Sunday, December 14, 2008


Firing Squad

Heh! Ed Brayton notes that the Washington State Department of General Administration has declared a moratorium for exhibits and displays in the Legislative Building:

[A]ll pending applications - including one for a Festivus pole - an homage to the made-up holiday featured in the comedy series "Seinfeld" - have been put on hold until the department completes a review of the current policy for exhibits and displays in the Legislative Building.

In a statement the department said it made the decision after receiving more applications than anticipated and can be "reasonably accommodated" in the building's display area. ...

State officials had allowed the anti-religion placard to be displayed during the holidays at the Capitol, along with a Christian nativity scene and a decorated Christmas tree, in response to a lawsuit filed [by the conservative Christian Alliance Defense Fund] over seasonal religious displays on state property.
The simplest solution to this is to remove all "holiday" displays from government property. Naturally, Christians are, instead, demanding special rights:

"It wasn't just a statement of atheist sentiment that there was no God," says rally organizer Steve Wilson. "It went on to say that religion hardens hearts and enslaves their minds, which is actually an insult of people of religious faith."
Christians can organize to deny people a court-recognized right to marry but, it seems, they have a government-enforced right not to be "insulted."

Hypocrisy is apparently a major "family value."

As an atheist, I too find the "hardens hearts and enslaves their minds" comment inappropriate in this setting. It would be like a Christian sign saying non-believers are going to burn in hell (which Phelps is trying to provide). If the sign had said that atheism "opens hearts and frees minds", then our governor could have said that we are limiting the the displays to positive messages with no hate toward other groups.

But I think the goal of the atheists here was not equal time but rather shutting down the whole government in the Christmas Business. I am surprised that more conservatives do not get behind the idea, considering they think guvmint screws up everything it touches. Why would they want it messing with Christmas?!?
I agree the sign was less than politic but in a public forum, which Christans themselves wanted, there is no way to censor it or Phelps' either.

Conservatives don't complain because it is their ox being gored (just as liberals are willing to have less individual freedom when it is of a type they don't like), because they know they need to have the Christian Right on their side in order to exercise political power. The Christian Right also distrusts goverment but they still want it on their side when they are in competition with other views, because they see the advantage it gives them.
Political correctness is the delusion that it is possible to pick up a turd by the clean end (Author unknown)
"As an atheist, I too find the 'hardens hearts and enslaves their minds' comment inappropriate in this setting."

I don't know if the problem with the sign is that it is inappropriate. It was probably helpful to have the FFRF shaking things up. However, as far as I can tell, the "hardens hearts" part is a half-truth and the "enslaves minds" part is meaningless, or at least hopelessly ambiguous. I have yet to convince others of my brilliance on this point, though. :)

I'd say that saying that atheism "opens hearts and frees minds" is also an oversell. Humanism can open hearts, and skepticism, well, ok, it doesn't so much free minds (whatever that means) as discipline them. IMHO, atheism isn't much good without either of them. (Just look at the damage done when atheism has been coupled instead with, say, communism.)

Just a message from your friendly neighborhood pedant.
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