FFRF’s Winter Solstice Sign Placed in Wisconsin Capitol

In previous years, the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s sign in the Wisconsin Capitol building would have been the one garnering all the media attention.

This year, amidst the popularity of the American Atheists billboard, it might just go under the radar:

At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail.
There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.
There is only our natural world.
Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

Is it possible that after this year, stating that “religion is a myth” will become the norm for atheist ads?

And if that happens, what will the next batch of publicity-grabbing ads say?

  • rbray18

    you’re soulless i’m soulless we’re all soulless for the next ad,that’ll fry their bacon 😀

  • Vas

    Hey a bit off topic but I have a question for any christians reading this blog. Why is it that christians seem to place such importance on nativity scenes and religious symbols on public property anyway? What makes city hall or county buildings so special to you? What is wrong with your church’s or your own front yard? Lastly didn’t your god have something to say about idolatry, seems to me I remember something about that, something like a commandment I think.
    And now you have this dumb sign in the Wisconsin capitol, why not just dump all this lame crap and maybe just erect a huge touchdown jesus in your yard or something?
    Do tell.

  • Chris

    I’m gonna have to go check that out. I’m only about 5 blocks from there!

  • http://www.stumpanatheist.com Rev. Ryan Benson

    We should throw a curve ball: “Merry Christmas!!! -FFRF”

  • jose

    Well, at least I’m glad atheists are giving up the whole “Hey I’m not making any claim, don’t ask me, I just have the same position as a 1-year-old concerning this complex issue” idea. Religion should be addressed as another social, historical and anthropological topic.

  • http://Ifthereisanobjective(onetrue)morality,howdoweknowthatwhatiswritteninthebiblecapturesit?Thebiblemightbewayoff. Robert W.

    So I would assume that the atheists don’t consider this a violation of church and state?

    It is clearly a statement regarding a religious belief even if it is in the negative.

    And it doesn’t matter how many times you say it- the real reason for the season in this country is not the winter solstice.

  • Vas

    @ Robert W.
    Are you a Christian?

  • Potco

    There are atheists in America, please stop whining about it.

  • http://eruditehypocrite.blogspot.com Jesus

    I am kind of surprised that this is OK on public property. I mean, the message is spot on, but it is blatantly mentioning god heaven and hell. That makes it a message about religion on governmental property.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    I’m confused about this situation. Does the Wisconsin State Capitol have a nativity scene? I thought these signs were supposed to be a “rebuttal” to religious displays on government property, like in Washington and Illinois. Isn’t the point of such signs to highlight breaches in church-state separation? I hate the sign (the last sentence is awful), but I can see it being deliberately provocative in order to prove a point. But what point is the FFRF trying to make in Wisconsin? From what I could tell, they have a “holiday tree,” but no religious displays.

  • http://cafeeine.wordpress.com Cafeeine

    Robert W,

    Its obvious that the reason most people have celebrate is not the winter solstice. However the winter solstice is the reason this as been for years a ‘holiday’ for many civilizations, and was the cause of Christmas being placed on December 25th.

  • Joe franke

    It does technicly fit the definition of a myth.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    And it doesn’t matter how many times you say it- the real reason for the season in this country is not the winter solstice.

    Millions of people might be celebrating Jesus, but the only reason they’re celebrating at this time of year is because of the winter solstice, and the way they’re celebrating dates back to ancient pagan festivals. As I mentioned on the other thread, the vast majority of Christmas traditions have nothing to do with the story of baby Jesus in the manger. Most of our modern traditions are either recent inventions or stem from pagan holidays, ie: Yule logs, Christmas trees, wreaths, mistletoe, holly, ivy, lights, candles, snowmen, reindeer, eggnog, gingerbread, fruitcake, sending cards, hanging stockings, leaving out cookies for Santa, etc.

  • Kamaka

    @ Anna

    Does the Wisconsin State Capitol have a nativity scene? I thought these signs were supposed to be a “rebuttal” to religious displays on government property

    Apparently, you and I were doing the same google search. I found nothing that indicated a nativity scene at the Wisconsin Capitol, either. But it must be so, I can’t imagine the FFRF sign being tolerated otherwise.

