Bethel Atheist Sign Had Hidden Meaning — Letter from the Editor

Report by Paula Antolini
December 5, 2018 7:26PM EDT



Bethel Atheist Sign Had Hidden Meaning — Letter from the Editor

Hermann Hesse, the recipient of the 1946 Noble Prize in Literature, once wrote, “I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”His best known works explore an individual’s search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. 

Recently the people of the Town of Bethel experienced this “bad fortune” during a controversy about a town holiday “non-denominational” display that eventually reached notoriety in national news. It will soon play out this month when an atheist sign will be placed in P.T. Barnum Square this holiday season in the same area that the Nativity display has been located for 40 years. This year’s crèche is new and was built by volunteers. The Bethel Board of Selectmen approved the atheist sign application at their December 4, 2018 meeting after each giving a prepared statement.

Social media, local conversations and public input at meetings were reeling with mostly negative comments regarding the issue of allowing an atheist sign in the Square particularly with it being placed in the same area where the Nativity scene is located. Most felt it was disrespectful and inappropriate as the sign represented the exact opposite of Christian values. Many also questioned what the end result would be in terms of other groups also wanting to be represented.

However, something beautiful has happened. Many found themselves questioning their own values and started to wonder if they were “practicing what they preached.”  They started to discuss the real meaning of Christmas and Christian values and, in doing so, chose love over hate. “What would God do?” one resident stated.

In this season of peace and love, Bethel triumphed.  Bad does bring good sometimes. The love that we do have in Bethel is more valued now with or without the sign.


Paula Antolini





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