Christians, atheists fight over tradition

2011-12-21 13:35

Santa Monica - An unseasonably rancorous row has erupted between Christians and atheists in an ocean-front Californian city, as the non-religious stand accused of usurping a decades-old Christmas tradition.

Only yards from the world-famous Santa Monica pier, where tourists stroll while enjoying spectacular Pacific views, local Christians are fuming at "out-of-town atheists" they say are causing outrage to the local community.

The heart of the row lies in Palisades Park, where for decades local Christians have erected a series of Nativity displays along Ocean Avenue, overlooking the Pacific Coast Highway and just along from the crowded pier.

The problem stems from the fact that, in a lottery to decide who got how many display spaces, atheists unexpectedly won 18 out of 21, squeezing the Christians - who in previous years had 14 plots - into just two.

Atheists ‘improperly using spaces’

"We have absolutely no objection to other groups or individuals with views different from ours, including atheists, from expressing their views in the park," said Hunter Jameson, head of the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee.

But he told AFP they should abide by "the spirit as well as the letter of the rules," accusing the atheists of improperly using their spaces - several were empty, and many consisted of just a wooden post with a sign on top.

"We believe... that our opponents have gamed the rules with the primary aim of driving us out of the park while not engaging in a good-faith effort to mount a full display of their own as the rules require," he said.

For the atheists, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) insists that the lottery application that resulted in their display bonanza was made by locals, not out-of-towners.

"We applaud the freedom of Christians to advertise their mythology, their superstition about this God man who damns everybody to hell who doesn't bow down before him, that's fine, that’s their business," said spokesperson Dan Barker.

But he alleged that the Nativity displays were backed by the city authorities - something Jameson denies. "They can promote it, as long as it's clear that it's not the city doing it then," said Barker.

Out in the sunshine in Palisades Park, Vikki Hill, 57, says she feels sorry for the atheists, as she stands defending the traditional Nativity Scenes, including statues of Joseph and Mary, and Jesus in the manger.

"Unfortunately the atheists' hearts are so troubled, they come and cuss me out for being here, and then they get more angry cos they can't make me sad," she said, holding a sign reading: "Merry Christmas, it's all about Jesus."

"I ask God to bless them, which makes them so infuriated... Those are the people we need to pray for," she told AFP, adding that she was "expressing my joy for my Lord and Saviour who this holiday is all about."

Displays could stop

Santa Monica - which lies at the end of the fabled Route 66 west of Los Angeles, attracts millions of tourists and daytrippers every year, to its pier, broad beaches and spectacular mountain and ocean views.

The laid-back city's mayor Gleam Davis said she did not know if a lottery would be held next year, and questioned the future of any displays.

"If we cannot find another way to allocate space, we may have to consider ending the displays in Palisades Park," Davis told the local Lookout News online information service.

That was slammed as a bad idea by the chairperson of the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee.

"I think that would be most unwise," he said, adding: "That is not the way to deal with a challenge to a nearly 60-year-old tradition here in Santa Monica," said Jameson.

Back out on Ocean Avenue, Steve Chamberlain said he didn't know what all the fuss is about, as he studied an atheist poster showing Father Christmas, Jesus and Satan, with the tag "37 million Americans know MYTHS when they see them."

"I think the atheists have just as much a right to put up things at Christmas as Christians do," said the 73-year-old, describing himself as agnostic. "They can put up Islamic beliefs for all I care."

