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Thread: Nativity displays stolen/discarded in US state capitols

  1. #1 Nativity displays stolen/discarded in US state capitols 
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    What would motivate a group to steal or discard nativity displays?

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    Veracity Vigilante inow's Avatar
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    Maybe because they represent one particular religion and the practices and faith of just one particular group of people... and are being displayed in a biased manner on the steps of governing institutions in a nation which is at it's heart secular and mandated to separate religion and state?

    I don't know, I just guessing.


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    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
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    1. Unless the link has changed, that article is about people defacing Freedom from Religion signs (or was that your subtle intention?)

    2. The chappie's argument is a clear indication of a conflict many USians face: they'll fight for freedom of speech, but not if it criticises religion...
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  5. #4 Re: Nativity displays stolen/discarded in US state capitols 
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    What would motivate a group to steal or discard nativity displays?

    link
    That's confused. The Freedom from Religion guy rhetorically says, "But notice that we are not defacing or stealing nativity scenes because we disagree with their speech." to contrast the Christian action against his group's sign.


    I've Mr. Beaned nativity scenes (with posing action figures) before. It's not an anti-Christian message. It's a reminder that children and play matter also, even more so around Christmastime.
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    Oh, wow. I really screwed the pooch on that one. Sorry, free radical.


    A conservative activist and Illinois comptroller candidate was escorted from the Illinois State Capitol building Wednesday when he tried to remove a sign put up by an atheist group.

    <...>

    Kelly called the sign "hate speech," and said he does not believe it is appropriate for a sign that "mocks" religion to be placed next to a Christmas tree and also near a nativity scene.

    <...>

    The sign reads: "At the time of the winter solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is just myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

    The sign was also on display at the Capitol at this time last year. The group says it filed for a permit to post the display in response to the state's decision to put up the nativity.

    But Kelly said he believes the problem is not only the verbiage of the sign, but also its proximity to the Christmas tree.
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  7. #6  
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    Apologies for the confusion, all.

    Is the answer to the original question different, depending on whose beliefs are being attacked?
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    Apologies for the confusion, all.

    Is the answer to the original question different, depending on whose beliefs are being attacked?
    Very good question indeed. Of course it shouldn't be, but is it? Unfortunately, not always.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
    "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle
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  9. #8 Re: Nativity displays stolen/discarded in US state capitols 
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    What would motivate a group to steal or discard nativity displays?

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    The Supremes have previously ruled that nativity displays are OK on public property if they include Santa Claus. Who could object?
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  10. #9 Re: Nativity displays stolen/discarded in US state capitols 
    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    What would motivate a group to steal or discard nativity displays?

    link
    The Supremes have previously ruled that nativity displays are OK on public property if they include Santa Claus. Who could object?
    Free Radical's point was, however, that it's Freedom from Religion displays that a repug wanted to deface. It was legitimately displayed alongside the Nativity, but he decided he had the right ("for the sake of the kiddies") to attack it. Which has been the fate of a number of Freedom from Religion boards, apparently. Very few 'militant' atheists go around defacing Nativities, on the other hand...
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    Is the answer to the original question different, depending on whose beliefs are being attacked?
    Yeah. Another sharp example is in how Canadian politicians (a fairly atheistic lot) clamoured to condemn China's persecution of the Falun Gong cult, while simultaneously defending laws against Jehovah's Witnesses refusing their children blood transfusions or other life-saving medicine. Few see the direct equivalence.

    Personally, as an atheist, I find the Freedom from Religion sign's text and Grinchy counterpoint beside a Christmas tree embarrassing. On the other hand it so utterly fails to speak to children I dunno what harm the Christians saw in it.
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  12. #11 Re: Nativity displays stolen/discarded in US state capitols 
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    What would motivate a group to steal or discard nativity displays?

    link
    The Supremes have previously ruled that nativity displays are OK on public property if they include Santa Claus. Who could object?
    Free Radical's point was, however, that it's Freedom from Religion displays that a repug wanted to deface. It was legitimately displayed alongside the Nativity, but he decided he had the right ("for the sake of the kiddies") to attack it. Which has been the fate of a number of Freedom from Religion boards, apparently. Very few 'militant' atheists go around defacing Nativities, on the other hand...
    Yes, I got that - just thought it slightly amusing about Santa. But to the point, atheists, it seems, are generally tolerant of the beliefs of others and respectful of the First Amendment. It would be nice if certain elected officials of the Republican variety could get a clue.
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  13. #12 Re: Nativity displays stolen/discarded in US state capitols 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    But to the point, atheists, it seems, are generally tolerant of the beliefs of others and respectful of the First Amendment. It would be nice if certain elected officials of the Republican variety could get a clue.
    Is that free radical's point? I think we're supposed to find equivalence, not proof of atheist ethical superiority.

    The sign plainly addressed the Christmas display. The antagonism is obvious:

    "At the time of the winter solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is just myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."


    Try a thought experiment: Suppose for Labour Day employees at the Capitol building put up a display celebrating labour victories including eight-hour workday, right to collective bargaining, etc. Then suppose a right wing Christian group had counterpointed the display with a sign:

    "On this day bestowed by Congress, know your place in history. The Lord created the Sabbath. He wrote the laws of days and seasons, and the laws of slave and master for all to obey. The fruits of life we enjoy are His Gift to us. Worker pride is just a passing vanity, puffing up against the Lord and His earthly order. Know your place."

    How do you like that beside the Labour Day display?


    Maybe as a Canadian I'm more attuned to the line between demonstration and protest. Demonstration good, protest bad.
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  14. #13 Re: Nativity displays stolen/discarded in US state capitols 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    How do you like that beside the Labour Day display?

    Maybe as a Canadian I'm more attuned to the line between demonstration and protest. Demonstration good, protest bad.
    That would be just fine with me.
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    Does the American concept of free speech make a distinction between protest (opposition) and demonstration (affirmation)? See, in Canada multiculturalism creates a clear distinction. Demonstration is encouraged, and direct opposition to a group's demonstration is intolerance.

    That's why the Freedom from Religion sign rankles me: It's intolerant.
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Does the American concept of free speech make a distinction between protest (opposition) and demonstration (affirmation)? See, in Canada multiculturalism creates a clear distinction. Demonstration is encouraged, and direct opposition to a group's demonstration is intolerance.

    That's why the Freedom from Religion sign rankles me: It's intolerant.
    So where would I sign up for a protest demonstration?

    Peaceful assembly is OK. Signs that promote one religion are OK so long as alternative beliefs may also be accommodated on the same public space. Or so I understand our Supremem Court's opinions.

    I don't see how describing a scientific world view on a sign as opposed to a religious one is intolerant.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    I don't see how describing a scientific world view on a sign as opposed to a religious one is intolerant.
    It's just that religious people are often hyper-sensitive to offense. I discussed this a bit (in another context) here:

    http://www.thescienceforum.com/viewt...=223750#223750
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Signs that promote one religion are OK so long as alternative beliefs may also be accommodated on the same public space.

    I don't see how describing a scientific world view on a sign as opposed to a religious one is intolerant.
    Aha. To you it is good and fair when opposing beliefs are juxtaposed in the same space. This does seem to be the thrust of laws in your country. Positive affirmations should admit opposition, so the public may glance easily from one to the other and weigh the conflicting arguments for themselves.

    It's a bit different in Canada. Society (including public funding) does encourage diversity, including views we know must contradict when directly contrasted. We want to boost all affirmations, so can't have one bashing others. Therefore we distance or suppress negative statements directed against an affirmation, whatever that affirmation may be. The idea is that so long as expressions are positive rather than negative (demonstrative rather than protesting), they can peacefully co-exist. In this sense tolerance is a relationship, not a trait.

    So I see the Freedom from Religion sign as intolerant and devaluing of an innocent Christmas display, while an American sees it as fair play and even healthy.
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    P'raps I have miissed it in the discussion, but it remains unclear to me what the motivation could possibly be to deface the sign. Is the motivation fear? Presumably so, but that would be a sorry state of affairs.

    Is it an attempt to prevent offense to religious sorts? Dear.

    It is unfathomable to me. Defacing a nativity, on the other hand, in a predominantly christian nation makes some strange sense (not that I condone such) ... as an act of rebellion against majority beliefs, a statement of sorts from the minority. This sort of rationale can not apply, however, when defacing a sign that may represent a scant 10% of a population.

    I would not condone either type of defacement, but cannot fathom the motivation in this case. Surely US christians are not this insecure in their beliefs?
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  20. #19  
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    bunbury said:

    Peaceful assembly is OK. Signs that promote one religion are OK so long as alternative beliefs may also be accommodated on the same public space. Or so I understand our Supremem Court's opinions.
    I don't see how describing a scientific world view on a sign as opposed to a religious one is intolerant.
    One of the problems I see here is that atheists claim that atheism is not a religion, but then turn around seek protection from the constitution right to practice freedom of religion. In the alternative, such a sign displays intolerance toward the expression of a constitutionally protected right to practice religion by someone who has none.

