December 20, 2007

Wisconsin Has No More Pressing Problems Than This, Apparently

The nativity scene wars in Wisconsin are heating up. Prepare for the Battle of Racine. In a nutshell: Racine permits a Christian nativity scene on a public park in its downtown area. So atheists decided to erect a pyramid with various anti-religious quotes on it right next to the creche scene. At least these atheists didn't use the World Trade Center as imagery on it.

I have to take issue with a line in the reporting of the story:
There are, as any cursory drive around town will prove, scores of beautiful churches in Racine. The phone book lists more than 150. [¶] The seasonal symbol of their belief sitting in Monument Square for a week now -- the Nativity scene recalling the birth of Christ more than 2,000 years ago -- has been joined by an 8-ft. tall, white-painted plywood pyramid, the work of fewer than a dozen Racine atheists.
This implies that 150 churches built the nativity scene, and that there are fewer than a dozen atheists in the city. Think about it -- how many people built that nativity scene? Probably about a dozen. How many Christian churches contributed money to have the scene there? Likely not all 150 in the community.

Note, also, that some Christian denominations are squeamish about artistic representations of God and about the emphasis on Jesus' family, particularly Mary, as part of worship activities. So it's also not fair to say that all Christians necessarily like a nativity scene or that the display represents all 150 churches.

And not all atheists like the idea of a public display during the holiday season. I don't. If I'd lived in Racine and the guy had approached me with the pyramid idea, I'd have not contributed or helped put it up. My reasoning would have been "two wrongs don't make a right." Yes, that nativity scene belongs on a church's lawn, not the public park. But if the city of Racine should not be endorsing Christianity by allowing a nativity scene in a park, then it should also not be endorsing atheism. This is one of those times that atheism has to be treated as if it were a religion* and asking for further violations of the Constitution does not fix the first ones.

I could add that the article refers to the "birth of Christ" rather than the "birth of Jesus," but that's a quibble. I could add that the article refers to the atheist pyramid being made out of plywood, as if the nativity scene had been carved from rare mahogany and high-grade oak or something. But the real point is not that there is biased reporting.** The real point is that the Nativity Scene Wars are spreading throughout the Badger State. And Bucky and his buddies say, "You all really have better things to do this time of year than worry about pyramids and creches and menorahs and who knows what else."

Besides, the high holiday of the real state religion of Wisconsin are not yet upon us. That celebration will begin on either January 12 or January 13 and hopefully last until February 3.

* As a commenter to the linked article says, "Atheism is a religion in the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby." I wish I'd thought of that.

** I'm well aware that this blog is biased, by the way. I make no bones about that and I don't think I ever have; when you come here, you get my take on things.


Pete said...

As the author of the post you write about, I take issue with your claim that the article is biased, based on what you quote and on the entire piece.

My post says the Nativity scene is "the seasonal symbol" of the 150 churches' belief. True, no? Says nothing about how many churches or church members "built" it.

The piece says the pyramid is the work of fewer than 12 atheists. It is: Al Sorenson said his group has fewer than that number of members.

I'm sorry you felt the piece was biased. Frankly, I'm not sure where I stand on the underlying issue.

Burt Likko said...

I explained why I thought it was biased in my own post and I stand by what I wrote, too.

zzi said...

"Atheism is a religion in the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby."

That is pretty good. Sounds Will Rogersish.