Atheist sign at nativity scene

An atheist group placed this sign beside a Nativity scene at an Olympia, Washington government building, and some people aren't pleased. The Freedom From Religion Foundation previously posted a sign in Madison, Wisconsin that protestors have reportedly turned around so it can't be read and thrown acid on it. From CNN:
 Cnn 2008 Living 12 05 Atheists.Christmas Art.Atheist.Sign.Olympia "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds," the sign says in part.

Dan Barker, a former evangelical preacher who now heads up the atheist and agnostic Freedom From Religion Foundation, said it was important for atheists to see their viewpoints validated alongside everyone else's...

"It's not that we are trying to coerce anyone; in a way our sign is a signal of protest," Barker said. "If there can be a Nativity scene saying that we are all going to hell if we don't bow down to Jesus, we should be at the table to share our views."

He said if anything, it's the Nativity scene that is the intrusion.

"Most people think December is for Christians and view our signs as an intrusion, when actually it's the other way around," he said. "People have been celebrating the winter solstice long before Christmas. We see Christianity as the intruder, trying to steal the holiday from all of us humans."
Atheists take aim at Christmas (Thanks, Mark Pescovitz!)


  1. Somewhere out there, there’s an atheist man with a degree in public relations.

    One day, he will step forth from the shadows he has wrought and lurked within.

    His winning smile and cunningly designed ad campaign for tolerance and freedom of religion will snare their weakest, like yearlings from the herd.

    Our messiah.

  2. it’s those jingles, you know. We don’t have enough catchy tunes to get that key demographic of real-life unicorn chasers.

  3. What atheism needs to get peoples’ attention is a transformative figure, perhaps one with magical powers, who will deliver us onto the world stage.

  4. Yeah, you’d probably get lynched for that around here in Southern Illinois. Besides, I don’t dig the religious folks who try to ram their mess into my life– why join them in doing so?

  5. Well, I think the idea was- you guys are taking over the GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS like you do every year, so this year, we will too.

    Personally, I never try to convert anyone to a life of faithlessness, though if they start proselytizing I will refute points and argue and perhaps introduce doubt.

    I think religion is great for certain people, it gives them a reason to wake up in the morning. Like coffee, only with a higher death toll.

  6. Sorry, got call shenanigans here. Since when is celebrating Winter Solstice something any respecting atheist would do? The fact that yer buying into absurd paganism is every bit as bad as what yer condemning. And does anyone really think the above statements are going to help convince anyone? That any believer is going to look at that sign and have some sort of intellectual epiphany? Looks like a pure media stunt to me — and one that hurts the cause instead of helping.

  7. A sign is good peaceful protest for in front of a courthouse. I’m not sure I can take the stretch of a nativity scene saying to everyone of alternate beliefs they’re going to hell. That means all iconography for quite a few faiths is a outward statement of condemnation and that’s a bit too hostile for my liking. Still, the display needs to be at a church. And I would bet one is likely less than a block from the courthouse. Then the sign should go away as well. I would think atheism should also be bound by the same separation rules if it’s going to behave like a religion. We’re all entitled to voice our opinions and we’ll have a tree covered in chistmons, nativity, the whole deal. But it will be at my home and my church not on public land.

  8. I’ve never seen a nativity scene that blatantly and purposefully insulted people who believe differently.

    There are plenty of atheists who are just as intolerant as the religious people they are so quick to criticize.

  9. I’m an atheist, but the extraordinarily patronizing language and ironically holier-than-thou attitudes of some atheists toward non-atheists is really not doing us any favours. In high school, I transitioned from a punk clique to a Christian one (they were involved in the same music stuff I was) and I’ve got to say, they didn’t make any insidious attempts to convert me or bring me into the fold or whatever. They didn’t actually mention their Christianity for the duration that I knew them. Whereas my atheist punk group kept slamming them as pathetically deluded biblethumpers. Now, I don’t think the punks are a representative sample of atheism, or the Christians a representative sample of Christianity, but the Lesson I Learned is to not count my pompous dicks before they hatch.

  10. But the Winter Solstice was celebrated as a holy day by ancient peoples who worshipped various nature gods. Don’t say that “All Humans” celebrate the solstice. That’s no different than having a nativity scene shoved in your face.

  11. Atheists need to coerce the symbols of Christianity, not counter them with wordy signs. I mean, isn’t it absurd that Christians celebrate with a pine tree in their house? How painfully obviously pagan that is! We should promote something like Atheist Baby Jesus! He says “May we continue to evolve cooperatively, each and every one!” ;) Maybe statues of Baby Jesus on the back of the Pink Invisible Unicorn or something. Tinted plexiglass should work well for that. Stained glass windows with Mark Twain and Darwin (I think we need to wait for Dawkins to die before he is “canonized”) I’m afraid neo-pagans and wicca people gets dibs on Winter Solstice, though. Damn you pagans!

  12. “..important for atheists to see their viewpoints validated alongside everyone else’s.”

    I’m an atheist. This placard does not validate my view point, the importance of doing so aside.

  13. I don’t know about this approach, or the stated reasoning behind it. I don’t think that nativity scenes are intended to spell out a message that we’re going to hell if we don’t believe.

    Yes, the Christ as redeemer theme is implicit in the larger story, but the nativity scene itself is only a small part of that story. Consider–it would be as jarring in this setting to have an image of Christ being scourged by roman soldiers.

    I think every religion (and lack thereof) has an equal right of representation in the public square. But these folks are choosing the wrong method, in my opinion. I think they would make their point much better by simply offering their own positive message instead of denigrating the other one.

    This just makes them seem defensive and provocative instead of a sincere expression of their own spirituality, whatever it may be.

  14. “Most people think December is for Christians and view our signs as an intrusion, when actually it’s the other way around,” he said. “People have been celebrating the winter solstice long before Christmas. We see Christianity as the intruder, trying to steal the holiday from all of us humans.”

    The people who were celebrating the Winter Solstice long before Christmas were in no way atheists.

  15. Ya know, it’s one thing to be proud of the fact you don’t believe in a higher power.

    It’s another thing to be a douche about it.

  16. Hey, I’m an atheist and personally, I have no problem with Nativity scenes. Or the “In God We Trust” on our money or federal buildings. Doesn’t bother me that my daughter came home from her Catholic preschool saying the Lord’s prayer. Other people are free to do as they will as long as it doesn’t impinge on my Constitutional rights.

    I DO mind when the religious try to LEGISLATE their beliefs.

  17. Yeah, awesome, that’s the way to do it! I’ll bet this’ll win converts and free more people from the shackles of religion in no time!

    I mean, it’s so obvious that the tactic of pushing my beliefs in an aggresive manner, to people who may not share or give a crap about my beliefs will obviously convert them or, you know, make them seriously doubt their own chosen beliefs!

    I mean, look at how successful the Evangelical Christians are at convincing me of their beliefs! Wow, if they push any harder I might believe in Creationism and “One Nation Under God”!

    It’s amazing how stupid intelligent, well-educated people can be.

  18. I think #9 has the answer to #8. Slicklines, I don’t think they’re trying to convince anyone to give up their faith; I think they’re trying to make a point that, if Christians are going to promote their beliefs in a government venue, then atheists are going to do the same. The hope, I imagine, is that the Christians will get the message that, “Hey, maybe a government building is not a good place to officially express support for or opposition to religion.”

    Like Gutierrez says, put the creche in front of the nearest church. If this atheist group puts their signs there, then yeah, they’re jerks.

  19. Would he have done the same thing to a Mennorah? Would that have been “offensive” where this is “inoffensive,” due to the “offensive” nature of the nativity? What if there was a menorah, next to a nativity, next to something represent the Hajj, next to something representing the solstice? Would that be “offensive” as well?

    It’s a broken ideal to say, “only my religion is acceptable.” Even when that religion is no religion at all.

  20. Although intolerance is not conducive to good public relations, it isn’t always a bad thing. If we shouldn’t be tolerant of the irrationality behind forms of discrimination, why should we be tolerant of the irrationality that is religion?

    I think it’s merely about choosing whether or not you want to voice your opinions, and how you choose to do that. There are pros and cons no matter what you do, and your actions will reflect what your desires are. My desire is for a world where irrationality is condemned, not encouraged. I like the sign.

  21. hmm, I live in Seattle, and from what I’ve seen on the news, that is not the sign in the capitol, at least not this year…it’s actually white, and that doesn’t look like the marble in the rotunda either…hm.

  22. Question for the Boing Boing intelligentsia — while you’re celebrating this sign, I wonder if you would write off as hooliganism a sign outside a science museum that said that “This museum is full of lies about evolution and the Big Bang. The truth of the divinity of Jesus Christ will set you free from the Satanic secular conspiracy that has taken over America today?”

    Not that I personally agree with either sign… but I find it kind of sad that people who are upset about those who annoylingly push religious views seem to be all happy about signs that describe religion globally as “enslaving the mind”. Pot, kettle, black?

    I personally find the “angry atheist” movement almost as annoying as the fundamentalist anti-evolution movement.

  23. #23: Because you are not going to be able to convince people of your certainties now. Until that magical day occurs, people who do not agree with your premises remain your fellow citizens. Who will disagree with you.

    Until you can set aside your personal differences and learn to work along with your fellow citizens, enjoy your marginalization.

  24. “I’ve never seen a nativity scene that blatantly and purposefully insulted people who believe differently.”


    Nativity scenes placed on government property are the very definition of blatant and purposeful insult to others’ beliefs.

  25. For everyone whining about how the Atheists are now pushing back, it’s a good thing. How many years have Atheists done nothing? And then how many years have Atheists said, “You can’t put your religious paraphernalia all over a government building?”
    Well, we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore. The best way to move morons past their bigotry is to stand up and be loud and be proud. NOW people know Atheists exist and aren’t going to just roll over anymore. Atheists standing up to christians are on CNN.

    And yes, I AM offended by the nativity scene. It represents an evil organization. I can’t look at that tripe and not think of all the people they’ve burned at the stake, the 3rd world countries told not to use birth control, the mind control, the pedophiles and the church cover-ups…it’s disgusting. All hidden by a birth scene. Yeah right.