    It would seem to me that any statement that is anti any religion smacks of some degree of intolerance. The article is not clear as to whether similar signs were placed near Hanukkah symbols.

    The funny thing here is that the Christmas tree is not even a symbol of Christmas with an origin in Christianity. In fact, few of the symbols of Christmas originate in Christianity.

    And there are a number of problems with celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25th. It is highly unlikely that he was born in the dead of winter. Remember, the birth reported in the Bible came at the time of a census which required many people to travel long distances. Crazy though Herod might have been, it seems highly unlikely that he would have ordered such travels when many roads would have been impassible due to mud and other inclement conditions. Also, it is highly unlikely that he would have ordered such a disruption during the growing season from planting time to harvest. Thus, most students of this question suggest that Jesus was probably born in the fall, after the harvest. Some think in spring before planting time. Few accept a winter birth.

    Next, a significant part of the Bible story involves shepherds in the fields tending their flocks. Sheep were not tended in the fields in the dead of winter for various reasons -- they were probably not in the fields for four to five months of the year from late fall to early spring. So, again, a winter birth is highly unlikely.

    The history of Christmas as a December celebration goes back to the reign of Constantine who arbitrarily selected that date to coincide with another celebration of the Romans in an effort to have the two going on at the same time.

    And with the name Christmas being short for the Catholic ceremony of Christ's Mass, many early reformation movements forbid its observation completely. It was not until the first half of the 20th century that protestant denominations began observing the holiday.

    And probably the strangest thing of all about Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus is the fact that no place in the Bible, nowhere, is it even remotely suggested that the birth of Jesus should be observed or commemorated in any way by Christians. Not that there is anything wrong with it, it just isn't Biblical

    I am not sure why anyone would feel threatened by the birth of a baby celebrated with symbols which have nothing to do with him. If anyone should be offended by the public displays of Christmas trees and Yule logs and Santa Claus and St. Nickolas and three kings who weren't really kings in depicting the birth of Jesus, it should be Christians.

    And, besides, it is not the birth of Jesus which illustrates the power of salvation. Rather, it is Christ crucified on the cross and then resurrected that is the power of salvation. That is what should be offensive to non-believers. It is that which should unsettle them, not the birth of some innocent, powerless baby.

    No one should be offended or threatened by Christmas. Easter is sufficient to do that.
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

    If God DID do all of this, is He not the greatest scientist of all? -- dt, 2005
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    what the motivation could possibly be to deface the sign....cannot fathom the motivation in this case.
    Okay, facts: the sign was not "defaced" except perhaps by weird legal definition. The Christian had wished the atheist sign set some distance apart in the Capitol building. Failing that, he flipped the sign around, effectively removing it.

    Now justified without nuance: The sign was flaming in a public forum. It offered only strife. It was a peevish verbal attack upon a Christmas tree! In that context, stopping a public fountain of bitterness is "the right thing to do" IMHO.

    I am sorry that a Christian had to do it. I would have myself.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    bunbury said:

    Peaceful assembly is OK. Signs that promote one religion are OK so long as alternative beliefs may also be accommodated on the same public space. Or so I understand our Supremem Court's opinions.
    I don't see how describing a scientific world view on a sign as opposed to a religious one is intolerant.
    One of the problems I see here is that atheists claim that atheism is not a religion, but then turn around seek protection from the constitution right to practice freedom of religion. In the alternative, such a sign displays intolerance toward the expression of a constitutionally protected right to practice religion by someone who has none.

    It would seem to me that any statement that is anti any religion smacks of some degree of intolerance. The article is not clear as to whether similar signs were placed near Hanukkah symbols.
    Disingenuous - religious groups persistently make anti- comments about people and their life choices, but are you saying this is not intolerant? Only religions have the right to be treated tolerantly?



    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    No one should be offended or threatened by Christmas. Easter is sufficient to do that.
    You don't get to decide who 'should' or 'should not' be offended, or even by what. Neither do I.


    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Okay, facts: the sign was not "defaced" except perhaps by weird legal definition. The Christian had wished the atheist sign set some distance apart in the Capitol building. Failing that, he flipped the sign around, effectively removing it.

    Now justified without nuance: The sign was flaming in a public forum. It offered only strife. It was a peevish verbal attack upon a Christmas tree! In that context, stopping a public fountain of bitterness is "the right thing to do" IMHO.

    I am sorry that a Christian had to do it. I would have myself.
    1. Free speech. Nobody was shouting 'fire' in a crowded auditorium.

    2. Vandalism - really justified by the strength of your emotions? Others have paid for this - the public sector has made money from that payment and it is going (one hopes) to help the public. They have a duty to protect that sign from people who believe that their irritation or otherwise justifies its removal/defacement/nullification.

    3. I don't know about Canada and affirmation versus opposition, but telling only the 'good news' is bad for debate and bad for the public. Tolerance is a good thing, but I'm not sure it's tolerance if you only allow positive stories to be told - every view, even the negative ones, has the right to public expression, surely? As long as they're not obstructed in their procession, the Gay Pride marchers in London cannot have a complaint if, say, Jehovah's Witnesses stand along the route with banners claiming they'll burn in hell.
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  23. #22  
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    Good topic, free radical. :-D


    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    1. Free speech.
    Meltingpots must have their own Darwinian theory of free speech. Is "free speech" appropriate in all contexts? Dusty words like prudence, humility, tact, civility, tolerance, come to mind. Don't lament the loss of these graces in other areas.

    2. Vandalism
    Or covering some rude graffiti. Please understand I'm not opposing the beliefs - I'm opposing the way they were expressed. They were expressed as a comment designed to upset or irritate passers-by (the majority with "enslaved minds"). Even an atheist can feel the malice in it.

    Like "defacement", "vandalism" is distortion through a legalistic lens. What actually happened was the sign was turned around. Practically, the message was removed from view. Yes illegally, if you want to argue that makes an action morally wrong.

    3. I don't know about Canada and affirmation versus opposition, but telling only the 'good news' is bad for debate and bad for the public. Tolerance is a good thing, but I'm not sure it's tolerance if you only allow positive stories to be told - every view, even the negative ones, has the right to public expression, surely?
    Thanks, I see you're trying to get my point of view. I don't mean "good news" though... certainly not in the sense of "feel good" or "no problem". For close analogy I mean the difference in discussion when one says "I such-and-such" vs. saying "You so-and-so". The tone is completely different: one is positive and confiding, the other is generally antagonistic and taken by the party it's directed at, as oppression. One wants to hit back.

    I don't see that later style of expression promoting free speech. I see it threatening a fight to those who disagree. Moreover a flat out protest like, 'That's nonsense" is not really expressing anything except "you shouldn't talk." This I think is the core Freedom from Religion message: "Shut up." That's incompatible with free speech... unless perhaps it's art?

    Like I said in Canada we try to promote diversity. This means raining on parades is a no-no. On the other hand it means parades are encouraged. Free speech can be "bad news" as well. The only limitations are on speech that is hateful or disruptive, or impedes the free speech of others.

    As long as they're not obstructed in their procession, the Gay Pride marchers in London cannot have a complaint if, say, Jehovah's Witnesses stand along the route with banners claiming they'll burn in hell.
    Impossible to stop them, so it's kinda moot. It's pretty clear the JW's in that situation would be leeching off the free speech of others. Why can't JW's have a demonstration in their own right? If they really have anything worth demonstrating they don't need an opposition to highlight it.
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  24. #23  
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    Pong.

    You've quoted my first two points without the important qualifiers I used.

    1 Free Speech - Nobody was shouting 'fire' in a crowded auditorium

    That responds to your point (or pre-responds) about the limits of free speech.

    2. Vandalism. Others have paid for this - the public sector has made money from that payment and it is going (one hopes) to help the public.

    So no. Not at all comparable with graffitti.

    3.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Like I said in Canada we try to promote diversity. This means raining on parades is a no-no. On the other hand it means parades are encouraged. Free speech can be "bad news" as well. The only limitations are on speech that is hateful or disruptive, or impedes the free speech of others.

