AWAY WITH THE MANGER, IN WITH THE SOLSTICE IN WISCONSIN CAPITOL

FFRF’s solstice sign makes 19th appearance; ‘natural nativity’ returns for 4th

andrewcapitol

'Tis the season — for reason.

What do atheists and freethinkers do during Christmas time? They send winter solstice greeting cards, reclaim a "natural" holiday and balance religious signs and symbols on government property. And, of course, gather with friends and family to share their joys and sorrows.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation's gilt winter solstice message returns for its 19th appearance to the first-floor rotunda of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison through December. The message was composed by FFRF's principal founder and President Emerita Anne Nicol Gaylor, who turned 88 last week. The sign reads:

"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."

On the back is a four-line secular poem by celebrated Wisconsin poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

The winter solstice is the reason for the season, contends FFRF. Occurring this year on Dec. 21, it marks the shortest, darkest day of the year and heralds the symbolic rebirth of the Sun. It's been celebrated for millennia in the Northern Hemisphere with festivals of light, evergreen, gift exchanges and seasonal gatherings.

Today also marks the fourth return of FFRF's "natural nativity scene," which was unveiled in 2011 to counter a nativity scene placed by a Religious Right group in the Capitol. The unique display recognizes the rebirth of the Sun, not baby Jesus. FFRF's symbolic baby is black and female (for egalitarianism) and to acknowledge that humankind was birthed in Africa.

FFRF's "wise persons" depict atheists and scientific giants Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, plus wise woman Emma Goldman — with humorist Mark Twain and founding "father" Thomas Jefferson thrown in for good measure. Venus, like Mary, represents a mythical fertility symbol, but also our solar system. FFRF's "angels" are likewise natural — the Statue of Liberty and an astronaut. The playful display was crafted by FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel.

"FFRF would vastly prefer that government buildings and seats of government be free from religion — and irreligion," said Co-President Dan Barker. "Religion in the Capitol is divisive, and the rotunda is getting very cluttered. But if a devotional nativity display is allowed, then there must be 'room at the inn' for all points of view, including irreverency and freethought," said Barker. "In celebrating the solstice, we celebrate reality."

Read FFRF's flier about its "natural nativity."

State/church watchdog FFRF, based in Madison, Wis., has more than 21,500 members, including more than 1,300 in Wisconsin, and has long been the nation's largest association of freethinkers, atheists and agnostics.

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The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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