Who needs fundamentalism during Christmas? Nobody.

You may have heard about the 40 x 40 foot billboard launched this week in Times Square by the American Atheists. It’s digital, and plays this:

 

Over on the Unfundamentalist Christians Facebook page, a reader named Jill Sofia left the message below, which I think is one of the better commentaries I’ve read on this matter:

Having numerous fantastic atheist and agnostic friends, as well as an agnostic husband, I never had any problem with those “Good Without God” billboards. But IMHO this animated billboard—placed by American Atheists in Times Square—is not only obnoxious, but is also playing right into the hands of religious fundamentalists who claim there is a “War on Christmas.” (I can just see the fundies wringing their hands with glee, saying, “See? We were right!”) If American Atheists wanted to emphasize that it’s more important to do works of charity than go to church during this season, that should have been their primary statement. Instead, the first message is “WHO NEEDS CHRIST [crossed out] DURING CHRISTMAS? NOBODY.” Again, I do not challenge their freedom to put up this sign—that is their legal right. But I find it at least as creepy and hostile as the “Keep Christ in Christmas” signs waved around incessantly by fundamentalists.

Sanity for the win.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • BarbaraR

    It seems kind of schizophrenic, does it not? Largely the holidays are (or were at one time) religion-based. Saying “Happy holidays” without acknowledging that seems… odd, as those holidays would not exist without that foundation. Perhaps other holidays would have popped up in their place if they did not already exist – but Saturnalia et al were religion-based as well.

    I am totally fine with atheists, agnostics, etc., but advertising it seems as bizarre as the made-up “War on Christmas” thing… like spoiling for a fight.

    I don’t know. I could be wrong. Will think about this.

    • Amy

      Except when you say Happy Holidays, you ARE acknowledging that. Holiday = “holy day,” literally, the same way Christmas = “Christ’s Mass.” I always understood “Happy Holidays” to be a nod to the fact that it’s an entire, two-month season of holidays celebrated by a variety of faith traditions. Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and Remembrance/Veteran’s Day are secular; Advent, St. Nicholas, St. Lucia, and Christmas are Christian; Hanukkah is Jewish; Diwali is Hindu; Yule is Pagan. Kwanzaa and St. Stephen’s/Boxing day aren’t really religious but aren’t purely secular either.

      I do agree with you that this atheist group is terribly obnoxious and playing right into the hands of the Christian right.

      • Pavitrasarala

        I couldn’t agree more. I’m tired of certain groups within every belief system trying to claim they’re the best or treating what they believe like it’s an exclusive club that entitles them to troll everyone else. Enough already. I thought the fact that we are in a new century meant we were supposed to be moving forward. Instead I see more backbiting, fighting, arrogance, prejudice, etc., than ever. It makes me worry for my children’s generation, and especially for people like my children, who are special needs and who find a great deal of comfort and security in the beliefs in which my spouse and I are raising them.

        • Bill Steffenhagen

          That’s an excellent point that hadn’t occurred to me until this moment. I raised my sons to think for themselves and today one of them is Liberal and not “religious”, single and “worldly” in his philosophical outlook and the other is a family man, church goer, Conservative and somewhat more parochial. But both are thoughtful, compassionate men. So I tend to be strongly against what I think of as “brainwashing” children while understanding that special needs children and indeed, adults as well, may need more “direction” for spiritual comfort. Your thoughtfulness on this subject is commendable.

          • Jill

            Bill, it is really wonderful that you have raised your sons to be positive influences in the world and rise above the cubbyholes of thought, especially considering what you have shared on the blog about the rather austere sounding relationship your father had with you.

            I often think of the people here that have shared painful childhood experiences and have found the strength within to overcome, to become greater than the sum of our parts, as it were. Blessings to you!

          • Bill Steffenhagen

            Wow. You remember me! Thanks Jill. It’s always gratifying to know that my thoughts touch others. John (thru his blog) is a wonderful resource to us all.

          • Jill

            I remember you wrote one of my all-time favorite comments on this blog about God is love. I still keep it close by.

          • Jill

            Found:

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2012/08/10-secrets-to-life-drag-queens-know-that-even-yoda-hasnt-figured-out-yet/

            “God is NOT the Bible. God is LOVE. That’s so simple, so much easier and makes life so much better all around. I think that’s what Jesus tried to show us. If we are to be primarily concerned about the afterlife to the extent that we dismiss worldly human relations, then what was the point of his very humanistic teachings?”

            GREAT stuff– all of it.

          • https://elizabeth-fullerton.squarespace.com/resume Elizabeth

            Soulmentor FTW.

      • sisterfunkhaus

        I also consider New Year’s Day to be a part of the holidays.

        • Amy

          Yeah, I missed a few. That’s a pretty huge one. I also missed Epiphany in the list of Christian holidays.

    • Maria rosa santacruz

      Totally right.

    • sisterfunkhaus

      The Catholic Church positioned Christmas around the non Christian holiday called Yule specifically. The winter solstice is also at this time and was popularly celebrated by pagans. So, another non Christian holiday does occur at this time of year and was here before Christmas. Christians just appropriated it for themselves and pulled many of the traditions into Christmas. They stole a holiday and now they are crying about people not using the words they want people to use.

  • KJB007

    First–I am Atheist. I can’t stand this group. The leaders of it are as bad as any TV Evangelist. They’re trying to build an empire; a non-church church. It’s all about M O N E Y!

    • Castilliano

      They promise false miracles?
      Set up fake ‘revelation’ through prayer cards & radio transmitters?
      Pass an offering plate and/or demand tithes?
      Threaten you with damnation?
      Set up missions centered around God before actual service?
      Tout anti-gay propaganda then get caught with a male hooker?
      Tout abstinence & marriage values then get caught with a mistress?

      Hmm… I didn’t know that. They must have been busy to be “as bad as any TV Evangelist.”

  • John G

    Completely agree. I’m friends with a number of atheists, and I respect their right to their religion (or as they’d put it, lack of religion) and they respect mine. THIS sort of thing is pushy evangelism of the same sort that turns me off when “Christians” do it.

    • Comfortably numb

      Atheism is a lack of belief in any god or gods, nothing else.

      • Mariusz7

        This is a philosophical discussion; never ending; you may say that an atheist “lacks of belief” in any god, but at the end since science can’t prove there is a God, then you have to ‘believe’ either that there is or there is not. As long as science can’t demonstrate either way we won’t end this argument.

        • jilliliz

          Very well put.

        • sisterfunkhaus

          You actually don’t have to believe that there is or is not a God. You can say “I don’t know.” You can also be atheist without the belief that there isn’t a God. An atheist can say that there is a lack of evidence for God, therefore I do not choose to believe. Also, saying that one does not believe in God shows a lack of belief. It’s not the same as saying you believe there is no God. If you state that there is a God, you are the one stating a belief or claim. Me choosing not to subscribe to your belief does not constitute a belief on my part, period. I do not have a belief that there is or is not a God. My stance is that there is no evidence for God. If there ever is, I will be more likely to adopt a belief.

          • http://faithlikeaman.blogspot.com/ Ryan Blanchard

            Bingo. I try to use the terms implicit atheist (I do not believe in gods) and explicit atheist (I believe there is no god). I personally am an implicit atheist, and find this billboard ridiculous.

            As much as Frank Schaeffer does enough shilling of his books as to not need any help, his book Patience With God deals with this exact issue – religious fundies and atheist fundies, and how they’re not all that different (the section on Richard Dawkins selling “A” pins for atheists to wear on their clothes is especially poignant).

          • JohnLederer

            There’s a word for your position and it’s not atheist. It’s agnostic (uncertain about whether deities exist). By definition, atheists deny the existence of divinity (the prefix a- meaning no or non and theist meaning belief). Conversely, agnostic literally means “no or without knowledge”.

            But, back to the point. As an atheist, I don’t believe that there is no god. I deny the very question of belief as a moot point. If something is not there, then whether someone believes in it or not has no effect on its existence. Ex. I can believe all I want that there’s a dinosaur in Central Park, but that won’t change the reality that there isn’t one.

          • Castilliano

            Are you paying attention to yourself?
            no + belief = ‘no belief’, not ‘belief not’ nor ‘belief against’
            Sort of like theist would be believer and atheist would be nonbeliever.
            Though similar, no belief in god(s) does not equal belief there are no god(s).
            That said, dictionaries differ.

