Atheist Sign Goes Up in Illinois Capitol Building

On Saturday, the Freedom From Religion Foundation placed a Winter Solstice sign in the Illinois Capitol building in Springfield:

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.

The sign has gone up in previous years, though it took a hiatus last year.

“We don’t think that religion, or irreligion, belong at the seat of state government. But if religious displays are going up in state capitols, then our display representing the freethought point of view will be there, too. In celebrating the Winter Solstice, we celebrate reality,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor

Dan Barker, FFRF co-president, said Christians tend to think “they own the month of December. We don’t agree. No month is free from pagan reverie!”

You may argue that the message is a bit aggressive, and I don’t disagree, but this is all about viewpoint equality. If Christian groups are allowed to put displays up in the Capitol building, then atheist groups can as well, and I’m glad at least one group is taking advantage of that, regardless of what the message is.

Springfield would be better off discontinuing the practice of letting religious groups put up displays entirely. Until they do, though, I’m all for this.

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.

  • Bob Becker

    Me too.

  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Springfield would be better off discontinuing the practice of letting religious groups put up displays entirely. Until they do, though, I’m all for this.

    Yup. Gotta push back some way, and this is lots cheaper than a lawsuit.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      Not to mention that such signs are allowed rather erodes the main potential basis for a lawsuit.

      But yes, far cheaper for the city to simply let the noisy folk be harmlessly noisy, as long as they can do so without interfering with the real work of government getting done.

  • TheG

    The aggressiveness is the point. I’m sure for the FFRF it is less about the message than provoking people into thought, hoping that people begin to realize that promoting a religious message is for churches and your own home, not government.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

      I am proud to be a dues-paying member of FFRF (and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and American Atheists, and Secular Student Alliance, etc.).

      When I see things like this, I like to feel that my membership and donations have contributed in some small way.

  • Rain

    It seems a little aggressive. We don’t know for sure that we are not in the Matrix. I would tone it down a little or agent Smith might get us.

    • dprogram

      Tone it down? Why? Truth is so much more difficult to swallow than lies I suppose.

      • simplelogicneednotapply

        I think there was a little bit of sarcasm in the comment that you may have missed.

        • spookiewon

          Agreed.

          HTML needs a tag.

  • Jordan Grey (Jack)

    How can we possibly consider ourselves intellectually honest if we cry foul over religious First Ammendment violations, and then applaud ourselves over atheistic ones? This is precisely as wrong as a nativity in a city hall, or swearing on a bible in a courthouse.

    • velveteenRabbit

      that’s kind of the point.

      • joey_in_NC

        that’s kind of the point.

        And Jordan’s point is that it’s intellectually dishonest, because it is.

        • faithnomore

          While I agree with the concern about being aggressive, at the same time, I feel that a much more aggressive attack is in order. The religious must be made to understand that if they want their religion sponsored by government, they must accept the atheist, Muslim, Jewish, etc. displays equally. Yes, I do see that atheists violating the terms of what we are trying to get them to see may not be the best way. So come up with suggestions for a more productive means. The religious obviously have ignored the numerous court decisions confirming the separation of church and state. The bottom line is quite simple…they do NOT want freedom of religion…they want special freedom for their religion ONLY. IMHO, this is the best course, and I would suggest even sponsoring Muslim and other displays. Totally inundate all our government offices with displays on every religion out there, the wackier the better, until they see the error of their ways.

        • spookiewon

          How? The message isn’t religious. How is it a first amendment violation? How is it like a nativity scene?

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      The comparison to swearing on a Bible seems less precise.

      However, I would agree that it is indeed precisely as wrong as a nativity in a city hall. And as long as the city government chooses to declare that there is a limited public forum, where both nativity and sign (and eventual Festivus pole, with any luck) can be placed, that seems precisely “not at all”.

  • Keyra

    The FFRF getting more & more desperate. Ironic when it’s freedom FROM religion, yet it’s what they spend so much money fixating on. Spending all this money just to say they don’t believe in God…well in their case, disbelief. All that money could be better spent on…idk, charity?

    • velveteenRabbit

      why would they spend it on “charity” when their charter is to promote freedom from religion in our government? There are many other secular charities to which one can donate their money. When I donate to FFRF, I know that this is what the money is being spent on. When I donate to Doctors without Borders, I know that they are spending their money on doctoring without borders.

      The day that the god-drones stop trying to insinuate their imaginary friends and bizarre dogma into the government that belongs to ALL americans, that’s the day that FFRF can shutter their doors.

      Looks like the ball’s in your court………….

    • Lagerbaer

      Tell that to the people responsible for the bajillions of billboards telling me that I’ll go to hell.

      • Keyra

        Wouldn’t you wanna be better than those type of people?

        • Lagerbaer

          You’re committing a fallacy here. Should the FFRF not spend any money on promoting secularism while there’s hungry children in Africa? I somewhat doubt that this atheist sign is a huge money-sink.

          • spookiewon

            And even if it was, that is irrelevant. Those of us who contributed the money knew this was the purpose it was intended for. I contribute to other charities that help people who are suffering. I can also alleviate suffering by fighting against religion.

            In participating in the Grief Beyond Belief forums I have seen a lot of people who are suffering terribly because of religious messages being pressed on them when they are most vulnerable. Anyone who thinks fighting religion’s grip on society isn’t helping suffering people is willfully ignorant.

        • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

          We already are. Our sign says there isn’t any hell, so that means nobody’s going there. So congratulations, Keyra, you’re not going to hell either!

