The Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia (of which I am a member) has again erected its winter celebratory Tree of Knowledge amidst the other holiday displays at the Chester County Courthouse in lovely downtown West Chester, PA.
2009 Tree of Knowledge
The tree is a lovely evergreen, and is considerably smaller this year due to new regulations. Last year we were able to display an 18 ft tree, but this year, we are limited to 10 feet, and were assigned a space under another large tree, right next to the Christian creche display. Even so, the Tree of Knowledge speaks out proudly and warmly for all the non-theists and open-minded theists in the region. The tree combines the age-old solstice symbol of the evergreen tree with book cover ‘ornaments’ – laminated color copies of the covers of books which espouse the freethought set of values of knowledge and reason. The ‘ornaments’ are attached to the tree with pinecone clusters, and the top of the tree has a beautiful, gauzy white bow.
You might be surprised at the variety and scope of the books on the tree. For a list of the books, you can download the booklist (Books on the 2008 tree), or for even more information and the expanded list of books on the 2009 tree, the 2009 Tree of Knowledge book by Margaret Downey. The book, currently in pdf form, will also be available in print later this month. The comprehensive, 80+page book tells the history of the Tree, and offers advice on how to create your own tree in your town.
This is a holiday tree. A TREE. On it are laminated book covers. Sounds fairly inocuous, doesn’t it? But it’s story is, sadly, replete with controversy and vitriol. Christian and even Jewish groups have condemned it as ‘inappropriate’ at best, and called atheists ‘the enemy’, Satanists, etc. All sorts of horrible monikers.
We are people of inclusion. We are people of justice, equality, tolerance and compassion. We have fought for the right of all groups to make a display, seeking to include everyone in the joys of the season.
Please visit the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia to learn more about our organization, the tree, other public and private functions, our goals, our leaders and how we live our lives.
And we join together to wish you the very best of holidays, whatever you celebrate.