            Agnostic does mean without knowledge (with implications of the divine), but this can apply to atheists & theists. Some would argue it applies to all of us if we argue finely enough.
            There are those who are certain a god exists. These are theists.
            There are agnostics who choose to believe, or at least desire the belief to be true, and they are theists too.
            There are agnostics who do not like taking a stance, but since they don’t believe in god(s), they would also be atheists, though may dislike the term due to connotation.
            There are agnostics who do take a stance, seeing religion as silly, or even corrupting. These are atheists who accept the connotations. Some go so far as to call themselves anti-theists, seeing religion as a pernicious blight. Hitchens was such.

            Sam Harris didn’t accept the term atheist until it became convenient for clarity’s sake.
            I know several nonbelievers who avoid the atheism label for it’s lack of description, or because it frames their worldview in terms of opposition rather than substance. But they’re still atheists too. And most are agnostic, most often humanist or secular humanist. Standing for universal human values, setting religion aside.
            Apatheist is a new term for those who don’t believe, but also don’t care.

            Today’s major atheist, Dawkins himself, says he’s technically an agnostic. He admits he does not know for certain about god’s existence, but equally so cannot verify the nonexistence of the tooth fairy or unicorns.
            Or Russell’s teapot for that matter.

            One can be certain enough, without fully knowing or proving god’s absence, to call oneself an agnostic atheist, and still be inviting of any new evidence.

            And as a sidenote, many atheists are willing to concede the possibility of a Deist god (or even Pantheist), but find the biblical Yahweh and other revealed gods ludicrous.

            Cheers.

          • JohnLederer

            You just made my point.

        • Sven2547

          As long as science can’t demonstrate either way we won’t end this argument.

          Given that the existence of god(s) is a non-falsifiable hypothesis, it cannot even be evaluated logically or scientifically.

          • Mariusz7

            I agree it is non-falsifiable, today. I hope that in a few thousand years our understanding of the Universe (Multiverse perhaps?) will let us have a falsifiable hypothesis about the existence of God or gods.

      • sisterfunkhaus

        Yes, this. A lack of belief in something is not a set of beliefs or a religion. You cannot have a lack of belief and a belief at the same time.

  • Ronnie Brokaw

    I love it. It is about time that somebody call these Xmas Nazi’s out for trying to highjack the holidays.

    • Maria rosa santacruz

      Holy days, means saintly days, What part of Holy don’t you understand? if you don’t like my religion don’t embrace and don’t celebrate it. I don’t care what you religious beliefs are, it is none of my business, and yes militant atheism is a religion, otherwise atheists will not feel so threatened by a beeing they don’t believe on

      • JohnLederer

        You don’t understand atheism or religion, do you? Atheism is, literally, the rejection of religion. Therefore, it is not and inherently cannot be a religion. Atheists do not feel threatened by “god”, we are threatened by those who believe in “god” though, on a regular basis. For most of us, fortunately, these threats are typically attempts to remove our right to hold our beliefs or lack thereof, but in some areas these threats involve violence and even being incarcerated or killed for our lack of belief.

      • Ronnie Brokaw

        Who said anything against the word “Holy”? “Happy Holidays”, doesn’t exclude anybody, including Christians. There are many holiday traditions celebrated around this time of year. Christianity…your doing it wrong.

  • Matt

    I just really think: Is this necessary? That’s what I always try to do when I speak. Does what I say actually contribute to anyone’s health and happiness, or peace and clarity on the subject at hand?

    This just makes me exhausted. Stop fighting!

  • Bernie Keefe

    Jill was spot on!

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    I am puzzled. Xmas IS Christmas. X is the first letter of the Greek Χριστός (Christ), so it has been used historically in terms such as Xian, Xianity, and Xmas.
    Also, there can be no contest, argument, or ‘war’ unless there are two sides. Some Christians have been screaming pitifully about the war against Christmas ever since I was a kid in the 50s, even though there was no one on the other side. It seems that they have now been engaged and, in their eyes, vindicated.

  • Ignatz

    Fundamentalists are obnoxious. Including the fundamentalists who don’t believe in God.

    Fundamentalist Christians become atheists, and they just change the labels. Not the simplistic way of thinking.

    • jilliliz

      Concur.

      In liberal Seattle (which I love! Because I’m liberal!) I’ve had far more atheists preach and evangelize at me–to the point of calling me stupid for saying, “I don’t know about this “god” thing. I can’t know. And neither can you!”

      • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

        If your experience is accurate, it is a good sign for the nation.

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

      In what way is not believing in gods fundamentalist?

      • Ignatz

        In and of itself it isn’t. Neither is believing in God. Fundamentalism isn’t a specific belief, it’s black/white simplistic thinking that includes a certainty of one’s own rightness and the need to demonize those who differ.

        • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

          Were Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass fundamentalists?

          • Ignatz

            No, they did the OPPOSITE of considering themselves the Only Truth and demonizing their enemies. Very religious, though.

          • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

            Gimme a statement from any prominent atheist that demonstrates “black/white simplistic thinking that includes a certainty of one’s own rightness and the need to demonize those who differ” and I have ~60-70% confidence I can give you a similar statement from King or Douglass.

        • MineApostasy
          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            xkcd is always appropriate.

          • Ignatz

            MOST people are superior to both.

        • Castilliano

          No, it doesn’t.
          It means it’s based on fundamentals (set in stone!).
          It was first applied to actual Fundamentalists who were only Christian. They developed a poor reputation which has developed the connotation you are mistaking for its actual meaning. Then many decades later it was applied to other literalists (such as Islamist extremists) who only heighten the negative aspect, but still it’s rooted in religious doctrine, and to a large degree, literalism.
          Both have major aspects of hate-crime involved that make it hard to take your usage seriously.

          Atheism has one doctrine, “atheists do not believe in god(s)”
          It has no holy text to take literally, nor foundations to base fundamentals around.
          Ardent or strident atheism might serve you better.

          Cheers.

          • Ignatz

            [Atheism has one doctrine, "atheists do not believe in god(s)"]

            But individual atheISTS may believe or disbelieve in a good deal more than that. And if they treat atheism as All Righteousness and religion as All Evil, they are fundamentalists. Stupid, simple, narrow, and unbending fundamentalists.

  • jilliliz

    I like it when I find the part of the internet that agrees with me almost completely.

  • William T. Langill Jr.

    There is a form of Atheism that looks very much like Fundamentalism.

    • William T. Langill Jr.

      I reject them both!

    • buricco

      It is fundamentalism, as far as I’m concerned – atheist fundamentalism.

    • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

      There is a form of Atheism that looks very much like Fundamentalism.

      -A statement made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

      • Castilliano

        Yep.
        First off, Fundamentalists have an actual list of fundamental beliefs one has to follow. An inerrant Bible only being one of them, likely it’s the most defining one.

        Atheism’s only doctrine is ‘do not believe in god(s)’.
        Atheists have no revered text.

        Did you mean ‘pushy’? ‘Loud’? ‘Obnoxious’ even?
        At least those would be accurate.

        • Madison Blane

          Cas, have you been paying attention to American Atheists Inc. and/or their president Dave Silverman lately? They are clearly devolving into the rigidly dogmatic, promoting Atheism as a belief system with rules one must follow. I’m an Atheist and it turns my stomach! He is deliberately provocative and their entire staff encourages the attitude of,” Eff ‘em, they started it” towards anyone who has any sort of faith, as if being an Atheist is some sort of new rebel fad.

          Dave recently dismissed a third of all Jews, claiming that Jews cannot be Atheists (I didn’t know we excluded portions of non-believers just because they choose to keep their cultural identity). He doesn’t advocate for a secular government, he advocates for an Anti-theist government. I am perfectly willing, not only to tolerate religious people, but to respect their right to be religious (and fight for their equality as I would any other American’s) so long as they harm no one else and do not try to push beliefs into laws. Dave silverman and the staff at American Atheist Inc. makes no distinction between Atheism and Anti-theist actions, regularly displaying and encouraging blatant hostility toward believers.

          From what I’ve seen, American Atheists Inc. has earned (and even provoked) every bit of vitriol that comes their way. As I said in another forum, these ads alienate those who could otherwise be reached. If the ad says: “Don’t go to church. You hate it, it’s boring; you probably only go because you feel guilty or obligated” This isn’t an ‘opinion’ it’s telling people what to do and making assumptions about their feelings. (and people wonder why Atheists are called arrogant!)

