Anti-Religious Sign Vandalized in Wisconsin Capitol, They Were Kinda Asking For It
The secular group Freedom from Religion Foundation “rushed” to put up in a display in the Wisconsin State Capitol building after they learned that another group was setting up an Easter display that both featured Christian imagery and “various anti-abortion materials,” according to The Washington Times. The sign was then promptly vandalized.
FFRF added a message to the newly misshapen sign saying, “If you don’t think religious messages should be displayed on government property, join the club! We don’t think they should be, either. But as long as religious groups use the Capitol to proselytize, FFRF has a right to respond to their message.” While their main complaint has been about the anti-abortion materials, it is not wild speculation to assume that FFRF would have responded even if the display was only about the Easter holiday.
On their own, religious displays are harmless and often the antagonistic actions of secular groups only hurt their ultimate cause. FFRF is absolutely right that religion has no place in either policy discussions or how the public sector functions. Yet, to treat religion as anathema to society suggests ignoring an important part of what makes us “human.”
Dr. Joseph Campbell was a mythologist who studied the myths and legends of many cultures. He discovered that groups of people separated by both time and thousands of miles—meaning they could have never communicated—that their myths were all practically identical. Things like virgin birth and resurrection were frankly commonplace. It was as if there was some sort of great collective human subconscious from which we drew our favorite stories.
Of course, Dr. Campbell was vocal about understanding the difference between religion/myth and “reality.” He probably wouldn’t have wanted religious groups interfering in governmental policy, but he most likely would have been all for the display of all mythological traditions in the public space.
Despite certain faiths’ troubles with specific issues—such as treatment of women, positions on homosexuality, and others—they are important stories that seek to explain the human experience. As a mythological figure, Jesus is perhaps the “best” mythical character to latch on to, because he is most in-line with modern progressive sensibilities. He didn’t kill; he didn’t rape; he challenged the establishment; he ministered to the forgotten and reviled members of society, and so on. To compare myth to modern culture, Jesus is not even a super-hero; he’s a Sesame Street character.
Perhaps instead of aggressive anti-religious rhetoric, secular activists should—like any good deconstructionist looking to tear apart a story—go back to the source material. By either pointing out the obvious flaws and contradictions in the Bible or using those messages against them, it shows a better sensitivity to the opposing state of mind. They still might crumple up your sign, but at least you know you tried.
Photo via FFRF