Children Of The Revolution contributor Seachranai brought this article to my attention today. Having read it, I have mixed feelings. First, let me express my political opinion. The group mentioned in the article, Freedom From Religion, of course has every right to display this sign, and I respect the State of Washington’s decision to support free speech, especially that which is unpopular. The fact that the sign was stolen or destroyed is of course an infringement upon said speech and whoever the perpetrator is clearly doesn’t celebrate or appreciate that aspect of our free society. This should all go, in my opinion, without saying.

That’s how I feel politically. Now I’m going to express my personal feelings about the matter. While the group clearly has every right to express themselves, their desire to do so during the holiday season is an irritation of mine, purely from the perspective of reciprocal tolerance and old-fashioned courtesy. Atheist activists find themselves in the fortuitous position of having no particular holidays (this article mentions the Winter Solstice?) during which those of faith can erect signs directly insulting their beliefs. Conversely, they have ample opportunity to snipe at religious holidays. Freedom From Religion cites the Nativity scene as an “intrusion” and an affront to their beliefs, saying, "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." Indeed, they are at liberty to sit at the table and do so. But what is their goal? To stifle the expression of the religious in order to defend themselves from such an “intrusion”? Is that tolerance?

I’m not a fundamentalist by any means, though I am a man of faith. Just because the celebration of Chanukah is observed by a sect that denies the divinity of Jesus Christ, I’m not going to erect a sign beside a Menorah instructing passersby that Jesus was the Son of God and that Judaism should be cast aside. I would refrain from doing this out of tolerance and respect for the beliefs of others that I disagree with, but who may feel just as strongly about those beliefs as I might about mine. Furthermore, advocating for the removal of that Menorah out of deference to my beliefs is unconscionable. We are free to celebrate our faith, privately or publicly if we so choose. But we are not free to bulldoze the Nativity scene over (especially if it’s a living Nativity), just as whoever stole Freedom From Religion’s sign was not free to do so.
I understand the reasons why Freedom From Religion chose the holiday season to put up their sign: increased visibility and poignancy, to create discussion (evidenced by this very blog post), and in protest of the presence of religious symbolism to which they do not subscribe. Their sign does not offend me, it only annoys me. Had they put it up in my town, I wouldn’t have made a fuss with city hall or the state legislature or stolen it, though I might have shaken my head as I walked by. But it is a sort of bastardly thing to do.


loudelf.com said...

I agree, it's in bad taste, and being put out to get a rise. A strength and flaw (all in one) is our freedom of speech. I'll still take our freedom of speech unchanged from its current form, but I can choose to not like what I hear.

Chris Berry said...

I am an atheist and I find what these people are doing offensive.

Hariolor said...

I actually find this sort of sign a completely reasonable expression of free speech, provided that there is no attempt made to quash other similarly legitimate attempts at free speech.

Ben Wheat said...

The fact that the sign represents legitimate free speech isn't necessarily the issue. It does, it's perfectly fine and I applaud the State of Washington for protecting Freedom From Religion's right to display their signs. I just think it's in poor taste, as LOUDelf said. Totally a personal opinion, I'm not advocating any action be taken against them. They're just exercising poor judgment that's all.