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Christians frequently complain that atheists and secularists are trying to remove religion from the public square, but the truth is that Christians are so accustomed to having the public square all to themselves that they can't stand it when they cease to be privileged and others are treated equally. This is demonstrated by Christians' reactions to atheists erecting their own signs alongside religious holiday displays at Christmas: atheists are accused of intolerance and hate speech for relatively mild criticisms of religion or even just daring to be there at all.

Read Article: Atheist Signs at Christmas: Should Atheists Challenge Christmas Displays?

Comments
December 13, 2008 at 6:33 pm
(1) Jayde says:

What I understand on this discussion is that its not all about “look at me i’m a christian, i need to do this to get known” its about doing something out of the love of your heart and praying that it reaches someone and plants the seed.

December 13, 2008 at 7:02 pm
(2) Austin Cline says:

What I understand on this discussion is that its not all about “look at me i’m a christian, i need to do this to get known” its about doing something out of the love of your heart and praying that it reaches someone and plants the seed.

And why is this your understanding?

December 15, 2008 at 11:07 pm
(3) Betsy says:

As a Christian I imagine that we find it a lot harder to accept displays of atheism (e.g. the atheist sign at the Legislative Building) than atheists, when confronted with Christmas displays and the like. It simply feels threatening to being told that God, who I believe to be our creator and our savior, does not exist because it’s saying my core beliefs are pointless. I guess to you the only threatening thing (not counting extremely hostile attitudes, which really applies to every group) might be hell, but since you don’t believe in that, it’s not much (Please correct me if I’m wrong. I’d love to hear how you feel).

Displays of atheism aren’t intolerant, but they tend to feel intolerant, simply because of their nature.

Is it easy for you to brush off claims of the existence of God or some other deity/deities by Christians, like myself, and other religious groups?

When it comes to having atheist signs at Christmastime, if someone wants to do it, I believe they should be allowed to. Heck, go the extra mile and write some ‘atheist carols.’ We all have freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but none of us have freedom from being offended. If an atheist sign offends then it’s a shame, but I just have to deal with it.

(I really hope I made sense. I rarely post comments so I may be a bit scatterbrained.)

December 21, 2009 at 4:52 pm
(4) Edmond says:

@Betsy

It’s not that it’s easy for us to “brush off” claims of the existence of any gods, it’s simply that we’re not so easily swayed by such claims without any evidence, and frankly most of us wonder why people like you DO accept them so easily.

We’re not just running around, waving our hands in the air, reveling in our atheism and yelling “There’s no god! There’s no god!”, you know. Many of us spend our time honing our critical thinking abilities and our analytical skills, so that we are thinking clearly and asking good, hard questions when these claims do come along. We’re not prepared to just accept something blindly. It needs to be demonstrated, supported, before we’re going to say “Yep, I feel in my heart that must be true!”

You group atheists by asking if it is easy to brush off claims made by Christians AND OTHER RELIGIOUS GROUPS.

So, let me turn your question around… Do YOU find it easy to brush off the claims of Islam, Buddhism, Mormonism? It’s not just “Atheists VS Religion”. Technically, each religion is also against every other religion. You all make claims about the universe, its nature and its origin. None of them are the same. It seems to me that it sould be obvious why atheists don’t easily accept these claims. But other people still accept them, so I guess it’s not so obvious to everyone.

And no, the threat of hell is not much of a threat to atheists. But they are not the only group that is persecuted by Christians, and an other-worldly punishment is not the only arsenal at the Christians’ disposal. “Extremely hostile attitudes” can be taken to further extremes when applied to specific groups. As a gay man, the threat of having my freedoms taken away is a very real threat that I and millions like me have to deal with every day. Christians “core beliefs” are driving them to split this nation into gay-friendly and un-friendly territories, and to enact legislation that forces everyone to live as Christians do, whether they are Christian themselves or not. “Christian privilege” extends further than just the holidays.

December 21, 2009 at 6:15 pm
(5) Liz says:

I can understand that Xmas would be *the* time of the year for a display. It is the time of year when Xians most blatantly display and demand to have their religion recognized.

Of course, one has to wonder if there were true religious tolerance in this country – which would include respect for people who don’t adhere to any religion – would there be the desire to make these displays?

And to hook on to Edmond (4)’s comment: the atheists I know actually don’t dwell on their atheism. It is rather in the background of life. I know I prefer to focus on things like my family, my work, my life, enjoying the world and all it has to offer today and planning for what may come tomorrow. I’m not “struggling with doubts” or “wrestling with the notion of god” on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes it comes up, and I talk about it to people. I’m pretty lucky to be in a very tolerant area and in a secular family.

I’m not sure what religious people imagine atheists’ lives to be like… they might be surprised to know it’s someone closer to them than they think… living a wonderful and ordinary life.

December 22, 2009 at 7:42 am
(6) tracieh says:

I believe Betsy’s note was posted as an honest attempt to communicate and ask questions. I think she honestly wears her insecurities on her sleeve–and that’s not always easy for a lot of people. So, I give her snaps for coming here, posting her perspective, giving her assumptions and asking us what we honestly think in response. I thought her note was refreshing in those regards.

