Atheist Banner Rejected from Ellwood City Municipal Building, While Nativity Scene Stays

It was bad enough last year when the Ellwood City Municipal Building allowed a nativity scene out front without any other holiday displays to buffer it. It was an outright endorsement of Christianity.

After complaints last year from groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Mayor Anthony Court opened the door to displays from non-Christian groups as well. He even invited FFRF to submit their own display. The property currently hosts a crèche, a Santa scene, a snowman, Kwanzaa posters, and a Hanukkah menorah.

FFRF took Court up on his offer (PDF) by sending him their Banner-o-Christmas-Cheer:

“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.
Freedom From Religion Foundation”

Hey, if Christians can tell the world you’re going to hell if you don’t accept Jesus, why can’t an atheist group say that the story’s a myth?

Mayor Court didn’t like the banner, though, and he flatly rejected it:

“I believe [the banner] violates the First Amendment. It’s endorsing atheism,” the mayor said. The creche “is a statue. It’s not a doctrinal statement.”

[Annie Laurie] Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, said she hadn’t seen this year’s modified display but considered her group’s banner a necessary addition.

“The mayor invited us to put up our own display, and we are taking him up on it,” she said. “We wrote this as a repudiation of the manger scene. The manger scene is a doctrinal statement. … If you don’t believe that baby is your lord and savior, according to Christian tradition and hymns sung at this time of year, then you are not saved.

This about inclusion or exclusion of all views. You can’t pick and choose which religions get promoted by the government. It’s a sloppy mess to allow all beliefs systems in and FFRF is just capitalizing on that, while highlighting the prejudice that comes with pushing an atheist viewpoint. The city would be better off leaving government properties religion-free, but until they do that, they need to allow all displays in.

Meanwhile, in an act showing how badly they don’t understand the issue, Christians rallied in front of the Nativity Scene on Friday because they thought atheists were coming to protest it and take it down:

(Note the poster with Dan Barker‘s face at the 0:17 mark.)

The FFRF doesn’t want to remove the Nativity Scene. They love the Nativity Scene. It gives them the opportunity to put up their own displays right next to them, getting their views to a broader public. The problem occurs when a mayor who doesn’t know how the law works decides that Christians deserve a spot on government property and atheists don’t.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

    That last sentence isn’t necessary. (But who listens to me?)

    • Rich Wilson

      Can you explain what you think is wrong with it?  The only way I can see is that technically, atheists are permitted a spot on government property, so long as they don’t proclaim that there are no gods.  A statue of a god is fine though?

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

        The sign DOES  proclaim “no gods” before it gets to the final zinger.

        No need to pile on.

        • Rich Wilson

          Sorry, I thought you were referring to Hemant’s last sentence, not the sign.  I would have used something more like “creates false tribalism” or “divides people into us vs. them”, but you may not like those ones either.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Okafor/1759887752 Anthony Okafor

          But the sentence is correct….

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JTBMQYMFVZMKNCXIMISICQ3Z6E Anonymous

    I wish they would take the opportunity to put up POSITIVE messages about what non-believers are doing during this season, rather than repudiations of christian (and others) messages. Humanistic messages…. things like “as the year draws to an end, remember your friends, your families and most of all, those less fortunate” or some such happy crappy. I think these inflammatory signs don’t serve us well at all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=605959562 Trey Edge

      As a Christian that read this story from a link on a friends Facebook page… I agree with your statements and thank you for your ability to see how it is more derogatory than inspiring. I don’t condone nor do I publicly criticize other’s for there beliefs and have a long-standing friendship with more than one person who shares atheist views…. Thank you again.. I do wish you a Happy Years End : )

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

        How exactly is the Nativity Scene “inspiring”? “Believe this story or else you’ll go to hell” is hardly positive thinking. I’m all for upbeat messages, and I know FFRF’s could be gentler, but that’s not the point here.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=605959562 Trey Edge

          The nativity scene is inspiring to those who support it… to those that it doesn’t it has no words or meanings… it’s just a scene… the sign in question is very specific… another example.. I’m gay (as well as Christian) and  It’s like waiving a rainbow flag aside an american flag or other flag… the flag doesn’t say “other flags hate us” or “you should be gay” or even “come see what we have to offer” …it’s just a rainbow that homos take pride in raising along side the others… those who don’t support it look to take it down.. but could just as easily ignore it… there aren’t any words or even any scripture in a nativity scene… how can that be offensive if atheist doesn’t care to look up it’s meaning.. the virgin Mary doesn’t have a loudspeaker denouncing athiests… the sign in question clearly denounces any religion… it’s advertising.  

          • TheBlackCat

            Of course it has meaning to those who don’t believe in it.  It has a great deal of meaning.  Claiming it doesn’t have any meaning is disingenuous at best and a blatant lie at worst. 

