An Atheist Sign at an Air Force Base Has Already Been Messed With

A sign reading “Have a safe holiday season,” donated by American Atheists and sponsored by Travis M*A*S*H (an atheist group), can now be seen at the Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California:

Staff Sergeant Dan Rawlings had to fight to get that sign up there, despite there already being a Nativity Scene and a Jewish Menorah on the premises. And a day hadn’t even gone by before someone tampered with the setup, moving the light illuminating the atheist message so that it lit up the sign next to it.

(Because, apparently, telling people to have a safe holiday season is blasphemous…)

One other interesting point: California Church IMPACT, “the legislative advocacy arm of the California Council of Churches,” is mad about the displays. Not at the atheists, but at military officials.

Why? Because they’re placing the Nativity Scene alongside displays from non-Christian faiths:

The Nativity is a key symbol for the Christian community. Submerged into a putative “secular holiday display” and surrounded it with generic, not religious, icons, means that the Nativity has become no more valuable than Rudolph as part of Christmas.

We do not wish to relinquish the Nativity as something meaningful to us as a specifically religious symbol. It is not décor, it is not a designer motif, it is not a greeting card image, and it should not become a political football. It is important to a lot of us as a critical part of our faith.

Paraphrased: Why are you not giving us more privilege? Don’t you know that we’re Christians, dammit?!

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.

  • Cindy

    It has long been my contention that Christians have allowed Christmas and Easter to be commercialized and secularized into meaninglessness (for their religion). Instead of fighting for them to be accepted into the public square (requiring them to be sanitized into bunnies and Santa), they should have fought to keep them religious and away from secularization. It’s their own fault these holidays have devolved.

    • http://dbcooper.livejournal.com P.F. Bruns

      It’s worse than that.  All the secular (and occasionally pagan, like the bunny and the tree) stuff folded into the Christian holidays was to get asses in the pews in the first place.

    • Charles Black

      Wait I thought those “Christian holidays” you’re talking about are pagan in origin.
      The Christians must have taken those holidays, added their own themes to those holidays to appeal to the new converted masses.

  • Andrew Bernhardt

    “We do not wish to relinquish the Nativity as something meaningful to
    us as a specifically religious symbol. It is not décor, it is not a
    designer motif, it is not a greeting card image, and it should not
    become a political football. It is important to a lot of us as a
    critical part of our faith.”

    If it’s so meaningful, why is it sitting on the grass by the side of the road out in the cold all by its lonesome? 

    Maybe they could build a Christian-type building in which to present it.  They could even put some Christian-type symbol atop the building so people would know where to find it.  Do I have to think of EVERYTHING?

    • Semipermeable

      Technically the IMPACT statement is asking the airforce officials to put the nativity back in the chapel and stop using it as a publicity stunt if you read the first paragraph of the document. It is worded in such a way that implies that the meaning of the symbol is lost somehow when side by side with other displaying being treated equally. On that, I agree, when you see religions placed next to each other like this, it makes you notice that there is really no practical reason to think one is more or less true then the other. People choose out of preference and are randomly assigned one due to family tradition. If one really is ‘the’ truth as they all claim, would religious preferences really be set up this way?

  • Rod Chlebek

    Boooooo.
    Love the tolerance by the church too… nice touch.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kelvins273 Kevin Smith

    California Church IMPACT’s statement reveals the pathology of these “War on Christmas” morons. It’s not enough for them to view crosses and nativity scenes in a certain way. They also insist that everybody else must view these symbols in the exact same way they do. Just like the whole Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas conflict isn’t about protecting the speech of Christians, but about telling other people (Christians and non-Christians) what they should say.

  • Semipermeable

    If they don’t want their religion and associated images to become part of political football, they shouldn’t have shoved them in the front lines of the game in the first place. 

    • Reasongal

      But it IS okay for their religion and images to become part of NFL football…

  • http://www.christianfighterpilot.com/blog JD

    Its ironic you found the statement from California Church Impact offensive, since it was actually written in support of Michael Weinstein and his MRFF in their efforts to have the nativity removed from prominence near the other Christmas displays.

    Here’s a better question:  Do Christians and Jews get to put up a sign during the atheists’ faith celebrations mocking their beliefs, as atheists did in joining the “holiday” display here?  Equal treatment, right?

    • http://dbcooper.livejournal.com P.F. Bruns

      How exactly is “Have a Safe Holiday Season/From the Atheists at Travis M*A*S*H” “mocking?”

      • Anonymous

        Because it isn’t kissing Jesus’ ass.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

        It’s not. They’re just butt-hurt over having to share display space with horrible evil non-Christians.

    • Adam

      “atheists’ faith celebrations”

      Clearly you have no clue what you are talking about.

    • Anonymous

      Wait…what?  Atheists’ faith celebrations? Lol…well, you’re a (oxy)moron!

    • Atoswald

      As an atheist, I would like to be enlightened. What exactly is an atheist faith celebration, and how would you mock it? I feel like the kid who didn’t get a party invitation.

      As for the importance of the nativity … Don’t you think christians should have thought about this a long time ago? I have seen at least a dozen nativities in my community this season, and all but one of them have been light up inflatables. How can we as non christians take seriously that which the christians themselves make so tacky?

      • EJC

        It is like the “bath-tub” jesus or the bathtub virgin marys you see in front yards! You know what I am talking about, the sideways bathtub as shrine, with either jebus or mary inside..TACKY.

        I like to call them either “Virgins on the Half-shell” or “Messiah on the Half-Shell”….it just feels right…

    • Xeon2000

      So let’s go vandalize some nativity scenes. Equal treatment, right?