          We should be asking people to THINK about their religion and examine their choices if we’re going to bring up religion in the (literal) public square. Disrespecting a person because of their closely-held views is NOT the way to start a conversation that leads to anything productive. The entire Times Square advertising campaign this year makes Atheists look petty, arrogant, reactionary, and wasteful – in short, nothing I want to be associated with!

          Is it too much to ask that American Atheist quits assuming that every American knows what an Atheist is and has no misconceptions about our non-belief? Is it too much to ask that they stop treating every Christian like a member of the American Taliban and instead works to promote awareness and provide education? Shouldn’t we be extending respect if we expect to receive it?

          Especially where religion is involved, emotions easily override the capability for rational, logical thought processes that lead to liberation. We shouldn’t strive to piss people off. We want people to THINK and ask questions! We need to be a voice of reason. These billboards don’t make people receptive to dialogue – internal or external – and they damn sure don’t make Atheists seem like safe and welcoming people to ask when beginning to doubt one’s religion. Posturing ourselves as enemies is counterproductive – especially when many could so easily be reached with better tactics. People deserve evidence – rational, coherent justifications – for our point of view and this series of ads is severely lacking.

          • Castilliano

            Lately, no, though I’ve liked Silverman in several confrontations with O’Reilly.

            I agree AA is being counterproductive, and playing to the cliches that hurt understanding & growth. Unfortunately, they are the most prominent atheist group I know of, and we’ll have to continue to constantly disabuse the public of this now reinforced stereotype.
            One rejoinder might be, “Do the loudest Christians best represent Christianity?”

            Atheism might be a rebel fad.
            Hopefully those into it as a fad will realize they have to do more then rebel. They have to find something positive to stand for after cleansing themselves of those superstitions.

            You sound like you’d be a fan of Peter Boghossian.
            He focuses on teaching epistemology to theists, giving them the reasoning tools necessary for discernment.
            Written interview/overview here:
            http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/street-epistemology

            He’s also on Youtube.
            The Imagine No Religion 3 one is a more complete overview with examples, etc.
            I love the Easter Bunny one too. It’s less practical, but it’s one I send to theist friends.

            Cheers.

  • El Tiburón Grande

    This made me ponder if American Atheists is to atheism as WBC is to Christianity.

    • anakinmcfly

      Let’s stick one of each into a room and film it.

    • Worthless Beast

      Not until they start protesting the funerals of religious people with signs reading “Only fools believe in Heaven” or “(Insert name here) is in eternal darkness, suck it up!” some such things. I think it’s possible in the future, but it hasn’t happened yet.

      Oh, poo-crap, I just gave someone the idea, didn’t I?

      • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

        Eternal darkness? Really? “Dead flesh” and “in eternal darkness” are very different concepts. In any case, I would not support personal attacks. I would only support such funeral pickets if they had the right messages.

        • Worthless Beast

          I was only using the most common metaphor for “nothingness” I’ve seen, and the only thing some really hardcore non-believers in an afterlife seem to accept as a metaphor. I saw one proclaimed atheist on Huffington Post casually speculate “maybe it all dissolves into butterflies” – almost certainly referencing the symbolism in a popular anime’ film I know… and he got yelped at… for being imaginative and making a cute pop culture reference… So excuse me if I seem ignorant to use the metaphor of “darknesss” – it’s the only widely accepted metaphor for death I’ve ever seen.

          Also, I don’t think you should support funeral pickets at all.

  • http://www.wineskinsmusic.com/ W. Keith Moore

    I am not a liberal, conservative, moderate or libertarian. I am all 4. And as a matter of facts..this holiday coming up December 25 is a day set aside to remember the story of Jesus being born. I am not preaching this to any of you wonderful readers, and I am not defending anything or attacking anything. But, the FACT is, December 25 is the day that represents the story of Jesus being born. Now, you can do charity, eat, see family, travel, roast your chestnuts, sing carols, or get drunk on egg nog and go a wassailing. You can be an anti-theist, atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian Scientist, Pagan, Baptist, Witch, Lesbian, Gay, Straight, pro choice, pro life, evangelical, fundamentalist, or an un-fundamentalist. Nothing changes the fact that December 25 is a holiday established for centuries, whether stolen from a pagan holiday or not, to represent when Jesus was born. Peace.

    • Castilliano

      Yes. Yes, it is.

      Also fact…
      Few, but some, people still focus on the paganism of it. To them it’s their holiday, and I can’t say if they’re happy or sad at how many pagan traditions have been adopted by mainstream society under Christ’s name while ignoring the pagan origins. (Yule log, yule tree, mistletoe, et al)
      Judging by time & effort, one might argue Christ is not preeminent even in many Christian households.

      Or like the Puritans who banned celebrating it, or America’s
      founders, who worked during it like any other day, there are Christians
      who don’t celebrate Christmas, as they recognize the pagan nature as
      prominent in it, or recognize the day as incorrect, or simply hold a
      mass sans spectacle.

      There is also a growing group who don’t think about Christ on Christmas, but have adopted it for its beautiful Christ-less aspects, or maybe even for its less beautiful commercial nature. Japan, for instance, though it’s still minor there.
      These people, many of them Americans, think about Christ on Christmas as much as most think about Thor on Thursday or Janus in January.
      The story of his birth would not arise there, nor in the houses of those many children being raised without knowledge of its ties to Christ, and the many parents who don’t care.

      So, yes, Christmas was named after the mass for Christ, in which to tell of his birth, and hence it became a Holy Day…holiday, to usurp the pagan holiday that preceded it and was gaining more favorable attention, much to the church’s chagrin.

      I wouldn’t say anybody really wants to remove Christ and just call it Mas, they just want to remind those rushing to reinsert Christ into their lives for that holiday dose of Christianity that they really don’t have to.
      It’s a fine holiday without him. Ho, ho, ho.

      Cheers, and Happy Holidays.

      • http://www.wineskinsmusic.com/ W. Keith Moore

        And it’s a fine holiday with him. Cheers, and Happy Christmas. Peace.

        • Castilliano

          Peace.

      • Worthless Beast

        Ktristmasu! I’ve never been to Japan, but I watch a lot of anime and it comes up – a day that’s mostly about getting your sweetheart presents than anything, and Santa-San.

        Then again some of the anime I watch that has Christian symbolism in it because “someone thought it would be cool” seems to have much better research than most Western “Christian culture” things. (I recently saw a couple of episodes of “Saint Young Men,” for example, a deliberately silly comedy about Jesus and Buddha as apartment roommates in a Japanese city and there were so many little touches that told me that the creator(s) had read at least some of the Bible just for the sake of making jokes) – I’ve seen few supposedly “Christian-culture” American things do so well.

        I also grew up un-churched and when I was a kid, Christmas was about Santa, family and presents. I didn’t actually “get” the religious aspects unless they were *blatantly pointed out to me,* and that’s actually what that billboard does, really. Making a deliberate effort to X-out Christ and say nobody needs him is actually a timely reminder or what “Christ-mas” is supposed to be at core. Thinking about it, if our culture really is edging away from religion, in time, people in the future might celebrate Futurama’s version of the holiday “Axmas” (hopefully without a homicidal robot Santa), but it would come about organically. As it is, REMINDING PEOPLE ABOUT IT… maybe some people are thinking “Hey, thanks for the reminder!” (I’m gonna go to church again out of spite)! In other words, just by drawing attention to it, the billboard creators might be shooting themselves in the foot in regard to trying to make more people think like them.

        • Castilliano

          Lived in Japan. Christmas was pretty low-key. I remember being surprised to see Mary. Once, on a plate if I recall. It’s been awhile.

          With the sign, I understand the worth of the attempt, but I am no fan of the sign. Unless, that is, it is merely to cause the friction that sparks these debates here and in the media. Then it works.
          But, as you say, maybe in reverse.

  • Bill Steffenhagen

    I agree. I’m not atheist, but I would think that, from their perspective, this sign would be counter productive to their purpose….whatever that is. Atheist or not, Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Hindu or whatever, the sign doesn’t even make sense because Christ IS what Christmas is all about. The sign is simply and utterly stupid.

    • http://faithlikeaman.blogspot.com/ Ryan Blanchard

      Yes. It’s hard enough convincing people that we’re not all hemorrhoidal assholes. This doesn’t help.

  • Vincent Zetta

    this is just obnoxious, toxic, ridiculous, childish, not to mention completely inane. for the fundi-atheists who don’t know the story – Jesus was born in a stable, completely destitute, he fed the hungry, loved everyone, thus the spirit of giving on Christ – mas. Reeeeeally bad guy.