            It spreads a divisive and intolerant message, that the state supports a particular religious view and anyone who doesn’t accept that view is seen as less important. 

            It spreads the message that anyone who doesn’t accept it will be tortured for all eternity. 

            It is easy for you to be inspired by it, because it sends you the message you are due a reward for your obedience.  But it tells us we deserve to be tortured for not believing it.  That is the whole point of Jesus’s message in the first place.

            I would say the nativity scene, wittingly or unwittingly, is far more offensive at its core than anything than in the atheist sign.  The sign simply says certain beliefs are wrong.  The nativity scene says certain beliefs deserve eternal torment.  It is written on the scene explicitly, but that is the message it sends to anyone who is familiar with it.

            • http://heart-nouveau.blogspot.com/ heartnouveau

              “It spreads the message that anyone who doesn’t accept it will be tortured for all eternity.  

              It is easy for you to be inspired by it, because it sends you the message you are due a reward for your obedience.  But it tells us we deserve to be tortured for not believing it.  That is the whole point of Jesus’s message in the first place.”
              First things first, I believe that church and state should be fully separate and the courthouse shouldn’t be displaying ANYBODY’S scenes or banners, or evangelizing for anyone–Christians and Atheists alike.

              Second, I have to pipe up here.  Your quote above is so very wrong, and I hope you don’t mind if I clarify—you can disagree with Christianity all you want, but please at least understand correctly exactly what it is you’re disagreeing with.  I’m a rational and well-educated but believing Christian, and having studied the Bible a long time, I’ve found there is only one way to interpret the Gospel, only one message meant by the nativity: Jesus was a messenger of GOOD NEWS, not the torturous condemnation you’re gleaning wrongly. A couple notes on your comment above:1) Jesus’ message isn’t “Do this, or suffer”–it’s “Hey, you don’t have to suffer in life anymore, and you don’t have to die! I conquered death for you guys, because I love you and this is my great gift to ANYONE who’ll have it and have me.”2) Christians are by no means “due a reward for obedience.” Read any conversation of Jesus with the Pharisees—they preached righteousness by legalism (including their own made-up laws) and consequent entitlement to glory, and Jesus was pretty harsh with them because they absolutely and completely missed the point of  God’s grace—that because our world is broken with our own selfishness, violence, death&  disease,  no one here can ever come close to being good enough to deserve such pure love. Instead it’s given freely, by grace. Again, we’re talking about a free gift (God’s love, life instead of death) offered to everyone, not a reward that can be earned.3) Jesus didn’t come to tell us “we deserve to be tortured for not believing”—he came to love us and die in our place so we could live.  We don’t need to do anything but accept the gift.  It’s good, good news—you can reject it all you want, but at least don’t miss the point.

              • TheBlackCat

                That is utter baloney, and if you read the Bible as you claim you would know this.  Jesus expounds at great length about the horrors in store for those who don’t believe him.  Getting thrown into a lake of fire, “wailing and gnashing of teeth”, how the cities that didn’t accept his message will suffer worse than the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, “everlasting fire”, and so on.  The message you state does appear in the Bible, but it is hardly the total of the message in the Gospels, quite the opposite. 

                Matthew 13:41-42
                The Son of man shall
                send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things
                that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

                • http://heart-nouveau.blogspot.com/ heartnouveau

                  I’m so sorry you see it that way.  I do read the Bible, and I definitely do struggle with parts of it.  Hell is an amazingly offensive idea in a world where people generally feel entitled to things.  But what I’m trying to tell you is that the point of the gospel is absolutely *not* Hell or the threat of it–it’s that sin, death and the prospect of hell have been CONQUERED once and for all, for a whole world of imperfect, self-serving people who think we don’t need anybody else.  I’m no better, nicer, or more special than anybody else, and yet somebody died for me so I wouldn’t have to, so that this murderous world wouldn’t be all I’d ever know. And not just somebody died, but God.  What an amazing love.  That is the message of the Gospels, and that is the overarching theme of the Bible.

                • Anonymous

                  But you believe in the genocidal delusion anyway.

                  Unbelievable.

                  You haven’t read your book, or you’d know that one of the meanest, most repulsive people in the whole book is your emo slacker deity.

                  He’s dishonest.

                  He’s lazy.

                  He’s manipulative.

                  He’s bigoted.

                  He’s stupid.

                  He’s genocidal.

                  And THAT’s what you worship?

                  You disgust me.

              • Anonymous

                ::::Jesus was a messenger of GOOD NEWS, not the torturous condemnation you’re gleaning wrongly. ::::

                You don’t even know your own genocidal scumbag manual!

                JESUS came up with the idea of hell!

