Merry solstice | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry solstice

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2008 at 11:08 AM

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A reader mentioned this billboard yesterday and today arrives an e-mail with the background.

It's part of a national campaign by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and is a reaction to the state's display of a creche on the Capitol grounds each year. The national group was behind the now famous winter solstice display in the state of Washington that has stirred conservative commentators. This is the season for Christians, dammit. Everybody else needs to shut up and like it. And spend money, of course.

Link here. The photo was taken Dec. 21, during a Human Light/Winter Solstice observance by members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Fayetteville Free Thinkers and the Freethinkers of Central Arkansas.

ALSO ON THE JUMP: More from CenArk Free Thinkers.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, the largest national association of atheists and agnostics, has taken its national billboard campaign to Arkansas for the first time, posting its colorful and cautionary "Beware of Dogma" billboard at the Main Street Bridge, 100 feet south of the Riverfront near the Rivermarket District.

The artwork employs a stained-glass window motif, and includes the Freedom From Religion Foundation's name and website, ffrf.org.

The Foundation is a state/church separation watchdog with more than 13,000 members nationwide, which launched a national billboard campaign a year ago, taking its religion-free messages state-by-state. Foundation billboard messages also include the slogans, "Imagine No Religion," and "Keep Religion OUT of Politics."

"We are going wherever an irreverent billboard is needed--which is practically everywhere!" says Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president.

"We don't go to Mass, but we want to reach the masses," adds Dan Barker, Foundation co-president. "We think it is time for the rest of us to use the mass media to counter the ubiquity of religious messages on roadsides everywhere."

"We thank the Freethinkers of Central Arkansas and Fayetteville Freethinkers for their help in selecting the spot and for donations toward the billboard," added Gaylor.

The Foundation has worked with its local members and area freethought groups to try to remove a huge nativity display posted every year by a religious group on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock. The Foundation and local groups decided the best way to try to balance that religion on government property this year was to put up the billboard. The groups will be pursuing the state/church violation next year.

The Foundation has placed billboards the previous year in about 13 states, and currently has "Imagine No Religion" messages posted on billboards in San Antonio, Canton, Ohio, and soon going up in San Francisco. It also has placed "Reason's Greetings" billboards for the holiday season in Madison, Wis., and Olympia, Wash.

After a billboard company in Cucamonga, Calif., tore down the Foundation's "Imagine No Religion" billboard and dishonored a 2-month contract in late November, the Foundation filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Rancho Cucamonga, for interference leading to what amounted to government censorship. The Foundation's solstice display to counter a manger scene in the State Capitol in Olympia, Was., has garnered national attention this month. It has also placed solstice signs at the Wisconsin and Illinois State Capitols, which say: "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."

RELEASE FROM CENTRAL ARKANSAS FREE THINKERS

Seasons Greetings,

The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers would like to declare our intensions for the “Beware Of Dogma” billboard that greets you as you enter North Little Rock from the Main Street Bridge.  We are in a season where Americans are celebrating.  We celebrate logic, reason, critical thinking, and most important, we celebrate life!

Our first intension would be to encourage you to remain critical, and logical, and to continue to use your reasoning skills in ALL aspects of your life.  Exercise these mental tools all 7 days of the week.

Second, we want any of you who think that you are alone in your skepticism of religion to know that you are not, even here in the great state of Arkansas.  Atheist-friendly people are welcome to make new friends through www.ARfreethinkers.ORG.

Lastly, we want theists to know the atheists, agnostics, Brights, freethinkers, heretics, infidels, nullifidians, heathens, secular humanists, and skeptics, also live here among you.  Many more of us feel more threatened by you than you may feel by the presence of this billboard.  Many of us aren’t comfortable with the thought and consequences of announcing, or even, no longer hiding, our skepticism of religion.  We all live here though, so let’s be mindful of others, isn’t that one of the lessons to learn and share during your holiday too?

The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, now a 501c non-prophet group (pun intended), would love to thank the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Wisconsin for sponsoring the billboard.  Similar secular campaigns in D.C. ask “Why believe in a god?  Just be good for goodness’ sake.”  Being good for goodness’ sake, now that’s something that we think we all can agree on.

Happy Holidays America,

Arkansas Society of Freethinkers

Dogma is a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle.  Dictionary.com lists its first definition as, “a system of principles or tenets, as of a church.”

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