A Setback in the War on Christmas

The town of Warren, Michigan put up a Nativity Scene in the Atrium of City Hall this past winter, so, naturally, the Freedom From Religion Foundation asked Mayor James R. Fouts to put up one of their own signs:

“At this season of the Winter Solstice, let 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.”

Fouts quickly rejected the proposal:

“I felt that to allow them to put their sandwich board sign up was an offensive act against religion, and it wasn’t exercising freedom of religion or freedom of speech. It was exercising the desecration and destruction of religion.

Fouts had said other groups would be welcome to display “their religious holy seasons in our atrium,” but for some reason, FFRF wasn’t welcome. In addition to the Nativity Scene, there ended up being a Christmas tree, an elf, reindeer, Santa’s mailbox, and other Christmas goodies.

So FFRF filed a federal lawsuit against the Mayor and town, calling their actions censorship and an illegal endorsement of religion.

On Thursday, the court issued its ruling against FFRF. In short: They said the display was secular enough and FFRF was just being a dick:

[T]he Mayor sets forth permissible bases for denial — that the Sign was meant to counter the Nativity Scene, not celebrate the holiday season, and that the anti-religious language of the sign, in this context, could lead to a disruption of city business. There is nothing indicating the Mayor denied placement of the Sign solely in defense of religion; religion was simply not the appropriate subject-matter.

Religion wasn’t the “appropriate subject-matter”?! I find that hard to believe when the most prominent display celebrated the birth of Jesus… even if the display were privately donated, it doesn’t mean it should be promoted by any local government.

So was this censorship again FFRF’s message or was their sign just too harsh for the display? Do you think a more innocuous message, like, “This season, celebrate reason” would’ve been allowed?

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.

  • gski

    The issue is that the nativity was allowed to be displayed. As for the FFRF sign I would like to see a different sign placed at a different time of year. Let it stand on it’s own, not as a counter to the Christmas displays.

  • Daniel

    Perhaps an evolution display on Darwin Day?   Something on the Day of Reason?  

    • westley

      Yeah, or a FSM display on Sept 19, talk like a pirate day.

  • Peter White

    Offering what amounts to a rebuttal of the nativity scene was the problem. They should have asked for the city to follow the law and not engage in promoting any religion. Instead, the city offered to promote any religions the public wanted. I would say both parties were wrong in this case and the judge should have recognized that.

  • Bckm

    maybe instead of a sign, FFRF could design an “evolutionary scene” along similar lines to the “nativity scene”.  It could contain, for example, a variation, with wax figures or mannequins, of the now-familiar graphic of homo sapiens evolving from apes.  It would then be hard to argue that it’s “against religion”, because it is promoting evolution.  I’m sure they’d find an objection to it, but it might be more difficult for them to say it’s “A” when in fact it’s “B”.

    • ScarabDrowner

        I’d think a display of the “Ascent of Man” with each step dressed as Santa Claus.

      • ErickaMJohnson

         We really should be distancing ourselves from the “Ascent of Man” meme. The way it’s usually depicted is flat out false, scientifically speaking, with the “steps” typically not actually being real ancestral species.

        • http://www.facebook.com/nick.hammes Nick Hammes

           Maybe we shouldn’t be – maybe someone could design one that uses an artist’s rendering of what actual ancestral species looked like.

        • Bckm

          Maybe, then, a simple “happy holidays from your friendly local neighborhood atheists”  :)

  • Blumuze

    Your sign showed disrespect toward God believing religions. If you want people to respect your beliefs, respect theirs. The Mayor was right.

    • jdm8

      I think you have a point, the problem being is that it’s a two-way street. I’ve not heard a whole lot of respecting of the non-religious on the part of the religious. Just take a look at the figures showing how atheists are less trusted than criminals, and that’s not necessarily because of stunts like these, but even if it were, how this is worse than criminality just shows an unjust bias.

      I personally think that government resources should not be used to promote any religious position, and granted, or anti-religious position for that matter.  It’s something that taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for.

    • Coyotenose

       Disrespect of a violation of the Constitution is not an excuse for their having violated it in the first place. Please try again.

    • Baby_Raptor

      You want respect? Try showing some. We shouldn’t have to kiss your ass while you go out of your way to shove your religion in our faces. 

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      No, this isn’t about respecting beliefs. It’s about respecting RIGHTS. There’s a difference.

  • http://theangrytiki.com Tikidoll

    A sign simply celebrating the winter solstice and sticking to the history of it (the real reason for the season!) wouldn’t have been antagonistic and given people something to think about. People aren’t going to consider your point when you just insulted them and all they hold dear.