                JESUS wished people eternal torment!

                Go read your idiotic book again, because you obviously missed the parts where he wished for death and torment for people smart enough to realize what a prick he was and not worship such a disgusting psychopath!

                Here, I’ll help you out:

                Matthew 8:12
                Matthew 13:42 and 50
                Matthew 25:30 and 41
                Mark 9:46
                Luke 16–just about all of it has your emo scumbag deity wishing horrible things on people who don’t follow his stupidity.

                Good grief, do NOT try to argue here about what you think your repulsive emo scumbag deity said, ever again, until you’ve read your own stupid book, and not just the parts your babble study group or scam artist preacher wants you to read!

        • Anonymous

          Hemant, I think it’s plainly unfair to affirm that a Nativity Scene is meant to carry the message “believe this or go to Hell”. They are meant to celebrate an important event in the mythology of a given religion. Just because the religion includes the odious notion of Hell does not mean every manifestation of that religion is a threat of Hell. This is the kind of thinking that makes Christians react to every atheist billboard, no matter how benign, as if it were a direct assault on their faith because after all, we DO think they’re wrong.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=605959562 Trey Edge

            Thank you again Claudia… I don’t see where a sign or symbol on a sign that supports FFR would have been in any way offensive… but the FFR didn’t chose a symbol.. they chose words that directly attacked MY basis of faith… as I’ve said before… I have atheist friends… we don’t attack each other. I also didn’t see anywhere in the artivcle where the FFR will be banned against future displays.. they just crossed the line with this opportunity… the courthouse gave EQUAL space to openly opposing religions that were able to share that right without the need to oppress the others… the FRR blew that chance this year… so try again next year… it’s not a matter of intolerance against atheists… it was the matter of insult. 
             

            • http://twitter.com/reasonablequest Reasonable Quest

              Atheists would be happy to let you go about your business practicing your faith if you didn’t use the Government to advance your faith.  I’m sorry you feel attacked, but don’t use the Government to tell me I’m going to hell unless I believe the story of this Nativity, and I will not attack that idea.  Practice your faith and keep it to yourself, or I will use my constitutional right to say you are wrong if you push it in my face and use the Government to do it.  Understand?

            • mrklause

              The religiously inclined have every right to be insulted over the wording of the FFRF display but that doesn’t give them the right to prevent FFRF from displaying it.

          • Tom

            The threat of hell isn’t implicit in the creation of Jesus?  Remind me what was the sole purpose an awful lot of Christians, especially the vocal ones in the USA, think Jesus was supposed to have been created for, again?

        • Brett Hansen

          You say “That’s not the point here”, but I think in this specific case, it’s exactly the point.

          What’s wrong with this is tone.  I think it’s fine for a city building
          to say “Anyone who wants can put a positive message here.”  Once that
          has been established, then they’re violating the first amendment if they
          don’t let a Christian display go up… or a Muslim, Satanist or
          Pastafarian one.  Or one associated with no religion or philosophy for that matter.  However, if it’s a space for positive displays, a
          message that basically says “Everyone else with a display here is stupid
          and evil” is inappropriate no matter what group puts it there.  I’m guessing nearly every group with a display thinks all the others are wrong,  but they don’t include that in their actual display. 

          As long as the rule is secular (in this case “Keep it positive”), it was the FFRF that stepped out of line in my opinion.  The mayor didn’t seem to be ready for national attention and articulated this badly though, so I could be wrong.  If other displays contained language that condemned ANY religious belief, then I take back everything I just said ;)

          • Anonymous

            Where does it say anywhere that it’s a display ONLY for positive messages?

            This was supposed to be a display of HOLIDAY messages.

            Do keep up.

      • http://vexorian.myopenid.com/ Victor Soliz

        Inspiring or not, it seems against the 1st amendment to me for a local government to endorse it.

    • Rich Wilson

      The only reason that sign is seen as inflammatory is that we all (atheists and theists alike) have become so accustomed to the theistic norm.  We don’t think proclamations of a virgin birth or “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” are inflammatory.  But why not?  How can one option of a binary proposition be inflammatory  while the other is not?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Okafor/1759887752 Anthony Okafor

        Exactly. These people think our very existence is “inflammatory”. Fuck ‘em.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t see how it’s inflammatory.

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

        Would you react kindly to someone telling you you’re hard-hearted
        and your mind is enslaved?

        • Demonhype

          About as kindly as someone telling me I’m going to hell.  But a lot nicer than when they use government endorsement to tell me I’m going to hell.

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

            I was responding to “I don’t see how it’s inflammatory.” Not whether it should be.

            Of course the LAST sentence is.

            • Anonymous

              Their grubby manger scene is inflammatory.