    Perhaps Chris “I’m only about 5 blocks from there!” can give us a report.

    @ Vas

    Yup.

    @ Robert W

    And it doesn’t matter how many times you say it- the real reason for the season in this country is not the winter solstice.

    The christers are very late entrants to the winter solstice myth-making party. And it doesn’t matter how many times you say it, “in this country”, the nativity story is still a myth.

  • Nick Andrew

    Now that’s a sign I can proudly enjoy!

  • ursulamajor

    Merry Christmyth to all!

  • NotYou007

    I love that sign. I wish I could marry it.

  • http://Ifthereisanobjective(onetrue)morality,howdoweknowthatwhatiswritteninthebiblecapturesit?Thebiblemightbewayoff. Robert W.

    Vas,

    Yes I am a Christian.

    Anna,

    I don’t disagree with your comment. The reason that the Church placed Christmas on this date is because of the pagan holidays being celebrated at that time. In fact it first appears in the church documents around 350 ad on this date but didn’t become official until the around 1530. Since that time it has been the official time for Christians to celebrate Christ’s birth. That of course was brought over to this country along with other traditions.

    But regardless, I don’t think that there can be any real argument that in this country Christmas has always been recognized as a Christian holiday. Certainly with secular components but also, along with Easter, one of the days with the highest church attendance.

  • NotYou007

    I smell a shit storm coming.

  • Kamaka

    @ Robert W

    I don’t think that there can be any real argument that in this country Christmas has always been recognized as a Christian holiday.

    If you say so.

  • Inferno

    How about an even bigger curveball by posting a picture of a dollar bill with the message, “In Allah We Trust”. Let’s see how much they complain when it’s not necessarily evil atheists attacking God but it’s not their God getting the credit either.

  • http://littlelioness.net Fiona

    I celebrate aesomeness of xmas trees and pudding.

    mm pudding.

  • http://Ifthereisanobjective(onetrue)morality,howdoweknowthatwhatiswritteninthebiblecapturesit?Thebiblemightbewayoff. Robert W.

    Kamaka,

    The Coke marketing campaign doesn’t change the truth about this holiday and its meaning in this country for centuries.

  • Sean

    From the FFRF site:

    “Dan Barker, Foundation co-president, said Christians tend to think “they own the month of December. We don’t agree. No month is free from pagan reverie!”

    Love the way that he Dr. Seussed it all up in there!

    And Robert W.: You are absolutely correct! The Freedom From Religion Foundation often intrusively demands that their religious beliefs be prominently displayed on all government property. I even hear that they are painting “allah does not exist” on bombs dropped in Afghanistan. It is all part of Obama’s secret atheist muslim communist fascist attack on the good Christians of America! Only clear minded folks like you and I can stop him! Git yer guns! Yeee Haw!

  • Kamaka

    @ Robert W

    The Coke marketing campaign doesn’t change the truth about this holiday and its meaning in this country for centuries.

    For centuries? Perhaps you exaggerate.

    Santa and god have a lot in common. They both know whether you’ve been naughty or nice. They both know if you are sleeping or if you are awake.

    And both of these supernatural entities will punish you for behaving incorrectly. I prefer the fictitious Santa, though, because he just puts coal in your stocking to let you know he is displeased. The fictitous angry god guy is far more scary; if you piss him off, he sends you off to an eternity of horrible flaming torture.

    That would ruin my Xmas.

  • ACN

    Robert,

    The line “Keep State and Church Separate” also appears on the sign’s back. FFRF started placing the sign to counter numerous religious events and postings in the Capitol.

    Personally, I’d rather the capitol building have no religious presence of any kind in keeping with my interpretation of the first amendment such that no citizen can claim the government has anything to say about the existence or non-existence of their favorite sky fairy.

    However, as the area seems to be being used presently as an open space for holiday displays of all types, it seems perfectly reasonable to have atheists/rationalists/freethinkers represented as well as their theistic counterparts as long as any group who wants to put up a public display is allowed (within the standards of public obscenity) to be represented.

