On Thursday morning, right around the time I was being excoriated for alleged grinchery by some local shock jocks, a custodian at the Central Baptist Church in Hartford discovered the congregation’s indoor nativity scene smashed into pieces, the ceramic faces targeted with the hammer of some unknown vandal.
The Hartford Courant‘s website reported this incident on Thursday afternoon. It took only a few hours for a reader to add a comment accusing CVA of the vandalism. “It was those athiests [sic] from Vernon. Imagine no religion,” wrote Mathew from Hartford.
It didn’t matter to me that I was an atheist; I was just as sickened by the vandalism as anyone else. I don’t know why people do things like this and there is no justification for such an insult to someone’s faith. But to be accused of the act without any evidence, even when such aggression is contrary to our stated goals and philosophy, was rather insulting as well. Angry, I posted a reply.
“To Mathew, who accused Connecticut Valley Atheists of vandalizing this display, I wish to defend our organization from your baseless assertion. We condemn this and all acts of vandalism and discrimination. I can assure you that none of our members were responsible, and none would approve. This kind of hatred fits nowhere into our philosophy. Furthermore, this display was on church property, which is, as we have consistently stated, exactly where it belongs, and we would have no reason to object to its presence or wish its removal or destruction. We object to religious images on government property, including the nativity scene five feet from our own display, which, you fail to note, remains unmolested. Enough with the hate speech.”
Nonetheless, other comments were made. “This HAS to be the work of those psycho atheists from Vernon/Rockville,” railed Jonah from West Hartford. “Block our ‘Imagine No Religion’ sign with a tree, huh? We’ll show those dirty Christians!” I’m glad we use logic more proficiently than Jonah thinks we do. It would be an immense waste of time to seek revenge on the Vernon town council by targeting a private church in Hartford. That would be as silly as, say, invading Iraq in response to an attack by Saudis. You know, hypothetically.
Other posters made similar accusations, and one ridiculed me for calling it a display (I guess I’ve just been in the mindset of referring to ours as one. I guess it was kind of a weird thing to call it).
There is never any excuse for this kind of act. I hope the vandals are caught and prosecuted for breaking and entering and destruction of property. They should pay to have the figures replaced on top of whatever sentence the judge deems fit.
Though I don’t respect Christianity, I have respect for it. There is a major difference. I respect their right to worship in their church, to believe what they believe, to display their imagery on their own property, to tell me I am wrong and wicked and deserve to burn in Hell. These are the same rights that I enjoy, and I will always defend them for both sides. Telling people their religion is illogical and intolerant is an appropriate act of free speech. Destroying images that they consider sacred is even more illogical and intolerant. What the vandals truly gained from this I shall never understand. But this holiday season (yes, I said it), let us not fight intolerance with intolerance, or senseless destruction of property with senseless destruction of reputation.
Merry Christmas to the members of the Central Baptist Church.