              Your point?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=605959562 Trey Edge

    I think the comment above this gives a good reason for angst… and the sign actually DOES proclaim that there are no Gods… The nativity scene or a lit Menorah do not announce the existence of a God… they only carry that meaning to those who follow those religions. They don’t bear criticism to atheists in words.. this sign does.   

    • Anonymous

      Did you somehow forget how Jesus was allegedly conceived? Or the whole purpose of his existence? The only reason Jesus was born was to be a human sacrifice. You can’t remove god from that. It’s not like we grew up in isolation and just don’t know what it stands for

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

      Excellent!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_E5IVDLJRGQTAVFK4KHLDKDH55Y Daniel

      Of course the nativity scene announces the existence of a god.  Or at least the belief in one.  Isn’t that him there in the manger?  

      And isn’t the entire thing a fictional image?  Even according to biblical scholars, who place Jesus’ birth in either fall or spring based on what the Bible says about it?  Certainly the inclusion of the wise men is likewise fictional as again, even the Bible states that they didn’t show up for years.

      And that’s just for believers.  For the countless more that don’t think there was a Jesus and/or that he wasn’t a god, the whole thing is just a wild promotion of a religion as fact.

      Which is of course, fine for an individual or a church to do.  But it is not okay for the US government to do so.  I think the poster, while definitely aggressive in nature is completely appropriate.  If a government office is hosting a statement that the Nativity occurred, they should also host statements that it did not and that there are no gods.  Whether those statements are in word or images is irrelevant.  I guess they thought a nativity with a statue from Disney’s Hercules in the manger with a bunch of people dressed as court fools gathered around it would have been a bit more controversial, though of course, it would have only had images to those who knew some Greek/Roman mythology, so would have been fine for everyone else.

    • Michael Appleman

      If Christianity didn’t exist the nativity scene would be meaningless and out of place. No one would have any idea what the heck it is. 

      So how can you say it doesn’t announce the existence of god? It is only relevant because of the religion.

  • Anonymous

    These people rallying are idiots. No one is trying to do away with your little Nativity scene.

    • Demonhype

      These people are masters of projection.  They so want to eliminate or forcibly silence everyone else and so they assume that’s what the other side wants to do to them.  Like my brother’s GF who thinks that if she doesn’t  control my brother, he will control her–because she wants more than anything to control the relationship, so if he resists her will and doesn’t cave to her ever demand that means he wants to be in control of the relationship.  Which couldn’t be further from the truth, but you can’t reason with people like that.

      • Michael Appleman

        Hah. Sounds like those people who tell people that their dog doing something innocuous is the dog’s attempt at ‘dominating’ you.

  • http://sucktackular.com sucktackular

    There shouldn’t be any display of anything that endorses a particular religion at this building. Do you doubt that the mayor would reject a display devoted to the FSM?

    • santa’s mom

      Someone should really ask the mayor directly about adding an FSM display. The FSM could be cradling a baby spaghetti monster amidst some other pastas bearing gifts of sauce.

      • Demonhype

        Way too recognizable as an atheist image–and anything that is recognizably atheist is “offensive” and “mean-spirited” and [insert high-handed dismissal of atheist existence as inappropriate here].  That’s already been said by religious people, that the FSM is just a mean-spirited atheist mockery of their Holy Son of the One TRUE God and should be universally banned.

        We exist.  That’s all they need to know.  All you could do is put up a generic wreath with no indication that atheists or atheism had anything to do with it.  As long as it’s a simple symbol that in no way challenges the religions that the government chooses to endorse, they’ll be fine with it.

  • Anonymous

    Ugh, how I hate that banner. There are SO MANY ways to increase atheist/humanist visibility that don’t involve explicitly attacking the ideas of others at a time most people just want a little holiday cheer.

    Oh and a manger scene with baby Jesus is as much a threat of hellfire as a police department barbeque is a threat of being tasered and cuffed. Let’s please not be the mirror image of people who think saying “Happy Holidays” is an attack on their religion.

    • http://vexorian.myopenid.com/ Victor Soliz

      A nativity scene is not a treat, unless it is put and endorsed by a branch of government. Religion and state make bad bed partners.

      • Anonymous

        I don’t think a nativity scene becomes particularly threatening in itself when endorsed by government, but I do get your point. Absolutely, when government promotes, even through innocuous symbols, one religion over others or over nonreligion, that is intolerable. However, it’s simply silly to say that an aggressive, obviously adversarial atheist banner is justified because the very presence of religious setups are a threat of Hell.

        • TheBlackCat

          Sorry, you don’t need to justify freedom of speech.  I agree a different message would have been better, but that doesn’t change the fact that they have every right to put the message up if they want.  I am completely, 100% in support of them, not because I agree with what they wrote, but because it is their right to write it and have it displayed alongside other messages.