    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    As long as they're not obstructed in their procession, the Gay Pride marchers in London cannot have a complaint if, say, Jehovah's Witnesses stand along the route with banners claiming they'll burn in hell.
    Impossible to stop them, so it's kinda moot. It's pretty clear the JW's in that situation would be leeching off the free speech of others. Why can't JW's have a demonstration in their own right? If they really have anything worth demonstrating they don't need an opposition to highlight it.
    a. Absolutely - free speech can be 'bad news' - but so can the truth. That's the point of free speech. Restricting free speech to that which does not disrupt is censorship. Raining on parades is allowed.

    b. "Why can't JW's have a demonstration in their own right?" - Yes they can - but you don't have the right to restrict their free speech by asking this question - they don't have to justify their free speech but you (or any authority) has to go a long way to justify restricting it. The boot is on the censor's foot, not that of the speaker.
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  25. #24  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    what the motivation could possibly be to deface the sign....cannot fathom the motivation in this case.
    Okay, facts: the sign was not "defaced" except perhaps by weird legal definition. The Christian had wished the atheist sign set some distance apart in the Capitol building. Failing that, he flipped the sign around, effectively removing it.

    Now justified without nuance: The sign was flaming in a public forum. It offered only strife. It was a peevish verbal attack upon a Christmas tree! In that context, stopping a public fountain of bitterness is "the right thing to do" IMHO.

    I am sorry that a Christian had to do it. I would have myself.
    Defacing refers to the acid thrown on other signs, etc.

    You raise another interesting point. Is it a different situation if an atheist defaces (or etc) such a display.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Or covering some rude graffiti. Please understand I'm not opposing the beliefs - I'm opposing the way they were expressed. They were expressed as a comment designed to upset or irritate passers-by (the majority with "enslaved minds").
    Surely they were designed to get people to think. I don't believe the intent was to irritate anyone.

    If there was an intent to irritate anyone, perhaps it was at the level that this group was irritated, which does not justify it but does cast it differently.
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    What if a picture of a black man embracing a white woman in a kiss under a mistletoe were placed beside the christmas tree, and somebody removed that because "it offended them?" Your argument, Pong, must also apply here... and, carried to its logical extension, you are seriously suggesting that the people who placed that picture of a biracial couple are at fault for "offending" the delicate sensibilities of others who find miscegeny offensive.

    That's just not how it works, mate... especially not here in the US with protections for both free speech and the wall of separation between religion and government.

    Some people take offense to seeing pictures of biracial couples kissing or expressing affection for one another, but (I certainly hope) you would never argue that a person placing such a picture was at fault (unless perhaps it crossed some line which had nothing to do with race).

    Why should that be treated any differently from this instance? The only difference I see is that religion is involved in one, and people expect some unearned deference be granted to religion and religious belief despite the fact that it has not been earned and is not warranted. You are here arguing that people should not have been allowed to place a sign with text which encourages reason and suggests that mythologies be treated as such since it offends people. That's silly.

    People don't have a right not to be offended.
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    inow said:

    What if a picture of a black man embracing a white woman in a kiss under a mistletoe were placed.. .
    I think you miss the point, it was not so much the message that was offensive, but the place it was put.

    Take the same picture and place it next to an NAACP display as well as next to a Klu Klux Klan display and see if you get exactly the same reaction from each group.

    Presumably, your motive for putting it next to the NAACP display would be to show approval and support of that organization and what it stands for while putting it next to the KKK deplay would probably be motivated by wanting to show disrespect for what the KKK stands for and piss them off.

    I don't think one could shield himself behind the silly contention that he was just trying to exercise his freedom of expression. The placement of the picture by the KKK display would obviously be designed to elicit a reaction from the KKK as was the anti religious sign placed next to a recognized religious symbol.
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  29. #28  
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    I think you miss the point, it was not so much the message that was offensive, but the place it was put.
    No, actually the point is that it doesn't matter, and Pong's argument fails. You don't have a right not to be offended, nor are people allowed to be biased toward one specific religion on the steps of a government building in a secular society with protections to keep a wall of separation between church and state.

    It could have been a Kwanzaa sign placed next to that christmas tree. The fact that it offends you, or the fact that you think it was placed too close to cut down pine tree, or the fact that you feel it doesn't show proper deference to your particular brand of religion really matters not. The individual who removed, destroyed, or defaced it is the one at fault, not the individual who placed it there in that location after obtaining all proper approvals.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    inow said:

    What if a picture of a black man embracing a white woman in a kiss under a mistletoe were placed.. .
    I think you miss the point, it was not so much the message that was offensive, but the place it was put.

    Take the same picture and place it next to an NAACP display as well as next to a Klu Klux Klan display and see if you get exactly the same reaction from each group.
    Is the implication that christians have more of a right to public lands than atheists?
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    free radical asked:
    Is the implication that christians have more of a right to public lands than atheists?
    Absolutely not. My point was that the spot of placement was what was offensive, not the content of the message. Had the sign been placed on the other side of the room or around the corner, I doubt anyone would have even paid any attention to it.

    inow said:

    You don't have a right not to be offended, nor are people allowed to be biased toward one specific religion on the steps of a government building

    Actually, I agree. Usually, when religious symbols are placed on public property, the space is also available for other similar symbols. Depending on the space available, such symbols are not necessarily placed right next to each other.

    There were many spots where that sign could have been placed. The only reason it was put in that particular spot was because the placer knew it would be offensive to those who see what is now called a holiday tree rather than a Christmas tree, as a Christian symbol. Again, it was not the message on the sign which was offensive, but rather the deliberate attempt to detract from and disrepect someone else's display. But the Christmas tree has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the birth of Jesus. I am happy, overjoyed, to see it called a holiday tree denoting its pagan origin rather than Christmas tree.

    I don't think a Kwanzaa display nearby would have been offensive to anyone since Kwanzaa does not have, as it objective, the dishonoring and disrespect of someone else's beliefs. The atheist's sign did have that intent and that effect.
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    The public spaces made available for holiday displays are done so to celebrate or commemorate the holiday. The atheist display of a sign, festivus pole, knowledge tree, or a paper mache flying spaghetti monster (I don't really know of any FSM displays) are equally commemorative in that they remind others that superstition isn't the only "reason for the season." There are, in fact, a large population of those who enjoy the season and find the nativity displays not just silly but also a threat to the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution. Alternative displays, even those like the sign in question, demonstrate that government isn't favoring any one religious superstition and those of the community who may be Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Native American, etc. benefit from the efforts of atheists.

    They might not agree with the sign (nor should merely reading a sign imply an expectation for agreement), but it clearly demonstrates that Christian superstition isn't state supported thus diminishing the value of other superstitions.

    With regard to the article linked and the concern that "children" would be exposed to it, I can't help but think the guy would rather have children terrorized with the fear of burning in an imaginary hell for masturbating than start to think on their own. But I agree that is the real concern: the children. Its important to get the message of reality to as many young people as possible. Religious cults have been doing this for hundreds of years in the United States and Europe (though not so much in Europe in recent years). Rather than indoctrinating them with dogma and superstition at an early age, perhaps its time to begin showing young people that atheism isn't a bad thing like their parents and clergy falsely assert and that questioning any claim, including any by atheists, is a good thing.

    It was the Jesuit priest, Francisco de Jaso y Azpilicueta, of the Catholic cult that said, "give me a child until he's seven and I'll show you the man," implying that within the first seven years of a child's life he can indoctrinate one in the catholic culture such that it will forever be a part of him in adulthood.

    It's time to take that power away from those that abuse it and bring enlightenment and inquiry into the minds of children. They should be encouraged to question all human assertions be they religious or not. They should be taught that all human propositions that aren't provisional in nature (i.e. religious dogma) are to be avoided for they are least likely to be true.
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    Thanks daytonturner. You clarified the difference between demonstration and protest better than I did. Surely demonstration has a greater expressive value than just negating someone's demonstration. 'Cause if negations rule the forum, no one's going to try demonstrating anything. Result: wasteland.



    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    1 Free Speech - Nobody was shouting 'fire' in a crowded auditorium

    That responds to your point (or pre-responds) about the limits of free speech.
    That's a soundbite not a definition. Here, let me define Santa Claus in kind: If he walks up to you and kicks you in the groin, he's not Santa Claus.

    Ho ho. But have I properly defined the rights and responsibilities of Santa Claus?

    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    2. Vandalism. Others have paid for this - the public sector has made money from that payment and it is going (one hopes) to help the public.

    So no. Not at all comparable with graffitti.
    Tangent conceded. And I appreciate you see that utility may sometimes outweigh ideals.

    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Like I said in Canada we try to promote diversity. This means raining on parades is a no-no. On the other hand it means parades are encouraged. Free speech can be "bad news" as well. The only limitations are on speech that is hateful or disruptive, or impedes the free speech of others.
    Absolutely - free speech can be 'bad news' - but so can the truth. That's the point of free speech. Restricting free speech to that which does not disrupt is censorship. Raining on parades is allowed.
    See below...

