Atheist Group Puts ‘Natural Nativity Scene’ in Wisconsin Capitol Building

It no longer seems newsworthy that the Freedom From Religion Foundation put their Winter Solstice message in the Wisconsin Capitol building yet again…

“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.”

So many Gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
When just the art of being kind
Is all this sad world needs.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

… however it might be worth pointing out that there’s now a “natural nativity scene” nearby, too :)

Today also marks the second coming of FFRF’s “natural nativity scene,” which was unveiled last year to recognize the rebirth of the Unconquered Sun — Dies Natalis Invicti Solis — not baby Jesus. The display celebrates the human family, reason and the Winter Solstice. It was placed last year after a religious right group put up a devotional nativity scene for the first time in the Capitol.

If you can’t identify all the people in the scene, there’s a helpful guide right here.

I’m sure FOX News will commence complaining by the end of the day.

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.

  • Cecelia Baines

    While we are technically not a “church” I do feel strongly that the FFRF should not place this on government/public property. This is too much of the same thing we fight so hard against. If we want this message out there, the public building is not the place for it. It should be on private property or on a commercial site that accepts/contracts for such purposes.

    If anything, this is hypocritical of the FFRF’s part.

    • Mike

      The FFRF concluded their press release with this statement:

      “FFRF would vastly prefer that government buildings and seats of government be free from religion — and irreligion. It is divisive. The rotunda is getting very cluttered. But if a devotional nativity display is allowed, then there must be “room at the inn” for all points of view, including irreverency and freethought.”

    • C Peterson

      FFRF is very open about their belief that even their own displays are out of place on government property. But as long as the courts recognize diverse displays as legal, the FFRF is justified in placing its message alongside others. It’s an effective way of sending a message, and I see nothing hypocritical about it.

    • Reginald Selkirk

       The FFRF approach is known as “poisoning the well.” Having established with legal action that Christian displays may not preferentially go unchallenged on government property, they now wish to convince people that all displays of religion/irreligion should be removed.

    • Aaron Scoggin

      I think they’re placing them there HOPING that they’ll get removed. When that happens, the city will be forced to remove all displays, and the FFRF would have won. Short of a lawsuit, cities won’t do anything about it otherwise.

  • Stinkleburble

    I love how they need a reminder of one of the commandments there.

    • Adam Patrick

      How would they know it otherwise? They never read the book they claim is the word of God.

  • vexorian

    I sort of wish their message was more positive and made less effort in calling angels and gods a myth.

    For example, it could focus on giving seasons greetings and celebrating how there is no hell – No one is going to be tortured eternally for thinking different.

    • Cincinatheist

      So go ahead and call hell a myth, just not angels and gods? If you’re trying to spare the feelings of the religionists, it won’t matter. They get just as offended if you call their imaginary torture chamber a myth as they do if you call their imaginary luxury penthouse a myth. Therefore, I say it’s fair game to keep God With A Capital G classified as mythology right along side Zeus and Thor. 

      Of course, I realize that there are atheists who tend to be more accomodationist than I. I’m not a firebrand (yet) but have gravitated more toward the stop-trying-to-spare-the-feelings-of-adults-who-believe-in-nonsense side of the spectrum in recent years.

      • vexorian

         Angels and gods are a myth.

        The reason for this is that the whole point of this exercise should be to ask for separation of church and state. But the dumb contemptuous insistence on saying there is no god just derails the whole thing and allows these dudes to just call the thing offensive and show how atheists are just against Christmas.

        Just saying… if you want to make a holiday thing: a) Be positive and b) Don’t ever lose focus on how this is a fight about separation of Church and state and NOT a fight over the souls of other people. A sign insisting there is no god makes the atheist seem as being against Christmas. When – at least to me – they were supposed to be clearer in that they are really against government-endorsed Christmas.

        There will be plenty of other times and circumstances for atheism “evangelism”.

        • Isilzha

           Well, that’s how YOU see the fight, but that’s not the only facet of it.

    • Isilzha

      Why can they say angels and gods exist, but I can’t say they DON’T?  Why do they seem to have more rights than atheists?  It’s even more annoying when atheists get called all sorts of nasty names for asserting their rights to the same type of speech.