    • JohnLederer

      Catholic-Methodist raised atheist here. Eight years of Catholic school. All atheists “know the story”, and we also reject it. The “spirit of giving” on December 25th actually pre-dates Christianity, so no the story did not lead to the practice (giving actually comes from the Germanic peoples whose leaders gave gifts to their followers on midwinter to renew and reaffirm bounds of fealty).

    • Sven2547

      Reeeeeally bad guy.

      I’ve never met any human being, atheist or otherwise, who considered the character of Jesus to be bad.

      • Herro

        Sven, in the gospels Jesus talks about throwing people into ovens. That’s not merely a bad character, but a monster.

        • MineApostasy

          Let’s not forget that he came “not to bring peace, but to bring a sword”, and advocated for blind obedience of slaves to their masters. Acceptable in the bronze age? Sure. Not now, though.

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            He had his followers steal him horses to ride too, and sent demons into pigs, whereupon they ran into the ocean (depending on the text consulted, either a few miles or 30-40 miles–quite a jog, that)–destroying the livelihood of their owner. Also cursed a fig tree for not bearing fruit when it wasn’t actually fig season, and let’s not forget he used parables specifically to confuse people he didn’t think should be hearing him so they wouldn’t get forgiveness for their sins (Mark 4, but also others). He was the starter of a mystery religion, which means he was very invested in the idea of only letting the cool kids figure out what the story was. I don’t think, in the context of the myths, that he was as bad as some folks (like his daddy), but he wasn’t perfect by any stretch.

          • Worthless Beast

            Sorry, I didn’t mean to actually vote you down! I was hitting the reply button and my cursor was nudged…. sorry about that… Not going to vote you up to equalize it out though, because I really *hate* how people treat the pigs story.

            I was actually talking to a friend of mine about it last night. I read somewhere that some scholars think that the story was more of a political allegory than meant to be taken as an actual happening (“Pigs” = “Rome”) … forget where I read that, it was somewhere on Patheos… but anyway… even taken literally, I really hate how people use it to decry Jesus as “cruel to animals” or whatever, because… they always forget about the poor mentally-ill man who was just cured.

            Do you eat bacon? If you eat bacon and whine about this story on the grounds of the “poor widdle piggies,” I feel well within my rights to call you a hypocrite. At least you’re speaking in terms of a herder and his livelihood. Still, if I remember the story correctly, didn’t Jesus kind of leave the demons hanging and gave them the choice of whether or not to go into the pigs? (I always heard that story in church of “the forces of evil always destroy whatever they touch, because it’s in their nature”). I’ve always wondered about the swineherd(s), though, and how they took their lost money but I’ve never “blamed Jesus” as much as I’ve blamed the demons.

            And that’s assuming that the story is meant to be taken as truth and isn’t the Bible’s idea of a political cartoon.

            Furthermore, as I’ve said, whenever people complain about this story, they always forget the poor man who was tormented by having the Legion inside him. No one cares about him I guess (no one but Jesus, I suppose). I’ve had the thought of adopting that character as a personal mascot as I am mentally ill and feel marginalized by society (and even by the Internet). (I also live next to a cemetery that I like spending a lot of time taking walks in). I’m only bipolar, not schitzophrenic or suffering dissassociative idenities or anything, but *whenever people complain about this story* on some kind of “compassionate liberal grounds” I’m always left with the feeling of “these wunnerful Humanists care more about pigs than they do ‘humans’ like me and worse-off.”

            You (plural, society, not necessarily you as an individual) care more about a swineherd or swineherds who can, presumably pick up the pieces and start again with new stock… you care more about a group of pigs (that were probably invasive/wrong for the climate/environment of the region anyway) than you do about someone whose demons have overwhelmed them.

            Seeing how people discuss and react to this story tells me a lot about society and human nature, whether or not it’s a “true” story at all.

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            Wow, that was a heck of a strawman there you’ve built up and destroyed. Too bad I didn’t say or imply anything like that. You’re reading a lot into what I wrote and I appreciate you letting me take the time to set you straight. I did not object to the killing of the herd of pigs because of some concern for the pigs–they were going to be eaten eventually anyway–but because Jesus destroyed some guy’s livelihood by essentially stealing his pigs without compensating him. Do you understand the distinction? Some guy kept pigs not as pets but because they were how he fed himself and his family. A herd implies he was raising them en masse to sell to others, so they were probably part of how he made his money. And Jesus cast demons into them and they ran into the sea, drowning and depriving this guy of the money they’d have raised for him.

            Also, I ought to note that most people who act like the man “possessed” in this mythic tale are actually just mentally ill somehow, which makes the slaughter of the pigs even less necessary. As you yourself have discovered, mental illness can look a lot like the Biblical accounts of demonic possession; it must have looked very mysterious indeed to ancient eyes when someone began acting so strangely. I imagine that’s a big part of why this tale ended up in the canon.

          • Worthless Beast

            The thing that I’m upset about in the way people take it as a story is how EVERYONE FORGETS ABOUT THE DEMON-POSSESED MAN. What you seem to forget is that I care about the guy who lost his money, too – as I’ve said, I’ve always wondered about him. I think it would be cool if we got some story about Jesus slipping him some silver and apologizing for the lost pork, but sadly, we don’t have such a story. Whoever wrote the tales down (whether they were true or not) did not include such a thing as they did not know that centuries later people on the Internet would be worried about the gentile occupier and his filthy ritually non-kosher meat-animals who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

            I don’t see the strawman here. I just LOOOVE how people toss that term around whenever someone disagrees with them even slightly or takes a work of myth in a slightly different way than they do. I’m merely expressing my annoyance at how everyone forgets about the poor guy at the tombs and seem to be more upset at the method of cure than caring about the idea that someone was helped. I get the feeling that most people who love to crow about how they’re more compassionate than Jesus on the Internet would have left that guy to rot because helping him is not worth a little money from a few pockets or already doomed livestock.

            I’m not even saying that Jesus was “perfect” according to modern notions of perfection. I don’t think anybody can be perfect in anybody else’s eyes (unless of course, you’re in love). I’m just saying – “Think of the guy who needed to be rid of his demons, whatever those demons were.”

            Also, as someone said above, your compassion for fig trees is noted. Is your lawnmower tuned up for spring?

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            But are we really that sure that the man was demon-possessed? Every single time we’ve actually investigated these things, it turned out to be mental illness. Nobody’s ever actually seen anything that could really be objectively confirmed as a demon. Nobody’s even ever actually seen anything that could be objectively confirmed as evidence for a supernatural realm. Sounds like he was just ill, that’s all. Just because some ancient writer thought the sick man was demon-possessed (or heard a story about a guy who was described thusly), that doesn’t mean that’s really what happened.

            It’s not that I think Jesus didn’t have compassion; the stories about him are filled with some nice things in between stories about him cursing out-of-season fruit trees, destroying livestock, stealing rides, and calling foreign women “dogs.” As you’ve said, the things we’d consider not compassionate weren’t things that the target audience for those writings could really care about. Humanity’s evolved a bit since then. I don’t think the gospels give a lot of proof that he was perfectly compassionate, that’s all, which is agreement with what you think, it sounds like.

          • Worthless Beast

            I find it kind of funny how you seem to be insisting upon this in literal terms and you seem to be asking me to prove it to you when I am approaching it as a story. Whether truth, fiction, or in between, I think what we take from stories says a lot about us. The way I see a lot of people approaching this *story* tells me something I already know from hard living: loads of people seem to care more about someone losing money than about helping the marginal. I don’t care if you think I’m wrong for this, I stand with the poor bastard in the graveyard and cheer his health. (Just like I cheered when Katniss and Peeta both survived the Hunger Games, when Frodo survived the Cave Troll due to his Mithril coat, whenever I save Hyrule from Ganon as Link, when Clarence got his wings, etc).

            I’m done with this. I’ve really gotten bored and tired. If this means I “lose,” so be it. I have speculative fiction writing to attend to.

