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December 17, 2008

Question About the Washington Atheist Christmas Message

Did any other message denigrate another religion? If a Christian group put forward the message that Islam was a cult of a false god and likely demon, would Grigoire have approved it?

Of course not. All the messages -- save one, as far as I know -- were positive about their own message, and did not denigrate others'.

Only the atheist message did that.

Now, one can say But that is what atheism is all about, to which I would reply that Christians believe that Christ is the One True Way to salvation and that all other religions (save Judaism, which has an ecclesiastical grandfather clause) are at best in grave error and at worst deceptions designed to draw people away from the real God. And the same is true of other religions, too; few religions -- none, really, when you get down to it -- claim to be other than universally and exclusively true. Even a fusion of all other religions like B'hai claims that it's true, and that Christian claims of exclusive truth are themselves false.

Even dopey, incoherent New Agey babblings make this assertion. Sure, to be nice, they'll say "Well, Christianity is one form of paying respect to the Oversoul," but the New Agey whatever-you-believe-is-true-is-true creed unavoidably denies he central tenet of Christianity -- that Christ is the only vehicle by which respect for the "Oversoul" may be properly paid.

Anyway, the point is, all religions which claim exclusivity of rectitude (as all do) must perforce denigrate other religions as errors, cults, or even connivances of Satan. But they don't say so in their publicly-exhibited state-property Christmas displays, do they?

Before you object that atheism has no positive message -- that it exists exclusively in the negation of other messages -- well, only because most atheists interested in doing crap like this are only in that godless religion in order to stick thumbs in the eyes of believers.

But they themselves have positive messages, or could have them, if they were interested in anything more than Bait the Christians. A message like "No Greater Virtue Than Reason; No Higher Power Than Truth" gets the message across, pretty much, that faith is bunk, yet without quite saying it.*

If atheists protest "But that's not our whole message, that's just a bowlderized version of it!," well, Christians' "whole message" isn't "Merry F'n' Christmas," either. There's a bit more to the religion that "health and happiness this Christmas season" and other such nice but bland well-wishing. Christians offer a more inclusive, less divisive message when doing Christmas greetings on state property; are atheists uniquely incapable of restraining themselves in the spirit of amity?

As I've said, I'm a proceduralist (except to the extent I think procedure is bunk, and is just a covert, bullshitty gaming of the system to produce particular substantive outcomes; hey, I'm complex), but I think the atheists' divisive and denigrating message should have been refused on such neutral proceduralist grounds. Unless we also want to allow Christians to offer messages like "Merry Christmas, Atheists -- You're going to Hell!" and various groups calling each other cults and Whores of Babylon.

* Is this a crap slogan? Well, I just came up with it. As Evangelical Atheism is a fast-growing religion with millions of fervent new converts every year, I'm sure the Church of Evangelical Atheism can come up with something better.

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posted by Ace at 03:49 PM

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