      • Keyra

        And if you don’t believe there is Hell, then it shouldn’t bother you

        • mandas

          Perhaps they could spend the money on charity – rather than on billboards telling people they will go to hell. You know – your idea.

        • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

          Unfortunately, Keyra, that’s not how it works.

          You see, when many of us were young we had the myth of hell taught to us, and although we don’t believe it now we did believe it then. Thus, when someone tries to bully us into belief by threatening us with hell, it can tap into our memories and trigger an automatic fight-or-flight reaction.

          That, and it’s just plain rude to threaten people with torture, imaginary or not.

        • RowanVT

          It shouldn’t bother me that people think I deserve to be horrifically tortured for all of eternity by being lit on fire forever?

          So much love there… so much love…..

        • faithnomore

          The fact that we do not believe in hell has absolutely nothing to do with it. Your religion says that we must go to hell because of our lack of faith, it has no bearing on whether we are good or bad what we do with our life. It is a senseless, bronze age myth, and is the same as someone cursing your mother…if you insult some people, guess what? They get upset.

          You can believe it all you want. I could care less until you start thinking your religion obliges you to force your views on me. Our constitution specifically will not allow that. Yet the religious continue to try to pass laws that favor one religion over another (or lack thereof). Keep your delusions to yourself and there is no problem. Worship whatever deity you want..in your home, or in your church…but do not force your views into politics and demand that our government provide YOUR religion special consideration.

        • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          You’re confused, Keyra. This sign isn’t about heaven, or hell, or religion, or atheism. It’s about fighting religious messages in government spaces. It’s about secularism. It’s about defending the First Amendment.

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          In addition to the points others have raised, I’ll also note you seem to be trying to draw an “ought” inference (“it shouldn’t”) from “is” premises (“you don’t”). This generally tends to be a warning sign in philosophy on par in mathematics to a graduate student saying “it is obvious that….”

    • kickinitincrik

      It’s not just a message about disbelief it’s anti-belief. It compares religion to slavery. Perhaps I should swing by Madison or Springfield and put a cheap display up about how hardened atheist regimes obliterated countless numbers and how atheism enslaves the mind to a cheap, meaningless and inexplicable view of the universe.

      • RowanVT

        Enslaves the mind?

        By making me actually think about the harm and good I do *now* because I don’t get second chances in an ‘afterlife’?

        Meaningless and inexplicable?

        Am I not allowed to give my life meaning on my own? Why does meaning rely on a supernatural entity? And an inexplicable view of the universe? As is “goddidit” is any sort of explanation at all rather than the various hypothesis that are being tested?

        Hardened atheist regimes, hunh? As compared to all the theocracies that were fluffybunnies and light and joy and no hardship whatsoever… Religion outside the control of a dictator, no matter which flavor, lessens their absolute control. That is why religions are often either repressed, or created with the dictator as the central figure. They aren’t doing it because of something inherent in atheism, it’s about control. But if the theocracy really believes, they WILL do things in the name of religion, such as the crusades and the secret baptisms of jewish infants that allowed them to be taken away from their parents. It results in forced conversions. It makes torture okay because if you save their soul now they’re happy in heaven despite whatever suffering they went through. And if you didn’t save their soul, they deserved torment in hell anyways.

      • Neko

        When are you going to show Sam Harris how it’s done and offer a philosophically sophisticated Christian response to, say, a Newtown mother?

      • averydashwood

        …Therefore God exists. Specifically, the one kickinitincrik believes in. And that god or gods should be promoted in government buildings. And no dissenting messages should be tolerated. Because freedom.

        Or maybe government buildings should not be the site for theological pissing contests. Nah!

      • Drakk

        inexplicable view of the universe.

        The group that isn’t satisfied with the non-explanation of “goddidit” and looks to actually scientific, reality-based explanations for the nature of the universe has an “inexplicable view”.

        I really need a dictionary for english to christianese.

  • Dan Weeks

    I also don’t really like overly aggressive signs like this. It’s one thing if you want to reach out to other atheists out there and let them know they’re not alone.

    But the point of the FFRF is a valid one with which I do agree. The law must be equal, for everyone, so if Illinois wants to make arbitrary exceptions for the prevailing religion of the majority in office, this is the consequence.

    Maybe they’ll see reason, but reason really isn’t their strong suit, is it?

    • spookiewon

      How is it even aggressive, let alone “overly” so? How is it different, in fact, from “Jesus is the reason for the season?”

      • Blacksheep

        Same as saying, “solstice is the reason for the season.” That would be fine. Why add in every detail that they feel is wrong about Christianity?

      • Dan Weeks

        It’s “overly” because one is 1 line, and the other is 11. It’s different because the atheist signed apparently needed 4 sentences to accomplish what the religious sign does in 1. I see it as a waste, that’s all. It’s kicking a dead horse. Could’ve done with just he first line.

        But you’re right, I hate the aggressive religious signs as well. I don’t know if you bothered to read my entire post or just the first paragraph, but I did say I agreed with the point of the sign going up.

  • Neko

    Oh man how tone deaf can you get.

  • wilz

    Merry Atheistmas!

  • joey_in_NC

    Sorry, but the sign is just stupid.

    Do these people actually think the religious who see this sign will think, “Man, I don’t like that atheist sign…so we should tear down our nativity set.” Umm…no, they’ll simply think that the atheists who put up the sign are ill-spirited and hypocritical. And how would that help FFRF’s cause?