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            There’s no loser or winner when the goal is communication, which is one of the most profound things two humans can ever do. No worries. I just think it’s weird that people ignore those details as if they’re utterly irrelevant. Of course it’s a story–not only is it clearly a story as nobody has ever seen demons of any sort manifest but even the details of just where these pigs were and how far they ran got edited as the NT got shaped up. That’s fine. Of course it’s a myth meant to convey a particular spiritual lesson for the Cool Kids Who Have Ears to Hear. I just think that maybe the lessons could have been written with a more moral surface flavor than the ones that got chosen. I’m not even a god and I can see that. Why did this particular myth get chosen to demonstrate this particular lesson? Why couldn’t it have been something else that didn’t have someone innocent being penalized just so Jesus could make a point?

            I guess I’m the nut who sees Superman crash into a house fighting a villain and even as I thrill to the story of Superman beating up the villain, I feel sorry for the poor schmuck who owns that house. I’m not a fan of collateral damage.

          • Anton

            Your abiding compassion for fig trees is noted.

            Do you also take issue with the claim that Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge? I mean, where’s the evidence for that? How dare a piano tutor teach my children such rot?

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            I wish that’d made even the least bit of sense. And yes, I think it was unfair and unjust of this “perfect” divine person to curse a tree that was out of season. The tree wasn’t in season, so it wasn’t supposed to bear anyway. Jesus’ response comes off as petulant and infantile to me. What was the poor tree supposed to do, bear fruit even though it was out of season for fruit? But it got punished anyway for being exactly and precisely the way fig trees were supposed to be.

          • Anton

            You really think the story was all about a fig tree, huh?

          • Worthless Beast

            An online friend of mine were talking about these stories last night. He was raised Fundamentalist but is now Deist and seems to be a bit of an “apathiest” (“don’t care” theology) overall. He brought up this very thing, particularly, how hilarious he’d always found this story. He said “No fruit? FUCK YOU, TREE!” – that made me laugh. I’m going to think “FUCK YOU, TREE!” every time I see the fig tree story brought up now.

            I agree with him that even if taken as not a spiritual lesson (until the advent of digital publishing, we pulped trees all the time to convey lessons), that it’s much less “evil” and more funny. I’ve done a lot worse in my personal tantrums that kill trees.

          • Anton

            He brought up this very thing, particularly, how hilarious he’d always found this story.

            It’s hilarious if you think it’s really about a fig tree. And it’s actually funny that anyone would think that. Even the most literal-minded fundie realizes that the subtext is that the nation of Israel was being critiqued for its lack of support for Jesus’s mission; it actually echoes the parable of the barren fig tree Jesus had related to his disciples.

            But if you’re out to prove that fundies aren’t the only ones without imagination or allegorical insight, you’re doing a fine job.

          • Worthless Beast

            I hope you’re not speaking to me personally. I’m not churchgoing, but I actually retain some Christianity in my spiritually-questioning current state. My friend and I were laughing at how the anti-theists who show up anywhere on the Internet religion is discussed will take this story and be all “Jesus killed a TREE, therefore he is evil!”

            Of course it’s not about the tree. We were sort of laughing at people who think it is and who *focus* on it like they think Jesus is the horrible anti-Lorax.

            I see similiar stuff around the story of chasing the moneychangers out of the temple. How horrible that Jesus is so angry and unstable to flip over tables and chase away livestock! And yet, our modern mythologies have us rooting for action heroes in movies who kill people with fire and stuff… but Jesus doing a little “Occupy” is too much…

          • Anton

            Of course it’s not about the tree. We were sort of laughing at people
            who think it is and who *focus* on it like they think Jesus is the
            horrible anti-Lorax.

            Fully agree.

            I think it’s ironic that nonbelievers get so riled up over the unimaginative literalism of fundamentalist Christians, when they don’t seem to have any more nuanced approach to religious narratives than the fundie does.

          • Worthless Beast

            The more I think about it, I start thinking that “lack of imagination” isn’t actually the problem. It seems to me that people who are most “anti-imagination” are actually very imaginative – so much so that they fear its power in other people and push demands on how people must think.

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            When did I ever give that impression? Most of those stories have some other significance. It’s hard to reckon that someone would have included some utterly pointless plot in there. The religion was a takeoff of a mystery religion–which hinged upon “secret information” in absolutely every communication, so very obviously every little tidbit had some deep cosmological significance, just as the ancient myths about Greek gods can sound a little weird to modern eyes but made a lot more sense viewed from that lens.

            Guess what? I’m not dumb!

          • Anton

            When did I ever give that impression?

            It might have been all those times you mentioned a fig tree. And all those times you didn’t mention any subtext for the myth.

            I mean, if you were trying to give the impression that you didn’t think it was about a fig tree, you could have tried a little harder.

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            Maybe ask next time then, as a gentle reminder. I just don’t think we can disconnect our emotions and moral judgement just because the writers of that allegorical story were communicating something in addition to the surface flavor of the story. Its surface details still matter. At heart, regardless of its other interpretations, we’re still dealing with a dude who got miffed at not getting figs and cursed a tree that wasn’t actually supposed to be bearing fruit anyway at that time of year. I know that Zeus’ many infidelities had some important cosmological purpose as well, but that doesn’t mean those infidelities become okay or excusable. The ends do not justify the means: the surface details cannot be utterly excused or ignored just because they were of lesser importance to those telling the story.

          • Anton

            At heart, regardless of its other interpretations, we’re still dealing with a dude who got miffed at not getting figs and cursed a tree that wasn’t actually supposed to be bearing fruit anyway at that time of year.

            And the point is you can’t ignore the other interpretations without looking like a total choad for thinking it’s about a literal fig tree. I mentioned before that Jesus had already told a huge crowd the parable of the barren fig tree, so its metaphorical import had been established.

            Heh heh. You’re like the people in Life of Brian: “He says the birds are scrounging!”

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            I don’t think I have much more to add. Text can be a clumsy medium; I feel like no matter how much I try to explain and reword myself, you’re not going to understand. That’s okay. Yes, you’re telling me stuff I already knew just as I’m probably telling you stuff you already knew. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, too. I can’t be miffed at a guy who uses a Picard facepalm for an avi. Not like it matters anyway, in the end, I reckon.

          • Ronnie Brokaw

            I don’t think Jesus had any intention of starting any religion, he would have done it in his lifetime. His message of unconditional love has been sadly perverted.

    • Ronnie Brokaw

      Yea, no. This statement is all inclusive. You don’t need to be a Christian to appreciate the holiday season. That’s all.

  • Kim Sylvest

    This post is probably one of the better ones, but there are spiritual mistakes within the post. It is great that Jill has no problem with “Good without God” billboards, has atheist friends and an agnostic husband. The ability to live and let live can be a sign of spiritual maturity. Jill makes the point that the billboard is obnoxious and I guess it is. But us Christians are called to love and have tender hearts towards others especially those who attack and curse us! So rather than calling it obnoxious, I’d prefer to kindly and patiently state the facts of Christmas just as Our Lord Jesus would have us do. Christmas IS the Christian holy day when we honor the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and the Son of God! I believe the reason some want to eliminate Christ from Christmas is they do not like Christ or Christians and are resentful of the Christmas holiday. So on the question of removing Christ from Christmas, I say we honor Our Lord by bending over backwards to peacefully and lovingly take a stand! On the other side, wouldn’t it be great if the atheists and others who want to remove Christ from Christmas possessed the kindness and Grace to just live and let live as well? Is the Christmas holiday really hurting them? The answer is no! Christmas is not harming them, what IS harming them is the poison they carry in their hearts for Christians. Finally, I am no fan of fundamentalists, but ridiculing them is mean spirited and not Christian. We are to love them too!

    • Yvette Rhea

      Good points Kim, but I would like to add something. An Atheist was invited to a church a couple of years ago to answer questions from the church members. One asked why Athiests hated God. The man said, “Why do you hate Thor?”, one person laughed and said…I don’t because I don’t believe in Thor. The man said, well…there’s your answer. I don’t hate God because I don’t believe in God to be able to hate him

      My point…They don’t hate God, they only hate that they are expected to pray at gatherings along with others who believe, , Or that God is shoved down their throats and religion seeps into their Government. Also there are many of us who do beleive in a Creator but aren’t Christian and we are bashed by Christians and our celebrations ignored except for the fun parts of our traditions that are usurped by Christians calling our traditions their own..

      • Kim Sylvest

        Yvette,
        Hating is never the solution to anything. Even if an atheist feels uncomfortable being present at prayer time or even being asked to pray, the solution is not to hate anyone or fight. I do not have the power to change even myself without help from God the Holy Spirit. The Truth is, the best way to handle anyone we find objectionable is to just walk away, not fight back! This Truth is absolute and applies to both believers and non believers alike. Why? Because none of us has the power to change another person’s heart or behavior, only the one who created us has that power. The point of human existence is not what happens to us while we are here or how that makes us feel, but how to nurture a calm, loving heart and to serve one another.

