Sunday, December 07, 2008

Oh Joy, The Christmas Wars by Anthony McCarthy

I’m starting out as I will end, all seasonal displays on public property by outside groups, religious, anti-religious, etc. should be prohibited, it leads to nothing but trouble, it is a tedious waste of time and attention by public servants who have better things to do. Unlike the rest of this perennial story, I’m only going to say it once and get it said.

You knew some variation on this story was coming. Seems that someone stole a sign erected by some enterprising atheists as their contribution to the entirely inappropriate holiday display at the Legislative Building in Olympia, Washington. The sign read.

At the season of
may reason prevail.

There are no gods,
no devils, no angels,
no heaven or hell.
There is only
our natural world.
Religion is but
myth and superstition
that hardens hearts
and enslaves minds.

Nothing provocative about that, is there. While, if they let them put up the manger scene, they must allow the sign to be put up, I agree with those who point out that you could be forgiven for thinking the FFRF might be somewhat gratified by the theft. A reaction and feigned outrage at the reaction is an intrinsic part of this well rehearsed routine. The sign was clearly meant to stir things up and clearly would offend, a group that claims to promote reason doesn’t get to put up that sign at Christmas time and pretend they didn’t know the predictable results. Today it is as predictable as the objections to those who insist on trying to get the government to symbolically endorse their religion. It’s just a variation on William Donohue’s annual Christmas skit.

Yes, yes, if whoever stole the thing is caught they should be charged with petty larceny or some such thing. I’d like to know their motives, which we can only guess at, for now. It could have been some punk whose motives were as faith based as bashing a mailbox. But they should be prosecuted. As if the cops in Olympia, Washington didn’t have better things to do with their time.

And if you, like me, wish that this is about as far as things can go, of special interest to Pagans and their allies will be this quote from Dan Barker the former evangelical preacher and co-founder of the group.

"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."

Perhaps Barker doesn’t understand that to of most of us humans the solstice celebrations were to propitiate various gods and supernatural beings to bring back the sun. It wasn't "the axial tilt" that got them all festive and a bit of it is reported to have been quite religious, indeed. I wonder if some modern Wiccans, who are more use than most to having their deeply held religion called “myth and superstition”, might want to counter the FFRF expropriation of their holiday as well. And I’m sure there would be a group to take the Wiccans to task for some whatever.

No display of religion belongs on any government property, none whatsoever. If it’s necessary to forbid all displays on government property, sponsored by any outside group, it’s worth the sacrifice. Aside from the clear implication that it is an endorsement of a specific brand of religion, justice and equality require that once one group can put something up, all can. Then the kinds of displays that will be allowed will become a time-wasting, attention diverting issue. Many will purposely be too outrageous or offensive to be tolerable and someone will purposely try to provoke another group. It’s guaranteed that anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, anti-Buddhist, anti-Catholic, etc. displays will be erected by those who will insist on equal time with whoever else gets to put something up.

Ban all of these displays on public property, they don’t belong there. Governments, federal, state and local have too many real problems to deal with without having to monitor whatever dioramas and posters adults acting like spoiled brats can come up with. It’s not as if there aren’t enough private properties to display things on. That’s where these displays belong. Ban them all, take the issue out of the hands of government officials and put it back where it belongs, in the private sector.

P.S. Like those annual estimates of the accumulative gifts of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, it gives a lazy and superficial press too many stories that could have been phoned in on auto-pilot. Not buying cable anymore, I don’t know if CNN has had on one of the reliable rentable voices of religious outrage on to counter their publicity seeking opponents. But they will.