  • Marco Conti

    I do think the message gave the city and the court ammunition against it. While I do agree with the contents of the message, I also agree that legally speaking it cannot considered solely a “celebration” of the season.

    What this means to me is that a better and more specific display needs to be created. Not just the message, but the delivery needs to have as high an artistic value as possible. 

    We atheist take the chance on Christmas to celebrate our families, friends, our planet the universe and reason. That should be good enough to create something compelling that can stand right next to a nativity scene and forward our positive message. 

    Our display needs to make the christian one look inadequate. It should not be that hard.

  • Mary

    I don’t see why atheists would want to get involved in a “religious, holy day” display anyway. The better thing is to challenge why the government is promoting religious displays at all. Doesn’t the government have better things to do with taxpayer time and money than deal with religious displays? Can’t those displays be made on church and private property around the town? 

    • Sixninecat

      I completely agree. It seems like an endorsement of religion in and of itself to me regardless of whose displays are present. There should be none.

  • I_Claudia

    I hate to be partially on the side of the city on this, but it’s true that the sign is obviously one that stands in opposition to a given celebration, and is hardly celebratory on it’s own. I lack the legal know-how to decide whether this is a legitimate reason to deny it a place in the atrium, but I will say that the FFRF wasn’t helping itself with the sign.

    I hate this sign, and I hate the fact that it has become a standard even more. It’s dickish, confrontational and all-around not helpful. It’s perfectly posible to celebrate reason in a non-religious context that still is obviously atheist without making a point of giving the proverbial finger to everyone else.

    Perhaps what the FFRF is doing in this case is legal, but I don’t think it’s contributing positively towards the goal of secularism.

    • Pseudonym

      While I agree with you, I think that the FFRF’s point is precisely to be a dick. The idea is probably that religious displays are as offensive to them as this display is to religious people.

      If that’s true, the FFRF are the only group in the US with a thinner skin than the Catholic League.

    • AxeGrrl

      I hate this sign, and I hate the fact that it has become a standard even more. It’s dickish, confrontational and all-around not helpful. It’s perfectly posible to celebrate reason in a non-religious context that still is obviously atheist without making a point of giving the proverbial finger to everyone else.

      I wholeheartedly agree.  I’ve always hated this particular sign.

      Once again, I think the sign that Seattle Atheists put up a couple of years ago is infinitely better and it reads:

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

  • Eric D Red

    Yeah, a dick move, stupid, and ineffective as well. 

    Dick move in that it it’s clearly an attack of Christian beliefs during a Christian holiday, with only a thin veneer of celebration.

    Stupid because that gave the mayor and court ample reason to deny it. 

    Ineffective because people just get their backs up when attacked like this.

    As others have already commented, a positive message about reason, or the history of solstice, or tolerance would have been more effective in making people think, and would have been much harder to deny.  I would think a solstice message, explaining the older roots of symbols like the tree would do far more to get people thinking.

  • ErickaMJohnson

    “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

    There’s no getting around it, that’s a rude thing to say. Yes, I know it’s true but that doesn’t mean it’s a neighborly thing to post in government buildings. Why not just end with “So be good for goodness sake” instead? It seems like a very negative thing to say and not remotely filled with holiday cheer.

    And they shouldn’t allow nativity scenes. Christmas trees, elves, and Santa are all secular enough to be ok but the nativity scene is specifically religious.

  • R.

    Seems like a massive misstep on FFRF’s part, principled perhaps, but lacking in political savvy. Personally, I think that an “Atheists for Jesus.” theme would have been better – it would have gelled with Christian presumptions about Winter being Jesus’ season, but challenged them also with respect to it’s content. Further, a discussion of the Nazarene may just be the best way of starting a dialog (to say nothing of the hue of ecumenicalism).  

    A tagline like, 

    “With or without God, Jesus had something to say.

    With or without God, have a Merry Christmas.”

    But y’know, better. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ORRVVC5R2QWLTXEM6SX5L6BORE Jay Arrrr

       First you’d have to convince me that Jeebus actually existed.

      Otherwise, you may as well just say “With or without Manwe, Gandalf had something to say”

      • R.

        Well… Isn’t that exactly correct? I mean, Gandalf might not be “real”, in-fact, given what we know of Tolkien, it seems a virtual certainty that he isn’t, but his words/actions still have force to them. Only a “Valinorian”, or a theist, would require literal truth. Nontheism relaxes the certitude of context in favor of compelling content.

        My point is partially that many Christians, when faced with the prism of “Jesus was a good person, but let’s not humor all that supernatural regalia.”, might actually recognize or welcome it. Perhaps cultural Christianity can be, for some, a halfway house between the familiar and affirming structures/community of  religion, and the rational purity of agnosticism or atheism.

