yet I imagine that very few people in America that aren’t Jewish know much about them (or even when they are).

      • Surprise123

        But, in American culture, a culture in which, historically Christians predominate, Hanukkah has become much more important, especially for non-ultra orthodox Jews, who mingle often with those of other cultures. It’s a defensive measure against the gift-giving and celebratory semi-madness of the season.
        If Christianity continues to be the majority religion, of which there is now considerable doubt, and Christmas continues to be the #1 holiday extravaganza, it’s quite possible that we’ll see Muslims and Hindus seeking to elevate “minor” Muslim and Hindu holidays of the season as a defense against Christmas euphoria.

    • Y. A. Warren

      My Jewish friends do enjoy a “prelude to Hanukkah, parties thrown by Jews for all their friends, gifts exchanged between Jews and non-Jews during Hanukkah, an abundance of Hanukkah decorations .”

    • Surprise123

      For most of American history, Christian culture WAS the culture. Christians predominated, and so, Christian culture predominated. That will be true in any society — the predominate cultural group will determine the mainstream cultural celebrations (and, as a non-Jew who worked at a Jewish non-profit for over ten years, I should know – I was “forced” – not really – it was lovely – to celebrate Hanukkah and Rosh Shoshanna). And, as Christian culture included Christmas (excepting the culture of the Puritans, who thought Christmas was a pagan ploy to distract Christians from the true Christian message), a seasonal semi-madness of gift giving and celebration, so, too, will the general culture.
      But, perhaps there should be acknowledgement of a secular holiday, Clausmas, the holiday that the majority of Americans celebrate, the one with the funny fat old bearded elf and his flying reindeer, and the Druidical decorated fir tree, and the whole gift-giving thang, based upon Saturnalia, the holiday of the ancient Romans. You know, the holiday that helps make Black Friday so delightfully black.
      And, of course, very devout Christians are not the only ones who make such a big deal about Clausmas: anyone associated with retail must, at the very least, have a love-hate relationship with it. Indeed, Clausmas has metastasized to such a degree that Christians (and, folks of other faiths) working in retail may no longer have Thanksgiving off. Is it just a matter of time before Clausmas starts to absorb Christmas as well, and Christian employees of UPS and Fed Ex start to have to work on December 25th?

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        For most of American history, Christian culture WAS the culture.

        Christians are still, by far, the majority today. I don’t see what they have to complain about in that department.

        Christians predominated, and so, Christian culture predominated.

        I don’t follow the cause and effect here. We do what the Constitution tells us we can do; we don’t automatically have government endorse the religious or sports or leisure preferences of the public.

        as Christian culture included Christmas (excepting the culture of the Puritans, who thought Christmas was a pagan ploy to distract Christians from the true Christian message)

        The Puritans were right. It’s a recent invention that has nothing fundamental to do with anything, Christian or otherwise.

        But we seem to be on the same page about the pagan origins of most of the customs and the commercialism. I’m sure Jesus is delighted. Or maybe not.

        • Surprise123

          IF you are an empiricist, please use more accurate language. “Christians” are not complaining. Conservative Christians fed persecution claptrap by conservative media are complaining. By lumping all American Christians together under this persecution complex title, you’re alienating folks who may very well be on your side on the matter.

          “I don’t follow the cause and effect here. We do what the Constitution tells us we can do; we don’t automatically have government endorse the religious or sports or leisure preferences of the public.”

          Some folks on this board are not only complaining about Christian culture being evident on government public property, or in the public sector, but in the private sphere (Christmas decorations in the stores, Christmas carols on the radio, etc.) as well.

          And, while I certainly agree with you that government should not endorse a single religion, neither should it be hostile to religion, predominate or otherwise. People should not be made to feel that the U.S. Constitution is hostile to their lawful faith or beliefs. If Chinese Americans and Irish Americans and Gay Americans may receive permits to hold (and pay the extra expenses of) Chinese New Year’s and St. Patrick’s Day Parades and Gay Pride Parades on public streets, then perhaps Christian Americans should be able to receive permits (and pay the extra expenses) to decorate the streets with festive lights at Christmas time.

          “The Puritans were right. It’s a recent invention that has nothing fundamental to do with anything, Christian or otherwise.” If you’re not a Christian, why do you care? Do you apply strict empirical standards to all beliefs that provide meaning in your life? It’s up to individual Christian sects to determine what “Christmas” or even “Clausmas” means to them, not us, not outsiders.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “Christians” are not complaining.

          I didn’t say that they were (I realize that I’m splitting hairs here).

          while I certainly agree with you that government should not endorse a single religion, neither should it be hostile to religion, predominate or otherwise.

          Yes, obviously.

          If Chinese Americans and Irish Americans and Gay Americans may receive permits to hold (and pay the extra expenses of) Chinese New Year’s and St. Patrick’s Day Parades and Gay Pride Parades on public streets, then perhaps Christian Americans should be able to receive permits (and pay the extra expenses) to decorate the streets with festive lights at Christmas time.

          (1) This is apples and oranges. A parade that lasts 2 hours and festive lights that are up for a month are different things. (2) If they’re just holiday lights, then I agree with you that it’s hard to imagine any complaints (very secular Seattle has them). (3) I’ve never heard of Christians paying for such a thing so perhaps I don’t know what you’re referring to.

          If you’re not a Christian, why do you care?

          Simply that, if we’re going to talk about something, we might as well get our facts right.

          It’s up to individual Christian sects to determine what “Christmas” or even “Clausmas” means to them, not us, not outsiders.

          Of course. The relevance of the Puritan story is that it reminds us that Christmas is recent and not fundamental to the religion (perhaps I should say wasn’t fundamental to the religion).

        • Surprise123

          “This is apples and oranges.” Apples and oranges? I don’t think so. The principle is accessing public property in a fair or neutral manner, whether that property is public streets or public municipal buildings. As long as a municipality makes it clear what is and is not possible (2-hour parade that stops traffic for 2 hours, and requires police overtime; or street decorations / lights for 4 weeks to celebrate an ethnic, cultural, or religious tradition – in my city, this means street decorations in the weeks leading up to the upcoming Gay Pride Parade), and allots access to public property in a fair and neutral way, why not?

          “Simply that, if we’re going to talk about something, we might as well get our facts right.” Are you as devoted to empiricism and historical accuracy when discussing topics of great meaning to you, or topics that touch upon your sense of identity?

          What is “fundamental” to the Christian religion is up to Christian religionists of the various sects to decide, not us as outsiders. We can certainly talk about the historicity of the Christian Bible, or about how early traditions of an evergreen tree and a reindeer-flying jolly gift-giving elf entered the cosmology of certain Christians, but what is fundamental to Christianity? Uh – uh. That’s up to them. Unless specific tenets of their beliefs harm you, or are unlawful, that’s another matter.

          “(3) I’ve never heard of Christians paying for such a thing so perhaps I don’t know what you’re referring to.” While it’s true that in the past, municipalities may have paid for Christmas street decorations, I would be VERY surprised to hear that they were doing so now (just as surprised as I would be today if municipalities were paying for Gay Pride Street decorations). I imagine that Christian churches and LGBT groups pay for street decorations celebrating their traditions.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The principle is accessing public property in a fair or neutral manner, whether that property is public streets or public municipal buildings.

          Then help me understand your point by giving two comparable examples: a gay parade and a Christian parade, for example.

          What is “fundamental” to the Christian religion is up to Christian religionists of the various sects to decide, not us as outsiders.

          I think you mean that what’s important is up to the religionists to decide. A custom added a century ago to a 2000-yo religion isn’t fundamental.

          Call it a different religion, and you can restart the clock, and it can have start up with whatever fundamentals it wants to.

          While it’s true that in the past, municipalities may have paid for Christmas street decorations, I would be VERY surprised to hear that they were doing so now

          Again, I don’t think we’re on the same page. Different experiences?

          Where I come from, there is considerable municipal expense taken for Christmas decorations, but they’re all secular. Not an angel or god in sight. Not a problem, IMO—at least from a church/state separation standpoint.

          just as surprised as I would be today if municipalities were paying for Gay Pride Street decorations

          (1) Again, I’ve never heard of such a thing (having seen many gay pride parades). (2) I would be as shocked as you in this situation.

        • Surprise123

          “I think you mean that what’s important is up to the religionists to decide. A custom added a century ago to a 2000-yo religion isn’t fundamental.

          “Call it a different religion, and you can restart the clock, and it can have start up with whatever fundamentals it wants to.”

          The problem is that, unlike multinational corporations or businesses that can protect their names through trademark, religions can’t. Mormons are free to call themselves “Christians” in our country, and they do, but my own understanding of Christianity doesn’t incorporate their belief system. But, neither I, nor the Catholic Pope nor the head of the Southern Baptist Commission, nor the Archbishop of the Episcopalian Church have the legal ability to stop them from calling themselves “Christian.” In my own Episcopalian church (I attend services, but don’t consider myself a Christian), a group of self-designated “Catholics” worships there every week. They have rejected the Roman Catholic Church’s restrictions on female priests, and are presided over by a female cleric.

          I don’t know: maybe we’re arguing semantics. How do you define “fundamental,” and how is that different from merely “important”? For me, belief in the Trinity, God the Father; the Holy Ghost; and Jesus, the Son of God, as well as affirmation that “Jesus Christ is Savior and the key to everlasting life” is “fundamental” to being a Christian, but not so for other self-designated “Christian” sects.

          “Again, I don’t think we’re on the same page. Different experiences?” Quite possibly. But, frankly, I don’t know who pays for “Winter Seasonal” (formerly known as Christmas) street decorations in December, and who pays for Rainbow Flag street decorations in the weeks preceding the Gay Pride Parade in my city. It would be interesting to find out.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Mormons are free to call themselves “Christians” in our country, and they do, but my own understanding of Christianity doesn’t incorporate their belief system.

          And if you’re a Baptist, the Catholics don’t quite fit as well.

          Just to be difficult, I’ll note that the dude that Mormons worship is the same “Jesus Christ” that the Baptists worship. That’s arguably enough to call themselves “Christian.”

          In my own Episcopalian church (I attend services, but don’t consider myself a Christian)

          What do you consider yourself? And why attend a Christian church if you’re not Christian?

          They have rejected the Roman Catholic Church’s restrictions on female priests, and are presided over by a female cleric.

          At a recent gay wedding at an Episcopal church, I chatted with someone who was involved with the breakaway Catholic women priest thing. Fascinating.

          I don’t know: maybe we’re arguing semantics.

          Good call. That happens a lot.

        • Surprise123

          “That’s arguably enough to call themselves “Christian.” As long as one’s beliefs are sincere, and they’re not mocking the faith of others, I think, anyone should be able to call himself or herself “Christian,” if that label is in line with his or her own conscience. They may, of course, however, have trouble attracting adherents if their religion does not include references to and admiration of Jesus of Nazareth. But, that’s another matter. :)

          “What do you consider yourself?” A student of the Jewish Rabbi Yeshua Ben Ioseph (aka Jesus of Nazareth), and one who seeks “Christ” (as I define the word – wisdom, awareness; the Tao; a rejection of status, power, vanity, greed as primary values; the ability to listen, truly listen to others, regardless of their ideology; an understanding that, regarding “the losers” in society, the homeless, the outcast, the poor, those with physical disabilities, there, but for the grace of God (if you’re religious), or the Universe ( if you’re not), go I. I study the canonical and non-canonical (Gospel of Thomas, Mary – found in the Nag Hammadi Library) teachings of Yeshua, as well as the wisdom literatures of other traditions.

