This is the season, the carol goes, to be jolly — but not always on The Times' letters page, especially when the discussion centers on the rhetorically explosive mix of atheists and Christmas.
More than a dozen readers sent letters in response to a Times report last week that a U.S. District Court judge denied a church coalition's request that Santa Monica allow Nativity scenes to be displayed in a public park. The Times published four of those letters last Saturday, which drew more responses than the original news article. In particular, reader Barbara Snowberger's letter, which blamed both Republican politicians and hypersensitive atheists for the holiday dust-up, received the most rebuttals (from both nonbelievers and Nativity supporters, of course.)
Here is a selection of those letters.
Paul Thornton, letters editor
Snowberger criticizes atheists for mocking religious beliefs. So why doesn't she also criticize the pope for his attacks on atheism? There is a pervasive default position in our society that atheism remains the most suspect of all points of view on matters of religion.
Why doesn't Snowberger write letters to the editor condemning the religious fundamentalists' belief that nonbelievers will go to hell? We atheists are certainly morally justified in ridiculing belief systems that claim that some ultimate force in the universe will punish us forever because of our philosophical worldview.
Regarding the liberals who support the federal court ruling allowing Santa Monica to ban religious displays on public property because of church-state separation: To have a truly impenetrable wall, keep Democratic candidates out of the pulpit at the First AME Church of Los Angeles. Fair is fair.
The Times' highlighting of Snowberger's letter was incredible. She actually blamed "election-year rhetoric by Republicans" for the demise of the display — not the I-am-offended, trouble-seeking atheists, but Republicans.
What would be the cause for the years-long battles to do away with the crosses in La Jolla and the one placed by Marines on Camp Pendleton property far from public view?
No wonder we are such a divided nation.
I write to comment on the letters about the decision upholding Santa Monica's prohibition of Nativity scenes on public property.
If it is not the purpose of the scenes to promote a particular religion, then those in favor of the displays could easily erect them on other properties in the city. If a single individual or family couldn't afford to do so, they could pool money with others to create the best display possible.
But if the proponents of Nativity displays insist that they be on public property, then it is obvious that the goal is to promote Christianity, which is an unconstitutional use of public land.