What’s the point of atheist Christmas displays?
‘Tis the season of joy, family, rampant commercialism, and….atheistic Christmas displays? For the past few years, various atheist groups have challenged religious Christmas displays in government buildings by putting up displays of their own. After all, since this is a secular nation, the government is not supposed to show partiality to any religion or philosophy on religion. So, if one group is allowed to have a display, all groups get to have a display.
I first heard of this phenomena with the Freedom From Religion Foundation and their sign commemorating the Winter Solstice and dissing religion in the process.
And then there was the Tree of Knowledge put up in West Chester, PA by the Freethought Society. I like this one too, and I seriously do not think there is any reasonable reason why it has now been banned from the courthouse lawn for the second year in a row even though religious displays are still endorsed. It is cheerful, and it’s not even anti-religious, except perhaps for people who think that seeking knowledge outside one’s inherited religious tradition is sacrilege.
Then there is this display, which I sorta understand but I still wonder about its appropriateness…. I do understand, though in a rather cynical way, why this display got lots of press and news attention while all of the other secular/atheistic displays in very same place got scant attention if any at all (I only heard about the other displays in an atheist blog). The person who put this up describes it as a kind of protest against the empty consumerism that has come to characterize so much of Christmas. But surely they know that people get awful upset when you call out the naked emperor in a holiday display, and that most people and most news organizations were just not going to get the point. Instead this seems to have turned into outrage over atheists attacking Christmas than anything else. Not as if the Christian majority doesn’t rage over the nicer atheistic displays anyway (like the Tree of Knowledge above.) But I must say I still have my reservations about this one.
Now, for my part, I think it would be better if Christmas displays just didn’t make an appearance at all on government property. So maybe that is one positive thing about this last display, in that the hubbub from this display may have resulted in all Christmas displays being banned from the county courthouse in Loudoun County, Virginia for this year. This stuff is always much better kept on private property, IMHO.
EDIT: I just have to make a note here, since I discovered well after writing this post, that the skeleton Santa was put up by a Christian. Atheists just got the blame for it. From the First Quarter 2012 American Atheist Magazine article “The War on Christmas:”
As it turns out, the artist who placed the skeleton Santa on the lawn is a Christian. And, as it clearly states on his permit application, this was a commentary on the destruction of Christmas by commercialism–something that both Atheists and Christians generally dislike. The skeleton Santa is still being blamed on the Atheists.
More information can be found here as well: NOVA Atheists Display is now Up.
- Atheist group protests lack of Tree of Knowledge in Chester County Christmas display (pennlive.com)
- Atheist display: Skeleton Santa nailed to a cross (usnews.msnbc.msn.com)