          Obviously, on this discussion board, as my posts reveal, I often fall far short of my Christ – based ideals. :) In fact, you, as moderator of the Atheist channel, come far closer to those ideals.

          “And why attend a Christian church if you’re not Christian?” I consider myself Episcopalian, but not “Christian.” Identity, community, a sense of belonging, ancestry (my ancestors practiced the Anglican Christian tradition), family tradition (my parents baptized me into the Episcopalian faith), beauty (the sanctuary is lovely), music (the choir, made up of practicing Christians and non-Christians alike, is sublime), communal ritual, communal eating (the potluck after services), and the ability to connect on a regular basis with those, who at the very least, profess, and often wrestle with those values, are all important to me.

          My Episcopalian Church is truly amazing. All of good will are welcome there: everyone is invited to the Communion, regardless of the status of their faith; one of our priests is openly gay; our archbishop female; an avowed atheist sits on our vestry; Catholics, presided over by a woman priest, worship there; People of all races attend our Sunday sermons; Jewish people come to our Taize services; and the homeless and people with obvious mental health issues are very welcome in our pews.

          In this modern atomizing and alienating age, an age in which identity once based upon traditional occupation or employment, family, locale, or culture is insecure, people are desperate for community, identity, belonging. And, I’m one of them. Religion, in spite of its many faults, often does a better job than most other human phenomena in this regard, I believe. Certainly, the ritual, the “choreography” of the liturgical “dance,” the common singing of songs, the common music, the common eating of familiar foods, the wearing of special clothes that separate adherents from others, the beauty of the space, all help foster a sense of belonging. Possibly, even the supernatural aspect is important: it’s far easier to burn up or break up the physical aspects of a community, but doing away with faith in a better afterlife or faith in a better future or faith that your deity has bestowed a special destiny on you is another matter.
          But, these are all assertions of my own biases and faith, and some of them may even be subject to empirical testing…one day.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          They may, of course, however, have trouble attracting adherents if their religion does not include references to and admiration of Jesus of Nazareth.

          Right. And Mormonism is such a religion.

          A student of the Jewish Rabbi Yeshua Ben Ioseph

          This is a small nit, but I thought that rabbis came about shortly after the death of Jesus. We can call teachers before that point “rabbis,” but my understanding is that “rabbi” would not have been the correct title at that time.

          And another: how could he be “ben Joseph” (son of Joseph) if Yahweh was actually his father? Or did Jesus have two daddies?

          the Tao

          Not incompatible?

          you, as moderator of the Atheist channel, come far closer to those ideals.

          Very nice of you to say, but I find much room for improvement in how I treat other people.

          I consider myself Episcopalian, but not “Christian.”

          The only one in your congregation, I’m guessing?

          Identity, community, a sense of belonging, ancestry …

          Very understandable. These natural benefits make lots of sense for social animals like we humans. It’s the supernatural part that raises my eyebrows.

          one of our priests is openly gay

          Cool. I recently went to the wedding of a friend of mine, a gay Episcopal vicar, in her church.

    • Surprise123

      Currently, there are far fewer religiously devout Jews in our society than there are religiously devout Christians: THAT makes a difference. And, yes, it’s uncomfortable at times to be the outsider during traditional celebrations of the predominate group (I feel the same way now during the religious celebration called “Superbowl,” and, at times when I, as a non-Jew, worked at a Jewish non-profit).

      • Kodie

        That doesn’t have to do with anything. Christians are complaining about what? That they feel like outsiders of their own holiday and it needs some kind of protection or another, more diverse, culture will overwhelm it? And they can’t stand for it. NO, they have to dominate!! They don’t like the least little bit of infringement on what they assume are their rights, and they have to complain about it, irony-free, every fucking year.

        Not to mention, other times of the year, about other things.

        It is in the 1st amendment – we have our religious freedom and the right to be free from government establishing (ie. preferring) a religion. This is a basic freedom, no mind control, no bullying, no “majority” rule on the basis of religion or religious beliefs. I don’t know why you are saying you feel like a minority when you work at a Jewish charity. Football is not an established religion – it is a commercial franchise and a pastime. The Superbowl is not a federal holiday. The closest government says about that is mayors of the cities where the teams are located often make bets with one another. I live in Boston, I know about how you’re supposed to care about all the sports. It is not comparable to a religious establishment by the government. When you don’t get what you want, as a Christian, outside of your Jewish workplace, how do you think other people feel about having their rights taken away by Christians?

        • Surprise123

          “That doesn’t have to do with anything.” Yes, my own feelings of “outsiderness” are irrelevant – only yours are important. :)
          SOME conservative Christians, who have been fed a lot of persecution claptrap by conservative media feel like “outsiders of their own holiday.” Not other Christians. No need to conflate the two.

          The values and traditions of the group with the most adherents (or, at least, the most passionate beliefs) will predominate in any society. And, if empiricists such as yourself, with little tolerance for demonstrations of supernatural faith-based beliefs, predominate, we’ll no longer see such beliefs paraded in public. No more Chinese New Year parades (all those supernatural dragons – yuch!), or St. Patrick’s Day Parades (what, St. Patrick forced all the snakes to leave Ireland – no way, no empirical evidence for that!), or even public squares dressed up in Christmas trees (or holiday trees, if you prefer) and Hannakkuh Menorahs.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie can speak for herself, but from my perspective, the issue is harm. I like evidence, but I can still enjoy Homer.

          A Chinese New Year dragon doesn’t cause harm, though going to great expense to satisfy a Feng Shui requirement does.

        • Surprise123

          Identity, belonging, community are important. Spending a lot of money ensuring that “Feng Shui” principles are met, is, perhaps, no less important to people of Chinese ancestry than spending a lot of money to acquire costumes identical to those worn by Princess Leia and Hans Solo in the “New Hope” movie is to Star War fans.
          I spent quite a bit of money on a Christmas tree this year: I’m not Christian, but the tree and lights provide me with a sense of belonging and connect me with the traditions of my family. Was I harmed because, instead of only looking at myself as a stream of fiscal revenue and expense, I also saw myself as human being, someone requiring identity, belonging and community?
          We all have our communities of belonging, identity, and often they’re held together not on the current empirical realities of the present, but on non-empirical, or even supernatural beliefs associated with our cultures and traditions.
          Our needs are not just material in nature. Human beings require meaning, identity, and community. And, we are often “harmed” if we don’t have these things.

        • Kodie

          So join the fucking community of your choice. The government has no place in acquiescing to religious fantasies to the detriment of everyone else. Everyone is free to spend their own money on shit they want, just like all the time.

          I thought I was one to go off on tangents, but you take it to the max, since your ideas have some kind of merit, BUT they just have no right to expect the endorsement of government.

          DO YOU SEE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN:

          what you want to do and spend

          AND

          what you want the government to do and spend on your behalf

          ????????????????

          You don’t, you just keep talking about private stuff that people can feel disenfranchised, but I don’t know why you keep talking about that, as if it makes it ok when the government disenfranchises a segment of the population by preferring one religion over another.

          Please, stop, think, think, think, keep thinking, write something out, ask yourself if it’s relevant, ask someone near you to tell you it isn’t, and then cancel your post.

          You seem to think if there is no nativity scene on the town hall lot, it will be a huge crisis for other cultures. Slippery slope much? So if we care about St. Patrick’s Day (here in Boston it is a state holiday called Evacuation Day, in fact, due to a landmark date strategically picked from the timeline of the American Revolution), we have to let the Christians do whatever they want. Shamrocks and leprechauns and green beer are not a huge part of the Catholic Saint Day, so I literally would complain if they wanted to put a statue of St. Patrick up on the town hall. I don’t really care if it’s to celebrate the Irish with other decorations or parades.

          YOU, Lord of the Idiots, do not seem to see the difference between being Chinese and being a Christian. It’s going to be a long time before the U.S. government takes away your right to be either, so you are really arguing over nothing you understand at all.

        • Surprise123

          “what you want the government to do and spend on your behalf” I don’t want the government to “do” and “spend” on behalf of my religion (if “religion” is what my belief system is). But, I do want people of various identities, whether religious based or otherwise, to be able to access our public space in a fair and neutral way. I don’t want one group to be able to get permits for celebrations because their identity is based upon ethnicity or culture (sometimes with funny magical thinking and supernatural features) or sexual inclination, while other groups are excluded because their identity is based on culture AND belief in a supernatural god, and a supernatural moral code (i.e. religion).

          “Please, stop, think, think, think, keep thinking, write something out, ask yourself if it’s relevant, ask someone near you to tell you it isn’t, and then cancel your post.” If you think my posts are irrelevant, and that the quality of my arguments is poor, a single “This woman’s thinking is not up to the quality required on our atheist channel: I will not engage with her further” comment would have sufficed. No need to waste so much time and energy on me. I, “Lord of the Idiots,” am obviously not worth it! :)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I don’t want one group to be able to get
          permits for celebrations because their identity is based upon ethnicity or culture (sometimes with funny magical thinking and supernatural features) or sexual inclination, while other groups are excluded because their identity is based on culture AND belief in a supernatural god, and a supernatural moral code (i.e. religion).

          Is this happening? Or are you just afraid that it will
          happen?

        • Surprise123

          No, this is not happening, but I believe that Kodie, and others who share his ideology, would like it to happen….because ALL “religious” beliefs, beliefs that are part of a lifelong devotion to a supernatural moral code” inflict harm…ALWAYS. An ideological belief, I think, that has not been submitted to rigorous empirical testing, and primarily serves to bolster the biases of its adherents.
          Playing one week that Irish Leprechauns exist, another week that Star Wars Storm troopers exist, another week that flying reindeer exist, another week that Chinese dragons exist, another week that the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists, and another week that hobbits exist is fine, but a lifelong devotion to a particular supernatural moral code, and the supernatural figures associated with it, with or without the exclusion of other extraneous supernatural beliefs, or even with or without reverence for empiricism in other spheres, is always bad.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I don’t want religious events to be made illegal. I don’t remember meeting anyone who does.

          But you see the irony, right? You’re concerned that there will be a Gay Pride parade but the Christian event will be shut down. But at the same time you’re eager to see Christian (and perhaps other) religions celebrated on city hall grounds. I don’t recall government ever promoting Star Wars or leprechauns in the same way.

          Is believing in false things bad? I say that that is bad, though there can be value in false beliefs (“You’d better be nice to people or God will punish you in the lake of fire,” for example).

        • Surprise123

          I’m not concerned that there will be a Gay Pride Parade: I attend Gay Pride Parades. And, I’m not concerned that Christian events on public property will be shut down. When did I ever say that? Nor am I “eager” that religions be celebrated on city hall grounds (I’ve never sacrificed money or time or energy to ensure that that happens). I am concerned, however, that people of faith, people whose identities are predominately formed by religion, will come to view the secular state as hostile to religion, something which we are, whether rightly or wrongly, beginning to see more and more of. Fox News Christians still make up a considerable segment of our society, and their unhappiness at the secular state might, one day, lead to outright open rebellion.

          A neutral and fair secular state, one that the majority of Americans can trust is not hostile to their guiding ideologies, religious or otherwise (providing those ideologies do not oppress other citizens), benefits us all.