          Read the article again.  At least according the article, the reason that the sign was rejected was that it promoted atheism, while the nativity scene was completely secular.  That is just blatantly absurd. 

          • Erik Cameron

            I have to agree with this. Whether or not the sign was inflammatory, the sign was denied because it was atheist. This is not what should have happened.

          • Anonymous

            I agree that the justification of it being inappropriate because it promotes atheism is absurd, since a Nativity Scene obviously promotes Christianity. If the rationale had been something along the lines of not being insulting or derrogatory (something not uncommon in guidelines) they would have more of a case. In any event my commentary was not on whether the removal of the display was justified (IMO not with the reason they gave) but on the nature of the sign itself.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=605959562 Trey Edge

      Thank you : )

    • Anonymous

      Then you’re not paying attention.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=605959562 Trey Edge

    They didn’t endorse anything… they allowed all religions equal space to display their decorations… is that not what the article said? ….how is this sign in anyway equal to the other scenes? it’s not.. it clearly denounces all of the other decorations… not just the nativity scene… how is it not bias? 

    • http://twitter.com/reasonablequest Reasonable Quest

      You don’t get it.  It is not about allowing all religions, but allowing all religious viewpoints.  If people can use public property to say religion is great, then they have to allow for the viewpoint the religion is NOT great.  It’s very simple.

    • Anonymous

      How is your stupid birth of a scumbag to save only those who believe the scumbag is a deity from eternal torment NOT offensive, not threatening, and not hateful and not 100% abhorrently NEGATIVE?

      WE know what your delusion is all about skippy. We know it’s hateful, genocidal and  has not bit of truth to it.

      Get your genocidal death wish off government property before telling atheists how they have to word things, you LIAR.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_55HCGTRPQF6BHC2QWJJ6NLP33M Eleanor

    Sorry to say that, as true as that banner is, seasonal displays like these should be about whatever positive message a group wishes to convey. The atheist group’s banner, instead of saying what’s good about atheism — “We are rational and moral – Let’s work toward the dream of Peace on Earth,” or some such thing, are instead attacking, saying “they’re nuts.”

    Wrong venue for that message, I think. But opinions differ, of course.

    Advertisers say what’s great about their own product, not why the competition’s product is inferior (at least, the vast majority of the time).

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Okafor/1759887752 Anthony Okafor

      What planet are you from? because ALL of the commercials I see of products promote their product by making a direct comparison to the opposition/competition. That’s why they always say “the other guys” can’t match their product….

    • Anonymous

      There’s not enough truth in the world. Sorry you can’t deal with that. I don’t see christardmas as something positive. I see it as hateful and stupid.

      So why do I have to look at those stupid filthy manger scenes on property I pay the taxes for, but can’t see a sign that’s honest about the stupidity going on at taxpayer expense?

  • santa’s mom

    I would like to see some of the atheist messages simply state something positive and humanist. We don’t need to constantly refute religion, as we can see in the video, it creates more defensiveness than understanding. Maybe the atheist symbol for the holidays should simply be the winter solstice, time with loved ones and helping those in need. I’m sure we atheists could come up with something that religious folks could appreciate, too.

    • http://twitter.com/reasonablequest Reasonable Quest

      The point is that the Christians are using Government to prop up their religion.  That is what we are against.  We didn’t start this, but if they insist on using our shared civic space to advance a religious message, we can say, sorry you are wrong.  Promote your mythology on your own property and Atheists will not need to respond.

      • santa’s mom

        True, this is about government property, which is supposed to belong to ALL of us. It does piss me off, too.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Okafor/1759887752 Anthony Okafor

      “I’m sure we atheists could come up with something that religious folks could appreciate, too.”Nothing, and I mean, NOTHING will get them to see eye-to-eye with us. We just have to deal with that fact of life.

    • Anonymous

      Write your own damned sign, then.

      That’s the problem with all  you oh boo hoo hoo how mean types. YOU’RE DOING NOTHING to challenge the christards vomiting their delusion all over government everything.

      At least the FFRF is DOING SOMETHING, rather than sitting on its fat ass and complaining.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

    Read the whole sign. There are NO GODS, no devils, etc.etc.

    • Anonymous

      And there aren’t? So?

  • Kyt Dotson

    A creche is just a statue and not a doctrinal statement? Someone doesn’t understand how the words expression and speech have been interpreted in the US Constitution. Words are not necessary for speech to happen. Pretending that the statue of a god (a symbol of a specific religion) is not a doctrinal statement poses an equivocation so dishonest that it’s hard to frame it otherwise.

    So, who will be putting the FSM statue next to the neopagan wreath? If I submitted a wreath honoring the Holly King, I would be ever-so-tickled to have a Flying Spaghetti Monster caressing it with a noodly appendage. (Sadly, I live nowhere near this place.)

