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Topic: One little atheist sign cause of huge controversy

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Subject: One little atheist sign cause of huge controversy
Date Posted: 12/5/2008 7:33 PM ET
Member Since: 4/20/2006
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Apparently it's okay to have Christian signs and symbols everywhere at Christmas (and the rest of the year to boot), but if you put up one little atheist message it's stolen in less than 12 hours.  Figures.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/12/05/atheists.christmas/index.html

Date Posted: 12/5/2008 8:44 PM ET
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No kidding, less than 12 hours.  More like about 1 hour!  Sheesh!

Date Posted: 12/5/2008 11:56 PM ET
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Maybe they should have put a "Thou shalt not steal" sticker on it.  And really, a nativity scene has no place in a government building anyway.

 

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 12/6/2008 2:55 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
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What gets me is that the article states it's "criticising Christianity".  Um, NO DINGBAT, it's criticising RELIGION!!!  Why the heck do people think the only religion that exists is Christianity?  Sheesh!

 

ETA:  By the way I like the bus ad. :)

I also think neither the naitivity scene nor the atheist sign have any business on government property.

 



Last Edited on: 12/6/08 3:00 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/6/2008 7:58 AM ET
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I also think neither the naitivity scene nor the atheist sign have any business on government property.

 You're right.  If you allow one, you have to allow them all though.  It amazes me how the pastor is encouraging people to oraganize and protest.  He wants them to protest against religious freedom so they can later complain about persectution?  It just infuriates me. 

Date Posted: 12/6/2008 2:38 PM ET
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Don't want to infuriate you or anything -- just have some thoughts on this issue. You don't have to agree -- in fact I expect that you won't, but at least consider this point of view.

  If atheists are truly "celebrating" the winter solstice -- where in their "sign" is any show of celebration? (although I do not know exactly how one celebrates the winter solstice) It would appear to anyone observing that the sign is not about celebration at all, but an attack on anyone who believes in any religion.  And, although they do not  name "Christianity" -- the positioning of the sign adjacent to a nativity scene seems to predetermine the aim of the attack, does it not?   Would they put the same sign next to a Kwanza display or a Menorah or a Santa Claus figure?

I agree that if you allow one "sign" of Christmas you should allow them all -- but poor taste is poor taste.  Maybe this was done simply for the shock factor and is simply an attention getting ploy.  If Mr. Barker simply wanted to make his point about religion, he could have placed his sign anywhere else in the building... but he chose this particular location for a reason -- it made the message even more shocking and it does come across as an attack instead of a celebration of what he believes (or doesn't believe.)  In fact, by making the public statement that "religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds", Mr. Barker just might intimidate someone into following his way of thinking -- his religion, so to speak.  Could that be called proselytizing? 

Mr. Barker said ,"It's not that we are trying to coerce anyone; in a way our sign is a signal of protest.  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."   I think it's a really big stretch to project that having a Nativity scene is making that statement.  There are no words displayed at the Nativity.  It is a simple, peaceful depiction of the meaning and origin of Christmas (as is obvious by the title of the day -- "Christ-mas".   His point about Christians "stealing" the Christmas celebration is moot.  All holidays have evolved from their origins.  I'll leave you all to do further study on that subject yourselves.  We can all celebrate Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween, or whatever -- in which ever way blesses us most.  I think that's okay -- don't you?  The Nativity represents how one very large segment of our society celebrates Christmas.  Why should it be such an offense?  I wear my cross necklace, you wear whatever symbol means something to you.  Isn't that what freedom of religion is all about?    

Date Posted: 12/6/2008 4:26 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
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In fact, by making the public statement that "religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds", Mr. Barker just might intimidate someone into following his way of thinking -- his religion, so to speak.  Could that be called proselytizing? 

Is intimidate the right word?  All they did was put up a sign? If anyone putting up a sign is intended to intimidate people, then McDonalds is scarier than the Mafia.

