Finally, the rare concurrence of free time with an interesting current event has led to another blog post from yours truly.
Recently an "Easter" sign inside the Wisconsin state capital building was vandalized. The sign was put there by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The reason it was vandalized is rather obvious, as the message is quite deliberately offensive. It reads: "Nobody died for our 'sins,' Jesus Christ is a myth." Here's a photo of the mutilated sign.
Now, there are a few interesting points I need to make regarding this interesting news tidbit. Yes, the sign is deliberately offensive, but then again, that's precisely the point. If Christians don't want signs in the state capital that attack their views in this way, then they shouldn't put up signs which attack others' creeds there, either. It's the Golden Rule writ large. Do unto other religions as you would have those religions (or, in this case, lack of religion) do unto you. Or, conversely, if Christians insist on using state property for evangelism (and they stubbornly do), then signs as offensive as this one ought to be allowed. Fair's fair. Don't like it? Then reconsider your position.
Okay, I get the point. But I simply don't like the idea of any state capital building, much less my own, being peppered with signs proclaiming various dogmas at various times of the year. There's freedom of speech, yes, but there's also pragmatism. The bottom line of religious freedom is that government plays no favorites. If everyone's viewpoint gets to be heard in the form of a sign inside a government institution, that sounds fair on paper, but in practice it means that the capital building gets cluttered with signs from every major denomination as well as every dog-and-pony creed out there, which is pretty much what the Wisconsin state capital building currently looks like. Lawmakers and concerned citizens alike should be able to roam the halls of legislation without having to hurdle and endless array of religious signs like some Olympic athlete. So, instead of everyone's religion getting to put up their sign. it makes more sense for no one to put up their sign. This is not favoritism of the lack of religion, as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, American Atheists and other similar institutions don't get to put up their signs either. It's high time Wisconsin adopted that policy.
That said, I don't like this sign. I'm an atheist myself, and I find it embarrassing. Seriously, I'm not sure what Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor are thinking these days, but I wouldn't have approved of a sign like this on the bumper sticker of a volunteer's automobile, much less in the middle of the Wisconsin state capital building. Seriously, saying that Jesus Christ is a myth is just a little bit overboard. Yes, I happen to think that nobody died for my sins, but I do think there's barely enough anecdotal evidence to think that there was a historical man named Jesus living in first century Judea. No, I don't think he fed five thousand with a few loaves and fish, turned water into wine or walked on water, but Jesus is a transliterated version of the name Joshua - which was a very popular name. Many people in that time and place must have had that name. It's reasonable to assume that one of those people was famous.
So why the fuck is FFRF putting up a sign that's offensive to me as an atheist?
I know from experience that the path to atheism can only be taken with slow steps. It never, NEVER happens that someone leaves a religion right away after a sudden realization of truth. It took me a long time to come to grips with the reality that Jehovah/Allah/Yahweh was in the same category as Zeus/Odin. So had I come upon a sign such as the one in the above photograph when I was, say, 25, I myself would have considered vandalizing it! At the time, I had left fundamentalism and the ministry for good, but was still hopeful that I could find a more rational path for Christianity, one more friendly to science and evolution. But finding this sign would probably have militarized me, and I would have re-entrenched myself in the Christian camp, finding new bogus rationalizations for me to believe the traditional dogma. So you see, the FFRF sign accomplishes the exact opposite of what it's trying to achieve! Nothing makes people dig in quite like a direct attack.
In other words, if you want people to come out of their foxholes, stop bombing! You'll find that the same people who stuff fingers in their ears at a shout will strain to hear a whisper. You'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. You'll... oh, pick your own metaphor.
Dan & Laurie, I love you both, but get a clue.
Finally, I must address the idiot who actually did vandalize the sign. Yes, I fully understand your viewpoint. I was there myself, once. I was a Christian, and I would have wanted to react much the same way. But how is the willingness to commit vandalism supposed to convince others to take your opinion seriously? Because from my perspective, destroying other people's property makes your opinion look pretty fucked up! It's people like you who have been peeling off my Obama bumper stickers and ripping off my Darwin fish from off the back of my car. And it's people like you who throw acid in the faces of women who don't wear their burqas in Saudi Arabia. Oh, yes indeed, sir! You are no different from a mullah with a sword who cuts off the head of a man who leaves Islam for Christianity! It's exactly the same intolerance, and I damn you for it in this life, even as you pretend to damn me in my eventual death.
So let's everybody just silence the cannons and take a deep breath, shall we? Bible burning is as wrong as Bible thumping.