The FFRF Sign and ‘Hate Speech’

The Worldnetdaily has its typically bizarre headline on this article: Blue state has moxy to mock God. But the article is about the sign put up by the FFRF in Springfield, Illinois. So it has nothing to do with a state. And the sign doesn’t “mock God.” To be fair, while the subject and predicate are both wrong, the words “has” and “to” do appear to be used accurately. The rest of the article is mostly nonsense. The sign in question says:

“There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is just a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

I really dislike this sign, as I’ve said many times, and I don’t think the FFRF should ever use it again. But one local guy just screaming for attention says it should be banned because it’s “hate speech.”

William J. Kelly…called the sign, posted by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, hate speech because it attacks the faith of others.

He’s reviving his effort against what he calls the government’s lack of neutrality in a statement about the sign, which is being posted again at the Springfield, Ill., capitol building and elsewhere across the nation.

He points out that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution requires accommodation for religion and forbids “hostility,” which is what he says the anti-religion posting represents.

It’s hard to tell here whether Kelly is the bonehead or if the unnamed reporter who wrote the article (in all likelihood, both are). The constitution forbids hostility by the government against religion, and only in very narrow contexts. But this is not government speech. The city of Springfield has declared the space a limited public forum, which means community groups can put their own signs there that represent their point of view. So it isn’t even the city “mocking God,” much less the state.

“What they’re actually doing, in my opinion, is hate speech against Christianity,” he told WND. “There’s this argument that this is somehow free speech. That would not hold up if I somehow engaged in some variation … bashing other religions.’

He said it is faith that has made America great, and the Constitution provides for recognition of that.

“This type of hate speech is wrong,” he said.

Even if he were right (and he’s not — the sign is needlessly aggressive, but not hateful), he doesn’t seem to realize that in American law there is no such thing as hate speech. You can call anything you want “hate speech” but the law recognizes no such thing. There is no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment. There is absolutely no doubt that the statement on the sign is protected under the First Amendment. And yes, you are just as free to bash other religions, as I’m sure you do every day.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • dogfightwithdogma

    I really dislike this sign, as I’ve said many times, and I don’t think the FFRF should ever use it again.

    I don’t dislike it at all and hope that FFRF continues to use it. I see no reason why we should not challenge the truth claims of theism, and do so in a very public fashion as is being done in this billboard. I also disagree that it is “needlessly aggressive.”

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    dogfightwithdogma, the sign is awful*. I’m with Ed. You stand over there, away from our nachos.

    * I read it as “You dumb poopy.”

  • phhht

    I agree with dogfight.

    I’m pleased that FFRF uses a straightforward, unambiguous, and clear mode of speech to oppose superstition.

    What’s aggressive about it? Is it just too unaccommodating?

  • Melvosh

    The sign essentially says “We think everyone who is religious is selfish and mindless”. This precludes any sort of meaningful discussion about opposing viewpoints. It also makes it far more likely that religious charities and organizations will continue to refuse secular / humanist help and volunteers.

  • Scr… Archivist

    The city of Springfield has declared the space a limited public forum, which means community groups can put their own signs there that represent their point of view.

    Kelly probably doesn’t like this arrangement, because it weakens the assumption that such government-hosted Christmas displays are an official (albeit nudge-nudge, wink-wink) endorsement of Christianity.

  • dogfightwithdogma

    Modusoperandi, you’re opinion and of course one I don’t share. Perhaps some, like yourself, will read the message as saying what you think it says. But then they too would be just as wrong. I read no such thing into the sign. I simply read a message that challenges, as I said, truth claims made by christians. Now if they want to read a challenge of their truth claims as an insult to their intelligence, then that is their problem, not mine. I will no longer accept the notion that we need to apply some heightened scrutiny to our language when talking to theists about their beliefs.