        I don’t think this should be dismissed out of hand (I’m not saying that you were, just in general), rather than always seeing ourselves as a wh0lly separate rival perspective, we could make more of an effort to discuss and point out that many so-called believers are basically just atheists “with all the fixin’s”. Or to put it another way, we’re them sans a specific nexus of unsubstantiated assertions – the approach to take may be to tease at those assumptions, much as a therapist would: “And why do you think that? Is that really coherent? Do you only want that to be true?” 

  • Demon420llama

    It’s just exercising free speech. It’s clear and to the point. (angels, demons, hell and heaven are all, to be fair,ridiculous ideas)

    I like it.

  • http://twitter.com/kariedgerton Kari Edgerton

    Aww…
    I live in Warren. I really don’t like Fouts, he seems so fake. Then again he’s a politician. 
    I don’t understand why a government building has to have ANY holiday things. And if they feel they must, just get a big, fake tree and put a whole bunch of ornaments from different points of view. Everyone loves decorating a tree. There, problem solved, they should just make me mayor. Done.

  • ClaraCWhitsett
  • DG

    The difference?  At Christmas, Christians put up a scene that says this is what we believe.  Atheists take that day and put up a sign that says ‘what those people believe is wrong.  Those who see the problem with the sign – the obvious problem – are spot on.   If atheists want to take a day (maybe Newton’s birthday, or something), and put up a sign saying all of that and then some, fine.  But otherwise, to seize a day cherished by millions and basically flip the middle finger at people,  it has all the class and grace as a Confederate flag flown on MLK day. 

    • Coyotenose

       The basis of Christianity is that all other religions and non-religions are wrong and their adherents are going to suffer eternally. Please try again, preferably without lying this time.

      Trying to compare secularism and defense of the Constitution to racism? Man, you’re sick.

      • Hanson05

        Actually…DG has it right.  Atheists should pick a day and do something positive to celebrate your beliefs. Part of the problem with your movement is that don’t have much to celebrate except the occasional court case where christians are shown to be the bigots you believe them to be. Celebrate your beliefs for what they are and what they mean to you.

        • http://myatheistlife.wordpress.com/ Myatheistlife

           No, Coyotenose has it right. Christmas is a holiday that was “stolen” from non-Christians… pagans mostly. It *IS* a non-Christian holiday to start with. All one needs to do is tell the story of where all those holiday traditions come from to destroy the notion that it is a Christian holiday.

          Atheists choosing 25th of December to celebrate reason and to acknowledge that belief is wrong is absolutely correct. Pretending to not want to offend is hubris. It’s already been shown that they will be offended if all that is said is “atheists exist.” It is not possible to not offend them.

          So go on, tell them where their precious tree comes from, and yule log, and twinkling lights, and cards, and presents. Tell them how many other deities were reborn at that time of the year; what the three kings means; why the Romans would not hold a census in winter, the whole lot of it. Explain it to them. Let them then argue with the facts, the historical facts. Why it is that Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem to fulfil prophecy, and why that prophecy is wrong anyway.

          Don’t simply tell them they are wrong, shove their noses in it. Tell them this is their crap. Let them explain it then. Give them a museum of winter holiday celebrations and see what they do then.

          Don’t tell them they are wrong, just demand an explanation for all they have done to steal this holiday season from the rest of us.

          • DG

            So what you’re saying is that all those things said and done by fundamentalist Christians that atheists complain about are good, as long as they’re aimed back at religion instead?  Wow, glad to see we learned nothing after the last century.  Like the good professor Weber was fond of saying, there is nothing the persecuted enjoy so much as becoming the persecutor.  Looks like he was onto something. 

            • Myatheistlife

              First, it’s not a war. It’s called push back. Christians are all to happy to tell the rest of us that winter celebrations are all about THEIR deity and that we should shut up and be happy and celebrate with them, let them push their false traditions into every aspect of public life. 

              It matters not whether you like conflict, conflict is being brought to you by theists… in every city, every day. If you want to be a good little compliant minority who has no rights but is told they’re equal… well, you go ahead with that plan. I’m not going to choose submission to mob rule simply because YOU or any contrite non-theist doesn’t like conflict.

              Do Christians ‘deserve’ the push back? Yes, why yes they do. They call this a war on their holiday and every year we have to listen to them complain about ‘why can’t they just be quiet… if they don’t like Christmas they can just sit at home and leave the rest of us alone’ and other ignorant abusive rants similar to that. It’s not simply this church or that person that does it, the MSM even plays that up to get ratings. 

              It’s straight up abusive. If any racial group were treated this way it would be called racism without hesitation. As it is, it is bigotry and should be called out… each and every time. Are you saying that bigotry is okay? When they start complaining that the Menorah has no place in the public square, what then? And damn, but Ramadan is way to close to Christmas, that has to be stopped too. 

