An Open Letter To Christians: Merry Christmas From An Atheist

That’s right, I didn’t say “happy holidays” or “seasons greetings” — I said “merry Christmas.”  And yes, I’m an atheist, one who loves the Christmas season so much that I tend to get into the spirit of the holiday a little earlier than most.  I love the decorations, the music, the gift-giving, the mythology — all of it.  This often surprises people because I have a dark sense of humor and tend to be the kind of realist people sometimes call “cynical.”  But every December, you’ll find me singing along with Nat King Cole and Dean Martin as I decorate the tree; you’ll find me getting misty-eyed and sniffly when George Bailey comes to understand how many lives his mundane existence has touched and influenced; you’ll hear me wishing “merry Christmas” — and yes, sometimes “happy holidays” — to total strangers.  And I’ll say it again — I’m an atheist.

Before I go any further, I want to make sure that word is clearly understood.  There seem to be a lot of people who think an atheist is an angry, immoral person who eats babies and sodomizes house pets, and that simply isn’t the case.  I’m pushing 50 years old and I’ve been with my wife for more than two wonderful, monogamous decades.  I am a passionate lover of animals, especially cats and dogs.  I give of my time and money to charitable causes.  I have never been arrested.  I vote, pay my taxes and try to stay as informed as possible.  I have a strong sense of justice, of right and wrong, and I adhere to it without compromise.  I am a fiercely loyal friend and a lover of life — my own and others.  My goal each day is to be a better person than I was yesterday and to live my life in a way that improves the lives of those around me.  I point this out not to be immodest or seek praise but to show you that I am, for the most part, not unlike most people living their lives and pursuing happiness on this earth.  Only one thing makes me an atheist:  I am not a person of faith.  I do not believe in gods or demons, heaven or hell, angels or ghosts, or anything else that requires a leap of faith in the absence of factual proof.  That’s all being an atheist means, nothing more.  It certainly doesn’t mean that I hate people of faith — I don’t hate anyone.  You will not find a more passionate supporter of America’s freedom of religion than I.  While I might not share your faith, I would fight for your right to practice and express it, because your freedom is also my freedom.  Here’s how I see the relationship between you and me:  We may differ on the matter of religion and we might disagree politically, but chances are we have more in common than in conflict and we’re all in this together, so there’s no reason in the world for us to oppose one another.

Having said that, I have a question:  What’s all this I keep hearing about a “war on Christmas?”  I keep reading stories in the news about Christians who are angry because the phrase “happy holidays” is often used during the Christmas season and they believe this phrase somehow diminishes the Christian celebration of Christmas.  With each passing year, these stories increase in number and this sentiment becomes more hostile.  TV and radio hosts keep saying that “secularists” are trying to abolish Jesus and that Christianity is under attack, that atheists are taking a bulldozer to America’s Christians.  It comes up every year at this time, which happens to be my favorite time of year, and frankly, I’m starting to get a little irritated by it.  During a season when the words “peace on earth, good will toward men” are so often spoken and sung, a lot of people are getting angry and talking about “war” — and they are the very people who are supposed to be singing about “peace on earth, good will toward men!”

Now, maybe you’re not one of them.  Maybe you don’t buy into this idea of a “war on Christmas.”  But if you are — if you honestly believe that the Christian celebration of Christmas is under attack by a secular conspiracy to remove Jesus Christ from the holiday and silence Christians — I hope you will indulge me and, for just a little while, try to look at this situation from a different perspective, one that perhaps you have not considered.  Please bear with me.

I don’t know anyone who genuinely hates Christmas.  Oh, sure, people complain about it when it comes along — all the commercial hustle, the crowds, the pressure to buy, buy, buy.  But ultimately, everyone I know enjoys the holiday and if asked seriously, I doubt they would change a thing.  The people I know celebrate the holiday in different ways and for different reasons.  Some celebrate it as a religious holiday, others as a secular holiday.  There are many ways to celebrate in the Christmas season, and not all of them are Christmas.  There’s Hanukkah, the winter solstice, Yule, Kwanzaa — it’s a time of the year that contains many holidays.  Given that, what’s wrong with saying “happy holidays?”  The word “holiday,” after all, means “holy day.”  It comes from the Old English word hāligdæghālig meaning “holy” and dæg meaning “day” — and it’s been in use since before the 12th century.  How is the acknowledgment of a season of “holy days” anti-Christian?  It’s an inclusive greeting that embraces the entire season.  I usually say “merry Christmas” because that’s the holiday I celebrate in a secular fashion, but I often say “happy holidays,” too, because I am aware of the different holidays celebrated at this time of year, and that covers all of them.

But some insist that the use of the phrase “happy holidays” is just another tactic in the “war on Christmas,” which is part of the greater effort to remove Christianity from the United States.  Where did this “war on Christmas” come from?  When did it start?  Who’s fighting it and why?  More importantly … is this thing for real?  You might not know the answers to those questions.  I didn’t.  So I did some research.

In 1959, the John Birch Society, a far-right organization that sees anti-American and communist conspiracies in just about everything, released a pamphlet called “There Goes Christmas!” written by Hubert Kregeloh.  The pamphlet claimed, “One of the techniques now being applied by the Reds to weaken the pillar of religion in our country is the drive to take Christ out of Christmas — to denude the event of its religious meaning.”  The John Birch Society believed the UN was being used to crush religious belief:

The UN fanatics launched their assault on Christmas in 1958, but too late to get very far before the holy day was at hand.  They are already busy, however, at this very moment, on efforts to poison the 1959 Christmas season with their high-pressure propaganda.  What they now want to put over on the American people is simply this:  Department stores throughout the country are to utilize UN symbols and emblems as Christmas decorations.

These “UN symbols and emblems” were simply secular Christmas decorations that did not employ religious imagery, decorations that had been around for some time.  The pamphlet claimed this was a plot to destroy Christianity and called on patriotic Americans to boycott any stores that displayed such decorations.  No one took this very seriously in 1959 — this was, after all, the John Birch Society.  The conspiracy theory did not catch on.  But it was to come back a few decades later.

In the 1990s, Peter Brimelow, a British American financial journalist, was an editor at Fortune magazine when he decided he didn’t like the phrase “happy holidays.”  He told the Daily Beast, “I just got real interested in the issue because I noticed over the years there was this social shift taking place where people no longer said ‘Merry Christmas.’”  In his book Alien Nation, Brimelow wrote that “weird aliens with dubious habits” were damaging the “ethnic core” of white Christian America and were part of a “multicultural struggle to abolish America.”  He saw the trend toward saying “happy holidays” as part of this sinister movement and decided to do something about it.

Brimelow and conservative British political journalist John O’Sullivan, who was then editor of the conservative magazine National Review, had an idea:  A yearly competition in the magazine for the “the most egregious attempt to suppress Christmas.”  But before O’Sullivan could implement the idea, he was booted from his position as editor in 1997.  Even the staunch conservatives at the National Review wanted nothing to do with Brimelow and O’Sullivan and their increasingly hostile attitudes toward racial minorities and immigrants.  So Brimelow founded VDare, an anti-immigration online journal which the Southern Poverty Law Center categorized as a “hate journal” in 2003.  VDare became the home of Brimelow’s “Annual War on Christmas Competition.”

The winner of the competition in 2001 was Tom Piatak’s article “Happy Holidays?  Bah!  Humbug!”.  In the article, Tom Piatak writes that today’s celebration of Christmas in America bears a “closer resemblance to the Nazis’ Julfest” than the Christmases of old, like those celebrated during Piatak’s childhood.  He specifically targets other holidays and religions as the source of the problem:

Teaching children about Kwanzaa, rather than about the Christmas carols and spirituals developed by blacks, inculcates negative lessons about whites instead of positive ones about blacks.  Teaching children about Hanukkah, rather than the beliefs that actually sustained Jews on their sometimes tragic and tumultuous historical journey, inculcates negative lessons about Christianity, not positive ones about Judaism.

VDare’s 2005 winner, “Christmas, Jews, De-Assimilation and Decline” by Steve Sailer, is much more specific.  Sailer is a writer who has, in the past, shown enthusiasm for Eugenics and believes black people to be inferior.  In a 2005 article for Vdare called “Racial Reality and the New Orleans Nightmare,” he wrote of black people, “The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society.”  In his competition-winning article about the “war on Christmas,” Sailer complains that, although Jews wrote many of today’s most popular Christmas songs, those songs were secular, and these days, they aren’t even doing that, because rather than being grateful for the piles of money they’ve been able to make off of Christianity, all they want to do is destroy the Christian tradition of Christmas.

With just a little research, it becomes very clear that the roots of today’s “war on Christmas” are deeply imbedded in the soil of racial hatred and religious bigotry.  The people responsible for pointing out this “war” and making the most noise about it in the 1990s were white supremacists and anti-Semites.

By the middle of the past decade, the cry of “war” had been picked up by media figures.  TV and radio personality John Gibson published a book in 2005 called The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than you Thought.  Gibson, a former Fox News anchor, relates several anecdotes that involve towns deciding to call their Christmas parades “holiday parades” or including symbols of other religions in their holiday displays.  He sees a widespread conspiracy at work which is not only bent on removing any Christian significance from Christmas, but which is part of a “revolution against Christianity.”  Behind this conspiracy, he claims, are “a cabal of secularists, so-called humanists, trial lawyers, cultural relativists and liberal, guilt-wracked Christians.”  He includes in this cabal civil rights organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union — and he even includes Christian churches that try to be inclusive, calling them “institutional backers of the war on Christmas.”  He writes, “These are the churches that marry gays and turn their backs on preborn babies.”  He claims that the members of these churches “vote for John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and Barney Frank.”

Here’s the score so far.  Those who say there’s a “war on Christmas” blame it on a conspiracy to eradicate Christianity that is the work of communists, the UN, non-caucasian people and immigrants, Jews, secular humanists, the ACLU, anyone who supports gay rights or a woman’s right to choose, and any Christians who vote for Democrats.