    As for the nachos, no problem. I don’t like nachos and never have. And if directing softer criticism at theism is the price you demand of me for sharing your nachos, then I am more than happy to pass on consuming any of them. I I hope, however, that you are not using your unwillingness to share your nachos as a means of shunning conversation with me. That would be most unfriendly and I can’t imagine what I’ve said that should make you want to you erect such a wall.

  • Gvlgeologist, FCD

    Of course, by that definition, just about every comment any religion has ever made about another religion is hate speech.

    dogfight, I was OK with everything – but… you’re excommunicated from FTB for not liking nachos. That’s as bad as not liking communion wafers for a catholic!

  • phhht

    No, Melvosh. the sign says no such thing. It is YOUR interpretation of the sign which drags in non-existent claims of selfishness and mindlessness.

    All the sign says – all it needs to say – is that religion is but myth and superstition

    that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.I find that claim both uncontroversial and irrefutable, and it expresses

    my opinions very well.

  • Melvosh

    phhht, you’re saying that just because the sign says “Religion is just a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds” it doesn’t mean that followers of religion have hard hearts and enslaved minds? Ok. I’m glad I understand now.

    This is equivalent to the religious claiming that just because they say atheism has no basis for morals, it doesn’t mean they think atheists are amoral.

  • Al Dente

    The majority of atheists do believe that religion is myth and superstition and there’s ample evidence it does harden hearts and enslave minds.* That FFRF has a sign that says so should not be controversial among atheists. Many theists would object to the sign but they object to any hint of disrespect towards religion.

    *Chris Stedman and Greg Epstein may disagree but they’re wrong.

  • http://howlandbolton.com richardelguru

    Melvosh “[It] says “We think everyone who is religious is selfish and mindless””

    I don’t see that at all: you have to have a mind for it to be enslaved, and a ‘hard heart’ isn’t much to do with selfishness.

  • Sastra

    Although it’s a deliberately aggressive message, I think it loses points for failing to temper that last point with a more accurate and less insulting reflection that religion CAN “harden hearts and enslave minds.”

    I mean, well, it has been known to do so. Not all the time and certainly not in YOUR case, gentle Christian reader, but, yes, there it is. Just sayin’. It might.

    See? No more hate.

  • eric

    Some of the value in these signs is to give support to closet atheists, and it does that. Which is good. OTOH, if you think hardening hearts is a really horrible thing (that religion does), then its pretty damn hypcritical to put up a sign that will probably harden believer’s hearts. So that’s bad.

    Overall, the experimentalist in me is glad it went up because I’d rather see what happens than pre-opine on whether it’s going to be effective or not. Maybe its more successful (than other atheist PR campaigns) at making Il. atheists a fully socially accepted part of the community. Maybe it isn’t. We’ll have to see, won’t we?

  • rdmcpeek43

    As one of those *strident* atheists and a member of FFRF, I think the sign is totally and absolutely appropriate.

    Am I biased? Yeah, I’d say so.

    IMO religion is a myth. It is a superstition. It certainly can and often does enslave minds. Does it harden hearts?

    Again, it certainly can and often does.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    dogfightwithdogma “Modusoperandi, you’re opinion and of course one I don’t share.”

    You’re right. I am opinion.

    “Perhaps some, like yourself, will read the message as saying what you think it says.”

    It’s a Christmas sign. Kind of a dick move, considering the season, I thought. Still do. Think, I mean. Not about that. Other things, mostly.

    “I don’t like nachos and never have.”

    Lies! No one does not not like nachos. They’re both food and utensil, simultaneously.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @Melvosh

    I don’t see that in there. Can you describe how you reached that conclusion?

  • phhht

    No, Melvosh, the sign says not one single word about selfishness or mindlessness, does it? Nope, not one single word.

    You’re just uncomfortable with the fact that many religious believers DO have hardened hearts and enslaved minds. You just aren’t comfortable with saying that clearly and forthrightly.

    I, and many atheists like me, repeatedly express our willingness to change our minds about the existence of gods, if there were any unequivocal, empirical evidence for their existence.

