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Dizzying Intellect » Sadly Obligatory

Sadly Obligatory

This is becoming an epidemic.

Anti-religion Sign Joins Nativity Scene, ‘Holiday Tree’ in Washington State Capitol

An atheist group has unveiled an anti-religion placard in the state Capitol, joining a Christian Nativity scene and “holiday tree” on display during December.

The atheists’ sign was installed Monday by Washington members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national group based in Madison, Wis.

With a nod to the winter solstice — the year’s shortest day, occurring in late December — the placard reads, in part, “There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

I already said this in the comments at another blog, but I think it bears saying again:

Later that afternoon, the group went, uninvited, to Rebecca Smith’s fifth birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese and displayed another placard: “Today is not my birthday. Given the state of the world, I may not live to see my next birthday. Therefore Becky isn’t allowed to have these presents.”

These crazy, bitter extremists don’t represent the vast majority of (grown-up) atheists in this country.

Most of us just don’t have the faith required to be a believer, for one reason or another, and think it would be disingenuous and insulting of us to fake it. But we love it when you tell us Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Blessed Yule, because you’re wishing the joy of your holiday on us. The spirit of the season may be secular for us, but we certainly don’t deny that it exists. We smile at strangers and call our families and give to charity more at this time of year, just like you do. And we certainly don’t want to take away your sparkly trees and menorahs and crèches, because they’re lovely and cheerful, and we like that they make you happy, and they definitely don’t “harden your heart.”

But I suspect you’ll believe the crazies who always make the nightly news, instead of me.

And so be it. I tried.

36 Comments

  • By og, December 5, 2008 @ 2:39 pm

    I think of you as an atheist (I also think that when Atheists arrive in the afterlife, they have to spend the first thirty years of their stay with that astonished expression on their face, until all the people they knew in life join them) but I differentiate you from anti-theists. You have never struck me as an anti-theist.

  • By OrangeNeckInNY, December 5, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

    I paraphrase a quote I read somewhere a long long time ago: “If you so strongly believe that there is no God, you’d better be damn sure.” …or something like that.

  • By tanya, December 5, 2008 @ 5:16 pm

    “If you so strongly believe that there is no God, you’d better be damn sure.”

    Eh. I’ve lived my life in a more holy way than most Christians I know. If it turns out I’m wrong, and some pissy little whiner god wants to send me away just because I didn’t worship him, even though I lived a clean, decent life, he can bite me. I wouldn’t want to live in that kind of “heaven” anyway. So sorry.

  • By Galen, December 5, 2008 @ 6:31 pm

    I appreciate atheists who extend the effort to understand where religious people, and vise versa. The people behind that sign are extremely hypocritical in that they are demonstrating hardness in their hearts in complaining about the hardness of the hearts of religious people. The people they’re against, the intolerant religious people have a lot more in common with these atheists than these atheists have in common with the atheists who don’t feel the need to make their beliefs a negative statement towards others’ beliefs.
    I think that it’s a pretty ridiculous concept to assume that the self, as we know it in this world, is preserved after the death of the body, considering that the way we understand the self is defined by the limits of the body. When it comes to heaven for atheists, I think those who live their lives in a good way wind up the same way as good religious people. That said, I think that worship is important not in appeasement of some egotistic ghost but by recognizing the smallness of the self and the greatness of God (as understood in the systemic sense).

  • By Matt S., December 5, 2008 @ 6:36 pm

    Actually I like your viewpoint on the issue. I hadn’t considered it in that light. Thanks for sharing….and Merry Christmas!

    ;)

  • By og, December 5, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

    “he can bite me. I wouldn’t want to live in that kind of “heaven” anyway.”

    You’re very damned close to the truth of the matter. I believe, someday, we’ll get to have this conversation… elsewhere.

  • By Eric, December 5, 2008 @ 6:52 pm

    I was raised a Catholic but count myself now among the non-believers, and I’m with you on this. I still celebrate Christmas as a tradition, which might make me a hypocrite, but I still kind of like the idea of peace and goodwill to all, and Christmas serves as a good reminder of that if nothing else. So anti-theists (as og aptly describes them) can stick it.

  • By Count to 10, December 5, 2008 @ 6:59 pm

    Nice. I’m with you.

    “Eh. I’ve lived my life in a more holy way than most Christians I know. If it turns out I’m wrong, and some pissy little whiner god wants to send me away just because I didn’t worship him, even though I lived a clean, decent life, he can bite me. I wouldn’t want to live in that kind of “heaven” anyway. So sorry.”
    I think that sums things up rather nicely.

