Atheist Group Defends Itself Against Anti-Menorah Remark

Suppose a religious group wants to put up a Nativity scene on public property.

What’s the typical atheist group’s response? (As if you don’t already know…)

Simple: If they want to put something up, then we get to put something up, too. Either that or no one gets to put up a display.

Recently, a giant menorah went up in Kelowna, British Columbia. Ron Seymour, a reporter for The Daily Courier, called up the spokesperson for Centre for Inquiry Okanagan and asked what he thought of the display.

Guy King told him the group had no official response. But he personally opposed it because it opened the door wide open, allowing for “polygamous groups, Scientologists, Wiccans, or the Flying Spaghetti Monsters” to put up their own displays on public property — and where does it stop? How could you ever say no? It was better, King said, to just leave displays like those on private property, not government property.

Sounds pretty reasonable to me. (Though I *really* want clarification about the “Flying Spaghetti Monsters,” plural. I didn’t know there were more than one.)

Of course, that soundbyte wasn’t controversial enough for the newspaper, so they instead ran this headline:

Menorah lighting sets bad precedent: atheists

How’s that for taking something out of context…?

If they were going to misrepresent atheists, they might as well have taken the full anti-semitic route: Atheists Hate Menorah Display. And Menorahs. And Jews.

Anyway, CFI Okanagan is setting the record straight (though not through the Courier). They want people to know they don’t oppose the menorah (not specifically, anyway):

… Loren Price, who founded the Centre, insists his group does not officially oppose the menorah.

“We welcome it because it shows a bit of diversity as opposed to just having a nativity scene. [Including both is] more representative of a secular society,” Price told ctvbc.ca.

“I think you either say no to everyone or you open it up to everyone,” he said, adding that local atheists will likely apply to have a secular-humanist symbol erected in the park next year.

That’s an excellent way to put it — it’s nice to see something other than a Nativity scene because it’s kind of like saying “We don’t just let the Majority speak for everyone.” You could argue over whether it’d be better with an even more diverse display or no displays at all.

The CFI folks even went one step further and contacted the Rabbi who was behind the Menorah:

Rabbi Shmuly Hecht, co-director of the Chabad-Lubavitch of the Okanagan, organized the menorah lighting and says he received a “beautiful letter” from local atheists apologizing for the hullabaloo.

“They said it was taken out of context,” Hecht said.

Nice touch. And a very good job by the CFI people to clear up the misconceptions both personally (with the Rabbi) and publicly (via the subsequent press they’re doing).

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    Don’t worry about Flying Spaghetti Monsters, because they are all part of His noodly being. And no, it doesn’t make the faith polytheistic, either. Remember what St Patrick said: Though there are many noodles, they all came in one box.

    • starskeptic

      …St. Patrick? – I thought that was Blackbeard! 

      • Uulargh Prairie

        Blackbeard? I’m pretty sure it was Mae West.

        • starskeptic

          ahhh… a lady pirate – — good call!

  • Uulargh Prairie

    Blackbeard? I’m pretty sure it was Mae West.

    • starskeptic

      these 2 comments came from the same box… 

  • Apost8

    What? You mean the media sensationalizes issues? I am shocked. Shocked!

    • Charles Black

      I know I couldn’t believe my own eyes either. :)

  • Metacodger

    I’m best described as secular Jewish, and I agree that menorahs, nativity scenes, and similar displays are best placed on private property for the reasons stated. The print media journalism was weak and disappointing, but probably to be expected.

    OTOH, I admit to being a little conflicted, since I think a decorated tree without any religious symbols is nice to have in a public space. I guess that’s State endorsement of secular paganism :-)

  • Charles Black

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
    According to the great Gandhi we’re at the 2nd or 3rd stage I think though I could be wrong on this.

  • http://www.hanukkahsale.com/ Floza

    Hey ,but as per to me Menorah is enlighten in the moment of joy its just like a respect given to all the people,who are a part of that moment…


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