This holiday season the Freedom from Religion Foundation will be, again, placing a sign upon the Illinois Capitol Hill. They originally placed the sign in 2008 as a response to a Nativity scene.
The Foundation put up its first solstice display in 2008 in Springfield in response to the state's decision to allow a religious group to plant a nativity display in the Capitol. The state granted the Foundation's permit application.
"We don't think religion, or irreligion, belongs in state capitols," noted Dan Barker, Foundation co-president and author of the book, "Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists."
"But if a state is going to permit a nativity display and create a public forum, then we want to be sure that the views of the 15 percent of the U.S. population who is not religious are also represented."
First let’s start with their reasoning for putting up the sign, shown above. There is nothing wrong with thinking that religious displays should not be placed on government property. However, if they are going to be allowed, and all different views are welcome as they most obviously are in this case, what is the problem? The main point that is usually brought up in these cases is discrimination and the government forcing one particular religion. In this instance, that is not happening. The government is allowing multiple views to be represented, not just one. I fail to see how one could construe one religion gaining favor or preference when dissenting views are also allowed to be expressed.
Second, there is the exact wording of the sign itself. My main response is, “And people wonder why atheists have a reputation for being ass holes?”. When there are groups like the FFRF claiming to represent all atheists, as they do in the quote above, the general reactions are bound to be negative. For example here is one atheist’s reaction to the sign,
To me it is obviously offensive and targets religion and I think takes advantage of freedom of speech. Basically it is a "low blow" and feels like they are going to the same level of religious fundamentalists and I think we can rise above childish things like that and put something intelligent out there.There is also the blatant lie that their sign claims to represent all atheists in the United States.
we want to be sure that the views of the 15 percent of the U.S. population who is not religious are also represented.They do not represent the views of the non-religious in the US. They represent some of the views of the non-religious; there is a very large difference. Frankly, if they did represent all of the atheists I would be severely disturbed and slightly scared for my safety if 15% of the population held me in an equal amount of contempt as the FFRF appears to.
It is also extremely ironic, and a little hypocritical, that the FFRF would mention the Winter Solstice in their hope for “reason to prevail” this season. For in their condemnation of a modern religious celebration, Christmas, they reference an event that is, historically, even more mired in religion and religious symbolism than Christmas is today in its present state.
I wonder what the FFRF thought the reaction would be to their sign. Any religious person who reads it is going to find it purposefully insulting and the only ones who are going to fully agree with it are the militant anti-theists, basically preaching to the choir. Do they honestly think being insulting is going to cause religious groups in the future to refrain from putting up displays? If they do I would place that right at the level of second grade bully tactics. The reactionary character of their sign also intrigues me. One group is allowed to place a religious display so the FFRF must respond, and the response must be negative and insulting. It is like a child who is initially offered a toy and turns it down, yet proceeds to throw a tantrum should their sibling be allowed to play with it.
And one last note:
There is no such thing as “Freedom from Religion”. There is “Freedom of Religion”. The two are completely different as one mandates an infringement upon a person’s individual rights while the other does not. An atheist is no more free from my religion as I am free from their atheism. Stating a person is to be free from religion is equivalent to stating a person is to be free from being offended. This is ironic considering if the freedom to never be offended actually did exist than the FFRF certainly would not.