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

    “We do not wish to relinquish the Nativity as something meaningful to
    us as a specifically religious symbol. It is not décor, it is not a
    designer motif, it is not a greeting card image, and it should not
    become a political football. It is important to a lot of us as a
    critical part of our faith.”

    THEN KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!

  • Anonymous

    My wife and I have had several conversations recently which boil down to “why do you give a sh** what they think?” I have not been able to give a response that completely gets at why this type of thing rankles atheists so much, but I am getting closer. The only thing any of us really owns, as I see it, is ourselves. Any time any group, religious or otherwise tries to exert dominance over ANYONE else, it violates our sovereign rights to our own selves, our right to exist free from interference. I think most atheists would be content to let religious folk be if religious folk didn’t spend time trying to push their beliefs onto everyone else. Unfortunately, religion almost invariably leads to a “we are right because we have God on our side” thinking, which leads to the need to force others to follow for their own good. This attitude must be resisted.

    • Newavocation

      I think its more a matter of ACCEPTANCE. I may not accept acts of bigotry or injustice but if someone wants to believe in a fairly tale I’m not going to stop them. However it becomes a problem for Christian faith when people don’t believe so they cannot accept that others believe differently.

      • EJC

        I am a HUGE advocate of the First Amendment. That means not only do I want full separation of church and state but I want people to be able to follow whatever flavor of Kool-Aid based myth they choose. HOWEVER, the second, and I mean NANOsecond they begin to politicize those myths to the detriment of others, brother, you have a serious fight on you.

        • Xeon2000

          You echoed my thoughts exactly.

        • Anonymous

          Agreed.

      • Anonymous

        Yeah…In fact, I will fight for a person’s right to believe as they wish because I want the same thing. The problem with any dogmatic system (of which religion is a big player, but not the only one) is that it usually leads to group-think, which leads to us-and-them-think. The problem with religion, especially the messianic religions Christianity and Islam (and to a lesser degree Judaism and the Baha’i Faith) is that they believe that God commands certain things and the souls of those who do not follow God’s rules are in peril. This is the dangerous trap. This leads to conversion at all costs tactics. I am not saying that every believer in these systems is like this, but a significant number are…and that is a HUGE problem.

        • One Thought

          Buddhism is not a religion and Buddha was never a god.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MilitaryAtheist Justin Griffith

    To be fair, I don’t think I communicated the Church group’s position properly. They released that statement BEFORE we (at American Atheists) ever even put up a sign. They really were referring to the 20 or so ‘holiday card’ style signs that were up.

    That group is pretty consistently on our side of the issues when it comes to Separation of Church and State.

  • Anonymous


    the legislative advocacy arm of the California Council of Churches

    Does no one else realize how blatantly unconstitutional this is?

    • Erp

      How?  People in churches are allowed to advocate.  In this case they seem to have set up a separate non-profit (presumably one that is not a church and therefore must open its books) advocacy group.  As previously mentioned they also seem to want the Christian displays removed.

      • Anonymous

        My point is, politics out of religion, religion out of politics. Nothing else is constitutional.

  • Anonymous

    Next time you take a screen shot, you should move your cursor off the text first

  • EJC

    They claim it to be an incredibly religious display, yet when an atheist group in Austin, TX (this was on NPR yesterday) trys to have a nativity scene removed from the lawn of a municipal (read: PUBLIC land) building, the mayor or whatever actually claims the nativity is not a religious display, it is a “holiday” display with no overtly religious overtones. 

    WTF.

    You cannot have it both ways.

    As for the Texas idiots (and yes, only in Texas – that state needs to go away) – if it is not a religious or “holy” display, how would they react if someone wiped their ass on the baby jebus? Would they scream BLASPHEMY or would they say it was the act of vandals and not horrible?

    • Pickle

      I live in Austin and don’t remember seeing anything about that. (not saying it didn’t happen, this is Texas after all as you so eloquently pointed out). However, we went to Athens, Tx last weekend to visit my husband’s family and there was a huge rally going on in support of their nativity on the courthouse lawn.  While I definitely support the banner that the FFRF sent to place alongside the nativity, I think it could have been worded differently. I don’t remember the full script but it essentially said “Religion hardens hearts and enslaves minds”.  My husband’s (Christian) family accepts my atheism, but the discussion all weekend was about how those mean atheists from Wisconsin came in and were trying to ruin Christmas. It led to some very awkward moments at what was supposed to be our holiday celebration. I think it is our right to have a banner up if other religions get to be represented, but the only thing attacking their religion did was cause them to attack back and it made us look like the assholes. 5,000 people showed up at that rally and only a handful of them were atheists doing a counter protest.  I think a banner much like the one in this blog post would have gone over a lot better. (this one obviously pissed someone off or it wouldn’t have been vandalized, but it makes the other side look like the assholes for vandalizing it.) My point is attacking people because of their beliefs or where they are from, etc… only keeps the fight going. It never solves anything.

      Also, I may not be the smartest person in the world, but I would like to think that I’m not an idiot just because I live in Texas (along with most of my friends and family).

      • EJC

        Doh! You are right, it was Athens. I was listening as I was driving.

        And yes, not all Texans are idjeets….your point is well taken! However, Texas SCARES me! And I cover war zones from time to time! ;)

        I disagree about the content issue. When we point out the obvious we are mean? Yet when the xians scream that we are going to burn in their hell, or that we are bereft of morality because we don’t drop down to a Tebowing knee to an imaginary bearded sky-fairy, that isn’t mean?

        No, I feel the messages are not mean, rather, they say what is needed. Face it, nobody likes to be told they are wrong, even when they are wrong. Sugar coating it only belittles both parties.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X