Vol: 99 Issue: 22 Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I was thinking that they’ve come a bit early this year, but, no, they are right on time. Every year the legions of atheists, agnostics, animists, pagans and other assorted malcontents come together as one to launch a concerted attack against what they claim is a Mythical Baby.
Not one of these groups or individuals believes that the Mythical Baby has any supernatural power or authority. Not one of them believes the Mythical Baby is alive today, arguing against such nonsense in the name of ‘reason’.
But every year, they unite to do battle with the Mythical Baby and his followers, claiming that the Mythical Baby hates them and wants to do them harm. They usually band together in groups that, under the banner of ‘freedom’ or ‘reason’ or ‘liberty’ oppose all three.
This year’s most prominent Mythical Baby Hater is a guy named Dan Barker, founder of a group called “Freedom From Religion.” Barker is another one of these guys who defines “freedom” as ‘something taken from others’.
Dan Barker is the guy all over the news because of a sign he posted in the name of ‘reason’ alongside the Christmas display at the Washington State capital in Olympia.
The sign reads: “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.”
We’ll get back to the sign in a moment, but first, a little background.
The Christian Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the state last year on behalf of a man who wanted to display a Nativity scene in the state capitol rotunda. The suit alleged that since a menorah and a “holiday tree” were displayed, officials cannot discriminate against a depiction of the birth of Jesus.
The case was settled with an agreement that the Nativity scene would be displayed and that the state would broaden its policy on religious displays.
Enter Dan Barker and his group who demanded that the state accommodate their view, including its judgment of religion, alongside the rest of the displays. As we move on to the discussion of the display itself, keep two things in mind:
The request was made in the name of ‘reason’. It was granted in the name of ‘freedom’.
I Googled Dan Barker this morning and among the returns was an about.atheism.com page containing a list of some of Barker’s more memorable quotations.
The one that seemed most relevant to our discussion was this one: “There is joy in rationality, happiness in clarity of mind. Freethought is thrilling and fulfilling–absolutely essential to mental health and happiness.”
I thought it was relevant because, in his public comments, Barker sounds anything BUT happy. In an interview, he told CNN,
“When people ask us, ‘Why are you hateful? Why are you putting up something critical of people’s holidays? — we respond that we kind of feel that the Christian message is the hate message.”
(Without reflecting on the relative hatefulness of ‘peace on earth, goodwill toward men’ that argument doesn’t sound particularly rational, either.) In the same interview, Barker told CNN “On that Nativity scene, there is this threat of internal violence if we don’t submit to that master. Hate speech goes both ways.”
“The Mythical Baby threatens me?” That’s his argument from reason? Well, no. That’s his argument for why a display that essentially calls people of faith fools isn’t hateful — but a display of a Baby, His parents and some barnyard animals is.
Let’s get this straight. Barker justifies his sign declaring the Baby mythical and His followers to be hard-hearted, superstitious and mentally enslaved on the grounds that they (the hard-hearted, superstitious and mentally enslaved) are hateful.
Because he says so.
And otherwise logical and intelligent people accepted this argument — in the name of reason?
Barker told CNN that, “Most people think December is for Christians and view our signs as an intrusion, when actually it’s the other way around,” he said. “People have been celebrating the winter solstice long before Christmas. We see Christianity as the intruder, trying to steal the holiday from all of us humans.”
I’m not sure if that falls into the ‘clarity of mind’ category or the overall thrill of ‘freethought’. Let’s see. We’ll start with ‘clarity of mind.’
When do ‘humans’ in, oh, South Africa or Australia ‘celebrate’ the winter solstice? Mostly, they don’t. It’s doesn’t commemorate anything. (But if they did, it would be on or about June 21st, not in December)
When do ‘humans’ in, oh, South Africa or Australia celebrate Christmas? You’ll never guess, so I might as well tell you. (It’s only reasonable.) December 25th.
The same day that they do in the Northern hemisphere. Except Down Under, it falls three days after the summer solstice. So, although Christmas is the same in either hemisphere, only the winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere is anywhere near Christmas.
Now run that ‘Christmas stole the winter solstice from humans’ argument by me again? Just for ‘clarity of thought’, I mean.
Christians stole the holiday from “humans” even though its on a different day — and off by six months for half the world? That’s the argument from reason?
That, together with the published contention that religion attracts hard-harded bigots of inferior intellect? (That must be the argument from ‘humanistic kindness’)
“For my money, I’ll bet on reason and humanistic kindness. Even if I am wrong, I will have enjoyed my life, the existence of which is under little dispute.” Dan Barker, “Losing Faith in Faith” (as quoted at about.atheism.com.)
To see the benefits of ‘freethought’ one needs to consider Barker’s belief that his sign judging religion and religionists as ‘mentally enslaved, superstitious and hard-hearted’ as ‘reasonable’.
That seems at least as ‘reasonable’ as launching an annual assault on a somehow threateningly mythical Baby.
This article first appeared on December 9, 2008.