              Am I angry? Yes, because I not only have to deal with bigotry from believers in all parts of my life, but I have the joys of having to deal with your type…. the kind that keeps the waters muddied so it is never clear that the bigotry is not acceptable. Thanks for nothing

        • DG

          A movement that basically says we are all just biological life forms, and meaning and morality are just illusions we make up in order to get some order out of life while we pass on our DNA before finally dying and rotting in the earth, is hard pressed to put that on a Hallmark card. That’s why atheists tend to borrow heavily from the moral traditions of the cultures around them.  Which is understandable.  It’s why they don’t just shrug their shoulders when a loved one dies, even though they know all illusions of meaning are simply a contrivance on the part of the human animal in order to make sense of the universe, in many ways no different than the contrivance that is religious belief.  It’s why atheists usually wade into a conversation with the assurance of moral absolutes that would shame a southern King James Only Baptist preacher.  It’s why the greatest thing about atheists is that so few actually act out the logical ramifications of their atheism. It’s also why so much of modern atheism is more or less a mock-up of the religions they so proudly hate, even to near evangelistic tracts and tent revivals (I’m actually waiting for the day).  A brief reading of this blog will demonstrate that.  It’s sad, but it’s understandable.  That’s why I tell my boys not to get angry, just understand the limits that constrain most atheists (though not all, as some of the more intelligent and reasoned atheists can demonstrate – not the clown circus of modern atheists and their rock-star spokespeople). 

          • Ndonnan

            Very well said DG,do i hear an amen.Click like if you do.

            • http://www.facebook.com/maik.both Maik Both

              If you were Hindu you’d hear an ‘Om’; if Muslim then that equivalent. Somehow I think this point is lost on you though.

               

              • Ndonnan

                yes,yes it is

            • Baby_Raptor

              Look, I’m not trying to be a bitch here, but…Are you aware that you’re supposed to put spaces between punctuation and the words after it? It makes your posts really hard to read. 

              • Ndonnan

                Ok babe,ill do it for you.Now that Ive got spell check working i will work on punctuation. Can you get a punctuation check??? 

                • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

                  How do we report comments on here. The above comment is so sexist and ignorant that it just shouldn’t be here, at all.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  There’s a little ‘flag’ icon next to the date/time at the bottom of the post.  Click on that.  Although it looks like Hemant already got to that one.

          • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

            There is way too much that is wrong in this comment, the smugly superior tone notwithstanding. Somewhere, Guy Fawkes is crying in the light of a thousand burning straw men.

            • DG

              I didn’t like saying it that way either.  I just thought I would show atheists what it’s like when someone who is not part of that particular philosophy spews forth accusation after accusation without consideration from the POV of those who actually hold that philosophical perspective.  Is the essence of it wrong?  Not from a religious person’s perspective.  But normally I would never say it in such a crass way, except to prove a point to so many atheists on this and other blogs who follow the Dawkins/Harris/Hitchens approach of ‘Big Middle Finger Because What Do Religious Morons Know’ debate.  I prefer a more open dialogue, and would gladly refrain from such broadsides, even if, again, I agree with the substance.  But only if atheists are willing to do the same. 

              • DavidFairbanks

                 Maybe you should try and not be a dick.

                • DG

                  Wow Dave, what a typical modern atheist comeback.

                • DavidFairbanks

                  I think you meant to say:

                  “I know you are but what am I?”

              • Sixninecat

                “I prefer a more open dialogue”, i.e. granting religion the respect it has never earned.

                • DG

                  I love it!  Religions are wrong because they hate other beliefs!!  Because what they should do is hate all religions!   Thus continues the logical train wreck that is modern atheism.

          • Aaron Scoggin

            While you are very confrontational in your description of atheism (and partly misguided, might I add), I tend to agree with most of it. Many atheists tend to take life down to it’s bare form – Such that we are just flesh and bone, and there’s no meaning in anything; That everything boils down to hormones and body functions. While somewhat true, it’s not really so. This is why I have such a hard time saying “I’m an atheist,” because on the whole, I don’t really agree with many of the atheistic viewpoints.

            I don’t believe in any gods, however, so that’s where the line is drawn. I also want to add that not only atheism, but just about every religion draws its ideas of morality and such from the cultures around them. After all, it’s hard to say if any religion has been around since the beginning of time, and Christianity obviously borrows many Roman teachings of morality (You shall not kill, you shall not steal, etc). I did not get those morals from any Christian source, however, so they are not fundamentally “Christian values” so to speak. 