    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Impossible to stop them, so it's kinda moot. It's pretty clear the JW's in that situation would be leeching off the free speech of others. Why can't JW's have a demonstration in their own right? If they really have anything worth demonstrating they don't need an opposition to highlight it.
    "Why can't JW's have a demonstration in their own right?" - Yes they can - but you don't have the right to restrict their free speech by asking this question - they don't have to justify their free speech but you (or any authority) has to go a long way to justify restricting it. The boot is on the censor's foot, not that of the speaker.
    The context of free speech issues is different in Canada, because government actively funds, facilitates, and otherwise encourages those with "no voice" to be heard. So it's not just my right to ask the question, it's a public responsibility. How shall we allocate funding? Admittedly there's much discrimination and haggling over allocation of free soapboxes. I think your perspective has government simply allowing or restricting speech. Only passively facilitating it, and reluctantly at that. I think it's very telling that you defend a group's right to public expression because they've paid the government with private money.

    The differences stem from different legal traditions regarding citizenship and sovereignty. Canadians stress contractual responsibilities between the crown (thanks to democracy: "the public") and the individual. So I give you this and you give me that. Americans stress freedom, including freedom from obligations. So the public responsibility regarding speech is simply to not censor.

    Is it possible that this develops an adversarial climate where weak voices are drowned out? Is it possible that diverse voices may be swept into mutually destructive partisanship? Are those in-practice-not-theory hindering free speech?
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    P'raps I have miissed it in the discussion, but it remains unclear to me what the motivation could possibly be to deface the sign. Is the motivation fear? Presumably so, but that would be a sorry state of affairs.
    Speculating, because no one can know what particular biological processes in the fellow's head led to his actions, but, in no particular order:

    1) He is afraid that the massive atheist conspiracy is gaining strength and will soon swamp Christianity (look at the polls - Christianity is already down to 78% and atheism up to nearly 2%).
    2) He is a politician and he thought his actions might curry favor among Christian voters.
    3) The voices in his head told him to do it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    P'raps I have miissed it in the discussion, but it remains unclear to me what the motivation could possibly be to deface the sign. Is the motivation fear? Presumably so, but that would be a sorry state of affairs.
    Speculating, because no one can know what particular biological processes in the fellow's head led to his actions, but, in no particular order:

    1) He is afraid that the massive atheist conspiracy is gaining strength and will soon swamp Christianity (look at the polls - Christianity is already down to 78% and atheism up to nearly 2%).
    2) He is a politician and he thought his actions might curry favor among Christian voters.
    3) The voices in his head told him to do it.
    Crap. I explained why I would do it, and if you read the article Kelly states his (same) motives explicitly over several paragraphs.

    I suggest you do some soul searching as to why you'd grow a mental block over this. I mean that earnestly. I do not want to press this point so please don't respond it. Just hoping you honestly consider it.
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    I read the article Pong. You really expect to be able to post condescending presumptuous statements about me and then ask me not to respond?

    The question was about motivation, not about what a politician said. I suggest you think it through.
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    Is perceiving something as hate speech a motivation? The motivation would be the desire to rectify perceived hate speech, surely. Whether the sign was hate speech or not seems a matter of opinion.

    But Kelly called the sign "hate speech," and said he does not believe it is appropriate for a sign that "mocks" religion to be placed next to a Christmas tree and also near a nativity scene.

    "I don't think the State of Illinois has any business denigrating or mocking any religion," Kelly said, "and I think that's what the verbiage on the sign was doing."
    If Kelly opposes hate speech, then why does his website have a cartoon of Obama 'palling around with terrorists?' Is that not also hate speech?


    http://kellytruthsquad.files.wordpre...pg?w=422&h=547

    Here is the man's statement about the nativity incident, you can judge for yourself whether his motivations were genuine, or self serving.


    http://kellytruthsquad.wordpress.com...inois-capitol/

    Aha, a bit of digging and it looks like his motivation was purely political (tho I wouldn't rule out voices in his head, Bunbury!).

    If William Kelly Does Not Understand Simple Facts About Displays In Illinois State Capitol Building, How Can He Be Comptroller For Entire State?

    Kelly says: "There is a lot of false information coming out about what happened yesterday." He's right...and it's coming from Kelly.

    by RFFM.org staff writer

    On Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009 GOP candidate for Illinois state comptroller, William J. Kelly, attempted to remove a sign placed in the state capitol Rotunda by the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. A statement on Kelly's website reads, "As a candidate for comptroller, I believe it is absolutely wrong for Illinois’ officials to be spending tax dollars to denigrate and mock good people of faith."

    Critics say William Kelly was attempting to use the Springfield Nativity Scene display for his own political agenda. Kelly's actions were not spontaneous. RFFM.org learned Kelly issued a press release on December 22, 2009 which read, "GOP candidate for comptroller, William J. Kelly, plans to remove the American Civil Liberty Union’s atheist display at the Illinois Capitol in Springfield, Illinois."

    Clearly, from the beginning, Kelly did not have his facts in order regarding exactly what was on display in the Illinois state capitol Rotunda building. Standing in the center of the state capitol floor was a Nativity scene sponsored by the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee. There was a Hanukkah Menorah also on exhibit; a sign from the Illinois Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union supporting the right of these religious displays to stand in the state capitol; and an easel which related a message from a group of pagans posing as atheists which call themselves the Freedom From Religion Foundation. It is obvious Kelly did not actually know who put up the displays in the capitol Rotunda and which groups said what on their signage. According to his own press release, Kelly originally intended to abscond with the ACLU sign which actually supported the right of the religious displays to stand in the capitol.

    Most egregious is the fact Mr. Kelly says, "...it is absolutely wrong for Illinois’ officials to be spending tax dollars..." The truth of the matter is all of the displays in the state Capitol Rotunda are privately funded. That's what makes them legal. This, plus the fact all the displays are temporary demonstrates Kelly acted without possession of the facts involving why the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee was able to erect a Nativity scene for the second year in a row. The only money Illinois taxpayers spent regarding the displays was the cost involving the 15 law enforcement officers who escorted Kelly out of the Rotunda, before briefly detaining him to write up an incident report.

    If Kelly was not in possession of the simple facts regarding his blatant attempt to attract publicity, especially the economic aspects of the issue, some critics ask: "How could Kelly be comptroller for the entire state of Illinois?"

    In a phone conversation with Daniel T. Zanoza, Chairman of the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee, Kelly said, "We won't let them take the Nativity scene out of the state capitol building."

    "I was stunned," said Zanoza, "I asked Kelly whether he was running for state comptroller, Secretary of State or Governor. Even if Kelly was elected state comptroller, Kelly would have no input into who could or could not obtain a permit to place a display in the state capitol building. It was a foolish boast, but I genuinely had compassion for the man because he was so ill-informed."

    Zanoza went on to say he is happy this year's display of the Nativity scene went on virtually without a hitch. Thousands of people came to the capitol Rotunda to see the Nativity scene. One committee member told me she was nearly brought to tears when she saw a family, consisting of a Father, Mother and three young children who were viewing the statues of Joseph, Mary and the Christ child. A five year old, the oldest of the children, said, "I love baby Jesus!" With a loving smile, the Father looked at his son and said, "I love baby Jesus, too!"

    "This is what the Nativity scene is all about," said Zanoza. "It is a celebration of the birth of Christ. It's truly unfortunate there are those who put their own agenda above others."

    Zanoza says the Springfield, Illinois Nativity scene is not about controversy. The actions of individuals like Mr. Kelly is what led to officials in the state of Washington prohibiting all groups from displaying any exhibits--religious or otherwise--in that state's capitol building in Olympia.

    "I'm kind of glad the Nativity scene is coming down for this Christmas season," said Zanoza. "We don't need individuals like Kelly ruining something wonderful for their own selfish political purposes."
    It seems likely that motivation was political calculation, sadly.
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    motivation was political calculation
    Kelly was not acting emotionally?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    motivation was political calculation
    Kelly was not acting emotionally?
    He announced his intentions beforehand. This would suggest his emotions were under control. It seems his every statement about the issue included a reference to his candidacy.

    But now I'm confused. Why would pagans be posing as atheists?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    motivation was political calculation
    Kelly was not acting emotionally?
    It would seem not.

    His website makes him out to be a bit of a twerp, and a young one at that. It did not occur to me that this might be little more than a prank. It is some comfort to consider that some of this type of intolerance is nothing more than children behaving childishly.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Why would pagans be posing as atheists?
    Pagan, apparent in the sign's opening nod to solstice. That might be inadvertent, just to skirt the word "Christmas". The Freedom from Religion rep interviewed, presumes to speak for atheists when he declares, "We atheists believe..." and I do think that's posing. Maybe the article writer has atheist sympathies so wished to distance this embarrassing group from mainstream atheists.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    suggest his emotions were under control
    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    some of this type of intolerance is nothing more than children behaving childishly
    Hmm. Maybe it's a false dichotomy. :?

    Well his words and actions seem transparent to me. I can't help but wonder if US party politics does not predetermine judgment. Kelly's a Republican isn't he?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Thanks daytonturner. You clarified the difference between demonstration and protest better than I did. Surely demonstration has a greater expressive value than just negating someone's demonstration. 'Cause if negations rule the forum, no one's going to try demonstrating anything. Result: wasteland.