          “Is believing in false things bad? 1) We are all biased, and all predisposed to believe non-empirical (aka false) assertions that boost our in-group or sense of identity; and 2), I think the word “belief” is an interesting one: FSM’ers might claim publically that they “believe” that the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” God, is real (what they tell their small children at home regarding this assertion would be interesting to learn), set up FSM displays at Christmas time in public government buildings, but the rest of the year have nothing more to do with FSM practices, while at the same time asserting that they don’t “believe” in the Star Wars Universe, but spend hundreds upon hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars trying to make the Star Wars universe come to life through costuming, role playing, events, and computer games. Likewise, a Christian might claim that he “believes” that Jesus is his personal Lord and Savoir, but, never tithe, attend a church, or even crack open a bible, while at the same time, like his FSM counterpart, assert he doesn’t “believe” in the Star Wars Universe, but spend many many hours hours and many many dollars trying to make the Star Wars universe come to life.
          Does “belief” mean mere positive assertion or statement? Or, does it also require willingness, motivation to devote time, money, effort into ensuring that that reality remains “real” or even becomes “real”?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          When did I ever say that?

          You didn’t, but you said that Kodie did.

          Nor am I “eager” that religions be celebrated on city hall grounds

          Then maybe I’m missing where you’re coming from. Isn’t your goal to have earnest (not joke) celebrations of religions on public grounds?

          will come to view the secular state as hostile to religion, something which we are, whether rightly or wrongly, beginning to see more and more of.

          Let’s see if we’re talking about the same thing. If we got rid of “under God” in the pledge, “In God We Trust” on the money and as the motto, and every single Christian-only display that violates the Constitution, that would not be hostile to religion. That would, instead, celebrate the Constitution—our host, and under whose authority religion is permitted in this country.

          The problem IMO is the definition of “hostile to religion.” I want the pendulum to be neutral, with the government neither hostile to religion nor promoting it. The problem is, the Right will whine and fuss and hold their breath if the Christian excesses are removed.

          We live in interesting times.

          their unhappiness at the secular state might, one day, lead to outright open rebellion.

          To them, I say: you don’t like a secular state? You’re livin’ in one, baby. Deal with it.

          A neutral and fair secular state, one that the majority of Americans can trust is not hostile to their guiding ideologies, religious or otherwise (providing those ideologies do not oppress other citizens), benefits us all.

          I agree. Do we also agree what that looks like, I wonder?

          asserting that they don’t “believe” in the Star Wars Universe, but spend hundreds upon hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars trying to make the Star Wars universe come to life throug h costum ing, role playing, events, and computer games.

          But the disingenuous Christian actually does think that he believes in the supernatural. The Star Wars fan believes in neither the supernatural (in this context, anyway) or in the Star Wars world.

        • Surprise123

          “Then maybe I’m missing where you’re coming from. Isn’t your goal to have earnest (not joke) celebrations of religions on public grounds?” No, my goal is to prevent celebrations or displays on public grounds that mock the religious, cultural, ethnic beliefs, or beliefs of conscience of others. And, I would also hope that public buildings not be shorn of all architectural embellishment that allude to religious, cultural, ethnic beliefs, or beliefs of conscience, providing they’re relevant to the function of the building, and to the citizens they serve. Because buildings that are only designed along utilitarian lines, and are not meant to inspire meaning, or communal pride, or transcendence… suck.

          “I agree. Do we also agree what that (the secular state) looks like, I wonder?” No, but I imagine YOUR secular state would also differ from the secular state of other atheists. :)

          My own secular state would do away with December 25th as a national holiday (but add more holidays celebrating the Constitution, and dates when our society became more inclusive / less oppressive), do away with “In God We Trust” on the money, and “the under God” clause in the national pledge. But, it would be open to representations of faiths, either in temporary displays on public property or public streets, and to expressions of faith of public employees and elected officials, providing they were not using their office to proselytize and their faith to demean other citizens.

          I don’t think I got my point well across about the whole FSM’er, Christian, Star wars fan “belief” nexus thing.

          You asked “Is believing in false things bad,” and I was trying to ask, in a very convoluted, long-winded way, “What does ‘believing’ mean?” Does it cover all unexamined or untested assertions, even those that motivate you no longer, are no longer part of your core identity, and for which you are not willing to sacrifice time and money and energy in order to uphold (the case of the Christian in question). Or, does it include states of mind in which we “know” in our cerebral cortex that Obi Wan Kenobi doesn’t exist, but in our medula oblongata, in our gut, HE LIVES! And, we spend hours upon hours debating under what circumstances he could take on Darth Vader, and spend considerable money acquiring an Obi Wan Kenobi costume, and his accompanying light saber.

        • Kodie

          I think you have a lot of confusion and are making a lot of assumptions and jumping to a lot of conclusions, and imagining a lot of things that aren’t true about secularism. You just liked things the way they were, when no scrooges ruined your Jesusy Christmas, overflowing from your church and your house onto the City Hall property, and you don’t find humor in mocking people’s sincerely held beliefs, but you’re not really supposed to. It’s humor for a serious intent to send a message. The government should not endorse any religions or should endorse all of them.

          NONE of this has to do with anyone’s right to peaceably assemble, and everyone usually needs a permit for that. Christians can get a permit for that just as well as the Chinese can.

          So I don’t really understand what you’re so concerned about. You seem to be making an issue out of something that isn’t an issue. You have a problem with a general “lack of respect” on the part of atheists for trying to address Christian privilege. Let me stop and ask you if you know what I even mean by “Christian privilege”? It means that Christians take more than their fair share of rights, assuming they are the majority, nobody minds, and the government endorses their beliefs. While doing so, they take away rights from others of dissimilar beliefs and disrespect the minority, assume nobody minds, and that the government will help them keep us quiet.

          Tell me again why it’s not ok to mock fairy-tale-worshipers, sincerely held beliefs in hating gay people, distrusting atheists, and assuming earthly entitlements while crying their fucking eyes out about how persecuted they are when they can’t take over the government at Jesus’s birthday, or the rest of the year when they want to affect laws, like what kinds of service Catholic hospitals can offer their employees, or what kinds of weddings they refuse to make cakes for.

          Christians are always whining about how they get so little respect for sincerely held beliefs. Nobody who isn’t Christian HAS TO honor those beliefs. Nobody who isn’t Christian HAS TO live under the tyranny of your beliefs. Nobody who isn’t Christian HAS TO care what’s sincerely important to the devout when the devout expect the government to agree with taking rights away from ME.

          So Flying Spaghetti Monster is not just a joke to have fun at Christians for no fucking reason. If you don’t get it by now, then go way back to the beginning and very clearly explain just what the hell your grievance is. You seem to just be saying we ought to be nice and let Christians have all the rights, while we say nothing and let them, and that’s how it should be! There never seems to be a good time to address how awful they are because they’re always having some kind of ceremony.

        • Surprise123

          I certainly am confused from time to time, and may not listen as intently as I should. Please explain how you, personally, have been negatively affected by Christian privilege and entitlement. And, I’ll take annoyance at the metastasizing “Clausmas” holiday as a given.

        • Surprise123

          ” I don’t know why you are saying you feel like a minority when you work at a Jewish charity. Football is not an established religion – it is a commercial franchise and a pastime.” I was trying to let you know, that, I, too, sometimes feel like an outsider, whether that’s when Hannukah or Rosh Shoshanna were celebrated at the Jewish non-profit where I, a non-Jew, worked, or whether it’s during football season in general or the Superbowl in particular, when all of America is going football crazy (and, yes, American football is not a religion – I was playing loose with the definition). While celebrating Hannakkuh and Rosh Hoshanna was lovely, those holidays set me apart as OTHER to a small degree from the majority of employees at the non-profit. And, regarding American football, I absolutely loathe it: brutal, very sexualizing of the women associated with it – cheerleaders and half-time pop stars, and just an all out celebration of male testosterone (and other, less natural hormone) poisoning. I think, quite possibly what the “Clausmas” season is to you, the football season is to me. What “Happy Holidays” is to you: “Who do you think will win Sunday’s game” or “Who do you think will win the Superbowl” is to me.
          “Clausmas” isn’t the only crazed societal passion attempting to absorb other fine American traditions.

          “How do you think other people feel about having their rights taken away by Christians?” Well, I presume, like all other oppressed people, they would be unhappy. And, I would hope they would realize that their rights are not being taken away by “Christians” on the whole, but by conservative Fox News Christians, and that there are other Christians, Red Letter Christians, Sojourners, the Nuns on the Bus, Liberation theologians, Episcopalians, Quakers, Lutherans, Unitarians, who are supporting their rights, at times, and under certain circumstances, at great risk to themselves.

  • RichardSRussell

    Newsworthy: AHA! places FSM in Wisconsin State Capitol

    = = = = = =

    Have you heard that some people are taking offense at being issued the “wrong” kind of season’s greetings? For pity’s sake, people, nothing to get all snippy about. It’s not that hard. Here’s the short course:

    • If you know somebody is a Christian, say “Merry Christmas”.
    • If you know that they’re Serbian, like my mom’s side of the family, say “Khristos se rodi” (or “Joyeux Noël” or “Felíz Navidad” or whatever the appropriate ethnicity is).
    • If you know they’re Jewish, go with “Happy Hanukkah”.
    • If you know they’re Wiccan, say “Blessed Yule”.
    • If you know they enjoy Kwanzaa, say “Joyous Kwanzaa”.
    • If you know they celebrate Festivus, say “Happy Festivus”.
    • If you’re talking to me — “Are you talkin’ to me?” — “Go, Pack!” gets a big grin all year round.
    • And in all other cases (that is, when you don’t know), go with “Happy Holidays” and you can’t miss.

    Do you detect the common theme here? It’s about spreading cheer to the other person. It’s not all about you.

    Now please pick your favorite season’s greeting and pretend it came from me. 8^D

    • Kodie

      This has been somewhat awkward to explain – since Christmas dominates, the only reason we feel obligated to wish anyone any cheer, or “Happy Holidays” is because of Christmas.

    • Jason

      I agree. Well said.

    • busterggi

      “Happy Holidays”
      Don’t tell me how to feel!

      • RichardSRussell

        I’m not your boss, your commanding officer, your spouse, or your mom. All I can do is offer good wishes for pleasant experiences to come to you. If you choose to interpret them as unwanted orders, that’s your problem, not mine. Happy holidays.

        • Kodie

          Why do you have to?

        • Surprise123

          Because I’m feeling joyous and well, and want others to, too.

      • Surprise123

        Urrggh, Bah, Humbug. :) Happy Holidays: Not an order, no more than “Good Day” or “Goodbye” is. Just a wish that you fare well from the time of Thanksgiving to the time of the New Year.

    • Y. A. Warren

      I get around all of it with, “Happy Holy days.”

      • RichardSRussell

        That only gets around some of it. The word holiday may have evolved from holy day but it no longer means the same thing, any more than humans are the same as apes. And there are plenty of people who don’t think that either days or anything else are “holy”.

        Again, if you’re wishing good cheer to the other person, why pick a term that stands a very good chance of just irritating them?

        • Kodie

          Why pick a specific time of year?

        • RichardSRussell

          Tradition. Same reason I fly the US flag on national holidays. Or hand out candy on Halloween. Or send birthday cards to friends and relatives. Or sing “Solidarity Forever” at union meetings. Or always bring candied yams to my dance group’s holiday potluck. Or even say “Have a nice day” to grocery-store clerks. It’s one among many methods of relating to my fellow human beings.