            I don’t think it’s wrong for atheists to be “out” and in public about their atheism, nor do I think it’s wrong to put their own displays up on Christmas. But really, they should pick their words more carefully and try to find a leg to stand on, rather than pulling down others. 

          • http://www.facebook.com/maik.both Maik Both

            DG – for all your time you’ve spent here, you have failed to grasp the pure joy and intellectual freedom being an atheist provides, at least for me – I’m not willing to generalise for others.

            The natural universe and the world we live in is awesome and magnificent as it really is, and my love for my family, friends and community is enhanced, not reduced, by my atheism. No time or energy is wasted on divisive superstitions, or the moral and intellectual contortions necessary to reconcile religious beliefs with our life and existence.
            That said, I often read Buddhist material and my life has been improved by applying related philosophies. The key here – no god or gods to worship, fear or fawn over.
            You make the common error of thinking that somehow atheism is like religion in some way. Whenever a comment comes up like this I think “this person simply doesn’t ‘get it’”.

            • Ndonnan

              Thats why Buddhism is called the religion of atheism, if it feels good do it,as long as you don’t hurt anyone else.What i see as the attraction of atheism is no accountability after death after which it is to late for you to “get it”.

              • Smile

                That’s not what Buddhism is at all.  Perhaps you should learn about others worldviews before speaking on them.  Try google.
                Atheism is simply a lack of belief in gods. Nothing more, nothing less.  And on accountability, you’re showing ignorance of both atheists and theists.

            • DG

              I notice that Buddhism is becoming the go-to religion of choice for many atheists.  That said, Buddhism as many filter through Western values – especially atheist values – is not exactly Buddhism.  I had the opportunity to attend a lecture years ago (in the 90s), in which a Buddhist from Vietnam was lamenting how we tend to approach Buddhism with all the consistency of a salad bar.  The essence of Buddhism can have its advantages, but when atheists start lauding it versus religions they reject, they become no different than the religions they condemn for, among other things, rejecting religions they disagree with.

          • Baby_Raptor

            Project more. It’s all you have…All the “facts” you put forth are wrong.

            • DG

              Explain.

              • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

                All. The. “Facts”. You. Put. Forth. Are. Wrong.

                Get it through your head, DG: you put forth claims without any evidence behind them, all while being as condescending and rude to an entire group of people that is, quite frankly, sick and tired of ignorant bigots like yourself.

                You don’t like atheists. We get it. But if you’re going to make claims about an entire group of people, most of which are not true, please understand why we want you to just shut the hell up.

          • AxeGrrl

            A movement that basically says we are all just biological life forms, and meaning and morality are just illusions….

            I am sooooo tired of this bit of horse pucky.

            Morality and meaning are human creations.  The meaning that each individual makes or gives to things in their life are REAL, they’re not, as you dismissively put it, “illusions”.

            In my experience, every believer who peddles this eye-roll-inducing canard also tries to play the “objective morality/meaning” card, as though that “wins the game” for them…….

            without substantiating/supporting the existence of “objective” morality/meaning in the first place.

            But hey, they can’t, so I guess that shouldn’t be surprising.

            • DG

              Religion appears to be a human creation, too. Since you define these creations as real things, why would an atheist then rail against religion?  Much bad has been done because of ‘morality’ over the ages.   Why accept it as a fine example of evolution, when religion is so reviled? All you’re doing there is saying this made up idea to validate existence is OK because you say so.  Best to just admit it’s all made up and move on.  And the objective morality card is played because it is to atheism what theodicy is to theism.  It’s something that is difficult to justify from that particular point of view.  Yelling about it doesn’t change that fact.

              • AxeGrrl

                Best to just admit it’s all made up and move on.

                Do it DG! :)   You’ll find living with integrity is sooooo much easier when you don’t have that nasty cognitive dissonance to deal with constantly :)

              • AxeGrrl

                Yelling about it doesn’t change that fact.

                Uh, ‘yelling’?   there’s nary an exclamation point in my entire post.

                Perhaps points you don’t like just seem like yelling to you :)

          • NickDB

             ” meaning and morality are just illusions”

            Since when does Atheism say that?????? We don’t deny meaning and morality exist, we say we don’t get it from papa smurf, sorry I mean god.

            • Sixninecat

              lol! Awesome.

            • DG

              Read the answer above: we know, according to atheists, that people make up notions of right and wrong in order to make sense of the world.  Our good poster above says that makes these things ‘real’, but morality is still made up.  If atheists feel warm and fuzzy by saying otherwise, that’s fine.  It’s understandable.  But us theists do get a chuckle watching atheists attempt to squeeze the proverbial ought from that is universe they love to proclaim.

              • pRinzler

                DG, how about the idea that evolution endows social animals like people with tendencies toward certain social rules of conduct that we call morality.  That is not objective morality, nor is it “people making it up.”  