  • By Alana, December 5, 2008 @ 7:01 pm

    It’s a pity anti-theists are doing their best to ruin it all for Christians and atheists alike. Guess they can’t stand to see anyone happy.

  • By Ben, December 5, 2008 @ 7:04 pm

    Wow… It’s quite nice to see an atheist with a good head on his/her shoulders. This post should be required reading for atheists the country over. This clearly represents the difference between classic atheists (who hold an intellectual belief in no God or totally lack faith in a God) and new atheists/anti-theists who hate the idea of God / God himself, morality, Christians, religion and, it seems, happiness.

  • By Nagarajan Sivakumar, December 5, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

    I am a Hindu and I am glad to read this post - and i agree 1000% with Tanya. There have been times when i thought the exact same thoughts to myself.

    But to add on to her thoughts, in my perspective God is not about punishing people - God’s greatest gifts to mankind are free will and the ability to reason. Both of these attributes have lead people to either believe that their faith is the only true way or to reason that there is no such “thing” as God.

    Thank God for free will - or wherever it originated from :-)

  • By David, December 5, 2008 @ 7:27 pm

    Merry Christmas :D

  • By Smitty, December 5, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

    I am always amazed at the gaul of these extreme people who camplain of having to endure the existence of the Christian religion but cannot find any reason why we should not be forced to endure their form of religion. It really does not matter if their religion is pagan, douist, hindi, budist, muslim, or the featured religions of this post, atheism and/or anti-theism. I respect the author of this post because he/she understands everyone has the right to practice their faith or lack their of faith so long as it does not adversely affect others or break any laws. (example: human sacrifice or Jehadi terrorism) I wonder why this is so difficult for some to understand?

  • By Texas, December 5, 2008 @ 7:43 pm

    That was really well written. You had me for a moment on the chuckie cheese part - very well done example.

    Gaylor & Barker are the WBC of the Atheists. Everyone on all sides of the religion issue sees both of those groups for what they are, extremists bent on imposing themselves on everyone else.

    Christmas isn’t my holiday either but I hear what folks are saying when they wish me a Merry Christmas - it is a wish for good will, and I wish it back to them. And strangely it doesn’t harm me in any way to do it, in fact, like the grinch it makes my heart feel bigger.

  • By tanya, December 5, 2008 @ 7:52 pm

    I should clarify that I’m the author of this blog. I know I confused some people, above.

    But I stick with my argument. If your deity would reject me or my Hindu or Jewish friends just because we don’t worship him or her, then I have no interest in your heaven, if it does turn out to be real.

    For your sake, I hope your deity is kind and just, and looks for good souls, not sycophants. And the fact that most of you believe that this is the nature of your deity, makes me very happy.

    And thanks for the Christmas wishes. Back atcha! :o)

  • By Amy, December 5, 2008 @ 9:13 pm

    Thanks for this post. You get it. :) It brightened my day just to read that.

    Merry Christmas!

  • By TruthHound, December 5, 2008 @ 9:50 pm

    Those so fervently anti-religion have turned their efforts into a religion in itself. The religion of hate for the religious. A masterpiece of hypocrisy.

    I pray for you. And I pray for them. But for them, knowing this burns like holy water on Reagan McNeil. Good.

  • By Kanelin, December 5, 2008 @ 9:54 pm

    I am a Christian, and I have never felt that it is right for me to try to force anyone to believe as I do. I believe that this goes against the teachings of Christ. I also believe that it is not for me to decide who will, or will not go to Hell. I won’t go into my reasons for this belief, but they are many and very deep.

    I have what I consider to be very good reasons to believe as I do: I am a nurse and have seen many things I consider to be miracles. I could tell about these things, but I will never expect you to take away from them what I do. I only ask that you respect my belief that they really are miracles. Im return, I will respect your beliefs: I will agree to disagree, respectfully of each others position.

    As I wrote, I am a nurse, and I work in a charity hospital. This means that I take care of every patient the same, no matter what. I dont ask what they believe in, or how much money they have. I only ask what I can do for them. This is, I believe, in line with the teachings of Jesus. Nowhere in his teachings, that I know of, does he say that we are only to be kind and generous to our own kind. He teaches quite the reverse, in my reading. We are to treat all as a part of our family.

    I really hope that I am not alone in the Christian community in this, or that if I am wrong then I feel I will be joining you in Hell. Because I agree with you that I would not want to live in that Heaven either.

    Thank you for the post. It has renemed my feeling that we can talk iabout our differences without trying force our beliefs on each other.

    (Sorry for the length, but I feel strongly about his. Also sorry for any typos: I am doing my best, but I broke mt glsses and cant see the screen very well to review.)