Perhaps the loudest voice calling to let slip the dogs of Christmas war is Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly.  Just in case you’re not familiar with O’Reilly, he’s the guy who was sued for sexual harassment in 2004 by Andrea Mackris, an associate producer on his Fox News show The O’Reilly Factor. According to court documents, Mackris was subjected to repeated verbal harassment by O’Reilly, who commonly peppered their conversations with lewd references to the size of his penis, the women who were “amazed” by it, his fondness for phone sex, vibrators and explicit sexual fantasies about what he’d like to do to Mackris in the shower with a loofa.  He masturbated and climaxed during more than one telephone conversation with her, and while having dinner with Mackris and her friend, he repeatedly propositioned them both and talked about an upcoming trip to Italy to meet the pope, during which his pregnant wife would be staying home with his daughter.  He then “implied he was looking forward to some extra-marital dalliances with the ‘hot’ Italian women.”  All of this was done against Mackris’s will and despite her repeated appeals for him to stop.  In 2004, when Mackris pointed out that O’Reilly had engaged in similarly inappropriate behavior with other women working on his show and warned him to be more cautious before one of them told someone, he said words to this effect:

If any woman ever breathed a word, I’ll make her pay so dearly that she’ll wish she’d never been born.  I’ll rake her through the mud, bring up things in her life and make her so miserable that she’ll be destroyed.  And besides, she wouldn’t be able to afford the lawyers I can or endure it financially as long as I can.  And nobody would believe her, it’d be her word against mine and who would they believe?  Me or some unstable woman making crazy accusations.  They’d see her as some psycho, someone unstable.  Besides, I’d never make the mistake of picking unstable crazy girls like that.

He further pointed out that any woman who blew the whistle on his behavior would have more to contend with than O’Reilly alone.

If you cross Fox News Channel, it’s not just me, it’s [Fox News president] Roger Ailes who will go after you.  I’m the street guy out front making noise about the issues, but Ailes operates behind the scenes, strategizes and makes things happen so that one day, BAM!  The person gets what’s coming to them but never sees it coming.  Look at Al Franken, one day he’s going to get a knock on his door and his life as he’s known it will change forever.  That day will happen, trust me.

O’Reilly never denied any of Mackris’s claims, but filed a countersuit.  The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum and both suits were dropped.

But that was a while ago.  All of that may seem irrelevant to this topic, but bear with me — I’m trying to make a point.  I’m trying to show you the kind of people who are perpetuating the “war on Christmas.”  Today, Bill O’Reilly is concerned about what he sees as an attack on Christians and Christianity, because obviously, following the teachings of Jesus Christ is a big priority in O’Reilly’s life.  On November 28, 2005, O’Reilly said on his Fox News show, “Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born.”  He hammers this subject relentlessly, claiming that it’s all part of “a very secret plan” that is designed to “diminish Christian philosophy in the USA.”  Every year, O’Reilly sounds off about stores and companies that choose to use the phrase “happy holidays” rather than “merry Christmas” in their marketing campaigns, and every year, the complaints get angrier, louder and wilder. According to O’Reilly, saying “happy holidays” will lead to the “legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage,” and will wipe Christianity off the map in America.

More and more media figures — Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage, Sarah Palin — have jumped on the “Christmas war” wagon.  But all of this anger and shouting is not confined to the media.  In 2002, the Alliance Defense Fund, an organization of Christian activist lawyers co-founded by James Dobson, began organizing hundreds of lawyers all over the country to pounce on anything they perceived as a threat to Christmas by filing lawsuits.  A number of other Christian activist organizations do the same thing every year, filling the courts with lawsuits defending the most popular and beloved holiday in America from … whatever.  Senior legal council for the Alliance Defense Fund, Mike Johnson, once said, “It’s a sad day in America when you have to retain a lawyer to wish someone a merry Christmas.”

There’s just one problem with that:  It’s never happened.  No one has ever had to seek legal representation for wishing someone “merry Christmas.”  Johnson’s remark is based entirely on fantasy.  In fact, none of the things these people are so wildly upset about are happening!  No one is trying to destroy Christmas.  It remains the most popular holiday in America.

Stores and businesses that use the phrase “happy holidays” do so because they know their customers include not only people who engage in the Christian celebration of Christmas but those who celebrate the other holidays during this season, and those who are not religious at all.  The last people on the planet who would want to destroy Christmas are those who benefit most from it — department stores, toy stores, retail chains of all kinds.  These businesses depend on Christmas!  Why would they want to do anything to alter the holiday in any way?  All they’re doing is being inclusive, trying to bring in more people.  American businesses have no interest in banishing Christianity, only in beefing up their profits.  They’re doing that by broadening their appeal with more nonspecific acknowledgments of the season, like “happy holidays” and “season’s greetings.”  If you think business in America is devoted to the Christian religion — or any religion at all — you haven’t been paying attention.  Business worships only the dollar and always has.

The anecdotes frequently cited by people like John Gibson in his 2005 book are part of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Those upset about the “war on Christmas” — who are not the majority of Americans, by the way — have become so loud and so angry that businesses and other organizations have become over-sensitive to the possibility of offending people at Christmas time, so they sometimes go too far in their efforts to be inclusive by calling Christmas trees “holiday trees” or Christmas parades “holiday parades.”  Then the Christmas warriors point to those things as examples of an evil conspiracy to wipe the baby Jesus out of the holiday — a conspiracy that does not exist.

There is no “war on Christmas.”  Right now, as you read this, Americans are just as free to celebrate the religious holidays that come at this time of year as they ever have been, all of it fully supported by the United States Supreme Court.  Lynch v. Donnelly, a 1984 Supreme Court ruling, determined that nativity scenes are allowed on public property along with the three wise men, the Christmas star, Christmas trees, snowmen, candy canes — there is no prohibition against Christianity.  Government-sponsored displays must include representations of other religions and secular symbols of holiday celebration as well because the government is constitutionally prohibited from recognizing a single religion above all others.  This is, as they say, the American way.  We are a nation of people of all faiths and no faith.  In public schools, students are allowed to hand out religious-themed holiday cards and literature.  And if they aren’t allowed to do that, guess who steps in to represent them and defend their rights?  That evil organization that so many believe to be a big player in the “war on Christmas,” the ACLU.

Sometimes, the anger expressed by so many people about the nonexistent “war on Christmas” makes school administrators and others too cautious, occasionally to the point of stepping on people’s rights.  In 2003, a group of students at Westfield High School in Massachusetts were suspended for handing out candy canes that had Christian messages attached to them.  The ACLU intervened on their behalf, filed an amicus brief and succeeded in having the suspensions revoked.  But an article by Jerry Falwell on the far-right website Newsmax.com states:

The fact is, students have the right to free speech in the form of verbal or written expression during non-instructional class time.  And yes, students have just as much right to speak on religious topics as they do on secular topics — no matter what the ACLU might propagate.

The ACLU propagates no such thing.  The ACLU has no conflict with students, or anyone else, expressing their religious beliefs — it fights to support that right!  Anyone who tells you the ACLU is anti-Christian is either misinformed or is deliberately trying to misinform you.  That accusation is repeated so often that I think it’s fair to say it is a blatant, intentional lie.  And the idea that the ACLU is one of the organizations waging a war on Christmas is ludicrous!  In 2002, the ACLU filed a brief supporting the right of the Church of the Good News to run ads criticizing the secularization of Christmas and promoting Christianity as the “one true religion” when the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority refused to post the paid advertisements and declined to sell any more ad space to the church.  I ask you — why would an organization that’s trying to abolish the Christian celebration of Christmas do that?

The organization vigorously defends the religious rights of Christians and people of all faiths in America.  Here are a few examples of that from the year 2005 alone:

Louisiana:  When Mormon prison inmate Norman Sanders was not allowed access to Mormon religious texts and services, the ACLU sued the Department of Corrections on his behalf.

New Jersey:  When second-grade student Olivia Turton was prohibited from singing the song “Awesome God” in a volunteer after-school talent show, the ACLU filed a motion to submit a friend-of-the-court brief on her behalf.

Oregon:  When students at a Seventh-day Adventist school made it to the state basketball tournament and were going to be forced to play tournament games on Saturday, their sabbath, the ACLU filed suit against the Oregon School Activities Association on their behalf

Michigan:  Joseph Hanas, a Catholic, was ordered by the court to go through a drug rehabilitation program run by a Pentecostal group that required him to read the bible seven hours a day, declare his salvation at the altar, and be tested on Pentecostal principles.  The group confiscated Hanas’s rosary and told him Catholicism was evil.  When Hanas refused to complete the program and was criminally punished, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on his behalf.

That last example points out a very important fact — sometimes America’s freedom of religion has to be defended against Christians.  That does not mean the ACLU is anti-Christian, it means the ACLU is opposed to any infringement of an American’s freedom of religion, including infringement being committed by Christians.

Just in case you’re thinking that the United States is a Christian nation and everyone should respect, if not personally observe, Christian holidays, I’d like to point out one little problem with that:  The United States is not a Christian nation and never was.  The majority of Americans are Christian, there is no doubt about that.  But that means this is a nation of Christians, not a Christian nation — there’s a big difference.  Iran, for example, is a Muslim nation because there is no line drawn between the government of Iran and the Muslim religion — that country is governed by religion.  The United States government has no religion.  It recognizes no religion but protects the rights of all religions.  Our founders were brilliant men.  They did not approach the establishment of this nation lightly.  Had they intended to establish a Christian nation, it would be abysmally negligent of them not to include that in the United States Constitution.  It would be more than negligent — it would be absurd.  They had no such intention.  The Constitution does not mention the words “god” or “Jesus Christ” and makes no reference to Christianity or the bible or the ten commandments.  The only reference to religion in the Constitution specifies no particular religion; it simply bars the government from enforcing or prohibiting the practice of any religion.