  26. Religious intolerance, religious bigotry, and religious violence, which the Pagans were free of, until well after the advent of Christianity, has served all Abrahamic religions well.
    It’s the only way their cruel and absurd beliefs can be enforced…
    A little pacifist, yet intolerant, atheism is called for. Pacifist atheist bigotry and organization would also help in this struggle.
    Of course the intolerant (that is, Abrahamic, it seems) religions are the primary focus, so hinduism, buddhism, taoism, shamanism and paganism gets passes. The non-universal religions, I guess.
    Sauce for the goose, would be sauce for the gander.

  27. You shouldn’t protest a science museum for having science in it, but if it had explicitly atheist material, protest would be ok. Likewise, if a city hall has explicitly religious material in it, I can see why some people would be upset.

    A couple people have mentioned that this sign is the wrong way to do things, and my inclination is to agree. But I have to ask, what should be done instead? What would be a good display for atheists, one that gives some indication that it is just as acceptable as the religions being displayed, without being aggressively against them?

    @#4 Daphaex – if the way the local religious people try to push their beliefs is actually through lynchings, I think this is in no way comparable.

  28. This all seems a bit unnecessary. Atheists don’t need to do this. There are no real needs for us to advertise or re-enforce our beliefs because there aren’t any beliefs to advertise or re-enforce. Some people seem to want to invent an atheist equivalent of the apparatus of the church, just to get even. This is the equivalent of going up to strangers and asking them whether they have been cleansed in the blood of the lamb (I mean, eeewww).

    Sometimes I do feel there is some balance to redress. I remember some BBC discussion on genetic engineering or something, where they had a bishop and a rabbi and an imam, but they didn’t see the need for a scientist. In such cases, some low-key action seems to be called for. Here IMHO is an example of getting it about right…

    For the others: – here’s the Atheist FAQ

    * If you don’t believe in God, can you murder?

    No. It’s not nice. In fact, it ought to be worse for us because we would be taking away everything from the other person with no chance of redress in an afterlife.

    * Okay, how about robbery, or lying?

    No. In fact, all morality seems pretty much unchanged. If you are looking for the perks before transferring, then you are looking in the wrong place.

    * So what are the perks?

    Getting to sleep in on Sunday. Knees that aren’t flat.

    * You don’t have Christmas?

    God, I wish. It seems there is no escape.

    * Swearing still works, then?

    Yep. Don’t really know why.

  29. I think religion is great for certain people, it gives them a reason to wake up in the morning. Like coffee, only with a higher death toll.

    @#7 This has become my new favorite quote.

    On another note, much of the atheist douchebaggery has to do with Xians being douchebags in the past. Who hasn’t heard Xians cry for tolerance and acceptance of their religion while they crap all over everyone else’s.

    This is the backlash. Most of us who are, at best, agnostic are completely sick of hearing what immoral heathens we are who deserve to burn in an everlasting Hell for not bowing to their version of Santa Christ.

  30. I find it irritating. There is no reason to be insulting when trying to deliver your message wether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic, or Athiest.

    What’s the first thing you think when someone directly tells you they are better than you because of what you believe?

  31. From 7: “I think religion is great for certain people, it gives them a reason to wake up in the morning. Like coffee, only with a higher death toll.”

    I submit that, while the religion death toll is high, the anti-religion death toll is also high. Governmental purges, especially from communists, are nothing to scoff at.

    Definitely not trying to flame here – the common ground between the two is _intolerance._

    I come from a fundamentalist Christian background, and my parents STILL raised me on the FOUNDATION that people have the right to exercise their free will and believe what they like. That God gets to deal with that, not us, and that we are to love people and help others and be Good. When you have a Christian that embodies belief in free will, an atheist should have zero problem with them, because they are not “forcing their beliefs” on anyone, nor trying to change them or even judge them. Believing that someone is wrong is not wrong, it’s an opinion. Insulting others for disagreeing is wrong. And that is true irrespective of which side you are on.

    Unfortunately, atheists have a hard time (in my view) of coming off as anything but insulting. Much the same way Christians have a hard time of coming off as anything but condescending and judgmental.

    I believe that the priority should be in establishing DIALOGUE. Finding ways in which people can work together to better the lives of everyone.

    Soapboxes not required:
    “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”
    -St. Francis

  32. Dan Barker, a former evangelical preacher

    Well there’s your problem. He only knows how to be a know-what’s-good-for-you douchebag.

    #24: “celebrating this sign”? really? I’ve seen maybe two half-hearted endorsements of this sign in 24 comments.

  33. Every other street corner in America has a church, or a bit of Christian advertisement on it, but when an Atheist speaks up, he’s labeled “insulting”, or called an “angry Atheist”.

    The atheist sign at the Washington state Capitol is a reaction to the suit brought by the Alliance Defense Fund against the Capitol for not allowing nativity scenes to be displayed.  “Angry Christians” are at fault for opening the door to religious (and non-religious) holiday displays at the capitol.

    And now they are angry that someone else took the offer seriously.

  34. This sign is a little douche. It’s like having a coworker you don’t like and going to his child’s birthday to tell the kid that pops is an alcoholic.

  35. @#33

    How is it insulting?

    Where does it say that anyone is better than anyone else?

    I don’t follow your logic. Go read the sign again.

    It’s considerably less insulting than the things that are said against atheists in churches/mosques/synagogues etc every second of the day.

  36. Historically, I see Christianity as exploiting the tolerance of the Pagans, to weasel into power and then immediately to commence state-sanctioned violently intolerant progroms against the tolerant Pagans. The Xian organization, compared to the loose priesthood organization of the pagans, gave them a “crucial” edge. Bye-bye, centuries of tolerance which permitted Christianity to begin…hello new age of no new religions, ever.
    Kinda like fascists using a democracy to gain power and then….

  37. I remember the days when it was perfectly acceptable to say “God created evolution.” and that was that.

    But now, whether it’s because it makes for good news stories, or because it’s a trend, or for whatever reason, some of the most fundamental aspects of science have come under attack by superstitious power mongers.

    Shame on the Religious Right for using a policy of “either with us or against us” to try to galvanize the subject of creation versus evolution.

    Shame on the unthinking followers who can actually say they don’t believe in evolution with a straight face. (For anyone in science, even those of us who ARE religious, that’s a bit like saying the earth is flat).

    Shame on the deranged PR people who invented Intelligent Design, unwittingly developing a weapon to pervert science for the sake of political influence. (It’s telling that even the heavily Mormon Utah state legislature wouldn’t pass a bill forcing schools to teach Intelligent Design).

    Shame on Richard Dawkins for going negative, thus giving credibility to the very thing he was fighting against, and turning something that was formerly considered to be an idiotic argument into a hotly charged (and fashionable) debate.

    Shame again on Richard Dawkins from his profiting off of his own unintentional undermining of science, through countless guest appearances, lectures, and book deals.

    And shame on any and all of you who give these ignorant blowhards the attention they so crave. And yes, I feel that bitter, vengeful and ultimately hypocritical Dawkins should be included as one of them.

    Let them go the way of the dinosaurs, whom everyone knows God buried 6000 years ago just to take the piss.

  38. #26: Just as I explained in my original comment, it depends on your desires. Although I wish that irrationality was condemned at every turn, I realize that in order to co-exist peacefully with others I need to understand that not everyone agrees with me on everything, and that constantly pushing them to agree with me is going to make my life harder than I want it to be.

    However, if you don’t represent your own interests in some fashion, you’ll never (or almost never) get what you want.

    1. However, if you don’t represent your own interests in some fashion, you’ll never (or almost never) get what you want.

      If what you want is to control what other people believe, I’m not that fussed about you being frustrated.

  39. “Most of us who are, at best, agnostic are completely sick of hearing what immoral heathens we are who deserve to burn in an everlasting Hell for not bowing to their version of Santa Christ.”

    This statement always confuses me. I’ve been a Christian for nearly twenty years (and a lazy Catholic for a decade before that), and not ONCE, not once have I heard one Christian tell someone they are going to hell for not believing as they do. I see it on TV with questionable televangelists, and in movies and TV shows, but never in my entire life have I heard a sincere Christian condemn another person to hell. Every church I’ve ever been to has been about LEADING people to our faith by our actions and sincerity and by living the examples Jesus set forth, NOT badgering people into our way of thinking.

    Where are all these Christians that are ramming their faith down people’s throats? I don’t claim association with them.

  40. I really wish people would just keep their religious beliefs or lack-thereof to themselves. (This applies mostly to Christians, especially in this context.) If you believe in a God or similar entity- great! Worship he/she/it as you see fit. Just don’t expect everyone else to.

    The whole Nativity Scene and similar displays on government buildings in the USA thing really bothers me. While there isn’t technically anything in the constitution that says “Separation of Church and State”, it has been generally agreed by the courts (and I’ll assume most Americans) that it is the gist of the First Amendment.

    I find it ironic that many of those who claim the First Amendment doesn’t actually SAY it, so it isn’t true, worship the Second Amendment based on a false interpretation.

    A government building displaying religious symbols (or a scene from a religious book, ala the Nativity) for a particular religious group implies support for that group. That building and its grounds were paid for and receive ongoing support from all of the taxpayers it provides services for- and many of them may not necessarily agree or believe in what that religious group represents.

    While it maintains a higher percentage in the US (although I believe that has been declining steadily)- only about 1/3 of the world population is considered “Christian”. Estimates from various groups and census data put Christians at about 80% in the USA, which means 20% of the population does not celebrate Christmas as a holiday, or probably does so just for “show” to make their Christian friends happy.

    It would be close-to impossible for a public building to represent ALL religious holidays, so in fairness- they shouldn’t have displays for any of them. Put nice colored lights up year-round or as part of a celebration of the Winter Solstice (a far more secular event), and skip the crosses and nativity scenes.

  41. I live in the Seattle area so this has been pretty big news around here. I guess Bill O’Reilly has this on the top of his list for his “War on Christmas” theme this year. He’s apparently ranted for days about it and even went so far as to hive out the phone number for the Governors office. At one point a couple days ago, the Gov’s office was getting close to 200 calls an hour.

    Personally I think the sign is abrasive as hell, but the State opened a can of worms with this one. You let one religious display in, you have to let them all in, including those critical of religion.

