Syte Reitz

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world…….

Browsing Posts tagged Winter Solstice

Translation of FFRF ‘Quit the Catholic Church” NY Times Ad

or

It’s Not Easy Being Free From Religion

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) published a full-page ad in the New York Times on Friday, March 9, 2012.  The ad mocks and demonizes the leadership of the Catholic Church, while inviting “liberal” and “nominal” Catholics to join FFRF.

It begins:

FFRFs New York Times ad, March 9, 2012

.

.

The logic behind spending $52,000 in an attempt to recruit from a group (the Catholic Church) whose beliefs are diametrically opposed to one’s own group’s (radical atheists) is questionable at best.  The ad comes across either as an excuse to spew bigoted hate speech and ridicule towards the Catholic Church, or as a sign of desperation and instability in FFRF.

TRANSLATION of the FFRF New York Times ad:

We at FFRF have been laboring for decades (for two generations), trying to wipe out all mention of religion in the United States.
Ours has been a difficult road fraught with obstacles, and progress has been slow.
After all these years, our membership only represents 0.003 of 1% of America’s population.

Even fellow atheists keep their distance from us; only 1 out of 1,000 U.S. atheists have joined us.
Imagine, the other 999 out of 1,000 atheists tolerate Christian America (80% of America), and even join them in the more secular aspects of celebrating their holidays!  It makes us sick to our stomachs to watch people buying Christmas trees and buying toys for their children each Christmas.

We valiantly try to spread our creed in any way we can imagine.
We have tried to appeal to people’s intellects, asking them to be “free” thinkers, to question what they are taught and to conclude that we are right; that there is no God.
We have tried to put up golden plaques in State Capitol buildings at Christmas, calling on people to reject gods and to join us in celebrating the pagan Winter Solstice.  Unfortunately, no takers. Our Christmas plaques have informed people that their hearts are hardened by religion and that their minds are enslaved by religion.  Yet people do not flock to us.  They still put up a Christmas tree in the Capitol rotunda that dwarfs our signs by orders of magnitude, and they dare to call it a CHRISTmas tree, as generations of their ancestors have done.

We are working hard to sue Christians who profess their faith publicly, but most of our lawsuits are defeated.  People claim that the Constitution guarantees them the freedom to express their religion publicly, not what we claim, the right not to see any religious beliefs expressed anywhere by anybody except us (atheists are classified on most US campuses as religious organizations).
Even the Constitution makes it hard for us; the Founding Fathers used the term freedom OF religion instead of freedom FROM religion.  You can’t imagine how hard that makes our battle.

We are a modest outfit, with only 4 employees and a $500,000 per year budget.  There is just so much a tiny group can do with that.  We are really doing our best.  Our staff and budget is smaller than the average Christian Church’s staff and budget in Madison, and we are only one group, contrasted with almost 300 Churches in Madison.

So it’s not easy.  We can’t sue everybody.  We try to single out small communities with small budgets (like Marshfield, a small WI town that hardly has any cell phone coverage),  and we sue them whenever their teenagers try to pray on a sports field or their teachers hang the ten commandments in a hallway.  We hope that they will stop expressing their beliefs out of fear of our lawsuit which they cannot afford.  That way, we do not have to go to court and risk losing the case, or use up our meager budget. But people have no sympathy for us.  They don’t understand our pain.  They accuse us of jousting at windmills.

It’s been getting harder and harder.  Now more people have noticed what we are up to.  Organizations have turned up which help small communities when we try intimidation by litigation.  Outfits like the American Center for Law and Justice help the small outfits we try to sue.

Oh, we’ve valiantly tried many things, including suing against the National Day of Prayer.  We fought for 3 years, but lost that one.  People just seem to insist on praying and praying.

In our desperation, we have turned to ridicule.  Last Christmas, we ridiculed the birth of Christ.  We put up a fake “Nativity Scene” at the

FFRF's mockery of the Nativity

Wisconsin State Capitol.  It was a modest effort, reminiscent of the shoebox dioramas we make in grammar school.  But, heck, we don’t have the budget that some of those Christian groups have.  Little attention was paid to our ridicule efforts, and nobody flocked to  join our creed, which is based on the negation and the ridicule of the beliefs of others. Quite a few Madison bloggers laughed off our efforts — life is so hard when nobody takes you seriously!

Now, we are at our wits’ end over our lack of success in recruiting more than 0.003 of 1% of America to our membership in all these years.  Golly, we can’t even expand our ranks biologically; so many of our members do not have children at all, have children who reject our beliefs, or are members who promote and practice abortion. You have no idea how hard it is for an organization to expand amongst radical abortionists!

The last straw came when the world’s most famous atheist admitted last month that he is not sure whether God exists!  What’s an atheist to do? It’s just too depressing.