The Constitution neither requires nor prohibits any particular celebration of Christmas.  It doesn’t even mention Christmas.  In 1789, the first Christmas under the United States Constitution, Congress was in session on December 25.  Christmas did not become a federal holiday until 1870.

There was only one successful “war on Christmas” in America’s history.  It was a war fought by a group of people who were so offended by the celebration of Christmas that they banned it by law and fined anyone who was found engaging in any kind of recognition of the holiday.  For 22 years, this group succeeded in abolishing Christmas.  This, by the way, was a group of Christians.  Puritans in Massachusetts banned Christmas from 1659 to 1681 because they found no biblical support for the holiday, strongly disapproved of its pagan origins and did not like the raucous partying that took place every Christmas.  The law stated that anyone found “observing, by abstinence from labor, feasting or any other way any such days as Christmas day, shall pay for every such offense five shillings.”  From Andrew Santella’s Slate article, “The War on Christmas, the Prequel”:

After the English Restoration government reclaimed control of Massachusetts from the Puritans in the 1680s, one of the first acts of the newly appointed royal governor of the colony was to sponsor and attend Christmas religious services.   Perhaps fearing a militant Puritan backlash, for the 1686 services he was flanked by redcoats.  The Puritan disdain for the holiday endured:  As late as 1869, public-school kids in Boston could be expelled for skipping class on Christmas Day.

While the 17th-century Quakers did not resort to legislation, they rejected Christmas and refused to do anything to celebrate the holiday.  That continued into the early 19th century, when all but a few Pennsylvanians still ignored the holiday.

From Santella’s article:

Observance of Christmas, or the lack thereof, was one way to differentiate among the Christian sects of Colonial and 19th-century America.  Anglicans, Moravians, Dutch Reformed, and Lutherans, to name just a few, did; Quakers, Puritans, Separatists, Baptists, and some Presbyterians did not.  An 1855 New York Times report on Christmas services in the city noted that Baptist and Methodist churches were closed because they “do not accept the day as a holy one,” while Episcopal and Catholic churches were open and “decked with evergreens.”

We have gone from a time in our past when many Christians rejected Christmas, even to the point of making the celebration illegal, to a time when Christians are angry because people aren’t uttering the correct greeting at Christmas time.  But those Christians are angry for no reason other than the fact that some people in the media have told them they should be angry.

The “war on Christmas” is a myth.  No one is trying to abolish the Christian celebration of Christmas.  Your holiday is safe.  The fact is, it’s not your holiday — you simply celebrate it for your own religious reasons.  Like most Christian holidays, Christmas grew from pagan roots.  Long before anyone ever heard the name “Jesus Christ,” this part of the year has been a time of celebration around the world.

The Norse celebrated Yule from the winter solstice through the month of January.  Their celebration included the burning of a large log; the celebration lasted as long as that log was burning.

Germany honored the pagan god Odin at this time of year.  They feared Odin because he was said to fly through the air at night, watching everyone, and he would determine who was naughty and who was nice, then reward the nice and punish the naughty.  He was believed to lead a giant Yule hunting party through the sky, riding his flying horse, Sleipnir.  The mythology of Santa Claus owes a great deal to Odin.  According to Phyllis Siefker, author of Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of St. Nicholas, children would set out their boots filled with straw, carrots or sugar for Sleipnir to eat when he came by.  Odin would reward the children for feeding his horse by leaving them candy and gifts.  Sound familiar?

In the winter, Romans honored Saturn, the god of agriculture, with an enormous hedonistic blowout of a party that included a bounty of food and drink.  The social order was turned upside down during this festival — slaves became masters for a month, and peasants were given rule of the city.  The upper classes celebrated the birth of the god Mithra, who was believed to have been born of a rock.

Even the Christmas tree, which many mistakenly associate with Christianity today, is entirely pagan.  A common thread in all the pagan winter celebrations was the significance of plants and trees that remained green all year.  Celebrants decorated their homes with trees and hung boughs over their doors and windows.  A large evergreen was often put in the town or village square so people could dance around it in celebration.

Druid priests used mistletoe in their ceremonies because it represented the birth of a god — and that god was not Jesus Christ.  Many worshiped the sun as a god and believed that winter came because that god was ailing.  They celebrated the winter solstice because it meant the sun god would soon return, and evergreens were seen as a promise of that return.  The greenery also represented the promise that crops and orchards would soon flourish again.

Many early American Christians knew this and refused to use holly, mistletoe or other greenery in their celebration of Christmas.  Today, many Christians wrongly believe the Christmas tree is a symbol of their religion and get angry if anyone calls it anything other than a Christmas tree.

Are you beginning to see how ridiculous all of this is?

The Christian observance of Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus didn’t begin until the fourth century when Catholic church leaders decided the birth of Christ should be marked as a holiday.  With no date given in the bible for Jesus’s birth, they chose December 25 — which put Christmas smack in the middle of all the popular pagan celebrations.  This was not accidental — quite the contrary, in fact.  It served two purposes.  By attaching Christmas to the pagan holiday season, Christianity took advantage of a time of the year during which everyone was already celebrating.  Also, it allowed Christianity to absorb the pagan traditions and make them their own.  From a History.com article:

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated.  By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion.  On Christmas, believers attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today’s Mardi Gras.  Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the “lord of misrule” and eager celebrants played the part of his subjects.  The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink.  If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief.  Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined “debt” to society by entertaining less fortunate citizens.

Reread that first line.  Christian leaders popularized Christmas by choosing the pagan holiday season in which to celebrate it … “but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated.”

The “war on Christmas” is a myth that has been created and perpetuated by, among others, anti-Semitic white supremacists, religious bigots and an accused — and undenied — emotional rapist.  Frankly, I’m having trouble understanding why anyone would listen to these people, let alone take them seriously.  But they do.  If you’re one of them, ask yourself these questions:

Why is it so important to these people that you be angry?  Why are they so eager to convince you that your religion is being attacked when it isn’t, that your religious rights are being limited when they aren’t?  Why are they inventing reasons to turn people against each other in this country?

I’m sure there are multiple answers to each of those questions, and I would be lying if I claimed to know all of them.  But I can tell you this much with certainty:  As long as you’re angry about the alleged “war on Christmas,” you’re watching their TV shows, listening to their radio shows, paying for memberships on their websites and buying their books and videos and merchandise — like the just-released book about the “war on Christmas” by Sarah Palin, who launched her book tour in Bethlehem this week — and they are getting filthy rich.  To them, your anger represents dollar signs.  Another thing to consider is the target at which these Christmas warriors are aiming your anger — it is political.  If you can be convinced that your religious liberty is under attack — even if it isn’t — your political support and donations, your votes, your entire political outlook can be influenced and altered, and you can be manipulated into becoming active, making trouble for and weakening the political opponents of the people who want you to stay angry.  If you don’t like my answers, don’t stop asking yourself these questions, because they’re important.  Whatever the reason, the fact is that you are being manipulated.

On a November, 2005, broadcast of his Fox News show, Bill O’Reilly said, “Anyone offended by the words ‘merry Christmas’ has problems not even St. Nicholas could solve.”

This is probably the only time I will do it, but I agree with O’Reilly.  I have friends who are Christians, Jews, Buddhists, pagans — I even know a couple of Satanists — and plenty of friends who are atheists.  Not one of them has ever been offended by the words “merry Christmas.”  If anything, it’s a greeting that makes them smile.  Were I to encounter someone who was offended by “merry Christmas,” believe me, I’m the kind of person who would not hesitate to tell them to lighten the hell up.  Anyone offended by “merry Christmas” has a serious problem more closely related to their emotional and mental state than to the holiday.  There is something wrong with them.  But you know what?  I feel exactly the same way about anyone who’s offended by the words “happy holidays.”

The only people I know who are ever offended at Christmas time are Christians who get angry whenever they hear or see the words “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings.”  The angriest people I know at Christmas time are not people who are being prohibited from celebrating the holiday as they choose — they are people who are trying to prohibit others from celebrating the holidays in ways they claim to find offensive.  If you are one of those people, I have a question.  Is your religious faith so weak that you need everyone around you to keep it alive with words of agreement?  If so, the problem lies not with others but with you.  And if you’re so angered by the simple, pleasant greeting of “happy holidays,” I have another question.  It’s a question I ask with no ill intent.  I don’t mean to offend or insult, I simply want to understand.  The question is this:

What is wrong with you?

About Ray Garton

I am the author of more than 60 books, including the horror novels LIVE GIRLS, CRUCIFAX, LOT LIZARDS and THE LOVELIEST DEAD, and the thrillers SEX AND VIOLENCE IN HOLLYWOOD, MURDER WAS MY ALIBI, TRADE SECRETS, TRAILER PARK NOIR, and my newest thriller, MEDS Please visit my website for more information: http://www.raygartononline.com
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98 Responses to An Open Letter To Christians: Merry Christmas From An Atheist

  1. Stardust says:

    Outstanding post, Ray. Excellent. I hope this is being published somewhere for many, many people to read. The examples you included about the ACLU defending religious people’s rights shows that they are an organization which upholds the rights and freedoms of all people. This imaginary war on Christmas has to stop. It’s a news media invention, perpetuated by news media morons who just want to bring more attention to themselves and viewership.

    I too love the decorations, the lights…everything looks so pretty and “magical”. It’s a time of year, no matter how things are going in your life, there is something pretty to make you smile, to reminisce about days gone by. It’s about getting together with family and friends and enjoying each others’ company with good food and drink. And if we get some of the white stuff, that’s an added bonus. :-)

    Merry christmas, Ray.

  2. Ray Garton says:

    Thank you, Stardust. And merry Christmas!

  3. Wonderfully-written and well-researched! You make so many of the points I try to make (not nearly as eloquently or organized) all the time. Now I can just send people to read your blog instead. ;-)
    Merry Christmas, Ray! And Happy New Year, too.

