The Sciences

Joy to the World

Cosmic VarianceBy Sean CarrollDec 24, 2009 12:45 PM


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Atheists can be such uptight downers. And I say that completely seriously and non-sarcastically, despite being a card-carrying atheist myself. The latest example appears at the Illinois State Capitol, where someone from Freedom From Religion Foundation had the genius idea of erecting this sign among the holiday displays (via PZ):

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.

Well now, there's an uplifting and positive message. I'm sure that lots of religious folks came along to read that sign, and immediately thought "Gee, whoever wrote that sounds so much smarter and more correct than me! I will throw off my superstitious shackles and join them in the celebration of reason." There is a place to argue for one's worldview -- but not every single place. I happen to agree with all of the sentences on the sign above, but the decision to put in front and center in a holiday display merits a giant face-palm. (So does calling it "hate speech," of course.) It's like you're introduced to someone at a party, and they immediately say "Wow, you're ugly. And your clothes look like they were stolen off a homeless person. And you're drinking a domestic beer, which shows a complete lack of sophistication." I don't know about you, but I'd be thinking -- "Such taste and discernment! Here's someone I need to get to know better." Until atheists learn that they don't need to take every possible opportunity to proclaim their own rationality in the face of everyone else's stupidity, they will have a reputation as tiresome bores. They could have put up a sign that just gave some sort of joyful, positive message. Or something light-hearted and amusing. Or they could have just left the display alone entirely, and restrained the urge to argue in favor of waiting for some more appropriate venue. (Maybe they could start a blog or something.) Understanding how the real world works is an important skill. So is understanding human beings.

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