Pat Robertson thinks atheists are miserable and want you to be miserable.

He said so himself:

You’re wrong, Pat. Most of us aren’t any more miserable than anyone else in the world. Nor do most of us want to “steal your holiday away” from you. Hell, many of us celebrate it — the secular aspects at least — right alongside you.

It’s not clear what brought your little bit of bigotry out on this occasion, but if I had to guess I’d say it’s probably the news item about the city of Santa Monica deciding to end its traditional holiday displays because some Christians are all butthurt about atheists getting in on the action the past couple of years:

Atheists’ move halts Christmas tradition in California, churches go to court to get it back

Santa Monica officials snuffed the city’s holiday tradition this year rather than referee the religious rumble, prompting churches that have set up a 14-scene Christian diorama for decades to sue over freedom of speech violations. Their attorney will ask a federal judge Monday to resurrect the depiction of Jesus’ birth, while the city aims to eject the case.

“It’s a sad, sad commentary on the attitudes of the day that a nearly 60-year-old Christmas tradition is now having to hunt for a home, something like our savior had to hunt for a place to be born because the world was not interested,” said Hunter Jameson, head of the nonprofit Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee that is suing.

Oh noes! The city won’t let us put our displays on public land anymore so we’re gonna sue!

So what did the atheists do that prompted the city to shut it down? They had the gall to participate! Can you imagine that??

In 2011, Vix recruited 10 others to inundate the city with applications for tongue-in-cheek displays such as an homage to the “Pastafarian religion,” which would include an artistic representation of the great Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The secular coalition won 18 of 21 spaces. The two others went to the traditional Christmas displays and one to a Hanukkah display.

The atheists used half their spaces, displaying signs such as one that showed pictures of Poseidon, Jesus, Santa Claus and the devil and said: “37 million Americans know myths when they see them. What myths do you see?”

Most of the signs were vandalized and in the ensuing uproar, the city effectively ended a tradition that began in 1953 and earned Santa Monica one of its nicknames, the City of the Christmas Story.

Here’s the thing that a lot of folks don’t realize when it comes to religious displays on public property: It’s an all or nothing proposition. The government is not allowed to give even the appearance of promoting one religion (or the lack thereof) over another. Santa Monica came up with their lottery system to ensure that all voices had a chance to participate. The atheists played by those rules and won the majority of the spots. Then the Christians got all upset and decide to vandalize the displays so the city decided it was way more trouble than it was worth and shut it down this year.

Rather than do something reasonable like put their religious displays on private property — there’s gotta be plenty of churches in that city that could provide them with the space — the Christians have decided that they’re going to sue the city to force them to change their decision:

“If they want to hold an opposing viewpoint about the celebration of Christmas, they’re free to do that — but they can’t interfere with our right to engage in religious speech in a traditional public forum,” said William Becker, attorney for the committee. “Our goal is to preserve the tradition in Santa Monica and to keep Christmas alive.”

Yes, because if these displays aren’t put on public land then CHRISTMAS WILL DIE!

The thing is, the atheists aren’t interfering with their right to engage in religious speech in a traditional public forum. The city points out that people can still carol in the park, hand out leaflets, and even stage a play if they want. The atheists were perfectly willing to play by the rules for the displays. It was the city that decided to shut things down because the Christians couldn’t cope with having to share the space. And all of that has made Pat Robertson sad. Those damned, dirty atheists. Always trying to steal Christmas by participating where they’re not wanted.

It’s all or nothing, folks. Either everyone gets a chance to participate or no one does. The government isn’t allowed to play favorites.

Update: It looks like a judge has turned down the Christian group’s request for an immediate injunction forcing the park to allow displays: Judge denies bid for park Nativity displays. Naturally, they plan to appeal.

10 comments

  1. If you’d really like to kmow how hollow and vacant religion is….. Just listen to Pat Robertson, or read the bible…. ‘nough said….

  2. Whenever I need to cheer myself up, I either turn on the 700 Club…. or Todd Friel on the ‘Family’ channel @ 4:00a.m….. for a good joke and a rousing laugh….