But he acknowledged: "I would have to say that I'm in the minority here. When you tell somebody you're agnostic, they look at you funny and say, 'What's that?' "

  • anthony.weineck - 2011-12-21 13:49

    Eh, I smell some bad reporting here. This all went down weeks ago, yet we're only getting the news now? Everyone played by the rules in applying for the spots, on that everyone agrees, those protesting are just upset that they've lost a traditional majority. I'm sure next year they'll fight back (in accordance with the rules) and it'll all even out again. That said, if people awarded the spaces have been leaving them empty then yes, they have been gaming the rules. I hadn't heard anything about that though, and I've read about this a few times recently. That said, doesn't the protesting woman with the condescending sign sound like the most annoying person on this planet?

      ffaarg - 2011-12-21 14:56

      @Kyle I think you really are missing the point. We celebrate Jesus's birthday in December, but that does not mean that we believe he was born then or any other time. Some, many, or even most Christians may think Jesus was born on the 25th but that is irrelevant. It is almost a piece of trivia that has no significance for 99.99% of people. Christmas, at least for Christians, is about remembering that God humbled himself by becoming a man, in order that that we may be saved through his sacrifice. If atheists have their own message that is fine. Let them promote it, but to denigrate Christianity, especially at a time called "Christmas" is in poor taste. To paraphrase what CS Lewis wrote about the Socratic club which featured debates between the religious and atheists, "Christians started it because they have nothing to fear from the truth". There are plenty of opportunities for debate and from what I have read the arguments put forward by the so called new atheists are flimsy, ill-informed and narrow minded. But mostly all we seem to hear is ridicule and name calling.

      Colin - 2011-12-21 16:04

      Atheists proving you don't need religion to be intolerant or a troll.

      Trevor Lovell - 2011-12-21 16:17

      @colin: here here!

      Kyle - 2011-12-21 17:02

      @ffaarg - ah ok, so let me see if I got this right, Christians want to celebrate their lords birth on a day that he wasn’t born and everyone else needs to accept and understand and leave them alone... hmmm so why 25th? why do Christians who just want to be left alone chose THAT day to celebrate? and why do they get so upset when people complain?... could it be that the 25th is a day the pagans have one of their holy days? NO, it couldn’t be that could it.... Christians are nice people who would not try subvert another person's religion?! they would never have used this day as an excuse to stop paganism... would they? I'll make it simple in case you didn’t get the sarcasm, Christians used the 25th as a day to force people to stop worshipping paganism so don’t tell me I don’t understand and don’t tell me to be polite to Christian and let them be.... they lie about their "lords" birth day, they lie about Nero, they lie about what Jesus was fighting for... but everyone must bow down and respect them.....still think I'm missing the point?

      Kyle - 2011-12-21 17:07

      sorry, wasnt nero, panios pilot....(bad at spelling and remembering names) Harrod was the other guy they lied about..... saying he killed children under 2, his deads are well documented and now were does it mention that... saying there was a global roman census... again the only census was when jesus would have been about 10... lies lies more lies... yes lets follow the religion based on lies.

      Colin - 2011-12-21 17:11

      Kyle Christians have christmas, muslims have ramadan, jews have passover and so on and everyone has enough common sense and decency to the others in peace. Well everyone except a few terrorists and atheist. Maybe if atheists had a darwin day they would not feel so left out or the need to spoil christmas for everyone else.

      Kyle - 2011-12-21 17:24

      @Colin we don’t need a day. what we need is people to be honest and push their views on us.... I have no problem with Ramadan or Passover (better read up on you Jewish holidays, just saying) reason is they don’t try rub it in anyone else's face, they keep to themselves, and they haven’t changed their days to try forced out other religions. In truth the Christians are to blame for their own misfortune. stop complaining that you being picked on, stop forcing your religion and stop using other religious days for your own.... then maybe everyone will respect your religion and leave you in piece.

      Colin - 2011-12-21 17:47

      hahahaha kyle firstly peace not piece. I just read the article again to make sure, maybe you should also do it. It is about ATHEISTS trying to force their view of the world onto others not the other way around. No one is forcing you to celebrate christmas are they? The point is atheists are going out to create conflict and then they blame everyone else.

      Kyle - 2011-12-21 17:55

      @Colin - yes in the article that is correct. however in general world wild view, and in the reason why xmas is celebrated on the 25th it's because of crhistains. Thank you for the spelling update, I need all the help I can get with that.