    Kane

  • By Jaibones, December 5, 2008 @ 10:06 pm

    “But I suspect you’ll believe the crazies who always make the nightly news, instead of me.”

    Nope. Sure we hate the hater-crazies who don’t believe but especially don’t want us to believe. They’re hateful and deserving of hate.

    But I (truly) believe that most Christians see non-believers the way you have described them and you - happy to receive our benighted well-wishes, and to see that we are happy like little children because of the colored lights. Heh.

    I am a Christian, and I understand the season, and sometimes I wish the holiday were not celebrated by secular society at all, so that we Christians could focus on the scriptural origins undisturbed. And yes, I like the colored lights, and they make me happy…sometimes.

  • By Kanelin, December 5, 2008 @ 10:08 pm

    Gosh, I forgot in all of that what my original message was:

    I wish you joy and peace in this season that celebrates joy and peace!

    Kane

  • By Wes, December 5, 2008 @ 11:11 pm

    Thank you for your rational assessment of the situation. I liked the birthday analogy.

    As a Christian, I am not offended when a Jew says “Shalom” or when I am wished a happy Chinese New Year, Happy Halloween, or anything else like that.

    May you continue to enjoy the joy of our season, and, perhaps, one day understand firsthand the faith and joy we invite others to share.

    Merry Christmas.

  • By ILonaE, December 5, 2008 @ 11:17 pm

    I don’t believe there is such a thing as an atheist. I am quite sure when in a time of dire need or pain or suffering these self-proclaimed “atheists” will cry out for help to some higher being.

    Merry Christmas!

  • By Mike, December 6, 2008 @ 12:04 am

    As someone who aspires to Christianity, I appreciate your comments. thanks very much!

  • By Rob, December 6, 2008 @ 12:05 am

    As an conservative and an atheist I am ashamed of those that claim to be atheist and then act like mental midgets on a national stage. Tolerance goes both ways. How does that saying go? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That Jesus, for such a religous fellow he had some pretty good ideas!

  • By Janis, December 6, 2008 @ 1:24 am

    I find your view to be honest and heartwarming. I am Christian and don’t push my belief on anyone. I haven’t the ability to bring anyone to God. That’s His job. Believing is not something that happens because of something someone said or preached to you. It happens because someone did those things and God made His presence known to you. At that point, you “know”, without physical proof, of His existence. There’s not a more beautiful feeling in the world.
    I am disappointed in the commercialization of this season, but I guess it’s bound to happen in a society that has moved ever further away from God. Regardless, I pray that the children are still allowed the wonder and beauty of the lights and trees, the bells ringing and the music. That those who celebrate the “reason for the season”, experience His peace in their hearts and His blessings in their life!
    And to everyone, everywhere, Merry Christmas!

  • By Americanus, December 6, 2008 @ 1:50 am

    Tanya - great post and sentiments, how refreshing to see real tolerance!

    As for the extremists, I guess atheists have to suffer their “Pharisees” too.

    Merry Christmas!

  • By Valerie, December 6, 2008 @ 7:26 am

    Thank you for the lovely message. I’m going to pass it on.

  • By PapaBryant, December 6, 2008 @ 8:08 am

    As a Christian who regularly engages the kind of anti-theistic wackos who put up the sign in Washington in debate, your message here is welcome. I know that not all, or even most, atheists or agnostics are hostile towards religion in general or Christianity in particular, but an actual reminder of that fact from a person of good will (such as you have shown yourself to be here) really does go a long way towards stopping any stereotyping of atheists that my admittedly “scewered-by-overfamiliarity” perspective might tempt me to have.

    May you and your have a VERY Merry Christmas!

  • By Alisa, December 6, 2008 @ 10:04 am

    Evangelical atheists piss me off. They are the people that call the police because they know that someone is having a party, not because there is any noise coming from it. They are the modern inquisators. That they don’t see it is mind numbing.

  • By Steve from Wisconsin, December 6, 2008 @ 10:10 am

    To Jaibones: Very well stated in your post! You represent my feelings almost exactly, especially on wishing sometimes that secular society did not celebrate Christmas at all. I’m a Christian, and I often feel that way, while I, too, enjoy the lights, etc. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

  • By Steve from Wisconsin, December 6, 2008 @ 10:17 am

    To Janis: I agree with you 100%. You nailed it perfectly - what He is about, how He reaches us, and who we are to be. Thanks for the wonderful note!

  • By garrie keyman, December 6, 2008 @ 3:17 pm

    I toast Tanya. She has something of value and said it well. Much appreciated.

  • By ryukyu, December 18, 2008 @ 10:32 pm

    I’m agnostic myself, but this is exactly how I feel about it Tanya.

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