Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Reason For The Protest

Translation: "Merry Christmas, you hard-hearted, enslaved idiots!"

Yeah, it's kind of a dick move.

Granted, the Christmas holiday is but one in a long list of holidays that have co-opted the solstice season for a chance to make merry, and was itself rejected as sinful by large swaths of historical Christianity, and is for the most part now wholly secular in our society. But it is one of the few times in the year that Christians can feel like being open about their religious orientation doesn't make them into annoying proselytizers, because, hey, everyone's doing it, too!

And granted, the Freedom From Religion Foundation's plaque was placed in response to a Christian nativity scene being allowed to be placed in the rotunda previously, which is itself a breach, at least in spirit, of the "establishment" clause of the First Amendment. And in fact the Christian who lobbied to place that nativity scene there himself recognized the FFRF's right to have their own installation alongside his.

But it's still a dick move. As a counterexample, see the December newspaper advertisement for the North Texas Church of Freethought:

Translation: "Holy cow, there's an atheist Santa?"

The most offensive phrase is probably "silly superstitions," but then again, everybody's Christmas celebrations include silly superstitions of some kind or another. My Polish family always passes around oplatek (a large, priest-blessed, communion wafer) to bring good luck into the new year. Yeah, it's a silly superstitious act that has nothing to do with whether or not the next year will be a good one, but but the larger message is one of showing affection for one's loved ones- precisely the freethinking (and secular!) message that the NTCOF promotes.

And I could imagine that the average Christian who breezes past this advertisement might be miffed at reading the NTCOF's opinion on "the real reason for the season," but couldn't take umbrage at it's similar snipe against "mindless materialism" nor disagree with the sentiment I already mentioned about sharing our lives with those we love. And that's really how I would prefer it to be taken, because proclaiming the explicit antithesis to orthodox Christianity tends to not be helpful for the average believer.

But then there's this story. Just this past week, a young couple in East Texas, believing their 13-month old daughter to be possessed by demons, proceeded to beat (and bite!?) her to death with a hammer. They can be added to the growing list of people (in Texas!?) who have murdered their children at God's presuming behest. Andrea Yates, Deanna Laney, Dena Scholsser, and now Jessica Carson. The first three women were found to be under psychotic delusions; it remains to be seen what is found regarding the latter. What troubles me is not knowing if their respective psychoses were independent of, or cultivated by, their religious convictions. And if the former, did their religious convictions provide a conventient catalyst to action?

You see, whether or not the FFRF has taken the most diplomatic path with their message, they're not operating simply on the principle of humbug. When they say, "may reason prevail," I think of people like Jessica Carson. When they say, "there are no devils," I think of people like Jessica Carson. And when they say, "religion hardens hearts and enslaves minds," I think of people like Jessica Carson, who hardened her heart to her daughter's cries of pain, and gave her mind over to a dogmatic belief that encouraged her to crush her daughter's skull with a hammer.

Nobody likes a village atheist. But I would happily take that role if it meant that one fewer person would give him or herself over to murder because of a "silly superstition."

Post a Comment


At 12/06/2008 7:00 PM, Blogger Josh declaimed...

Well said. I like the NTCoF poster much better. I was upset by the lack of tact with the FFRF display, so I wrote this:

I Disagree with Dan Barker and the Freedom From Religion Foundation

Every story like that I hear about someone doing something horrible to their children, etc. just makes me shudder. I really wonder if they would have eventually committed something just as heinous if it weren't for their dogma....or maybe they wouldn't have had children in the first place if it weren't for the pressure put forth by religious traditions. Either way, very sad indeed.

Josh Nankivel

At 12/11/2008 7:55 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

I think the question to ask is, "Does a delusion lead to a psychotic delusion? Even if not necessarily, does it do so in a statistical percentage of the time?"

I think when you throw Satan paranoia into the mix, the answer is, "yes".

I have heard it argued that Christmas actually arises from two pagan traditions; the Solstice festival, and the act of kindness that was checking up on your neighbors in the Midwinter to make sure they were okay. Peace on Earth, good will toward humankind. I leave Christ-mass to the church from whence it came.



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