  • Maven

    I agree.  Even though I disagree with religion or the capitalist bent of the holiday season, in my heart of hearts of believe that holidays are meant to be times of celebration and coming together, positivity, etc.  The sign reminds me of a big dog in a china shop.  I would have loved to have seen a sign that said something like, “remember in this holiday season, to rejoice in your faculty to reason, to come together with love instead of fear, and to celebrate this precious advent of life with joy.”  or add something else in there about family and compassion.   i’d be proud to see that.   

    • http://twitter.com/reasonablequest Reasonable Quest

      Nobody is saying this can’t be a time when people can come together, and people can celebrate their Holidays, just don’t use the Government to do it.

      • Maven

        I understand that people want separation of church of state and for government, local or not, to not endorse religion.  What I see is local government allowing public spaces to be used for expression or celebration – and especially during the holiday seasons.  It’s a national culture.  Recent years have seen the shift from the typical christian displays to allowing access to every belief system to submit their displays.
        If I were to be a community leader or mayor who had to decide that, that’s what I would do.  Set a limit to number and feet of space, first come first serve, equal opportunity to apply, and review of displays to ensure that they were positive and/or celebratory. Any displays that directly sought to attack or demean or insult another belief system or demographic would not be allowed.  They should have had a better review system.  I am an atheist, but I don’t condone this kind of display or behavior.  Insert any other identifying piece of demographic – it’s not an expression of love, an certainly isn’t an expression of tolerance, certainly doesn’t do anything to deter hatred.  If it were a christian group saying that being homosexual was a delusion of the mind put their by satan and that it corrupts, I would have the same reaction.  If you are to be an advocate of love and fairness, then we have to consider the consequences of our actions, and the intention of our words.

        • Anonymous

          So where was the rule that said it had to be positive?

          That’s the part you boo hoo guys never come up with.

  • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

    It’s crap like this that proves it is necessary to just follow the First Amendment and not put up anything having to do with religion on any government property. A complete separation of church and state is fair for all.

    • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

      I agree.  What we have now is a government official passing judgment on what religious displays “pass muster” and which ones don’t.  The mayor may argue that he is not passing judgment on doctrinal issues… just on which ones cross some kind of line with proselytizing or stating creeds…  The atheist position, though, has the disadvantage that we don’t have any easily recognizable branding to show in place of words that describe atheism.   Christianity has the advantage that there are many symbols that act as placeholders for their creeds and beliefs.   Also, since the only thing that defines atheists is a lack of belief in God it is hard to come up with a positively worded statement that includes all atheists.   Therefore the FFRF uses a worded banner.    FFRF could have shortened their banner to remove or reword that last sentence and possibly could have “passed muster” with the mayor, but I’m sure that FFRF wanted to prove a point that this whole situation (of a mayor passing judgment for which religious displays appear on government property) should not even be taking place.

      • Demonhype

        Yes, and that’s also what makes this discrimination against atheists.  “Well, it’s not MY fault you atheists have been silenced and persecuted through the centuries and are only now, in the last few decades, beginning to come out of the closet and form a community, struggling in an uphill battle against dominant religious bigotry the entire time, while we have had thousands of years of enforced dominance to establish our symbols and brand our religion to the point where we can get our “We’re right and you’re damned” message across using a pair of crossed sticks.  You still aren’t allowed to just come out and say anything, you need a symbol, and it doesn’t matter if the symbol won’t mean anything to anyone while my nativity scene will announce to all who see it that “This American Government, By These Presents, Endorses the Christian Faith Above All”.”

        They can’t shut us up so they’ll just find ways to redefine the playing field creatively so our message is obscured.

  • http://twitter.com/reasonablequest Reasonable Quest

    It seems to me that the issue here is that if the Government is going to give the platform to a religious group to promote the idea that it is a good thing that baby Jesus was a God child, and that is a good thing, they have to give the same platform to the viewpoint that there is no God and Christianity is a bad idea.  Yes, the FFRF banner is not so nice, but that is the point!  The FFRF banner would not be needed if the Christian group was not using our shared civic property to promote their religion.  Put the nativity scene on a church property or in front of your house, but keep the decorations on public property secular, or you must allow all viewpoints for and against.

    • Demonhype

      Much like the idiots talking about how protests are all well and good but isn’t OWS being a nuisance?  Well, DUH!  That’s what a protest is supposed to be!  They’re trying to  shine a light on a much larger nuisance and problem that is so firmly entrenched that no one even notices it until someone points it out–and you don’t do that by standing in a dark corner muttering quietly about it!  It’s not a protest if it’s easy to ignore them!  People who suggest it should  be easily ignored are essentially asking the protesters to effectively Sit Down and Shut Up!