    But there is none. That belief without evidence is superstition. It afflicts believers with the inability to concede that they

    might be wrong. As far as I can tell from talking with Christians, they are unable to change their minds, and are outraged at the assertion that it might be possible.

    It is that obdurate, counter-factual, indefensible superstitious belief which enslaves minds.

  • Melvosh

    Forgive me for thinking that calling someone hard hearted is an accusation of selfishness (having or showing concern only for yourself and not for the needs or feelings of other people). And those of you that disagree with me can continue to play semantical games (you have to have a mind to have your mind enslaved). Yes, there are religious believers that have hard hearts and enslaved minds. And there are religious believers that do not. Personally, I’ve encountered far more of the latter.

    I don’t see the point in deliberately alienating one group for the purpose of…what? You think a sign like this is going to convince one of the “hard-hearted, mind-enslaved” religious that they’re wrong? And what exactly is the message to the members of religions that do not fall into that description?

    I am in no uncomfortable with the fact that many religious believers have hard hearts and enslaved minds. I call those individuals on it whenever I engage with them. I pity them, and do what I can to convince them to change. But this is not going to do that. It lumps all religious believers into one category, and that category does not apply to all religious believers.

  • phhht

    But Melvosh, the entire salvation scam is nothing but hard-hearted, pitiless, unfeeling, inflexible extortion, based on the threat of eternal torture. The message, as I hear it, is that I must believe what they tell me to or suffer torture forever at the hands of their “loving” and “just” gods.

    Of course the sign says nothing whatsoever about either selfishness or hard-heartedness. Your distaste is due to your own instinct to accommodate religious superstition. You just don’t like the purported alienating effects of straight talk.

    Nor does the sign say “all” religious believers. It just says that religion hardens hearts and enslaves minds. And you, yourself, concede that the claim is true.

    Nor does the sign attempt to change minds. The sign expresses a widely-held viewpoint, one that I share. I do not share your concern for alienating superstitious believers.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    phhht “Nor does the sign attempt to change minds.”

    That’s a strategy that’s just crazy enough to work!

  • http://www.facebook.com/set.v.kouwenhoven Set Kouwenhoven

    This sign is no different than the one not far from my house that says “Eternity: Smoking or Non-Smoking?” It’s there for the benefit of the people who put it there. It doesn’t convince anyone. It only serves to piss a few people off, at best, and of course give you the rather useless joy of knowing that there is a fundie ‘tsk-tsking’ in his car and wondering what this godless world is coming to before Rush Limbaugh comes back on gets him riled up about something else completely.

    Sure, the FFRF sign is “correct” while the “Eternity” sign is just judgmental religious bullshit. Who cares? The closest thing I can compare this sort of mild-insult-by-signwriting to is masturbation. Masturbation that someone has paid money for.

    Congrats, FFRF.

  • Melvosh

    Of course the sign says nothing whatsoever about either selfishness or hard-heartedness.

    The sign says religion hardens hearts. It really couldn’t be more clear that the sign does say something about hard-heartedness. Selfishness is all about disregarding the needs of others. Sounds pretty hard-hearted to me, but let’s just move on. We’re not going to agree on this.

    Your distaste is due to your own instinct to accommodate religious superstition.

    The only interaction you and I have had, as far as I know, is in this thread. I can understand how you would come to this conclusion. However, you are wrong. I think religious superstitions in general are ridiculous, and I don’t see the point of them or the need for them. That doesn’t mean I think all religious people are ridiculous in everything they do.

    I think it comes down to a matter of interpretation. I see a big difference between:

    “Religion is just a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

    and:

    “Religion is just a myth and superstition that can harden hearts and enslave minds.”

    It’s a very minor grammatical difference, but it can make all the difference in how the message is perceived.

  • phhht

    I stand corrected. The sign does in fact say that religion hardens hearts.

    And you seem to agree with that assertion.