    I can’t wait till next year when the Satanists ask for a display. I wonder if someone could get a Flying Spaghetti Monster display approved. Now that would be funny as hell!!

  42. Wow, I guess according to the majority of the posts here I’m intolerant, a bigot, and violent. My beliefs are cruel and absurd.

    Like any group, the extreme minorities have been mistaken for the majority.

    @Cinnamonbite- You are talking about the Catholic Church, not Christianity.

    @Ugly Canuck- Your are spewing the same viewpoints you claim is the problem with the “Abrahamic” religions. Seems like a contradiction to me.

    I personally think that nativity scenes are garish and cheapen what I believe to be a momentous event.

    I’m going to stand up for my beliefs, and if you should choose not share my beliefs, that’s OK with me.

  43. From this atheist’s point of view, it really seems the former preacher is just against Christianity. I mean, he’s defending Paganism to put down Christians. Now, Christians are probably my least favorite group, but I wouldn’t go the length of saying one religion is more justified than the other – and that’s what his comment about the winter solstice feels like to me.

  44. Only took 39 posts for someone to talk some sense. Between this and the Republican Solider post, i think the so-called “intelligent community”, needs to take a long hard look in the mirror. maybe were just as bitter and wish to be as ignorant as the other side. i do not know. it sure seems easier than being thoughtful and nice to everyone.

  45. Why are these signs so ANNOYING? It just looks like the atheists are trying hard to spoil everyone else’s fun. I don’t see the point.

  46. Ah yes…holiday Scrooges abound. I live in Washington and this whole deal with the displays is lame.
    Being atheist doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk during the holidays that other people celebrate. Even if you don’t believe in God, you can still give well wishes for a safe and happy winter solstice or whatever you want to call this time of year.
    I work in the news industry and just saw a story about a pastor in Redmond (Seattle area) who wants to put up a protest display. Now, I personally believe that that is very unchristian of him. This is supposed to be a time of hope and goodwill. Those two things can be had no matter what you believe in.

  47. @Wolfwitch

    How about “I really wish people would just keep their beliefs about whether people should express their religious beliefs to themselves.”

    Why should anyone be more interested in your views about expressing religious belief than you are in their views about religion itself?

    There’s nothing wrong with expressing your beliefs, and there’s nothing wrong with ignoring people when you don’t want to listen to their beliefs. Religion is no different. The fact that you’re not going to convince everyone (and it’s just false that you’re never going to convince anyone) doesn’t mean it’s disrespectful to express your reasons for disagreeing.

    Respecting one another, whether as fellow humans or fellow citizens, does not require keeping your mouth shut about things you think are important.

  48. There are two kinds of people: the ones who think they have a handle on Life, the Universe and Everything, and the ones who know they don’t stand a chance to.

    Religious people and atheists keep each other company in the first group.

  49. Trying to explain religious intolerance to a Christian in America is like trying to explain water to a fish. Equal time for all on the courthouse steps, I say. Where’s a statue of the FSM when you need it?

  50. Um, as a geographer, I can say with some degree of certainty that Winter Solstice and the date settled for Christmas are two different dates.

    Winter Solstice = December 21 or 22

    Christmas = December 25

    Celebrate however, whoever, you like, but pick a day!

  51. Basically I dislike the atheist sign just as much as the Christian display. I thought many atheists hated religion because of its divisiveness. So what better way to fight divisiveness than with a divisive sign? How about a sign that says “Whatever your beliefs or lack thereof, have a wonderful winter season. Peace on Earth to ALL people.” Is that too sappy?

  52. I am an atheist, and I love the Christmas season! I just don’t like all of the idiots on both sides seem to need to shout their ideas and opinions at each other.

    Why not, i don’t know,,,be nice to each other and tolerate each others beliefs for a couple of weeks. No acid, no yelling about who’s going to burn where. Buy a homeless guy a cup of coffee, shout “Merry Christmas” over enthusiastically to random people, you know be nice like our parents/priests/rabbis/horned profits/refrigerators told us to be in our youth?

    After the year begins everybody can once again start hitting each other with boards and monster trucks for all I care. Just for now try being nice no matter how stupid and inbred the extremists on both sides seem to be.

  53. I demand they add a sign that validates my agnostic viewpoint:

    1. Belief systems are inseparable part of human psychology. They are a side effect of our ability to learn quickly and use heuristics.

    2. Religious organizations are no different from all other organizations that impose views to their members (e.g. political parties). Some of the imposed views may be harmful and some beneficial to their members or others.

    3. Atheism is functionally identical to religions.

  54. I always enjoy reading when politics or religion get involved in these threads. Many times I have typed a lengthy comment only to delete it. My beliefs have swung from one side to the other and back a few times over the years. I seem to like the idea of some sort of spirituality but when religion gets involved everything gets all screwed up.
    Case in point, and if you want to read along find it yourself. New testament – Jesus is talking to a group he commends for being religious and even points out the fact that they have statues to their gods. an interesting fact I found when I read that passage was that the word religious was translated from a word that is translated to superstitious in all other usages. I guess the ole Blood, Sweat & Tears song says it best for me “Swear there ain’t no heaven and I pray there ain’t no hell,
    But I’ll never know by living, only my dying will tell”

  55. >>>There is no reason to be insulting when trying to deliver your message wether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic, or Atheist.

    Here that, there is no reason we can’t take the oppression of our beliefs with a bit more wit and charm.

    I understand slavery would have ended like 60 years sooner if African Americans had only been more polite.

  56. @underrat :
    “On another note, much of the atheist douchebaggery has to do with Xians being douchebags in the past. Who hasn’t heard Xians cry for tolerance and acceptance of their religion while they crap all over everyone else’s.

    This is the backlash.”

    Two wrongs, making of a right, all that jazz.

    Be careful when you fight douchebags, lest you become a douchebag yourself.

    As for the sign itself, I think that it and the other religious statements/symbology Do Not Belong in a governmental building, full stop. If you want it in your homes, churches (or areligious meeting houses), privately-owned gathering places like malls, stuff like that, fine. But gummint public spaces are not the right place for that or the debate over such. (The courthouse, fine. But not in the lobby of such.) I’m not asking for my menorah nor my sacred chao as “equality” – just get it all outta there.

    If you think that they gotta celebrate “the season”, just a simple large sign saying “Happy Winter!” or “Fuck, It’s Cold!” would do just fine.

  57. To #10 –
    You’re completely right. The fundamentalists exist on both sides of the fence. I’m Christian, although I don’t go to church, and I wouldn’t dare force anything on anyone. Religion is a personal belief, not something to be forced on anyone or sold.

    It’s an experience, not an ideology.

    I frankly don’t know why everyone can’t just keep to themselves and do what they want, instead of everyone decrying that they have no say. How far does that go?

  58. Some of the secularists on this thread need to grow a pair and spend less time worrying how they are perceived by religionists. Dial back some of that mindshare you are devoting to public relations and speak the truth with a little more ferocity.

    Step on some toes, pollyanna.

    The sign is accurate.


    And our messiah?

    YouTube is filled with Chris Hitchens dressing down the superstitious and primitive.

  59. @sirdook: Why post something to look like a quote from me and re-word it?

    I was not endorsing ANY belief system.

    I actually have no issues with someone expressing their beliefs in their own way on their own property, although I do admit I find it annoying. Why do people feel it is necessary to ADVERTISE their religion? (Although I suppose my chosen user name makes me a hypocrite in that sense.) Religious beliefs (or lack thereof in the case of Atheists) should be something one holds dear and lives their life in accordance with. It should not be necessary to advertise them or recruit others to join in them.

    What really bothers me is when people expect others to hold the same beliefs as they do and believe they are members of the only “right” religion. I don’t expect anyone else to believe the same things I do, and I expect the same from them in-turn.

    The real issue with this article, and that I was trying to address, is the display of religious scenes or symbols on PUBLIC Government-Owned buildings and grounds. The government is supposed to represent ALL of us. By installing a Nativity Scene or some other Christian symbol- they are implying support for one particular group, while thumbing their noses at all others, including Atheists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Pagans (to literally name a few).

    Frankly, I agree with others that the Atheist sign is a bit tacky- but it DOES make a point, which was its purpose.

  60. >> “Fuck, It’s Cold!” would do just fine.

    Many people take exception to the f-bomb.

    Won’t that sign make you a “douchebag?”

  61. Why is Atheism turning into a religion these days? I thought the whole point was to not believe – why make such a fuss about it?

  62. @Bilbub:

    Two wrongs, making of a right, all that jazz.
    Be careful when you fight douchebags, lest you become a douchebag yourself.”

    Agreed. Maybe someday we, as a species, will all just get over it and grow up.

    Although, I do think I’ll go ahead and greet people with “Fuck, it’s cold”.

  63. @Tboy: why presuppose that the counter-signposters had conversion in mind? Maybe they were just fed up with yet another instance of pathetic religious propaganda in public buildings and wanted to frack shit up? No master plan behind it. Just the sheer joy of screwing with an a little piece of the american quasi-theocratic machinery. Like Propagandhi phrased it: if we can’t have a revolution, we might just settle for revenge.

  64. Guinness74, you’re correct.

    The solstice occurs in my area at 7:04 the morning of the 22nd, so Long Night celebrations should be held starting sundown December 21st and ending if the sun rises again (otherwise continuing, with gradually increasing panic).

    Christmas is celebrated during the pagan Saturnalia of December 25th. It is extremely unlikely that this date coincides in any way with the historical date of Jesus’ birth. The point of Christ’s Mass on the Saturnalia is so that Christians can identify their neighbors who are out secretly celebrating Saturnalia (they are the ones who skipped Mass, obviously).

    Earth hits perigee right about January 3rd – that will be the closest our planet comes to the sun on this particular orbit. The axial tilt of the earth will concentrate the sun’s rays in the southern hemisphere, however; our seasons are not the result of Earth’s orbital path, they are caused by our axial tilt. So it’ll likely be cold where I am in the frozen north.

  65. One last thing…

    If many progressives, constitutionalists, and proponents of freedom of thought and expression think Obama represents a repudiation of American theocracy, they are deluded. Palin lurks and could well be viable as a candidate in 2012 (laugh at your own peril). Those who value a separation of church and state need to cease their temerity and push back hard to reestablish boundaries which have been dismantled.