        • Kodie

          I mean a specific greeting of cheer at a specific time of year – it’s almost like these days are considered holy.

        • RichardSRussell

          Neither the greeting nor the time of year have to be all that specific. The “holiday season” (which I often refer to as the “holiday eating season”) probably runs from a few days before Halloween to polishing off all the leftovers from the Super Bowl party in early February. Count ’em up — that’s close to 100 days or about 27% of the entire year.

          And some people do consider them “holy”. I’m not among them. I just think of it as a festive time of year for people whose ancestry derived its social traditions from the Northern Hemisphere’s climate patterns. The “holy” part was a foreign import superimposed over something that had been going on for thousands of years before Mary ever came up with that convenient excuse for how she got knocked up without being married.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I consider every day sacred, holy, and/or awesome in some way(s), though there are some days that I have to look for these traits harder than on others. None of these words connote a deity to me, simply the best manifestations of energy on earth.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Mary ever came up with that convenient excuse for how she got knocked up without being married.

          Totally off topic (but then you started it): did you hear of the study that found that 1% of women claimed to have gotten pregnant as virgins?

        • Kodie

          Let’s water down the meaning of “holy” to mean “designated”. If you wish someone “Happy Holidays” around Halloween, they will like to punch you in the nose. It’s code for Christmas. Halloween is a holiday but nobody shies away from calling it what it’s called. I consider Christmas to be massively secular except for a personal or familial meaning that some may add (or to them that may be primary while the atmospheric content that is unique to Christmastime is secondary (but still secular). To me, Christmas already includes everyone, not necessarily because they want it to, but because they can’t avoid it.

          They might celebrate another holiday on their own, but the concept of “inclusiveness” is like “tolerance”. We’re including you in our particular nonsense. It’s communal nonsense now. It’s Christmas for everyone, but we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by calling it Christmas. The time of year is “holy,” i.e. “designated” for a particular greeting, a particular mood, a lot of excess and strange behaviors and traditions that are clearly Christmas-y, very clearly derived from a majority celebrating a commercially successful holiday by not only giving gifts and throwing parties, but buying special outfits, eating special foods, and wishing people “Happy Holidays” just to make Christmas more universal, not less.

        • Surprise123

          “If you wish someone “Happy Holidays” around Halloween, they will like to punch you in the nose.” Punch you in the nose? Really? Because you wished a stranger “Happy Holidays” on October 31st?
          Fox News and Sarah Palin aren’t the only ones involved in spreading persecution complexes.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Because it is considered rude in the deep south to say nothing, I’m trying to train myself with an automatic answer that offends only those who desperately want to pick a fight.

        • RichardSRussell

          So, again, why holy day instead of holiday? Surely you must understand that calling something “holy” is more likely to provoke a negative reaction than simply remarking on the season.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I have found that this really depends on what people you are addressing. In New Orleans, people usually have a sense of humor about the sacred.

        • Kodie

          Can I ask you to do an experiment? I want to know what happens if you just say “Hello!” or “See you soon!” or whatever is appropriate but actually generic positive sentiment.

          Will you get punched in the face for failing to acknowledge the holiday?

        • Y. A. Warren

          I like to see people happy, and I acknowledge their happiness in a manner that is not hypocrisy for me and fits in with their rituals, when possible.

          I do find many things everyday things holy, sacred, awesome, and attempt to encourage those feelings in others.

        • Kodie

          That’s not what I’m asking.

        • Y. A. Warren

          To what purpose would I conduct this experiment?

        • Kodie

          To see if you would get punched in the face. I am not asking you to try to get punched in the face, I want to be clear. Around where I live, a sentiment regarding the holidays or Christmas or whatever you want to call it specifically is for people you’re not going to see again or ever. I often wish people a good night or a good weekend or a general “stay warm” – Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas or whatever you want to call it is reserved for cards, phone calls on the day, and to people you regularly see on the last time you’re going to see them until after Christmas. You might also extend it to the cashier at a store during the month of December if you are buying presents but not if you are buying laundry detergent and cat food. You might also extend it to people who have to work on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day if you happen to have to go out on those days, or people you see along the way.

          The rest of the time, “have a good day/night/weekend” is normal.

          A few other random times people wished me Merry Christmas (or I do) is any time of the whole year they are giving you something you didn’t buy – not gifts they shopped for but nice things you like that they have to give away, rather spontaneously. Ex. “Hey, that thing is cool!” “You like it? It’s yours. Merry Christmas.”

        • Y. A. Warren

          It is not about being punched in the face. It is about wanting me to be true to myself and to the spirit in which people greet me.

          I live in a very sentimental, very religious area in which strangers strike up intimate conversations in the line to pay for groceries. I respond to the realities in my area as I see is appropriate, as I’m assuming you do. There are people who object to “Have a nice day/night/weekend.” These people, I simply attempt to walk away from when they become threatening.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Have you seen this graphic? It’s a simple flowchart showing how to respond based on (1) what holiday greeting was given to you and (2) what bin you fit in.

        • Kodie

          I say it’s Christmas. I am some kind of weirdo. I like that other cultures have their holidays, but I also have some idea that they’re not that big of a deal compared to their other festivals, which we neither recognize nor have imposed upon us as a culture. Christmas is imposed on the culture, and “includes” people who, I think in the last century, were assumed to be Christians. People used to say “Merry Christmas” and it was awkward, but then we decided to be sensitive.

          I think when recipients of “Happy Holidays” get upset it’s because they think someone might be mistaking them for Jewish, it’s not because other cultures also celebrate some kind of holiday in the same area of the calendar. To me, it’s just a fallacy to believe what we mean is anything but Christmas, when it so obviously is.

        • Surprise123

          If your intention is good cheer, and you KNOW that the person before you is a conservative Christian with feelings of persecution and concerns about “The War on Christmas,” then perhaps “Happy Holidays” is not the way to go.
          But, otherwise, “Happy Hoildays” seems innocuous enough: doesn’t everyone at least have New Year’s day off, and many people even celebrate it.

        • Kodie

          If it’s going to piss someone like that off, then I think it’s the way to go. I have had my say about “Happy Holidays” really meaning “I celebrate Christmas but I don’t know if you do”. Christians who are offended by it are riled up by the conservative media and are offended to be possibly mistaken for a Jew or some other minority that’s lumped in with their holiday and subverts their feelings of superiority.

          By the way, I am extremely confused about Christians being offended by things everyone else says, like about holidays or two men holding hands in public, or whatever, but they are also some of the most offensive people toward women and have issues with people offended by them speaking their beliefs and not being “politically correct”. If someone says something nasty about women on a blog comment or something, and a woman gets upset, it turns into a thousand posts blaming women for being upset. Like, if you are talking about rape culture, it explodes into fury. I am not saying everyone who offends is a Christian, but damn, they are so sensitive about the slightest things that are meant with good intentions, like “Happy Holidays!”, and then on the other hand, go on at length blaming women for getting raped or having an unplanned pregnancy – things that can actually destroy someone’s life if Christians had their way. But try to share Christmas joy with everyone! Holy shit! To them, you just can’t take the Jesus out of the hot chocolate and school vacations and get away with it.

          I am not really a troll, but they are upset having their privilege of taking rights away from other people, so fuck ’em.

        • Surprise123

          “If it’s going to piss someone like that off, then I think it’s the way to go.” Okaaay. Don’t know what your overall intention or goal is, but if it’s making people of a certain segment of the predominate religion (let’s call that segment “Fox News Christians”) defensive and unable to hear what you have to say, then go at it. I’m sure you’ll be successful.

          I have had my say about “Happy Holidays” really meaning “I celebrate Christmas but I don’t know if you do”. And, even assuming that’s true, is that so God-awful horrendous? Different religious groups assert identity in different ways: Sikhs and ultra-orthodox Jews wear strikingly unique clothing. Do you also object to them asserting their religious identity in public in that way?

          And, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, and believe that when people say “Happy Holidays” to you, they’re actually saying “I celebrate Christmas, but don’t know if you do,” why not just explain that you don’t celebrate Christmas, and then wish THEM a Merry Christmas?

          Wow, You’ve unpacked a lot in a single post. I am sorry that the “Clausmas” seasonal culture makes you feel like such an outsider.

          “I am extremely confused about Christians being offended by things everyone else says, like about holidays or two men holding hands in public, or whatever,…” To confuse things further, there are a lot of different Christian sects in America, and some of them are quite comfortable with two men holding hands in public (including the Christian faith I was first baptized in – the Episcopal Church).
          It might be very helpful for you to separate conservative Christians from other, more liberal Christians in our society: you might call anti-gay, women-oppressing, persecution – complex Christians “Fox News Christians.”
          Because by lumping all American Christians together under one rubric, you are very likely alienating people who very well might agree with many of your positions.

    • Little_Magpie

      exactly. Heck, this doesn’t just apply in December. I’m an atheist but I know something about comparative religions. I wish Jewish acquaintances “Shana Tova” (happy new year) at/around Rosh Hashana, and an easy fast at/around Yom Kippur; (that’s a traditional wish), and usually something along the lines of “easy fast” to Muslim acquaintances during Ramadan (and I have *no idea* if that’s traditional or appropriate, but the people in question have taken the wish with good grace, anyhow.) And a happy new year to Chinese / assorted other Asian ethnicity friends and acquaintances if I know they’re into that.

  • MNb

    The good, the bad and the ugly (one of my all time favourites) is a nice metaphor as Blondie wasn’t really that morally good either ….

    “the city didn’t allow any displays in 2012”
    after the christians protested. It should be stressed.

    “I’m surprised that Palin doesn’t agree.”
    You must be kidding. We are talking evil here, Angel Eyes – Lee van Cleeff evil. Do you really think he told the truth when entering the Union Army? It’s not about Palin agreeing or disagreeing – it’s about Palin lying. For Jesus. She has about as much respect for constitutions as Angel Eyes.

    “Sarah Palin … took this oath of office”
    So what? Angel Eyes probably took an oath as well when entering the Union Army.
    I recommend you to watch Leone’s GBU if you never have seen it and to rewatch it if you have. It will teach you the meaning of cynicism and help you to recognize it in Warrior’s for Xmas like Palin, so that you won’t be surprised anymore.

    I am very curious how Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez fits in. Let me guess:
    “There are two kinds of people in this world, my friend, those who lie for Jesus and those who don’t.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’ve seen the movie, but not recently. Maybe I need to correct that …

  • Itarion

    Wait. Do I have high enough clearance to see the Atheist Overthrow Manifesto?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      ix-nay on the anifesto-may!

      • James

        “Spaghetti Monster” There, I said the secret password. Now disclose the info Bob, oh high accolyte of the sacred denial of the sacred. I’m ready to read the Overthrow Manifesto and to commit myself to a life spent annoying the likes of Sarah Palin.

        • Bev Stapleton

          RAMEN! Anything to annoy that vapid, stupid woman. She’s an embarrassment to my gender and the human race at large.

  • busterggi

    One must then assume that she has read and is thoroughly familiar with the U.S. Constitution”
    Then one would be wrong.”

  • BoBecca Ball

    When are the Palin supporters going to realize that folksy doesn’t equal smart or right?

