'Tis the season . . . for the Freedom From Religion Foundation's gilt Winter Solstice message, which returns Thursday, Dec. 1, for its 16th visit to the first-floor rotunda of the Wisconsin Capitol for the month of December.
The solstice message in the Capitol was composed by Anne Nicol Gaylor, Foundation co-president emerita, and 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."
On the back of the sign is a poem by celebrated Wisconsin poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox (famed for "Laugh and the world laughs with you").
Her poem, "The World's Need," says:
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.
"FFRF's sign is a reminder of the real reason for the season — the Winter Solstice," says Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president.
FFRF has been immersed in holiday happenings in the month of November as Gov. Scott Walker declared the Capitol tree a "Christmas" tree. Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kauakana has drafted a resolution to reverse the 26 year old tradition of calling it a "holiday" tree, siding with Gov. Walker's recent proclamation.
"Walker's got it wrong. It's not a 'Christmas' tree, it's a Winter Solstice tree," asserted Gaylor.
Decorated evergreen trees are deeply rooted in pagan tradition. The Winter Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year, takes place this year on Thursday, Dec. 22. This 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!"