    Your gentility and concession will not be reciprocated. These religionists are deadly serious about their Kingdom Now aka dominion theology. I’m an ex-fundamentalist, now atheist. Reason will not prevail against that mindset. This is really a battle for the middle and the young.

    Some of you better stiffen the fuck up.

  66. People have been celebrating the winter solstice long before Christmas. We see Christianity as the intruder, trying to steal the holiday from all of us humans.

    To me, this is a perfect refutation of the notion atheism = intelligence. Not that Mr. Barker is stupid per se, but I do think that some among the “new atheists” crowd tend to assume the mantle of intellectual superiority based solely upon on their absorption of books by Richard Dawkins and their discovery of blogs by people who think Just Like Them. It’s the same sort of mental overreach you find among Ayn Randians.

    That said: you will not find a more more zealous and bitter opponent of theism than a disillusioned evangelical.

  67. >>3. Atheism is functionally identical to religions.

    Except for its based on reality and doesn’t have preachers or take billions from its believers to send Atheist missionaries all over the world to convert people. It doesn’t condemn those that don’t agree to an eternity in a fiery cave deep below the earth to get tortured by a red half goat man and his legions of demons. Atheist organizations didn’t turn the other cheek during the Holocaust. It doesn’t encourage poor atheists in the third world to avoid contraception, It doesn’t ask rape victims to carry their assailants children to term, it doesn’t discourage people from seeking medical treatment, or persuade them to handle poisonous snakes. Atheists don’t ask their fellow Non-believers to be ashamed of their sex life, to repress natural and harmless urges. Atheists have never advocated that a woman be the property of her husband or that public execution is a proper means for punishing adulterers.

    but you are right, they are almost identical.

    I think Atheism only has one rule…

    No magical thinking.

  68. Well, said @73.

    I don’t quite get it as a matter of PR — the first step of persuasion on ought start with “you are a moron” (even if — nay, especially if — it’s true).

  69. #24 posted by Rob Knop
    Question for the Boing Boing intelligentsia — while you’re celebrating this sign, I wonder if you would write off as hooliganism a sign outside a science museum that said that “This museum is full of lies about evolution and the Big Bang. The truth of the divinity of Jesus Christ will set you free from the Satanic secular conspiracy that has taken over America today?”
    …snip…Pot, kettle, black?

    While I wouldn’t call myself one of the intelligentsia*, I’ll have a crack at that one: “Maybe”. It’s all about context.

    My impression is that this, like the atheist bus campaign, isn’t about promoting atheism or winning “converts”. It’s a reminder that the right to express one’s beliefs isn’t restricted to Christians, or even religious people in general. If a government institution decides to allow Christians to display their symbols in its building, it should also allow other groups to display theirs too. Otherwise it’s a tacit endorsement of Christianity by an avowedly secular government.** The sign is just a reminder that Christianity isn’t the only viewpoint, and isn’t even the only viewpoint that people are allowed to express in public. The reason that so many atheists are chuckling and cheering is that we’ve spent our entire lives being told that we’re amoral, spiritually incomplete and destined for hell by individuals, Churches and even some of our government representatives. It’s bloody great to finally have a voice for our viewpoint for once.

    If a religious institution wants to hire a sign (or use another legal means to get a sign up) outside the Science Museum to make their claims then, sure, that’s their right. I disagree with it and will happily argue for hours about the differences between faith and science, but that’s the price of free speech: In exchange for saying whatever I want to, I have to put up with others excercising the same right.

    *Primarily because I have trouble pronouncing the word
    **I’ve always found it wierd that the UK, where the head of state is also “Defender of the Faith”, seems to have far fewer of these problems than the USA’s secular govt. Not that we (the UK) don’t have plenty of our own problems.

  70. @ #72: I notice you didn’t confine this advice to atheists, but to “Those who value a separation of church and state.” Thank you.

    Too often, atheists who value separation of church and state don’t realize that you have many allies who believe in some religion. For example, Catholics might win on the abortion issue if we elected, say, President Palin or President Huckabee (which I think is more likely than President Palin, but is equivalent for the purposes of this argument). But there is a whole raft of issues that, if the right-wing brand of evangelicalism were made the state religion, would cause problems for Catholics.

    And then there are non-Christian theists. The American Muslim community would be particularly opposed to merging of church and state.

  71. >I don’t quite get it as a matter of PR — the first step of persuasion on ought start with “you are a moron” (even if — nay, especially if — it’s true).

    I don’t think PR was the point. It seems more like retaliation for what I assume was a bitter fight on whether or not religious symbols would be allowed on the public space. Atheism doesn’t have a marketing firm on retainer or anything. I enjoy all the folks that say, “well that isn’t the way to sell it.” every time atheism gets in the headlines.

    It’s not a freaking rational debate, or a public education campaign.

  72. Maybe I missed it on reading through, but what are any of these things doing near a state capital or building in the first place? Of course people are going to bitch when ever they see anything that’s not in line with their beliefs.

    No nativity scenes, 10 commandments, stars of David, Qur’an quotes, solstice schedules, atheist slogans, etc. = no problems for anyone = win

  73. @66 :
    Nah, it’s just a statement about one of the defining physical aspects of the season – no violations of the establishment clause here! Nothin’ in the constitution about “profane or obscene language”, right? Then it’s fine!

    (And, of course, that one was obviously meant as just a gag anyways. Read up on both “exaggeration/overreaction” and “inappropriate reaction” in regards to humor for more information and big laffs!)

  74. RedShirt77 @ #78:

    It’s not a freaking rational debate, or a public education campaign.

    I think the point underlying many of the “That isn’t the way to sell it” comments may be: given the atheistic intellectual posture, maybe it should be.

  75. Yeah, those atheist utopias like Soviet Russia were absolutely mind-blowing paradises of tolerance, respect for human life and values, and happiness. A whole lot of people liberated from a whole lot of shackles: the shackles of property, peace, security, and life.

  76. Atheism is basically the same as religion? No, don’t even bother trying explain your reasoning on that one. Mental origami like that just gives me a headache.

    The sign doesn’t bother me, I understand the motivation, but I would take a different tack. Go visual. Don’t spell everything out like that. Use symbolism and let people come to their own conclusions.

    I’ve yet to see a large-scale public nativity scene that didn’t look tacky, as if the figures were tired and wanted to go home to their suburban lawns have a nice rest under their bathtub shrines. But Christmas trees can be lovely. I was in New Haven, CT last night, and they have a glorious tree on the green in the middle of town.

    Of course it is the natural object, a plant, that visually triumphs over any diorama.

    Lets use OUR tree; the Tree of Life. Like the Christmas tree that Americans enjoy now, it could be interpreted in different ways to suit different needs. Atheists, agnostics, and lapsed Christians set up and enjoy Christmas trees. People from other religions often enjoy Christmas trees. They’re only symbols of Christianity for people who chose to see them that way. For other people, they often represent a winter holiday when the daylight is in short supply and the visual world seems to need some brightening.

    A Tree of Life display could be a deciduous tree, bare of leaves, cocooned in lights like those trees outside Tavern on the Green in Central Park.

    It could be your basic blue spruce tree lit with cell-shaped lights. The garlands could be fashioned to refer to DNA, entwined in pairs. The ornaments on the branches could represent various living organisms arranged in all manner of wonderful ways: historically with representatives of long extincted animals and plants and fungi at the bottom of the tree and extant ones at the top, or taxonomically with pretty little tinsel cladograms glittering amongst the branches. The ornaments representing living things arranged according to the most recent hypotheses about their interrelatedness. Imagine friends and relatives together for some holiday cheer, and instead of discussing the sales at the mall, they could have heated debates about the phylogeny of non-vascular plants.

    At the top one could have a small jolly figure of Charles Darwin, looking as apt for the holiday as Tiny Tim! Of course, some non-traditional folks might prefer to use an animated Alfred Russell Wallace on top.

    Imagine how pretty a tree with gilded ammonites and blown-glass coelacanths would look! Picture the scene when junior proudly brings home his first handmade ornament from kindergarten; a paper maché trilobite, clumsy and shedding glitter and glue, but cherished by his proud parents none-the-less.

    And think of the spectacular works of art that corporations and museums could commission for public display, wonderful Trees of Life in glass and electricity that would delight and educate.

    It would be a heartfelt celebration of reality, of that which IS. One wouldn’t even have to mention that which is NOT.

  77. Jesus Fucking Christ! Are we still having this debate? Isn’t the important part of this equation “alongside everyone else’s…”?

    I don’t enjoy religious zealotry any more than the next guy, I really don’t, I think it has twisted the words of an otherwise beautiful mythology into something so unrecognizable that it mirrors the parable of the money changers, but I just thought we were a bit beyond all this. I am, have been, and have gone over to the other side.

    You know the important thing about agnosticism is to keep an opened mine, just as the important thing about secular humanism is to be tolerant of the beliefs of others.

    I firmly believe that atheism HAS been co-opted in a brazenly classiest fashion and in many ways signifies a kind of elitism.

    Read that book “Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity”, because if there is ever going to be any progress, it will be in the flavor of ontological tolerance, NOT mere atheism.

    It was a sad day for Christianity when it was saddled with Aristotelian thought, not to mention the religious right, but liberation theology is a beautiful thing, and I for one am not about to shit on the views of other people simply because I do not agree.

    Read The Mahābhārata!

  78. #83 posted by IWood>>>I think the point underlying many of the “That isn’t the way to sell it” comments may be: given the atheistic intellectual posture, maybe it should be.

    Well of course it should be, it would be over in about five minutes. Has the reduction of racism, sexism, discrimination based on sexuality been a rational discussion? No.

    I think those that want it to be a rational discussion are those who are comfortable and unrestricted by their beliefs and find it a fascinating cocktail discussion. Human decision making is an emotional and messy process and to think you can have a real discussion about something as big as religion without getting dirty and making waves is silly.

  79. @64 Fred Rated:

    More confrontation does not produce better results, simply more conflict. I’m far more interested in hearing someone’s perspective when it’s presented to me without pedantry, whatever the topic.

