Thursday, July 19, 2007

Taking the Conversation Back

Kay Vaughan headshot by Kay Vaughan

This article was originally an e-mail response to an Urban Legend that was forwarded to me. The sender obviously thought it was a true account of a court proceeding. After checking it out on, it was found to be an Urban Legend. Here it is:

Subject: Wise Judge

In Florida , an atheist became incensed over the preparation of Easter and Passover holidays. He decided to contact his lawyer about the discrimination inflicted on atheists by the constant celebrations afforded to Christians and Jews with all their holidays while atheists had no holiday to celebrate. The case was brought before a wise judge. After listening to the long passionate presentation by the lawyer, the Judge banged his gavel and declared "Case Dismissed."

The lawyer immediately stood and objected to the ruling and said, "Your Honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? Christians have Christmas, Easter and many other observances. Jews have Passover, Yom Kppur and Hanukkah......yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays."

The judge leaned forward in his chair and simply said "Obviously your client is too confused to even know about, much less celebrate, his own atheists' holiday!"

The lawyer pompously said, "Your Honor, we are unaware of any such holiday for atheists. Just when might that holiday be, your Honor?"

The judge said, "Well it comes every year on exactly the same date.....April 1st! Since our calendar sets April 1st as 'April Fools Day,' consider that Psalm 14:1and Psalm 53:1 states, 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God.' Thus, in my opinion, if your client says there is no God, then by scripture he is a fool, thus April 1st is his holiday!"

Pray that some day our courts will be full of these kinds of judges.....maybe then, we can put God back where He everything we do.....

Way to go, Judge!

Here is my response verbatim:

Okay, dear XXXX, you asked for it!

As you can see from what I've included below, the article you forwarded is an Urban Legend, a joke or a lie, depending on whether you believe it or not. I often wonder why religious people tend to turn to "Urban Legends" or lies to get their point of view across. I believe it's because they have based their whole life on an "Urban Legend" or a fairy tale.

In the article the judge is suppose to have quoted some verses in Psalms. Psalms was written by various people at various times, but the verses they quoted were written around 1000 B. C. At that time in our history, people believed that the world was flat. Furthermore the God of the Old Testament was cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.

Did you know that there are 400,000 versions of the New Testament? Our culture has chosen to prefer the King James Version which is not the most authentic.

In their wisdom our founding fathers wrote the constitution in a way that religion is suppose to be kept out of our courts. They knew what it was like to be controlled by a government based on religion and they had fled from that. Everyone knows about all the people in history that have been massacred because of religion and still are being murdered because of religion.

Here are some quotes from Thomas Jefferson: "To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise . . .without plunging into the fathomless abyss of dreams and phantasms. I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence.

And another one: "Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God, because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.

This quote if from James Madison: "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."

And from James Adams: "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it." He also said, "As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?"

Did you know that five of our Supreme Court justices are Roman Catholics? My dad thought the pope was responsible for putting Kennedy, a Democrat, in as president. I wonder what he would of thought of our Supreme Court? The funny part is that they were all put in by Republicans. I wonder what he would have thought about that?

This is the origin of Christmas:

December 25 was a significant date for various early cultures. The ancient Babylonians believed the son of the queen of heaven was born on December 25. The Egyptians celebrated the birth of the son of the fertility goddess Isis on the same date, while ancient Arabs contended that the moon was born on December 24.

The Romans celebrated Saturnalia, a feast named for Saturn, god of agriculture, on December 21, the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. They believed the shortest day of the year was the birthday of the sun. The Roman emperor Constantine was a member of the sun-cult before converting to Christianity in 312.

Some scholars suspect that Christians chose to celebrate Christ's birth on December 25 to make it easier to convert the pagan tribes. Referring to Jesus as the “light of the world” also fit with existing pagan beliefs about the birth of the sun. The ancient “return of the sun” philosophy had been replaced by the “coming of the son” message of Christianity.

The origins of Easter:

Christians celebrate Easter to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some aspects of modern Easter celebrations, however, pre-date Christianity.

Ancient Spring Goddess

According to the Venerable Bede, Easter derives its name from Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. A month corresponding to April had been named "Eostremonat," or Eostre's month, leading to "Easter" becoming applied to the Christian holiday that usually took place within it. Prior to that, the holiday had been called Pasch (Passover), which remains its name in most non-English languages.

It seems probable that around the second century A.D., Christian missionaries seeking to convert the tribes of northern Europe noticed that the Christian holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus roughly coincided with the Teutonic springtime celebrations, which emphasized the triumph of life over death. Christian Easter gradually absorbed the traditional symbols.

As far as April fools day goes, the origin is unclear.

On the lighter side, this is what Mark Twain said about April 1st: "April 1st: This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three-hundred and sixty-four.

Pertinent Parts of the Snopes Report on This Urban Legend:

Origins: This item, which began its Internet life in 2003, is another politics-cum-humor item which has prompted numerous "Is this real?" inquiries from readers, even though it is presented in a standard joke format: no specific details, a somewhat farcical set-up, and a punchline pay-off. It's clearly a fictional humor piece, not a literal account of an actual court case. Indeed, in substance it mirrors this item, which was unambiguously circulated as a joke on a humor mailing list in 2002:

An atheist complained to a friend, "Christians have their special holidays, such as Christmas and Easter; and Jewish folks celebrate their holidays, such as Passover and Yom Kippur. EVERY religion has its holidays. But we atheists," he said, "have no recognized national holidays. It's unfair discrimination."

His friend replied, "Well...Why don't you celebrate April first?"

This humor piece utilizes a fantasy court case with exaggerated elements to make its point. The "godless" representative for the plaintiffs is not presented as bringing any legitimate constitutional issue before the court; he's simply complaining that Jews and Christians have religious holidays while atheists have none. (What sort of injunctive relief he might be seeking isn't specified — does he expect the judge to issue a Grinch-like restraining order prohibiting any celebration of Christmas whatsoever?) The "wise" jurist's hands may be bound by the law, but not so his heart. He doesn't even need to hear from the defense — as soon as the plaintiffs are done presenting their arguments, he summarily dismisses their case and brands them "fools" to boot. In this drama the atheists have gone to the legal well once too often, and this time they get the worst of it.

Sometimes the clearest view of what a text like this one is all about comes from those who take inspiration from it, through their voicing of what they perceive as its message. For example, these trailing comments added by unknown forwarders who identified with the piece (and presumably mistook it for a summary of a real court case) speak directly to its nature:



Way to go, Judge!

The power of illustrative anecdotes often lies not in how well they present reality, but in how well they reflect the core beliefs of their audience.

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