    Bob, you are dead on with this, “You think atheists overreact to a cross on public property? Great—show us your open mindedness by replacing it with a Muslim crescent moon and star. Then we’ll see who’s thin-skinned.”

    Oh the outrage! I don’t think Fox News has enough reporters for all the attention they would give a situation like that.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      When are the Palin supporters going to realize that folksy doesn’t equal smart or right?

      Reminds me of analysts saying that George W. Bush’s appeal as a president was that he seemed like someone you could sit and have a beer with.

      Wow–that was so not what I wanted from a president and Commander in Chief. I’d prefer to feel awed and unworthy to be around someone so smart.

      • Jonenred

        Like your hero Obama? what a swell job he has done. Very smart indeed.

    • Jonenred

      We are seeing liberal ‘smarts’ right now. 17 trillion dollar debt. No thanks.

  • Y. A. Warren

    “No, the Constitution was offended.” and “Conflict sells, not peace.” Two of the best quotes from you that I have read.

    “That this doublethink would work with her audience says a lot about what she thinks of them.” I respectfully disagree with this statement. I think it says a lot about what she knows about her audience. “Thinking is an acquired taste.” – attributed to Dr. R.M. Warren

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Good point. The marketplace has validated her opinion of her audience. They want a pat on the head and assurance that they’ve backed the right horse (carrying Jesus waving an American flag, of course).

      • Y. A. Warren

        Bread and circuses.

      • Nancy

        You forgot the white part…Carrying White Jesus waving an American flag

        • Jonenred

          Are you a communist or a marxist?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Dan Savage wrote a hilarious (R-rated) review at The Stranger.

    To be able to write that well is what I’m asking Santa for this year …

    • GeoffZoref

      @BobSeidensticker:disqus: Thank you for that link. It was hilarious.

    • MNb

      The funniest “I love you, …..” I ever read.

  • Surprise123

    The Supreme Court Building sports figures of Mars, the Roman God of War; Moses; and Hammurabi. The Capitol Building and the White House sport depictions of Christian belief, as well as deities and supernatural figures important to the ancient Romans and Greeks (and, undoubtedly, to many Americans of the period, too). Should we tear them all down simply because somewhere, somehow, some American worships or reveres them?
    I don’t mind people of authentic conscience and faith seeking to hold celebrations on public streets (as in Chinese Americans holding Chinese New Year Parades in February) or seeking to display symbols of their faith in public buildings (as in Christian Americans displaying nativity scenes on public property). In this modern, atomizing alienating world, religious symbology, as well as ethnic – based symbols and gatherings provide belonging and meaning. They are also important in encouraging folks to believe that the American secular state is not hostile to the beliefs that make up their identity
    I DO mind a great deal, however, when folks seek to prevent others from accessing public streets, public buildings, public space, and for a while, using them to mark their profoundly held religious and /or cultural tenets.
    Instead of Atheist scrooges applying for permits to display “You Know It’s a Myth” scenes at Christmas time on public property, or coming up with inauthentic beliefs in order to mock the beliefs of others (see the religion of the “Flying Spaghetti Monster”), why don’t they celebrate their faith in “Empiricism as Truth” with displays that reflect their own values? Why don’t they apply for permits to access public property in order to celebrate science and reason on Darwin Day, February 12th, or other days of importance to empiricists? No, Atheist scrooges have to tear down the beliefs of others, even at the times others hold most sacred.
    If I were a public servant responsible for administering permits to access displays on public property, I would REQUIRE that the displays or the gatherings be demonstrations of affirmative authentic conscience and belief: that those applying for permits swear that the beliefs or cultural traditions celebrated in the displays or parades were authentic and in line with their conscience, and that they weren’t primarily an exercise in pissing on the beliefs of others.
    American federal, state, and municipal governments are not permitted to appear to endorse one set of religious beliefs of beliefs of conscience over another: BUT, neither should they be in the business of providing space, property, and opportunity for one set of Americans to mock the beliefs of others. Let them do THAT in the private sphere.

    • Kodie

      What test would you use to authenticate beliefs? The first part of your essay demonstrates that you don’t know the difference either, since you are saying Roman or Greek gods are there, why can’t Christian gods?

      A nativity scene on town hall property is out of its place and demonstrates the preference of the government to a segment of the population to the exclusion of the others. If atheist “scrooges” have to make up a god to make a point or demand equal representation, I don’t see the problem. It could easily be turned around that Christian scrooges are demanding that atheists shut the hell up and let them have all the privilege, kind of like what you suggest or imply throughout your post.

      If anything, the government should feel free to entertain inauthentic displays and not lend an acknowledgment of any authenticity to one’s people really believe in at all. People are free to believe, they are not free to have the government endorse their belief to the exclusion of others. So, until you get that through your thick skull, the Flying Spaghetti Monster stays. You Christians don’t even own Christmas. Jesus being born is a very specific and narrow interpretation of a holiday that most people, in some way, celebrate in a lot of secular ways. If Jesus is important to you, go visit him at church.

      • Surprise123

        If I were Queen of the World, the Flying Spaghetti Monster would stay in displays on public government property as long as FSM’ers are willing to pledge that that display is a positive, affirmative assertion of their culture, religion, or belief system, and not primarily a means of mocking the culture, religion, or beliefs of others. If they are willing to pledge that, then displays of FSM stay. THEY, and NO-ONE ELSE would determine whether their FSM beliefs are a matter of conscience, or simply pretend religious tenets to mock the supernatural alternate realities of others.

        “A nativity scene on town hall property is out of its place and demonstrates the preference of the government to a segment of the population to the exclusion of the others.”

        Not if other displays on public government property depicting, other religious, cultural, or ethnic beliefs are allowed, and allotted in a fair and neutral way.

        “Christian scrooges are demanding that atheists shut the hell up and let them have all the privilege, kind of like what you suggest or imply throughout your post.” First, I’m not a Christian. And, second, I’m not asking that atheists “shut the hell up,” just that absolutist empiricists not mock the religious or supernatural beliefs of others, except when specific religious tenets threaten to hurt them or their children.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          just that absolutist empiricists not mock the religious or supernatural beliefs of others, except when specific religious tenets threaten to hurt them or their children.

          What’s an “absolutist empiricist”? Are you labeling anyone here with that?

          As for religious tenets threatening them or their children, every supernatural claim does. Ask someone who got out of a cult, to take an extreme example.

        • Surprise123

          “every supernatural claim does.” THAT is an example of absolutist empiricism, which, ironically enough, is not based upon any empirical evidence I’m aware of.

        • Kodie

          I still don’t understand how you are going to authenticate these beliefs. If you think no one would or could swear to the FSM just to make a point, you’d be mistaken. I mean, just ask someone, “it’s just a joke, right, we can’t take you seriously, so this display doesn’t belong here.”

          You are just mangling up a lot of dopey ideas. You want Christians to have freedom to overtake the government, and you want to take away atheists’ rights to address this inequality. You want to equate ancient religious symbols nobody does believe in with modern religious beliefs currently affecting our policies. I don’t know why you are calling people “absolutist empiricists” and why you think religious beliefs are off-limits to criticism and mockery. Only children believe in Santa. You are also forgetting I have the right to free speech too. I don’t have to nod and keep quiet while the majority freely inherits their privilege of expression. If we don’t speak up, they just assume everyone agrees with them, including our government.

          I don’t have a lot more time to keep up with your nonsensical conflations, so bye.

        • Surprise123

          “If you think no one would or could swear to the FSM just to make a point, you’d be mistaken.” And, that would be their right. I don’t fool myself that such an oath would stop ALL FSM’ers. But, such an oath might stop some, and then allow the viewer to decide exactly what point they were trying to make. That they lack integrity, and are willing to lie under oath in asserting that their “religion” requires them to worship an alien pasta God, and wear a pasta strainer on their head at all times is certainly one option. That they are unwilling to make themselves vulnerable by directly and positively asserting their ideology that empirically – tested reality, and, in the case of FSM’ers I’ve encountered, intermittent multiple alternate realities such as the Star Wars, Middle Earth, or Marvel Comic universes, are the only realities of value is another.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I think you underestimate the problems after opening the Pandora’s Box of having the government decide what’s honest religion and what’s not. You want to invite the government to critique how you celebrate your faith?

        • Surprise123

          “You want to invite the government to critique how you celebrate your faith?” No, but I do want the government to ask you if your display or event is an affirmative manifestation of your faith, culture, or conscience, and not primarily the means to mock the faith, culture, or conscience of others. It’s up to you to decide what “affirmative manifestation of your own faith, culture, or conscience means.”

          I’d like the government to moderate the public space in that way. I KNOW it’s never going to happen: I’m just stating my preference.

        • Kodie

          Who the hell are you? I am absolutely offended that you desire the government to intervene on people’s beliefs and confirm they are “real”. NONE OF THEM ARE REAL. That’s the point.

        • Surprise123

          I’m someone who, as of yet, has not been exiled from the atheist channel discussion board due to the fact that my world view differs from that of others here. I am tolerated so that the echo chamber is not so echo-ey.

          “NONE OF THEM ARE REAL. That’s the point.” That may be the point of the FSM’ers, and, if they feel that that point is an “affirmative manifestation of their own faith, culture, or conscience,” and not PRIMARILY a means to mock the faith, culture, or conscience of others,” then let them sign the pledge as part of the permit application.

          Governments do moderate the contents of displays, parades on public property and on public streets: I’m sure that if conservative Christians wanted to man a street float of non-Christians burning horribly in torment in hell during a “Winter Festival” parade, that would not be accepted. Would you object to the government intervening in order to quash the display of that particular religious tenet?

        • Kodie
        • Kodie

          It’s really none of anyone’s business – the government doesn’t authenticate anyone’s Christian beliefs. It doesn’t demand anyone to demonstrate or represent their own Christianity physically. You are pretty much offended that your beliefs can be mocked, and so, we can’t get through to anyone any other way. You keep calling us “atheist grinches”!!! for trying to take down religious displays from where they don’t belong. YOU!

          And then you have the gall to demand authenticity and “integrity” of beliefs from people. The 1st amendment is so that the government does not establish a particular religion OR TELL YOU HOW TO PRACTICE ANY OF THEM. The 1st amendment is so that you and I have full freedom of conscience, no thought police. When you have the privilege of majority in society and demand that your beliefs be endorsed by the government, your fantasies be endorsed by the government, you have to accept the backlash from protesting organizations. You do not have that right, you are assuming a privilege.

          And all your conflations and comparisons are not equal. You are confused about what constitutes a religious belief and another status. You want us to feel bad about how lonely you feel at the Jewish Center with all the Jews talking Jew-stuff, but your rights are protected in the fact that you can get a job there without having to also be Jewish. You are not getting any sympathy points for your persecution and minority status in a voluntary, non-government position.

          Now, if the government were to go all-Jew all-the-time, you would have a case of being disenfranchised. It confuses you to think a majority has to back off ground where it was never welcome in the first place. Oh, boo hoo, the gays get to make a parade, but what do the Christians get? Waaaaah!!!!!!!!

