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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Atheist Display at Washington Capitol Sparks Protest

Reprinted by permission of The Christian Post

By Elena Garcia
Christian Post Reporter
Tue, Dec. 09 2008 02:02 PM EST

Hundreds rallied outside the Washington Capitol on Sunday to protest a holiday sign erected by a group of atheists that disparages religion as a "myth" and declares there is no God.

A crowd of 500 protesters gathered on the Capitol's steps to decry the sign which Gov. Chris Gregoire had permitted an atheist group to include as part of a Christmas-themed display inside the rotunda.

The sign states, “At this season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

Freedom from Religion Foundation, the group that installed the sign, said the display was to promote the Winter's Solstice. Dan Barker, co-president of the Wisconsin group, however has also described the display as "an attack on religion," kgw.com reported.

Protesters sang Christmas carols while area Christian pastors participating in the rally prayed. Demonstrators also held signs that bore Christmas-filled messages like "Jesus is the reason for the season" and "We say Merry Christmas." One sign portrayed Gregoire as the grinch.

Steve Wilson, who organized the rally, said he thought the message of the atheist display was offensive to people of all religions.

"When it comes to disparaging my faith on public property, that's where I draw the line," Wilson told the Associated Press.

His mother, Susan, however, emphasized that they were not protesting religions but the atheists sign.

“We’re not with the groups that brought the signs, ‘Atheists go to hell,’” she told The Olympian. “We love everyone and let’s be kind to one another. … This was a way our family decided that we had to stand up for Jesus.”

The rally on Sunday represented only a small dose of national outrage growing over anti-religion displays.

A spokesman of the governor's office has told The Seattle Times it received over 200 calls an hour following the sign's debut last week.

The controversial sign went missing on Friday and turned up a few hours later at a Seattle radio station where one of radio hosts had been discussing the sign.

Gregoire, who is Christian, has said that while she doesn't agree with the message of the display, the state must allow all viewpoints to be represented on public property if one viewpoint is permitted.

“But just because you must represent everyone in the state doesn’t mean that you put up with intolerance from the people that you represent," countered Rev. Kenneth Hutcherson, the pastor of Antioch Bible Church, which has put up a pro-religion sign to respond to the atheist one.

Antioch's sign reads: "There is one God. There is one Devil. There are angels, a heaven and hell. There is more than our natural world. Atheism is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

Both signs are now on display near a nativity scene and other religious displays. The atheist sign now also includes a posting that reads: "Thou Shalt Not Steal, Exodus 20:15."

Bishop Council Nedd, chairman of In God We Trust, a national advocacy group that supports public displays of American history, disagrees that the atheist sign should be allowed in the Capitol.

"These signs have nothing in common with a menorah, a nativity scene or a Christmas tree. They are an attempt by anti-religious bigots to equate a belief in God with enslavement and to ridicule the majority of Americans who believe in God," he said.

Nedd said he wouldn't be surprised if the atheist group demands to place a similar sign next on the National Mall in Washington D.C. That's why he's launching a national effort to stop such an attempt. The organization is mobilizing its 60,000 supporters to lobby their governors and representatives in Washington urging them stop the atheist advertising effort.

"Why do these zealots have the right to post signs on public property attacking their countrymen?" Nedd posed. "Would anyone stand for an equally hate-filled message being posted by the Klan on Martin Luther King's Birthday? Of course not. Yet that is exactly what these atheist bigots want."

"In God We Trust will oppose any effort to place these signs in any state capital or in any government location in Washington, D.C.," Nedd pledged.

Copyright 2008 The Christian Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Anonymous said...

"U.S. Capitol"? Seriously?

You might want to check that headline.

Bob Ellis said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for the correction. Got this story confused in my mind with the secularist love-in at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, what little confidence these Christians have in their own faith that they feel so threatened by atheist signs! I guess when you make yourself into a victim, it's easy to get away with suppressing other people's freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

"Why do these zealots have the right to post signs on public property attacking their countrymen?"

I wonder if Bishop Council Nedd would say the same thing if a group of Muslims put up a sign saying DEATH TO THE INFIDELS, ALLAH IS THE ONE TRUE GOD. It supports Islam, so it's obviously pro-religion. Would he respect their right to express their beliefs on public property, as Christians can?

And let's not forget that Christians are atheists too when it comes to any deity except Yahweh - they do not believe in Allah, Shiva, Vishnu, Zeus, Horus, or any other god that has ever been worshipped throughout history. And they also believe that any religion except Christianity is a myth, a superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds. Perhaps they should remember these things before they accuse others of attacking religion!

Bob Ellis said...

Anonymous 8:06, I don't think it's a lack of confidence, but rather a deep sense of regret that in a nation founded by Christians on Christian principles, where the vast majority of Americans still identify with Christianity, that a display which mocks their faith and the principles upon which our nation is built could appear at a center of government.