    As far as “does” vs “can”, why do you care whether the message of the sign may be misunderstood by the superstitious? So what if

    superstitious believers take offense? It is your opinion, and you are entitled to express it in a sign on the statehouse lawn, just like the Christians and the Satanists.

    The purpose of the sign is not to proselytize. It is to express a widely-held opinion, one that I hold myself.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Set Kouwenhoven “The closest thing I can compare this sort of mild-insult-by-signwriting to is masturbation.”

    Hey! Yes, that just makes its creator feel better, but If done correctly it can offend way more people than some dumb sign.*

     

    * Serves ’em right for having such a giant TV screen at the ballpark, I say.

  • cubist

    I can see that it’s a good idea to consider how one’s message will be percieved by its recipients. However, let’s keep in mind that there are imperial shitloads of godbots for whom religion is a hot-button issue with a proximity fuse, such that said godbots flatly will react poorly to any religion-related message that isn’t unalloyed come-to-Jesus praise of their invisible friend. We’re talking about the kind of people who would reject a bus advert which bears the single word “Atheist”, on the grounds that the word itself is overly “controversial”, okay? You can always rephrase a message to soften the harsh edges, but that just weakens the message. And since the friggin’ godbots are just going to bitch about the ‘attack’ on their deeply-held beliefs anyway, what’s the point? Why should we bother to weaken our message, if that weakening will not yield the benefits which that weakening was supposed to provide?

  • cubist

    Also, remember the Overton window. The sign is an uncompromising, in-your-face declaration that Religion Is Just Plain Bad, and that’s a sentiment which has been largely-to-entirely absent from public discourse. Whether or not the sign has any direct effects on the minds of godbots, the mere fact that said sign is there will make it a little bit easier for anyone who wants to fight against the manifold abuses and evils to which religion is a significant contributing factor.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    cubist “You can always rephrase a message to soften the harsh edges, but that just weakens the message.”

    Does it?

    “And since the friggin’ godbots are just going to bitch about the ‘attack’ on their deeply-held beliefs anyway, what’s the point?”

    Sure they’ll feign outrage. Messages aren’t for the unreachable. They’re for the reachable. Unnecessarily coarse or divisive signs push away some of those. That’s counter-productive. I worked in counter production for a couple of years. They fired me because the surfaces ended up all wavy. I was terrible at counter production. But that’s off-topic.

    “Why should we bother to weaken our message, if that weakening will not yield the benefits which that weakening was supposed to provide?”

    If one, say, wanted to attract flies, would vinegar prove superior or inferior to honey?

  • eric

    Melvosh @18:

    I don’t see the point in deliberately alienating one group for the purpose of…what? You think a sign like this is going to convince one of the “hard-hearted, mind-enslaved” religious that they’re wrong? And what exactly is the message to the members of religions that do not fall into that description?

    The message might not be to convince theists that they’re wrong. It could be showing support to silent atheists – encouraging that it’s okay to speak their minds. Or, as @21 mentions, an in-group communication. Or, as @26 mentions, a means of shifting the Overton window (i.e. make atheist questioning of religion more common and thus more socially acceptable).

    I agree with you that religious people could take offense at it, and its not likely to change their minds. I don’t get why you seem to think that (changing theist minds) must be the sole pupose of the billboard.

  • Pen

    Certainly, there is no such thing in American law as hate speech*. But this isn’t hate speech anyway. The best case that could possibly be made that it’s hate speech is that it seems to assert that religious believers have ‘hardened hearts’ and ‘enslaved minds’. While that may be neither true nor flattering, it doesn’t really count as an empty-of-other-content insult, nor is it exceptionally abusive, no more than saying something like ‘atheists have no basis for morality’. It does not accuse religious believers of committing reprehensible acts or crimes, nor does it call for any repercussions against religious believers.

    It’s is capable of rebuttal and there’s nothing in the context that suggests rebutting could be dangerous for the religious believer or lead to anything other than a further counter-argument. So, he should stop whining and start rebutting.

