If You Wrote This Anonymous Note, You’re a Jerk

Things that are okay to criticize: Nativity scenes on government property.

Things that are okay to criticize only if you’re a complete asshole: Nativity scenes on your neighbor’s lawn.

That’s what an anonymous letter-writer did to Kristen Hunter‘s family in Newton, Massachusetts:

Kristen Hunter

The “neighbors” who sent the letter wanted to point out that the entire neighborhood is not Christian and may not want to look at their decor, especially given that it is “cheap, tacky and kitschy.”

The note stated that the “neighbors” have held their tongue in the past, but felt it was important to make their concerns known this year. Because “not everybody in the neighborhood is Christian” they believe that people do not want to “see such a flagrant display” of Christian beliefs.

The letter also stated that the decorations were tacky, calling them a “terrible eye-sore on the neighborhood.”

“All religious matters aside, your decorations themselves are beyond tasteless,” the letter said.

The “neighbors” conclude the letter by telling the family that they are free to worship and celebrate however they’d like and they are even “free to have bad taste” but they ask the family to do those things in the privacy of their own home.

We don’t know if the letter-writer (and I’m assuming there really was a letter-writer here) was an atheist, but it looks that way. If the letter is real, then that person’s just being a jerk. And Hunter was as classy as ever, especially with her reaction to this question:

Reporter: The letter came anonymously. They said, “How would you like to drive by an anti-Christian display?” What did you take [from that]?

Family member: You know what? If that’s what they wanna do, that’s fine. People have the right to celebrate.

Of course, Fox News is jumping on this story because War on Christmas.

(Thanks to @imjustasteph for the link)

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.

  • Art_Vandelay

    In what way does the letter-writer look like an atheist? That’s no atheists that I know. Furthermore…how did the news get hold of a story where a neighbor gave this woman an anonymous letter? Did this lady actually call the news over this?

  • unbound55

    Interesting thought. Perhaps a letter she generated herself?

  • Art_Vandelay

    I have no idea. It certainly could have been her evil atheist neighbor I suppose too but I’m just trying to come up with a scenario where if I were this woman, my first inclination would be to call the news. That’s insane.

  • UnePetiteAnana

    It could have been one of her friends or something. I’m with you, I wouldn’t have called the news if someone wrote a letter like this to me but I’d be more inclined to do so if it was a friend that received the letter.


  • invivoMark

    That was my first thought. This isn’t newsworthy, and wouldn’t come to light unless one of the people involved wanted it to.

    Not to downplay the assholitude of the letter-writer (assuming the facts are as they seem), but this lady doesn’t seem like much of a saint, either.

  • http://www.greatestescapist.com/ Kate / @heyescapist

    It feels like one of those things that could easily catch on in a small town, though. In my hometown, a girl I went to high school with posted something dramatic & incendiary to her Facebook page – & it became local news the next day, without her specifically calling reporters’ attention to it (to my knowledge).

  • invivoMark

    Facebook is a good deal more public than a letter between neighbors. When some people post something on facebook, hundreds of people might see it within the first hour. You don’t have to do anything special to call anyone’s attention to it.

    Having said that, though, you could be right about the small town thing – Wikipedia tells me Newton is a “suburban town” around 80,000. That could be the sort of place where gossip proliferates wildly.

  • http://www.greatestescapist.com/ Kate / @heyescapist

    Right, though I guess I was thinking that this woman could’ve, for example, posted a photo of the note, or a status update *about* the note, & it would’ve served the same purpose.

  • invivoMark

    Very true.

  • $84687101

    My favorite part is this exchange:
    Anchor: “…but there’s more to this story, right?”
    Location reporter: “Oh, there’s much more to this story…”

    Oh wait, no, not really.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    We don’t know if the letter-writer (and I’m assuming there really was a letter-writer here)

    Yes we do. The letter exists. Someone wrote it. Perhaps you meant to suggest that someone in the family itself wrote the letter. Quite possibly. I think it was a bar bet; that woman is going to win a lot of money for appearing on the TV news wearing a skinned beaver tail in her hair.