What's more, I'm sure they're more than a little miffed that the God-haters have chosen to do this at the time when one of the two most sacred Christian holidays is celebrated.

And you obviously don't understand what "atheist" means. Atheist is defined as "one who believes that there is no deity.' Notice the "no" in "no deity."

They do believe that other religions (except Judaism) are partly or wholly based on myths. However I think it is highly debatable to contend that Christianity "hardens hearts and enslaves minds" when many of the great scientists and thinkers of the ages have been Christians.

Better to be enslaved to the truth than enslaved to the delusion that this incredible universe came into being through random, unguided events with no cause, and thus be willfully shut off from the source of all knowledge.

Anonymous said...


So if Christians get upset that some people put up signs saying there is no god, that gives them license to suppress freedom of speech? Whether these signs mock your faith is irrelevant; Americans have the right to say what they want and express whatever beliefs they want, no matter how angry it makes you. This country belongs to ALL Americans, not just the Christian fascists, so let's try to share and play nice. Sorry, but feeling "a little miffed" is not enough to subvert the Constitution.

And if you think I obviously don't understand what the word "atheist" means, then you obviously didn't read the rest of that paragraph. Christians and Jews believe that Yahweh is the only true god, yes? So to them, it follows that the gods worshipped by other religions must be false. As a Christian, you believe beyond a doubt that there is no such thing as Allah or Vishnu or Shiva, without bothering to actually prove it. In other words, you believe there is no deity where others think there is one. Therefore, you are part atheist. As Richard Dawkins said, some folks just go one god further ;-)

And you misread another part of my post. I did not say that Christianity hardens hearts and enslaves minds. I said Christians believe OTHER religions do that.

Now just for fun, imagine how you'd feel if you were a Muslim and had to listen to a Christian like yourself say that the entire worldview you base your life on and cherish is wrong, that your god is a fictional character, that your mind has been enslaved by a bunch of stories that never actually happened. You'd feel a little offended, wouldn't you? You might even call that Christian an Allah-hater. See where I'm going with this?

If you asked a Muslim, they'd probably find a lot in common between you and these atheists that you seek to demonize as God-haters, Bob.

And to answer Bishop Council Nedd's question of "Why do these zealots have the right to post signs on public property attacking their countrymen?", the answer is obvious: because the Founding Fathers said they can! Now, do you intend to condemn his national effort to restrict your fellow Americans' freedom of speech?

Anonymous said...

It's rather depressing that people make such a massive fuss about this sign, whereas an anti-atheist sign would likely cause irritation but not nearly much of a response as this. Surely the posting of anything declaring an opinion is valid, whether or not it is true is debatable, but I would say certainly not illegal.

Bob Ellis said...

Anonymous 2:27, I agree with you that these God-haters have the freedom of speech to mock Christianity in public if they so choose. It remains sad and pathetic that they would so so in a nation founded by Christians on Christian principles. They don't seem to even appreciate that the Judeo-Christian worldview is largely responsible for that freedom; they should try to peddle anything other than Islam in Islamic countries, or Christianity in one of the Godless communist nations.

You still don't understand the meaning of the word "atheist," do you? Even though I gave you a definition right out of the dictionary. Does your hatred of Christianity so blind you that you can't even grasp the simple meaning of a word without trying to twist it into a weapon against Christianity?

I'll repeat it again: Atheist is defined as "one who believes that there is no deity.' Notice the "no" in "no deity." Do I need to define "no" as well?

A Christian might well be defined as an Allah-hater because we don't believe in Allah and consider that false deity to be a harsh monster. Nevertheless, Islam is wrong.

Pretending something isn't true simply so you don't hurt someone's feelings is foolish. Would you rather your doctor pretend he found nothing wrong if he saw cancer during your checkup? After all, it'd save you a lot of anxiety and a lot of money. Or would you rather know that something's wrong.

I don't think Bishop Council Nedd's comment constitutes a "national effort." However, I am quite prepared and already have been condemning very real efforts to restrict freedom.

Anonymous said...

Bob, you are SO close to understanding!

Do you realize how much you sound like Richard Dawkins in "The God Delusion" when you talk about Allah being a false deity and a harsh monster, and that about 1.8 billion people are wrong for believing in him? I'm sure you think Dawkins is pretty arrogant when he says all Christians are wrong, but you seem to have no problem saying it about all Muslims. Perhaps they think you are just as arrogant as he is.

And do you see how angry and frustrated you got when I called you an atheist? How insulting it must be to have someone say that the god you worship and adore is a fairytale, and that your religion is false! Now you know how Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, Scientologists, Buddhists, Shintoists, Jains, Sikhs, Baha'is, pagans, Universists, Spiritists, Confucianists, Taoists, Zoroastrians, and countless others feel when you say that each and every one of them is wrong and you are right. Perhaps they think you hate their respective gods and teachings, just as you think atheists hate yours. (I've never understood why people think atheists hate God - how can you hate something that you don't even think exists? Are you a leperchaun-hater, Bob?)