        • JohnLederer

          One of the points , Kim, is that we atheists reject your so-called “truth” in favor of demonstrable, verifiable reality. It’s great that you believe what you believe if that’s what you need, just stop forcing it on the rest of us through institutional means. The “truth” you present here is also false. If MLK or Rosa Parks took your advice back in the 1960s, we’d still have segregation today. If sufferagettes had taken your advice, women still wouldn’t be allowed to vote in the U.S., or work outside the home (for those outside the working class), there’d be no women in Congress. Sometimes people need to be confrontational, as it is sometimes the only way to make change.

        • Sven2547

          The Truth is, the best way to handle anyone we find objectionable is to just walk away, not fight back!

          A very convenient argument when you’re in the position of greater power. Of course you don’t want people “fighting back”.

  • Amanda Smith

    Wow, some people are really putting a bad face on athiesm.

  • de_la_Nae

    I imagine the idea is to give us a taste of our own medicine.

    Too bad I don’t think the more egregious offenders among our brethren will get it. They uh…it seems sometimes that they tend to allow their Inner Defender voice to get really much too loud, and drown out that self-reflection thing.

  • Reisa Mary Stone

    Having been personally attacked, libeled and my sponsor harassed for my harmless cultural spiritual traditions by Hemant Mehta of “The Friendly Atheist,” (here on Patheos) I’m not at all surprised some atheists would launch attacks elsewhere.

    They brutally attacked cultural healing traditions my family has held for thousands of years. Both the post and following comments were rife with historical ignorance, racism, misogyny and as pure a meanness as I’ve ever seen in religious fundamentalists.

    Not only that, the atheist attackers passionately supported one of “theirs” who started the ruckus as revenge for my reporting her friends to the SPCA for longstanding animal cruelty. I provided such great evidence, a multi million dollar fraudulent animal operation was shut down by the WA Attorney-General. Ms. Atheist didn’t like that one bit, and this was her payback.

    The atheists further attacked staff in my sponsor’s stores in person for supporting my cultural traditions. It was akin to the Inquisition. The company had to cancel my upcoming appearance due to the fear these “Friendly Atheists” instilled with their threatening behavior.

    They were worse than Westboro Church; they actually entered the stores and spat hatred into the frightened clerks’ faces.

    My appearances at these stores had line ups and waiting lists, with glowing reviews. The store had to cancel my next appearance due to the fear these atheists violently instilled in their staff and clients.

    I’m not fundamentalist, but this billboard is pure hatred. I have no problem with outing rightwing fundies who oppress others, nor with outing any religious institution that does so. But to attack everyone who uses the word Christmas, and any Christian in this manner, is pure hatred.

    I am a lifelong student of religion and philosophy. I knew some atheists in university. They were thinkers, and we had stimulating conversations. Unfortunately, some I’ve met in the larger world ARE actually fundamentalists and even personally threatening. They use the same tactics of hate speech and black/white (alleged) reasoning. These are clearly people with immense unresolved issues towards spirituality and perhaps humankind in general. Not thinkers as they would portray themselves.

    • Sven2547

      Ah, you are referring to this posting.

      You weren’t criticized for having “cultural spiritual traditions”, you were criticized for charging money for a sham service, not unlike $20-an-hour “psychics”, homeopaths, and other woo-pushers. You will find that atheists are not the only people who disapprove of such activities.

      It was akin to the Inquisition.

      Don’t flatter yourself.

      • Reisa Mary Stone

        Dear Anonymous Ranter: Ah, homeopaths too. I am wondering from where your expertise comes, as medical doctors don’t usually loiter on the Internet, awkwardly attempting to debunk legitimate natural practitioners. MDs, despite their poor handwriting, are also normally literate.

        I wasn’t “criticized.” Myself and store employees were attacked by neo-Soviet thugs. In some cases, in person. The current Ukrainian Revolution has once again universally shed light on those who commit cultural and literal genocide through repressing and impoverishing those of us who hold to our traditions and our right to earn a decent living.

        If you and your neo-Soviet friends persecute me on the basis that I shouldn’t charge for my talents and the assistance I provide to others—you are telling me to die of starvation. Exactly as the Communists did to my family in Ukraine. Not to mention the Nazis who threw my Dad into a labour camp. They treated Ukrainians as slaves. Clearly, you and your peers wish the same thing on us.

        Just as Jews were presented to the German citizenry as “vermin” who were making too much money. When they were simply practicing their trades. And natural healers who earned their honest livings through Nature based practices, were tortured and murdered in the Inquisition. Mainly for the purpose of seizing their property. I’m not sure what profit you’re making off this. I don’t think you’re bright enough to know the purpose of your mission, yourself. It seems to be a formless discontent. Likely a deep spiritual vacuum; the reason you can’t fathom those of us who live by genuine and traditional values.

        I have no problem with atheists. As I said, I befriended several in University, and enjoyed the debates. Unfortunately, the crop who chose to attack me and my sponsor are not thinkers. They’re hate filled ranters without a rational thought among them.

        As I’m Canadian, I’m fortunate to be protected by democracy and a huge network of supporters who rallied to my side.

        Unlike my people presently trying to reclaim their traditions and earn a decent wage in Ukraine, I have the luxury of introspection: I’m not sure whether I was more ticked at the actual attacks, or the piss poor, illiterate writing I’ve had to wade through. As someone whose book is in the Top Ten Humor writing on Amazon, some of the attempts at same made me reach for the brain bleach.

        You and your neo-Soviet thug peers hold hands with fascists throughout history. Congratulations.

        • Zeke

          “Customers who bought this item also bought: Screwing Gullible Pet Owners for Fun and Profit”

          • Stan Theman

            “And Pretending the Bring Healing and Closure”. Cause it’s all about the Healing and Closure with people whose emotional lives are bound up with creatures that lick their own genitals and get terrified by vacuum cleaners.

        • Sven2547

          Dear person who thinks four sentences is a “rant”, then replies with eight paragraphs:

          Yes, homeopaths. And dowsers and acupuncturists and fortune tellers and speakers-to-the-dead. If homeopathy worked, decaf would be stronger than regular. You don’t need a PhD to grasp the scientific method, and your credential-waving really just belies your insecurity.

          I wasn’t “criticized.” Myself and store employees were attacked by neo-Soviet thugs.

          Did you report this attack to the police? Did you get a good look at their faces or were they wearing ski masks? What weapons did they wield? What were the damages to the store and to your person?

          you are telling me to die of starvation. Exactly as the Communists did to my family in Ukraine. Not to mention the Nazis who threw my Dad into a labour camp. They treated Ukrainians as slaves. Clearly, you and your peers wish the same thing on us.

          I’m not even going to dignify this absurdity with a response. I’m just highlighting it so readers can see it a second time.

          I note that nowhere in your rambling 8 paragraphs do you attempt to defend, explain, justify, or otherwise rationalize your sham service. You’re desperate to keep the subject focused on what a victim you are and what a horrible person I apparently am.

          • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

            If she can distract enough, maybe nobody will notice. Oh wait, we noticed. Dang.

            This deserves a “well that escalated quickly” meme picture, but I don’t have any handy. Consider it given in text. ;)

          • Stan Theman

            Self-righteousness and being a victim are this creature’s means of attracting help and protection for her racket; her sense of outrage is probably genuine, tough to believe as that may be for those of us in the reality-based community to grasp. Some forms of nonsense (and New Age/Crystals/Reiki/homeopathy are all nonsense with bells on for White mIddle-class people with more money than sense) simple absorb their victims’/perpetrators’ minds so completely that they actually believe what they preach, something like the idiot who thinks he’s eating god in communion wafers or the twit who won’t let a Koran be under other books.

        • Stan Theman

          How about getting a real job that requires actual, verifiable skills instead of this new age nonsense? It’s as pathetic a way of making a living as can be imagined; and comparing the people who mock you for doing it to the Soviet Union’s activities is disgusting.
          If you have no sense of shame in pretending to talk to animals, at least try not to pretend to be shocked when people call you out on your nonsense.

    • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

      If you don’t understand what the Inquisition was, that’s okay, but you should probably hold off on comparing your situation to the Inquisition until you do actually understand it, so you don’t come off as self-obsessed and overdramatic, which are things that, in light of Sven’s smackdown, would definitely work against your assertions of having been “libeled” by atheists who had done anything “violently.”

      • Reisa Mary Stone

        Dear Anonymous Ranter: I can’t see how being a University lecturer on the subject makes me anything but an expert.

        • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

          I’m not anonymous (see the username? It links to my Disqus profile, which is long-established, and even mentions my blog by name so you can easily see who I am) and didn’t “rant” at you (in fact all I did was mildly chide you for over-inflating your experience)–your mischaracterization of me speaks volumes about your intellectual honesty. And if you can even start to compare getting dissed on a blog to the tortures of the Inquisition, then you clearly don’t understand much of that history.

          Why do you feel it so necessary to mischaracterize people and events the way you do? It doesn’t speak very highly of you. I didn’t even see the initial piece till Sven so kindly linked to it, but you’re not doing a lot to convince me that it was written in error.

        • MineApostasy

          If you’re a university lecturer, then why isn’t it listed on your website bio? Giving the occasional lecture does not make one a university lecturer: that requires a teaching fellowship.

          • Ronnie Brokaw

            …and it sure don’t make her an “expert”, lol.

        • Worthless Beast

          Hmmm. I am feeling one of my foolish “defend the underdog” impulses coming on… weird urge to play Devil’s Advocate:

          I actually found your website and clicked on it last night, looked around. The first time I heard the term “animal communicator” was at a horse farm I worked for. One of the borders talked about going to an animal communicator to help her through grief over a horse of hers that died. (She also said that her friend wasn’t prefect, having been wrong about the fate of a missing cat), but, you know, the sane response was to smile, shrug, shovel shit as per my job requirements, know that said border was entitled to spend her money any way she wished and to generally be happy that she was helped through her grief by someone.

          I’m skeptical of psychic abilities. I’ve never had anything significantly “psychic” happen to me yet, and I fear “opening myself up” to that kind of thing as some people say one can do will make me crazier than I already am. I have been accused of ESP, but I think that’s just from being able to read people’s behavior and being able to make good guesses. I can certainly see how someone might *think* they have special abilities if they become very good at reading animal behavior. I know from experience that a certain amount of intuition and “just being a really good OBSERVER” is vital for working with anything large and potentially dangerous. What I’m saying is that, if nothing else, I can see how someone’s “imagination might carry them away” into making something overly significant in what they observe.

          That said, if you really do believe you have a special ability, I don’t want to say “hide your light under a bowl,” but charging something for something that’s “not real” is a tricky business. I hate to sound mean, but you aren’t entitled to it. I know the life of a starving artist. Art is something people can SEE, TOUCH, sometimes TASTE, sometimes HEAR depending upon the medium. Stories that are written must be imagined by the mind of the reader. Most people don’t want to pay for art. All my life, it’s “draw me this, draw me that!” just because I *can,* and people getting huffy if I actually ask to make a living off it. The best I’ve done is a couple of brief stints as a graphic designer and there’s very little soul in making newspaper ads for real estate and Italian restaurants. I haven’t been able to publish or sell any of my fiction novels yet. My “calling?” unless I luck into just the right situation and attract the attention of just the right people, I’m left making dip for it and with the world essentially “leaving me to starve.” And, trust me, some of my art… is the kind of stuff people might potentially protest and harass me over. (Ironically, maybe even you… I like collecting skulls I find in the woods and doing stuff with them).

          What I’m saying is that your service is less “real” than mine and I don’t expect to make a living or not to starve for what I do. I’ve long held the view that if any psychic type person wants their abilities to be seen as real, they have to ply them for free and prove their worth to the world. And if they’re never accepted? Be a starving artist. It’s not so bad if you can find another way to make a living or people who care enough about you to keep you alive.

          A tip for speaking with “rationalists” on the Internet (quotes because I’m not sure anyone is completely rational once they get behind a screen)… No hyperbole. comparing things to the Holocaust or Nazis or Facists and such is known as Godwin’s Law and according to the Rules of the Internet, as soon as you invoke it, you lose. It doesn’t even matter if you’re completely right – you lose. If no one is putting you in jail or killing you or your people in the country that you currently live in you are not persecuted. I’m sick of Christians who jump on the persecution-train because people don’t want them setting up a Nativity in a public park or they encounter someone speaking blasphemy on the Internet. I’m sick of athiests who immediately say “We atheists are persecuted and killed in other countries!” whenever someone (bonus points if it’s another athiest) points out where they are being overly rude. I’m sick of yaoi/slash fangirls telling people who don’t like their favorite anime’ boy-love pairing that they are homophobes (bonus points if the person who doesn’t like the pairing is a gay or lesbian individual). This screaming “Nazis are everywhere and everybody who disagrees with me wants me to dieeeee!” has got to stop.

          I’m sure you had a bad experience, but conflating it with historical atrocities does not make you look good. Nor does showing off your Acedemic credentials. Some people who are professors… are idiots. Sometimes education goes to those who can afford it. Expertise in one area does not mean knowledge of another or across the board uber-wisdom. I saw a quote recently attributed to Stephen Hawking: “People who brag about their IQs are losers” – bragging on degrees when you’re already talking to a gaggle of random people who may or may not include fourteen-year olds and probably at least one insane person (hello there) just… doesn’t look good.

          I hope I’ve been helpful. I’m not trying to be mean, I just think your argument style needs work and you need to understand how the “rest of the world” thinks when they see someone who’s “psychic.”

    • Ronnie Brokaw

      The billboard is all inclusive, I don’t know how you can figure it is hatred.

  • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

    The “nobody” in the atheist advertisement sounds so draconian. My initial reaction, having been out of church 20+ years, is to go to a Christmas service to express my right to heresy, (meaning “choice” or “thing chosen.”)

    P.S. War on Weekdays Alert: Next, they’re going to take the Thor out of Thursday, the Woden out of Wednesday, etc. Who needs Thor? Nobody. ;)

    • MineApostasy

      Yep. Get ready for the decimalised week and months! Remember Thermidor? We’re bringin’ it back, baby!

      • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

        Sink me! ~Sir Percival Blakney ;)

  • Sven2547

    Atheist messaging tends to be hit-or-miss. I consider this one a “miss”.

    • Worthless Beast

      This is off-topic, but…

      I’ve seen you around Patheos… with that same avatar. Sometimes I like what you have to say, sometimes I sharply disagree with you, and haven’t engaged with you until now, but this has been tweaking my mind:

      Toon Link!

      I’m a huge Legend of Zelda fan. I actually find it vaguely disturbing seeing the Hero Chosen by the Triforce-Goddesses “talking” about Christianity and Atheism, respectively, but I am warmed by the idea of a fellow Zelda-geek around the forums. (Even though I’m a stupid theist, so you probably don’t like me).

      My current name is kind of a sidelong reference to Twilight Princess… Midna’s insults to the Hero as a wolf. (Though it also expresses how my depression makes me feel about myself, too).

      • Sven2547

        Yep, I’m a big fan.

        Even though I’m a stupid theist, so you probably don’t like me

        If you’ve seen me around, you should already know that is not what I think about theists in general.

        Though it also expresses how my depression makes me feel about myself, too

        You’re getting treated, right?

        • Worthless Beast

          Medication, therapy, a disability check… It’s actually bipolar disorder (mixed/rapid state), so it’s kind of a managble but incurable thing. I’m pretty sure I saw you on the thread at Formerly Fundie about this billboard. That guy who made comments about “psychatric disorders” didn’t sit well with me. In fact, I think that one comment (definitely not yours) on the other thread is what sent me into my latest spiral of “I hate myself and want to die.” I’ll get over it. I have learned to tell when the sadness becomes dangerous and when I just need to get some sleep or play with my 3DS for a while.

    • Ronnie Brokaw

      The message is all inclusive. It isn’t an Atheist message.

  • http://mikemoorehome.com/ mike moore

    Interesting … don’t love the billboard and know nothing about the group backing it … but I live/work on a regular basis in New York, and I’m the token “goy mentsh”** among of group of friends/colleagues who adhere to beliefs of Reformed Judaism.

    During pre-dinner cocktails the other night, I entered a little conversation knot … except the 4-5 people stopped talking as soon as I poked my head in. I backed out, “sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt.” My buddy Rick says, “no, stay, we’d like to know your thoughts on something, but promise not to get offended.”