  4. John Kennedy says:

    For the most part, I agree with you. My only problem with saying “Merry Christmas” however is that if I say “Happy Thanksgiving” two weeks before the actual day, people would look at me strange. And with good reason.

    If someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas” my automatic response is “You too” no matter what kind of day I’m having. I do hate the music, and the fact that I can’t walk into any store without being assailed with Christmas, but the greeting from a stranger will put a smile on my face most every time.

  5. Margie Redmon says:

    I totally agree with you, Ray! I am not a “Christian” in the sense of believing that Jesus was the incarnation of God, but I do agree with most of his opinions, as expressed in the “Gospels” (NOT the letters written by Paul.) I believe that he would be squarely in your camp, were he alive today. He was about peace, and he hung out with the poor, the marginalized and persecuted of his time. He rejected the “publicly pious” (pharisees, etc). Personally, if he IS watching the radical descendants of early Christianity, he is undoubtedly appalled!

  6. Well researched Ray. I grew up with out Christmas, thereby making me an automatic bad opinion on the entire subject matter as Christmas simply does not matter to me. It’s neat to have days off work, give gifts, but that’s as far as I go. I should start putting a tree up for the kiddo, I suppose. It’s just a very popular day that means so much to so many people. These idiots need to get over it and stop being offended by every thing that doesn’t agree with their strict teachings. I’m sick of being stereotyped as someone who does not care. I’d think an Atheist is even better. After, we’re not being nice just to get a golden key into Heaven.

  7. Wonderful! Loved the history. Everyone should send this to a christian.

  8. hogarm says:

    As I look up and down my middle class neighborhood, I see most (but not all) houses with some sort of decoration. White lights are big this year. As this is a young neighborhood with lots and lots of kids, inflatable Santa Clauses are also big. Out of the 50 or so houses in this neighborhood, there is one (1) plastic Jesus. If Jesus ever was in Christmas he is long, long gone.
    We pagans have been celebrating the mid-winter solstice for tens of thousands of years before the mythical birth of Jesus. Stonehenge is probably the most famous of my peoples’ marking of the mid-winter solstice. It seems to be innate in humans to engage in celebration every once and a while, and what could be more celebratory than the return of the sun, and the hope of the fertility equinox.
    The Christians have been been vilifying our celebration from before they decided their Christ-god was born on the same day as our sun-god.
    Note Jer. 10:1-5.
    “ Do not learn the way of the Gentiles;
    Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven,
    For the Gentiles are dismayed at them.
    For the customs of the peoples are futile;
    For one cuts a tree from the forest,
    The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.
    They decorate it with silver and gold;
    They fasten it with nails and hammers
    So that it will not topple.
    They are upright, like a palm tree,
    And they cannot speak;
    They must be carried,
    Because they cannot go by themselves.
    Do not be afraid of them,
    For they cannot do evil,
    Nor can they do any good.”
    Sounds to me like any Christian with a tree in his house is going to go to hell.

  9. Bob Mason says:

    Thank you, Ray. Nicely done.

    Ironically, just before reading this, I left a comment on someone else’s post about the irony of Christians decrying both the commericialism of the season and the failure of the commercializers to attach the name of Christ to it. I pointed out that, by failing to attach His name to it, they may be inadvertantly avoiding using His name “in vain,” as proscribed by the 3rd commandment.

    I must conclude that a lot of people are simply energized by being mad. Unfortunately, they affect everyone else–at least to the extent that we let them.

    Again, thanks for your good commentary and information.

  10. Marlene Dufresne says:

    Calling myself a Christian means to me an honest endeavour to live according to the teachings of Jesus as I understand them. I have never thought my beliefs should be forced upon another, nor do I understand why certain people who call themselves Christian would think that other faiths are to be disrespected. But I do now find this current trend of painting all Christians with the same brush extremely disturbing.

    The celebration of Christmas is a personal choice. There has always been Jesus in my Christmas, the celebration of His birth is first and foremost in my mind. While my faith decries the commercialism at this time of year, there is no judgment to be forthcoming for those who celebrate in that way. Everyone finds his or her peace in their own way and this is as it should be.

    As for “Happy Holidays” – this seems to be the politically correct greeting, not wishing to offend any other faith. My “Merry Christmas” to one and all is not meant to offend anyone, but to convey my own personal joy at the birth of the baby Jesus. Period.

    Margie Redmon said: Personally, if he IS watching the radical descendants of early Christianity, he is undoubtedly appalled! – I couldn’t have said it better~

  11. Ray Garton says:

    Karen — Thank you so much for your help in researching this article! I couldn’t have done it without you!

  12. Ray Garton says:

    Bob — Excellent point.

  13. Ray Garton says:

    Marlene — There are a few reasons Christians tend to be painted with the same brush. One is practicality. There’s not always time or space to qualify which Christians one is talking about every time one talks about them, so it becomes the reader’s or listener’s responsibility to look at the context and figure that out. Another is that when I see Christians on TV or hear them on the radio talking about atheists, they don’t say only *some* atheists are angry and immoral, they say all are; they don’t say only *some* homosexuals are promiscuous and immoral, they say all are; they don’t say *some* liberals are godless Marxists who hate America, they say all are. Sometimes chickens come home to roost. But the most important reason, I think, is that the only Christians we hear from are the hateful, angry, bigoted, arrogant ones. While there are plenty of reasonable Christians out there, none are mounting a public forum and criticizing those Christians who hate everything that isn’t exactly like them. Instead, the reasonable Christians say and do nothing to push back at the hateful troublemakers in their ranks. Then when someone criticizes the hateful troublemakers, the reasonable Christians get upset that they might be perceived to be in that group. It’s a losing battle, so I, for one, don’t fight it. When reasonable Christians finally stand up and try to take the reins of their religion out of the hands of hateful theocrats and bigots, then maybe things will change.

    As for “happy holidays” — no, it is not used because it is “politically correct.” People have been saying “happy holidays” long before the term “politically correct” was coined. “Happy holidays” is and always has been a perfectly acceptable and reasonable holiday greeting. I, for one, never worry about offending anyone when I say “happy holidays” or “merry Christmas” because it simply never happens — unless I’m dealing with a Christian who’s angry about the nonexistent “war on Christmas” and immediately pegs me as someone who’s out to destroy their religion because I said “happy holidays.” That is the only time it happens. Ever. And when it happens, I don’t worry about it. I just laugh and shake my head and feel bad that someone would go that far out of their way to find something to be angry about.

  14. Bravo, Ray! Awesome job – I’m sharing it with everybody!
    -DF

  15. Bob Mason says:

    Oh, Ray, and everyone else. I forgot. MERRY CHRISTMAS! Quite sincerely. I hope that you all have great joy in all your celebrations. And Ray, thank you for pointing out that Happy Holidays does indeed reference the sacred.

  16. Ray Garton says:

    Hogarm — Thank you for posting that passage from the bible! I wasn’t familiar with that one.

    Bob — Merry Christmas to you and your family, too!

  17. ScottDogg says:

    Ray, excellent post. My favourite part is near the end, including this:

    On a November, 2005, broadcast of his Fox News show, Bill O’Reilly said, “Anyone offended by the words ‘merry Christmas’ has problems not even St. Nicholas could solve.”This is probably the only time I will do it, but I agree with O’Reilly….But you know what? I feel exactly the same way about anyone who’s offended by the words “happy holidays.”

    I’m certainly loath to push my political correctness (or incorrectness) on other people. I also prefer if people would treat me the same way. Which isn’t to say that they don’t have a right to do so; I would actually defend that right, but that still doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t bother me.

    I’m not Jewish, but if someone waved to me and said “Happy Hanukkah!” I wouldn’t be offended, I’d just smile and return the greeting. The fact that they are wishing me well is all that matters to me. The people who are saying “Merry Christmas, but on condition that you are one of us” are the ones being divisive. For the rest of us (festivus?) the holiday is about inclusiveness, togetherness, love, generosity and other positive things.

    And then there’s Ann Coulter, who considers the greeting to be a term of abuse to anyone who is not Christian:

    “Oh, it was so much fun this year, because saying ‘Merry Christmas’ is like saying ‘Fuck you!’ I’ve said it to everyone. You know, cab drivers, passing people on the street, whatever. And they come up with the ‘Happy holidays.’”‘Merry Christmas.’ I mean, it really is an aggressive act in New York.”

  18. Ray Garton says:

    David — Thank you! I appreciate that.

    I’d like to introduce everyone to my friend David Fitzgerald. If you haven’t read his new book, NAILED: TEN CHRISTIAN MYTHS THAT SHOW JESUS NEVER EXISTED AT ALL, you should remedy that soon. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year!

  19. Thanks for your excellent research, common sense, righteous anger and genuine good will to all people (except the warmongers!)

  20. John Small Berries says:

    Excellent and thorough post. I actually learned quite a bit (I never had much experience with the John Birch Society).

    About the only thing you missed was the ridiculous umbrage taken at the use of “Xmas” – a Christian abbreviation for “Christmas” in use since at least 1753, but now characterized as an attempt to “take Christ out of Christmas”. (It was preceded by “X’temmas” as early as 1551, and “Χρes. mæssan” from around 1100 – just a few of the numerous examples, dating back to the earliest days of Christianity, in which the Greek letter chi, the first letter of Χριστος, was used as the abbreviation for “Christ”.)

    Not quite sure how well it works to defend against the charge that atheists sodomize house pets by saying you’re a “passionate lover of animals”, though…

  21. Ray, thanks for the tour de force review of the history of Christmas and of the bashing of those who would make it more inclusive. In keeping with your amazement that anyone would listen to Bill O’Reilly, I’m frankly amazed at why anyone would listen to, much less admire and applaud a woman who brazenly admits that “Merry Christmas” is her way of saying “Fuck you,” to everyone she meets, apparently in the hope that her blunderbuss approach will wound at least one or two non-Christians, and that the Christians she has just said “fuck you” to can think she’s being nice. Sounds like a no-lose proposition––until she openly admits what she’s doing!? I sometimes feel we’ve entered the Age of Truculence. Your whole blog was spot on, and never more so than when you invite people to ask themselves why people like O’Reilly and Coulter want them to be angry. That is the $64,000 question (if I may date myself), and the answer could not be more important. Thanks for another great blog that not only informs, but urges us all to think.