      You can always put up your own display at your local courthouse if you want to promote a particular message.  Just try to remember that you also don’t have a right to censor the messages of other atheists.  Even if you don’t agree with the message or the way that it’s presented, there are those of us who DO!

  • Anna

    I get why FFRF does this, but I think these displays do more harm than good. Have they ever caused a local government to disallow religious scenes on public property?

    • The Other Weirdo

       Yes, somewhere in California, but mostly because it was too much money to keep non-Christian displays from being vandalized. There was a story about it on this blog.

    • Question Everything has a decent rundown over the Santa Monica issue of that sort.  Rather interesting how the atheist groups used the system as set up, and the religious groups kept getting upset and/or suing when things weren’t going the ‘traditional’ way…

      I think Santa Monica was within their rights to just shut all public displays down (private displays, as always, are fine), but I wish they’d kept the public displays more open even so.  It was a tradition, and if they left it open to whoever entered the lottery, that seems fair to me.

    • Stu Minnis

      Yes, it’s actually been very effective. They’ve had a number of successes in recent years using this strategy.

      • Anna

        Good to know! 

    • Isilzha

      More harm?  Why?  Because the atheists are being “mean” by not letting the xians continue to run ramshod  over our basic rights?  Why are their displays legitimate, but anything atheists display AREN’T?

      • eonL5

        Just in case you weren’t aware:  the expression is “run roughshod” — but I kinda like “ramshod”… trying to picture it… wearing rams for shoes? Or having feet like a ram, maybe.

        • Isilzha

          You’re right, but from where I’m from in the South “ramshod” is common.  Language changes and sometimes it’s silly.

          • Coyotenose

             What region, if I may ask? I’m curious because I’m from central North Carolina and have never heard that term.

          • eonL5

            Fascinating. I’ve never heard that before.

      • Anna

        Because the average person walking by knows absolutely nothing about why FFRF is putting up the sign. They’re just going to look at it and think that atheists are mean, horrible grinches out to insult their deity. They don’t know that the sign is meant to be provocative specifically in order to take on the whole business of religious displays on government property.

        However, if it’s working, and some of the other comments seem to indicate that it is, then I suppose it’s worth it. I’d like to see a world where nativity scenes are confined to private property, where they belong. Maybe a bit of unpleasantness is needed in order to spur towns and cities into doing the right thing.

  • Rod Chlebek

    The “Thou Shalt Not Steal” is a great deterrent.

  • digibud

    heard some right wing radio complaining about it today. I think it was a fox channel and might have been Glen but didn’t leave it on long enough to be sure. much gnashing of teeth and disbelief at the war on xmas…

  • Reginald Selkirk

    It looks like a spacewalking astronaut at the top, got cut out of the photo.

  • Dats3

    LOL! “It’s a girl.” 

  • J’octa Utmost

    -******************RELIGION IS ORGANIZED CRIME

  • Robyman4

    Well, the man with the extremely bizarre headgear in Rome recently declared that there were no animals in the stable to keep the baby Jesus warm that one, special winter. So, contrary to the song regarding the little drummer boy, we have it on papal authority that the ox and lamb did not, in fact, keep time.

  • A3Kr0n

    That’s nice. It’s hard to complete though when you have the governor of the state announcing the state capitol’s Christmas tree, and getting school children all over the state to make ornaments for it.
    IN WISCONSIN (theme).
    The official lighting ceremony for the Wisconsin State Capitol Christmas tree will bethis Saturday.

    • eonL5

      Well, “Christmas” trees really have nothing at all to do with Christianity. Isn’t that settled fact by now? Of course, they should just be called “holiday” trees (the derivation of the word “holiday” notwithstanding). And in my town, the big tree on the square is indeed called that. Yes, the Christians moan about it, but the local city council is pretty rational about it. And I continue to remind whiners that they’re the ones stealing from non-Christians, not the other way around.

  • SeekerLancer

    I can’t wait to hear FOX News pissing and moaning about this one. Bravo.

  • Bob Becker

    Like the two signs. They do what needs to bedone. Dislike intensely the mocking “natural nativity” scene. Smarmy.