    To be totally clear, I do think Wisconsin’s use of the capitol skirts the edge of a church-state issue, but because the space is given out to any group that wants to put up a display, and the displays are privately funded, it probably lies on the safe side.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    Queue Bill O’Reilly’s apoplexy…

  • RG

    The reason this sign is allowed, I think, is because the FFRF tried to get a nativity scene off the property. The decision made by the city is that it could stay, but they also had to allow others to put up non-christian displays. Had FFRF done nothing, it would have been back to the norm with a nativity scene on public property. They really had to do something. Let me know if I’m incorrect or getting this confused with another city.

  • Claudia

    I didn’t like the sign last year, I still don’t like the sign this year. It’s dickish. It basically translates to “Happy solstice, you deluded fucking morons”.

    I have to assume the Wisconsin Capitol allows signs from any and all religions or worldviews if this sign is allowed. If not, it’s as much an affront to the 1st ammendment as a nativity scene. Personally I think a much more entertaining and positive way to send government the message that it should stay out of holiday traditions is by overwhelming them with mythologies. Put up a nativity scene. Next put up a Menorah. After that a tree of Reason. Then put up an image of Mithras. I’m sure you could easily find 20-30 different mythologies that could not be denied. This would either get the local government to decide it would rather not have religious shrines on public property or it would stand as a very educational monument to the huge diversity of religions and cultures who “just happen” to have important events around the winter solstice. Either way, it’s a win.

    As for the FFRF sign, I’m really not with the “well, if we don’t do this we won’t get publicity!” angle. Publicity whoredom just ain’t my thing. I’d much rather have a sign that is actually positive like “Whatever you’re mythology, we wish you a happy solstice!” with the symbols of various religions around it (I’m sure there are better ideas, I’m not in marketing). There is a time and place to be negative, to be mean, to not back down or be polite. I just don’t see one of the most benign religious traditions in the country as being one of those times, sorry.

  • Nick Andrew

    Is it possible that after this year, stating that “religion is a myth” will become the norm for atheist ads?

    My new years’ resolution for 2011 is to make this happen as much as possible.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Claudia “Happy solstice, you deluded fucking morons” may be one way of looking at it. For some of the Christian Cult of Ignorance it isn’t wrong. This sign though is a little more polite. I like it but I’d like it more if public resources were used elsewhere instead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    Claudia, I don’t like that suggestion for a greeting at all. So fuck me since I have no myth? I don’t think so. I don’t celebrate winter solstice; I celebrate happy winter and the beauty of both the season (it is beautiful) and the warmth of people towards each other as we pull together through it’s harshest aspects.

    The sign is in response to nativity scenes at the capitol. They didn’t succeed in getting it removed so demanded “equal” time. One can hardly call what they were granted equal since they’re limited to a much smaller display, hence just the plaque.

    In previous years, it’s been stolen by god-fearing Christians who expect their 10 commandments to be displayed in public places but apparently have no qualms breaking them themselves even as they try to force the rest of us to keep them.
    So count down to the theft or attempted theft (they’ve made it more and more theft-proof over the years).

    Shoot me. I’ve been a member for a long time.

    Robert, in your dreams. Go on line and watch last night’s Colbert Report. You could learn a thing or two from a fellow Christian. Though you’d just probably wind up saying merry Christ Christmas Christ as he says he’s going to do. And his bit about the buybull not saying if someone punches you in the check, punch him in the cheek would surely go over your head.

    How many people have to actually give you the history before you admit you’re wrong. There’s always been Christians celebrating Christmas in America, yes, but there’s also a strong tradition of secular Christmas too.

  • Robert W.

    ACN,

    If that is the case then I think you are correct that this is okay. I understand they did the same thing in Washington State. It looks like it may stop since folks started putting up flying spaghetti monster and festifus displays.

  • Robert W.

    Kamaka,

    I think religious folks, who made up over 80% of this country since its founding celebrating Christmas as the birth of Jesus since the 1600’s until now qualifies as centuries.

    Muggle,

    Give me an example before the era of commercialization in the last 75 or 80 years where the main focus of Christmas was not the celebration of Christ’s birth. Yes there was gift giving and big meals and family gatherings, but all under the backdrop of celebrating the birth of Christ. Certainly not the winter solstice. You know that is the case because even today the number of Atheists in this country is a very small minority. I think around 15% in the most recent polls give or take a little.