  22. Esperanza says:

    Wonderfully written and researched. You *know* it’s good when people take the time to read more than the first three paragraphs;-) Your post has gone somewhat viral among my Facebook friends. The response is overwhelmingly positive. Even my Christian friends, so far, agree wholeheartedly.

    I truly appreciate a finely-crafted piece of writing. Merry Christmas!

  23. ChrisB says:

    “The examples you included about the ACLU defending religious people’s rights shows that they are an organization which upholds the rights and freedoms of all people.”

    This is important. I have friends who insist that the ACLU is anti-religious, and anti-Christian specifically. They are wrong, of course, and it helps to have examples. Here is a site that aggregates various news stories that support this idea:

    http://www.aclufightsforchristians.com/

  24. CoyoteLovely says:

    Thanks for this post! I happen to be a Pagan, who celebrates Christmas as a way to give gifts to my friends and family, spend entirely too much money on dresses I’ll never wear again, and enjoy excellent food, and the complete destruction of my diet for a month.

    I live with two Atheists, and our house is all decked out in red and green, with colored wrapping paper, and snowflakes hanging from the chandelier.

    We have friends who believe in only putting up “Winter” decorations, they don’t want a tree, and everything has to have that precision matching going for it… Personally, I think our way is more fun. And if two Atheists and a Pagan can have a damn good time wising everyone Merry Christmas, and stringing lights on a tree, then I think the holiday is alive and well… though perhaps not as Jesus filled as some would wish!!

  25. Kaessa says:

    Outstanding post. So much that I have been trying to put into words, all said so well. Great job. :)

  26. Mitch Trigger says:

    Ray, I’m a Christian pastor and I REALLY appreciated your article – great background and yes, many religions have holidays near the winter solstice. ALL of them should be able to celebrate without being threatened by Christians for “trying to infringe on their holiday.” And I find myself being able to live with the idea that many people (like yourself) celebrate Christmas, show compassion to those in need, and are able to feel that “Christmas magic.” Jesus did, after all, tell his disciples, “Whoever is not against us, is for us.”

  27. Ryan W. says:

    Jesus did, after all, tell his disciples, “Whoever is not against us, is for us.”

    Probably not. Which, per 2 John 1:7, makes me (and the rest who question whether Jesus lived at all) an antichrist.

    Love in X.

  28. Pingback: Mommy, why is there a War on Christmas? | winghamatheist

  29. michaeledits says:

    This is truly excellent. Accurate, very well written, and totally without animosity. Definitely more mature than my blogging.

    Back in the early or mid 1980s, when I was hanging with Madelyn Murray-O’Hair’s bunch, we postured as Christmas haters just to get our names in the paper. Then I went home and celebrated Christmas bigger than anybody else I know.

  30. Matticus says:

    This is a very well written post, and very informative. Thank you so much!

  31. Tim Richards says:

    Thank you for shining the light on the historical basis for the christmas holiday. As a gay man who has been “married” for 35 years to my partner and has been bullied and beat up by so called christians, we celebrate the holidays and love them as you do. I particularly enjoy the giving aspect even though it begs the question of why we don’t give all year long if it feels so good. We live in the bible belt and face discrimination all year long by christians that don’t walk the talk of Jesus. It was refreshing to read your account and know that our non-religious celebration is really a celebration of life and a time to share joy with others.

  32. epukane says:

    Great post!

    When I tell someone “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”, it’s the merry and happy part that’s important. I’m wishing them happiness and joy. What kind of a miserable specimen do you have to be to take offense at someone wishing you good things?

  33. Outstanding. Thank you so much. I really love Christmas too and for reasons some of them mirroring yours and some of them entirely different and isn’t that the greatest thing?

    I’m directing all of my aquaintances with Jesus Warrior issues to this article. It is well written and kind, thank you.

  34. Joanna says:

    Fabulous! I’m an atheist and am, frankly, exhausted of Christians thinking that their existence is the only way to exist. I had one recently try to convince me that, because homosexuality is a sin, we should not have any television programming featuring homosexuals. When I reminded him that I am an atheist and don’t share his opinion about homosexuals, he insisted that, by allowing this type of programming on TV, I and the rest of America were attacking his beliefs. I say that the solution is easy: If you’re against homosexuality, don’t be gay. Otherwise, it doesn’t affect you or your beliefs. I wish I could be as cool and collected as you were in this article to address that nonsense, but I end up just ending the conversation and usually any ties with people who come from this perspective. I WANT people to be able to believe what they believe, but I don’t want their beliefs to affect me or my life. Last I checked, we were all supposed to be equal and free.

  35. The PAinful Truth says:

    Thank you for that Ray. I liked it so much I linked to it!

    In the religious cult I once belonged, they DID wage war on Christmas! Calling it pagan and an abomination to God, they rant and rave against it unto this very day. One thing these cults never tell their so called Christian members, is the source of their biblical “feast days.

    These days mentioned in Leviticus 23 were based on the earlier Canaanite agriculture festivals which were adapted and reintroduced as commemoration of their gods great and mighty saving acts. They are indeed pagan, unbeknown to those members who credit the source of these events to their god.

  36. nonny says:

    i love christmas….

  37. Shira says:

    I was raised Jewish and am now both a secular Jew and a practicing pagan. Like you, Ray, I do my best to be considerate and respectful, and to show courtesy to all regardless of faith (or lack thereof). My Christian boyfriend has commented that this makes me an excellent representative of Christ on Earth – better than many Christians he knows, including some Christian clergy.

    Merry Christmas to all.

  38. Tommykey says:

    Look at Al Franken, one day he’s going to get a knock on his door and his life as he’s known it will change forever. That day will happen, trust me.

    Yes, it did, but not the way Bill-O was hoping. When Al answered the knock on the door, he was greeted by someone who said “Congratulations, Senator Franken.”

  39. Chris Eaton says:

    Ray,

    I am a Christian,I was raised as in a conservative fundamental evangelistic Baptist household, something I have grown oh-so-very tired of in my church is the constant reactionary fear that seems to be so popular. “They are trying to take the Christ out of Christmas”, “The new hate crime law means you can no longer preach against homosexuality”, “Obama is a Muslim” etc…ad infinitum, It amounts up to paranoia, and anger due to the fact that the word is not what they want it to be, and for the most part these are good, but uninformed people. Then, when I express my views, which, even though they pretty much match yours, are still based on a love of God and an earnest attempt to live the teachings of Christ, I hear things like “You’ve let college ruin you” etc… I can’t understand living a life where I always think that my faith in under attack, or that it matters what religion the president follows. Just want you to know that there are very strong Christians out there who are in agreement with your article here. Keep bearing the standard of the truth!

    Chris

  40. A Bear says:

    Great article!And a Satisfactory Saturnalia to all!

  41. Tzipporah says:

    “But ultimately, everyone I know enjoys the holiday and if asked seriously, I doubt they would change a thing.”

    Then you must not know any Jews.

    We’re certainly not out to make a “War on Christmas,” (your freedom is my freedom, etc.), but there are plenty of us who hate the holiday *as forced on all of us in every f-ing store display and musical selection for 6+weeks every year*.

    As a practicing Jew, I really prefer that people say “Merry Christmas” if that’s what they mean. When someone says “Happy Holidays,” I know for sure that they don’t have any idea what holidays there are besides Christmas. Otherwise, why would they limit that greeting to the Christmas season? Why don’t they say “Happy Holidays” in the spring or early fall, knowing that Jews are celebrating their truly significant holidays then (Purim, Passover, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, etc.). Why don’t they say “Happy Holidays” in the late fall, when Hindus are celebrating Diwali? Or in late winter, for Chinese New Year?

    I like Christmas lights. I like Christmas music. What I don’t like is the assumption that everyone does or should celebrate Christmas. Either it’s truly a secular holiday, in which case get rid of the baby J talk and make it all about happy old fat men in red suits, or it’s a religious holiday, in which case, recognize that there are plenty of other religions out there, this is NOT a universal holiday, and you shouldn’t expect any special accommodation for it (National holiday anyone) any more than you’d expect to give for Eid, Mahashivaratri, Samhain, Lughnasa, Shavuot, Confucious’ birthday, etc. etc. etc.

  42. Slojo Coma says:

    I like to wish everybody I see, “Happy Festivus!” And inquire about their greatest feat of strength.

  43. Ray Garton says:

    Chris — Thank you for commenting. I know there are plenty of reasonable Christians like you out there. I hope you won’t let the negative response you get from your fellow Christians keep you from speaking up. We desperately need more people like you to push back at this growing attitude of intolerance and exclusivity that I think is doing real damage in our country. As the old saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and people with this attitude are a very squeaky wheel. It’s extremely important that more Christians like you respond openly and sensibly for two reasons: To show others that not all Christians are so angry and defensive, and to show the angry and defensive Christians that they are not doing themselves or their religion any favors by expressing that attitude.

