Religious critics could be biggest benefit to cause

Freedom New Mexico

Don’t call it the “Freedom From Religion Foundation.” Instead, go with “Friends Of Religion Foundation.” This mean-spirited group does more to strengthen and promote religion and religious liberty than any religious leader could ever hope to do.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., is the group that rented a billboard in Colorado Springs to promote the slogan “Imagine No Religion.” Foundation leaders admitted to choosing a location so employees of Focus on the Family would see it.

But the sign did more to highlight the wonderful, charitable acts of religion than anything any church, synagogue, mosque or other religious organization could have done. Thousands who took the sign’s suggestion and imagined no religion, didn’t like what they saw. People imagined losing schools, hospitals, universities, AIDS hospices and soup kitchens. Images of those religion-cleansing atheist dictators — Mao Tse-Tung, Slobodan Milosevic, Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin, etc. — inevitably came to mind.

Since then, the FFRF has become part of Washington state’s official holiday display in the state capitol rotunda. Along with the display’s nativity scene and the “Capitol Holiday Kids Tree” (never say “Christmas”) is an ugly sign with a “who cares?” message.

It says: “At this season of the winter solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

There is only our natural world?

These folks are apparently ignorant of the fact that science doesn’t know the size and scope of the universe, whether intelligent life exists somewhere else, or whether this universe is alone. We don’t know all that, much less the origin of time, space and dimension. Yet there is only “our natural world?” Sure. Cavemen thought there was only this cave.

The holiday sign has the appeal of the government’s alcohol warning at an art museum’s wine tasting. While experiencing beauty, remember that alcohol “may be harmful to your health.” And while viewing a manger and tree, remember that religion “hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

How funny. The world’s religions have funded and inspired centuries of stories, music, imagination and art. Most of western society’s great classical music compositions were commissioned by the Catholic church and other religious institutions that respect the magnificence of all that may exist. And the people who despise those religions express themselves in the public square with an ugly flat-earth bully sign.

But for religious Americans, the FFRF’s holiday sign is quite a gift. Dear FFRF friends: This is the season of Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas and Kwanzaa. It’s the season of giving.

Have atheists organized to commission something like the Sistine Chapel, which takes the mind, body and soul on a journey of wonder and awe? If atheist passions have been expressed in beauty, the FFRF should use those expressions in their proselytizing crusades. Inspire, rather than incite. If the FFRF is going to speak for atheists, it should try to make them look good.

Maybe these in-your-face FFRF shenanigans are a joke. Maybe the club has a hidden agenda, in which it works to make religious people look good by antagonizing them. Intentionally or not, the FFRF unifies and strengthens religion like the Fred Phelps anti-gay mob unifies support for gays.