      Same with these holiday messages on government land.  The nativity scene is offensive in what it represents (Jesus is born and will die and if you don’t worship him you’ll burn), but it’s become so common that no one even seems to notice–except the fundies who are trying to take over everything, who will point at it and jump up and down and shriek “SEE?  SEE?  GOVERNMENT ENDORSES JESUS, THIS IS A CHRISTIAN NATION, I WIN, NOW GET YOUR ASS TO CHURCH OR SHUT UP!!!!!!111!!1111!!!!1″  And they’ll ride on the apathy of others to get what they want.  The only way to force any attention to that entrenched icon is to be a nuisance, to be offensive, to underscore it.

      Besides which, there is nothing you can do anyway to be non-0ffensive to these people.  Put up a sign that says “Atheists are good people” or even “Atheists exist” and you’ll get the same crap.  Put up “Atheists love gingerbread” or “Atheists have loved ones and exchange gifts with them this season, but don’t celebrate Christmas or worship Jesus”, they’ll either find it offensive and ban it or edit it to “Hooray for gingerbread” or “Christmas is the season to give gifts to your loved ones”, explicitly leaving out any reference to the atheist group that sponsored it.

  • Trueanglican

    Why can’t atheists get there own holiday like darwins birthday. Maybe because not many people would be interested in celebrating the lost of all hope. I think congress should set aside a day for freethinkers, so they can leave our holiday alone.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

      you dont own the holiday of Christmas.

      As for the *loss* of all hope – what a tawdy world you must live in if the *wonder* of us being connected to all earthly living things means you lose your hope. I find it inspiring!

    • Anonymous

      I think it’s the christians who are trying to usurp our traditional holiday of the Winter Solstice.  Axial Tilt is the Reason for the Season!

      And the point here is that we don’t want Congress, or any government entity, making laws about anybody’s religious holidays.  Celebrate any holiday you want, any day you want, but keep your religious displays on your own private property and off of public property.

    • Anonymous

      Why don’t you guys not steal the holidays of other people?

      Christmas–stolen from the pagans.

      Easter–stolen from the pagans AND the Jews! A twofer!

      Halloween–Stolen from the pagans!

      Half the saint’s holidays are those of PAGAN deities who were appropriated by the catlick delusion.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QIYFBAMBYPWVELBDSQSCKNZE3Y I Luv Winter

        Halloween is viewed as evil by many religious people.  They stole that too? I don’t know of any religious people celebrating Halloween or put up decorations for it.

  • Erik Cameron

    You guys think what you want, but the logo for that ‘Color Center’ is a mix between the logos for Google Chrome and Aperture Science.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Okafor/1759887752 Anthony Okafor

      WOW. I didn’t even notice that at first. GOOD EYES!

  • Newavocation

    Maybe a quote from Robert Ingersoll would have been better and really much harder to argue about. “Love was the first to dream of immortality, — not Religion, not Revelation. We love, therefore we wish to live. The hope of immortality is the great oak ’round which have climbed the poisonous vines of superstition. The vines have not supported the oak, the oak has supported the vines. As long as men live and love and die, this hope will blossom in the human heart.”

  • Anonymous

    Their displays are acceptable because they purport to show what people believe
    is there, whereas the atheist display fails because it can’t show what they believe
    is missing.

    If a statue of a purported god is acceptable, how can atheists erect a statue of a not-god?  Or would that be a not-statue?    Or the representation of the null set of gods?

    An ordinary, otherwise empty, manger with the normal hay in it and some shepherds bringing their sheep to it to feed, is merely anti-Jesus-birth-story, and doesn’t fully express the absence of what is represented by the other faiths.

    Each religion can say:  You have your symbol, here is mine.  But how can those who have nothing to show participate? 

    There is need for a symbol of the freedom from bigotry and unreasoning parroting of concepts that can be proven false.  Could we put up a big, cheerfully lit, carbon atom model?  A family at a feast table with a Yule tree?  Santa holding a big Coca Cola bottle–or just the Coca Cola bottle (probably would get trademark complaints from Coca Cola) without the Santa?  A giant eReader?  Lots of wrapped books (the gift of knowledge), a telescope and a microscope?  Where is the symbol of non-belief that atheists will just recognize and not need an explanation?

    Suggestions?

    • Anonymous

      Then we publish that we think your displays are based on ZERO evidence.

      Gee–what a surprise!

