Nativity showdown

Published December 12th, 2010 by Bobby Henderson


There’s some drama over a Christian Nativity scene displayed on the lawn of a county courthouse in Indiana.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded the removal of the display on first amendment violation concerns and now locals are fighting.  It’s the same fight every Christmas and I get tired of writing about it.  

Now for the shock:

These Christmas fights bug me, honestly.   I am a supporter of the FFRF and of some of these secular and atheist organizations, but sometimes I am shaking my head and wondering what they are thinking.  You might get this scene removed but you do so much damage to our cause in the process.  You don’t think these perceptions matter?  Then what is this all about?  These Christmas fights make us look like such assholes, that’s all I’m saying. They are not reciting prayers in a state building or anything on that level.  A Nativity scene is barely religious, it’s like a cross necklace.   End of rant.

What do you guys think?

172 Responses to “Nativity showdown”

  1. Terry Doyle says:

    I’m not at all clear what’s wrong with pissing off christians, oh, er Christians. But, before I read your how-to-think piece, I inadvertently poked the NO button. FSM, forgive me….

  2. Darwinfish says:

    Yes, these little nativity scenes piss me off a bit. So does the massive illuminated cross that the local christians in action group stuck up on a hill overlooking town. Politicians signing off of everything with “god bless america” really does piss me off. “In God We Trust” on currency? Swearing in on a bible? “Under God” in the pledge of allegiance? Don’t get me started.

    But as much as I’d love to attack it on all levels with the greatest possible amount of force, standing on principle and logic (and perhaps a helicopter), I suspect that it would do more harm than good.

    Think of it this way. Someone who’s involved in the community, who is generally known to be reasonable, will be taken far more seriously than someone known for being a douchebag. If you freak out every time somebody says “bless you,” you’ll have no chance of changing the big (and far more important) things. (Also, your life will suck.)

    I realize that this sounds a bit like cowardice. Hide your views, be careful not to offend anyone important, keep your head down, all that crap. I hate that crap. This isn’t that crap.

    I’m talking strategy. Why indulge in a scorched-earth campaign, however satisfying and however justified, that will leave us, and our cause, worse off than when we started? The more we attack, the easier we’ll be to vilify.

    Nobody takes the the guy squirting ketchup on people’s coats or the hippie chaining himself to a tree seriously, even if they’re right. We write them (and often their causes) off with ease. We need to be a voice of reason, not a wild haired man with a sandwich board and a megaphone.

    And what better way to be the man with the sandwich board than to freak out over Christmas decorations?

  3. Colin Mackay says:

    See, the thing is it’s a point of law. If we allow the law to be trampled on, or ignored we open the proverbial box of worms. Best to ensure the law is upheld me thinks!

  4. Danimal says:

    As Falstaff (that guy has to be a pastafarian) said, “The better part of valor is discretion”.

  5. canoodler says:

    Idon’t agree with the fight fire with fire approach, that to win you should have a nativity equivalent for every other religion, I think that is just a way of letting more religions in so to speak.

    Take England for example once a fully christian nation (almost) and as its become more cosmopolitan and people from other countries have moved in (before I start sounding all bigoted I assure you a Bigot I aint) and brought there various religions with them similar things to what your talking about “Lets have a display for every religion” and before long all those respective religions are building there own schools and courts all government funded (all to aide diversity) and before you know it its two sets of laws then three then you have all the new religious schools spitting out kids that have been indoctrinated whatever religion suits them.

    I say no that road is folly, it opens doors for other religions to walk all over our Ideals.
    I understand that there is allot of bad PR with asking to have a nativity scene torn down but its better to nip these things in the bud.

    Dawkins said something along the lines of: religion expects to be treated with rather a thick layer of undeserved respect its better to talk about it bluntly and maybe cause offence than adopt the kid gloves approach and try to settle these grievances’ in a respectful (and often futile) manner.

    ps I’m in a massive rush and I cant be bothered to proofread this so feel free to slate my grammar I think its coherent anywho.

  6. Pete says:

    Dude, I saw a plastic snowman — Frosty — standing behind the wisemen at a nativity in Honolulu. “A man made of snow?” now that’s a miracle to a Hawaiian!

  7. Melissa Trible says:

    Random visitor here (and nominally Christian), but… my sentiment is, I have no problem with Nativity displays (or any other religious display) on public land, *provided* non-religious displays/displays from other religions can be in the same space on the same terms, and public money is not spent creating, setting up, or otherwise funding the displays. And, Canoodler, I don’t think it would (under those terms) have any chance of slippery-sloping into some kind of totally separate system of laws. Under those terms, religion is not being treated with deference, it’s being treated the same as any other largeish group of people. Which is only fair. You wouldn’t see this kind of protest if, say, a group wanted to put up a giant heart for Valentine’s Day, or jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, or a team-mascot display during the sports season.

    Or to put it another way: requiring a level playing field is fair, reasonable, and justifiable. Requiring that government not give any special privileges to religious groups is fair, reasonable, and justifiable. Requiring that religion be hidden away to spare sensitive atheist eyes is unfair, unreasonable, and pretty hard to justify. Other peoples’ right to freedom of religion is as strong as your right to freedom from religion…

  8. Bagel says:

    As much as I dislike the religious involvement with this, it is there because Christmas is a religious holiday. We are “celebrating” Jesus’ birth, or at least, we are having a holiday on that day.

    Pastafarian Nick

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