  3. Les, while I do agree about Pat, I’m personally not sure that the decision in question was really that good. After all, we are talking about the tradition that was going for 60 years and I see those things just as a tradition, not some sort of religious ceremony performed on public place.
    I think that atheism is slowly, but steadily winning the battle with religion on all the grounds and there is really no need to go out and fight for spaces and then use them to troll Christians, especially knowing how easily they become infuriated in response to those provocations.

    Maybe I’m missing something though, because I’m living in Europe and I know that in America things are pretty different.

  4. I’m of a split mind on the issue. I somewhat liked Pat Condell’s take on the issue in one of his videos, that holiday displays, even obviously religion-based ones, are generally harmless, and part of a broader cultural tradition, and that too much complaining about them just makes atheists seem hostile and controlling. My local area spends some public money on public Christmas decorations, although the specific images and messages tend to be more or less secular, i.e., Santa, Frosty, trees, red & green everything, etc. Of all the many ways our government and society privilege religion and christianity, holiday displays just don’t ring my injustice buzzer, and don’t seem any kind of a real threat to secularism, even if we are correct by the letter of the law.

    In my mind, I see much bigger, real problems with other actions of government, particularly when it is the federal or a state government making policies that affect millions of people. I think that having god in the pledge of allegiance and on our money is a much more important issue, as they involve issues of national identity and patriotism, involve every citizen, and are nothing but base pandering to fear, bigotry, groupthink and jingoism. I think that abuse of and denial of equality to atheists, wiccans, or other minority groups in government policies are a bigger issue, such as when unwelcome religious designations or services are forced on soldiers or their families, or treated as prerequisites to holding office, or when courts give special consideration to religious beliefs or church attendance as signs of a good or repentant person, or let such things become an issue in child custody.
    The fact that we have an executive office on faith-based anything is a bigger problem, as is the fact that monies handed out by the president aren’t considered “government promotion” of religion. I think that these policies and tendencies have a greater effect on promoting religion (and sometimes specific religions), and keeping non-conformists at an unfair and unnecessary disadvantage.

    On the whole, I really don’t think that seasonal holiday displays have anywhere near the damaging effects that national mottos, courtroom bigotries, and handing tax money to churches have. As long as the money spent is local and small in amount, I don’t really have a problem with them, and I think the local priorities will change as the population changes. All that said, I think the “sharing” solution that Santa Monica came up with was a good and fair one, and the christian backlash is just mean-spirited and selfish bullshit. I also take a dim view of those atheists who choose holiday displays as the ideal time to troll christians(even when it’s funny). There is plenty of time to berate religious folks for their delusions, without having to crap all over a celebration that so many different people enjoy. I wish that more christians would put more emphasis on the sharing and joy that they celebrate. I would love to hear more carolers in the streets and parks, I would love to see more people helping others and creating community ties and helping the lonely and old and downtrodden stay involved in the community. I realize that plenty of christians do these things already, but the message can get pretty tainted when the majority of what we see boils down to cheap hustling for cultural dominance, like getting all pissy about atheist holiday displays. Even if we did away with all public displays in the country, and made it all go to private land only, it wouldn’t be persecution of christians or the generally religious so much as simply expecting them to live up to the fullest ideal of religious freedom, and to be true to their often-touted messages of honesty, humility, and freedom of conscience for all.

    I can never really chide a fellow atheist for “bad manners” when it comes to opposing religious privilege…it needs to be done, no doubt. But if cheesy Nativities and “Merry Christmas” being plastered all over town for 6 weeks a year were the worst examples of religious privilege I had to see or deal with in life, Oh what a Merry Christmas it would be!

  5. ipostream writes:

    I think that atheism is slowly, but steadily winning the battle with religion on all the grounds and there is really no need to go out and fight for spaces and then use them to troll Christians, especially knowing how easily they become infuriated in response to those provocations.

    So you’re saying that because some Christians apparently can’t live up to the standards their own savior laid down we atheists shouldn’t antagonize them by wanting to participate in the public sphere?

    The atheists weren’t trying to shut down the holiday display. They were just participating in it. They got lucky one year and managed to secure the majority of the spots, but they never called for it to be discontinued. The city decided to shut it down when it became clear the Christians couldn’t handle having newcomers joining in.