    • Neko

      Indeed.

    • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      To hell with the religious. Many of them are lost causes, anyway. But this campaign generates publicity, and that is good for FFRF and other secular organizations (this is only peripherally about atheism). And make no mistake – a very large percentage of young people are moving away from religion because of efforts like this. Nobody that matters is seeing FFRF in a bad light because of signs like this.

      • Neko

        So you’re running on “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” but my bet is that this sign will alienate even atheists, such as myself, who count religious believers among family and friends (they still “matter”) while perpetuating the image of atheists/secularists as hostile, patronizing and humorless. The point of contesting religious messaging on government buildings is sure to be obscured.

        Right, the holidays are just the moment to hector the public about their “enslavement” to myths. I have to wonder if saboteurs haven’t taken the reins at FFRF HQ.

        • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          No, I’m not exactly saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I’m saying that this sign is only “bad” to those for whom it isn’t aimed anyway. It keeps secularism in the public eye and in public discussion, and that’s a good thing.

          I’m not sure what is hostile. This is a sign with such a positive message, such an affirming view of nature. Why such a beautiful message would alienate any atheist escapes me.

          • Neko

            While I appreciate your irony the sign’s disparagement of religious believers is without a doubt hostile. We can keep secularism in the public eye without these tedious lectures on religion.

            • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

              This sign no more disparages religious believers than a creche disparages atheists.

              • Neko

                How does a creche suggest to me that I’m benighted?

                • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  How does my rationalist opinion that religion is evil insult those who believe otherwise?

                  Any religious (or non-religious) display is a statement of personal viewpoint. In a public square, these may conflict. Only those with severe persecution complexes must interpret different views as attacks.

                • Neko

                  Come on. To not react negatively to being called evil would be irrational. Anyway, I thought this gesture was about religious messaging in government buildings? If the FFRF is to join the scofflaws their energies might be better spent hiring a decent graphic designer (it’s a miracle!) to come up with a winning Happy Solstice message.

                  I note with amusement that “hardens hearts and enslaves minds” is reminiscent of…St. Paul. But without the flair.

                • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  The sign calls nobody evil. It doesn’t call anybody, anything.

                  What is irrational is for a religious person to read the sign and believe it is calling them evil.

                • Neko

                  What? You brought this up: How does my rationalist opinion that religion is evil insult those who believe otherwise?

                  Of course the sign doesn’t imply that religious believers are evil. It merely implies that they are benighted primitives.

                • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  I don’t really care what people with such pathological inferiority complexes think. They are beyond help, most likely.

                • Neko

                  Who says they have “pathological inferiority complexes”? It’s the message itself that communicates this [that they are in the dark].

                • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  It only communicates such negativity to those predisposed to treating any alternative viewpoint as a personal insult.

                • Neko

                  I can see this is going nowhere.

          • Blacksheep

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

            By definition, this is not a “positive message” nor is it a “beautiful message.”

            You can apply those words and try to bend them to a new meaning, but in English, it’s a negative message. The opposite would be positive:

            “Reason is truth,
            it softens hearts
            and frees minds”

            Boldly stating that something is positive does not make it so.

            • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

              I disagree. It is a positive message. Without religion you will be more free, more moral, better.

      • joey_in_NC

        Nobody that matters is seeing FFRF in a bad light because of signs like this.

        Hmm, either you’re oblivious to the evidence or you consider many atheists here who have objections to this sign as “nobody that matters”. So which is it?

        • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          Atheists here who have objections don’t matter, because they already support secularism. The sign isn’t intended for them. They may not care for the campaign (which is a perfectly reasonable viewpoint), but they aren’t going to stop being atheists, and they aren’t going to stop supporting secularism.

          From what I’ve seen, campaigns create a lot more new members for FFRF than they drive away.

          • Neko

            Even if your endgame is to smash religion the take no prisoners approach is counterproductive, since people aren’t persuaded by being called stupid.

            If the endgame is more modest, such as to keep anti-science fundamentalist fruitcakes out of government, we have natural allies among progressive and moderate religious believers. Perhaps we should consider not insulting them during a season which has profound significance to them.

            • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

              I’m having a very difficult time finding where this sign calls anybody stupid. I’m having a very difficult time finding anything in this sign that is insulting or offensive.

              The only people who could possibly find this insulting are the same ones who find “happy holidays” insulting.

              • Neko

                Being “enslaved to myth and superstition” implies stupidity. You have to be ideologically blindsided not to recognize that.

                • Leah

                  Yeah. I felt like I was being called stupid when I read the sign.

                • Neko

                  I’m confident you’re not alone.

                • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  No, it states the opinion of an organization. If a person believes they are being called stupid when somebody offers a worldview different from their own, they probably are stupid.

                • Leah

                  Got your message loud and clear, C Peterson.

          • faithnomore

            I agree with you to this point…this particular campaign is not OVERLY aggressive. But it is aggressive to call one’s beliefs myth and superstition, and it is an attack to say that it harden’s hearts and enslaves minds, albeit a little milder than “you are going to burn in eternity”. I think what joey_in_NC and others are saying is our message should put focus on the positive side of reason and logic without resorting to the focus on “you guys are idiots to believe such nonsense”. I understand “fighting fire with fire” and sometimes we must be aggressive but we have to avoid being guilty of the same dogmatic approach the religious have used. I personally like something more like “We are all atheists. I simply believe in one less God than you”. That points out how many Gods there are that the religious dismiss as unbelievable, silly, man-made myths. Maybe eventually they will realize why we dismiss their God.

            • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

              The sign doesn’t say anybody is an idiot. It says that we rationalists consider religion to be a dangerous superstition. That is an important part of our belief system; why should we not state it?

              As an atheist, I don’t consider a sign that says “Jesus saves” to be telling me that I’m an idiot, despite the fact that I completely disagree with its message.

              • Leah

                Belief system? Can you clarify that? I’ve been told numerous times by lots of atheists that atheism is not a “belief” and certainly not a “belief system.” Just wondering what you mean (sorry that this takes the discussion in another direction)

                • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  Belief system? Can you clarify that?
                  This sign has little to do with atheism. As you say, atheism isn’t a belief. This sign is an assertion of rationalism, which certainly is a belief system. It is an assertion of anti-theism, which certainly is a belief system.

                • Leah

                  Your argument seems pretty nuanced. In what ways does that sign have little to do with atheism? The first line IS “There are no gods” after all.

                • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  No, the first line is an affirmation of reason. What follows is a list of conclusions that rationalists draw about the nature of reality, as well as an opinion that a failure of reason leads to religion, which is harmful.

                  There is nothing nuanced about this at all. The sign supports reason, which is a belief system. It doesn’t claim that atheism is a belief system, and neither do I.

          • joey_in_NC

            Atheists here who have objections don’t matter, because they already support secularism.

            Why don’t you simply think about this for a minute. If you concede there exist atheists who have objections to this sign, then what makes you think that people “who matter” (whoever they may be) would not also have similar objections?

        • spookiewon

          The latter.

      • Pogonip

        Please define “Nobody that matters” because I think all human beings matter. I don’t limit “mattering” to any special group like the priesthood or other authority figures. Everyone matters.

        • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          It depends on context. Republicans don’t matter in a Democratic primary. Men don’t matter in a seminar for women. And the views of people this sign isn’t directed towards don’t matter in judging its effectiveness.

    • Mick

      Christians regard signs in the Capitol Building as just a foot in the door. If unopposed they will slowly but surely wangle more advantages for themselves to the detriment of others. They tend to ease up, however, when they find other groups following them every step of the way.

    • faithnomore

      No, no one thinks this sign will cause that type of change..the religious will still want their nativity scene. The point is that the religious must be made aware that the idea that getting an endorsement by our government for your religion is a violation of the constitution. If you open that door, then you must equally allow ALL religions (or even us militant atheists) to be treated equally. The government can NOT be in the business of protecting or showing favor to one religion over another. If the religious want a nativity scene, put it in front of your house or church..paid for by the religious group that wants it. But the concept that the government, federal OR city hall, can do this must be stopped. The problem is NOT the nativity scene…

      • joey_in_NC

        The point is that the religious must be made aware that the idea that getting an endorsement by our government for your religion is a violation of the constitution. If you open that door, then you must equally allow ALL religions (or even us militant atheists) to be treated equally.

        Does FFRF really want to keep that door open? That appears to be their intention by posting that sign.

        So would FFRF be okay with under-represented religious posting similar signs for the sake of ‘equality’?

        • WhatTheWhat

          Yes, obviously. Not sure why you are having difficulty with this.

        • baal

          Actually, yes. Very much so. We generally prefer no religion having any sign on gov property but otherwise prefer 1001 signs each to a different religion to one sign by one dominant religion. The idea is that we don’t want the State and the government mixed. If all religions and none are on the signs, it reduces the governments endorsement of any single religion.

          • joey_in_NC

            Actually, yes. Very much so.

            I highly doubt that.

            …but otherwise prefer 1001 signs each to a different religion to one sign by one dominant religion.

            So, what exactly is stopping 1001 different religious signs from being put up, considering that the sign of FFRF has been allowed up?

            If all religions and none are on the signs, it reduces the governments endorsement of any single religion.

            With the FFRF sign up, would you say that the government now ‘endorses’ atheism (as well as Christianity)? Is that what FFRF wants?

            • baal

              It’s not a first preference but yes. Part of the point is that all 1001 should show up. The hope is then that the deciders say enough is enough and throw them all out. This does happen.

              Yes, it looks like an endorsement of atheist as well. Then again, the harm is entangement of church and state. If the State looks like it has mulitple personality disorder, that’s a lot better than looking like we all need to become good christians to get a fair shot in the courts or at having our medicare approved or our voter registration not cancelled, etc.

              • Pogonip

                What about the holidays? Should we be lobbying to have the holidays of December dropped? Why should we have an official holiday on December 25? Or January 1, for that matter, since it is the anniversary of Jesus’ circumcision.

                What’s your position on Thanksgiving? Who are you thanking and for what?

                • baal

                  How do you feel about senior skip day?

                  ” Or January 1, for that matter, since it is the anniversary of Jesus’ circumcision.”
                  Holy shit you folks are sick.

                  It’s useful as a practical matter to have secular holidays when half the work force would other wise call in sick. I’m against removing holidays as we in the US have the fewest (or very few) in comparison to the rest of the western world. Bump us up to 2 months off as a federal mandate and I’d be aok with removing all federal holidays.

              • joey_in_NC

                Part of the point is that all 1001 should show up.

                No, the supposed point is that all 1001 should have the opportunity to show up. And they evidently do, considering the FFRF took advantage of their opportunity to put up their sign. No one is going to force (nor should they) the followers of other religions to post up signs if they don’t want to.