      Colin - 2011-12-21 18:17

      well since you don't believe and no one is forcing you to celebrate christmas or go to church why do you care when christians choose to celebrate christmas?

      Kyle - 2011-12-21 18:41

      Colin - this debate is about Christian and atheist fighting, Christian take the high ground saying they are just trying to celebrate in peace (get it right this time) however the 25th was another religious holiday that Christians stole, they used this day to force their religion on pagans. now they think that people must be quite and let them be in peace and get upset when people say anything... hypocritical?

      Colin - 2011-12-22 01:37

      so what you are trying to say is that christians should not complain when atheists today are as bad as the catholic church was in the middle ages? luckily most christians today are not like that any more, pity that we can't say the same about atheists

      Kyle - 2011-12-22 06:44

      @Colin - you right, christian arent the same as the catholics church was... they are worse. At least back then they actually believed and followed through on their laws. today christians are nothing more than a bunch of sudo-believers. popous and arrogant in their faith while not actually following through or beleieving in their own faith. Not one of the so-called christain's on this site believes in their own faith, they like to say they do but that's all hot air.

      RE - 2011-12-22 12:01

      christians n atheists are alike, they are brothers 4life

      Colin - 2011-12-22 14:36

      its easy to generalize and paint everyone with the same brush, pity you don't offer any facts to support your views. On the other hand when I say atheist are trolls you can read any comment from atheist on this page. I find it amusing that atheists always claim that christians are oppressing them or that religious intolerance cause much of humanities suffering when they are the worst offenders. remember you don't need to be religious to be intolerant of religions others follow.

      Kyle - 2011-12-22 14:43

      Colin - don’t know what you reading or where but on all the sites I've seen it's always Christians starting, atheist just in and Christian complain and whine they are being picked on... grow a pair and if you can handle the argument don’t start it... of course I'm not meaning you directly, I'm generalising and saying most Christians, bunch of hypocritical cry babies..... there are some that are actually intelligent and tolerant.... just a pity they never chat here, they could teach these guys a lesson.

      Colin - 2011-12-22 14:59

      yep, I wish i could meet some of those mythical beings who also call themselves atheists whose arguments are based on logic instead insults and would be up for intelligent debate but I won't find them on news24 either. I won't complain about the people throwing around insults though, because as the saying goes, take it from who it comes, if the best that a person can do is throw around silly insults than I can safely discard his opinion as worthless 99% of the time.

      Kyle - 2011-12-23 06:57

      @Colin - ah shaem I hurt you feeling.... sorry, just I havent seen a logical argument from you yet. You open yourself up for abuse by trying to atatck someone with out A) fact B)logic..... try that next time and maye people will be polite.

      Colin - 2011-12-23 12:37

      haha now you are just repeating what I said about you not offering proof and using insults instead of logic. If you scroll up and read my comments you will find statements with proof, if you do not understand the logic behind that the problem lies with you. Further you will see that I said that your insults does not bother me in the least. You throwing insults around says more about you than about me.

  • Maximus Odinidus - 2011-12-21 14:24

    Some pots calling kettles black here. The belief in science over religion is hypocrisy. Science itself as the antithesis to religion has become a religion.

      Wayne - 2011-12-22 03:13


      marcus.steenberg.7 - 2012-12-12 18:38

      Ridiculous comparison - science's only position on religion is that it can provide the logical, practical tools to prove or disprove the claims of religion. It can provide the tools to prove the existence of god but it cannot disprove god as you cannot disprove something's non-existence. Needless to say, where religion has submitted itself to the neutral tools of science it has always failed to prove its claims. God has also never been proved and in fact there is no proof for god at all. Religion like similar claims made by other charlatans like telepathics hates science because in the final analysis, after all is said and done, it cannot be tricked or duped. It does not have emotions or an evolutionary predisposition to faith to appeal to. It is dispassionate and unmoved by "miracles" and other such nonsense. Either it happened or it didn't and it always turned out that it didn't happen. It isn't "anti" anything and to claim so is disingenuous.