    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    1 Free Speech - Nobody was shouting 'fire' in a crowded auditorium

    That responds to your point (or pre-responds) about the limits of free speech.
    That's a soundbite not a definition. Here, let me define Santa Claus in kind: If he walks up to you and kicks you in the groin, he's not Santa Claus.

    Ho ho. But have I properly defined the rights and responsibilities of Santa Claus?

    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    2. Vandalism. Others have paid for this - the public sector has made money from that payment and it is going (one hopes) to help the public.

    So no. Not at all comparable with graffitti.
    Tangent conceded. And I appreciate you see that utility may sometimes outweigh ideals.

    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Like I said in Canada we try to promote diversity. This means raining on parades is a no-no. On the other hand it means parades are encouraged. Free speech can be "bad news" as well. The only limitations are on speech that is hateful or disruptive, or impedes the free speech of others.
    Absolutely - free speech can be 'bad news' - but so can the truth. That's the point of free speech. Restricting free speech to that which does not disrupt is censorship. Raining on parades is allowed.
    See below...

    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Impossible to stop them, so it's kinda moot. It's pretty clear the JW's in that situation would be leeching off the free speech of others. Why can't JW's have a demonstration in their own right? If they really have anything worth demonstrating they don't need an opposition to highlight it.
    "Why can't JW's have a demonstration in their own right?" - Yes they can - but you don't have the right to restrict their free speech by asking this question - they don't have to justify their free speech but you (or any authority) has to go a long way to justify restricting it. The boot is on the censor's foot, not that of the speaker.
    The context of free speech issues is different in Canada, because government actively funds, facilitates, and otherwise encourages those with "no voice" to be heard. So it's not just my right to ask the question, it's a public responsibility. How shall we allocate funding? Admittedly there's much discrimination and haggling over allocation of free soapboxes. I think your perspective has government simply allowing or restricting speech. Only passively facilitating it, and reluctantly at that. I think it's very telling that you defend a group's right to public expression because they've paid the government with private money.

    The differences stem from different legal traditions regarding citizenship and sovereignty. Canadians stress contractual responsibilities between the crown (thanks to democracy: "the public") and the individual. So I give you this and you give me that. Americans stress freedom, including freedom from obligations. So the public responsibility regarding speech is simply to not censor.

    Is it possible that this develops an adversarial climate where weak voices are drowned out? Is it possible that diverse voices may be swept into mutually destructive partisanship? Are those in-practice-not-theory hindering free speech?
    1. Not a soundbite, but the standard restriction on free speech accepted even by the Libertarians.

    2. Glad you concede the point. The fact of its being a commercial transaction was merely intended to make the point that the sign was legitimate, not graffitti. You still seem to be missing that.

    3. Regardless of how public money is spent in Canada, the ideas are what count: by your own token, under-represented groups in the US, ought to receive extra support so as to not have their voices drowned out. In which case the atheists - reviled by most in the States - ought to be supported by the state, not condemned by facile statements like 'I would have done it myself'. The secondary 'principle' that oppositional voices should not be allowed is still a silly one, and for the reasons I have already outlined:

    A. It's censorship
    B. It prevents diverse ideas from being known
    C. It compromises the quest for truth.
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    Let's put the shoe on the other foot for a second.

    What if Richard Dawkins was giving a program someplace and right next to the marquee poster on the front of the building advertising the event, someone placed a hand-written sign saying something like "Jesus is able to save even blowhard louts like Richard Dawkins."

    Would Dawkins' fans tolerate such a sign? Or might someone come along and turn it around so as to hide the message?
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

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    1) Fans of a biologist would probably find such a sign curious and snap photos to put on their Facebook pages and blogs to show how backward some apparently superstitious people are.

    2) The analogy is fallacious since it isn't a good one. Such a talk would invariably be on private property along with the marquee poster which is an invested advertisement part of a marketing strategy and, therefore, the protest sign is impinging on the free market rights of those that funded the talk, which is probably not the American taxpayer.

    There is no implication of the government favoring a single religious superstition in the "Dawkins program" analogy. Thus it fails. Face it: the nutcase that vandalized the FFRF sign was breaking the law and acting out of hatred and superstition. He was fractally wrong and there is no logical way to justify his actions. I'm not sure I particularly like the sign itself -there are other things I would rather see along side religious icons on Christmas that do a better job of getting a message across. But the guy was still wrong and sets a very poor example to young people as a public official -the very thing he purported to be concerned about!
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    I'm not sure I particularly like the sign itself -there are other things I would rather see along side religious icons on Christmas that do a better job of getting a message across.
    Me neither. It is worded and placed more to simply get under peoples skin than convey a message that people might actually think about. I can't endorse something like that. But, the sign had a right to be there and that guy was wrong to interfere.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

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    I'm partial to the Knowledge Tree that Margaret Downey has spearheaded in Philadelphia. It's a Christmas tree decorated with book covers from various freethought and science related books ranging from Carl Sagan's Cosmos and A Demon-Haunted World to Dawkins' The God Delusion. The idea is to spark thought and curiosity not offend.

    The mission of FSGP's 2009 Winter Holiday Display, "The Tree of Knowledge," is to inform the community about the many freethought books available through the library system and through retail and wholesale distributors. FSGP is promoting education and, in doing so, hopes to encourage a better understanding of the freethought philosophy. FSGP is also participatig in the holiday display to celebrate the winter season and to ensure a year-round cooperative relationship between theist and nontheist communities.
    The above quote is from this article: http://goo.gl/ZY1p

    While the goal isn't to offend, this is often the most offensive to religious-conservative nutcases. I'd be willing to bet they'd rather have a sign like the FFRF in the OP's article since it isn't oriented to provoking curiosity and educational directions they don't approve of (i.e. science, philosophy, questioning of religious dogma, etc.). Rather than making a statement, the Knowledge Tree can more accurately described as asking questions.

    Here's a link to some disapproving voices of "Fox" nuts: http://goo.gl/3p1g
    There's a video of the Fox program at the bottom. But I like this quote by Margaret Downey, also near the bottom.

    Quote Originally Posted by Margaret Downey
    "You should not look at it as a sabotage," Downey responded. "Because your faith should be strong enough where anybody standing there with a question would not intimidate you."
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    Skinwalker said:

    While the goal isn't to offend, this is often the most offensive to religious-conservative nutcases. I'd be willing to bet they'd rather have a sign like the FFRF in the OP's article since it isn't oriented to provoking curiosity and educational directions they don't approve of (i.e. science, philosophy, questioning of religious dogma, etc.). Rather than making a statement, the Knowledge Tree can more accurately described as asking questions.
    I'm sorry Skinwalker, I do not understand why you find people who are offended by that which is offensive to be "nut cases." The sign was designed to be derisive and scornful toward a remotely religious symbol and it strategically placed where it would dramatically display that derision and scorn.

    In view of the fact that atheists represent only 1.5 percent of the population, I have no idea why the rest of us should have to pay any attention to and put up with your (atheists in general, not Skinwalker specifically) blatant attempts to be as tauntingly offensive as you can toward the majority of people who believe differently. But then you have the audacity to blame the offended because they are offended by offensive behavior.
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    A Demon-Haunted World
    Sorry, this is off topic, but that book was a major revelation to me. It was really the first book of its kind I have ever read and the whole way through it I was going: "Yes!", "I agree!, "Why can't people understand this?". It was a great affirmation of how I thought about the world.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    Skinwalker said:

    While the goal isn't to offend, this is often the most offensive to religious-conservative nutcases. I'd be willing to bet they'd rather have a sign like the FFRF in the OP's article since it isn't oriented to provoking curiosity and educational directions they don't approve of (i.e. science, philosophy, questioning of religious dogma, etc.). Rather than making a statement, the Knowledge Tree can more accurately described as asking questions.
    I'm sorry Skinwalker, I do not understand why you find people who are offended by that which is offensive to be "nut cases." The sign was designed to be derisive and scornful toward a remotely religious symbol and it strategically placed where it would dramatically display that derision and scorn.
    Firstly, the "nutcases" in the quote above to which I refer aren't offended by a sign, rather a far more insidious display: the knowledge tree, which seeks to provoke curiosity and question among those that observe it.

    Secondly, I don't deny that I consider William J. Kelly to be a "nutcase." He is by any rational definition of the term since he allows a mere sign to threaten his sensibilities and allows his personal superstitions to override his sense of civility. He's clearly free to object to the sign. However, the sign, which reads, "At the time of the winter solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is just myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds," was legally placed and within the free speech zone of public property next to displays that are equally, if not more, offensive to others. The nature of those offenses are more rationally and logically held, of course, than Kelley's, though I can certainly forgive his being offended by the suggestion that he subscribes to fantasy after an apparent lifetime of indoctrination in a superstition that seeks to dominate government. The sign, while I don't particularly care for it (nor am I overly offended by it), stands as a reminder that government cannot nor shall not favor any single religion over any other.