  • $84687101

    No, we don’t, unless you’ve seen it another source? The linked page doesn’t show the letter, the video doesn’t show the letter, and the reporters do not claim to have seen the letter. The only evidence I’ve seen of the letter is the woman who claims to have received it saying she received it. Have you seen other evidence?

    Now, a letter from an angry neighbor isn’t all that unusual a claim, but still, we don’t know that it exists outside of that woman saying it does. And she got a free box of Christmas lights out of this, apparently.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    But more importantly, why was Fitchburg State University closed?

  • Kingasaurus


    The Snow, the snow… 😉

  • 7Footpiper

    I could jump in by saying “no true atheist” but it’s a waste of time. I’d like to say (especially if Kristen Hunter is reading this) that I’m sorry your neighbor (or atleast the person who wrote the letter) is an arsehole. This is not a reflection of what most atheists truly believe and stand for. Please don’t let this situation dissuade you from celebrating the Christmas season the way you wish to and please don’t assume that all atheists are as mean spirited as the letter writer.

  • UnePetiteAnana

    I truly appreciate this comment. I’m not Kristen Hunter, btw.

  • The Starship Maxima

    Dude/lady, I’ve been saying since forever that the stereotype of the uptight, butthurt atheist is just a Fox News meme.

    But your note is very appreciated all the same.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Several years ago, a christmas light display in my town was vandalised. Members of the local atheist group chipped in to donate money to replace the lights.

  • LesterBallard

    There are those who take the decorating too far. I don’t care if it’s Jesus and Santa or Hitchens and Dawkins. But if you have a complaint, don’t do it in an anonymous letter.

  • Dave

    No mention of Atheism, just (possibly) not Christian and has different taste. May believe in god/s maybe not. Atheists don’t have to take the blame every time someone gives a Christian grief. Could’ve been a Muslim, a Wiccan, or a Buddhist. Or maybe a Christian trying to throw people off the scent.

  • UnePetiteAnana

    I completely agree.

  • tubi11

    “Or maybe a Christian trying to throw people off the scent.”

    Alert Alex Jones…it’s another false flag!

    At least this one’s actually plausible, though not likely I don’t think.

  • Fentwin

    Every North bound mule has a South facing end.

  • WallofSleep

    So far it looks like the only “news” outlets covering this story are Fox and Free Republic. Imma wait and see if there’s any truth to this before assuming there is.

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

    To Kristen Hunter:
    Keep your display. Your home is not a public school, courthouse or any other government building so what you are doing doesn’t bother me in the least. As for the quality of your display; I haven’t seen it so I can’t judge but kitschiness and tackiness are as time-honored a part of Christmas as anything.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I am The Federation Starship Maxima and I approve this message

  • $84687101

    Sounds like the kind of neighbor who’s always complaining that your tree ruins their property value. Assholes come in all shapes, sizes, and philosophies.

  • WallofSleep

    It could be as simple as that. Just a little neighborhood nazi that fancies themselves a one person “home owner’s association”.

  • Major Nav

    Anybody know where I can get an inflatable solstice?
    Maybe I can make a giant yule log? Athough I may have to skip the burning tradition if its on the front lawn.

  • $84687101

    You can always get an inflatable Christmas tree, they’re about as pagan as can be. But maybe you’re looking for something more along these lines (NSFW cartoon): http://positromagnetics.50megs.com/xmascide09/06.html

  • FlyingFree333

    Imagine what a Jewish Holocaust survivor would think of having to look at a nativity display every year right next door, or how about a Muslim who was beaten by Christians after 9/11 for having the wrong skin colour, or a black man who was lynched by a bunch of ‘loving’ KKK members. It’s not just atheists who aren’t fans of having Christianity shoved in their faces absolutely everywhere they turn.

  • The Starship Maxima

    No, they are not the only ones. And they can join all the others in learning to get the fuck over it.