                Do you really blame “entanglement of church and state” if there are many times more Christian churches set up in this country than Buddhist temples or atheist assemblies?

                • baal

                  How do you go from ‘should’ to ‘force’?

                  As a general matter, I personally ‘blame’ the christian churches since they are the ones demanding the 10 commandments and saying they they don’t need to follow (including judges, looking at you roy moore) the secular laws of the U.S.

                • joey_in_NC

                  How do you go from ‘should’ to ‘force’?

                  I think religious/irreligious groups ‘should’ have equal opportunity to post signs. They evidently do.

                  What you think is that there ‘should’ be 1001 different signs posted. That is where force comes into play.

                • faithnomore

                  that is NOT what he said. Simply put….if the Christians are gonna use their power and influence to get THEIR religion endorsed by city hall, that is wrong and should NOT be allowed in the first place, BUT, when they ignore reason and logic and continue to do this year after year, then all the other religions SHOULD cry foul and require the government to (as the best choice) follow our constitution and say no, we cannot endorse any religion. When that fails, every crazy religion on the face of the earth SHOULD demand equal representation with the ultimate goal being to force the people in positions of making these decisions to say they are not going to do this any more…for ANY religion or lack thereof. There was not any mention of forcing anyone to do anything. And your assertion that these groups should have equal opportunity to post signs is exactly the OPPOSITE of what we want! NO groups should be using our government to invoke their beliefs. Keep your religions in your home and/or church…not in politics.

                • faithnomore

                  You are completely missing the point. It totally IS entanglement of church and state, and our constitution was specifically written to try to avoid that. The “might is right” argument is NOT acceptable. Our government may NOT pass laws that either favor or restrict any religion… regardless of how many Christian churches there are. I hope you agree that because there are more whites than any other race in America, we should not have laws that favor whites, or condemn any other race? Same thing…our government should not be in the business of playing favorites… for any reason.

        • faithnomore

          Not at all. I would prefer the religious would not open the door at all. But if a religion continues to flaunt their power to cause their religion to be represented, then we must fight fire with fire. If a law passed that required all federal courts to display the Treaty of Tripoli, how do you think that would be received by the religious?

          The religious have been the bully on the playground long enough. No one can tell me that since fighting is wrong, my only option is to assume the fetal position and wait for the beating to stop.

          The days are past where the non-believers must sit quietly or risk burning at the stake. Religion should not earn any special protection or favoritism from our government…period.

          • joey_in_NC

            Religion should not earn any special protection or favoritism from our government…period.

            Yes, I would think that would be FFRF’s main motive. But by successfully putting up that sign, FFRF has clearly demonstrated that religion is NOT earning any special protection or favoritism from government…at least concerning putting up religious or irreligious signs on public grounds. Kinda shooting themselves in the foot, no?

            They would have had a point if the sign was denied, but it wasn’t. So they have no point. Oops.

            • faithnomore

              while I do understand the logic you are trying to use, look at from the viewpoint of the non-believer for a second. The religious have demonstrated their desire to force their religion on everyone..it is an obligation of their faith. They have historically used their power and money to accomplish this. And they will continue to do this unless we point out that freedom of religion is NOT what they really want. Unless they stop expecting government to coddle to them, then they get what they are asking for…every religion or lack thereof has the same rights. They must be made to see that their beliefs are not a problem in their home or church..just leave it there and everyone is happy.

              By posting this sign, and maybe after a few non-Xian religions join in, the religious may begin to see the light. And no it is not shooting ourselves in the foot….you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette. 30 years ago, do you think the FFRF’s sign would have been accepted? No way! This is a clear sign of progress.

              I agree with your basic premise that two wrongs do not make a right. But the bottom line is, when one group uses their power and influence in this way, it must be fought. Example..I believe killing is wrong in general. So is it still wrong to go and fight another country that is committing genocide on their own people? At some point I must admit that fighting for what is right is the only solution when people will not listen to reason. Make no mistake..this is a fight.

              And no (in advance) I am not saying killing is warranted in this situation. But fighting in the way FFRF is doing is a valiant cause.

  • http://youtu.be/fCNvZqpa-7Q Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Yes, it is kind of dickish but I’m ok with that.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I agree that the best solution would be that government buildings not host religious holiday displays at all, and that the all-inclusive solution is a second choice. But FFRF has been trying this method for several years in several places, and so far it does not look like the annoying presence of Grouchy Smurf is going to make government officials willing to get rid of all the Smurfs.

    How long should we try something without success before deciding that it isn’t going to result in our first choice? If the all-inclusive second choice is what will have to be, then perhaps a more positive message would be more appropriate.

    • spookiewon

      Yeah, gotta disagree with ya here. This is exactly the same size pushback as the push. It’s no more or less provocative than “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        I don’t understand. What have I said that you’re disagreeing with? I didn’t say anything about it being “provocative,” or anything about the proportionality of the pushback. FFRF has repeatedly said that their desired goal is to get government administrations to discontinue all religious holiday displays on government property. I’m saying that despite several tries in several places, that has not worked, and I am doubtful that it ever will work.

        • WhatTheWhat

          Are you expecting instant results?

          “For several years” (in OP) is not long, Things like this take time, and in many cases will probably take quite a bit of time.

          In the end, even if it doesn’t get the other signs taken down then at least it isn’t just religious signs people see at those locations.

          • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

            No, I’m not expecting instant results. After seven Decembers, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to simply wonder if it is ever going to get the hoped-for result. You’re more patient than I am. Okay, I hope you’re correct to be. FFRF will probably continue to try this, and if it eventually gets all religious displays off of government property, great! I just won’t be betting any money on it.

            In the end, if it doesn’t get the other displays taken down then I think shifting to positive messages of good will from a humanist perspective and affirmations about the benefits of reason will help to improve atheists’ dismal public image, which seems to get worse with every holiday season.

      • Blacksheep

        I’ve never seen a public property display that said that – (I’ve certainly seen it on church signs) – public displays are usually “Merry Christmas” or a creche.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          I have! And creches are inherently religious and decree that “Jesus is the reason for this celebration” without words. A creche is an extremely provocative display on public property.

          • Blacksheep

            You have? I would love to see an image of that statement in a public space.

            Words are powerful! The smurf cartoon above demonstrates that. A sign that says “Christmas is wrong” is critical and celebrates nothing; a sign that says “Merry Christmas” or Happy Hanukkah” is not critical and celebrates something. You may read into it, but reading into something is far different than printing the words “Religion is bad” and posting them in a public space. Better to stand for something.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              Because standing in opposition to harmful ideas is totally useless and a bad idea. Gotcha.

              If a person celebrates the death of millions of people as a happy holiday/joyous occasion (not that Christmas or Hanukkah are that, but as an example), then agreeing to disagree is not the best course of action. Nor is a merely “constructive” sign offering an alternative celebration. The best course of action is to say that you should not be celebrating that.

              Words are powerful, but a picture is worth 1,000 words, yeah? A creche is a powerful image. Saying that what that creche stands for is wrong is a valid option.

      • jebalke

        This particular display is a full nativity set. So not “Jesus is the reason for the season.” as much as “Here’s the birth of the ‘savior’ ”

        https://www.thomasmoresociety.org/2013/11/27/nativity-scene-returns-to-illinois-state-capitol-rotunda-for-the-sixth-year/

    • Blacksheep

      Hear hear, Richard! If the third smurf were smiling and saying “Happy Solstice!” it would look like a big happy family to me.

  • WalterWhite007

    The message is not that strong. In fact, it lets religion off easy.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

    Everyone has an opinion, including myself. I’d like to see a sign with a concise message regarding why it’s there instead of one positively asserting that the others are wrong. I’d certainly be the wrong person to write the message, but maybe something like this:

    “We believe government property is an inappropriate venue to express opinions on religious ideas. Since the opportunity has been seized by some, we wish to participate in the interest of equality and religious freedom.”

  • AxeGrrl

    I’d personally love to see this in sign form ~ put that one up, and you don’t need ANY others, imo :)

  • Blacktiger

    Atheists do NOT have a religion. That is the point!

  • Rain

    Great T-shirt.

  • Pogonip

    It’s rude. I don’t think atheists have to be rude. That just plays into the hands of the religious right that calls atheists evil, Satan’s children, and other such nonsense. In this case, the sign is in a public building where other groups – mainstream religious ones – have some happy display for their holiday. For atheists to post something rude, intentionally offensive, negative even, sends the wrong message, I think. I would rather see a positive message, indicating that atheists are happy without religion and are capable of wishing our fellow humans well.

    • joey_in_NC

      For atheists to post something rude, intentionally offensive, negative
      even, sends the wrong message, I think. I would rather see a positive
      message, indicating that atheists are happy without religion and are
      capable of wishing our fellow humans well.

      Yes, that would actually make some sense. Ironic how reason doesn’t ‘prevail’ with this sign.

    • baal

      In what way is it rude?

      • Pogonip

        The sign is there at the invitation of the Illinois authorities who operate the Capitol building. I liken that to your being, or my being in someone’s living room. I think that calls for manners, not confrontation or challenge, which I think is the tone of the sign. If the FFRF were invited to participate in a panel discussion or a debate, it would be more appropriate. But this is simply greetings for the holidays, days when the building will close, when there will be no work performed, because it is an “official” holiday. It would help if the readers here could see the signs that other groups put up.

    • spookiewon

      How is it rude? How is it “intentionally offensive” or “negative?”

      • Pogonip

        As I noted above, it’s not a message of “Hello, thank you for the use of the wall, best wishes to everyone for this holiday season.” Which I think would be much more appropriate to the location and occasion. I do think it would be helpful if you could see what other groups have displayed because I am sure that they are not accusing anyone of being evil or going to Hell or anything of that nature — even if that’s what they believe — because it’s not an appropriate sentiment for this occasion.

    • clevertitania

      “I would rather see a positive message, indicating that atheists are happy without religion and are capable of wishing our fellow humans well.”
      You mean how the faithful people are miserable so they need religion to comfort them, and they aren’t capable of wishing their fellow humans well without invoking their savior?

      Anything can be perceived of as rude, if you try hard enough. If a person of faith is perfectly free to put up something they believe, like “Jesus loves us,” then we are allowed to post something we believe, like religion “harden’s hearts and enslaves minds.”

      • Pogonip

        Yes, they are and we are, but there is a time and a place for that, and I don’t think this is it. YMMV. Part of my thinking on this is that I want atheists to be perceived as normal people with the same feelings as anyone else, in fact many people reading the message may be atheist but not affiliated with any organization. That’s OK, too. I don’t think it’s necessary to be militant.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          Although, to be honest, I find the message “Jesus loves you” pretty personally offensive. The phrase itself is not, but everything it represents, and the contexts in which I’ve heard it most often … yeah, my first reaction is to recoil in horror. I find it honestly kind of rapey- Jesus loves you and wants you, even if you don’t really like him, and he’ll stalk you and follow you and harass you even if you’d really rather he didn’t (or at least his followers will).