    Given the freedom of religion and religious thought in this great nation, his act of vandalism is both unpatriotic and unamerican as well as criminal. Ironically, it goes against the very principles he pretended to be concerned about, which is presenting an immoral or amoral assertion to "any child [who] would run up to that tree with a smile on their face."

    Thirdly, there are those for whom it should be a duty to offend and those contentions for which it should be a duty to scorn. Superstition and the over-emphasis on silly 'virgin-birth' stories and the blatant lie of the Christmas holiday (a lie because it was clearly a religious superstition thrust upon one culture by a dominant one in order to indoctrinate them into a new cult from an older, perhaps more rational one which celebrated the natural order of the world (i.e. the Winter solstice), albeit through superstitious explanations of their own).

    Had Kelly simply used the sign as a means to educate his children that not all people think as their family does and that there are many other religions and even those who lack religion out there, yet continued living a life of superstition, I could hardly call him a 'nutcase.' Had he even become outraged and petitioned his local officials to have the sign removed or even moved, again, I could only call him superstitious: a victim of the circumstances of his own indoctrination and lack inquiry.

    In view of the fact that atheists represent only 1.5 percent of the population, I have no idea why the rest of us should have to pay any attention to and put up with your (atheists in general, not Skinwalker specifically) blatant attempts to be as tauntingly offensive as you can toward the majority of people who believe differently. But then you have the audacity to blame the offended because they are offended by offensive behavior.
    Because we're right, moral, and patriotic. We seek equality for all religious and non-religious people -an equal chance at being equal citizens. Not a token menorah pushed to the back of a courthouse lawn, a ridiculed kid of a Jehovah's Witness family who had to sit in the library while his class had a Christmas party, or the 8 year old girl belittled by her teacher because she doesn't want to say "god" in the pledge of allegiance because her family is Muslim and she'd rather say "allah."
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    In view of the fact that atheists represent only 1.5 percent of the population, I have no idea why the rest of us should have to pay any attention to and put up with [etc.]
    Its a matter of perspective. The actual figures are 1.6% for people who self-identify as hardline "atheists" or "agnostics," but when you look at the "nones" -those that simply answer "none" to questions of religious identification, the figure then becomes 15.0% which equates to about 34 million Americans. The answer "none" in the recent ARIS poll is not insignificant because there was a lot of allowance for simply stating "Christian" or some other so-called "high-religion" or "world religion." They still chose "none," which is selecting against identifying with any religious notion.

    I should remind you that this is more than the population of Jews in the entire world, a population long considered to be variously a political threat and ally. Indeed, 1.6% of the current U.S. population is about 5 million people! This is more than some estimates of the U.S. Jewish population!

    Interestingly enough, the figure of 1.6% of U.S. atheists/agnostics is nearly doubled from the last time the ARIS poll was conducted (2001 to 2007, if memory serves). So, while you're looking for ways to diminish the importance of the atheist voice, keep a reality check in mind. And I've often wondered if it isn't the "Nones" (remember those 29 million other non-religious people) that has religious nutcases worried the most (and by nutcase I'm referring to those that put their superstitions before education, Constitution, family, etc.). Keeping things like science and freethinking out of reach of young minds is very likely an important goal among the hardliners of religious conservatism.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    1. Not a soundbite, but the standard restriction on free speech accepted even by the Libertarians.
    Not my style to demand the legal definition. I think you understand that is not a working definition. I think there is tacit obfuscation over that, that is maybe dishonest in the good way, I hope.

    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    2. Glad you concede the point. The fact of its being a commercial transaction was merely intended to make the point that the sign was legitimate, not graffitti. You still seem to be missing that.
    Huh? No, I voiced my wonderment that legitimacy of a constitutional right is granted by commercial transaction. They also do that in Kabul.

    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    3. Regardless of how public money is spent in Canada, the ideas are what count: by your own token, under-represented groups in the US, ought to receive extra support so as to not have their voices drowned out. In which case the atheists - reviled by most in the States - ought to be supported by the state, not condemned by facile statements like 'I would have done it myself'. The secondary 'principle' that oppositional voices should not be allowed is still a silly one, and for the reasons I have already outlined:

    A. It's censorship
    B. It prevents diverse ideas from being known
    C. It compromises the quest for truth.
    I won't say "ought to" regarding internal government of another country. That's none of my business. However international debate about free speech is my business and I'll continue on that ground.

    I think the way you've defended freedom of speech actually does it harm and harms the people it's supposed to serve. You elevate it as so faultlessly virtuous (like Santa Claus) that when it materializes here on Earth, it fails to mesh with reality. So you blame the people. Something must be wrong with them, they're not using it enough, they're not using it correctly, they have no right to do that. I think it silly to force a misshapen ideal, for the sake of the ideal, when it plainly could serve better if adjusted to real life.

    "Real life" here basically means shabby facts of human nature and practical constraints, which some philosopher lawmakers failed to notice from their giddy heights.

    Freedom of speech IMO should serve people & society. It should multiply our expressions. When we find it drowning, bullying, poisoning, negating, and otherwise hindering free speech, it needs adjustment to the reality. So it may serve better.

    I could just argue the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. You may work it out from there. IMHO we can do better yet, thanks to real life conditions, and I'll illustrate with the Canadian solution.

    One condition of free speech is that it's being actively promoted. Another condition is that it manifests in time and space. Therefore we raise voices here and there, from time to time. It's a salad, and that's good. We don't - and practically can't - fuse all expressions in a single crucible of mass consciousness. No society will ever be a true meltingpot, because perceptions and voices vary... and that's good. Have I hammered that sufficiently?

    Now given that we want to amplify free expressions as far as civil society can accommodate, on the practical condition that this does no harm, we require that government, besides promoting (with funds) and facilitating (through services and venues), mediate free expressions in a responsible manner. For example it is irresponsible to allocate the Alberta Meat Packers display directly opposite the Hare Krishna free vegan food stand. Canadians would suspect such juxtoposition as deliberate act of social sabotage by government. Divide and conquer, you know. The diversity of Canadian society makes us especially vulnerable to this.

    Practically, we can avoid most unnecessary conflicts of free expression by giving extra weight to positive demonstrations, while neglecting protests or sheltering demonstrations from protest. That statement probably hits some panic buttons for censorship - but simply not encouraging, contriving, or otherwise inflaming protest is not censorship. Most public expressions are easily categorized as demonstration or protest. And the reality here and now is that most social and religious protests are essentially malicious, add little or nothing, and work against the free expressions of others. Positive demonstrations however usually coexist peacefully side by side. For example demonstrating "I love steak" plus "I love lentils" is fine and might even prove a happy medley.

    Thus advances the Canadian chimera.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    A Demon-Haunted World will be Pong's New Year gift to self. Looking forward to it.
    You can find it on Amazon for as little as $5 for the trade paperback version. I have 3 (one I keep, 2 I usually have loaned out) that I picked up at Half-Price books for about $8 total. The two loaners I found next to Feynman's Surely You're Joking on the clearance shelf for $1 each. I grabbed both Sagans and the Feynman for $3.

    Best $3 I ever spent.

    Like Kalster, DHW was an axial text for me. I once held a lot of irrational beliefs with a probable origin in popular media on things like UFOs, ghosts, ESP, X-Files, etc. that was just beginning to wain as I became more and more educated in the 1990's. Not long after Sagan's death, I picked up DHM and read it cover to cover in a day, emerging from the other side of this short academic journey with a new, more objective perspective of inquiry and wonder of the universe.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    But then you have the audacity to blame the offended because they are offended by offensive behavior.
    The offensive behaviour was removing the sign (breaking the law, it seems!).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    1. Not a soundbite, but the standard restriction on free speech accepted even by the Libertarians.
    Not my style to demand the legal definition. I think you understand that is not a working definition. I think there is tacit obfuscation over that, that is maybe dishonest in the good way, I hope.
    I suppose you do know that that quote (misquote actually ) is one of the pillars of the definition of free speech erected by the Supreme Court? Oliver Wendell Holmes would be a tad annoyed to hear it described as a "sound bite".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrior
    1. Not a soundbite, but the standard restriction on free speech accepted even by the Libertarians.
    Not my style to demand the legal definition. I think you understand that is not a working definition. I think there is tacit obfuscation over that, that is maybe dishonest in the good way, I hope.
    I suppose you do know that that quote (misquote actually ) is one of the pillars of the definition of free speech erected by the Supreme Court? Oliver Wendell Holmes would be a tad annoyed to hear it described as a "sound bite".
    The poet? I think he'd at least appreciate my Santa Claus comparison, but I'll take it all back if he objects.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    The poet?
    Er, no, the other one.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    The poet?
    Er, no, the other one.
    More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoutin...rowded_theater


    Pong - Unless you're arguing that this secular sign created a clear and present danger, your argument just doesn't hold up... at least not here in the US.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clear_and_present_danger


    Additionally, in Brandenburg v. Ohio the SCOTUS further limited the scope of what speech was allowed to be banned, restricting it to speech that would be directed to and likely to incite things like riots.
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    Quote Originally Posted by inow
    your argument just doesn't hold up
    You wish I argue for censorship, then you defend freedom of speech.
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    It seemed to me that you did argue for censorship, when you said that you wished an atheist had turned the sign around. in fact, you have argued consistently against the wording in the sign, and also consistently against speech in general that might be deemed offensive. This is arguing for censorship.
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    free radical said:

    The offensive behaviour was removing the sign (breaking the law, it seems!).
    Overall, what we have here is a classic example of the idea that two wrongs do not make a right.

