A number of readers were peeved at the Connecticut Valley Atheists’ choice of a holiday display — I was not, and I applauded their assertiveness. So what do you think of the Chester County Atheists’ display?
The group’s display, “The Tree of Knowledge,” will include a 15-foot evergreen with color copies of book covers as decorations. Some of the book covers will include the Holy Bible, the Quran, “Ethics Without God,” “Why I Am Not a Christian,” and “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.”
Better? Personally, I would have left off the first two listed since they’re actually more a source of ignorance than knowledge, but you can’t fault the group for trying to be inclusive and conciliatory. These are the “make nice” atheists who are the only ones some readers approve of…but look what it gets them.
Fox News had a program on the display, pitting Margaret Downey against some wanker, Father Jonathan Morris. They called it an “outrage”. Father Jonathan was practically gibbering into his tea at the thought that atheists would have the temerity to speak up, even in such a consciously inoffensive way.
Father Jonathan’s comments were frequently interrupted by Downey, but he appeared to be trying to make the point that he supports free speech but feels that Downey’s group should have had the delicacy to refrain from exercising it.
“So many people who I work with on a daily basis, who are really struggling with faith, look and say, ‘You know what? I’m embarrassed,'” said Morris. “Because you’re an atheist, you’re trying to say therefore we’re going to sabotage what is a holiday, a religious holiday.”
I’m afraid that when people whine at me that we need to be more sensitive to those pious beliefs, when I’m told that atheists must be more tasteful, unaggressive, and quiet, I know what an exercise in futility that is — our very existence is offensive to some, and just the fact that we’re living in freedom is an affront to the religious right. You can’t win by accepting their rules and surrendering, so you might as well raise a ruckus and offend, offend, offend. And do it proudly.
I like their “Tree of Knowledge” idea. But now, if I were to do something like that, I definitely wouldn’t include any of their “holy” books. Being positive is good, compromising on principle is not.