I cannot help but think that the election-year rhetoric by Republicans is partly to blame for the hostility toward a Santa Monica Nativity display. If the GOP hadn't spent the last two years on Capitol Hill endeavoring to control women and championing right-wing Christianity, perhaps we would have been spared the backlash responsible for this silly episode in Santa Monica.
There's nothing wrong with Christians celebrating Christmas with Nativity scenes or with Jews wanting to publicly observe Hanukkah. Atheist groups, however, instead of merely displaying their beliefs, mock those who believe in something greater than themselves. Ridicule is no way to win friends. It's childish, just like the outcry over the supposed "war on Christmas."
I was raised in an evangelical home, but 49 years after leaving the confines of the Bible Belt, I have come to respect all the kindhearted and charitable aspects of other faiths. Believe or don't believe, but both sides need not belittle those who don't see the world the way they do. It ruins a wonderful holiday season for everyone else and creates a rift where none needs to be.
The plaintiff's attorney got it wrong when he said "the atheists won" in a tentative court decision upholding Santa Monica's ban on Nativity displays in its public parks. Justice won.
Seeking to restore a 60-year tradition that violated a venerable principle — separation of church and state — is not a just cause. It's no more just than the efforts last century to keep intact a decades-old tradition of maintaining "separate but equal" schools for black students. When the U.S. Supreme Court opted to reverse its late-19th century separate-but-equal doctrine, no one claimed that "blacks won." The 1954 holding in Brown vs. Board of Education did justice for all by ending an unconstitutional tradition.
Similarly, the federal district court ruled justly on Nativity scenes.
It is so sad that 60 years of tradition will end because of atheists who are behaving like narcissistic bullies. Certainly our Nativity displays are far from being works of art; they are even a little silly. But that is part of their charm. It is a story and tradition that brings us joy.
Our Christmas story will continue, but sadly I think that the atheists will find something new to be offended by.
I'm sorry that our myths seem to hold a lot of power over these atheists. May they have a scientifically delightful winter solstice.
It's quite telling that Santa Monica's Nativity displays, like Congress' insertion of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, date back to the notorious "Red scare" of the 1950s. That's when McCarthyism flourished, fueling widespread fear of godless communists bent on burying us. Since then, the proportion of people with no religious affiliation has risen to about 1 in 5 Americans.
Still, a cosmic irony seems lost on the religious right, with its relentless campaign to flaunt biblical messages in public places: Our primary security threat comes from religious zealots overseas who want to bury all who don't believe in their notion of God.
May the gods help us if our courts fail to uphold separation of church and state, a bedrock principle of democracy.