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rug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-09-11 05:12 PM
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Silver Bells and Atheist Billboards
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Notes from a holiday commute

December 8, 2011
By Steve A. Wiggins

7 a.m., sitting in a bus just outside the Lincoln Tunnel. Jersey side. Far above my head shouts one of those electric billboards with ads that change every few seconds. An image of Poseidon flashes by, then Jesus, Santa Claus, and the Devil. The caption: 37 Million Americans know MYTHS when they see them.

Its Christmas time in the City. American Atheists has been sponsoring such billboards around the holidays for a couple of years now. And having only recently finished reading Richard Dawkinss The God Delusion, I suddenly feel as though I might have tiptoed down the wrong garden path of a career. The writings on the wall for professional religionists. Or at least on the billboard. What do these signs tell us about ourselves?

Once the bus reaches the Port Authority terminal and I join the braided streams of Manhattan commuters, I hear piped-in Christmas carols. And not just secular ones like Winter Wonderland. Pushing through the doors into the chilly New York air with Johnny Mathis singing Silver Bells overhead, it strikes me that I have just experienced a tiny cross-section of Americas ongoing cultural crisis. We want it both waysI realize as I pass the Wired store in Times Squarewe want to reap all the benefits of secular science while keeping the comforts of a medieval spirituality.

I had returned from the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature annual meetingthe Woodstock of religion scholarswhere I had been awash in a sea of religious erudition. It helped that it was in sunny California. When the train conductor on the BART system at SFO announced, The train is about ready to close the doors. Those of you on the platform might want to start thinking about getting on board and taking a seat, it was amply clear I was no longer in New York. As I watched a literal myriad of scholars of all stripes (and spots) mingle with only the occasional sour-tempered glare, it seemed that religion might just be all right after all. Is it really the evil that Dawkins seems to indicate? Can 10,000 scholars of religion really be wrong?
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