Away with the manger — in with the Solstice!

FFRF's natural nativity scene has been unveiled on the 1st Floor of the Capitol Rotunda. Below is copy of the press release that was previously sent out with additional pictures and information about the characters in the nativity scene.

FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor

For a fact, the Christians stole Christmas. We don’t mind sharing the season with them, but we don’t like their pretense that it is the birthday of Jesus. It is the birthday of the Unconquered Sun — Dies Natalis Invicti Solis. 

Christmas is a relic of sun worship.

For all of our major festivals, there were corresponding pagan festivals tied to natural events. We’ve been celebrating the Winter Solstice, this natural holiday, long before Christians crashed the party. For millennia, our ancestors in the Northern Hemisphere have greeted this seasonal event with festivals of light, gift exchanges and seasonal gatherings.

FFRF constitutional consultant Andrew Seidel

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The Winter Solstice is the reason for the season. The Winter Solstice, Dec. 22 this year, heralds the symbolic rebirth of the Sun, the lengthening of days and the natural New Year.

We nonbelievers are quite willing to celebrate the fun parts of anybody’s holidays. We just want to be spared the schmaltz, the superstition — and the state/church entanglements.

The customs of this time of year endure because they are pleasant customs. It’s fun to hear from distant family and friends, to gather, to feast, to sing. Gifts, as freethinker Robert Ingersoll once remarked, are evidences of friendship, of remembrance, of love.

The evergreens displayed now as in centuries past flourish when all else seems dead, and are symbols, as is the returning sun, of enduring life.

In celebrating the Winter Solstice, we celebrate reality.

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The astronaut sits atop of the nativity scene as our "angel"

We are unveiling a tableau that celebrates the human family, reason and the Winter Solstice.

• Our wisepeople depict the atheists and scientific giants Darwin and Einstein who have enlarged human understanding of the natural world far more than the bible or any “holy books.” They were both nonbelievers as was progressive reformer Emma Goldman, representing wise women everywhere. Irreverent Mark Twain is thrown in for good measure.

• Although Venus, like Mary, was a mythical fertility figure, this image, after which a planet was named, represents our solar system. 

Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father, was a passionate advocate of separation between religion and government, and would have disavowed Christian devotional scenes on state property.

• Our “angels” are also natural — the Statue of Liberty symbolizes freedom and the astronaut represents the human achievements of science unfettered by religious dogma.

• Our baby was chosen partly for simple egalitarianism, and because it’s high time we adore girl children as much as boy children, and to acknowledge that humankind was birthed in Africa.

FFRF would vastly prefer that government buildings and seats of government be free from religion — and irreligion. It is divisive. 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. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation gratefully acknowledges the exceptional work, carpentry and enthusiasm of Andrew Seidel, and thanks Katie Daniel, Melanie Knier and Scott Carney for their invaluable help in creating the natural nativity on very short notice. Part of this speech was adapted from a 1985 Winter Solstice speech by Anne Nicol Gaylor, FFRF president emerita.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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