Atheistic Objections to FFRF’s Winter Solstice Banner

Ophelia Benson blogs about FFRF’s request for an “equal time” display of a “Winter Solstice banner” at a courthouse in Texas. Here is the text of the banner, which I believe is the same text the FFRF has been using on banners and other displays for at least 15 years.

“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.”

Again, I realize this is nothing new, but I’d like to summarize some atheistic objections to FFRF’s Winter Solstice banner.

  1. While atheists can celebrate the Winter Solstice, it isn’t an atheistic ‘holiday.’ It has nothing to do with atheism. So why should atheists care about or celebrate the Winter Solstice? I, for one, could not care less about the Winter Solstice. (Just to prevent any misunderstandings: I am not criticizing those atheists who do celebrate the Winter Solstice. Rather, my point is that it’s inappropriate to represent the Winter Solstice as if it were an atheistic holiday.)
  2. Is it true that “there are no gods, no evils, no angels, no heaven or hell”? Many of FFRF’s members and supporters are people who merely lack the belief that such things exist; they also lack the belief that such things do not exist. The viewpoint expressed by the FFRF banner isn’t representative of all its members.
  3. The message is unnecessarily adversarial, especially the last sentence. As if it weren’t enough to say that supernatural beliefs are false, the banner says that religion “hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” Notice that religious displays–such as Christmas trees, nativity scenes, and so forth–never or virtually never have banners with disparaging remarks about nonbelievers. When was the last time you saw a Nativity scene with a banner that said, “Atheism is but foolishness motivated by sin to justify an immoral lifestyle”? So why does the FFRF have to end its banner in a way that is so disparaging towards theists?

I do agree with FFRF that the government shouldn’t be showing a preference for one religious holiday display over others–so I can see the value in the request for an “equal time” display–but I disagree with the way they have chosen to make that point. Not only are the banners rude, but I think the banners do far more harm than good to the public perception of atheists.