    * So, seemingly, Americans don’t know how to think about what hate speech means. Clue: it doesn’t just mean you didn’t like hearing it.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @Melvosh

    [The sign] lumps all religious believers into one category, and that category does not apply to all religious believers.

    What the sign says:

    “Religion is just a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

    What I think it says:

    “Religion is just a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds (of some believers).”

    What you seem to think it says:

    “Religion is just a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds (of every believer).”

    I’m pretty sure my reading is a reasonable reading and your reading is not.

    I am in no uncomfortable with the fact that many religious believers have hard hearts and enslaved minds. I call those individuals on it whenever I engage with them. I pity them, and do what I can to convince them to change.

    Also, I do not understand your point. I think you are confused. You seem ok with calling people on their bullshit in an individual setting, but you’re not OK with calling people on their bullshit in a public setting? What kind of phrasing would you have used? I do not know of a way to attack the beliefs of a particular group without alienating the group. Do you have one?

    I also happen to like the idea that we’re alienating them – in the sense that we’re letting them know that the majority of people do not approve of their shenanigans. I would think that alienation (in certain contexts and to certain extents) is a feature, not a bug. I don’t want them to feel that I’m comfortable and supporting of their beliefs and culture. I want them to know and feel as though that their culture is disapproved by the majority of people. I want them to feel unusual, abnormal, and alienated.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @Pen

    * So, seemingly, Americans don’t know how to think about what hate speech means. Clue: it doesn’t just mean you didn’t like hearing it.

    From an American – yeah, it kind of mean exactly that.

    Or it means whatever the current sitting judge wants it to mean.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_know_it_when_I_see_it

    I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.

    —Justice Potter Stewart

    E.G. complete bullshit.

  • Pen

    E.G. complete bullshit.

    Yeah, really!

    For crying out loud, man (or woman), why have you introduced something about the definition of hardcore (as opposed to softcore?) pornography into a discussion about hate speech???

    Thanks for proving my point for me. And do you think it isn’t obvious from the title of your wikipedia link that there’s an inherent bias there? Not even a reference to the page on hate speech? Or to any actual problem with the implementation of hate speech law?

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @Pen

    If I am not fomenting discrimination, if I am not causing people to treat other people’s beliefs with ridicule and contempt, then I am not doing my job. My goal is to get everyone to treat organized religion and religious beliefs treated with ridicule and contempt. The difference between ridicule and contempt vs hatred is semantics and all in the eye of the beholder. I am not going to make a slippery slope argument. I argue that you put us all the way at the bottom of the slope.

    Now, we can talk about effective tactics to get us to that endgame. Perhaps the effective middlegame strategy looks different. But that’s a question of tactics, not ethics / morals, nor of law.

  • dogfightwithdogma

    Modusoperandi @15:

    Lies! No one does not not like nachos.

    I ate a nacho once in my life, probably about 20 years ago. Did not like it. Haven’t had one since. Won’t ever have one.

    Melvosh @18:

    …selfishness (having or showing concern only for yourself and not for the needs or feelings of other people).

    No, hard-hearted does not mean selfishness. I suggest you examine a dictionary. Here is a definition from the dictionary on my laptop:

    incapable of being moved to pity or tenderness; unfeeling.

    Thus a hard-hearted person is one who lacks empathy and/or sympathy for others. One does not have to be selfish to be hard-hearted, though the two are often found together.

    Melvosh @18:

    You think a sign like this is going to convince one of the “hard-hearted, mind-enslaved” religious that they’re wrong?