    My observation in life is that quite often, the retaliator in some conflict seems to end up worse off than the actual instigator. We see that dramatically displayed in sports all the time. And somehow it often plays out that way in real life, too.

    And the instigator's reaction is so often, "Who? Me? I didn't do nothin.'." And that seems to be the general reaction of the defenders of the sign placement, "What's wrong with offending Christians?"

    And then you have people the likes of Skinwalker and inow, as well as others, calling them nut cases for being offended or claiming they are irrational human beings because they believe in a living God.

    I think that is what disturbs me most. You atheist folks call believers irrational and nut cases because they claim to have had and respond to an experience that you have not had. You have no basis, whatsoever, to deny the validity of another's experience only because you have not had the same experience. That, to me, is irrational.

    It is not like Christians are claiming to have been abducted to a space ship which they cannot produce. Or to have been operated on by aliens without the scars to show for the experience. There, you can question their claimed physical experience for lack of physical evidence. Christians do not claim to have had a physical experience.

    We claim to have had a spirtual experience which cannot be fully or adequately described in terms physical, intellectual and emotional experience. But since those are the only kinds of experiences you have had, you conclude that no other level of experience exists. It is as though you feel you have experienced everything possible in life and are, therefore, the supreme authorities on all the possibilities of human experience.

    You call responding on a spirtual level being irrational. To me, it would be irrational to deny that experience. Would it not be irrational to deny physical pain or some body system malfuction just because not everyone has experienced those symptoms? Would it not be irrational to deny the feeling of some emotion? Would it not be irrational to refuse to employ your intellectual abilities to resolve some problem?

    So why would you find it irrational for someone to recognize and respond to some human awareness on yet another level?

    I am not offended by the message on the sign. It merely reflects yet another person who thinks his lack of an experience carries more weight than the experiences of others. What offends me is that the support for his belief is so underwhelmingly in the minority (1.5 percent of the people in the U.S.) that the only way he can get attention for it is to put it someplace where it is going to take advantage of the attention drawn by the beliefs of others. If he had not put it in that spot, no one would have paid any attention to it at all. Unless it was to reverse Skinwalker's thought and wonder what kind of a nut case is putting up a sign like that.
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

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    [quote="daytonturner"]

    You atheist folks call believers irrational and nut cases because they claim to have had and respond to an experience that you have not had.
    This is a generalization. I think belief in the supernatural is irrational, but I don't call such believers nutcases. Your spiritual experiences, whatever they may have been, are the result of biological activity in your head. You will never accept that so we will never agree. We can disagree without animosity.
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    bunbury said:

    This is a generalization. I think belief in the supernatural is irrational, but I don't call such believers nutcases. Your spiritual experiences, whatever they may have been, are the result of biological activity in your head. You will never accept that so we will never agree. We can disagree without animosity.
    I agree with most of what you say here. It is a generalization and there are always exceptions to a generalization.

    But you do seem to fall into a portion of the generalization in that you believe it irrational to believe in the supernatural. There is a lot of "supernaturual" stuff that I cannot accept as valid, too. So, please to not misinterpret that I think any and every reported supernatural experience must be accepted as presented.

    I concur that whatever we have experienced could well be something we imagined or misunderstood or misinterpreted or some brain function. But I am not sure what qualifies you to diagnose the emotional or physical aspects of such experiences by others. Do you have some sort of medical degree or psychiatric background? I suppose if a huge chunk of the neurological community could show how this is chemically or biologically "only in the head," I would have to reassess my position. But what appears to be a totally uneducated diagnosis does not do much to sway me in that direction.

    I easily feel that it is highly probable that alien abductions would fit into an area of imagination or dream or subconscious thinking. There were many times when my mother, in her dotage, was absolutely convinced something she had dreamed was an actual event that had occurred. Now then, out of body experiences -- I don't know.

    I don't even know if "supernatural" and "spiritual" are exactly the same thing. Or if they are different or if one is a subcategory of the other. I'm thinking that a claimed spiritual experience might be of a supernatural nature, but I don't think all claimed supernatural experiences would necessarily be of a spiritual nature. I think I see spiritual as being something internal like thinking while supernatural is something external. Or that supernatural is an external cause that can produce and internal effect.

    I am not offended by people just because they may disagree with me. I am offended by people who attack my rationality or my intelligence or my intellectual abilities merely because I am a believer. Or they questioning my rationality, intelligence and intellectual abilities without offering any counter data or information or rationale. Just saying someone else is irrational or illogical is not a counter argument and that is what a number of people here do.
    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. -- Albert Einstein

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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    And then you have people the likes of Skinwalker and inow, as well as others, calling them nut cases for being offended
    I, of course, cannot speak for inow. But you're grossly mis-characterizing my position. I can see how it would be easier for you to object to me if I were calling him a nutcase for merely being offended. However, I am not. Here are the relevant quotes by me:

    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    I don't deny that I consider William J. Kelly to be a "nutcase." He is by any rational definition of the term since he allows a mere sign to threaten his sensibilities and allows his personal superstitions to override his sense of civility. He's clearly free to object to the sign.

    I can certainly forgive his being offended by the suggestion that he subscribes to fantasy after an apparent lifetime of indoctrination in a superstition that seeks to dominate government.

    his act of vandalism is both unpatriotic and unamerican as well as criminal.

    Had Kelly simply used the sign as a means to educate his children that not all people think as their family does and that there are many other religions and even those who lack religion out there, yet continued living a life of superstition, I could hardly call him a 'nutcase.'
    or claiming they are irrational human beings because they believe in a living God.
    Yes. I do think this is irrational. But I'm I will only contend that believing in a superstition for which there is no good reason (living gods) is an irrational act. But then this is a human failing. We all succumb to irrational thoughts and even atheists hold irrational beliefs. My wife is afraid of spiders. All of them. It matters not that they trap and eat other insects that are bothersome, she will call the exterminator when she sees a web on the eaves of the house. I wouldn't call her an "irrational human being," but she is a human being with an irrational belief.

    I know many Christians and those of other religions who are very rational about everything except their religious beliefs. I would not refer to them as "irrational human beings." They are generally rational people with some irrational contentions that are compartmentalized from the rest of their day-to-day lives.

    I think that is what disturbs me most. You atheist folks call believers irrational and nut cases because they claim to have had and respond to an experience that you have not had. You have no basis, whatsoever, to deny the validity of another's experience only because you have not had the same experience. That, to me, is irrational.
    I think that many of us have had the so-called experiences you claim to have had. But one or two things happens during these "experiences:"

    1) they happened to an atheist when they were still in the believer camp and now, as rational thought has replaced irrational regarding their religious views, the experiences are viewed in new light and haven't the significance they once had. Doubtless you are thinking something like, "then they didn't have an experience on par with a real experience." But this is a cop-out since the counter argument would be, perhaps you didn't have a rational epiphany on par with the believer turned atheist.

    2) the neurochemical events of the "experiences" occurred to atheists with no need to pigeon-hole them in a pre-existing cultural framework.

    If # 2 is valid, then we should expect to see that the overwhelming majority of the world's population subscribes to the religious superstitions of their pre-existing culture.

    It is not like Christians are claiming to have been abducted to a space ship which they cannot produce. Or to have been operated on by aliens without the scars to show for the experience. There, you can question their claimed physical experience for lack of physical evidence. Christians do not claim to have had a physical experience.
    It's exactly the same. Indeed, I would argue that there is good evidence that "spiritual experiences" have the same naturalistic explanations as other paranormal "experiences" in which the subject deems other-than-natural. "Experiences" like out-of-body, near-death experiences, psi-related (parapsychological) experiences, alien abduction, past-life awareness, unusual healing, and other "mystical" experiences. Many of these have been duplicated neuro-chemically under laboratory conditions (OBE, for instance).