    I’m a Unitarian, and I don’t care for religious displays on public property. To me, the matter of Theist/Atheist is one for the individual. Public displays, whether a nativity or this sign, I view as unseemly at best, and obnoxious at worst. The idea is to provoke, not engage and that’s a shame.

    I think Christmas and Christianity are fairly disparate at this point, but such displays are actually pretty much anathema to what Jesus taught:

    “When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They like to stand in synagogues and on street corners to pray so that everyone can see them. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward.” Matthew 6:5

    That’s right before the “Our Father”, so it’s not exactly the secret hidden bit either.

  80. Eh we’ll not be free of this superstition until you get at the young before the religious do- as the religious know full well, the young don’t have the experience nor skill to refute their subtle sophistry, plus they often have the cane, and are always in a position of power vis-a-vis the children, and the kids so want to belong. They are authority, and they teach the kids their trash….Screw the religious, they start the conversation, but from my end, I’m ending it.
    Keep the fuck away from my kids, Christians/Muslims/Jews.

  81. Tdawwg @ #85:

    That that anyone in this thread has suggested anything even remotely resembling that claim, but: that was a function of the primacy of the State, not atheism. Mussolini closed down liquor stores and night clubs and made swearing in public a crime, all to appease the Catholic Church. That didn’t make fascist Italy a paradise, either.

  82. Just an update for all of you…the atheist sign HAS BEEN REMOVED from the display in Olympia. This is hot off the press guys. I don’t know if it’s even been broadcast yet.

  83. Scratch my last comment…someone actually stole the sign and the authorities someone just dropped it off at a radio station.

  84. @Wolfwitch

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to falsely imply that I was quoting you. I was trying to construct a parallel sentence to the one you wrote and ask what’s the difference. And you’re right, I didn’t address the main substance of your post. I was just responding to your initial idea (repeated in your response) that people should generally keep their religious belief (or lack thereof) to themselves and not advertise or try to convince others.

    But in so doing, you’re directly advocating that others adopt, not your religious beliefs, but your beliefs about how people ought to think of their religious beliefs. So what is it about one subject matter (belief about how you should/n’t advertise religious belief) that it’s appropriate to advocate and the other (religious belief) that such advocacy is inappropriate?

  85. RedShirt77 @ #90:

    I think you’ve misunderstood my point.

    Given that atheists generally claim to value rationality and reason more than theists, it is ironic when they use the same emotionally fraught tactics as their opponents. I made no claim about the likelihood of rational discourse.

  86. I make no claim to rationality – my way is simply better.
    Preaching is the only sin in my religion….

  87. I want all religions recognized and ALL their holy days made official,paid holidays.

    The most useful suggestion in this thread! Call your government… since we’re already sitting on our backsides and complaining anyway.

  88. Convert?
    My religion holds that a person’s greatest and most valuable possible possession is liberty, that a person’s greatest possible virtue is honesty.
    We do hold some truths to be self-evident.

  89. I tend to keep my lack of religious belief to myself, but I don’t have a problem with others voicing their opinion on the matter (nor do I have a problem with people who believe in god talking about it). While the atheist sign is provocative, it’s succeeding in creating dialogue. Now that the sign has been removed it has become a free speech issue. Regardless of whether you think the sign is snarky, preachy, or in poor taste removing the sign (whether by the government or an individual protester) is an act of censorship. Just as removing or stealing the manger would have been.

  90. “We see Christianity as the intruder, trying to steal the holiday from all of us humans”

    If you are atheist, doesn’t the word holiday not really come into play in your life? holy-day?

    I believe in God. I believe you have a right not to believe in God, or to believe in a different definition of god than I do without the government having a say in it. That said, just out of curiosity, how would holidays function if none were recognized by the government? and what could you call them that wouldn’t hint at God?

    I think I would be drawn more to thinking and respecting the atheist/pagan view expressed on this sign if it had said something like “I hope you have a warm and joy filled winter. Remember that only our natural world exists. May reason prevail.”

  91. The best part about this is that my Jehovah’s Witness coworker and I (dirt worshiping tree hugger) are united in our belief that Christmas is a pagan holiday. We had a nice argument this morning with our lapsed Catholic coworker (who listens to Bill O’Reillly) and believes the War on Christmas is true.

  92. “If you are atheist, doesn’t the word holiday not really come into play in your life? holy-day?”

    Either all days are holy or none are.


    1. a period of time spent away from home for enjoyment and relaxation
    2. (often pl) Chiefly Brit & NZ a period in which a break is taken from work or studies for rest or recreation
    3. a day on which work is suspended by law or custom, such as a bank holiday

  93. >>That said, just out of curiosity, how would holidays function if none were recognized by the government?

    Ask a Jew.

  94. the actual calendar placement of religious holy holidays is all nonsense by now anyway. They should all be forced to move their observances to Saturday/Sunday weekends and standard civil holidays created to fall on working week days across the board. That way everyone gets their time off and religion doesn’t gum up the works for the rest of us.

    1. They should all be forced to move their observances to Saturday/Sunday weekends and standard civil holidays created to fall on working week days across the board.

      So we’re keeping the Judeo-Christian-Muslim Day of Rest are we? If we’re going to be rational, why not just go to a seven day work week?

  95. Surely if this sort of behaviour carries on we will end up with the insane situation where every single religion or belief must be represented at all times which eventually becomes so troublesome that in the end no viewpoints will be shown at all and no-one will feel represented.
    Surely this will cause only more resentment?
    The problem we should be addressing is not the nativity scene itself but the reasons why it was allowed on government property.
    Governments should be, in theory at least, secular.

  96. As an atheist I have two criticisms of this sign.

    1, The name “Winter Solstice” is northern hemisphere chauvinist. What’s wrong with “Yule” or “Yuletide”. This is what this feast was called before it was hijacked by the Christians.

    2, “Hardens hearts”? This is nonsense. Only supersitious people believe that we think with our hearts. Atheists know that the heart is only a pump.

    Come on! If you want to be a real atheist you must learn to see things as they really are.

  97. @ #26: Your analogy would work if this Atheist sign had been posted in front of a church or other religious building, but since it’s in front of a government building your using a science museum is an unfair comparison.

    @ #8 and everyone: Am I wrong in thinking of the winter solstice as primarily an astrological event (the shortest day of the year for that hemisphere)? The fact that it has long been worshipped by Pagans and others doesn’t remove the fact that it is a “natural wonder” worthy of our attention, as would be an eclipse or a rainbow or many other fascinating natural events hijacked by religions/cults over the years.

  98. @tdawwg: Hitler was a Catholic (at least to start) initially supported by the Pope. While he dabbled in metaphysics- he preached his own form of Christianity while slaughtering Jews and anyone else who disagreed with him. I won’t even get started on the Inquisition and Crusades. I don’t personally believe in atheism- but I believe it is safe to say that religious organizations are responsible for a LOT more human rights violations and death than they are. In all fairness to Christians- they most definitely weren’t the first. They too have been persecuted and slaughtered for their beliefs in the past. Just ponder for a moment how many people have died in this world over the course of written human history in “God”‘s name.

    @Sirdook: Sorry if I took your post out-of-context. In a way I actually agree with you… I’m not contending that an individual shouldn’t have the right to either express or not express their religious beliefs- that was a “wish” only, and was primarily targeted at those who try to sell or impose their beliefs on others. I do value free speech, as another Constitutional (and human) right. My problem is when government entities express a preference for a particular religion, which is generally agreed to be against the US Constitution.

    @Redshirt77: LOL! Thanks for #112 and several other good posts.

    @Takuan and others: Many religious holidays are based on earth/moon and stellar cycles or alternate calendars, so moving them really isn’t practical as many adherents to those religions would consider it blasphemy. It would certainly make it easier though in our “modern” world. It would be impossible to make ALL religious holidays actual state-recognized/sponsored holidays. Almost every day would then be a “holiday” for someone. I personally wish there was a way for everyone to observe a reasonable number of their own religion’s holidays (for time-off, holiday pay, etc.), instead of being tied to Christian ones (in the US). In reality- we are only really talking about Christmas- would it really be THAT hard to allow for some alternatives? My company allows me to swap Christmas for any other day-off I want, but I know they are probably a minority.

  99. If there wasn’t an annoyingly large group of right wing Christians determined to force their religion on the masses, then I would have a whole lot less problems with the whole nativity-myth-in-the-courthouse thing. It’s stupid, but so is FSM and a lot of the New Atheist movement, actually. But these nuts are going to shoehorn in their beliefs any way they can, and if you let them get by with this, it’s going to be Roy Moore and the Ten Commandments monument eventually — and if Moore had gotten by with that, he would surely have been pushing for even more (as an Alabamian who actually had to consider the idea that a lot of folks thought him a great gubernatorial candidate, this isn’t a slight concern). I find FFRF annoying (their newsletters are mostly about where their silly billboards have gotten placed lately at this point), but someone has to take this stuff to task. I suspect the whole New Atheist movement will die down when the right wing Christians are pushed back — it’s a backlash.

  100. Translation: “Our lives are so easy; plentiful food, easy access to clean clothes, water, shelter and sex, that we’re going to just invent stuff to get mad about.”

    If my life was nothing but protests and complaints, I would have committed suicide years ago. What a terrible, sad and unfulfilling way to go through life.

  101. RedShirt77 @79,
    I might take angry atheists more seriously if they didn’t constantly make statements like this one that treat “religion” and “conservative Western Christianity” as equal. There are arguments to be made against magical thinking, but it seems that atheists would rather take the easy shots at their local hypocritical preacher.

  102. This sign would be less inappropriate if it was placed next to a governmental posting of the 10 commandments. A nativity scene seems to me to be mostly a parable about governmental disenfranchisement of the poor.

  103. The state should not concern itself with religious nonsense or there will be no end of it. Who cares about astrological foolishness when the law of the land guarantees separation of state and religion and freedom from religion for all citizens? Blasphemy? That sounds like a threat and threats should be met with an iron fist.

    Complete separation of religion and state.


    Yeah – if nothing else, solstice is the hump day for the season.
    “Happy Winter Solstice – It’s All Uphill From Here!”

  105. Putting up a sign like this is way awesomer than just suing to have the creche (religious display) at the Legislative Building in the state capitol (public property) removed.