    So when more then 80% of the people in this country over the past centuries were Christian what makes you think that they would celebrate Christmas, even with some of its secular elements, as anything other then the birth of Christ?

    And by the way, I’m not saying don’t celebrate your secular Christmas. Go enjoy and have a wonderful time whatever your basis for celebrating may be. I just get my dander up when Atheist continually try to rewrite the history of this country to try to fit their worldview.

  • Claudia

    I have to agree with Robert (this has now happened twice, which is starting to worry me lol). To pretend that Christmas doesn’t have very strong Christian overtones in the US a denial of history.

    Yes, solstice was celebrated anyway and yes, the birthday was moved to co-opt said celebrations. I can also agree that in modern times, religion has little to do with Christmas for most folks. It’s about lights, and big meals, and family and gifts and cheesy songs.

    Now, stop any person on the street and ask them “What is celebrated on Christmas?” and you’re going to get “The birth of Jesus” as an answer. The fact that the vast majority of the original population of the US was Christian and that Christmas is one of the most major holidays is not some wild coincidence.

    It’s legitimate to point out that Jesus is rather secondary at Christmas these days. It’s legitimate to point out that many traditions are anything but Christian in origin (yule logs, trees, gifts, lights). However pretending that Christmas has “nothing to do” with the Christian faith is simply untrue.

  • Robert W.

    Claudia,

    Very well said. And I don’t mind you agree with me every now and then. :)

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Robert,

    But regardless, I don’t think that there can be any real argument that in this country Christmas has always been recognized as a Christian holiday. Certainly with secular components but also, along with Easter, one of the days with the highest church attendance.

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that. Of course Christmas is a Christian holiday. It’s also a secular holiday and a pagan holiday. There are elements of all three mixed in our modern Christmas, and it seems to me that the latter two components are far more popular than the former. If you removed everything except baby Jesus from an American Christmas, you would end up with something almost unrecognizable. People would set up a nativity scene, sing some religious carols, go to church, and that’s it. I think the vast majority of Christians would be very unhappy if you took away all their fun pagan and secular traditions.

    As for church attendance, I’m not sure what that has to do with it. As a devout Christian yourself, do you really think that the millions of token Christians who go to church just on Christmas are being reverential and actually celebrating the birth of Jesus? In my experience, such people go to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day because it’s traditional. They may or may not actually believe the myth (hence the billboard), but they like to sing traditional carols, light candles, and see the cute little kids dressed up as angels and sheep. Heck, I’d bet there are even thousands of atheists who go to church on Christmas for precisely that reason.

  • Vas

    So Robert…
    Please help me with the public buildings thing. Why do you, (as a christian)think it is so important to christians to place things like nativity scenes on publicly owned land. Really what is wrong with privet land. I just don’t understand why it is important to them.

  • http://Ifthereisanobjective(onetrue)morality,howdoweknowthatwhatiswritteninthebiblecapturesit?Thebiblemightbewayoff. Robert W.

    Vas,

    I can’t speak for all Christians as to why they think it is important to place nativity scenes on public land. There are alot of churches that have their own and do display them on their own land.

    If I was to guess, i would suspect that since the majority of people in this country are Christian and that includes public officials i would think that they would think it was normal and ok to put a nativity scene up on public land, much like a Christmas tree. It most likely is a long standing tradition that has gone on for years without a problem.

    That of course doesn’t make it constitutional. Even though I am a Christian I certainly think that the nativity scene is a Christian symbol that probably should stay on private land.

    As for other references to God like in the Pledge or on the money or even the Ten commandments, I think there is more of an argument for those not being a violation of church and state.

  • Robert W.

    Anna,

    I agree that it is a mixture of traditions. That wasn’t my point. My point was simply what I last posted which i think we agree on.

    As for the traditions, you know us Christians, we can put Christian symbolism almost anywhere so I think alot of the traditions we enjoy would stay even if the sole focus was on Jesus’ birth (which for me it always has been) For example- gift giving to represent the gifts from the wisemen, the candy canes representing the purity of Christ and the blood he shed for us, family get togethers to celebrate his birth and worship together, decorating a tree with religious ornaments, heck even a sleigh ride to symbolize the trip to Bethlehem, etc… We can find it anywhere and the more reminders we have to celebrate our Christian reason for the season the better. :)

    I don’t disagree that many people only go to church on Christmas and Easter and that they may not have much faith. But when they do on Christmas they hear the Biblical account of Christ’s birth and what it means for mankind. I like that they hear that message and frankly wish alot more atheists did.

