Monday, December 20, 2010

Tree of Knowledge

Another Christmas season another Tree of Knowledge. The Seattle Atheists have erected a Tree of Knowledge on their state capitol grounds. You see these kinds of displays across the country and my general feelings towards them have not changed since I wrote about them last year. Although I have to admit the message they placed next to the tree is really not bad (especially when compared with that drivel the FFRF puts up). I would even find myself agreeing with their message if I was not so jaded due to just about everything that comes from atheist groups is meant with some kind of anti-religious slant. But that is not why this Tree of Knowledge is different. When these kinds of displays are put up they are in response to an accompanying religious display, such as a nativity scene. However, there is no accompanying religious display for this Tree of Knowledge! I cannot count the number of times I have seen various atheist groups/bloggers throw complete hissy fits over religious displays on state grounds. Yet here they are, doing the exact thing which they constantly scream and rave against, which seems to be a common theme lately.

Religious displays on state grounds, BIG NO NO!
Atheist displays on state grounds, perfectly ok.

On a serious note, would any atheists care to give their feelings on this display and if they think it should remain?


  1. Well, we've come a long way since the Kennedy era, when there was real social, economic and political rivalry between Protestants and Catholics, and the latter really were a disadvantaged minority group. Now the battle lines seem to have been drawn between the religious and the nonreligious. What the nonreligious really want (this one, anyway), of course, is substantive separation between church and state. A place at the table, which in the spirit of mock pluralism, has been set for 'displays representing various religions' has become something of a 'consolation prize,' which sombunall seculars see as an appropriate short-term demand. Not surprisingly, some of us are concerned about the implications of atheism and/or agnosticism being treated as a religion among religions. Some of us are also concerned that the amount of energy expended on some of these struggles (many of which are purely symbolic and don't actually impact individual rights) is out of proportion. Nevertheless, the modus operandi of the religious right places heavy emphasis on pushing people's 'hot buttons.' The message being sent with public sector Nativity scenes (or more generic statements of monotheism such as "one nation under God") is territorial: "This is a community of believers." On those occasions when we have an opportunity to bring a message to the public square, often as not the message that is dying to get out is, 'civic religion doesn't represent all of us.'

  2. I think what it really comes down to is that you have to allow all or none. If you want to remain neutral from religion you have to treat all religious views the same. Thus either letting them all have a chance of sharing their message or giving none of them that oppertunity. That way there is no favortism to one group or belief. Most atheists would prefer none but if thats not the case then as long as everyone else has a chance to say something we can to. So if we can why not do it?

    This is the argument being made and I'm actually slightly surprised you aren't aware of it. As for the message on the sign it can be as inclusivist or exclusivist as any christian one.

  3. You are right that most atheists would prefer no religious displays were allowed. And they are still fighting to get things this way by putting up counter displays (that are almost always negative) next to religious displays. In my opinion, if you are fighting to not allow any religious display then you should not go and put up your own display by itself. You are trying to have your cake and eat it too. If you think no displays should be allowed, then stick to your morals and do not put one up even if you are allowed to, unless it is in response to something else.

    Now, I realize that it is different groups that are putting up displays to counter religious displays as opposed to the one who put up the tree with no accompanying religious display. But I would expect they would have been called out by other atheist groups. But to my knowledge, this has not happened.