The Atheist Sign Comes to Illinois

Looks like Springfield, Illinois may get a taste of what Olympia, Washington has been dealing with the past week.

At the Illinois Capitol building today, the Freedom From Religion Foundation will be putting up a red-and-green version of its infamous sign:

Let’s be clear on this: FFRF isn’t doing this because they think atheists deserve special treatment from the government. They want equal treament.

There is a Nativity scene already at the Capitol. Therefore, other religions (and atheists) have a right to place their own seasonal decorations alongside the Christian display. FFRF applied for a permit and went through all the proper channels to make this happen:

The Foundation applied for a permit after Illinois members contacted the state/church watchdog, asking it to protest the decision to permit a religious group to plant a nativity display in the Capitol for the month of December.

“We don’t think religion — or irreligion — belongs in state capitols,” noted Dan Barker, Foundation co-president and author of the new book, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists.

“But if a state is going to permit a nativity display and create a public forum, then we want to be sure that the views of the 16% of the U.S. population who is not religious are also represented.”

I wonder if the protests will be as large or as angry as those taking place in Washington.

(via The Daily Profaner)

  • TXatheist

    Bravo to the great state of Illinois!

  • http://pastorwick.blogspot.com WICK

    I live about an hour from the Illinois Capitol building. I do not agree that such a derogatory statement has any right being publicly displayed, any more than I would a Christian group putting a public display saying Atheists have hard hearts and enslaved minds.

    But I probably won’t be protesting, because it would be seen as me protesting Atheism’s rights to do things publicly. I say take the nativity AND the sign down, and let’s have a cup of hot chocolate together.

    There are better things to be doing with our time/resources.

  • http://failingtheinsidertest.blogspot.com/ Jeffrey

    For PR reasons, I think the sign is a bit too blunt, but consider the words to Amazing Grace: “I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.”

    If we put the sign to music and starting singing it our arrogance would not surpass that of a mild-mannered grandmother sitting in a pew.

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    Well, the guy who wrote Amazing Grace had been in the slave trade. So given his past and change of heart, I do not think the lyrics should be taken in a negative light.

  • http://failingtheinsidertest.blogspot.com/ Jeffrey

    That justifies John Newtons’ words. And if only he sung it, I would let it go without a comment.

    When sung by everyone else, the meaning is a generic “non-Christians are blind.”

  • Polly

    Oh for Reason’s sake, couldn’t they at least have made it RHYME!?!?

  • Erp

    I should point out that John Newton had his conversion experience (circa 1748) several years before leaving the slave trade due to ill health (1754) and becoming anti-slave trade (sometime before 1787). Amazing Grace was written sometime before 1779. It is unclear whether Amazing Grace was written before or after his views on the slave trade changed.

    Myself I think the sign could have been a bit milder (remember any sign espousing atheism or sponsored by an atheistic group would draw protests). Personally I rather like “Keep faith with reason” but that might be too mild.

  • Diane G.

    WICK, why capitalize atheism? Isn’t that playing into the hands of the “atheism is a religion” folks?

  • http://pastorwick.blogspot.com WICK

    err…I guess I hadn’t thought about it. I’ve never been one to pay attention to capitalization, unless someone else corrects me.

    Whether a christian or an atheist. :)

  • Madkins007

    I am a Christian and I agree with the ideas that state property should either give fair time or stay out of the mix, but I have to wonder if this sign is the best they could do.

    The last phrase is deliberately provocative and overly generalized. Religion has its faults, but to claim that religion ‘hardens hearts’ is just plain mean when one considers all the philanthropy that occurs in the name of religion.

    The ‘enslaving minds’ bit is equally mean when one remembers that most of the institutes of higher learning were founded on religious grounds, slavery was fought by religious people (of course, it is also practiced by religious people), etc.

    All I am trying to say is that if you are going for the moral high ground, it is kind of sad that it could not have a more moral or higher ground.

    (And please understand that I am by no means trying to claim that Christianity or religion as a whole is flawless or even really beneficial.

  • Siamang

    Madkins, Thanks for chiming in.

    I think that the FFRF is attempting to make people angry. I think that’s their strategy… to get people riled up so that it gets noticed, talked about and covered on the news.

    We’ve had quite a debate over whether it’s a good strategy or appropriate. I will admit that this did provoke a lot of media coverage. I think the hope was that Bill O Reilly and the professional complainers of television would cover it.

    If it were me, it’d probably say “Merry whatever you’re celebrating, everyone join in. Let’s share the cheer with everyone. Love, Atheists.” And nobody would ever talk about what’s right or wrong about pushing this stuff into the state house.

    So anyway. This aint’ my style or even my deal… putting up signs.

    Merry season to you, Madkins.

  • Aj

    Madkins007,

    I am a Christian and I agree with the ideas that state property should either give fair time or stay out of the mix, but I have to wonder if this sign is the best they could do.

    The last phrase is deliberately provocative and overly generalized. Religion has its faults, but to claim that religion ‘hardens hearts’ is just plain mean when one considers all the philanthropy that occurs in the name of religion.

    The ‘enslaving minds’ bit is equally mean when one remembers that most of the institutes of higher learning were founded on religious grounds, slavery was fought by religious people (of course, it is also practiced by religious people), etc.

    All I am trying to say is that if you are going for the moral high ground, it is kind of sad that it could not have a more moral or higher ground.

    It’s interesting that you see being provocative as a negative. I suggest that if you think that this sign is overly generalized you’re reading too much from it. I don’t think it’s fair to get so many miles out of two word phrases.

    They say religion gets people off drugs and keeps sociopaths in line. I’m willing to accept that it may do, but I suspect it isn’t that affective, or easy to implement, since those two endeavors don’t seem very successful. Pphilanthropy is a separate point from “hardened hearts”. Religion isn’t needed for philanthropy, even the most vile religious organisations do it, and motivation isn’t implicit

    Education and “enslaving minds” are two different concepts. The most educated and intelligent people can be enslaved. Do social justice movements form around religions or communities? Do religious people use religious justifications and secular people use secular ones?

    It’s whether you believe in belief, or don’t. If you think that religion is a powerful source for good, or unnecessary for good, and a motivation for bad.

    I don’t think “equal time” is right, and prefer secular government. I hope that by displaying a pointed sign the FFRF are making the point that it shouldn’t be there in the first place. I think they could have tried to offend more people. Get more coverage, and explain why it was necessary to make the point. Atheism should not be looking for parity or to be included as a religion. There are other ways to make the point, but it needed to be made.

  • geru

    As a “cold hearted” anti-theist I am, I still don’t see what is the point with the last sentence “Religion is but…”. Why on earth couldn’t they have bothered to think of something more positive to say?

    Like “There are no gods and no devils …. So love your fellow man, embrace reason, and have a happy holiday!” e.g.

  • Paul

    Agreed geru.

    I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this, but, from a graphic design standpoint, the sign looks ugly and amateurish and, consequently, not as “smart” and it could be. I’m just sayin’…

  • the Joneses

    I agree with both geru and Paul.


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