                Also, are the rules of baseball “real?”

              • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

                You’re so ignorant and wrong, that it ceases to be funny anymore and is just plain sad.

                We don’t “make up” notions of right and wrong. Many of us tackle morality the same way that you do.

                For example… you know that slavery is wrong, correct? Where do you get that morality from? It certainly isn’t the bible that you have said before (IIRC) that you believe. Slavery is condoned there.

                So, how do you know slavery is wrong? From a careful consideration of the well-being of others and how our own decisions impact other people around us, just like the rest of us.

              • rlwemm

                Morality is a normal function of developing cognition, experience and socialization.  All humans, regardless of their religious background, show moral development that generally develops in parallel with their intellectual development. 

                http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/kohlberg.htm

                Authoritarian types of religion have been shown to impede this development and prevent the Faithful from moving beyond the early Appeal to External Authority stage.  This is not a good thing as it results in the justification of selfish, violent and hateful behavior by appeal to a divine alter ego that supports the very things that normal moral development seeks to contain.

              • http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish Cuttlefish

                The worth of money (whether paper or gold) is also a social construct, and yet mere subjective agreement as to its worth is sufficient to build economies on.  Social agreement, whether phrased as religious edict or not, is the underpinning of morality; it changes with society (else god gives different followers different absolutes; they certainly disagree) and works more or less well as a function of how well a culture using those rules thrives.

                Morality is made up. Money is made up.  Both are made up because they are useful.  Morality does not need to be handed down from a god, in order to be worth following; indeed, knowing where morality comes from allows us to respond appropriately to changes, without the awkwardness of explaining how part of our moral code is literal and part metaphorical, and how god was serious about gays but not about shellfish (or vice versa).  

                Thinking morality is god-given has consequences; if you have been taught that morality is god-given, and come to realize you’ve been lied to, you may feel no reason to be moral.  If you know from the start that morality is a social construction, acting morally does not depend on believing in something that cannot stand up to scrutiny.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  I’d only add that if you think your morality is god-given, then you have no room to learn that you didn’t get something right in the first place.  If God says “Don’t wear white after Labor Day” then no rational argument for wearing white after Labor Day will change your mind.  It doesn’t matter if my god requires wearing white after Labor Day.  You will think I am wrong for disobeying your god.

                  And then we get to love each other, all the while hating the clothes we wear.

                • AxeGrrl

                  Great post, Cuttlefish :)

          • Sixninecat

            I’ll have to disagree with you on that. And, by the way, it is ENTIRELY constitutional to fly the confederate flag on any day you please. I don’t personally care about anyone’s political correctness here…fail to defend the rights of those who offend you and you will soon lose your own.

            • Sixninecat

              P.S.  Comparing atheists to religionists is like comparing apples to oranges. We do not assume any aspect of religion…we reject it in all it’s forms. We have been around as long as there has been humanity, since before there ever was religion, in all societies and we will be here when religion is finally, and thankfully, dead.

          • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

            1. The atheist “movement” doesn’t say anything, DG. The only common thread amongst us is that we do not believe in the god claims of any theists without sufficient evidence. Plain and simple. You’ve been told this numerous times, and fail to understand that simple concept, DG. You have graduated into the category of troll. Congratulations.

            2. Morality is not an illusion. It is a careful consideration of our actions and how they affect others. We are a social species, and as such we must adjust our behaviors every so often with the thoughts of others’ well-being and rights.

            Try learning about secular and humanistic morality before attempting to argue against it.

            3. Don’t pretend to know what we’re thinking, how, or why. That is rude and insulting in the highest degree. We are quite capable of making moralistic decisions without borrowing from other cultures, thank you very much. You see, we have this thing called a brain, which allows us to exercise this thing called reasoning. You should try it sometime.

            4. Assurance of moral absolutes? Please, cite your sources. And don’t focus on one or two atheists who don’t speak for the rest of us. Please demonstrate that a large majority of atheists “wade into a conversation” with such assurances.

            5. Wow, the ignorance abounds here. “It’s…why so much of modern atheism is more or less a mock-up of the religions they so proudly hate.” What is the blue hell are you even talking about? Do you even pretend to make an attempt to make sense? What is “modern atheism” and why is it anything like other religions? Please, elaborate.

            6. Your overall tone is pandering, condescending, and insulting. And you have nothing of substance to say, to boot. All you pretty much do is make claims without anything to back them up, and commit logical fallacy after logical fallacy.

            Typical apologist.

        • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

          Oh, well thank you so much for telling us what we should do, what we should celebrate, when, and how. You’re such a big help in getting atheists organized, despite not being one yourself. How about you leave the organization and celebrations up to us, mmkay?