S0 we had a brainstorm.
We looked for an organization that has it all.
An organization whose creed is followed by the largest number of Americans.
An organization whose membership embraces half the population of Madison.
An organization whose national membership is growing.
An organization which has the best schools in the United States.  And the best hospitals.  And the best charities.
(Unfortunately, we have no schools or hospitals ourselves. We can’t do everything!)
An organization which encourages having children and is successful in passing on beliefs.
Yes, the Catholic Church!
We will recruit from the Catholic Church!
We will steal members from the Catholic Church!

And what is the best way to do that?
With an ad in the New York Times, of course!

So here’s the ad.

Low budget, of course; remember, we don’t have a big budget.
Like the “Nativity” mocking Christ’s birth, we threw it together ourselves.
Never mind that it’s not very professional.That doesn’t matter.
Never mind that it ridicules a quarter of America.
Never mind that 80% of America is Christian and may not like our tactics.
If we lie enough and ridicule enough, maybe we can steal just 0.025 of 1 % of their membership.
That would double our membership overnight!

Heh, heh, heh, wink, wink, wink, drool, drool, drool, what a great plan!
This will really work!

Our next group to target for ridicule and recruitment will be Islam…
let’s see how that works out…

.

.

.

As is often the case, a Wisconsin State Journal (WSJ) article sent me on an interesting thought trajectory last week.

In a New Years Day 2011 article, WSJ author Chris Rickert wrote, “I approached a handful of more-or-less randomly chosen (Madison) people who aren’t exactly celebrities (but aren’t exactly unknown either) about coming up with resolutions for Madison.”

The Greek word "atheoi" αθεοι ("those who are without god") as it appears in the Epistle to the Ephesians 2:12, on early 3rd-century Papyrus"

When thus approached, Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) atheist Annie Laurie Gaylor suggested the following resolution for Madison: “just say no to the (St. Paul’s Catholic Student) Center‘s unreasonable demand for a tax-free, 14-story dormitory and religious addition.”  Apparently this Madison atheist’s primary concern for 2011 seemed to be preventing the replacement of UW Madison’s Catholic student headquarters. (!)

Questions immediately came to mind:

St. Paul's from 1909

  • Why would opposition to the Catholic Student center be so high on an atheist organization’s priority list?   (The replacement will be funded by private donations, and replaces an existing Catholic Student center, which has been in existence at that location since 1909.)
  • Why is MY Catholic religion being singled out by the atheists?  (The atheist’s objections did not include other campus religious groups or buildings, or their tax-exempt status.)
  • Isn’t the atheist being inconsistent? Isn’t atheism a religion as well?  Aren’t atheists simply opposing OTHER people’s religions in preference to their own? Why would they particularly single out Catholicism?

Searching the UW Madison student organization website, atheists came up as the second listing under RELIGIOUS student organizations– Atheists, Humanists & Agnostics @ UW-Madison. So atheism is listed as a religion at UW, along with Catholic student groups, Muslim student groups, and others.

If the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is so opposed to religion, what are they specifically opposed to?

According to dictionary.com, religion is “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

  • Is FFRF opposed to exploring the cause, nature and purpose of the universe?
  • Does FFRF deny the right of others to believe in a superhuman agency (as 80% of Madison and 80% of America does)?
  • Is FFRF opposed to a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs?
  • Are atheists not contradicting themselves, since they also adhere to a system of beliefs and are listed under UW Madison religious organizations?

My curiosity piqued, I visited the Freedom From Religion Foundation(FFRF) website  “about” page, where I found the statement:

“The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion.”

Abraham Lincoln

Hmmm….according to FFRF, so much for considering contributions to Western civilization by Jesus Christ, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Johann Sebastian Bach, Michelangelo, Sir Isaac Newton, Gregor Mendel, Max Planck, Albert Einstein, G.K. Chesterton, Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Clarence Thomas, Pope John Paul II, Mother Theresa………?

The FFRF “about” page goes on to claim ownership of prison reform, humane treatment of the mentally ill, abolition of capital punishment, the end of slavery, women’s suffrage, and more, for people who are “free of” religion.

Johnny Cash

A brief historical tour of these topics does not support FFRF’s claims—no one group had a monopoly on reform in these areas, and numerous religious people were involved, including famous names like Abraham Lincoln and Johnny Cash.

.

A visit to Wikipedia’s entry on FFRF indicates that FFRF maintained a sign in the Wisconsin State Capitol during the Christmas season, which reads:

FFRF sign at Wisconsin Capitol

.

“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 the heart and enslaves minds.”

-A disturbingly intolerant statement about many religions, particularly for a city like Madison, which prides itself on its University, its intellectualism and its tolerance!