    They had been talking about that billboard. Like me, they don’t love the billboard, but they loved the message.

    To summarize my little crew’s attitude, they feel that for generations Christmas has been this inescapable whirlpool, sucking them into a Christian holiday, and at times, forcing them to participate in a Christian tradition — company and business-related Christmas parties, Secret Santas, gift-giving, etc. They are particularly annoyed when expected to bow their heads during a public prayer that ends, “in Jesus’ name.” — a tradition celebrating the birth of “their” Messiah. Which Jesus is Not.

    My friend Lori told us about the cold shoulder her brother, who lives in Dallas, gets when he wishes people, “Happy Holidays.” Most everyone in the group had experienced either the same or similar, at one time or another,

    What they loved was not the billboards (all of us media-types, we ripped the production and composition to shreds) but, rather, that someone was finally stating what they also believe, which is: Christmas is completely and utterly inescapable for non-Christians, so let’s celebrate it like Thanksgiving, with family gatherings, vacations, charitable giving, great food, and lots of football. In other words, all the elements mentioned in Times Square billboard.

    General consensus: happy to see the sign, and that it is long past time to publicize this message.
    ______________________________________
    ** For fellow Episcopalians:

    The goy-mentsh title was bestowed upon me when I was once asked if I was religious. I replied, “yes, I’m Episcopalian,” and the response I received was, “Boy, that’s not a religion, that’s a country club, you’re with us now.” So, I’m now considered an honorary part of “The Tribe.” You, know, like in ‘Dances With Wolves’ … except my tribe is more barbaric, comprised of lawyers, accountants, and agents.

    I keep asking when will I get a Beanie like theirs, because it’s super fun to watch them slap their foreheads.

    • Jill

      MIKE MOORE! My day is now complete.

      • http://mikemoorehome.com/ mike moore

        hey Jill, hope life is good!

    • Stan Theman

      In other words, the other part of the 1%, the one that started most of the private schools?
      Wow, don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back, pal!

  • Carl

    For the 80% majority of this country who are professed Christians, regarding this “War on Christmas”business.

    First of all, a little history; the date of Christmas doesn’t have anything to do with the birth of that 1st century rabbi. December 25th was the date
    of the feast of Saturnalia, a Roman Pagan holiday. Modern American
    Christians are aware that the Jewish people have a holiday at the
    same time of year, they are less aware that so do most religions.
    Constantine I, when he wished to convert his empire to Christianity,
    knew that getting his Pagan subjects to give up their celebration
    wouldn’t work, so he declared it the date of Christ’s birth. In the
    Biblical account, the cold and lambs in the pasture indicate spring
    time in Israel.

    So lets consider, why do so many religions have a winter holiday near the longest night of the year? Winter, as we northerners know, can be a long, cold, dark, depressing slog. So how can we break it up a little? How about if we have a
    party, with food and music and a drink or two, and a day off work, gifts maybe? Yeah, that would break up the gloom for a bit.

    Now, back to the Christians, nobody really knows for sure when Jesus was born, so December 25th is as good a date as any to celebrate he founder of your religion, but don’t act like you have a monopoly on seasonal festivities. In
    truth, you’re “Johnny-come-lately’s” to winter solstice merriment. The “Christmas Carroll” referring to “Boughs of Holly” and “Yuletide treasure”, well Yule is the Celtic Pagan winter holiday, and holly and mistletoe also from that tradition,
    while the “Christmas tree” is a Germanic Pagan tradition. Now you’re welcome to borrow any iconography you like, (that habit isn’t restricted to just Christmas) but understand when others insist you can’t have the season all to yourselves.

    I don’t freak out when a shopkeeper wishes me a “Merry Christmas” either in person or on a sign, most often I respond in kind. But those that wish to include the rest of us that aren’t Christian, with a generic and inclusive, “Happy
    Holidays” are NOT at war with your holiday.

    It’s a great big world, with some really fabulous forms of communication. You aren’t going to be able to obliterate any reference to to other religions. If Christianity is going to convert non-Christians, they’re going to have to do so in an open marketplace of ideas, whether they like it or not.

    • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

      I think winter holidays happened because there wasn’t a whole lot else to do. Farmers like winter around here because it means they get to rest and catch up on home projects. If you were going to do a huge celebration, winter’s the best time to do it because everybody’s got some free time.

      I love the sheer variance in humanity’s approaches to the divine. I think there’s room for everybody. Christmas is one of the very few rituals and observances that all religions can enjoy and participate in–you’d think Christians would welcome anybody who even showed the slightest interest in their doings, rather than howling and freaking out when someone chooses to call it something else.

      • Ronnie Brokaw

        Actually, the holiday is a marker for the Winter Solstice. It has been and still is celebrated by pagan cultures way before the Christians hijacked it. Constantine, trying to unite the Roman Empire, merged the many traditions together. As a result, most of the traditions practiced by the Christian community during the holiday are actually pagan in origin. The “doings” are not Christian. But yea, you’d think so.

        • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

          Oh, absolutely. Pretty much all of the holidays Christians think of as “Christian holidays” are pagan–Easter springs to mind here as well. Not saying otherwise. The earliest Popes did their very best to integrate all those pagan religions together with Christianity. It worked marvelously. A pity most Christians don’t know much about their own history.

          Something that troubled me very greatly, toward the tail end of my time in the religion, was discovering some of those letters Popes wrote about deliberately appropriating pagan gods and holidays to make it easier for people to convert. I wish my religion had been more honest with me about its past. I don’t regret learning the truth, but it’s a collision, a showdown, that didn’t really have to happen.

    • Ronnie Brokaw

      Preach it!

  • Worthless Beast

    I know a solution to the problem of the “culture wars” of every American winter:

    I say we get rid of Christmas. Altogether.

    In my experience, this consumer-driven, obligatory “holiday” is as bad for the poverty-stricken Christian as it is, presumably, for the inundated atheist. (Oh, there are some commercials, particularly for SUVs that I want to *punch* right now…)

    So, I know we aren’t going to get rid of Christmas…. but someone who’s not an atheist can be a Grinch, right?

  • DonRappe

    This billboard seems to take all of the gas out of those attacks on the greeting “Happy Holidays”. Since I think these attacks have nothing to do with Christianity, I am happy to see such a sign. There can be no doubt that the Feast of the Nativity is the first of twelve minor Christian holy days known collectively as the days of Christ mass. They lead to the more important Feast of The Epiphany of our Lord. When the time comes, I wish all a Feliz Navidad and a happy solstice season. Can’t we all get along?

  • Guest

    I’m with Jill. Evangelical fundamentalist atheism is just as obnoxious as it’s theist counterpart – and neither serves any greater purpose than polarizing the community to perpetuate misunderstanding and tribalism, while lining the pockets of the respective demagogues.

    I personally like a lot of what the atheist movement puts forth. I think they can and often do make a great contribution to our public dialog.

    But this aint it.

    • Stan Theman

      Who are the atheists with lined pockets? Even the “4 Horsemen” have quite good jobs outside atheist “activism.

  • Anton

    I’m a progressive Christian, and it seems like atheists can’t win in America. Every time they try to make their presence felt in society, there are howls of butthurt from the Christian majority. The New Atheists write books full of irreverent wit, compassion, and intelligence, but they’re dismissed as hateful fundamentalists for some sound bite. It seems like we’re not ashamed of having something anachronistic or irrational in our dogma, we’re just ashamed of having it pointed out.

    I’m getting tired of the paranoid style of American discourse. If nonbelievers want to add a message to the slew of holiday slogans we see at this time of year, I say we should cut them some slack.

    • Digger

      I absolutely disagree with every breath uttered by progressive christians, but as long as progressives use phrases like “howls of butthurt”, I’m going to keep reading the progressive blogs. How can a person not smile after reading, “howls of butthurt”? That is one darn good use of the English language. I thank you for its use.

  • cajaquarius

    Can the New atheists come across as a bit childish at times? Yes. But as a gay theist who has dealt with rejection and people insinuating terrible things about me and my motives, sometimes I feel I could explode. And sometimes my own side of the minority pie does explode and does something embarrassing and not all that helpful. I once read that atheists are the most mistrusted minority in the US; add to this Christians who see them as simply defying God (not even bothering to understand their situation – something I can *really* understand) and I can see a personal kinship with the atheists (even if I am not one). Sometimes you just vent and you troll a bit because it is all you can do to stop crying.

    • Andy

      This comment needs more love.


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