    Of course, as Monique Davis put it . . .

    [Atheism is] dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you’ll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat! . . . You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.

  106. “Hardens hearts”? This is nonsense. Only supersitious people believe that we think with our hearts. Atheists know that the heart is only a pump.

    All the food that people eat this time of year hardens hearts.

  107. regarding solstices, equinoxes and other celestial events marked by humans: these are only important to us because they are directly linked to timing survival behaviour. Game migrations, weather shifts, planting/harvesting times etc. They have deep meaning for the species that does not require any hairy guy in the sky etc. As usual, the religious con game came along later and stole things.

  108. More pandering to the atheist mob here at BB!

    Welcome to the cult of Atheism! Where “do what thou wilt is the whole of the law!”

    1. javanaught,

      Clearly your sojourn in limbo didn’t help. Hurling poo is not a substitute for making substantive comments.

  109. nope, we should all go to flex time altogether. Use the Sat/Sun thing as a transition. We already have a seven day work week anyway.

    Javanaught: you are offensive.

  110. I have never, ever seen a Nativity scene that said “You’re going to hell if you don’t bow down to Jesus.” And the group that posted this sign did go overboard – “religion […] hardens hearts and enslaves minds”? Even if a church had been offensive, that doesn’t mean they should follow suit.

    Honestly. A completedly MISSED chance to prove to the hardheads that atheists aren’t amoral.

  111. why should atheists care if bigots think they are immoral? All that is required is that they leave them alone.

  112. You know, I think atheism could stand to benefit from having a religion. An honest, respectable “Church of Humanity” that’s willing to demand equal treatment in situations like this, and fill the same role that theist churches do the rest of the time – community organization, stuff like that. We could even meet on Sunday morniafternoons, and have sermons that are half inspirational speech, half science lesson about the awe and majesty of the natural world. One which embraces science and rejects dogma for a change, to show the rest of ’em how it’s done.

  113. #135 posted by javanaught:

    “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” comes from Thelemic scripture, specifically the Book of the Law. Aleister Crowley explained the Law of Thelema in terms of “True Will,” the spiritual core or essence of individuals, which he regarded as having a divinely self-ordained path through the world of experience. “Do what thou wilt” refers to this sacred spark personal divinity. Crowley’s conception of God was as a force within oneself rather than outside. Furthermore, he claimed that the Book of the Law was dictated to him by a spiritual entity named Aiwass, whom he regarded as the messenger of God (or the gods) and his own Holy Guardian.

    In other words, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” is a theistic concept.

    The more you know.

  114. We could even meet on Sunday morniafternoons, and have sermons that are half inspirational speech, half science lesson about the awe and majesty of the natural world.

    We already do that: On Boing Boing.

  115. When did the meme “Atheism is just another religion” go viral? I don’t recall it before, say, twenty years ago. Has anyone ever described why it is a religion? Not how it is, in some ways, like a religion, but how IT IS a religion?

  116. Atheism’s cheap already. It’s the others that charge for admission.

    Humans have a natural inclination to for religious groups. Despite the huge number of theologies humanity has created for itself, the one constant among every civilization, every culture, every native tribe is that there’s SOME kind of religious organization. By denying itself religious status because it feels too much like godbothering, atheism is discarding an extremely powerful cultural outlet.

  117. Boingerism? Boingianity? Boinglam?

    They try to make atheism a religion because they seek to turn the successful attack methods on religion against atheism.

  118. I live in Oly. Our daily rag of a newspaper (The Olympian; AKA “the daily zero”) took an online poll yesterday. It asked whether or not you approved of the sign’s right to be there. I voted in the AM It would not let our computer vote more than once, which seemed like a fair trade. Knowing that the “ballot box” wouldn’t be able to be “stuffed” is an ok tradeoff to my wife was not able to vote. Anyway long story short: I checked at 5PM and the poll was 92% in favor of the sign’s right to be there! Ha freedom of speech vs. freedom of diorama vs. freedom of botanical taxidermy with a campy aesthetic.

  119. In the last decade as fundamentalism has become mainstream, secular people have become increasingly annoyed at the tacit approval bestowed by the silent religious majority.

    Moderate Christians get lumped together with radicals by secular people because moderates allow radicals to speak for them in the media and in politics.

    Who are the loudest Atheists? Dawkins, Hitchens. Who are the loudest fundamentalists? Dobson, Pat Robertson, Barton.

    Who are the loudest Christian moderates, those people who agree with the separation of Church and State? Where are these voices?

    You can be of the opinion that either side is just as wacky – but as long as you silently lend credibility to one side over the other, then how are you different?

  120. it wouldn’t surprise me if a crafty church-goer/evangelical clergyperson didn’t put that sign up to shore up the “taking christ out of christmas” base. this issue is the new “monkey trials” of our time…

  121. @#31 You can have faith in that which is true just like you can have faith in that which is not true. It just depends on one’s perspectives…

    Someone once told me “Religion is Man-Made, Faith is Godly”…I ponder…

  122. I don’t understand being offended. When I see an image of the goddess of Justice in a courthouse I don’t feel compelled to rant about the evils of the Roman empire. Aesthetically I think the nativity scene wins out over the sign.

  123. Anyway long story short: I checked at 5PM and the poll was 92% in favor of the sign’s right to be there!

    It’s likely skewed in favor of the demographics that would visit that internet site- generally, polls on the internet seem to be skewed to a more liberal bias (as long as they are either in liberal venues or news sites). This reflects the fact that you, and your peers (not ALWAYS but GENERALLY a younger generation) would be reading the paper online, while the elderly are probably reading it in their newspaper, thus have no venue to respond.

    Sorry to be a killjoy.

    When I see an image of the goddess of Justice in a courthouse I don’t feel compelled to rant about the evils of the Roman empire.

    Justitia’s a symbol by this point in time. Belief in her is outmoded. Generally Roman or Egyptian or Greek pantheons are accepted as historical symbols or metaphors and not personified. I’ve never ever ever ever met someone who believed in Justitia as a person, or prayed to Hestia to protect hearth and home. Therefore- not a religion anymore. As irrelevant to the question of spiritual belief as Roman architecture.

  124. Those of you that believe in gods, what would you believe if no one had every told you there was a god? Do you remember when you first heard of gods? Do you remember making a choice, being given an opportunity to decide for yourself? We swim in a sea of belief; to the snail in the pond the Universe is a pond. How much of what makes up your beliefs did you consciously put in your head? Even if you came to your beliefs later in life, your freedom of choice was limited to the choices at hand, in this pond belief in gods is a given.

    Do you remember when you first heard of Santa Claus? Would you still believe in the jolly old elf, if you lived in a world where no one ever said, but Santa isn’t real honey. For anti-theists, belief in a god is no different than belief in Santa Claus. To understand anti-theists reflect on how silly, how impossible it would be for you to continue to believe in St. Nickolas.

    This is the nature of belief. Each society swims in its own pond. Our beliefs surround and permeate every aspect of our lives. We are born into our beliefs. If you had been born in a different pond, you would have different beliefs, and you would believe just as strongly in the gods of the jungle, as you now believe in the god of the desert.

  125. Dan Barker, a former evangelical preacher who now heads up the atheist and agnostic Freedom From Religion Foundation…

    Once a preacher, always a preacher. The man is still in the business of telling people what to think.

  126. This whole thing just sounds, looks, smells and tastes too much like (a quite successful) flamebait to be anything else. I just wasted over half an hour of my life reading comments of people who didn’t sense it.

    As for my stance over all this, no matter my religious views, the placement of that sign is parallel to placing a sign “Santa doesn’t exist” at the entrance of a kindergarten, or a sign “You’re next!” at the exit of cemetery. The aggressiveness of the signage is simply too high to be purely coincidental, so it’s most likely flamebait.

    Well anyway, I don’t know about you guys/gals, but I’m done wasting my time with this.

  127. Cnoocy “There are arguments to be made against magical thinking, but it seems that atheists would rather take the easy shots at their local hypocritical preacher.”
    Um…think global, act local?

    buddy66 “When did the meme “Atheism is just another religion” go viral? I don’t recall it before, say, twenty years ago. Has anyone ever described why it is a religion? Not how it is, in some ways, like a religion, but how IT IS a religion?”
    The logic, if memory serves is that atheists (sometimes with a capital A) can’t prove that there is no god (generally with a capital G), since they aren’t everywhere and don’t know everything, therefore they have “faith” that there isn’t.
    Personally, I’ll continue to believe in the null hypothesis until evidence presents itself, although some of the open questions as well as a dash of the spiritual within me lead me to occasional deism (and the “evidence” theists generally use is either; not, or applies equally well to deism).
    How come the deists don’t get a christmas display, anyway?

    That sign really is awful. Way to throw a wet blanket on the Christmas spirit, FFRF. Hire a poet or something.

  128. I’m starting to come to the conclusion there is some innate difference between those that believe and those without religious beliefs. It would seem our minds are wired differently. Was this merely a result of how we were raised? I tend to think not entirely, as with most things human there are usually many reasons for our behavior.

    I still remember when, I was 15 or so and after many years of internal debate, suddenly telling my mother there is no such thing as god. God does not exist. I was raised Episcopal, sang in the choir and for a brief period was an acolyte, but I don’t remember ever believing. There was always something fishy about the whole thing. Debate was not tolerated to any real degree. When confronted in Sunday school the teachers had a tendency to ask me to leave the room. I should add, we never lived in one place more than a few years until moving here in the sixties. So, it wasn’t just one church that wasn’t prepared to answer the questions of a doubting Thomas.

    I then set out to find some answers, and operating under the assumption that religion had answers, I went to different churches, a couple of synagogues, an Islamic mosque, then came Buddhism. Taoism and Zen Buddhism for some reason seemed to bring peace, though I have never really been AT peace. Alan Watts and Joesph Campbell were the ones who finally set me on the path that has brought me where I am today.

    I am not prepared to believe I am the way I am because I’m smarter. So, it must just be there is something different in the way my mind works. These religions and their gods have always seemed limiting. It is as though they bind us to this little ball of earth, where Taoism and Zen bind me to the whole. There is no longer something or someone between me and me.