  44. ChuckA says:

    For this atheist, and recovered ex-alcohol drinker (as of May 5, 1986), Christmas (or if you prefer, “Yuletide”?) was more a reminder that, what was rather magical as child, would…as the years past…never be the same as an adult…EVER.
    In fact, of ALL the holidays, Christmas became much more about being a yearly reminder of…as the old favorite “Christmas Carol” story goes…the ‘Ghost of Christmases past’…i.e…a whole lot of accumulated guilt. Guilt, for example, about things instilled from childhood RE the whole, lying, Christian Myth…the effects of which, incidentally, like it or not, remain, like old recording tapes, in one’s “unconcious” for a whole lifetime; even if rather diminished for anyone, like myself, who has totally abandoned ALL religions as an ever evolving “agnostic atheist”.
    My point?…
    For this completely sober atheist, at 71, I have absolutely no problem with people celebrating (preferably sober?) ANY holiday at ANY time of the year. It’s just that THIS particular holiday, possibly more than any other (even Easter?), has been hyped WAY, WAY, out of proportion to any actual supposed “Truth” RE the whole bunch of longtime associated Myths. Obviously…and no mystery, of course…a humongous amount of money is involved in getting people to go absolutely nuts about whatever they THINK the celebration is purportedly about. The totally bullshit “War on Christmas”, of course, comes up…inevitably…every fucking year; with the same old endless arguments. On that note (a pitch-less thud?), I frequent, and occasionally comment on Austin Cline’s atheist Site, on which he posts, EVERY year, “War on Xmas” repeats from several years past; which kind of serve as a reminder of the old:
    “The more things change, the more they remain the same”…?
    OK…enough of my shtick.
    For “something (NOT really) completely different”; but tangentially, I think, interesting, RE the whole, IMO, ridiculous Jesus myth…as in:
    “Did the Gospel Jesus ever really exist at all?” [My quick answer? NO!]…
    Check out (the always controversial) Acharya S [aka D.M. Murdock] RE:
    “Were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson Jesus Mythicists?”:
    http://truthbeknown.com/washington-jefferson-mythicists.html

    Oh yeah…before I totally forget, and/or it’s too late here on AO…
    “Happy Whateva!”
    In other woids…
    Everybody have a fucking great time over the next couple of weeks. AND…
    All the Best in what’s apparently ‘rapidly revving up’ to be a rather extremely “weird-ass” 2011!
    [What!...cue Betty Davis?: "Fasten your seat-belts...yada, yada!"] :shock: ?…or… :) ? Or maybe: :twisted:
    Your choice?
    [Personally, "as is my wont", I think I prefer the last one...?]

  45. Sandman says:

    Well, I have to say a big thanks and a very Merry Christmas there mate.

    Came across this blog for the first time today (via the Cuulture Wars blog) and its made my breakfast mocha fly by. Wow…Im amused, educated and glad heartened by the article and comments from “real” Christians in the comments section which show that not all you US men of faith are dumbass buckle hats.

    I know you guys love that free speech thing, but really you need to stick the choke chain on Beck et al….its getting waaaaay out of kilter. I cant see the fathers drafting that free speech clause with hate riddled bigotry and rabble rousing in mind. Theres a difference between free speech and hate speech.

    Your stuff is well researched, well written and poetic mate, and a hearty big thanks from an atheist ex-pat Brit 6500 miles away! Hammer on you wordsmith and make that anvil ring.

    Ill be a regular reader from now on.

    Cant wait to call home and explain to mum where the stocking thing & santa in the sky started ;-) She’ll love it!

    Happy whatever guys, just have a good un and spread a load of love around.

  46. stargazer says:

    Great post! I’m glad to find out that I am not alone in questioning the whole concept of a war on Christmas. Their constant harping on the ACLU is annoying also. I like many of the other commenters hope this is posted all over the net!

  47. brambonius says:

    wow…

    As a belgian Christian (a postmodern evangelical in an ex-catholic country) I am amazed at Americans conservatives all the time. Your article is great, well-researched and very interesting… thanks

    happy commercial winter season

    Bram

  48. Great analysis. As a 76-year old escapee from the Armstrong cult who has struggled for sanity ever since 1974, I really appreciate your well thought out and presented summary of the facts. I am now a confirmed agnostic atheist who tries to take a balanced view toward the world, its customs, etc. We enjoyed our Lion’s Club xmas party last night simply as an expression of camaraderie and good will. It took me a long time to drop the habit of militancy toward beliefs and practices other than my own that permeates so much of religion and non-religion. It just doesn’t matter. All it does is divide us into warring camps.

  49. Steve Schlicht says:

    Wonderfully done, Ray.

    I am also a big fan of Halloween and Easter and Mardi Gras…completely without having to believe in ghosts and goblins, magic bunnies carrying colored eggs or ancient wine swilling party gods.

    Have a great Friday, praise be to the fertile Frigg, and a very Merry Christmas!

  50. Kim says:

    What a wonderful piece. I don’t mean to be prickly- I really admire the positive tone of this article and don’t wish to diminish it- but the so-called War on Christmas is just more noise from people who can’t admit that what they are really lamenting isn’t an attack on their beliefs/ practices/ cultural identity/ whatever, but a denuding of privileges and advantages, a exclusivity they have long enjoyed and to which they have a deeply-seated feeling of entitlement. Hence, they perceive inclusiveness as a personal affront to their own superiority complex. I don’t say that to be abrasive but because I think it’s the honest-to-goodness truth, and the sooner it is widely understood and acknowledged, the sooner we can hope to end these destructive, pointless “culture wars” and start living life in some semblance of peace and embracing a brotherhood of humanity.

  51. The Village Heathen says:

    Some christians won’t even allow themselves to enjoy their holiday because they’re too busy screaming at people for calling it by the wrong name.

    Happy Solstice
    Happy Hanukkah
    Happy Kwanzaa
    And a Merry Fucking Christmas

  52. Ray Garton says:

    Kim — You’re not being prickly at all. You have pinpointed precisely what is at the root of all this. In fact, I couldn’t have put it better myself. I chose not to address that in my article because my purpose was simply to point out that the war doesn’t exist. I’m going to be addressing your point in a later article, because it goes far beyond the “war on Christmas.” It’s at the heart of the “culture war” that is being fought only by one side. This is no more evident than in the issue of bullying in public schools. Christian organizations are opposed to anti-bullying programs because an element in all of those programs is to point out that gay teenagers deserve the same rights and respect as everyone else at school — and they don’t like that. They aren’t even subtle about it. They come right out and say they don’t want their children to be taught that homosexuality is acceptable because it contradicts what THEY are teaching their children at home. When someone identifies that as bigotry, they are honestly perplexed. “It’s not bigotry, it’s my religious belief!” they say. And because it’s a religious belief, they think it cannot possibly be bigotry. Their perception is that the school is attacking their religious belief by teaching their children something they don’t agree with — the idea that homosexuals are human beings deserving of all the rights and respect everyone else has. The bigotry of their religious belief has been institutionalized in our country for so long that, to them, it’s just the American Way. This happened with slavery, with civil rights, with women’s rights, and now it’s happening with gay rights. Once again, as it always is, religion is an obstacle to progress, freedom, equality and the pursuit of happiness. We got past it with slavery, civil rights, and women’s rights, and we’ll get past it with gay rights. But then it’ll be something else. As Sonny and Cher once pointed out so eloquently, and the beat goes on.

  53. kuri says:

    “According to O’Reilly, saying “happy holidays” will lead to the “legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage,” and will wipe Christianity off the map in America.”

    Wow. I’m going to start saying “Happy Holidays” more often.

  54. Right on. The problem they’re having is that Christianity and its view of things isn’t viewed as the only acceptable and “American” way. Any contrary opinion or practice is viewed as warfare against them because they have a warlike attitude themselves. That attitude has become ingrained so deeply that I’ve had to guard against it hijacking my present approach and mindseet to the point that I go to war against religion.

  55. Eric Hetvile says:

    I loved this, Ray. Truly brilliant.

  56. Ani Sharmin says:

    This is great! You make lots of excellent points, especially the part about the roots of the War on Christmas and the part about some Christians being against Christmas. I look forward to reading more of your entries!

    @Kim: I think you’re right. It’s really just that they have grown accustomed to getting special treatment, so they think that equal treatment is discrimination against them.

  57. Baby Eater says:

    TL; DR

    “There seem to be a lot of people who think an atheist is an angry, immoral person who eats babies and sodomizes house pets, and that simply isn’t the case. I just turned 48 years old and I’ve been with my wife for 22 wonderful monogamous years. I am a passionate lover of animals, especially cats and dogs. ”

    I noticed that you didn’t confirm that you don’t eat babies.

  58. In that same vein, last night as I enjoyed the roast turkey dinner and camaraderie of our Lion’s Club in the hall of the United Methodist Church, I commented to my wife that it was thanks to organizations such as theirs that nice halls like theirs are so readily available for community use. We were furnished a wonderful meal and good service for a reasonable amount in a very pleasant setting. Religion, as such, didn’t enter into it. In fact, the Lion’s Club discourages discussion of religion and politics because those subjects tend to introduce division.

  59. Ray Garton says:

    Allen — Thanks for commenting. Actually, religion doesn’t have to enter into anything. It seems I end up talking about religion with people far more often than I would prefer, but I never ever bring it up. They do. When I was growing up, religion and politics were not considered acceptable topics of conversation for the very reason you point out. But that seems to have changed. People now seem to feel it’s important that you know they’re Christians and they’re offended by something. Well, welcome to the world. Something offends me every day. I simply ignore it. In fact, I rather enjoy living in the kind of free society in which offensive things are out in the open — I can ignore them and move on because it means that I, too, have the freedom to say and do things that others find offensive, and I expect the same response from them … although I seldom get it. I’ve always seen spirituality as a personal thing. When I was about 17 — about the time I began to speak my mind about things — the mother of a schoolmate of mine (I attended Seventh-day Adventist schools from grade one into my freshman year in college) walked up to me and said — without the benefit of any conventional greeting like “hello” or “how are you” — “How’s your walk with Jesus, Ray?” I immediately said, “How’s your sex life, Gloria?” She stammered and stuttered and expressed her outrage. I calmly pointed out to her that my spiritual life was as personal as her sex life, but if she was comfortable asking me about one, I was comfortable asking her about the other. She stomped away and didn’t speak to me again for 30 years — until March of this year at my father’s funeral. She walked up to me, took my hand and said, “He’s not really dead, Ray, you can take comfort in that.” I said, “No, Gloria, he’s dead. They put him in a casket. They don’t do that unless you’re dead.” Once again, she stomped away, offended. I don’t expect any further exchanges as she is in her mid-80s and most likely won’t be around in another 30 years.