    Welcome to the real world. You will see things that will offend you. Some reasons for your offense are your (or mine, or anyone’s) sensitive feelings. Others are more legitimate.

    The terrorists behind those 9/11 attacks were nominally Muslim, and yet I manage to not gag everytime I see a mosque or a Mohammed display. I am a black man, and I don’t freak out when I see a Confederate flag or a memorial to Robert E. Lee.

    Fortunately, the world is full of people who are mature enough that they don’t judge an entire group by the actions of a few, and realize that their personal offense isn’t always a good enough reason to cater to their feelings.

  • 3lemenope

    I tend to think the problem would be lessened if people didn’t expect others to share in their joy to the same extent or for the same reasons; they refuse to accept “it’s nice that you’re happy” (*ahem* Happy Holidays!) as a general sentiment, and derive offense from the fact you aren’t exactly as happy and for the same reasons as them. It’s difficult for them to understand that something which brings them great joy can mean rather different things to others (some of those things not necessarily being pleasant associations), akin to how people can sometimes be offended when you don’t like the same foods or movies or music as them.

    But on the other token, holidays pass. Unless you actually have PTSD associated with a holiday (which is, like, not impossible but is rare), it doesn’t seem a good or effective approach to be annoyed by everyone around you having fun simply because you are not a participant. Better would be relishing the things you do get enjoyment out of, and are a participant in. This is, for example, the motivation behind how a relatively minor Jewish holiday like Hanukkah became big in Christian-majority countries, esp. in the US where Christmas is done like an event, and it’s an effective strategy where everyone can win.

  • waldteufel

    I smell bullshit.

  • Rob P

    It seems plausible to me. But only as one angry stupid neighbor and not any group, atheist or otherwise.

  • jen

    This is the town where I live. This is a pretty mixed area in terms of population. I’m not making the assumption that it was an atheist who wrote this letter. I think a lot of us are agreed that the problematic displays are the ones on government property. What’s with the recent posts blaming our own community for things we’re not sure we did (this and the feminist riot thing?) WTF?

  • Brian K

    I’ve got to amit I’m tempted to write something like this when people’s kitchy Christmas decorations stay up until March. Then I remember that’s stupid and go back to minding my own damn business.

  • Kingasaurus

    Newton has enough snobs to make it at least plausible.

    It’s no Wellesley, but…


  • The Starship Maxima

    Well done.

  • http://www.greatestescapist.com/ Kate / @heyescapist

    Blurgh, so many people are jerks – religious people, atheist people, people somewhere in between. My neighbors have, like, 18 inflatable holiday displays, & though I’ve often resisted the urge to put them with a kitchen knife, I wouldn’t dream of actually doing it, or even of whispering that their decorations are a tacky eyesore, religiosity or not. No matter where you fall on the religion spectrum (including “nowhere”), I think there’s a lot to be said for loving thy neighbor.

  • Glenn Boyce

    I’m betting this story is 100% made up.

  • Dan

    Yep. It smacks far too much of Palin/O’Reilly “War on Christmas,” “those angry atheists will sue you for having a nativity scene on your own lawn!” BS to strike me as real. I’d bet dollars to donuts the lady just read Palin’s ridiculous book, wrote the supposed letter from a neighbor herself, and called up the local Fox affiliate.

  • Rob P

    Newon MA is a bit upscale so it is plausible that a neighbor is complaining about “tacky” decorations. There is also a sizable Jewish population which makes the “not everybody in the neighborhood is Christian” also plausible.
    I would say that only this anonymous letter writer is bothered by the nativity.

  • Kira

    This neighbor is free to be an a-hole, but he really should keep it in the privacy of his own home.

  • Richard Thomas

    The good thing about not being a member of any religious group is that this person in no way speaks for me. ELE

  • lmern

    I aspire to my own house and perhaps even my own lawn one day. When that day comes, I’ll be happily crafting and displaying gaudy decorations in honour of his noodliness. I can only hope my neighbours would extend the same courtesies to me as this woman is to her anonymous hater.