    This is why when I write when god ceases to exist we will be born again whole as we always were. God is not a separate thing. There is only one thing and as long as we divide ourselves into us and him we will never be able to experience life in its fullest. Our imaginations are turned against us. Just as a child believes in monsters in the closet or under the bed, we continue to believe in gods.

    I regret that I am not an eloquent writer. And I apologize for using the word silly in the first post. Please understand we too have a deep spirituality without gods or religion. We have the same feeling, but without belief. Atheism is not a belief. I know this is not easy to understand, but it is not that I believe there is no god. For me there never was a god. I live without religious beliefs. I am not placing a bet. The whole concept of gods and religion is completely foreign to me.

    Wanting fellowship and needing community, we attend a UU assembly. I will also raise my children without implanting beliefs in the meta-physical. Though if as I suspect, that the reason for our holding beliefs is in part due to the way our brains function, then they may very well grow up and develop a belief in god, but at least it will be their decision. Right now, my oldest thinks we’re are made of stars and when we die we return to the stars. Our little spark returns to the universe, our bodies return to the Earth. We tell him many people believe many things, but despite their deep seated beliefs no one knows. The answer is there are no answers.

    For all these reasons this is why I wrote this a few days ago in another thread.

    The judeo-christian god is a lie, or at best a very pale insulting shadow of god. If there is a god it will be so far beyond any description found in those books. I will never believe a god capable of creating this universe would behave as the god these religions describe and in which they believe. If there is a god, these religions insult god.

    The desert religions make god out to be a petty insecure god, who out of loneliness creates a universe to house a creature from which he demands obedience and devotion under threat of eternal damnation. And on this same piece of earth, he casts out his traitorous angel. And in order to teach us, inflicts us with a cruel suffering. Yes, this is only test. How much longer before we have proven ourselves worthy. Where was the forgiveness we hear so much about? We offend him and are cast from the garden forever. No, this philosophy is that of a snail in a pond, not a creature that can look out over vast distances and sees the beauty of this universe. No, this is all so much bigger than these earthbound religions. There may very well be some godlike entity, but it will have little or nothing in common with this vengeful god of the desert.

  129. Oh Cripes. I live in West Virginia, and we get beat up for not being Christian, for being gay, for being anything not of the norm.
    You know what I say? Take the sign down. I am an atheist but I think that we should instead post a sign that says “SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE”. Not denouncing a religion, but using law as our chariot in this “war”. I mean, C’mon fellow atheists, WHY SO SERIOUS? I don’t like this angry atheist venture either.

  130. I’m starting to come to the conclusion there is some innate difference between those that believe and those without religious beliefs. It would seem our minds are wired differently. Was this merely a result of how we were raised? I tend to think not entirely, as with most things human there are usually many reasons for our behavior.

    You would be coming to the right conclusion.

  131. “If there can be a Nativity scene saying that we are all going to hell if we don’t bow down to Jesus, we should be at the table to share our views.” — from the article

    Does the nativity scene actually include such a statement? One could argue that is does implicitly — though there are Christians who don’t hold exclusionary views — but the sign is hardly implicit; rather, it’s explicitly insulting.

    A sign representing the atheist position that doesn’t explicitly insult all those who disagree would probably not raise as many hackles.

  132. Tenn: That’s not saying that believers are differently wired, that’s saying that humans in general are wired to believe. Now, whether they choose to put that belief in a god or in an ideal or in a whatever, that’s a different story.

  133. I don’t think we’re wired to believe. I think we’re wired to seek answers for sensory pheomena affecting us. There weren’t many verifiable answers for a long long time. If they tried to launch theism today, that ship wouldn’t leave port before it sank.

    And I’ll never understand how my not believing something is itself a belief. I have more respect for words than that. Not believing is just a blank stare, a shrug, a mumbled “Shit, I dunno….” Make of the world what you will, believer, but don’t try to make a believer out of me.

    1. And I’ll never understand how my not believing something is itself a belief.

      It isn’t…until you make a brass plaque out of it. There’s something about metallic codification.

  134. “If they tried to launch theism today, that ship wouldn’t leave port before it sank.”

    New cults spring up every day, often with beliefs so incredibly silly that logic revolts at the thought, but all promising rainbows and sunshine. I think that all people need answers, but some need the illusion of control as well.

  135. “And I’ll never understand how my not believing something is itself a belief.” MMmmm sort of a philosophical privative? Privative as in the absence of something used as if it were something?

  136. Tenn, thanks for the link. If this is indeed true, then the persecutions meted out by these religions to heretics, blasphemers, and apostates become even more egregious. Fortunately, it is possible for most of us to hide our lack of belief, like a kid in school pretending to pray. If this were not true, there would probably be far fewer atheists and agnostics, as atheism would have been bred out of our genes long ago.

    Sojourner Strange, I did not make a choice to not believe. That would imply I believed in a god, that I had a choice to make, but decided to choose to believe the opposite. Please believe me when I say, there was never a point that I chose to believe anything. For me, there simply was nothing to believe. Everyone was telling me what they believed, but it never made sense. This is the same argument the church has with homosexuals. They choose to be gay, and if they wanted, they could choose to become straight. Our sexuality is not a choice. Again, for me, there was never a choice between god or atheism. A judeo-christian god simply does not exist. This is why most people that have a problem with christianity, still believe in god. So, when they go in search, they will just find a religion that suits their life, that answers their questions, but that religion will always have a god. Because for them it is only about the message of the faith, not their belief in god.

    This link to Takuan’s comment in another thread, explains in far fewer words exactly how I see this issue.

    Beelzebuddy, While I may be inclined to agree with you, the problem is we will never know. My response to Sojourner Strange explains in many words why we will never know. Buddy66 responds perfectly to that assumption in nine words @173. New cults only take advantage of those who have lost faith in religion, not necessarily in god. There are many thousands of religions that are radically different from the desert religions, but most of them believe in gods or the mets-physical.

  137. I’m going to go on the record as a Christian who is in favour of this plaque. Why?

    Not because I agree with what was written on it (I don’t).

    Not because it wasn’t a slightly crass attempt at religion-baiting (it was).

    But because this was a nativity scene placed on government property, almost certainly at taxpayer expense. The atheist, agnostic and simply non-religious* citizens of that district should not have to stand idly by while their government endorses a religious viewpoint. They should be protesting this in any way that will help get their point across. Seen as an act of protest, this sign looks mighty appropriate to me.

    And I, for one, do not need politicians and governmental bodies endorsing my faith–we look bad enough already.

    *To say nothing of those of other faiths.

  138. I agree with the point made that atheists should be able to express their views, but i mean really really? outside a nativity?

    At least for me it pisses me off to see signs promoting religion.

    And I would assume it was rather aggravating for the people who went through all that hard work to setup a nativity, to have someone place an atheist sign outside of their religious meeting.

    What happened to respecting other people and their beliefs?

    If we as an atheist community expect to have our views respected, shouldn’t we be respectful of others and their traditions.

    If you have something to say then do somewhere where it wont a) fall on deaf ears and b) upset good people. Whom most, I am sure, did ABSOLUTLEY nothing to deserve a reprimand from this unthoughtful, disrespectful imbicile.

    I mean if the goal was to piss people off then I am sure this person succeeded, but i think it would have been more productive to place the sign in a less disrespectful place.

    and lastly WTF winter solstice, isn’t that a pagan celebration??? since when was an atheist a pagan? really if your going to try and be a jerk like that you should at least not have the sign be hypocritical.

  139. When people are seeking enlightenment, they make things more complicated than they need to be.

    Be atheist, be not atheist, and you will still be.

    The world circles, wobbles and spins even when your mind is still. It is useful to know these things.

  140. What happened to respecting other people and their beliefs?

    It was an interesting concept, but it became the blanket statement of the century for all kinds of self-interested groups to dodge any criticism or consequences for their actions and words.

    One thing that often saddens me is that debating ideas is now widely considered antagonistic and aggressive. It’s ‘not nice’ because in most cases, one of the point of views is bound to lose if its arguments aren’t valid. But we’re supposed to make everybody happy at all times, so we figure we shouldn’t go there.

    There is nothing insulting about strongly and directly disagreeing with a statement made in a public place. I understand that religious people get offended when atheists question their faith because it is too personal and intimate for them. Most can’t consider their faith from a remote, detached vantage point because it is too ingrained with sensitive life issues like death, morality and relationships.

    However, when expressed in public, one has to be prepared to debate his ideas. If the topic is too sensitive or offensive for the person to have a two-sided discussion with real arguments, then the idea ought to remain personal and private.

    The atheist sign wasn’t spray-painted on a church door. It wasn’t mailed to hundreds of private homes. The nativity was not vandalized, stolen or destroyed. The atheists merely decided to take part in the expression of beliefs in a public place alongside others. The fact that it was stern and straightforward does not make is disrespectful or inappropriate.

    The fact that some people get emotional when discussing their system of belief doesn’t mean we should halt the debate entirely or drive it to the sidelines. They have a choice to retreat in their private quarters and discuss only what makes them feel good if they so wish.

  141. I have a tough time with things like this. I like to see atheists being vocal. On the other hand, the tone of the sign does strike me as abrasive. On the other other hand, I enjoy the kerfuffle it creates.

    Here is my thinking. Putting up Christian displays, such as nativities and Ten Commandment plaques — in public places — strikes me as less to evangelize and more to emphasize that we are a Christian nation. It certainly isn’t to promote the beliefs of Christianity; if we’ve learned one thing from Stephen Colbert, it’s that some of these people don’t even know the ten commandments.

    And yes, there is an effort on the part of some people to preserve the belief that we are a Christian nation and that all others should be quiet.

    So putting up a sign like this, in the place it is, serves as a form of protest, to defend a group that some are trying like hell to marginalize. The nativity and the atheist sign are not equal — one is from the group that controls our country; the other from a group that is just trying to say that we are here.

    It may not be as polite as some would like, but when do polite (read: nonintrusive) protests ever work?

  142. EvilBunnyToo, now that is a very ancient saw. The only children Herod killed that were a threat to his throne were his own. Still not very nice.

