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12/04/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Reason's Greetings

Cover of Cover via AmazonBy Valerie Tarico

Bill O’Reilly is in heaven, because the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has given him a platform from which to launch his latest series of tirades about “The War on ChristmasTM.” Alongside a manger scene and a holiday tree, the executive office building in Washington State now has a plaque that says, “At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail.” It goes on to add: “There are no gods, no devils or angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” The sign was placed by ex-evangelist Dan Barker (author of Godless) on behalf of Washington members of the FFRF, an organization that works largely on separation of church and state.

As nontheist and a Washington State member of the FFRF, I have mixed feelings about the sign. Not about the fact that it exists, mind you. Our governor and attorney general have issued a joint statement:

The U.S. Supreme Court has been consistent and clear that, under the Constitution's First Amendment, once government admits one religious display or viewpoint onto public property, it may not discriminate against the content of other displays, including the viewpoints of nonbelievers.

Well, thank goodness!

For years Evangelical fundamentalists have driven their beliefs into the public square in the form of failed apocalyptic foreign policies, failed abstinence only sex ed, failed manufactroversies about climate change and evolution, and a failed bid to install a dominionist ditz in the vice presidency. Many of us—Christians and nonChristians alike, are tired of their astounding sense of entitlement and frightened by how far it has gotten them.

That said, the sign is pretty in-your-face. All right. Very.

I honor Dan Barker’s work to call attention to the dark side of religion. Month after month, he and his wife Annie Laurie Gaylor defend kids who are tormented at school because they aren’t Christians. They give voice to young freethinkers. They file anti-discrimination lawsuits. They labor to keep science classes rigorous and social services fair. They compile news articles about fraud and violence and sexual abuse committed in the names of gods—and they can show you stacks of evidence that Catholic priests are not outliers.

I honor their work so much that I support it, and I gave up my Monday evening to interview Dan for a Seattle Community Access show called Moral Politics. But, still, I have to ask, wasn’t the first sentence enough?


Throughout recorded history, winter solstice has been a time to celebrate. Ancient agricultural cultures gave sacred significance to the return of light, the budding of new plant and animal life, a new cycle of plenty. Their festivals had names such as Saturnalia, Yule and Lucia. Some of them are celebrated to this day. It was the special significance of the winter solstice that caused the Christian church to designate it as the birthday of Jesus. Not only did it have the perfect connotations, representing as it did, the death and resurrection of the sun, it was already established as a birthday of gods. Prior to or during the time of Jesus, the Roman Attis, the Greek Dionysus, the Persian Mithra, and the Egyptian Osiris all had their birthdays celebrated on December 25. Solstice really is the reason for the season.

I wish that the FFRF had simply given secular voice to the wonder we all feel when, in the dark of winter, we experience the promise of warmth and beauty and new life.

December 4, 2008


Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and author in Seattle, Washington. Her book The Dark Side, describes the rational and moral contradictions that caused her to abandon Evangelical fundamentalism. She is founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.



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10 comments:

webmdave said...

You say that people who chose religion over atheism are not free thinkers, this is false. We do have a choice, and we simply chose to believe, all for different reasons. I can't speak for anyone else, but I chose to believe because it's the only thing there is that comforts me in time of death, which is a lot more then I can say for any of you shallow assholes out there. In short, you will never remove religion, no matter how much you biggots try to make us think otherwise.

webmdave said...

"You say that people who chose religion over atheism are not free thinkers, this is false. We do have a choice, and we simply chose to believe, all for different reasons."

True, we are all free to choose to believe which one of the thousands of available religious philosophies we want to adopt. However, we are *not* free to simply choose to believe what we find unbelievable. I find all religions that deal in the supernatural to be UNbelievable. I can't set a date for next Monday to start believing Poseidon causes earthquakes. I can't choose to believe that Thor sits in the clouds and hurls lightening bolts. Likewise, I can't choose to believe that if I beg "Jesus" for forgiveness, that he'll magically keep my personality alive when I die.

IOW, nonbelief isn't necessarily a choice. Notwithstanding, you are talking "freedom" to believe, whereas, "freethinker" has other implications.

"[...] I chose to believe because it's the only thing there is that comforts me in time of death"

More power to you. If you find the idea of an afterlife believable, despite there not being one scrap of objective evidence that our "personalities" survive death, good for you! Gobs of comfort to you!

.."which is a lot more then I can say for any of you shallow assholes out there.

Oh, I see. Since I cannot simply choose to share in your mystical, magical beliefs in an afterlife and in an invisible guy who makes it all possible, this makes me an "asshole". Oh, my...how will I ever get over the hurt?

webmdave said...

"... shallow assholes ... biggots[SIC] ..."

Thank you for stopping by and sharing your Christian love with us. Your righteous name calling certainly shows that you are neither shallow nor a bigot and that we should all strive to be examples of Christ's gentle love like you. God must be really proud to have you on His team.

IOW: Happy Solstice, Hypocrite!

webmdave said...

i used to be the angry christian, eager to outwit atheists somehow and show them christians aren't all like the stereotypes that they were familiar with. i found myself longing for some sort of nod from aetheists as if I had made some breakthrough. i think Zeitgeist ended my chances of that ever happening. -and of coarse George carlin.

webmdave said...

Way to go Nate! You have just done away with your "comfort" in time of death.
Because of your judgemental, hatred and direct disregard for Jesus' commands (you know the ones I mean.....'turn the other cheek', 'do good to those who despitefully use you', 'Love your enemies', 'Judge not least ye be judged', etc.)
You have just guaranteed your own discomfort and an eternity in HELL!
You are not only mis-guided, you are Biblically ignorant!

See you in Hell moron!

XPD

webmdave said...

It is possible to remove religion. It happens one mind at a time. If you can let go of your fear for a minute you just might see that.

Sorry that this is so threathening to you.

webmdave said...

"I can't speak for anyone else, but I chose to believe because it's the only thing there is that comforts me in time of death"

So, you choose to believe because you're afraid to die, not because the story is true? Does that really make sense to you? Is that really a good reason to believe something? It appears you are a believer because you are afraid not to be. Nate, your fears have taken over your life.

The really funny part of this is that you are afraid of something that you'll never even know has happened. Death, from all we can really know about it, involves the cessation of brain function; the loss of consciousness. When you die, you will therefore not even be conscious of the fact you are dead, or have ever lived. Yet, you live in fear of it and pick your religion because of it. That's really sad, Nate.

webmdave said...

Christians...
Can't live with 'em, can't rapture 'em with a Glock...

webmdave said...

What's sad is we cant remove insipid, childish, and cowardly comments from worms like you so.

webmdave said...

Hei, Nate! Gleðileg Jól. (holds out box of homemade cookies).

I'm sorry to hear that you think religion is your only source of comfort in times of bereavement. May you one day find a better way to honour the ones you have loved and lost.