'Tis the season to object to outdoor nativity scenes, especially those in public places. Here in Wisconsin the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation is once again working to counter the Christmas spirit. In reaction to a conservative group setting up a nativity scene at the capitol building, they are applying for a permit, the AP article reports, "for an opposing display." They claim that the nativity scene isn't appropriate for a state building. So what will their display be? One that's "slightly blasphemous" with an "irreverent tweak" on the nativity scene.
Let's think about this for a moment. First of all what is there in a typical nativity scene that should be so objectionable? The article claims the scene includes "six statuettes." That probably means there is one representing Joseph and Mary, three for the Magi, and one for the baby Jesus. Or it could be Mary, Joseph, a shepherd or two, the baby Jesus and an angel. As I remember most nativity scenes the figures are not labeled. Now most people realize who the figures represent, but the point is that it is left to the viewer's interpretation. There are no crosses or other overt religious symbols anywhere to be seen. Just the figures, and maybe a star, but that certainly can't be construed as a distinctive religious symbol. The scene makes no claims about what it represents. It is, strictly speaking, simply an historical representation and no more. Unlike icons and other traditional religious art, I don't even think that the Jesus figure is usually represented with a halo. While some of the figures are often seen kneeling in the direction of the Christ-figure, the purpose of the kneeling is again left to the viewer's interpretation.
Yet, the atheists, in the true spirit of mean-spiritedness, have decided to erect something that is "blasphemous" and "irreverent." And this from the people who pride themselves on being "freethinking." A quick look at their website reveals slogans that are intended to ridicule faith. I thought that freedom of religion meant mutual respect. How naive I must be. Well, I think their efforts speak volumes about the direction and tone of their organization. It's just sad that a strong belief in the separation of church and state has to result in an attack on religion itself.