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A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Godless Holiday Tree

Was the Free Thought Society of Greater Philadelphia trying to provoke Christians when it decided, for the second year in a row, to put a "Tree of Knowledge" next to the Christmas and Hanukkah displays on the Chesco Courthouse lawn?

Well, consider this quote from a press release, titled "Godless Holiday Tree to be displayed for second year at Chester County Courthouse," that arrived in my inbox on Sunday, Dec. 7:

"Current FSGP President, Sally Cramer, speaks of FSGP's involvement."By having a place alongside other displays at this time of year, we seek to present opinions that are not often seen or discussed, and to prove that the United States of America is not a Judeo-Christian nation." FSGP advocates the free exchange of ideas and the unrestricted dissemination of information."

The free exchange of ideas and the unrestricted dissemination of information are, to me, unequivocally good things. However, when talking about the importance of the separation of church and state, the Free Thought Society used the phrase "Juedo-Christian nation." Clearly, this is an attempt to bait all of the right-wing Christians who believe the U.S. is a "Judeo-Christian nation."

And it worked - at least on the Daily Local's website. Between 3 a.m., when my article on the tree was posted, and 8 p.m., when I last checked it, 76 people had left comments. No other article on our website this week has attracted that many comments. (The most read article online this week, with 3,601 hits, is about the arraignment of the guy responsible for a tragic and disgusting arson in Coatesville. The Free Thought Society article had 1,917.)

The majority of the comments were posted by Christians who are irritated that an aethist group is trying to encroach on Christmas. Their indignation, of course, will only strengthen the Free Thought Society. The irritated Christians are behaving like the kids in the schoolyard who, when picked on, just dig themselves deeper.

If you want the Free Thought Society to lose legitimacy, stop complaining about it. One of the main reasons we covered the Tree of Knowledge this year is that, last year, people repeatedly vandalized it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


You complaining about people complaining makes you just like them.

If you want them to stop complaining, you should stop complaining, but that would mean you'd have to follow your own advice.

And we all know what that's worth.

December 11, 2008 1:34 PM 
Blogger Dan Kristie said...

But honestly, what would a blogger do if there were nothing to complain about?

Also, Mr. Anonymous, you owe me $5. Pay up.

December 11, 2008 4:39 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's a Blogger to do?

December 18, 2008 6:58 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I realize that "journalism" doesn't depend on facts, but the fact is that the USA is a Judeo-Christian country.

Even with comment moderation enabled.

January 15, 2009 8:32 AM 
Blogger Dan Kristie said...

No, it's not a Judeo-Christian country. It's a country that allows for freedom of religious expression.

January 16, 2009 8:20 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

being historically related to both Judaism and Christianity; "the Judeo-Christian tradition"

The people who founded this country were primarily Christians and Jews.

The writings, beliefs, values, or traditions held in common by Judaism and Christianity are found in this country's Constitution. One aspect of that Constitution is freedom OF religion, not the bastardized ideal that it's freedom FROM religion.

That we have freedom of religion fails to prove your claim that the US is not a country founded on Juedo-Christian beliefs.

January 21, 2009 10:56 AM 
Blogger Gman said...

The facts are:
A. The nation's traditional values, customs, mores, civil and criminal laws have their basis in our Judeo-Christian Heritage and English Common-Law.
B. From these sprung up a notion to permit those of us living in this country to freely practice our religious tenets (within reason).
C. Most citizens express a belief in a Supreme Being, and most of the nation's believers are Christian, practicing or nominally so....ergo, it can be argued that the USA is "Christian Nation" or as the earlier writer noted, a "Judeo-Christian country."

To deny this is just plain silly.

January 26, 2009 8:01 PM 
Blogger Dan Kristie said...

The word Judeo-Christian can be used a couple of ways.

It can be used to describe the culture of America's founders. Yes, they were mostly Christians, and their thinking was formed by Christianity, the Bible, and western philosophy. Therefore, many of the country's laws are also informed by these things. Using the word "Judeo-Christian" in this historic, academic sense is fine. The United States IS a Judeo-Christian country.

However, the word can also be used in a more politically-charged way. When social conservatives say, "The United States is a Judeo-Christian nation," what they are often implying is that it's ok to marginalize people who are not Jews or Christians, since their ways are not our ways and their traditions, if widely diffused, might corrupt the American spirit. Social conservatives are also often implying that prayer - specifically, Christian prayer - should have a larger role in the public sphere than it already does.

This is why I'm wary of the adjective "Judeo-Christian." When I say that the United States is "not a Judeo-Christian country," I'm not denying that the country was founded by people whose thought was informed by Christianity, the Bible, and Western Philosophy. I'm treating the word as it's often used by social conservatives, and in doing so, I'm denying that there is any legitimate basis for denying people who aren't Christians or Jews equal rights and an equal role in the public sphere.

February 20, 2009 10:20 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan, thanks for clarifying the difference. Although, we know it's not going to change minds. The idea that the US is a "Christian Nation" is so engrained that facts hold little sway in thinking. For some reason, it poses a threat to realize that our founders were Diests, not all Christians, and that the whole point they were trying to make is that their religious belief systems DON'T MATTER and should have nothing to do with government policy. Why people can't wrap their heads around that is a mystery to me.

February 28, 2009 6:41 AM 

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