Of course, you don't say these things to be purposefully arrogant or hateful, but because you believe you know the truth and people need to hear it. And if that truth offends people and makes them call you a bigot who hates their god, so be it. To you, telling people that they are living a lie is far more important than worrying about hurt feelings. But I do wonder how successful you'd be at converting a lifelong Muslim to Christianity. Would you open with, "I don't believe in your god, I think he is a monster, and your religion is wrong. Now listen while I correct you"?

The atheists who posted these signs in Washington believe the same thing you do about each of the religions I listed above - that they are all false and their respective deities do not exist. Where they differ from you is that they add Christianity to that long list and say that NO god exists at all (yes, I was aware of the "no" but I was trying to illustrate a point).

The fact that these atheists posted signs in public and in the center of American government should tell you that like yourself, they have no reservations about offending people. To them, the message they believe in is more important than hurt feelings, and that message is that people should not waste their lives believing a lie: religion. You disagree with them, of course, but like you, they believe that they're right and everyone else is wrong. And like you, they should be able to express their opinions as freely as you can, i.e., without self-entitled fascists trying to shut them up.

Which leads me back to Bishop Council Nedd. I'm curious as to why you don't think his comments constitute a national effort, because I took those exact words directly from the article YOU posted:

"Nedd said he wouldn't be surprised if the atheist group demands to place a similar sign next on the National Mall in Washington D.C. That's why he's launching a national effort to stop such an attempt. The organization is mobilizing its 60,000 supporters to lobby their governors and representatives in Washington urging them stop the atheist advertising effort."

If you indeed condemn actions that restrict freedom, would I be right to expect an article on Dakota Voice that speaks out against Bishop Council Nedd's plan? Or do you only care about freedom when YOURS is being threatened?

Bob Ellis said...

I didn't get angry and frustrated because you called me an atheist. I got frustrated because frankly talking to idiots who can't even understand the meaning of a word when it's spelled out for them and their noses are rubbed in it is not high on my list of fun activities.

You say you don't understand why people think atheists hate God? Because every atheist I've ever run across and had time to talk with at length has ended up revealing that it's not so much that they have a reasoned, dispassionate and well-founded reason for not believing in God...but rather in every case I've found that at some point (a) a Christian let them down or mistreated them, or they perceived that the Christian did so, or (b) they had a crisis of faith which they were unable to reconcile to a loving God, then chose to hate God, and ended up deciding they didn't believe in God (even though it remained more an emotion-based decision than a rational one).

You asked why I don't think Bishop Council Nedd's comments "constitute a national effort to restrict freedom of speech." Because no one gets to say anything they want anywhere they want. If someone wants to say "God doesn't exist" in a restaurant or on a public sidewalk, they should have the right to. But there's a question of place, time and purpose.

We have Christian statements and monuments in and around centers of government because America was founded by Christians on Christian principles. It's a part of our heritage and the foundation of our nation. Atheism isn't. Islam isn't. Underwater basket weaving isn't. That's why you wouldn't expect to see displays paying tribute to Islam and underwater basket weaving: they are not a part of our heritage or history. It's not an unconstitutional restriction of free speech; like underwater basket weaving, it just doesn't fit.

I don't think I'd go as far as Nedd--at least since it's not a permanent display--but he has a point. This atheist statement just doesn't fit...and is an obvious attempt to insult Christians and the Christian heritage of our nation.

Anonymous said...


When Bishop Council Nedd says, as your own article makes crystal clear, that he intends to lobby the politicians in Washington to stop atheists from advertising their views on the National Mall, which is not Christian property but PUBLIC property, that's a big, big problem, and a very real insult to one of the founding principles of this country: freedom of speech. It doesn't matter that something like atheism "just doesn't fit" around centers of government; these anti-religious signs are completely legal. If this guy Nedd has a problem with it, well, he can put up his own sign right next to the atheist one. But he has NO right to take it down or prevent more from going up. You may not like it, but that's just too bad. Frankly, I'm shocked that someone like you, who claims to be such a proud defender of the Constitution, has still not called him out on this! It proves to me that you really don't care about defending everyone's First Amendment rights, just your own.

And now that you've resorted to childish name-calling, I think it's time to end this conversation.

Bob Ellis said...

I think I explained myself adequately the last time.

And as for the "childish name calling," I don't think it's "name calling" when the definition is applicable (of course, I know you have this odd problem with definitions, though, don't you). Someone who can't comprehend a simple word when the dictionary definition is given to them...well, "idiot" is probably a kind description.

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