        • Glasofruix

          For the last fucking time, atheism is not a belief.

      • Pseudonym

        The basis of Christianity is that all other religions and non-religions
        are wrong and their adherents are going to suffer eternally.

        And I would have no problem with any Christian group which believed that to put precisely that on a sign on their own land. Generally speaking, they seem to have the good taste not to put that sort of thing in a public space.

        • Sixninecat

          “good taste”? You mean dishonesty, don’t you? That is what they profess but if they were to be honest enough to make that statement they would be called on it immediately and would have to concede their own arrogance.

      • DG

        Your unbridled hatred of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is a sad thing, and something I try not to apply to most atheists.    It’s rather pitiful actually.

        • Atoswald

          DG, I do have a strong aversion to religion, and this is not a sad thing. I don’t like religion because I care about the earth, and many of the people (and other creatures) that live on it. For every “good” deed you can use to defend religion, I can name an “evil.” This is not to say that the world would be free from bad things without religion, but much of the suffering … the wars, greed, pestilence, hatred, fear, bigotry, ignorance and violence … could be eliminated. There is nothing pitiful about wanting a better place for my children and their children, and your children for that matter. And for the record, I could care less if people believe in a god/gods, it is what they do with that belief that scares me. As they say, “If you can hate the sin, but not the sinner, I can hate the belief, but not the believer.”

        • Sixninecat

          We don’t hate religion. We do, however, despise deliberate ignorance. When you say that atheists hate god/religion you’re still attempting to validate it….that might work in illiterate, third world countries but not here.

        • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

          I believe you’re one of those trolls who complain that some of the posts on The Friendly Atheist aren’t very “friendly”. It’s kind of hard to be friendly when ignorant people like you come on here and make up shit like this. You’re one of the reasons why many atheists hate religion, DG. The end product is a condescending, ignorant, bigoted troll who has nothing better to do than waste time on an atheist blog denigrating and insulting atheists.

  • Ndonnan

    Personally ive been surprised at how fair and well balanced most of the reply s have been, well done.   

  • L.Long

    The judgement was 100% correct and they even gave the MOST important reason for not allowing the sign quote ‘…could lead to a disruption of city business.’
    They know what is the most important thing at that time of year.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I have a suggestion:

    • Niftyatheist

      I don’t just like this, I love it! :D  I’m keeping that Richard – maybe I’ll turn it into a holiday card. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/jadelackey Jade Lackey

       Honestly even just the 1st and last sentences would be an amazing board.

    • Revyloution

      Beautiful Richard.  Honestly,  ive always had a problem with the default sign that the FFRF puts up, and it’s exactly the reasons the judge sited.  If your’e going to celebrate something,  then you should be stating what your for, not what your’e against.  There are plenty of reasons for secularists to celebrate the winter solstice.  I hope the re-apply with a more positive message.

    • Bckm

      brilliant!  and Nifty is right – it’s a GREAT “holiday” card.  Usually, I send out “Peace” cards, with no reference to any particular holiday (or any GENERAL one…) 

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Thank all of you for your encouragement. I’ve decided to publish this tomorrow at 3:00 PM Central time as its own post so more people can see it.  

    • rlwemm

       MUCH better than the original. 

    • rlwemm

       …. SO ITS HEAT DOES DOES NOT ….
      Proof reading error.
      The double “does” are that beginning and end of their respective lines.  The brain tends to filter out the extra word in such circumstances.  Please fix this.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Thank you for pointing that out. That’s the effect of my dyslexia, haste, and late night fatigue combined. Disqus is being a pain in the neck and not letting me or Hemant replace the image with a corrected version. I’ll keep working on it.

        This afternoon at 3:00 PM Central time, the corrected version will be featured in its own post.

    • Barbara

      This is beautiful, Richard! It portrays so well what we atheists believe while maintaining a positive vibe for the winter holidays. I live a few miles away from Warren and am hoping FFRF chooses to use your sign there (and  perhaps in neighboring Centerline, too – last year they had a nativity displayed outside city hall). I would love to see such a beautiful message displayed!

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sarah-Venhartly/100003164475597 Sarah Venhartly

         The goal of FFRF is to get the nativity off public property.  The new sign is very nice, but would provide little incentive for removing the nativity.  By choosing this sign, you are saying a nativity in nativity in City Hall is fine and dandy.  I don’t agree.  I think the goal should be to create a sign that is offensive, so that neither will appear in City Hall. 

        The Mayor reminds me of those who say they allow free speech, but it turns out it is only free speech that they approve.

        • Barbara

          I get what you are saying. With Christianity and religion in general so imbedded in our culture, I just want to see atheism recognized. It’d be a good start to finally getting us on even ground down the road.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    This decision seems unlikely to survive appeal. 

