"Peace on Earth from your friendly neighborhood atheists, freethinkers, and humanists" proclaims a new holiday display, installed in the Free Speech Zone located on the lawn adjacent to the National Constitution Center. The sign was installed by the Greater Philadelphia Coalition of Reason, or PhillyCoR, which unites local organizations for nontheists. It will be installed from December 13 until until January 9.
Only two other displays are highlighted at the Free Speech Zone: a giant Menorah and a Crèche (nativity scene). PhillyCOR leaders say their display is meant to include nontheists in secular celebrations of the holiday season; it isn’t designed to offend religious groups .
Sally Cramer, President of the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia says, "Passersby will be reminded that the United States of America is not simply an exclusively Judeo-Christian country; that a strong united minority of nontheists exists in America ."
Barry Greenstein, Vice President of the Secular Society at Temple University says, "Sadly, anything we say is taken as offensive this time of year. Lots of people complain if we say ‘Happy Holidays’ opposed to ‘Merry Christmas.’ No matter how positive our message, as soon as we identify ourselves as secular, some religious people get upset. That’s exactly why we need to keep speaking up, and insist on respect and recognition."
Martha Knox, Director of the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia says there is a precedent for nontheists celebrating in December. "People north of the equator started celebrating the winter solstice long before Christianity. In America today, the holidays are about family togetherness and charity as much as they are about the birth of Jesus."
PhillyCOR leaders say that while the message of peace is directed toward everyone, they are most interested in reaching out to other nontheists.
Diane Kinney, and organizer for the Philadelphia Atheist MeetUp says, "This is our way of reaching out to people who already think as we do. Many nontheists don’t realize there are groups to serve them and other people of like mind living in their community."
Thanks to all who donated their time and/or funds to bring this secular holiday display to the free speech zone in Philadelphia!