It's simultaneously depressing and amusing to see Christians blow a fuse over atheists doing little more than expressing an opinion and/or being public about what they think. One might get the impression that some Christians regard the public square -- and indeed the entire public realm -- as their own exclusive property. They certainly don't seem able to handle any sort of direct competition, disagreement, dissent, or criticism.
Case in point this time around is Jane Gilvary, a student at St. Joseph's University who is throwing a fit over the existence of a "Tree of Knowledge" erected in West Chester, PA, by the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia. As an alternative to traditional holiday displays, this "tree" is designed to promote the values of literacy, learning, and skepticism -- none of which seem to be accepted or appreciated by the complaining Christians. Jane Gilvary in particular regards it as little more than "denigrating" for Christians to have to deal with something other than a religious display this time of year. Jane Gilvary asks why the Tree of Knowledge is there and instead of asking the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia, or citing any of their literature on the subject, quotes someone who just makes up nonsense out of thin air:
Colin Hanna, Founder of Let Freedom Ring and former Chester County Commissioner summates their motives quite nicely, "It's an agenda of hate and denigration, not a reverential celebration of any religious tradition. The Freethought Society is about attacking respectful Judeo-Christian traditions and nothing else."
Hanna sponsors the crèche each year on behalf of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network--a project of Let Freedom Ring, a nonpartisan public policy membership organization promoting Constitutional government, economic freedom, and traditional family values.
As a sponsor of the creche, Colin Hanna is hardly an impartial observer -- and as someone who is not now and has never been a member of the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia, he's hardly in any position to speak about their motives, goals, or values. Maybe that's why he was picked to comment on exactly that topic rather than on something that he would know about. After all, why interview the people who have relevant knowledge and information if there is a risk that actual facts might undermine a good rant?
I don't think it's a coincidence that attacking people not only without the use of fact, but while deliberately avoiding the gathering of actual fact, is far more characteristic of hate-mongering and having an agenda of hate than anything which the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia has done. In effect, then, Jane Gilvary is more guilty of the things she is complaining about than any of the people she is trying to attack. But that's what happens when a person stops relying on facts, isn't it?
As a further indication that Jane Gilvary is more interested in ideology than sober, objective facts, just witness her own speculations about the atheists' motivations:
Indeed, the Freethought Society and their founder Margaret Downey are agents of the Enemy in every regard and their garish tree replete with "ornaments" in the shape of laminated book covers by prominent atheists is in poor taste. Of the hundreds of book titles hanging on the tree some include A Devil's Chaplain and The God Delusion by avowed doubter Richard Dawkins, Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman, and The End of Faith by Sam Harris.
Did you notice the phrasing in the first sentence? Not content with quoting Colin Hanna's baseless, fact-free accusations, Jane Gilvary decided to up the stakes by accusing the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia of being "agents of the Enemy." That means they are agents of Satan, if you misplaced your Fundy-to-English dictionary. It's not enough to get people to believe that atheists are the one's with an agenda of hate, but here Gilvary wants readers to regard the atheists as literally acting on behalf of a satanic agenda -- an evil agenda lacking any sort of redeeming, mitigating qualities. If that's not hate mongering, I don't know what is.
What's amusing, though, is that Jane Gilvary thinks she can base such an absurd claim on the fact that out of hundreds and hundreds of book titles referenced in the Tree of Knowledge, there are a couple of books that were actually written by atheists. How horrible! Why, it must be satantic for anyone to promote any sort of book written by atheists for the purpose of critiquing religion, theism, or Christianity. No one but an Agent of the Enemy would ever do such a dastardly, vile thing!
And this is the level of reasoning, evidence, and discourse we can expect from Christians trying to "defend" Christmas, right?