I happen to think the “War on Christmas” is a hyped-up Fox News (sic) creation that lines up nicely with the rest of their business model: convince the American public that something dear to them is in imminent danger of being ripped from their bosoms – so they’ll keep watching… Fox News. The rippers are, variously, the liberals, Hillary Clinton, socialism, Hollywood, Nancy Pelosi, the left, Hillary Clinton, the atheists, Barak Obama, everyone in California, and Hillary Clinton.
But this war is really more like a highly localized skirmish, and there is at least a little blame to go around for people being uptight during this time of year. So here I will attempt to straighten things out with some frank talk to both the Christians who think Satan’s minions (and Hillary) are trying to put a halt to everything Christmas, and to the atheists who become enraged every time they see Santa Claus.
Disclaimer (and spoiler): I told my younger sister when we were kids that Santa was BS, and that mom and dad gave us the presents. So if you’re expecting sentimentality about Christmas, go watch a beer commercial on TV. If you’re hoping for impartiality about the farfetched beliefs surrounding Christmas – Santa delivering presents at the speed of light, 3 wise men showing up at a manger in the year zero, etc. – try a church or holiday movie.
To the Christians…
For me, the Christmas story is no wackier or more of an imposition than Noah’s Ark, talking animals, the parting of the Red Sea, or any other profoundly unsupported (by science) belief you hold. (See Ron Lindsay’s blog on these pages for more on that.) I, with the Independent Investigations Group squared off with some flat earthers earlier this year while National Geographic Explorer filmed. Christmas barely makes my radar. I’m accosted by nuttier ideas all day every day. Christmas? Please. Get in line.
But a few things do chap my hide when it comes to Christmas. One is crèches on publicly-owned property. It doesn’t matter that Christians are about ¾ of the U.S. population – a quarter of your tax-paying fellow citizens shouldn’t have to subsidize your beliefs on mutually held land. The First Amendment doesn’t dry up just because you want to celebrate a holiday, and simple majorities don’t supersede the Constitution.
If you want to put on a diaper and reenact (or should I say enact for the first time) the biblical manger scene in your front yard every night in December, knock yourself out. Just don’t place that religious story on public property. How would you feel if Muslims, Buddhists, and Scientologists started displaying their myths during their holiday season? Uh huh. Not so joyous to have to drive by a big-ass L. Ron Hubbard glaring down at you from City Hall, is it?
The other thing is, try to understand that not everyone is as whipped up about Christmas as you are. People who believe in other things might not answer your effusive “Merry Christmas!!!!” with equal enthusiasm. Would it kill you to say “happy holidays”? By saying happy holidays, you’re much more likely to be met with sincere good wishes in return.
As an atheist through and through, I (personally) celebrate the winter solstice and New Year’s, and I acknowledge Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and of course, Festivus. So when you say “happy holidays” to me, those holidays are what I think of, and I can truly feel your well-wishes.
To the Atheists… (Including Tom Flynn whose actions and policies about Christmas I respect)
It’s ok to yuck it up a little – even at the risk of being mistaken for celebrating Christmas. I’m from Chicago. It gets cold and dark there in December, and throwing up a few extra lights and getting together with friends and family helps boost morale.
And hell, we pagans invented the idea of having a holiday in late December! (With apologies to my friends in southern latitudes) We were lighting fires, enjoying winter wine and celebrating the beginning of longer days long before the Christians shoehorned their virgin birth story into our party season. A lot of “Christmas” traditions we Americans think of as having been around a long time – feasts, gift-giving, decorating trees – are recent, and/or came from other times and places. And religions! The Christians are on our bandwagon.
So we can absolutely take ownership of a little guilt-free solstice celebration.
And atheists, don’t bite someone’s head off for saying merry Christmas. Unless they’re really saying, “Merry Christmas you atheist bastard”, chances are they’re just trying to express innocent well-wishes.
Respond with a cheerful “And a happy solstice to you!” or maybe a “merry Kwanzaa, my bother” at a Trump rally, if you happen to be at one. No need to sour a sincere greeting without real provocation.
If everyone would just lighten up a little, maybe it would be a little easier to get through the dark and cold, and find the true meaning of the season:
Seasonal sales at the nation’s retailers.