I recognize it’s from 2008, but to reply to her question, she is right to point out that the disparity of beliefs would not be threatening to an atheist mindset. If I don’t believe in Christianity, then really there is nothing threatening to me personally about what a Christian believes. And to be honest, I have said openly and often that religious displays on someone’s front lawn don’t bother me at all. I may even find them quaint. But if they’re on government property, then they’re problematic, for the reasons Edmond notes.

As far as atheist displays, and Betsy’s comments about why atheism is threatening to a Christian mindset, in her view, I would have to assert that if a Christian believes what he claims, then the fact that I don’t believe it should be no threat to him whatsoever. So what if I don’t agree, if he knows in his mind that I’m wrong? Now, if I’m right–Betsy is correct–it means that the basis for his purpose in life is ripped away; but the fact that he, as a theist, believes I am not right, means that my incorrect beliefs are no threat to him.

The fact is that my beliefs are only threatening to the theist who understands he may be wrong and I may be right. But if that is the case, I would offer to such a theist that there is nothing to fear. For any person who holds to incorrect beliefs, if truth matters, then you can only gain benefit by uncovering your errors. Isn’t it a general truth that we benefit from better understanding of reality and by holding more true beliefs than false ones? If you lose a purpose that was only ever a false purpose, it means you now have room to find real purpose in your life and stop wasting time on a false one driven by a false set of rewards and punishments.

There is never anything to fear from what other people believe–only from what they do based on those beliefs. Any belief can be expressed and examined, and it’s up to each of us to make as informed a judgment as possible about the validity of the ideas offered, and whether or not we think they are worthy of incorporation into our lives. We owe it to ourselves to make the most informed and best assess judgments possible.

In reading a lot of these older comments, especially my own, I find many of my perspectives have changed. But one thing that has never changed is that when I’m asked why I’m an atheist activist, my answer is still the same: I care about people–and I want to save them from wasting their lives on falsehoods, as I once did.

Each person who sheds delusional beliefs is a person who has gotten back his or her life. And it’s a great feeling to hear from these people and how happy they are to finally have their lives back.

December 21, 2010 at 4:31 pm
(7) readzalot says:

It isn’t the religious displays that are the problem, it is the government sponsored religious displays.

Nativity scenes at churches and on private property are just fine. I don’t understand why there are not more of them, if they are so important to so many Christians.

December 22, 2010 at 12:28 am
(8) Scott says:

I think signs for the holidays should reflect the many opinions held in the USA. Austin is right to say the Xtians have held the field so long, they bristle when a dissenting voice cries to be heard. My religion is simply to do good, compassionately, in a humane and humanist way in my practice as a Regstered Nurse. I do it without believing in god(s).

December 23, 2010 at 12:49 pm
(9) P Smith says:

How would you react if a political party said, “The other party shouldn’t advertise in November! It’s offensive to us!”? You’d say they were being ridiculous, trying to stifle others’ right to speak and be heard.

The godbots don’t own December. The only way they get to have December all to themselves is if they stop purveying their pornography in every other month. Otherwise, they can stop whining. If their bu**sh** had any merit, it would be able to withstand criticism and differing ideas.

.

December 2, 2011 at 6:39 am
(10) mobathome says:

@Betsy December 15, 2008:

It simply feels threatening to being told that God, who I believe to be our creator and our savior, does not exist because itís saying my core beliefs are pointless.

Are these the only options: meaningful or pointless? How about “you misunderstand my experiences” vs. “I misinterpret my experiences”? Or “I fully understand my beliefs” vs. “my beliefs are too vague to be understood”?

December 3, 2011 at 8:22 am
(11) Grandpa_In_The_East says:

Assuming that Christians really feel that Christmas (the months of November and December) is not a good time to “criticize religion,” when would be the best time? And why?

Grandpa

December 28, 2012 at 9:17 pm
(12) Cousin Ricky says:

Betsy wrote: “We all have freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but none of us have freedom from being offended. If an atheist sign offends then itís a shame, but I just have to deal with it.”

The USA needs more Christians (and citizens) like Betsy.

November 30, 2013 at 10:35 am
(13) Jeanne says:

Christmas displays of a religious nature on government property should be challenged.. Our government should not be promoting any religion. Christmas, though, has become such a secular holiday, that most displays are secular. I have a neighbor who goes all out, decorating his house with every Christmas items known to mankind, from a “Happy Birthday Jesus” sign to candy canes, snowmen, reindeer, festive lights, you name it. Of course that is his right on his property. Government buildings are another story entirely. If they permit any sort of Christmas display, religious or secular, they must allow others to put up signs and decorations. Free speech is not just for Christians. Some claim that this should not be allowed on Christian holidays, but I have to ask, “Why?”. Why should the government restrict the free speech of non-Christians because Christians want to feel special?

December 2, 2013 at 5:59 am
(14) Grandpa In The East says:

Cousin Ricky stated (a year ago) “The USA needs more Christians (and citizens) like Betsy.”

Why? I’d really, really like to know.

Grandpa

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