Posted by: Kristy | December 5, 2008

Joy to the world?

An article today on CNN.com about a missing holiday sign stole some of my joy.

Apparently, an atheist sign speaking against Christianity that stood next to a Nativity display in front of the Legislative Building in Olympia, Wash., became missing hours after it was erected, the sponsoring organization’s co-founder said today. The sign extolled the Winter Soltice, and expressed the Freedom from Religion Foundation thoughts that there are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven and no hell. The members of this society feel that religion enslaves minds and hardens hearts, as it is only myth and superstition.

CNN reported that some people expressed dismay because they said the sign attacked the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Which it did. However, if those people want to attack Christ and Christianity, they are within their rights.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, the group’s co-founder, said that the sign would be reconstructed, along with an attachment that says, “Thou shalt not steal.”

The issue, from my perspective, is not necessarily with the fact that the sign promoting the Freedom from Religion Foundation members’ beliefs was constructed. “There’s nothing out there with the atheist point of view, and now there is such a firestorm that we have the audacity to exist,” Gaylor said. “And then [whoever took the sign] stifles our speech.” As a Christian, I am not out to stifle their speech. It is not my nor other Christians’ place to limit the expression of faith from anyone — atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Muslims or others.

But in the same vein, why do the atheists feel they need to make a direct attack on an expression of Christian values? It’s not their place to limit the expression of faith from anyone else. I’ve never heard of atheists getting as upset about, say, Ramadan, as Christmas. Or about Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday that represents Ibrahim’s willingness to show obedience to Allah by sacrificing his son Ismail.

That’s what this sign was — a direct attack and response to the Nativity scene. Former evangelical preacher and co-founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation Dan Barker said as much.

“It’s not that we are trying to coerce anyone; in a way our sign is a signal of protest,” Barker said. “If there can be a Nativity scene saying that we are all going to hell if we don’t bow down to Jesus, we should be at the table to share our views.”

While I agree with Barker that everyone has the right to see his views expressed publically, why must we compete? Stick the sign on the other side of the building. But why make a huge deal of the fact that you don’t agree with Christians by putting the sign directly next to the Nativity as a form of protest? While the stealing of the sign is inexcusable, was there any real reason for it to be placed in the proximity it was?

Baker said the Nativity itself is the intrusion.

“Most people think December is for Christians and view our signs as an intrusion, when actually it’s the other way around,” he said. “People have been celebrating the winter solstice long before Christmas. We see Christianity as the intruder, trying to steal the holiday from all of us humans.”

I couldn’t agree less. No one is trying to “steal” the holiday. Atheists are saying Christians are trying to steal it. Christians say consumerism is trying to steal it and take the meaning out of the holiday. Why don’t we all celebrate what we want to celebrate and the way we want to celebrate.

Baker said he sees the Nativity scene as expressing a message of hate, not the other way around.

“When people ask us, ‘Why are you hateful? Why are you putting up something critical of people’s holidays? — we respond that we kind of feel that the Christian message is the hate message,” he said. “On that Nativity scene, there is this threat of internal violence if we don’t submit to that master. Hate speech goes both ways.”

What a sad, sad statement. Baker seems to forget that Jesus (whom he doesn’t believe in anyway, so why should he be concerned) characterized himself through love. Even the very action of Christ’s death — which Baker, again, as an atheist, probably doesn’t believe happened so I don’t see the problem — was performed out of love.

I, for one, cannot walk a second on this earth without becoming more convinced of the presence of a creator and god in my life. Because of what I know and what I have experienced and continue to experience, I choose Jesus. I love Jesus with my entire heart and want to live for him.

There are people who disagree. Because of what I believe, that makes me sad for them. But I can’t change their minds any more than they are going to change my mind. Life change is personal and internal. I am not in the behavior or life modification business. That is God’s department.

I am fully convinced that God speaks for himself and makes himself known. Therefore, I will proclaim my love for him loudly (and with every right) — but I think it is foolish for us to compete.

In Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association began a bus ad campaign this month questioning belief in God. “Why believe in a God?” the advertisement asks. “Just be good for goodness sake.” People have began complaining and cheering alike, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority reported. Fred Edwords, the association’s spokesman, said the ad campaign, which features a shrugging Santa Claus, was not meant to attack Christmas but rather to reach out to an untapped audience. They can do that. Christians need to stop getting their feelings hurt and complaining and speak up just as loudly.

Freedom of religion extends to Christians, as well, and was the backbone on which this country was founded. I see no reason for those with opposing beliefs to attack each other. Stop trying to kick God out of society — a Nativity scene is no reason for protest, just as an atheist sign is no reason for protest. In the end, we’ll find out who is right (since we both can’t be right) but for now express your own beliefs and let God speak for himself

According to the CNN articls: The governor’s office told The Seattle Times it received more than 200 calls an hour afterward.

“I happen to be a Christian, and I don’t agree with the display that is up there,” Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire told The Olympian newspaper. “But that doesn’t mean that as governor, I have the right to deny their ability to express their free speech.”

For some, the issue isn’t even that the atheists are putting their thoughts on display, but rather the way in which they are doing it.

“They are shooting themselves in the foot,” said iReport contributor Rich Phillips, who describes himself as an atheist. “Everyone’s out there for the holidays, trying to represent their religion, their beliefs, and it’s a time to be positive.”

Now there is an intelligent statement. Stop fighting and let the joy come back — God will make himself known. He has a habit of doing that, you know.

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Responses

  1. Man, are you a journalist through and through. I love your blog and I agree wholeheartedly. Why can’t we all just get along?
    What’s your position on the Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas debate?

  2. I am a believer – as of about six weeks ago. But as an atheist I believed in the existence of a man called Jesus who was executed for his beliefs, who did great things; and who people believed had performed miracles.

    I do not see anything wrong with putting up that sign next to the Nativity, since taht was part of the point the atheist group were trying to make.

    Atheists are not enough heard in our society today, I believe. In non-religious UK schools children are expected to pray and to celebrate Harvest, Christmas and Easter; I don’t think that’s right. We have incredibly religious teachers of Religious Studies, forcing their views on abortion and euthanasia and on other religions down the throats of their too-easily-swayed pupils. Lessons on safe sex from a group that came in from outside amounted to ‘Just Say No’. All this in a school which is meant to be absolutely nonpartisan.

    I am now religious and I believe in Jesus and the good things he did for us, and I believed he saved us by his death on the cross. However I also believe taht everyone has the right to their beliefs and to express them in the way that they choose, and I feel that Christianity already has quite enough attention in day-to-day life.

    I don’t see anything wrong in that sign being put next to the Nativity – I believe we should always be made to really think through our beliefs. If we cannot tolerate them being challenged, then should we really hold those beliefs? I have come to belief through a serious thought process and through an intense emotional connection with God; I am happy to be challenged because I am secure with the beliefs I hold.


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