  • Kittensaretasty

    My guess is the FFRF want to get their sign displayed, knowing it is such anathema to religious people that the city will then choose to have no religious displays on public property, which is how it should be.  I don’t want the FFRF display, or any of the others, on public property.

  • Ken

    Is this kind of rebuttal/attack really necessary?  After all, holidays a re steadily being eroded by business interests already, with Thanksgiving and Easter already pretty much given over to big business greed.  Christmas, too, will eventually see stores open for business, and it will not be because of the atheists, but all those God-fearing GOP businessmen who pontificate loudest the rest of the year.  Some fights aren’t worth engaging when the opposition is doing the job for you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jadelackey Jade Lackey

    Honestly it reads more of an attack, so I  it should be redesigned  for a more friendly sign.  Not everything needs to be a stab at religion.

  • Aaron Scoggin

    The sign doesn’t deserve to be up. All that it does is (dare I say it) bullies other religious displays and doesn’t really say much on its own behalf. Now, if it were to say, “This season, celebrate reason. Family, cheer, and making memories – That’s what the holiday season is all about.” THAT would be acceptable and it would encourage positive conversation. 

    The sign as it stands, however.. Needs work.

  • NickDB

    If the truth is offensive then let the truth be offensive.

    Have to say I’m rather tired of been told we need to respect other’s beliefs
    and not hurt their feelings.

    Tough! If we’re not allowed to give offense then Jesus should have respected
    the roman and Jewish beliefs of the time and shut up and done his wood work.

  • Hansono5

    Why would athiests declare war on christmas anyway?  It brings millions of families together to celebrate…including athiest families.   The title of this story  should be, “A set back in the war on christians”. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sarah-Venhartly/100003164475597 Sarah Venhartly

       Atheists did not declare a war on Christmas.  That is the term that Fox News likes to use when atheists press for the separation of church and state.  The war is being waged by religious zealots against the Constitution.  As for a war on Christians … give me a break.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sarah-Venhartly/100003164475597 Sarah Venhartly

     The point is not to have a pleasant little display that can sit next to the nativity and not offend anyone.  FFRF would prefer that there are NO religious displays on government property.  If the city wants to put a nativity scene, then FFRF will seek to include their sign as a form of silent protest.  I say good for them!  Occasionally, we need to make others uncomfortable to make our views heard.

  • Robert

    I think the FFRF is wrong here. The sign is not a positive reflection of what our movement is trying to convey. Just like this cannot be a nation of all Christians it cannot be a nation of all atheists. In order for us, religious and not, to participate in the celebration of that time of year, be it Christmas, Chanukah, Ramadan or the solstice or whatever, it needs to be done in an inclusive and positive manner. To show respect is how we earn respect. This sign is disrespectful and does nothing to forward our position. Yes it’s “legal” but that doesn’t make it right. 

  • judith sanders

    I think it’s a very heartwarming sign, tastefully done.  I suppose it’s the last sentence that was considered most offensive, but when you display stuff from religions, isn’t there always the implicit threat “If you don’t believe in this, we’re justified in treating you badly?”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ORRVVC5R2QWLTXEM6SX5L6BORE Jay Arrrr

    Maybe if they had left out the bit about hard hearts and enslaved minds… But that still wouldn’t make people like DG happy. Oh, no, not fair to give the finger to “millions” on their “special day”, when you get the finger flipped at you the other 364 days of the year.
    I think some people have trouble differentiating between “friendly” and “doormat”. You can be friendly and yet refuse to let others wipe their asses on you by claiming that you “hate” religion.
    As if Religion has done nothing to earn anybody’s hatred? Poor, poor, religion in general and Xianity in particular. Ignore the blood dripping off its hands, please…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/Q6Y2K7P4QGJQEH257RF7XMXSZ4 Rích

    Even as an atheist I find it unnecessarily harsh….but then I do live in England where presumably there’s less persecution coming in the other direction……..

  • Rebecca Gardner

    Religion has no place in politics, especially in the courts.  Keep your ancient mythologies and invisible cloud beings out of my public square, out of my laws and out of my courts.

  • MurOllavan

    I live in Warren. I thought the display could use some tweaking. While I wish there were no displays up at all the one from FFRF doesn’t need to be the way it is. There are more important church/state issues (to me) than mangers in city hall. Also, Fouts just disallowed it because he knows Warren-tucky voters wanted him to.

    I remember the news made the poor old man from FFRF out to be like Unabomber – I really felt sorry for him on the news.

  • palebluedot13

    This is the same city hall that allowed a prayer booth. 
    http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2009/06/athiestagnostic_group_criticiz.html


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