    To those interested in studying the Gospels, I highly recommend to theist and atheist alike The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholar’s Version. I wish I had this newer version, this book contains the Biblical Gospels, the Sayings Gospels (Q), fragmentary Gospels, and more.

    From Wikipedia:

    The Massacre of the Innocents is not mentioned in the other gospels nor in the early apocrypha except for the Protoevangelium of James 22:

    “And when Herod knew that he had been mocked by the Magi, in a rage he sent murderers, saying to them: Slay the children from two years old and under. And Mary, having heard that the children were being killed, was afraid, and took the infant and swaddled Him, and put Him into an ox-stall. And Elizabeth, having heard that they were searching for John, took him and went up into the hill-country, and kept looking where to conceal him. And there was no place of concealment. And Elizabeth, groaning with a loud voice, says: O mountain of God, receive mother and child. And immediately the mountain was cleft, and received her. And a light shone about them, for an angel of the Lord was with them, watching over them.”[1]

    Currently there exists no historical or archaeological evidence of this event having actually happened aside from the account by Matthew. The Jewish historian Josephus (c. 37–c.100) who wrote about the period, makes no mention of this event, but does record Herod’s cruelty in other incidents. Many scholars argue that the account was invented to glorify Jesus.[4]

    Matthew’s nativity story, including the massacre, is presented as showing Jesus to be the Messiah, in fulfilment of a prophecy from the Old Testament (Jeremiah 31:15).[5] Raymond Brown suggests that the account in Matthew is based on an earlier narrative, patterned on the events in Exodus regarding the killing of the Hebrew firstborn by Pharaoh and the birth of Moses[6], a connection which would have readily been understood by a Jewish audience. Some Christians doubt the event on ethical grounds, as Paul L. Maier explains: “believers are used to Jesus dying for people, not people dying for Jesus … when the ‘people’ are babies, it becomes easier to doubt Matthew than wrestle with theodicy”.[7]

  143. sigh… the people who most need bible scholarship are the imbeciles who read it in one version in modern English – literally.

  144. The Winter Solstice is a time to celebrate no matter what your beliefs are because its the signal that the days will be getting longer from here on out until the next solstice, allowing for life to “return”.

    New Years are completely arbitrary, I would have made January start on the winter solstice myself.

    I just find it comply rich that people who hate the sign are acting violently toward it, but nativity scenes are never disturbed.

  145. Anonymous #185: While violence in this sort of situation is not justifiable, I would like to point out that nativity scenes aren’t insulting.

  146. I believe in God but do not favor Christianity or any religion in particular, and here’s my take. While it may be true that some sections of Christianity (or any religion for that matter, as well as some atheists, too) are power-mongering brainwashers and brainwashees, that stereotype no more describes all Christians than it does all human beings in general.

    As far as the sign goes, while atheists should certainly have equal rights to put it there, there is a big difference between that sign and the nativity scene. The nativity scene celebrates Christianity but does not disparage others’ beliefs. The atheist sign blatantly attacks pretty much all non-atheist religious beliefs. They could have gotten their point across by stopping after the first line with “May reason prevail”, or even stated their basic ideology, “There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world.” That would have probably pissed off some Christians, but what doesn’t these days, and it’s at least a legitimate opinion and point of view and not blatantly inflammatory. It disagrees with the Christian viewpoint, but does so matter-of-factly and without making insults. I personally disagree with the statement but I can still respect the views of those who believe it.

    The last line, however, that “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds,” is just a flame, an insulting attack, and not a very good one, either. This may be true of Islamist extremists, and to a lesser extent Christian and other hardcore religious fundamentalists, but it is by no means true of every single person, or even a majority of people who belong to a religion. The addition of this line to the atheist sign may have generated additional attention and helped get it on the news, but it presents atheists in a very bad light. It changes the message of the sign to “We are right and everybody else is wrong and stupid”, which really isn’t far from most fundamentalist religious messages.

    I think what (some) atheists fail to realize is that as far as separation of church and state is concerned, atheism is as much of a religious belief as Christianity, Islam, or anything else. The only difference is that atheists specifically believe that there isn’t a god, whereas other religions specifically believe that there is, along with their particular set of beliefs. Separation of church and state means that public officials and government can’t mandate or enforce a specific religion, not that they are utterly forbidden from expressing their personal views, or that someone has to be an atheist to hold office. Demanding that all religious references or icons be removed from public places is no less intrusive than mandating one specific national religion, and the atheists demanding such are effectively doing what they are accusing others of, mainly trying to force their religious views on others. Christianity may be the most common religion in the US, but there’s nothing stopping Muslims, Jews, atheists, and anyone else from publicly expressing their religious views, or else these signs would not be allowed to appear at all.

    Some other random crap to think about:

    1. The decline in functionality and good behavior in public schools is due to the lack of enforcement of rules, not the lack of religion. Evangelical Christians may think it’s wrong for god to be taken out of schools, but how would they feel if, 10 years from now, the majority religion was no longer Christianity and schools started holding daily prayers to of Mars, the God of War instead? That probably wouldn’t go over so well, either. Public schools suck because teachers are no longer allowed to enforce the rules in the classroom and kick out disruptive kids for being jackasses until AFTER the kid pulls a gun or a knife on someone, else they may face lawsuits from their equally disruptive parents. Blame lawsuit abuse, not God or the lack thereof.

    2. If God really intended there to be one specific relgion only, don’t you think he would be able to come up with a better way to propogate it than by giving a stone tablet to some guy on a mountain top and hoping that everyone else believes him? Knowing human nature, why would God choose to spread the word in a way that other human beings could easily distort and corrupt to their own ends, making it extremely difficult for most people to choose the “correct” religion? Even if one does choose the “correct” one, which version of it to pick? There are multiple versions of the Bible and the Quran, and not being a scholar or historian of such scriptures, I don’t know which one is “correct”, and not knowing Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, or Aramaic, I can only go by the word of instead of the Word of the Lord. If He had, for instance, dropped a bunch of 10-mile high structures made of some material not found on earth, built into some geometrically impossible shape and covered the walls in scriptures in all languages, then I would probably convert. Since this hasn’t happen, I concluded not that there is no God, but that God probably wants people to come to their own conclusions about faith and not have it rammed down their throats by the Man. If somebody else tells you what to believe and you believe them without question, that isn’t faith, it’s blind obedience/brainwashing, regardless of the message they have to offer.

    3. For the record, I was born into a Christian family (though not hardcore evangelicals) and used to go to church on at least a semi-regular basis. Although 95 percent of the time was spent reciting bible passages, mostly the same ones every time, there was not much mentioned or discussed about hell or eternal damnation, and most of the ministers’ sermons focused on doing good things and the spiritual benefits of doing so. I only picked up the hell (too severe, just used to scare people, etc.) arguments up by reading about those arguments either in history (the small amount of history of major religions taught in high school history, anyway) or on the news. I decided later that I disagreed with the notion of Christianity or any other religion being the “true” religion based on what some group of people or books say, but I must point out to atheists that most mainstream Christian churches, depending on their denomination anyway, at Sunday services, do not regularly preach hellfire and damnation, and it is only a small segment of Christians that firmly believe that you must adhere to X set of beliefs or be refused acceptance into the afterlife. They may be the most disturbed bunch and represent the brainwashees, but they are not representative of the majority of Christians.

    4. One reason atheism isn’t popular is their lack of catchy tunes with which to recruit people. For whatever reason, I was listening to this while I wrote this post

    and while I’m not an atheist myself, I could see this being used (maybe the meteor’s eye could be replaced with Jerry Falwell’s head) to hit on the brainwashing segments of other religions.

  147. thsts dn’t lk th d tht Gd r Jss Chrst s th svrgn Lrd f ll, thy dn’t lk th d tht smbdy s grtr thn thy r, nd smbdy s n chrg vr thm, thy wnt t b bss thy wnt t b gd, t lst th gd f thr wn lvs tht s, nd thrfr, thy bjct th fct Gd s Gd, nd srprsng ndd, whn w stp t thnk, tht th vdncs f Gd svrgn frrdntn f vry prt f r lvs s s clr tht ppl dn’t s t. D y? Dd y sk t b brn n ths wrld? Wr y cnsltd n th mttr? Ws t y dtrmntn tht dsrd tht y wld b brn blck, r wht, r rd r yllw, r ml, r fml? Tht y wld b brn n mrc r drkst frc r nd nd tht y wld b brn n th plc f kng, r n bck lly?

    Tht y wld lv hlthy lf, r tht s tny cryng nfnt y wld b drp sm plc whr y wld hr nthng bt th ch f yr wn cryng rsntng ff th mtllc wll f yr shrt lvd hm n grbg cn? Wld tht b yr chc my frnd? r fr tht mttr, ws t yr chc tht y b hmn bng nd nt mllsk fr xmpl, m sr thy lv ntrstng lvs mllsks, prhps, r prhps y cld hv bng wrm, ws t yr dng tht y r nt?
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  148. From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians

    This excellent Frontline program is available online, it “tells the epic story of the rise of Christianity. The four hours explore the life and death of Jesus, and the men and women whose belief, conviction, and martyrdom created the religion we now know as Christianity.”

  149. #177: Absolutely right. Thank you.

    Was the FFRF sign a teensy bit heavy-handed? Maybe. Possibly. Certainly arguable.

    Should a nativity scene been on GOVERNMENT PROPERTY in the first place? No. What’s wrong with having a nativity scene where it belongs – out in front of a church?

    Sorry about the shouting, y’all – the steady eradication of the church-state line makes me a little crazy.

  150. The poor soul lobbed one over the plate. However, in my defense, I’ve only flagged a couple of crazy posts that all advocated violence in a non-metaphorical way.

  151. every time they spill their innermost hearts, I feed a little. The robust ones take months to drain.
    Thin stuff as souls go, mind you, but if you ferment them a bit it adds a little something.

  152. I just want to remind everyone that there are some perfectly nice, sensible, intelligent theists who are regulars in the Boing Boing comment threads. You’ve probably enjoyed some of their comments. Please try to keep that in mind when you’re writing your own.

  153. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator “Please try to keep that in mind when you’re writing your own.”
    But, what if I’m an insufferable old coot?

    1. But, what if I’m an insufferable old coot?

      Then it would support the notion that birds of a feather flock together.

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