I agree that if you allow one "sign" of Christmas you should allow them all -- but poor taste is poor taste.  Maybe this was done simply for the shock factor and is simply an attention getting ploy

Christmas/the "Holidays" get a lot of attention, and many organizations try to turn that attention towards themselves.

Why should it be such an offense?  I wear my cross necklace, you wear whatever symbol means something to you.  Isn't that what freedom of religion is all about?

And there's freedom for people's lack of religion.  No one demanded the removal of the creche, they merely added their voice to the chorus of voices dictating what this season is about.

I think the sign is too wordy.  Mine would just say "Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.  Just because."

Date Posted: 12/7/2008 12:23 AM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2006
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The pastor , and others who feel as he does, must be insecure in their religious beliefs if they feel threatened by one little sign.   We have freedom of religion and freedom from religion.   There would be no reason for the freedom from religion sign if religious displays were not in public buildings.

 

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 12/7/2008 6:48 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Anna wrote:

  If atheists are truly "celebrating" the winter solstice

Actually I don't know of any atheists that celebrate Winter Solstice.  It's usually the Pagans that do that.  Pagans aren't atheists.  There may be some atheists that do but I don't know of any.

-- where in their "sign" is any show of celebration? (although I do not know exactly how one celebrates the winter solstice)

There are many ways to celebrate it.  It's easily researched.

It would appear to anyone observing that the sign is not about celebration at all, but an attack on anyone who believes in any religion.  And, although they do not  name "Christianity" -- the positioning of the sign adjacent to a nativity scene seems to predetermine the aim of the attack, does it not?  

Not any more than the presence of the nativity scene is an attack on other religions.

Would they put the same sign next to a Kwanza display or a Menorah or a Santa Claus figure?

Since Kwanzaa and Santa Claus are secular, those aren't good examples.  The only equitable example would be the menorah and I suspect the group would have the same problem with a publicly displayed menorah.

I agree that if you allow one "sign" of Christmas you should allow them all -- but poor taste is poor taste. 

Some feel the nativity scene is in poor taste. It is all in the eye of the beholder.  I tend to agree with the sentiments of the atheists' sign and don't feel it is in poor taste, rather a statement of logic and wisdom.

Maybe this was done simply for the shock factor and is simply an attention getting ploy. 

More likely it was done to prove a point.  You can't display religion unless you allow all religions that same freedom.  If Santeria practitioners started leaving sacrificial goats on courthouse lawns, people might start to understand the impact of public displays of religion.

If Mr. Barker simply wanted to make his point about religion, he could have placed his sign anywhere else in the building... but he chose this particular location for a reason -- it made the message even more shocking

I don't find it shocking at all.  In fact, I find it equally offensive as the nativity scene.  Not shocking, just not permissible.

and it does come across as an attack instead of a celebration of what he believes (or doesn't believe.)  In fact, by making the public statement that "religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds", Mr. Barker just might intimidate someone into following his way of thinking -- his religion, so to speak.  Could that be called proselytizing? 

Yes. (Though I agree that "intimidation" is a stretch.)   The whole point of the display/protest?  No religious symbols should be displayed on government property.

Mr. Barker said ,"It's not that we are trying to coerce anyone; in a way our sign is a signal of protest.  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."   I think it's a really big stretch to project that having a Nativity scene is making that statement. 

That's because your are Christian.  That's exactly the message it sends to non-believers, among others.

There are no words displayed at the Nativity.  It is a simple, peaceful depiction of the meaning and origin of Christmas (as is obvious by the title of the day -- "Christ-mas".  

Another interpretation is that it's a public display of a religious myth that's been perpetuated for eons in order to coerce and control others.

His point about Christians "stealing" the Christmas celebration is moot.  All holidays have evolved from their origins.  I'll leave you all to do further study on that subject yourselves.  We can all celebrate Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween, or whatever -- in which ever way blesses us most.  I think that's okay -- don't you? 

I think it's perfectly fine to celebrate anything you want - be it a holiday or anything else.  It's the public display on government property that crosses the line of decency.