    Where did you get the idea that this was the intent of the billboard? Maybe it is aimed at those who are beginning to doubt their belief. Or maybe it is aimed at those who are on the fence? Then again, maybe it was not intended to be aimed at anyone or group in particular. Maybe it was intended to simply challenge, as I suggested earlier, the truth claims of christianity (and religion in general). Are you suggesting that it is rude and impolite of atheists to challenge these claims? If so, you go ahead and deal with religion in whatever way is comfortable to you. But stop telling the rest of us that we should do it your way. That insistence that we more aggressive atheists are doing it wrong is what pisses us off about accommodationist atheists. By the way telling us to be more polite isn’t working. And I’ll make the following prediction: It likely is never going to work anymore. Those days are over for those of us who have tired of allowing theology’s claims to go unchallenged in the hopes that they will be more considerate of atheists and secularists and the principles of secularism. That approach has failed miserably. For me this is about intellectual integrity and commitment to the truth of claims. And if challenging their claims upsets them, well, Frankly, I don’t give a damn. The continued, unrelenting assaults on the separation principle implied in the First Amendment, and the relentless ongoing efforts to clothe our culture and our politics in this Christian Nation bullshit has been more than I am willing to take. There is a culture war playing out and I have no intention of sitting on the sidelines or using soft language to address theology’s false claims. And I will direct my support to those organizations, such as FFRF, who share my view.

  • John Pieret

    I don’t disagree with the message, I just think it is the wrong place, time and season. The holidays are one of the few times of the year when we try to get together as human beings and (at least try to) set aside the fact that we don’t really like some of them (relations, in-laws, acquaintances, etc.). Think Tim Minchin’s “White Wine in the Sun.”

    My late wife, who was an atheist, loved Christmas, with all the trimmings, not for any religious reasons, but because she reveled in the “spirit of good will.”

    The display of the Springfield Area Freethinkers that Ed highlighted yesterday (while it could have used a treacle-ectomy) managed to hit all the important bits … reason, truth, enlightenment: freedom, peace, and love of understanding … but also struck the note of “unfearing good will.”

    At a time of year when most people are (more) willing to be tolerant of others and their opinions, a gentler touch might be better advised.

  • phhht

    John Pieret,

    I’ll take down my sign if the Christians will take down theirs.

    I’m sorry to be such a cynic, but I simply don’t see indication that Christians are willing to be tolerant of atheists at Christmas. Quite the opposite.

  • John Pieret

    phhht:

    What “sign” did the Christians put up? A manger? Does a manger say or even imply that atheists are “hard hearted” or “enslaved minds”? I’m sure some Christians believe that, but does it fall out of the manger?

    The manger is a myth about people’s love and struggles in hard times … hiding away from a villain, having to take shelter in a barn … it could have come out of a Wolverine movie. And, truth be told, most American Christians (who are not Fundamentalists) probably don’t really believe the story any more than you do.

    It is a kind of short cut … a symbol … for what they believe. Sort of like large red “A”s.

  • phhht

    John Pieret,

    Was that a manger with angels hovering above it? With a magical star shining down from heaven? With three wise men on camels?

    I have no objection to the myth, although I find it personally offensive. I object to its privileged position on government property.

    If the Christians (and maybe, by now the Satanists) will take down theirs, I’ll be happy to see the FRF sign come down.

    You know, as sort of a symbol. A symbol of separation of church and state.

  • John Pieret

    I object to its privileged position on government property.

    Whoa! The manger doesn’t have a “privileged position on government property.” That is, in fact, why the FFRF sign is there at all. The government has, as Ed said, declared it a limited public forum, which means, under our Constitution, that Christians and the FFRF have equal access to the space. The argument here was never about separation of church and state but the wisdom the FFRF’s use of that forum.

    If the Christians (and maybe, by now the Satanists) will take down theirs, I’ll be happy to see the FRF sign come down.

    Actually, a Festivus pole of empty Pabst beer cans has been erected in some similar limited public forum in a state capital … a sort of lighthearted exercise I suspect is much more effective in knocking down any sense of Christian privilege than is the FFRF poster.

    You know, as sort of a symbol. A symbol of separation of church and state.

    Let’s get this straight, if it is … and it seems Illinois is treating it so … that Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, etc., etc., all have access to the State Capital Rotunda, it is, constitutionally, no different than a church putting up a manger on its front lawn or the FFRF putting its sign up in front of its headquarters. Would you want to ban either from doing so?