Consider a simple substitution in the last sentence of the sign:                                    Atheism is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” instead of Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens the heart and enslaves minds.”

How would FFRF tolerate the exhibition of that in the State Capitol on a gold sign for children to view?

The first line of the FFRF verse is also inconsistent with FFRF’s supposed mission; Winter Solstice, capitalized, refers to pagan celebrations, which are religious.  Is FFRF promoting pagan holidays, while opposing Christian ones like Christmas?  Hardly sounds like freedom from religion.

The FFRF Christmas season sign is an inconsistent curiosity at best, and surely would not be appreciated by 80% of Madison, who are Christian, when they bring their children to see the Christmas tree at the Capitol each year!

How many atheists are there, anyway? Wikipedia claims 2.5% of the world’s population, 2% of the U.S. population.

And of these, how many are so militant that they cannot tolerate a Christmas tree or a “Merry Christmas” wish?  The couple of atheists/agnostics I know have no problem with Christmas, and they participate in Christmas celebrations and Christmas giving with enthusiasm.  They are quite tolerant of the Christian majority in America, and enjoy the spirit of the occasion.  So what percentage of Americans does the FFRF really represent?  It is certainly lower than the total of all atheists, 2%.  The FFRF website lists their North American membership of 15,500, which is 0.003 of 1% of the population, or one in 33 thousand people.

City-data.com demographics list Madison as 53% Catholic, 22% Evangelical Lutheran, and only 10% of the population outside of Christian denominations.

So as we delve further into the facts, we discover that in the City of Madison, which is 53% Catholic and 80% Christian, and in the State of Wisconsin, which is 29% Catholic and 80% Christian, the insignificant number of militant atheists want to prevent Catholic students from replacing their Catholic student center at their own cost when membership swells.

Catholic students in front of St. Paul's

Perhaps it is the tax-deductible status of the Catholic Student Center that offends FFRF?  The Catholic student center is located between its brethren structures, Calvary Lutheran Student Center, and Pres House, the Presbyterian Student Center.  All three are religious institutions and all three are tax-exempt.  The FFRF is also tax exempt, and the UW Madison atheist student organization (listed under Religious Student Organizations) is tax exempt. So tax exemption cannot be the problem.

Does FFRF think that UW or the City of Madison will be paying for the new structure?

FFRF’s Annie Julie Gaylor stated:“(St. Paul’s Catholic Student) Center’s unreasonable demand for a tax-free, 14-story dormitory and religious addition.” — but St. Paul’s Catholic Center is not demanding anything from anybody.  They already own the location since 1909, and the new building will be paid for by private donations.

So the Catholic Center is not unique in its tax-free status. The Catholic students are not demanding anything from anybody.  Perhaps it is the expansion that FFRF is opposed to?

St. Paul's today

.

The expanded taller structure reflects the increase in Catholic students participating in the Catholic Center, and this is not surprising in a town which is 53% Catholic and a State which is 29% Catholic.  29 to 53% of the UW campus would represent about 11,000 to 21,000 students.  Does the FFRF, representing between 0.003% and  2% of the population (this would correspond to between 1 and 800 students), wish to deny the 80% Christian majority access to religious organizations and dormitories to support the student population’s interests and priorities?

.
In a world in which litigation has much power to intimidate, small groups such as the FFRF have made some headway toward abolishing the rights of self-expression guaranteed to us by the Bill of Rights of the United States:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

The FFRF, with their $5 million fund balance, their half-million dollar yearly income, and 15,000 (North American) membership, is a small organization at best.  Yet FFRF has made some inroads towards stifling the freedom OF religion guaranteed to us in the United States– primarily by filing lawsuits against public expressions of religion.

FFRF should be reminded that the preposition used by the founding fathers in the Bill of Rights is freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. They should be reminded that they are the guests among a majority of religious people in this country, who exhibit more much tolerance towards FFRF than is reciprocated.  And in preparation for the next time our freedom OF religion is threatened by frivolous FFRF lawsuits, we should start a Freedom OF Religion Fund to pay for the defense of the Bill of Rights against militant atheists like FFRF.  We 80% Christians and 90% religious people in this country, as well as the 8-10% tolerant atheists/agnostics/unsure believers, would prevail against the aggressive and intolerant attitudes of groups like the FFRF if we woke up, got organized and took action.

FFRF should take a lesson in tolerance from Bishop Morlino, another one of the people consulted by WSJ for this article’s New Year’s resolutions for Madison.  Bishop Morlino did not suggest stifling FFRF’s plans, challenging their tax-exempt status, or interfering with FFRF in any way.  Bishop Morlino suggested some daily quiet personal introspection for everyone in Madison– which Annie Laurie Gaylor would be wise to consider.

All Posts