The Nativity represents how one very large segment of our society celebrates Christmas.  Why should it be such an offense? 

See the above.  Do you really have to ask?

I wear my cross necklace, you wear whatever symbol means something to you.  Isn't that what freedom of religion is all about?   

There is a huge difference between decorating yourself with religious symbolism and decorating a public building with religious symbolism.  The government is not supposed to endorse any religion.  When they allow such a display, it crosses the line between the separation of church and state.

Really, it's a no-brainer.  Or should be.

 

 

 

Date Posted: 12/7/2008 8:02 AM ET
Member Since: 3/10/2006
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He wants them to protest against religious freedom so they can later complain about persectution?  It just infuriates me.

Same here, Amanda.  You can't have it both ways - and yet Christians often do.

Date Posted: 12/8/2008 3:57 AM ET
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O.K. I find this sign silly. First off, while an athiest could celebrate Winter Solstice, I would find it odd as most pagans that do see it as... It's a celebration of the "rebirth" of the Sun. Yes, it's "natural" and Nature oriented but the sun normally represents the masculine aspect of some divinity during these celebrations. So for an atheist to say they're "celebrating" something that is normally taken as a Pagan holiday, filled with all the religious trappings and "superstition", then in the same breath downplay those same superstitions... That just doesn't make sense to me.

But if they want to be confusing more power to them. I have no problem with anyone celebrating the rebirth of light in the darkest time of year. Whatever their reasons. The part that ticked me off was this,

"Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens the heart and enslaves the mind."

Ummmm... Sorry. No. Don't think that's cool. Because now you are insulting my beliefs. A Christian putting up a nativity scene doesn't bother me that much, so long as I can put up a Yule tree too. The idea of sharing your beliefs doesn't mean you are saying other beliefs are wrong. You're just sharing your beliefs. Even on a public property it can be seen as sharing the beliefs of the community. So long as everyone can add thier POV, and we have the menorah next to the yule tree next to the nativity next to the atheist sign, I see no problem with it. However, If someone decided to put up a nativity scene with "sinners" burning in flames as a backround... I would be ticked off. Likewise, I have no problem with Atheism... till that person tells me I'm wrong, hard hearted and mentally enslaved, for holding a belief in a higher power. ESPECIALLY when my belief in a higher power very often is what keeps me from being hard hearted and encourages me to think.

Yes, they have just as much a right to share their beliefs as anyone else. They did not however have to metaphorically slap religious people when sharing thier beliefs. This sign doesn't strike me as sharing ideas in an open, understanding exchange. It strikes me as spiteful,  vindictive and dead wrong.

Date Posted: 12/8/2008 12:10 PM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2006
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I think the reason the atheist sign was put up is as a protest against religious symbols on public/government property.   It is their opinion that "religion is but myth and superstition....."  It isn't any different than a Christian sign proclaiming if one doesn't repent they are going to hell.  As L said, a nativity scene in a public/government building violates the separation of church and state. 

 

Date Posted: 12/8/2008 5:46 PM ET
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"I think the reason the atheist sign was put up is as a protest against religious symbols on public/government property. "

Was it simply a natibvity scene? Or did it have some sign telling everyone to repent? And either way, why meet an insult with an insult? "He hit me so I'm going to hit him back." Two wrongs do not make a right. Again, I would have had no problem with that sign, if they had not insulted my beliefs.

""It is their opinion that "religion is but myth and superstition....."  It isn't any different than a Christian sign proclaiming if one doesn't repent they are going to hell. ""

I actually have no problem with them calling it "myth and superstition". None what so ever. My beliefs are myths and they are superstitions. But to say that my beliefs "harden the heart and enslave the mind" is insulting and rude and a gross generalization. Just as bad as saying "all athiests are morally depraved."

And again, if it was a nativity scene with nothing but the nativity, then there is no automatic condemnation. That's the psyche, of the person who sees it, talking. Not the nativity itself. Now it there was a sign that actually said, "You sinners repent or burn" or something like that with the nativity... it still doesn't justify  meeting an insult with an insult.