    If not, then there is no issue of separation of church and state in this case.

  • phhht

    John Pieret,

    If I remember correctly, the only reason the FFRF sign is permitted is because of threatened legal challenges (on church-state constitutional grounds) against the prior privileged position of the Christian symbols. In 2010, a conservative activist sued to have the sign banned as hate speech.

    If Christians may place a manger on government property, then the governmental entity in question may not exclude others from placing symbols of their opinions, such as the FFRF sign. The only reason for controversy here is that Christians object to the loss of their prior privileged position, privileged by the exclusion of different opinions. If Christians did not insist on that privilege, there would be no controversy.

    Personally, I prefer that churches put their mangers up on their own property, complete with crass blinking lights

    and a baby zombie-god-to-be in the manger. If churches would do so – if they would agree to remove

    their Christian symbols from all government property – I’d be pleased to see the FFRF sign come down as well.

  • footface

    What about a sign that says “WAR is AN INSTITUTION that hardens hearts and CAUSES SUFFERING”?

    Is this statement true, do you think?

    If a vet looks at that sign and says, “Are you saying I have a hard heart and I cause suffering?” how would you respond?

    I’d say, “I’m talking about war, not about you.”

    Isn’t it the same with the FFRF sign? It’s a message about the power and effect of religion, but not about the character or worth of religious people. Then again, if it can be so easily misinterpreted, I guess that means it’s poorly done.

  • dingojack

    I think it comes down to a matter of interpretation. I see a big difference between:

    “Religion is just a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

    and:

    “Religion is just a myth and superstition that can harden hearts and enslave minds.”

    You mean the message on a pack of cigarettes that says: “Smoking harms unborn babies” should really say something like:

    “Based on the legal standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, women who smoke tobacco products while pregnant, or people who smoke tobacco products within a distance of [z] meters of women who are pregnant, particularly in situations where the levels of smoke can exceed [w] ppb, increases the likelihood of the pregnant women’s unborn baby having childhood cancers, developmental delays and/or birth defects by [x]% plus or minus [y] (that is one standard deviation from the mean) as amply demonstrated in the following long list of published, independent, peer-reviewed research papers:…”

    Or would the former wording be understood as the latter by a reasonable person?

    @@

    Dingo

  • John Pieret

    If I remember correctly, the only reason the FFRF sign is permitted is because of threatened legal challenges (on church-state constitutional grounds) against the prior privileged position of the Christian symbols.

    Yes, that is how constitutional rights are enforced.

    In 2010, a conservative activist sued to have the sign banned as hate speech.

    And lost.

    The only reason for controversy here is that Christians object to the loss of their prior privileged position

    No, whatever “controversy” here (Ed’s blog) is among secularists as to whether or not FFRF’s display is the best use of the opportunity to use the open forum that the state has created.

    @ footface:

    “WAR is AN INSTITUTION that hardens hearts and CAUSES SUFFERING”?

    I know a lot of vets … I am a vet myself (though, thank Cthulhu, not of combat) … and I don’t know of any who think of themselves as part of the “institution” of war. They invariably think of themselves as part of the institution of “peace” by defending their loved ones and fellow country men and women from war waged by others. You can certainly quibble about how true that is but your example would only hit home if you phrased it as “The AMERICAN MILITARY is AN INSTITUTION that hardens hearts and CAUSES SUFFERING.” I don’t think that would be very productive either.

  • Nick Gotts

    If one, say, wanted to attract flies, would vinegar prove superior or inferior to honey? – Modusoperandi@27

    Superior! By a margin of 3:1.

  • dingojack

    If you want to catch Calliphoridae* I’d recommend neither.

    Rather, use rotting flesh (well-blended), Gum Arabic and a trace of faecal matter.

    Dingo

    ——–

    * for example to feed to lizards or frogs

  • Doug Little

    moxie? WTF are they living in the roaring 20s or something?