  • http://agersomnia.blogspot.com Agersomnia

    Has anyone researched if the native americans, that is the Native American Indian Nations had some sort of festivity during winter solstice before they were wiped-out of existence by the nice gentlemen of christian values?

    I do think so:

    The Pueblo tribe observe both the summer and winter solstices. Although the specific details of the rituals differ from pueblo to pueblo, “the rites are built around the sun, the coming new year and the rebirth of vegetation in the spring….Winter solstice rites include…prayerstick making, retreats, altars, emesis and prayers for increase.” 6

    The Hopi tribe “is dedicated to giving aid and direction to the sun which is ready to ‘return’ and give strength to budding life.” Their ceremony is called “Soyal.” It lasts for 20 days and includes “prayerstick making, purification, rituals and a concluding rabbit hunt, feast and blessing…” 6

    There are countless stone structures created by Natives in the past to detect the solstices and equinoxes. One was called Calendar One by its modern-day finder. It is in a natural amphitheatre of about 20 acres in size in Vermont. From a stone enclosure in the center of the bowl, one can see a number of vertical rocks and natural features in the horizon which formed the edge of the bowl. At the solstices and equinoxes, the sun rises and sets at notches or peaks in the ridge which surrounded the calendar. 7

    And then…

    Native Americans had winter solstice rites. The sun images at right are from rock paintings of the Chumash, who occupied coastal California for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived. Solstices were tremendously important to them, and the winter solstice celebration lasted several days.

    Well then, even if Christmas has roughly a couple of centuries old in your country, it was only after quite some time of winter solstice celebrations =P.

    (and those were 2 min. of googling)

  • http://www.shadowmanor.com/blog/ Cobwebs

    Claudia,

    Now, stop any person on the street and ask them “What is celebrated on Christmas?” and you’re going to get “The birth of Jesus” as an answer.

    I think stopping any person on the street and expecting to get that answer might be a stretch. I honestly wouldn’t answer that way, because the birth of Jesus is not what my family and I celebrate.

    The fact that the vast majority of the original population of the US was Christian and that Christmas is one of the most major holidays is not some wild coincidence.

    The original Christian population of the US banned Christmas as being frivolous, and it didn’t really become fashionable to celebrate it until the 19th Century.

    So, sure, you can’t say that it doesn’t have any Christian overtones, but you also can’t claim that it was always universally embraced by Christians and has only recently become secularized. It’s always been pretty secular.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Robert,

    As for the traditions, you know us Christians, we can put Christian symbolism almost anywhere so I think alot of the traditions we enjoy would stay even if the sole focus was on Jesus’ birth (which for me it always has been) For example- gift giving to represent the gifts from the wisemen, the candy canes representing the purity of Christ and the blood he shed for us, family get togethers to celebrate his birth and worship together, decorating a tree with religious ornaments, heck even a sleigh ride to symbolize the trip to Bethlehem, etc… We can find it anywhere and the more reminders we have to celebrate our Christian reason for the season the better.

    That’s true, and I have nothing against people inventing their own meanings for ancient traditions. I’d be a hypocrite if I did that, since I freely admit I incorporate pagan and Christian traditions in my own celebration of Christmas. From my perspective, I can take those those old traditions and interpret them however I want. But if you’re doing the same thing I am, it’s probably best not to accuse atheists of “rewriting history.” Our gift-giving customs and sleigh rides don’t really have anything to do with the wise men or the trip to Bethlehem.

    I don’t disagree that many people only go to church on Christmas and Easter and that they may not have much faith. But when they do on Christmas they hear the Biblical account of Christ’s birth and what it means for mankind.

    They hear it, but they may not believe it. Or if they do believe it, it may not mean very much to them. I guess I was just trying to point out that merely going to church doesn’t make someone religious. A token Christian may sit in the pew and hear the familiar story, but they don’t actually find it very significant. It’s more that they just enjoying hearing and doing traditional things. Rituals and traditions mean a lot many people, myself included.