    I have a policy — I won’t bring up religion because it’s never a comfortable topic of conversation, but if somebody else brings it up first, especially if it’s in a presumptuous way that assumes I share his or her religious belief, all bets are off. And also, if a full-grown adult says something to me that is appallingly stupid, I reserve the right to ridicule it.

  60. Nebby says:

    This is the first time I have heard anything from an atheist who is not completely condescending, bigoted and entirely superior in attitude. I have to give you an A+ for [i]trying[/i] to not be all these things to people who would be silly enough to believe in Jesus, but you get a C for execution. It is apparent that your impetus is a large part political and not 100% about happy/merry whatever.

    You obviously don’t like being “painted with the same brush” as the fanatical atheists who do actually say some pretty rude things to Christians about Christmas and believing in general, but when Marlene mentioned “painting all Christians with the same brush”, your response was that it was just “practicality” and I was shocked that you would even try to use the [i][b]well, they started it[/b][/i] excuse!

    You urge unfanatical Christians to speak up and speak out against the crazy Christians, but not once do you urge unfanatical atheists to speak out against crazy atheists. You have pointed out all the nasty things that hateful Christians do and say, but not once mention all the nasty things hateful atheists do. You know, there’s that goose/gander thing that never really goes away.

    You had me in the beginning, but lost me somewhere around Bill O’Reilley (wow, that was random). It’s obvious you are not really tolerant of Christians because they have not taken it upon themselves to snuff out the Christian lunatics and conservative political pundits. Disappointing to say the least.

  61. Ray Garton says:

    Nebby — The topic of my article was Christians and Christmas, not atheists. You want this article to be something it isn’t. But it’s pretty clear from your attitude and your smartass tone that you wouldn’t be happy with it in any case. Like so many Christians, I don’t think you’re upset about the behavior of atheists so much as the existence of atheists. You, Nebby, are a perfect example of the problem. I would wish you a merry Christmas, but I don’t think it would matter because I get the feeling that you’re a pretty unhappy person who takes that unhappiness out on the world. Please do not take it out on this blog.

  62. Red Rotor says:

    I feel compelled to point out that those “Christians” who are angry and lashing out at others for not being “Christian enough” are themselves barely able to be considered as people following the teachings of Christ.

    One of the many burdens of being a Christian is bearing the weights hung upon us by those who call themselves the same but haven’t any intention of really being one.

    God bless you and Merry Christmas, brother.

  63. Noreen says:

    I really enjoyed your article. It is very rational and well written. I have to admit, although I am a little scared to do it on here, that sometimes I do hate the phrase “Merry Christmas” because of how uncomfortable it can make me feel. As a Muslim born and raised in the US, I had to color many a paper Christmas tree, bring in wrapped presents for classmates and teachers, and basically lie about all the stuff I didn’t get for Christmas as a child. Which was hard to do in the town I grew up in, but hey, I got over it. But, to this day, Christmas affects my life, in that, as a non-Christian, I am assumed by my Christian colleagues to be eager to take call on Christmas – but Eid rolls around and all I hear is “Well, that’s not a national holiday…so don’t expect to be off.” I am expected to donate money to the “Christmas fund” so that all the nurses and staff in the hospital receive coffee and cookies on their floor. Maybe I should just smile and do it. But I just can’t be that tolerant. This year, it came to about 440 dollars each. So, for the fourth year in a row, I had to deal with the uncomfortable conversation with the boss explaining why a Muslim would not want to fund the Christmas gifts, or purchase a wreath hand-crafted by his wife, or donate money to whatever Christian charity the group has chosen. So, occasionally, when wished a “Merry Christmas” I respond “Eid Mubarak!” More often, I reply “Happy Holidays.”

  64. Ray, that was brilliant and hilarious. My wife and I had a great laugh. I see our backgrounds have similarities, since you were brought up Adventist and I was sucked into Armstrong’s cult at age 18. They go back to the same origins. Thanks again for your great article.

  65. Rich says:

    It’s pretty simple. While the conservatives bitch about “the war on christmas” they use the bullshit to make headlines and take up the time of people that might be more involved in their war on us.

    Us. The people that care about others. Us. The people that care if the 911 bill passes. The people that care about true health care. Us, the people who care about starvation and disease in places that we don’t live in.

    It’s called a smoke screen. It’s called counter-intelligence. And indeed it is.

    It is counter-intelligent. We can’t be allowed to think, to be smart. Why do you think that the first thing that Republicans and Conservatives cut from a budget is school funding? The USA is one of the most stupid countries in the world. And this plays into a simple thing.

    Follow:

    I will only live so long. I don’t care about the future. If I keep the assholes in check I can be rich. When I die I don’t care what happens. As long as I have power, NOW.

    And maybe my children will have money and power. But honestly I don’t care. When I’m dead, I’m worm food. I’ll talk the talk about god and the afterlife if it will give me more power and money. As long as it keeps the rest of the assholes down. And I’ll take what I want from them. Because I’m smart and rich. And I don’t want anyone to be smarter than me.

    The money and stuff is mine.

    The rest of you can suck a gas pipe.

  66. Stardust says:

    One of the many burdens of being a Christian is bearing the weights hung upon us by those who call themselves the same but haven’t any intention of really being one.

    This is the thing about religion, it causes so many unnecessary burdens. No two people are going to behave the same way, no two people are not going to interpret what it is to be a Christian the same way. It’s all what a person wants to believe. Whether you believe in a god or not, a person can be good or bad, indifferent,or caring. It’s all comes down to what kind of person you are.

    God bless you and Merry Christmas, brother.

    While I do not mind the phrase “Merry Christmas”, I do have a problem with people saying “God Bless You” to me when they know that I am a non-believer and feel that the God Bless IS an attempt at an imposition of someone’s religious beliefs into my life.

  67. Ray Garton says:

    Red Rotor wrote: “One of the many burdens of being a Christian … ”

    Yes, I found being a Christian to be a miserable experience, too. You don’t have to be one, you know.

    Red Rotor wrote: ” … is bearing the weights hung upon us by those who call themselves the same but haven’t any intention of really being one.”

    Your post describes virtually every Christian I’ve ever known. But it sounds like you’re quite sure, Red Rotor, that you’re NOT one of those Christians and that you’ve got it right. That ALSO describes virtually every Christian I’ve ever known.

  68. Ray Garton says:

    Rich — Brilliant post. I’d vote for you for president.

  69. Sarah says:

    Hello, this is my first visit to this blog. What an excellent article to start with! I came via a Facebook link.

    Count me in as another individual who celebrates all the festivities of Christmas without the religious myths – I don’t even complain about the nativity scene that has been in the front of my city hall ever since I was a kid! I just enjoy it as an aspect of the holiday. I love tacky lights, Christmas trees, presents, A Charlie Brown Christmas, religious music, secular music, red, green, gold, snow… Should I go on? I come from a mixed religious family – Christian, Muslim and non-theist. We all celebrate Christmas together. My Muslim family members incorporate their religious traditions within our religious/secular traditions. It’s not a big deal for any of us – and I’m sure all this happy multiculturalism is just ticking off some reactionary from V-Dare or Fox News, which is a nice bonus.

    As for “Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays” – I work with the public, so I have a bit of insight on how to handle the situation. I wait for the customer (actually, patient) to give me a greeting, and I go with the flow. If they wish me a good holiday, I’ll do so back. Merry Christmas, I’ll say it with cheer. The majority of the people say “holiday,” so I guess America is doomed! ; )

    I also work for Buddhists and Hindus – we’ve got Christmas stuff all over the office. All of the cards we have received from others (hospitals, home cares, other doctors) are mostly “Seasons Greetings” and “Happy Holidays.” The patients send us old-fashioned Christmas cards – all of these cards are hung with care in our office, because we appreciate it.

    I’m not in the mood to be grumpy towards anybody during the holidays – and I don’t appreciate it when these charlatans have to hype up this “war on Christmas” nonsense. In my 30 years on the planet, I’ve seen little to no sign of Christmas disappearing.

  70. coryate says:

    The is a great article on the so called War on Christmas, it’s something we have been seeing more and more of this talk in the UK as well.

    The Christians still want to keep their special place in a world becoming more educated, and slowly growing up, personally I call myself a True Adult, as I don’t need any sort of heavenly father.

    Merry Christmas, Happy Hogswatch, and may the FSM touch you with his noodly appendage

  71. Marty Martin says:

    When I put my tree up and my best friend came over for champagne, she asked “What’s with the tree? Aren’t you an Atheist?” I was struck dumb for a minute because I had so many answers for her but basically, I said “I love Christmas and all the decorations and music and guess I would say it’s tradition. Just because I put up our tree with many years’ collection of decorations (some from my mom) that act doesn’t cry “I love Jesus!!” She is coming over again today, if the subject comes up, I will just say “What is wrong with you.” Thank you, Ray. Excellent post!!!!

  72. Zach says:

    While I agree with your message, and I’m also no fan of Bill O’reilly, you did your argument a disservice when you called O’reilly “an accused – and undenied – emotional rapist” as a means of discrediting his statements on the War on Christmas. Frankly that has little to do with the merit of any of his statements and it seems you had plenty of historical and anecdotal evidence to refute without resorting to an ad hominem character assassination.

  73. Ray Garton says:

    Zach — Everything you wrote would be relevant if the things I reported about O’Reilly weren’t true. But they are. I think they’re very relevant. The people who started and continue to perpetuate the lie about the “war on Christmas” are not people of integrity. They are liars, racists, religious bigots and … Bill O’Reilly. I fabricated nothing in the article I wrote. I merely reminded readers that this had occurred — and it’s all a matter of public record, so I’m not talking out of school. I think it’s important to show that Bill O’Reilly is not a man of integrity who should be believed or even taken seriously. He behaves like a gangster. I was trying to make the point that the Christians who insist there is a “war on Christmas” are getting their “information” from a very slimy man. That’s important. I do not need to attempt to discredit Bill O’Reilly’s statements — I need only to point out the things Bill O’Reilly has done to discredit himself. There’s a big difference. It’s not “character assassination” because you cannot assassinate something that isn’t there.