      Benefit for us: What we’re saying is the truth. Unlike the delusions of christardery and the rest.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think a nativity scene is a statement of “you’re going to hell”, though it is most certainly an expression of Christian doctrine, unlike what the mayor said. Symbols are used to express thoughts and ideas, the same way words are. The message doesn’t have to be explicitly written out to not be an expression of doctrine. The reason I don’t think it’s a statement of “you’re going to hell” is because Christian doctrine isn’t limited to one single idea, it’s a wide range of ideas; that God is omnipotent, that God created the Universe, that he sent his only son to save people from sin, that he was born in a manger, that you’re going to be rewarded eternally if you follow him, that you’re going to be punished eternally if you don’t, etc. Is there an indirect link to “you’re going to hell”? Yes. But I don’t think we’re justified in saying that, if you converted the nativity scene into words on a banner, “you’re going to hell” would be printed on it. Thus, could the FFRF message have been a little nicer? Sure. However, that doesn’t change that what the mayor did was wrong. Freedom of speech is freedom of speech. The message may be offensive to Christians, but it’s not hate speech or violent. If the grounds are open to everyone, then everyone can say what they want. I’d personally like to see a softer message in the future, but I wouldn’t say that this year’s message is “wrong”. The best solution? Just don’t open up government grounds for religious advertising.  

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish Cuttlefish

    It’s a matter of inclusiveness–it’s easier to get all religions to agree that the birth of Jesus represents everyone, than it is to get them to agree to use reason.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2011/12/04/ellwood-city-no-atheists-allowed/

    • Rich Wilson

      Reminds me of Penn’s Presidential candidate overview, in which he points out that theist vs. atheist is a rather recent thing.  Not long ago the various theistic factions were busy fighting among themselves.

  • gwen

    Am I the only one who sees the irony in men standing around in (Santa)caps, celebrating an imaginary person, protesting the imagined removal of another imaginary being?

  • Parse

    To me, the manger scene – especially on government property – doesn’t say, “Believe, or go to hell.”
    Instead, it says, “If you don’t believe, you aren’t welcome here.”  Which is a far worse statement to hear during the holidays.

  • Swh400

    Wow! My hometown made Hemant’s blog!
    That being said, nothing in this story surprises me. It’s a terrible place. Don’t ever go there.

  • Justin Miyundees

    These displays need to be more subtle. I think an “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” meets “Nativity” would give people something to ponder. Christians successfully commandeered the tree, the egg, the rabbit – we should take a page from their book & replace the baby with a pod. Have one of the wise men nodding off & losing his MIND!!!!

  • Trace

    Those are angry Christians….

  • Dubliner

    We’re a family of Irish atheists who really love Christmas and amidst our decorations of tree, santas,reindeer etc are a couple of nativity scenes. I like to listen to the FFRF podcast from time and admire much of their work but think they overdo the negativity at times. They seem to be on a permanent ‘war footing’. I’d probably be inclined to resent such a message at Christmas if I were religious. 

    • Anonymous

      And I resent the christard’s constant intrusion of their scumbag delusion on government property and functions.

      Tell you what–we won’t put up our banners, if the christards will keep their grubby displays off the government, too.

      Fair is fair.

  • Anonymous

    The sentence is meant to tantalize and irritate. Wait, my bad… you are bullies.

    When you get rid of the christians, I hope the devil worshipers have a ton of fun with you.

    Looking forward to the day when you have to halt and pray to allah or else…

  • Tree on a hill

    I would like to say that I applaud the group for putting their faces up there on the banner. I am not sure I would have that courage. I think that fearing for one’s safety in today’s society should certainly be thought of. Whatever the group’s message – whether it was as written or less confrontational as some here would prefer, it was THEIR message and I think we should simply applaud them for sticking their necks out. It seems that although this is mostly seen as a christian/atheist issue, I would like to think in other terms. Let’s suppose a muslim holy day or group is part of a similar controversy. Having an atheist banner in response saying that allah is a delusion would in my opinion certainly put a much more dangerous target around your face. How many people here would have their photos attached to that? Let’s applaud any atheist group that goes to the trouble of fighting back and not berate them because it is not exactly what you would have them say.

    On another note, in terms of atheist images.. I am thinking that the renaissance artists might have been really on to something when they would depict scenes with naked Greek gods and goddesses. Those kinds of images did not need words but said so much.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QIYFBAMBYPWVELBDSQSCKNZE3Y I Luv Winter

    I’m Christian and ALWAYS felt that church and state should separated. To me, religion is a private thing. Whether for or against it, displaying banners in public places is advertising.

    I have friends who are atheist, my doctor is atheist and we don’t fight, don’t try to shove our beliefs/views down each others’ throats.  We keep our practices and views to ourselves. Not just with each other, but in general. 

    I do believe if people didn’t attack each other on their beliefs and views, it would not be as inflamed as this topic is.  Live and let live.

  • Dustin

    At the end of the video the “Christian” bikers leave and go back to their club house where they rail crystal meth, get shitfaced, and plan their next crime.


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