    We claim to have had a spirtual experience which cannot be fully or adequately described in terms physical, intellectual and emotional experience.
    This is a "god of the gaps" argument. Basically an argument from ignorance. A neurochemical or other natural phenomenon occurs to an individual and it gets ascribed to that individual's cultural expectations.

    But since those are the only kinds of experiences you have had, you conclude that no other level of experience exists.
    On the contrary, I've had many neuro-chemical and mental experiences that, were I superstitious, would easily have been attributed to one or more cultural ascriptions. I would contend that your "experiences" are naturally explained and the spiritual meaning to them is post hoc and related to your cultural expectations. Thus, irrational thought, but an irrationality that can be forgiven considering the cultural frame of reference.

    It is as though you feel you have experienced everything possible in life and are, therefore, the supreme authorities on all the possibilities of human experience.
    Strawman. No comment required.

    You call responding on a spirtual level being irrational. To me, it would be irrational to deny that experience.
    Not being able to speak for all atheists, I can only speak for myself in this matter. I don't deny the experience. I do, however, deny that the subsequent, post-hoc ascription of the experience's meaning and cause being "spiritual." There are many, far more parsimonious, explanations which are readily available ranging from irrational response to a neuro-chemical event to flat out delusion and / or hallucination, the latter of which are equally as likely to happen to atheists as non-atheists.

    Would it not be irrational to deny physical pain or some body system malfuction just because not everyone has experienced those symptoms? Would it not be irrational to deny the feeling of some emotion? Would it not be irrational to refuse to employ your intellectual abilities to resolve some problem?
    Based on my explanations above, these are fallacious arguments based on poor analogy. No comment required.

    So why would you find it irrational for someone to recognize and respond to some human awareness on yet another level?
    If there were evidence that this other "level" existed, we would be having a different conversation. However, the only evidence for this level are the "experiences" that define this level but are not measurable in terms that demonstrate the level itself. The other "level" (whatever that might be) begs the question and is thus fallacious thinking (i.e. irrational thought).

    What offends me is that the support for his belief is so underwhelmingly in the minority (1.5 percent of the people in the U.S.) that the only way he can get attention for it is to put it someplace where it is going to take advantage of the attention drawn by the beliefs of others.
    However, the sign doesn't argue for the position of merely 1.5% of the population. It argues for the position of all Americans since it expresses the freedom of religion guaranteed in our Constitution by demonstrating that government cannot or will not favor any single religious superstition. But I grant you that this is on a grand scale and an abstraction that you might not grasp. Therefore I'm willing to back track a little and consider that the sign isn't even representative of the 34 million Americans who are without any religious superstition (which is 15% of the population). I'll grant that it is representative of the 1.6% (not 1.5 as you claim) who self-identify as atheist. This is about 5 million people. In what frame of reference would you claim that 5 million disenfranchised and/or marginalized Americans is a patriotic position? By what political or superstitious decree would 5 million Americans not matter? There are slightly less ethnic Jews in the United States (depending on what survey you use). Would it be okay, therefore, if consideration for their sensibilities were avoided? Does that change your opinion on the significance of the Holocaust knowing that there are only about 5 million or less in the country? Tear down the Holocaust Museum in D.C. and put in a new food court?

    I'm just curious?
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    I, of course, cannot speak for inow. But you're grossly mis-characterizing my position.
    No, it would be fair to say that he's been consistently mis-characterizing my position, as well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    There is a lot of "supernaturual" stuff that I cannot accept as valid, too. So, please to not misinterpret that I think any and every reported supernatural experience must be accepted as presented.
    Since every individual can have different "supernatural" experiences it's a bit presumptuous to think yours are valid while others, equally sans evidence, are not valid.

    But I am not sure what qualifies you to diagnose the emotional or physical aspects of such experiences by others.
    I'm not doing any such thing. I'm merely pointing out that there are rational biological explanations for mental activities that do not require the supernatural.

    I suppose if a huge chunk of the neurological community could show how this is chemically or biologically "only in the head," I would have to reassess my position.
    Read "Mind" by John Searle to get you started.
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    It seemed to me that you did argue for censorship, when you said that you wished an atheist had turned the sign around. in fact, you have argued consistently against the wording in the sign, and also consistently against speech in general that might be deemed offensive. This is arguing for censorship.
    I explained the root of my position in my second to last post. Does this really promote censorship?

    And to be real, does this not promote greater expression than the American condition?


    Honesty I think my words on this matter flew over most heads. I think many people are locked in their own national frame informing what the argument must be.
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    free radical said:

    The offensive behaviour was removing the sign (breaking the law, it seems!).
    Overall, what we have here is a classic example of the idea that two wrongs do not make a right.
    Only if placement of the sign is considered a wrong.
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  68. #67  
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    How did a discussion of free speech turn into a discussion of the validity of supernatural experience???

    I seriously doubt that atheists have not had supernatural experience.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    It seemed to me that you did argue for censorship, when you said that you wished an atheist had turned the sign around. in fact, you have argued consistently against the wording in the sign, and also consistently against speech in general that might be deemed offensive. This is arguing for censorship.
    I explained the root of my position in my second to last post. Does this really promote censorship?

    And to be real, does this not promote greater expression than the American condition?


    Honesty I think my words on this matter flew over most heads. I think many people are locked in their own national frame informing what the argument must be.
    I cannot speak to the American tradition, and I am unclear on what the root of your view is in the post you linked. Having re-read it, this pertinent point:

    Freedom of speech IMO should serve people & society. It should multiply our expressions. When we find it drowning, bullying, poisoning, negating, and otherwise hindering free speech, it needs adjustment to the reality. So it may serve better.
    still leaves me in the position that turning the sign around ("bullying, poisoning, negating") diminshes expression, and certainly does not promote greater expression. censorship.
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  70. #69  
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    How did a discussion of free speech turn into a discussion of the validity of supernatural experience???

    I seriously doubt that atheists have not had supernatural experience.
    I seriously doubt that anyone has had supernatural experience.
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  71. #70  
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    I cannot speak to the American tradition, and I am unclear on what the root of your view is in the post you linked. Having re-read it, this pertinent point:

    Freedom of speech IMO should serve people & society. It should multiply our expressions. When we find it drowning, bullying, poisoning, negating, and otherwise hindering free speech, it needs adjustment to the reality. So it may serve better.
    still leaves me in the position that turning the sign around ("bullying, poisoning, negating") diminshes expression, and certainly does not promote greater expression. censorship.
    Government's constructive role is to multiply free expressions, not subtract them against each other. That's the math of it, and I do mean practically not rhetorically.

    The Christmas display and sign should not have been juxtaposed by government in the first place. It's irresponsible. This is government collaborating in the undermining of expressions. Especially when the sorry state of free speech in America requires citizens pay government for their "right", then for government to take money from another group, to attack the group they pretend to help...?

    The irresponsible, inflammatory role of government would be no different if pagans had been allocated space for a solstice tree, and government had then taken payment to mount a crucifix above it. I'd oppose the hurtful prank by government for the same reason.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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    I don't know exactly what you have up there in Canada, but in the U.S. we have a document which we call The Constitution, which along with the Bill of Rights, prevents our government from restricting freedom of expression. This is not a right conferred to people by a benevolent government. (Unfortunately, they did not have the foresight to address the question of poor taste in the use freedom of expression.)

    In fact, the entirety of The Constitution and Bill of Rights are to expressly state or restrict the powers of government, not to deal out rights to the people. Our founders believed those rights were inalienable and conferred by a creator to all men. It is not until some later amendments that some rights of people are expressly conferred -- such as the right of women to vote.

    But, as I said, I do not know what you Canucks actually have relating to legalizing freedom of expression. It must be apocryphal since I can't find it, but a former co-worker from Canada said former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once lamented something to the effect: "We in Canada were suppose to have French society, British government and American know how, but what we ended up with was American society, French government and British know how." Good deal, eh!
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  73. #72  
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    Quote Originally Posted by daytonturner
    I don't know exactly what you have up there in Canada, but in the U.S. we have a document which we call The Constitution, which along with the Bill of Rights, prevents our government from restricting freedom of expression. This is not a right conferred to people by a benevolent government.
    Yeah the senses of what government "ought to" or "ought not" differ. From where I stand America personifies as a middle-aged guy who's still rebelling against mom, and when stressed regresses to an infantile stage of development (consulting an 18th century parchment for moral guidance).

    Canada is far more mature, for we build upon traditions and humbly defer to the Crown always. :wink:

    But essentially the difference is that both government and citizens are obliged to each other by contract. Each party has responsibilities. This arrangement traces back to reciprocal agreements in feudal times.

    ***

    BTW Canadian "eh" only serves to mark statements as questions, sometimes rhetorically. That's all. Now you got it, eh?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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