  • elaine.swart - 2011-12-21 15:08

    Does anyone else get the idea that News 24 is trying to Bait people into a religious war here? This happened weeks ago, and is a non event. And the Zuma article is just another politician telling whoever he is talking to what they want to hear. Do the Journalists feel we need some stirring before Christmas?

      anthony.weineck - 2011-12-21 18:11

      @Atheitis: Don't get ahead of yourself. elaine is commenting on the bollocks News24 tries to pass as journalism, she hasn't stepped into the culture wars here and doesn't deserve your response.

  • Peter - 2011-12-21 15:17

    This is one of those poor reporting articles.So vague and out of tune.!!!!!!

  • James - 2011-12-21 15:18

    Ah but isnt it funny that the atheists are puttin up posters tuning the Christians but the Christians aren't puttin up posters tuning the atheists,saying you are going to pray for someone doesnt cause them physical harm. just saying, they are just showing their love for God and Jesus. Seems like to be an atheist you need to be hostile and intolerant of others. I'm amped to believe in Jesus and worship God. Bring on the persecution , lets see what happens when Jesus comes back.

      Kyle - 2011-12-21 17:30

      @James - ok, satan loves you, let me pray to asmodious for your soul.... just saying it's not harming you, but I'll bet it bugs you....

  • daniel.w.gie - 2011-12-21 16:07

    I concur .Dec 25 is the Birthday of the Roman Deity Mithras . The feastival of Saturnis another Roman celebration all happening in this period .

  • Tim - 2011-12-21 16:54

    The frustrating thing about this tit for tat ranting between so called believers and so called atheists is that they are equally bankrupt philosophically. Both sides are so one dimensional!

      Kyle - 2011-12-21 17:33

      @Tim - I'm pretty sure I'm 3D, last time I check I had all the qulifications for 3D...

      Tim - 2011-12-21 17:43

      Hi Atheitis, actually I love to have my beliefs questioned, I do it myself all the time. When someone else does it too and we get into serious conversation, life is good. How much time have you got? Let's go back to Aristotle's actualization of potential, "the analogy of being", and then on to Thomas Aquinas. We can make a turn through Martin Buber's "I and Thou" and spend a while talking about the subject-object shift, making meaning and some stuff from Viktor Frankel and Carl Jung. I promise I won't try to convince you one way or the other. But maybe you'll see that there's more to this religion thing than the flying spaghetti monster.

      Kyle - 2011-12-21 17:59

      @Tim - I find it boreing talking about what other have allready discussed... I'll admit it has it's place but I prefer to have my own thoughts and views, yes based on other research but putting my own views. regergitationg what others have said with out your own views is pointless, might as well be a robot

      Tim - 2011-12-21 18:04

      @Kyle - sorry Kyle, I should have been clearer. What I meant was that the ways of thinking among many religionists and atheists are one dimensional. I'm fascinated and frustrated at the same time by how much like each other so many of them are. They both have a one dimensional take on the nature of truth, differing only about what their one dimensional truth is, so their conversations never get anywhere.

      Tim - 2011-12-21 18:36

      @Kyle - you are right, the conversation only gets really interesting when we start talking about our own respective takes on life, beliefs, what we don't believe etc. I find it helps, though, to know where the way we think comes from. I would be bluffing myself if I thought that my take on life "just happened" in my own head. Everything I or you think has a history. I would be seriously dishonest if I didn't compare my thoughts and perspectives to the thoughts and perspectives of people who asked the same questions I am asking long before I did.

      Kyle - 2011-12-21 18:42

      @Tim, I know, I was joking.... making light of the situation :)

      Tim - 2011-12-21 19:04

      @Atheitis. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "mealy mouthed words". I do understand your question: "Are there gods or not?" The answer is, no there are not the gods you don't believe are there. There are ways of engaging with life, being, ultimacy, potentiality and actualization, existential dread, hope, love and all the rest by means of symbolic language, art, drama, music, ritual, community life and so on. Collectively, that's religion. And I'm a fan.