        • Surprise123

          “and so, we can’t get through to anyone any other way.” There are plenty of ways to get “through” to people, assuming that “through” means inculcating them in the idea that empiricism and critical thinking are wonderful things, and that the dominant Christian culture is oppressing you. Talking with people openly and honestly about your beliefs, and about how their non-empirical based beliefs have impacted you negatively is certainly one approach that does not involve mocking..
          I’m here. And, yes, I’ve explained how there have been times in my life when I’ve been in the minority, and the dominate employment culture affected me a little (at a Jewish non-profit) and the dominate sports culture a lot (during football season), making me feel an outsider. Please explain to me how the dominate Christian culture has negatively impacted you personally. I know that the “Clausmas” season, and its wearisome “Happy Holidays” annoys you. Have you ever lost a job, or an educational opportunity, or a business opportunity due to the dominate Christian culture? Have you ever wanted to run for office openly as an Atheist, and realized that your Christian neighbors would never vote for you? Have you ever had to hide your Atheism to remain employed?

        • Kodie

          Yup.

        • Surprise123

          Can you provide more detail? You don’t have to state the name of companies where you lost a job opportunity, or were never hired….just general descriptions (type, size of business) would go a long way in “reaching” me. And, the loss of educational opportunity, can you explain a little to me about that? It’s hard for me to wrap my head around, because I’ve encountered open atheists in several of my workplaces, and many at university.
          The most apparent discrimination (to me, at least) against open Atheists these days is in elected office, employment in which popularity among the general public is key. Tell me a little about the elected office you sought, whether you lost because you were open about your atheism, or you won, but felt it necessary to keep your atheism quiet before the election and during your time in office.

        • Kodie

          Nope.

        • Surprise123

          “And, so we can’t get through to anyone any other way” (the “way” being mocking people’s religious beliefs).
          Uh huh…….right, Kodie.

        • Kodie

          You’re asking me to prove myself to you. You haven’t deserved it.

        • Surprise123

          “And, so we can’t get through to anyone any other way” (the “way” being mocking people’s religious beliefs).

          Uh huh…….right, Kodie.

    • Lucid_Capitalist

      Perhaps there should be a new designation of “Government Spaces”. Public places should indeed be open to the public… but displaying the 10 commandments at a State Capital seems wrong all around. At first, yes, we would think that a building of Government should be accessible to all… and it is, just not for official “use” by citizens.

      • Kodie

        Well, there is the right to peaceably assemble. There is no right to litter.

        • Lucid_Capitalist

          That is kind of along the lines of what I mean. We can assemble… but a government building is not a public park and it’s not a place for anything other than governing.

          So when people show up there to speak their grievances, it should be as part of the governing process. Like when I go to city hall and speak before the assembly to complain about the new liquor store down the street.

          A mass protest or a display of rights can be in the public space not where we conduct the business of running our states and nation.

      • Surprise123

        If the 10 commandments and only the 10 commandments were permitted, then yes, you’re absolutely right. But, if other authentic, affirmative displays of conscience, religion, or culture are permitted, then why not? Our historical public buildings and property would be deprived of most genuine identity if they were separated from the Judeo-Christian /ancient Greco – Roman / and Masonic beliefs of the past that held meaning for Americans of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, just as new public buildings would be deprived of genuine identity today if modern Americans were not also allowed to imprint them with displays of conscience, religion, and belief.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I sense a lot of energy for what seems like a very small issue.

          When a new IRS building goes up (say), you’re saying that it would be unfortunate if our Jewish/Roman/Masonic past weren’t acknowledged in artwork on the outside of the building?

        • Surprise123

          I haven’t expended any more energy on this issue than other posters on this discussion board.

          “When a new IRS building goes up (say), you’re saying that it would be unfortunate if our Jewish/Roman/Masonic past weren’t acknowledged in artwork on the outside of the building?”
          No, but I am saying that if public buildings were not allowed to be imbued with identity, with depictions of the beliefs and values we hold important today, and merely were designed for utilitarian purposes, they would be pretty sad structures.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I haven’t expended any more energy on this issue than other posters on this discussion board.

          “This issue” is the artwork on public buildings. I don’t recall anyone but you discussing it in comments on this post.

          No, but I am saying that if public buildings were not allowed to be imbued with identity, with depictions of the beliefs and values we hold important today, and merely were designed for utilitarian purposes, they would be pretty sad structures.

          Be specific. When the new IRS building goes up, what would you like to see on the outside?

        • Surprise123

          Oh, I thought the “issue” was “Displays on public governmental property that mocked the religious beliefs of others.”
          An I.R.S. Building? Perhaps friezes of positive activities that our taxes made possible: landing on the moon, the creation of the internet, the tech boom in Silicon valley, and other parts of the country, and, possibly, the statues of the men and women who were most associated with those activities. THAT would hold meaning for me, and, I would hope, other Americans. You? What would you like to see on the outside of a new I.R.S. building?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Oh, I thought the “issue” was “Displays on public governmental property that mocked the religious beliefs of others.”

          OK, let’s talk about that. Remind me again what example you have in mind (it can’t be a billboard if we’re talking about public property).

          Perhaps friezes of positive activities that our taxes made possible

          Sure, sounds good. These are all secular. You were talking about acknowledging our Christian heritage, weren’t you … ?

        • Surprise123

          “Remind me again what example you have in mind (it can’t be a billboard if we’re talking about public property).” Flying Spaghetti Monster” displays, for one, set up on government property. Satanic displays set up on government property by those who don’t worship Satan, for another. In general, displays that are not authentic affirmations of people’s own beliefs, conscience, or culture, and are primarily devised to mock the beliefs, conscience, or culture of others.

          “You were talking about acknowledging our Christian heritage, weren’t you … ?” Was I? I certainly don’t think scrubbing older public buildings of Christian, ancient Greco-Roman, or Masonic religious or semi-religious symbology is the way to go, if that’s what you mean.
          And, as for acknowledging our Christian heritage, we should “acknowledge” all ideologies that are important in the lives of major historical American figures, and especially if these ideologies were important to their historical actions.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          When you welcome all comers, this is the kind of thing that you must expect.

          Are ironic displays any worse than earnest Satanist or Wiccan displays that also make clear that the Christians have it all wrong?

          Was I?

          Yes, you were. You said: “Our historical public buildings and property would be deprived of most genuine identity if they were separated from the Judeo-Christian /ancient Greco – Roman / and Masonic beliefs of the past that held meaning for Americans of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, just as new public buildings would be deprived of genuine identity today if modern Americans were not also allowed to imprint them with displays of conscience, religion, and belief.”

        • Surprise123

          “When you welcome all comers, this is the kind of thing that you must expect.” Yes, but even welcoming moderators of inclusive spaces have to set limits on “comers” who threaten the spirit of inclusiveness. Of course, it’s up to the moderator to determine what constitutes a threat.

          You asked me in a previous post why there weren’t more women of any inclination, religious or otherwise, who comment here. You, as moderator, have certainly been VERY welcoming and civil, but, others have been, shall we say, a little less so (admittedly, my own civility in certain posts, too, could be questioned). I would not encourage a single Christian woman friend to post here, unless she enjoyed bruising, knock down drag-out sparring matches over differing worldviews and ideologies.
          There are posters here ready to knock you down, to diminish you with ad hominem attacks, if you don’t agree that there is no God, and that all religious beliefs are inherently harmful. Not pleasant if one does not enjoy or have a lot of experience in verbal sparring, as is the case with many of my women friends, religious or otherwise.

          “Was I?”

          I stated “Judeo-Christian /ancient Greco – Roman / and Masonic beliefs of the past that held meaning for Americans of THE 18TH, 19TH, AND 20TH CENTURIES,” not modern Americans of today. I would certainly not assert that only Christian symbology should be exclusively represented on any American public building. For instance, now that Congress has Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus (are atheists or even the non-religious represented yet???) among its members, a permanent display at the Capitol celebrating all the various ideologies of its members today might be appropriate. The religious and quasi-religious beliefs of Christians, Jews, Deists, and Masons, past members of Congress, are certainly represented there already.

          “Are ironic displays any worse than earnest Satanist or Wiccan displays that also make clear that the Christians have it all wrong?” They are to me. In earnest displays of conscience, people indicate what is important to THEM, and then invite the viewer to learn more about their own belief, culture, religion or cause. In mocking displays, people indicate that the belief, culture, religion or cause important to OTHERS is stupid, and invite the viewer, who obviously is thought to be in on the joke, to laugh at OTHERS.
          In the first instance, one makes oneself and one’s beliefs vulnerable to the viewer: it’s an act of inclusion. In the second instance, one seeks to invite the viewer in on making a third party, THE OTHER, and his or her beliefs vulnerable through laughter; it’s an act of exclusion.
          And, who’s to say that earnest Satanist or Wiccan displays would imply that the Christians have it ALL wrong?
          And, another point: there is a group representing its members as Satanists that put up a provocative display in a Florida public building at Christmas. I believe. If those folks really don’t worship Satan, then they’re endangering people who really do. “Out” Satanists are in at least as much danger as “Out” Atheists in our society: shouldn’t only those who earnestly hold Satanic beliefs determine how those beliefs are displayed in public governmental buildings?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I would not encourage a single Christian woman friend to post here, unless she enjoyed bruising, knock down drag-out sparring matches over differing worldviews and ideologies.

          Some people like to have reality spoon-fed to them, and others like to get involved in the discussion. I can see that this would be intimidating to some.

          I would certainly not assert that only Christian symbology should be exclusively represented on any American public building.

          I understand that, but I’m wondering what Christian symbology at all is necessary to represent on public buildings.

          are atheists or even the non-religious represented yet???

          I’m sure they’re well represented, but you can imagine that coming out as an atheist isn’t good for one’s political career. Some Christians whine about oppression, but I don’t see them as a particularly oppressed minority (a tangent).

          a permanent display at the Capitol celebrating all the various ideologies of its members today might be appropriate.

          They are also beef eaters. Should we celebrate that, too? Maybe they like to ride bikes or play tennis. Celebrate that?

          If they’re religious, that’s great. Our constitution allows that. They can celebrate that themselves; I don’t see what public display is necessary.

          In earnest displays of conscience, people indicate what is important to THEM, and then invite the viewer to learn more about their own belief, culture, religion or cause.

          Huh? What about Christianity needs to be taught to the public, and why is the public ground in front of city hall the place to do that? Isn’t that what churches are for?

          In mocking displays, people indicate that the belief, culture, religion or cause important to OTHERS is stupid, and invite the viewer, who obviously is thought to be in on the joke, to laugh at OTHERS.

          The demand to use public land to advertise one’s religious faith is indeed stupid. We have places for that. We call them “churches.”

        • Surprise123

          “They are also beef eaters. Should we celebrate that, too? Maybe they like to ride bikes or play tennis. Celebrate that?” You’re being obtuse. Celebrating the progressive inclusiveness of American society is something we should all honor. Beef eaters, for the most part, were never oppressed on account of their dietary habits, nor bicyclists or tennis players on account of the sport they chose to play, but Jews, Muslims, and Atheists have all been certainly been oppressed by GOVERNMENTAL actions in the past. The fact that our congress includes Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and (hopefully, soon, open atheists) is WONDERFUL, and, indeed, in clear reference to the “No religious test for office” provision in the Constitution. Aren’t we all on board here with this?

          “What about Christianity needs to be taught to the public?” For that matter, what is it about green leprechauns or Chinese dragons or Cinco de Mayo’s or American football or gay pride that needs to be taught to the general public as well? Let’s keep all sources of core identity other than good old secular Americanism, Americanism directly resulting from the Constitution, off our public property and out of our public streets.

          If Christians’ need to assert their core identity in the public sphere is stupid, so then is the need of any other group to assert its identity.