          Which doesn’t mean religious people shouldn’t put up signs saying that. It does mean that anything, absolutely anything, can be offensive. All it takes is a little intent, and trust me when I say that “Jesus loves you” is a phrase I’ve heard and seen hurled with offensive intent more often than in any sincerity.

  • Georgina

    OK, now I have read it through three times – and I am still unable to understand why it should be considered in any way rude or crude.
    Compaired to ‘anyone who disbelieves will burn in hell’ or ‘all infidels must be killed’ or even ‘all females are deficient in intelligence’ and ‘Jews are apes’, this is very much a statement of belief that attacks no one.

    I am forced to assume that either Americans have become so used to pussy-footing around religion that they consider any critisism of an ideological nature to be offensive, or they are unable to differenciate between a person and a myth.

    • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      I agree. Not only is there nothing aggressive or rude about the sign, its message is profoundly positive and uplifting. It’s a beautiful sentiment. An affirmation of reason.

      This is no more an attack on religion than a menorah is an attack on Christians, or a creche an attack on Jews. If we can’t tolerate conflicting ideas in the public square, what does it even mean to have such a venue?

    • allein

      Or both…

    • Beth Clarkson

      This needs to be compared to the other displays. Are any religious groups posting signs that say ‘anyone who disbelieves will burn in hell’ or ‘all infidels must be killed’ or even ‘all females are deficient in intelligence’ and ‘Jews are apes’?

      I think the last sentence is a deliberate attack on all religious beliefs. I doubt the other holiday displays are attacking those with different beliefs, just celebrating their own.

      • Blacksheep

        Yes – “Celebrating their own” is the key.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Actually, yes, some religious groups are just- I’ve seen plenty of signs saying all unbelievers will burn in Hell. I’ve seen a few saying that if you aren’t a Christian, you are a traitor, and you deserve to be killed (more common closer to 9/11; haven’t seen one of those in awhile, but they were there).

        So is this sign attacking religion? Yeah, it is. But it’s not attacking religious people, and that’s a very important distinction to make. A sign saying people are going to Hell or that people should be killed is far, far worse than a sign saying an idea is really bad.

        • Neko

          So is this sign attacking religion? Yeah, it is. But it’s not attacking religious people, and that’s a very important distinction to make.

          This distinction sounds close to the Catholic Church’s “love the sinner, hate the sin” apologetic with regard to homosexuals. And if the sign isn’t referring to religious people, whose hearts and minds are we talking about here?

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Your religion makes you a worse person. That’s what it says.

            It is an attack. It is not saying that you as a person deserve anything bad, nor is it a death threat. It is also far more acceptable to say “your idea is wrong and hard-hearted”, which are words I use for both religion and conservative ideology, than it is to say “a core integral part of you is evil“. It is similar to ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’, except that sin is a bullshit concept while empathy is actually a real and important one.

            • Neko

              Why is sin a bullshit concept? I would agree that the idea of “original sin” is grotesque, but plain old sin describes the capacity for and process of wrongdoing. Call it what you will. Where do you suppose the notion came from in the first place?

              I do agree with you, of course, about the difference between a philosophical or theological position and a sexual orientation. It’s just that the reasoning is similar. The Catholic Church’s distinction in effect is largely meaningless, as is this distinction between a believer and the believer’s religion, described in the sign as a kind of intellectual disorder. I fail to see where empathy comes into play.

              Anyway, it seems FFRF is determined to be the Scrooge of Springfield. A pity.

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                Sins are doing things gods don’t like. That’s it. The capacity for and process of wrongdoing are entirely other concepts. That’s why sin is a bullshit concept.

                Empathy comes into it because many religions encourage, nay require, a person to override their inherent empathetic impulses at least some of the time.

                I agree that the sign isn’t nice, and were I in charge of the situation I wouldn’t have put it up. That said, I also disagreed with your original reply, which is why I responded to it.

                • Neko

                  You’re right that the primary definition of sin is an offense against a divinity, and I don’t want to quibble with you further. I appreciate your commentary.

                  Cheers.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Yours too. Laters!

        • Beth Clarkson

          I’ve seen those ‘burn in hell’ signs too – usually hand-lettered stuck in some field by a highway. I’ve never seen such sentiments in a Holiday display, which is the context for this atheist sign.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Lucky you.

  • kickinitincrik

    The problem with the FFRF is that if their main goal was to champion the separation of church and state they would go about it different way. Most Christians I know understand the wisdom between separation of church and state. But to encourage separation of church and state by attacking religion would only push the religious further away from the discussion. I would encourage atheists to find a better secular group that bases their ideas upon historical research and common sense fruitful discussion rather than the unproductive bitter vitriol of a group like FFRF.

    • spookiewon

      You know different xians than I know. And xians are not the only beievers, either, and you show your bias when you assume it’s being addressed at you alone.

      • kickinitincrik

        My point wasn’t about what religious group is being addressed. Stick with the topic at hand rather than trying to take issue with some irrelevant bias in my post.

    • baal

      While we should listen to what our enemies say, we should not turn over our policy to them. I don’t see the pope or the various other equivalents giving the ad budget to an atheist group to run for them

    • baal

      Have you missed the vandalism (violence to property) that christians do to even mild atheist billboards that are from atheists inviting other atheists to their meetings?