      Tim - 2011-12-21 20:22

      @Atheitis. Yup, religion = living. You do it your way and other people do it theirs. If it works for you, great. If it works for them, also great. If it doesn't work for either, not great...back to the drawing board.

      Tim - 2011-12-22 10:08

      @Atheitis. Hmmm...a bit of a generalization. Don't ever shut up. Nor will I,we are doing our bit help keep religionists and atheists honest.

      Kyle - 2011-12-22 10:40

      @Tim - didnt know religion could be honest, anything that revolves around scaring people into obeying through lies doesnt seem to honest to me.

      marcus.steenberg.7 - 2012-12-12 18:39

      Oh and I suppose you are a paragon of philosophical knowledge. A veritable god among men when it comes to the ins and outs of the universe, life and love. Somehow I doubt it but feel free to enlighten us.

  • Mike - 2011-12-21 22:04

    I still believe thats it's better to believe in God and be proved right, than to not believe and be proved wrong. JC came to save you all

      NickvanderLeek - 2011-12-22 06:21

      don't you mean: "I still believe it's better to believe in God and be proved wrong..." otherwise I don't get your reasoning. Even this reasoning is a bit shabby. The meat and potatoes of religion is meant to be about having a monopoly of absolute truth, or an irrefutable path to the only way, only truth and only light, so how can you say "so what if I'm wrong." It's a pretty big error.

      Kyle - 2011-12-22 14:45

      @Mike that’s not belief that’s hedging your bets... it's what 99% of religious people do. hope that they are right instead of truly believe they

      marcus.steenberg.7 - 2012-12-12 18:41

      Pascal's Wager strikes again - how do you know you are right about JC, huh? Maybe its Allah or Vishnu or Buddha - not all religions can be right - but they can all be wrong. No doubt in my mind which one it is.

  • NickvanderLeek - 2011-12-22 06:18

    he studied an atheist poster showing Father Christmas, Jesus and Satan, with the tag "37 million Americans know MYTHS when they see them." >>>lol, nice one.

  • beryl.knipe - 2011-12-22 07:38

    Beeeeeeg difference between "being a Christian" and actually believing and following God Almighty in spirit and in truth.

      Kyle - 2011-12-22 14:47

      A comment I can agree on. I find most people who try defend their faith her are being christain and dont really understand what it means to so you put it " follow God Almighty in spirit and in truth. "

  • Derryn - 2011-12-22 08:21

    What a load of rubbish... isn't there anything better happening in the news

  • Darryl - 2011-12-22 08:48

    To be honest I so tired of religion. For centuries it has been the cause of all wars. Countless lives have been lost because all the different religions. Just let ppl believe what they want to beleive. Let christians be christians, let Atheists be atheists and so on and so on and stop trying to convert ppl into your beliefs. I'm happy where I stand, yes i believe there is a god and so on but why do I need to go to church to believe it. Just everybody mind ur own religions.

  • Gwen - 2011-12-22 08:56

    Hush... Everytime I hear those words in private talks, people Hush immediately. Did you hear them too? Rumors say that just the rich people know all about it. Just do a G00GLE search for "BlueGoldHunt" all one word and click the first site that comes up.

  • ludlowdj - 2011-12-22 09:15


  • Pro - 2011-12-25 13:21

    You know in Islam , we are taught to allow fellow human beings to practice their religion, and there is no compulsion in religion.

      marcus.steenberg.7 - 2012-12-12 18:45

      Funny that applies to those who are already in a religion. What does Islam say about Muslims who leave Islam? I'll give you the answer: They are to be put to death. Claiming there is "no compulsion" in Islam is a lie. Lying for Mohammed is apparently just as prolific as lying for Jesus.

  • Pro - 2011-12-25 13:22

    There is no compulsion in religion, God the creator , chooses and is in control.

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