          “The demand to use public land to advertise one’s religious faith is indeed stupid.” Yes, I figured that might be your position. But, if one’s core identity is formed by the passionate love of football, or by one’s ancestral bloodlines, or by one’s sexual orientation, or by one’s devoted attention to the universes of Star Wars or Middle Earth, then the demand to use public land to advertise that identity makes perfect sense?
          Why don’t you also assert that football fans have football stadiums, gay people have gay night clubs, the Irish have Irish bars, and Star War fans have Sci-Fi Conventions? Why do they then need to be advertising their damn passions on public property and on public streets. It’s just stupid.
          What is about a lifelong devotion to supernatural figures and a supernatural moral code, versus a lifelong devotion to a brutal sport; or to passionate play in multiple alternate universes; or, to one’s ancestral bloodlines; or to one’s cultural heritage; or to one’s sexual orientation that so drives your ire?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’re being obtuse.

          Apparently. I’m having a tough time seeing why the government should care a whit about Americans’ religious beliefs. We have a terrific Constitution that allows free expression of religious beliefs. Case closed.

          Beef eaters, for the most part, were never oppressed on account of their dietary habits

          Ditto Christians in America*. (Non-Christians, however, might tell a different story.)

          * I can imagine isolated cases of one denomination being oppressed by Christians of another denomination—the Puritans driving other Christians out of Massachusetts, for example. Not much of an exception, I think.

          The fact that our congress includes Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and (hopefully, soon, open atheists) is WONDERFUL

          Yes, wonderful, though I’d prefer that be a boxers vs. briefs kind of thing rather than something we celebrate. Raising the profile of religion in public life brings on enormous problems, as I’m sure you will agree.

          For that matter, what is it about green leprechauns or Chinese dragons or Cinco de Mayo’s or American football or gay pride that needs to be taught to the general public as well?

          You’ve convinced me! I vote for no use of public land for fixed celebrations of leprechauns or football. Or religion.

          If Christians’ need to assert their core identity in the public sphere is stupid, so then is the need of any other group to assert its identity.

          You still don’t seem to see the asymmetry. A Chinese parade or gay pride parade or St. Patty’s Day parade is different from a fixed nativity scene on the city hall grounds for the entire month of December.

          Symmetry, please.

          But, if one’s core identity is formed by the passionate love of football, or by one’s ancestral bloodlines, or by one’s sexual orientation, or by one’s devoted attention to the universes of Star Wars or Middle Earth, then the demand to use public land to advertise that identity makes perfect sense?

          Not to me. Does this sort of thing happen? I can think of no examples. Is this just handwaving about hypotheticals or something real?

          Why don’t you also assert that football fans have football stadiums, gay people have gay night clubs, the Irish have Irish bars, and Star War fans have Sci-Fi Conventions?

          And, yet again, I’m having a hard time seeing the symmetry between these and Christian demands. Show me something that’s comparable and I’ll understand your comparison. I can’t evaluate apples and oranges.

        • Surprise123

          “Raising the profile of religions in public life brings on enormous problems.” No, raising the profile of absolutist ideologies of any variety brings on enormous problems(unless that absolutist ideology is tolerance for the views of others — see Marxist, Leninist, Maoist societies for examples of non-religious, but absolutist ideologies wrecking havoc); raising the profile of elected officials of varying ideologies who are willing to pledge their allegiance and submit to the U.S. Constitution helps assure people who share their ideology that American law is not hostile to their beliefs, religious or otherwise.

          “Ditto Christians.” Tell that to the Mormons, who felt they had to exile themselves to a new territory, or to the Catholics, who felt that the requirement that their children read from the Protestant St. James Bible (versus the Catholic Vulgate) in public schools, a bit oppressive (which helped motivate them to create their own Catholic school systems). Those who call themselves “Christian” have also experienced quite a bit of oppression in this country, even in the past century.

          Speaking of parades in public streets versus long term displays in public buildings, if NEUTRAL protocols are established so that people of various faiths, ideologies, causes, and enthusiasms can celebrate their events and identity, why not? I’m no more in favor than you are of Christians being able to set up crèches in the month before December 25th in public buildings TO THE EXCLUSION OF DISPLAYS OF OTHER CITIZENS PASSIONATE ABOUT THEIR BELIEFS. But, if that public authority has a neutral means of ensuring access to public space for all citizens, again, why not?

          “I’m having a hard time seeing the symmetry between these and Christian demands.” 1st, what do you mean by “Christian demands?” Certainly no Christian in my church is demanding that Christian symbology, and only Christian symbology be displayed on public property. And, second, you stated in a previous post something to the effect that “Christians have churches: let them congregate there.” And, my response was that football fans have stadiums, and gay people have gay night clubs: should we also insist that they congregate there, on not be allowed to assert their identity on publically permitted property?
          “I vote for no public land for FIXED (my emphasis) celebrations of leprechauns or football. Or religion.” So, you’re okay with moving, transitory displays or celebrations, including parades, that take up a lot of public resources, and cause a whole lot of inconvenience to a whole lot of people, but you’re against permanent displays on public buildings or streets that might allude to leprechauns or football or Chinese dragons or religious supernatural symbols and figures. Time to take down all those Chinese dragon – lampposts on Chinatown streets across America.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No, raising the profile of absolutist ideologies of any variety brings on enormous problems

          You act as if that’s something different than religion! 😉

          If you’re wishing for a world where religion only brings out niceness in people and is never used as a tool or bludgeon or leverage point, I agree. Thanks to the GOP, that ain’t our world.

          raising the profile of elected officials of varying ideologies who are willing to pledge their allegiance and submit to the U.S. Constitution helps assure people who share their ideology that American law is not hostile to their beliefs, religious or otherwise.

          In America we have millions of people who don’t share Christians’ beliefs who demand that America remain tolerant of their beliefs. It’s the Christian excesses that cause the problems.

          Speaking of parades in public streets versus long term displays in public buildings, if NEUTRAL protocols are established so that people of various faiths, ideologies, causes, and enthusiasms can celebrate their events and identity, why not?

          Fair enough, but your comparisons to date haven’t helped me see your case. Comparing a (temporary) parade, which we allow, with a (permanent) display on public land, which we don’t, seems only to strengthen my position. Find an apples-to-apples comparison and I’ll see your point more clearly.

          I’m no more in favor than you are of Christians being able to set up crèches in the month before December 25th in public buildings TO THE EXCLUSION OF DISPLAYS OF OTHER CITIZENS PASSIONATE ABOUT THEIR BELIEFS.

          This may come down to an all-comers religious display extravaganza on public land as a preference. It’s the lesser of two evils to me but a good thing for you.

          But, if that public authority has a neutral means of ensuring access to public space for all citizens, again, why not?

          I hope that’s rhetorical. You remember the Santa Monica example? They had a crèche on public land for a bazillion years and then the whining atheists complain that it’s preferential treatment for Christians, so they create 21 slots for holiday displays and the atheists win (by lottery) 18 of them. Of course, the Christians are furious, so the next year, there is no display at all. Naturally, the atheists wind up as the Grinch in this story.

          That’s why not.

          you stated in a previous post something to the effect that “Christians have churches: let them congregate there.” And, my response was that football fans have stadiums, and gay people have gay night clubs: should we also insist that they congregate there, on not be allowed to assert their identity on publically permitted property?

          I’m sure you realize that the term “public square” is ambiguous. There’s the literal public square, where (within limits) you can say whatever you want and hand out leaflets and wear the jersey of your favorite football team. Then there’s the government-supported public square, where no government preference can be shown for one religion over another.

          A gay night club is the former. A crèche on the city hall lawn is the latter.

          Make an apples-to-apples comparison.

        • Surprise123

          Bob, this is my last post. Analog life calls me. But, thank you for engaging me in such interesting debates.
          I’ll leave you to have the last word in response to the post below. I’ll read your reply, but won’t respond.
          Happy New Year, and may you and yours fare well.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          OK, thanks for joining in. Drop by again when life permits.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I think there’s something of a “let a thousand flowers bloom” thing going on. Yes, a thoughtful celebration of science on Darwin Day would be great. That doesn’t mean a billboard with “you Christians are wrong” (stated more elegantly, I would hope) as its punch line isn’t out of order.

      I would REQUIRE that the displays or the gatherings be demonstrations of affirmative authentic conscience and belief

      Government has been reluctant to get into this mess. Religion is largely in the eye of the beholder, I think, because the government doesn’t want to get into adjudicating which beliefs are authentic or earnest or correct.

      BUT, neither should they be in the business of providing space, property, and opportunity for one set of Americans to mock the beliefs of others. Let them do THAT in the private sphere.

      Again, I don’t disagree violently with what you’re saying here, but I don’t know any way to allow some religious-y beliefs and not others. Of course, a city hall can prohibit all religious displays–that would be my vote–but if they allow some, they must allow all.

      • Surprise123

        If we require city halls to prohibit all religious displays, then why aren’t we also demanding that the Supreme Court building, the Capitol, and the White House be shorn of all Judeo-Christian / ancient Roman – Greco / or even Masonic religious or quasi – religious symbols?

        “That doesn’t mean a billboard with “you Christians are wrong” (stated more elegantly, I would hope) as its punch line isn’t out of order.” It’s legal, and I sure would fight for the right of Atheists to rent such a PRIVATE billboard, but….”in order”? Uh….NO. Don’t Christians have the right to wrestle with the tenets of their own faith in their own way, on their own schedule, and via their own conscience (providing specific tenets of their Christianity don’t hurt you or your children)? Who are absolutist empiricists to say, “Your faith – based religion is stupid (either directly, or via “elegant” less direct means), and you will stop believing in it NOW (in spite of the fact that Christianity provides identity, meaning, and community for millions of Americans)? It’s simply a juvenile pissing on the non-empirical beliefs of others.

        Besides do these empiricist – absolutists apply the same level of empirical rigor to all their own beliefs that provide THEM with identity and meaning? I’ve met quite a few FSM’ers at Sci Fi / Fantasy conventions, and they spend quite a lot of time costuming themselves or creating games in such a way as to make the alternate realities of Star Wars or Middle Earth come alive. They would be horribly offended if someone were to intrude on their efforts and say, “Costuming yourself as Star Wars characters, and trying to re-create the Star Wars universe is WRONG and stupid. There is no evidence of the universe of Star Wars, nor is there empirical proof of “The Force.”
        The FSM’ers I’ve encountered seem to say “Your singular, lifelong devotion to a particular supernatural alternative reality is wrong: whereas our intermittent devotion to multiple alternative realities is right – it’s the only way to go.”

        “but I don’t know any way to allow some religious-y beliefs and not others.” As I wrote above, require those applying to rent public property or space for cultural – ethnic – religious displays to swear that these displays are authentic, positive affirmations of their conscience, and are not primarily to mock or tear down the beliefs, cultures, or religions of others.” And, then require that that oath be prominently in view in the rented display space. Sure, it might not catch all FSM’ers, some of whom who might be willing to falsely sign such an oath, but it sure will make them look like jerks for doing so.

