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Atheists' Christmas display

December 19, 2011 - Jodelle Greiner
Did you catch the story from California about the atheists who have taken over a bunch of display spaces traditionally used by Christians to stage Nativity scenes this time of year?

For more than 50 years, 14 of the 21 spaces have been used by the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, a coalition of 13 churches, and the Santa Monica Police Officers Association for their displays, according to an Associated Press article.

Thirteen people bid on the 21 spaces this year. Now the math says each one should have been able to get at least one space, maybe two, but according to the rules of the lottery set up by Santa Monica City Hall, one person could ask for as many as nine spaces. This nutty rule resulted in two people commandeering 18 of the 21 spaces. Of those 18, only three are being used, according to the AP. Of the remaining three spaces, two went to the coalition, and the third to Isaac Levitansky of Chabad Channukah Menorah, whom I’m assuming is Jewish.

The atheists’ three displays include a greeting “Happy Solstice”; a quote from Thomas Jefferson, “Religions are all alike — founded upon fables and mythologies”; and one that pictures King Neptune, Jesus Christ, Santa Claus and Satan with the caption “Million Americans know MYTHS when they see them. What myths do you see? American Atheists. Since 1963.”.

I have no problem with the atheists’ display of “Happy Solstice” — everyone’s entitled to celebrate what they like. If I say “Merry Christmas” and someone answers “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Kwanzaa”, I’m okay with that.

I scratch my head about the Thomas Jefferson quote. Once again, people can believe what they want and admire who they like, but the quote itself smacks of condensation and belittling other’s personal beliefs. If religion isn’t for you, fine, but don’t put down those who believe and find comfort in it. Some people swear holistic medicine cured their cancer; others scoff at it, but who’s to say? If the cancer’s gone, I say great.

Which brings us to the third display. I found the one picturing King Neptune, Jesus Christ, Santa Claus and Satan that implied they were all myths to be offensive for the same reasons as the Jefferson quote. Who are these atheists to judge what is myth or not? Who are they to insult anyone for their personal beliefs? If their intent is to insult only Christians, they messed up, since they are also insulting Jews, too, since Jews believe Satan exists.

Additionally, there is evidence in secular writings that Jesus of Nazareth did exist. He did go on trial in front of Pontius Pilate and King Herod. Jesus is mentioned in the writings of Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian; the Talmud, a collection of Jewish writings; Pliny the Younger, a Roman proconsul in Asia Minor; Tacitus, a Roman historian; and Lucian, a Greek satirist, just to name a few. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to believe He was the Messiah, but to say He was a myth means He didn’t exist at all, which isn’t true.

Everyone has the right to believe what they want and to state those beliefs, but the line gets drawn when you insult other people and/or their beliefs. If the atheists’ display insulted homosexuals or illegal immigrants or any ethnic group or the handicapped or Muslims, it would be considered bigotry and condemned. It is bigotry, because they are denigrating someone else and their beliefs and that is never okay.


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