It is no secret that we nontheists are continually bombarded with religious references. Most of the time, we simply smile and ignore them, knowing that our fellow primates mean us no harm. And when we do complain, no matter how polite and courteous we may be, it is always taken the wrong way. So, when should we speak up?

My friend Margaret Downey wrote this letter to American Airlines concerning her recent trip her to Hawaii: (Jump to Post)

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Tags: Downey, Margaret

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Comment by Loren Miller on November 5, 2009 at 8:11am
It is entirely possible that there is no form of communication, whether spoken or sung, which would NOT offend SOMEONE. Whether the reasons or justification for the offense is rational or not doesn't matter. The question becomes: do we make like Don Quixote and joust at every windmill we're confronted with ... or choose our battles, while demonstrating a degree of tolerance which our opponents generally fail to employ?

Now me, I LIKE a lot of Christmas music, being that I grew up with it and sang a LOT of it as a kid and teenager ... but for me, it's less about the words and way more about the MUSIC ... so maybe my focus is different than some others here [I should mention that "O Holy Night" is NOT a fave!]. Question: if the Musak system had played Handel's "Messiah," would you have been as offended?
Comment by Mel on November 4, 2009 at 4:01pm
My problem with Christian music is most of it is ghastly!
I really hate church hymms in particular - they're poetry old enough to sometimes be uninterpretable, set to completely innappropriate music with a tune that is impossible to intuit out as you go and habitually sung in a key so high that most of the congregation is physically incapable of hitting it.
Modern Christian music (the pop/rock variety) tends to be trite in lyrics and unintersting in tune.
However, I do like the Classical stuff, but thats because it actually has musical merit.

But, it is a private company. They're entitled to play anything they like, and the customers are entitled to take their custom anywhere they like. It reminds me of people who object to security measures. Sorry buddy, but it's a privately owned plane - they can set any rules they like!
Comment by John Q. Antichrist or Rosco on November 4, 2009 at 2:36pm
I find it funny that the Christian blog that is linked seems to think she has a problem with music by Christians. There is a huge difference between music by a Christian and music that proselytizes. How would they feel if Antichrist Superstar or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was coming out of the speakers while they were stuck on a plane? It's all about common courtesy and respecting people with different beliefs. That is too much to ask from many religious people.

I run a business and I try to respect everyone that chooses to shop with me. If I were to play anti-religious music in my store, my customers would choose to do business with someone else, who respects them.

I don't hate religious people, but I do hate when I'm told that I'm going to burn for eternity for caring more about my fellow man than I do about a book or a god. Every Sunday in churches around the world, people are told that the nonreligious will burn in hell for turning their back on "their" god. Those same people don't understand when we get angry. I don't go around telling people that they are going to rot in the ground and completely cease to exist in any form, other than the matter and energy that returns to the universe to be used in some other way. I choose not to inform them of their destiny, but they have no qualms about telling me their view of my destiny.

Glen Beck likes to say that the problems in the U.S. are caused by us nonreligious folk. I think the problems that people around the world face are caused more by a lack of respect and a lack of common courtesy. Until we all learn that everyone is the same, there will always be problems. People tend to despise difference and that is a very sad thing.
Comment by Daniel W on November 4, 2009 at 1:45pm
It is right, and even responsible, to complain about religous proseletyzing to a captive in-air group. I also have problems with the fact that the airplane is being used as a church, but benefiting from tax-payer-supported airports.

I agree with Jason that this was the flight crew and probably violating company policy. They are deserving of a reprimand. It is worthy of a news report, even more than a complaint.

On Judith's comment about religious Xmas music in the stores, I SO agree. Unholy fright, the night the shit is flying.... Too much to memorize. I could see singing that in the store as people pawn over merchandise. Drummer boy is equally inane, insipid, and infectious.
Comment by Digger on November 4, 2009 at 1:33pm
My suggestion is of coarse to complain, and next time be prepared, take an MP3 player and wear headphones or bring speakers and turn it up with "Imagine" or some other neutral or anti religious music, or maybe stand up and ask if anyone else is sick of what they're playing, if you can find other passengers with the same feelings who will stand with you then you will be heard, it's the squeaky wheel, or wheels, that get oiled, and the louder it squeaks, the sooner it gets taken care of.
Comment by Jason Spicer on November 4, 2009 at 1:47am
Anybody paying money for a service has a right to complain if the service is not to their liking. The service provider has the option of ignoring them. But most big companies do try to keep everything neutral, so it's a little weird that American Airlines would do something like this. I'm willing to bet it was that particular crew, and that they were in violation of company policy.
Comment by Dave Rogers on November 3, 2009 at 9:23pm
Although Margaret has every right to complain, American Airlines has every right to play whatever music they want (and it could only be that pilot/crew/flight that does this). You would hope they would respect everyone's sensibilities, but they don't have to. The 1st Amendment only covers a "government-owned" airline from doing this, not a business.

Don't get me wrong. She has the right to complain (as I would have raised hell myself), and she can avoid AA in the future just like she avoids Alaska Airlines now. It's when theists cross the line between church and state is when atheists need to do more than complain.
Comment by Lorien on November 3, 2009 at 5:31pm
I would have yelled out to turn that shit off!

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