    That said, I can see an argument that some of the atheists’ displays were trollish in nature. That doesn’t excuse the Christians losing their collective shit over the issue. The fact that this nativity display was a long standing tradition doesn’t make it right nor does it justify the reaction of the Christians to the atheists participation.

    Neil writes…

    I’m of a split mind on the issue. I somewhat liked Pat Condell’s take on the issue in one of his videos, that holiday displays, even obviously religion-based ones, are generally harmless, and part of a broader cultural tradition, and that too much complaining about them just makes atheists seem hostile and controlling.

    If the atheists in this story were simply complaining then I might agree, but all they did was participate which they have every right to do. Harmless or not, there’s no good reason that a holiday display on public property shouldn’t include displays from anyone who wishes to participate be they atheist, Jewish, Wiccan, Muslim, or whatever. So long as the participants are following the rules laid out by the local government for participating then they should be allowed to do so. If the Christians want the display all to themselves then they should put it on private property.

    All of that said, do I think atheists should be going out of their way to participate? Not at all. I don’t see it as a moral imperative, but if one is so inclined as to wish to participate then I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t.

    I agree with you that there are other, bigger religious/government entanglements to tackle. In the case of our money and the pledge, however, I don’t see any avenues to change the current situation. Attempts have been made on more than one occasion and the current SCOTUS has made it clear that they’ll bend the rules as far as they can to keep the status quo. The office of faith-based initiatives could, if run properly, be a benefit in some situations so I’m less concerned about that.

    I agree that atheists wishing to participate in seasonal displays would be better served by trying to keep to the charitable spirit of the season and use a message that is more thought provoking than trolling, but I’m also not going to tell someone who has taking an initiative that I can’t be bothered with how they should go about it.

  6. Yeah, the fact that it was simple atheist or non-christian participation that made christians pissy is pretty much the reason I still side with the atheists in principle, even though it’s not my particular battle to fight since my local area keeps public christmas displays pretty secular.

    As I stated, I really don’t have much of a problem with some religious content in public displays in local areas, but you are completely correct that it does still need to be inclusive or it is constitutionally problematic ( and simply unwelcoming to religious minorities). The idea of winter holidays is much older than christmas anyway….being inclusive shouldn’t really be such an issue at this late date. I notice that most christians these days don’t mind squeezing in the jews, which is a step in the right direction I suppose, even though the favor often extended to jews (but nobody else) strikes me as a bit spiritually incestuous.

    Challenging tradition is always….interesting, to say the least, and it can be very hard to get your message out in a way that people can relate to, especially when the tradition in question is one that is so popular, cheerful, and festive(and great for retailers). Traditions that are somehow visibly destructive, or that promote noticeable division in the community are much easier to challenge. So far, the biggest town in my local area, very much a college town, has managed to completely shut down both Mardi Gras and St. Patty’s Day, all because out of 30,000 college students, two pairs of tits were shown, a handful of arrests were made, and one car was broken into by an out-of-town visitor (Oh, the horror).
    Two decades-long traditions completely killed in less than two years, because the holidays had no real religious heft, and it was so easy for a tiny group of “community leaders” to dishonestly portray them as serious problems. But I get the feeling there could be mass crime waves and thousands of house fires per year before anyone would try to change christmas all that much. Such is the “wisdom” of that thoughtless, faceless mass called the “majority”.

  7. So you’re saying that because some Christians apparently can’t live up to the standards their own savior laid down we atheists shouldn’t antagonize them by wanting to participate in the public sphere?

    No, I don’t want to say that… I think I do agree with you. It’s just that I feel rather sad when I hear about things like this.

    But well… It’s even sadder that people like Pat put all the blame on atheists instead of calling out religious fanatics.

  8. Come and spend Christmas in Britain. We’re more relaxed about the whole Religeon thing. You’d hate it because the religeon is more overt, but here’s the thing. No one cares.

    I’ve mentioned before how the end of Love Actually must confuse Americans, with the school Nativity. No one would try to stop that (well they might, if they wanted to be hated and REALLY uptight about atheism). Ok, so there is no seperation of Church and State here to fight for, but there is no real upset about it. I know the whole “Hi-jacked by Christianity” angle, but it is a Christian holiday. Actually saying Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas is good way to piss people off.

Leave a Reply