  • Blacksheep

    Pretty rude sign, by any standards of society. Christian displays do not say, “Atheists are wrong, and yes! there ARE gods, devils, a heaven and a hell…”

    They just say “Merry Christmas.”

    A menorah does not include a sign that says, “Jesus is not the messiah.”

    A fair response would be: “Happy Solstice.” Even adding the reason bit is fine – it celebrates reason.

    No explaination can justify the need to criticize anothers fath as part of expressing one’s own beliefs.

    As a Christian, I undeerstand, appreciate, and welcome the whole notion of celebrating Solstice – after all, that’s what’s happening that time of year.

    So celebrate it! be happy! Embrace your own thing and what it stands for. Surely it can stand on it’s own.

    • Kenneth Browning

      There’s been sicgns in Springfield condemning people to hell because they don’t go to church. So are saying telling people they will go hell isn’t rude or aggressive?

    • Drakk

      AiG displays are part of those Non-True Christian displays, then?

  • clevertitania

    The comments on this article are hilarious.

    When people start debating the ‘aggressiveness’ of pro-reason campaigns, they seem to miss a huge sticking point.

    Is “Jesus Saves” an aggressive message? Not on the surface, no. But let’s not be obtuse enough to only look at the surface. If a person is posting such a message, they are supporting the entire concept of Jesus as a personal savior. And if you are supporting such a concept, you have to look at the REST of the concept. If you are a Christian who believes in the divinity of Jesus, and the resurrection of people through Christ, there are some other things you ALSO believe….

    -Jesus (and his father) are the sole arbiters of what is right and wrong, and no one can know right from wrong without them – which means every person who sees “Jesus Saves” and doesn’t believe it, is being called a psychopath.

    -Jesus said, “If you are not with me, you are against me.” So if you are not a fan of “Jesus Saves,” that makes you the inherent enemy of those who do believe it.

    -If you are putting up “Jesus Saves” it is not a far reach, to suggest you are in support of a literal interpretation of at least SOME parts of the Old Testament – you know, the one that says, as a woman, I’m the property of my husband and subject to being then the property and rape victim of anyone who defeats him in battle? So you are literally promoting a belief system which condones genocide, instructs priests on how to perform ‘purity abortions’ on women who’ve been accused of infidelity, and lists NOT worshiping god and doing what he says, as the entire top half of the worst MORTAL sins.

    Christianity IS by its very belief structure, aggressive against non-believers. I don’t care if the guy putting up a “Jesus is the reason” sign, doesn’t THINK about how his religion demeans and disrespects me, or justifies violence and hateful bigotry against me. It still does all those things, whether he chooses to be oblivious or not. Meanwhile every store I walk into, I’m listening to a sharp bell (repetitive high frequency noises HURT some people you know), encouraging me to give money to an organization which supports curtailing human rights and promotes bigotry – but they get away with it (and their own child molestation scandal to boot) because of their faith. The poster who stated these people think they own December, isn’t joking – of course now it’s December, November and half of October they’ve claimed.

    If you put up a poster of Hitler, in a public place that is the center of our government, because of some obscure good idea that he had, in the midst of all the genocidal crap he came up with – do you REALLY think any Jewish, Romanies, Poles, Disabled and Gay people are WRONG for saying your posters is advocating aggression directed against them?

    And as long as the Abrahamic religions (and let’s face it, they’re still leading the charge) insist on supporting any part of the aggressive attitudes in their bible, against EVERYONE else, no one gets to whine that we can’t SAY that their message is dangerous to ourselves and the world – we have a right to condemn public displays of belief structures which condemn us to hell and call us inferior to a believer.

    • Neko

      I invoke Godwin’s Law on this dissertation.

      • clevertitania

        Godwin’s Law is comparing your opponents behavior (or that of the group/person they’re advocating for) to that of Hitler, the Nazi’s or Fascism – it’s about using unnecessary hyperbole and irrelevant connections, to slander your opponent or steal the argument. If you’re discussing modern day genocides, like Rwanda, and someone is comparing them to the Holocaust, you don’t invoke Godwin’s Law (because it would make you a pedantic fool).

        And if someone is talking about the way that a single group or person, can represent painful oppression and death to entire groups of people – the way that the Christian churches do – using Hitler is not remotely a hyperbolic comparison.

        I could’ve used the name of any person who both had a handful of reasonable political ideas, and still condoned genocide of large swaths of people – Hussein, Pol Pot, or Stalin – and the argument would’ve been the same. You’re reaching with trying to throw GL at it.

        • Neko

          Really?

          As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

          • faithnomore

            Yes really…actually read the entire article you posted…not just that little definition

  • Leah

    One problem of accuracy with the sign: it claims that religion is but (implying “only”) myth and superstition that hardens hearts. This is true in lots of cases, but various manifestations of religion have also softened many hearts, as well.

    Also, it’s been mentioned by other people, but what’s up with the design of the sign, itself? Why the emphasis on the red candy-canes, which have strong associations with Christmas but nothing to do with the solstice, for instance?

  • Adrian Forte

    I can understand the point of this, of course, but living in Illinois, and having spent a lot of time in Springfield, I am just not sure how much impact or point is going to be made by this display in a section of the state where shooting at street signs is still a major hobby.

  • Marianne D

    I guess I can see how some people will view it as an aggressive message, but it leaves me with a very positive and uplifted feeling, really!

  • tesmith47

    i am impressed!!!!


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