’Tis the season . . . for the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Winter Solstice messages, which went up in early December in the state capitol buildings in Madison, Wis., and Springfield, Ill.
It’s the 14th straight year for the solstice message in the Wisconsin Capitol. Composed by Anne Nicol Gaylor, Foundation co-president emerita, it says:
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.
Added to the back of the sign last year, and included this year, was “The World’s Need” by celebrated Wiscon-sin poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox (famed for “Laugh and the world laughs with you”):
So many Gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
When just the art of being kind
Is all this sad world needs.
The line “Keep State and Church Separate” also appears on the sign’s back.
“This sign is a reminder of the real reason for the season, the Winter Solstice,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president.
The Winter Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year, takes place on Dec. 21. The natural holiday signals the return of the sun and the new year, and has been celebrated for millennia in the Northern Hemisphere with festivals of light, evergreens, feasts and gift exchanges.
“We nonbelievers don’t mind sharing the season with Christians,” Gaylor added, “but we think there should be some acknowledgment that the Christians really ‘stole’ the trimmings of Christmas, and the sun-god myths, from pagans.”
Dan Barker, Foundation co-president, said Christians tend to think “they own the month of December. We don’t agree. No month is free from pagan reverie!”
It’s the second year for the Illinois Capitol sign, first erected in 2008 in response to the state’s decision to let a religious group plant a nativity display in the Capitol.
The pretty green and red sign’s message is the same composition by Anne Nicol Gaylor.
“We don’t think religion, or irreligion, belongs in state capitols,” noted Barker. “But if a state is going to permit a nativity display and create a public forum, then we want to be sure that the views of the 15% of the U.S. population who are not religious are also represented.”