        You want to assert in displays on government – owned property your authentic, positive affirmation of your conscience, your faith that beliefs based upon empiricism are always the best, then do THAT! Celebrate Darwin Day (or even Darwin month!), celebrate the empiricism that made air and space flight possible, celebrate the successes of public health initiatives, and victory over smallpox, and other horrific plagues. But don’t mock or piss on the non-empirical based faiths of others.
        Heck, my requirement that those renting displays on government property sign an oath that that those displays be a positive affirmation of their beliefs and conscience would even allow FSM’ers to present displays on Star Wars or Middle Earth universes and values (which seem to hold far more authentic meaning for them than their so-called god, “The Flying Spaghetti Monster.”)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If we require city halls to prohibit all religious displays, then why aren’t we also demanding that the Supreme Court building, the Capitol, and the White House be shorn of all Judeo-Christian / ancient Roman – Greco / or even Masonic religious or quasi – religious symbols?

          Surely you see the difference. A statue of Zeus in the museum is there because it is beautiful and educational art. The figure of Confucius on the frieze outside the Supreme Court building is there to show the lawmakers that came before.

          By contrast, the nativity scene on public grounds is there to celebrate and promote religion. In this situation, it’s all or nothing. I’d prefer nothing, but all is acceptable. I’m sure we agree that a Christian-only display won’t do.

          Don’t Christians have the right to wrestle with the tenets of their own faith in their own way, on their own schedule, and via their own conscience (providing specific tenets of their Christianity don’t hurt you or your children)?

          If Christianity were a private affair, I’d be completely on your side (and have a different hobby). But, as you’re aware, it’s not. It’s a bull in a china shop. (Yes, I realize that all Christians aren’t part of the problem.)

          You seem to imagine an asymmetry here. Some Christians impose their religion on society—both telling non-Christians the exquisite torments their loving god has for them and blundering around within society to remake it how they’d like to see it—and atheists are pushing back. There is an asymmetry in impact, of course (Christianity being far more impactful) but there is symmetry in actions.

          I’ve met quite a few FSM’ers at Sci Fi / Fantasy conventions, and they spend quite a lot of time costuming themselves or creating games in such a way as to make the alternate realities of Star Wars or Middle Earth come alive.

          And when they leave the convention, the costume comes off and they leave their supernatural beliefs behind. Not so the Christian.

          But don’t mock or piss on the non-empirical based faiths of others.

          And if there were only no need to, I’d agree with you.

        • Surprise123

          “Surely you see the difference. A statue of Zeus in the museum is there because it is beautiful and educational art. The figure of Confucius on the frieze outside the Supreme Court building is there to show the lawmakers that came before.”

          Well as art is often inspired by beliefs and values, religiously based or otherwise, I fail to see the difference. Our founding fathers were men of the Enlightenment, who among other things, admired ancient Greco-Roman culture, and the symbols that represented it, including depictions of their Gods and supernatural characters. In fact, for some of our founding fathers who were Masons, those ancient Greek or Roman Gods may have had quasi-religious significance.

          And, how does one differentiate between art that’s simply “art,” and not a representation of one’s values, religious or otherwise? If the Uffizi Museum were to donate a Raphael, a Madonna and Child painting to the California Capitol building, would displaying it there be that much more acceptable than the display of a Christian crèche, set up by California residents, for whom the crèche had religious (versus just artistic) meaning?

          The figure of Confucius on the frieze outside the Supreme Court building is there to show the lawmakers that came before.” So, if there is some relevant function of a public building to supernatural or quasi-historical figures, religious or otherwise, you would not object?

          “And when they leave the convention, the costume comes off and they leave their supernatural beliefs behind. Not so the Christian.” Not necessarily – there are a few who “carry” the Star Wars or Middle Earth Universe with them into what they call “The Mundane World,” but I take your point.

          “And if there were only no need to, I’d agree with you.” If tenets of a particular faith harm you or yours, absolutely push back. Even mock that tenet…perhaps. But, I would question the belief that “pushing back” should, for the most part, mean mocking others’ faith. Mocking produces a defensive reaction, and those whose faith has been mocked, are less likely to be able to listen to what you have to say….unless your primary purpose is to invite laughter of and diminish those who you mock, and not to actually encourage conversation with the “mockee.”

          I understand what it means to be an “outsider,” believe me, when it comes to the crazy beliefs or cultural manifestations of dominant others, religious or otherwise…it’s not pleasant. But is public mockery the right way to go?

          As a middle aged female, I am surrounded by images of males, 12 – 50, in advertisements and in ads for movies. Human beings like myself are almost nowhere to be seen, and if they even exist, they are likely to be negative (and, if I were a woman of color, the representation would be even worse). Is public mockery of the need of male directors and male producers and male audience members and male consumers to see male images dominate really going to get more positive representation of women of my age?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Well as art is often inspired by beliefs and values, religiously based or otherwise, I fail to see the difference.

          The First Amendment does. A publicly supported museum that showed just Greek art would be A-OK constitution-wise. A city hall commons that showed just Christian mythology would not be.

          If the Uffizi Museum were to donate a Raphael, a Madonna and Child painting to the California Capitol building, would displaying it there be that much more acceptable than the display of a Christian crèche, set up by California residents, for whom the crèche had religious (versus just artistic) meaning?

          We could parse the particulars of individual cases for hours. Doesn’t sound like fun. Constitutional law gets into many of these messy details. If you think there’s a constitutional precedent that would shock me, let me know.

          So, if there is some relevant function of a public building to supernatural or quasi-historical figures, religious or otherwise, you would not object?

          The government backing one religion over another is a problem. Is that what this is? If not, then I have no problem.

          If tenets of a particular faith harm you or yours, absolutely push back.

          As I stated, any supernatural or faith claim is problematic. The mind opened by faith will likelier accept the claims of the charlatan or swindler.

          I would question the belief that “pushing back” should, for the most part, mean mocking others’ faith.

          Me, too. That’s not my preferred weapon.

          But let a thousand flowers bloom—PZ Myers is too harsh for my liking, for example, but I think he still makes a valuable contribution.

          As a middle aged female …

          Welcome. We have too few females of any age and any religious inclination. (Why that is is a puzzle–weigh in if you have thoughts.)

          … I am surrounded by images of males, 12 – 50, in advertisements and in ads for movies.

          As well as images of beautiful 20-ish women, but I don’t imagine that helps.

        • Surprise123

          Even the beautiful 20-ish women are far fewer in number (it’s about 30% beautiful 20-ish women to 70% males from 10 to 50), at least in popular movies, and in bus stop ads (I often do quick empirically-based surveys to see just how bad female representation is in general, and female-over 35 representation is in particular in the media. It passes the time as I wait for a bus..

          “but I don’t imagine that helps.” If the beautiful young women exhibit agency and complex character traits, and are not merely eye candy for the male protagonist or the male audience, it helps A LOT. I was young AND female once. I can certainly identify with interesting male protagonists (Walter White of “Breaking Bad” fame was one of my favorite protagonists this past year) , but when key characters are female and interesting of any age, it really warms the cockles of my heart. But, sure, when Helen Mirren or Viola Davis or Meryl Streep or Judi Dench (women of a certain age) are visible on screen, and are able to really sink their teeth into roles, it’s even better. My cockles are then REALLY toasty.

          “The mind opened by faith will likelier accept the claims of the charlatan or swindler.” Perhaps, but it is also possibly true that a mind closed to values other than those that can be measured may not be able to enter fully in human community based upon trust. Also, I fully believe that modern men and women are capable of several identities: faith based in some spheres, and the strictest empiricists in others.

          “Welcome. We have too few females of any age and any religious inclination. (Why that is is a puzzle–weigh in if you have thoughts.)” Thank you…and, your welcome just reminded me that I’ve been posting on the Patheos atheist channel. I shouldn’t have been so dogged and so critical: you’re all posting and being mocking in space specifically designated for atheist beliefs. Atheists should be able to work out what it means to be Atheist… in your own designated space, without non-believers making too many critical comments. :)

          Why are there so few females among our numbers? Meaning women of any age and any religious inclination posting to your atheist channel?

          Well, I presume because, on average, women by nature and/ or by culture are less combative, less needing to assert their identity through competitive bouts. Our (meaning women’s) primary biological function – nurturing human life in the womb, and ensuring that babies, toddlers and children make it into at least adolescence alive – ensures that the average women stays away from competitive bouts, which, in the not – too- distant past, meant, dangerous physical bouts. And, if the woman is a woman of faith considering a visit to your atheist channel, she must be prepared to confront Atheists who are far better trained in verbal, combative sparring, and, who have far more experience in defending their own beliefs in the face of a dominate religious culture. Pretty intimidating.
          By the way, who is “PZ Myers”? Never heard of him. Don’t know who HE is, but my very favorite atheist, whom I absolutely adore and plan to make into a God, creating my own religion around his mythos, once his spirit has left his corporeal body, is “The Amazing Randy.” Gentle, non-mocking, not tearing down of the identities and systems of beliefs that make up most people’s identities, even those that are faith based, but absolutely devastating to creepy charlatans and cheats who seek to extract money, adulation, or status from their unsuspecting audiences, religious or otherwise.
          Perhaps, one day, you’ll visit a governmental building, and find a display celebrating my Randyism religion, a religion devoted to debunking charlatans, those who try to instill supernatural belief in others for profit, all the while using tricks and special props to actually create illusions associated with those beliefs . :)

        • Kodie

          Perhaps, one day, you’ll visit a governmental building, and find a
          display celebrating my Randyism religion, a religion devoted to
          debunking charlatans, those who try to instill supernatural belief in
          others for profit, all the while using tricks and special props to
          actually create illusions associated with those beliefs . :)

          1. All the religions fall under that definition.

          2. Atheism is not a religion, but
          2a. while falling under the category of religions insofar as the establishment clause is concerned, the idea of an atheism-establishing architectural embellishment is not something most atheists would tend to root for.

          3. It’s Randi with an I. His name is James Randi.

        • Surprise123

          Randi with an i. Thanks. As a dedicated fan of the Amazing Randi, I should have known that….now hanging my head in shame.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I welcome Christians. This isn’t supposed to be an echo chamber where atheists pat themselves on the back with how stupid Christians are. No need to apologize for pointing out any errors you think you find.

          I mean: women of any age and any religious inclination. (Of course, gender isn’t plain for many people, so perhaps there are more females than I imagine.)

          Yes, I can see that it might seem intimidating. If you think they’d like it, tell your female Christian friends to drop by.

          PZ writes the Pharyngula blog at Freethought Blogs. He’s easily found with a search.

          Yes, Randi is pretty fantastic. Have you been to The Amazing Meeting? I recommend it (though most attendees with be atheists).

        • Kodie

          Mocking produces a defensive reaction, and those whose faith has been
          mocked, are less likely to be able to listen to what you have to
          say….unless your primary purpose is to invite laughter of and diminish
          those who you mock, and not to actually encourage conversation with the
          “mockee.”

          In some people. In some people. Making hasty judgments like you do is irrational. Atheist blog comments are abundant with former believers who were upset enough at the mocking to take a look into, perhaps to try to build up their arguments against the mocking, even, and their beliefs fell apart upon concerted inspection. Mocking has its place, like, not at a funeral. If you don’t want to be compared to a simple child with no critical thinking skills, grow up and get some critical thinking skills! Stop believing in made-up stories, especially if you are billed 10% of your gross income.

          And, for what it’s worth, I don’t really expect to change anyone’s mind in one argument anyway. I don’t expect them to ever change their mind from something I said. Religions inflict far more poison on the culture than teasing, so I don’t have an awful lot of sympathy for their feelings – if they’re going to believe something that makes them horrible people, I don’t care if their feelings are hurt.


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