    I like that they hear that message and frankly wish alot more atheists did.

    You wish that we liked it, or wish that we’d hear it? If the latter, I can assure you that the vast majority of Western atheists have heard the story innumerable times and still don’t find it true or meaningful. As for liking it, well, the story of a baby being born in a manger isn’t distasteful by itself. Parts of the myth are actually rather sweet. It’s the implications of the “savior” aspect that I find offensive, which is of course brought to a head by the gruesomeness of Easter. If it weren’t for that, I’d have no objection to the story. I’d still think of it as a myth, but it wouldn’t be a bad myth.

  • Vas

    Robert,
    Yeah I’m pretty sure every atheist in America has “heard the good news” ad infinitum. Your wish is granted we got the message.

    As for the pledge and the money thing it has a lot more to do with McCarthyism than Christianity, you know godless commies and all.

    I understand the tradition thing with public displays and all, but the current situation seems confrontational at best, (for both sides). This insistence on public land displays seem like a battle in the war on christmas to me and the whole war on christmas thing is really a christian invention wherein they have enjoyed a privileged status and as they are required to relinquish that privilege they are freaking out and declaring themselves warriors for Christ. Really I hear this warrior thing a lot, the NOTW crowd in particular make no bones about it with giant decals on the rear windows of their monster trucks and cars that say as much. When someone declares themselves a warrior for christ as an atheist I take notice. Personally I’m uncomfortable letting “warriors” run amok in my town square and it seems appropriate to oppose them, it’s either that or submit to their will and frankly I’m a kind of over the whole christian boot on the atheist neck thing.

  • Skippy
  • Mikko

    A shopping mall in stockholm sweden removed christmas completely from the mall

    no santa claus
    no christmas music
    no christmas decorations

  • AxeGrrl

    Claudia wrote:

    I didn’t like the sign last year, I still don’t like the sign this year. It’s dickish. It basically translates to “Happy solstice, you deluded fucking morons”.
    (snip)
    As for the FFRF sign, I’m really not with the “well, if we don’t do this we won’t get publicity!” angle. Publicity whoredom just ain’t my thing. I’d much rather have a sign that is actually positive like “Whatever you’re mythology, we wish you a happy solstice!” with the symbols of various religions around it (I’m sure there are better ideas, I’m not in marketing). There is a time and place to be negative, to be mean, to not back down or be polite. I just don’t see one of the most benign religious traditions in the country as being one of those times, sorry

    Claudia, you expressed my thoughts/feelings precisely.

    Yet again, the far less dick-ish sign, imo, was the Seattle Atheists’ sign from last year:

    “In this holiday season, let us remember that
    kindness, charity and goodwill transcend belief, creed or religion.”

    It’s ingenious because it makes a GREAT point (that religion doesn’t ‘own’ goodness, nor is it the ‘source’ of it) and also has a ‘collective’ air about it.

    The FFRF sign comes across a big ol’ chip-on-the-shoulder, imo. Yeah, people are turned on/engaged by that……………not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    Thank you, Skippy, for saving me the trouble. Robert, go read his link.

    That said. I finally gave in and responded to your pouting but the truth is I really don’t give a shit if there was or not. It’s still not a Christian holiday if you choose not to make it one and celebrating happy winter as I do (I likewise refuse to go Solstice to avoid even ancient religions) is my choice and my freedom as an American to do. Don’t like it? I don’t really give a flying crap.

    And, no, actually I don’t care if you think that hypocritical of me. Just means we have the same opinion of one another.

  • Robert W.

    Muggle,

    If you will read up a few posts, I apologized and said that hypocritical was too harsh. I also said that if you want to enjoy this time as a secular holiday then feel free to do so and it is of course your right. However, my point was still that in this country it has traditionally been a Christian holiday. As for the essay I think that it is a good description of how Santa Claus came to be but it doesn’t change my point.

    For the rest of you Anna, etc. I don’t disagree with the majority of your comments. (those bout Easter excluded, we can have that discussion in the Spring)

    Have a wonderful Christmas!