 

Date Posted: 12/8/2008 11:25 PM ET
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We'll have to agree to disagree on this one.  Back to the issue of a nativity scene in a public building.  Do you believe that should be allowed?

 

Date Posted: 12/9/2008 9:21 AM ET
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It was simply two opposing beliefs.  Non-believers don't have a pictoral display like a nativity scene, so the sign was their statment of belief, just like the nativity scene represented the Christian belief.  As usual, no one batted an eyelid at the Christian display, while the atheist display wasn't even tolerated for an hour.  That's the interesting part.  If people don't want the atheist/agnostic display, then they have to be willing to remove their own display.  To not do so is hypocritical and shows that the people who placed the nativity believe that everyone should be Christians, regardless.

Date Posted: 12/9/2008 1:10 PM ET
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The sign does not celebrate anything but merely seeks to provoke rage from the Christian/religious community and therefore should not be allowed. The governor of Washington should have seen this battle coming.

The sign's conclusion states, "That hardens the heart and enslaves the mind." If your an atheist that thinks this way, and I have yet to see any atheist in this thread dispute this phrase, then I guess you count my amongst those who have had their minds enslaved.

Date Posted: 12/9/2008 1:22 PM ET
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So anything that irritates the Christian community shouldn't be allowed?  I had no idea that Christians were so special.

 

Date Posted: 12/9/2008 1:27 PM ET
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Anything that is setup in an attacking nature in what is a celebration setting should not be allowed. We bicker, fight, and complain eleven months out of the year; Christmas is seen as a time/season to bring people together. Tell me in what way does the sign presented bring people together?

Date Posted: 12/9/2008 1:55 PM ET
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I remember all the years I sat in Sunday school not believing what I was taught, but keeping my mouth shut because I thought I was the only one, feeling miserable and frustrated.  So I find it reassuring to know that there are others who don't believe in virgin birth etc, its just nice to have someone say that its ok not to believe what most other people believe.  The same way that I like people who advocate Singles Day around Febuary 14th. 



Last Edited on: 12/9/08 1:59 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 12/9/2008 2:26 PM ET
Member Since: 11/11/2008
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A dogmatic attack against faith/religion brings you reassurance?

Its just nice to have someone say that its ok not to believe what most other people believe.

Except that is not what the sign concludes. It concludes with the idea that people like myself have our minds enslaved. That statement only seeks to provoke anger.

Let me submit one that will provoke some anger as well: We must have quite a few communists that post on this forum as communists are true haters of faith.



Last Edited on: 12/9/08 2:29 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/9/2008 2:53 PM ET
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I agree that the sign was poorly phrased.  But yes, I do find it reassuring that there are other people who feel comfortable living their lives without religion and have the courage to say so.  Aside from the belligerent phrasing of this one sign, is it objectionable to have any atheist sign displayed next to a creche? If they had omitted the line about hardening hearts and enslaving minds, would the sign still be inappropriate?

Date Posted: 12/9/2008 2:58 PM ET
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Vanessa,

It would be less offensive and we probably wouldn't be discussing it.

Date Posted: 12/9/2008 3:08 PM ET
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Oh wow, what a dialogue!   Naive little old me, I just assumed that the "right to believe" necessarily included the "right to DISbelieve." 

Or doesn't it?  What does the U. S. Constitution say about this?  

In the religiously PLURALISTIC United States of America, does anyone get special exemption or privilege?

Date Posted: 12/9/2008 3:09 PM ET
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less offensive, but still offensive?  Because its on goverment property where neither of those displays belong? 



Last Edited on: 12/9/08 3:10 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/9/2008 3:56 PM ET
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That's the whole thing in a nutshell Vanessa.  Neither of the displays belong on government property.  And that is why the sign was put up there, to prove that point.  I would not have worded it the same way either.  A nativity scene does not bother me one way or the other, and I'm a non-believer.  But I do believe that religious symbols do not belong on government property.  Some people find the sign insulting.  Do religious people have the right to not be insulted?

 

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