  74. Stardust says:

    It’s too long. Most people wouldn’t read all that and the people that this is really meant for DEFINITELY wouldn’t read it.

    PhillyChief, you are quite wrong. 74 comments, so far, from people who have read this, including several Christians, and this has been linked by several well-trafficked websites. And according to our stats counter, we have had more hits in the past few days for this one post than we have had all year. So, many people are taking the time to read this excellent well-written post.

    So, do you have anything to comment that will add to the discussion about the topic of the post?

    (Sorry, PhillyChief, your comment was unintentionally deleted by someone else.)

  75. The length was just fine. Everything contributed to the overall message and atheist minded people like me found it helpful. So much of the anti-Christmas mindset that was instilled in me in Armstrong’s organization kept welling up each year that I found this whole piece very beneficial — after more than 35 years apart from them. De-programin takes time, you know.

  76. Pingback: Top Posts — WordPress.com

  77. John Marley says:

    I don’t always agree with you, Ray, but this time you are spot on.

    Merry Christmas.

  78. Zach says:

    Ray I think you missed the larger point I was making – Bill O’Reilly is wrong because his opinions aren’t based on rational thought or facts, not because he may (or may not! we don’t know for sure!) have sexually harassed a coworker. Your article implies the former though – that merely being accused of something discredits anything he says. What if someone were to accuse any of us of sexual misconduct – should that immediately make our opinions invalid as well? The issue here is that there is plenty of evidence to make O’Reilly look like an imbecile without resulting to ad hominems and weasel words in the argument. And since your site is in part titled “A Rational Refuge” I would have expected more.

  79. Shuhan says:

    Ugh. This really was as annoying and difficult to read as any proselytizing wingnut rant. I am an atheist and would like the world to know that not all of us are so smug and pompous.

  80. Steve Schlicht says:

    Shuhan,

    Great post!

    Satire and irony are not easily fused in so little words.

    Extra points for the qualifying identifier.

    ;0)

  81. K W Scott says:

    Well written, factual, logical. I greatly enjoyed reading it.

    The problem being, of course, that it’s well written, factual, and logical which are inadequate weapons against the irrational fear mongering that you’re attempting to combat. It’s not about religion, it’s not about right or wrong, it’s about money, power, and influence and doing whatever is necessary to create and/or co-opt issue using emotional hot topics to persuade those voters for whom those topics resonate to vote against their own best interest.

    You can’t fight emotion with logic. I try it all the time arguing with my wife. :)

  82. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- says:

    My brain hurts

  83. RaeBeta says:

    Because I’m contrary like that, I *can* think of a context in which “Merry Christmas” can be offensive: when it’s used deliberately as a means of attempting to shame or intimidate non-Christians.

  84. Ray Garton says:

    That’s true, RaeBeta, and I’ve seen it used that way. It’s the same as someone saying “god bless you” or “I’ll pray for you” to a person he knows to be nonbeliever. It’s deliberate and rude.

  85. Carl says:

    Really, just do a google search for “war on christmas” with “anti-semitic”. The dog whistle (“hollywood liberals”, “liberal east coast elites”, only thing missing is “the jew york times” or “the marxist jewish press” etc) was never that quiet from the get go. This thing goes back a long while – Henry Ford’s “The International Jew” already talked about it and even horrible stuff from the days of “The Protocols” were already banging that drum (with all the conflations that usually comes with Reaction – anything different, any decadence brought by capital’s indifferent logic, anything to the left of fascists; so jews, leftists, communists, unions, atheists, gays, ‘teh bad men’ profiteers, banksters, commercialization and degeneration of traditions are all this one big demon).

    http://horsesass.org/?p=1224
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/12/mommy_why_is_there_a_war_on_ch.php
    http://thinkprogress.org/2005/12/05/christmas-conspiracy
    http://www.intellectualconservative.com/2006/12/12/the-jewish-grinch-who-stole-christmas/

    The hard bit is to answer to any of it, since it’s an eternal wheel of 120 revisionisms per minute filled with endless contradictions (“the secular lesbian conspiracy wants to degenerate everything, we all know they’re terrorists-loving collectivists who want shariah law, like the progressive bleeding heart George Bush having feminist big government tell afghans how to raise their daughter!”) and shamelessly cynical in how it does all these selective 180 twists (“it’s actually pro-jewish since we’re celebrating the birth of a man who is also a jewish christ killer!”/ “Christianity is about doing good, therefore Nazis were godless atheists unless you think killing jews is a good thing!”) – and due to so many things conflated into a knot of bogeymen, scapegoats and hate.

  86. Becky says:

    Bravo! This Christian loved it to pieces. I am happily sharing it all around. Kim is spot on, and I also shared her comment. Christians who are rational, reasonable, and peace-filled have to have push back. I am trying, but we definitely need more Christians to join in! The right has been kicking and screaming for FAR too long! Just like Caucasians have to be the ones to eradicate racism against people of color, Christians have to be the ones to eradicate religious intolerance in our folds.

  87. stari_momak says:

    Here is one example of Jewish attacking public Christmas celebrations

    http://www.jewishfederations.org/page.aspx?id=3338

    This is held out — by Jews — as a landmark in Jewish history in America, and indeed it is. It was the first salvo in a war that eventually led to the point where Christmas carols are banned from schools and kids handing out candy canes while wearing Xmas sweaters are persecuted.

    http://www.delmarvanow.com/article/20101223/NEWS01/101223010/1002/CANDY-CANE-ATTACK–High-schoolers-in-trouble-after-holiday-stunt

    Here is another — though of course it is under the cover of the “A” CLU
    http://www.ucdailynews.com/schools/ACLU-Warns-Schools-to-Say-Holiday-Parties-vs-Christmas-111571939.html

    Head of the ‘A’CLU in that state, one Ms. Weinburg.

    BTW, Tennessee was also the site of recent flooding, and comparing reactions to that flooding with the situation in New Orleans five years ago or so would seem to make Steve Sailer’s case. I mean seriously, we have huge amounts of data on *average* group differences in cognitive ability — if you really want to be ‘rational’ , you shouldn’t ignore it.

  88. Ray Garton says:

    Stari, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” The examples you’ve given here are NOT examples of anyone waging a “war on Christmas.” What’s being addressed in all but one of these cases — and I’ll get to that one in a second — is inclusion. It is unconstitutional for any government funded entity to endorse one religion without including all. The 1905 case is a clear violation of that in a public school and it was properly addressed — the only thing it reveals is your anti-Semitism. The story involving the ACLU is exactly the same — Christmas is not being ELIMINATED, it is simply necessary to include everyone. If you don’t like this, then it seems you don’t like the United States Constitution, or the United States, and you are certainly welcome to remove yourself. As the saying goes, America — love it or leave it. In the ACLU article, a man named Jim Brown is quoted saying, “We are a Christian nation. Let’s act like it.” Again, this is NOT a “Christian nation,” and no matter how often you and others like you say it is, nothing will change. In order for this to be a “Christian nation,” the United States Constitution will have to be abolished and replaced with something else, because as it exists now, the Constitution makes it CLEAR that this is not a “Christian nation.”

    The candy cane story you linked to means nothing. It’s a story about one person who had a problem with the behavior of a small group of students. No moves were made to abolish Christmas. Your inclusion of this story reveals you to be desperately reaching, and quite paranoid.

    Steve Sailer is a neo-Nazi racist bigot. You’re free to take his side in anything you wish, but don’t be surprised by the reaction you get from people who are familiar with Sailer and know what he’s up to. It won’t be a pleasant reaction, but you will have no room to complain if you want to hitch your wagon to his craziness.

    You’ve proven nothing Stari, you’ve simply confirmed what I stated in my article — that the claims of a “war on Christmas” are nothing more than overblown paranoid reactions to stories in the news that have nothing to do with anyone trying to abolish Christmas or the Christian celebration of that holiday. What you’re complaining about is the fact that other religions than your own are being recognized. My grandma had a favorite saying when I was a boy: “Tough titty.” Your religion is not the only one in this country. It will not be held above all others. If you don’t like that, then I suggest you go somewhere and form your own Christian nation where everybody has to believe and worship and live exactly as you want them to — of course, you’ll have to decide which of the 38,000 denominations of the One True Faith you will enforce.

    I’d wish you a merry Christmas, Stari, but I don’t think you have any intention of enjoying the holiday — you’re too angry, and too busy hating everyone who doesn’t celebrate it exactly the way you think they should.

  89. stari_momak says:

    “It is unconstitutional for any government funded entity to endorse one religion without including all. The 1905 case is a clear violation of that in a public school and it was properly addressed — the only thing it reveals is your anti-Semitism. ”

    Since the Madeline Murry O’Hare decision was reached in 1964, I don’t see how you can conclude that in 1905 the New York schools were doing anything ‘unconstitutional’. And in fact since the Republic managed to exist from 1787 to 1964 without discovering that Xmas plays etc were illegal , I really don’t think it is unconstitutional now, in fact the term has no meaning any more. But that, as you say, is an opinion, not a fact.

    As to Jews and Christmas, I can multiply examples all day — a recent favorite is Nina Totenberg’s saying “I was at — you’ll excuse the expression — a Christmas party” as if this was something to be ashamed of. But those who have eyes to see will see.

    Now, as for Steve Sailer being a bigot, that is your opinion. But a ‘neo-Nazi’ , there it is you who are making up your own facts, indeed libelous ones. There are actual neo-Nazi parties, and Sailer is not only not a member of any, his ideology is anti Nazi (search for “Steve Sailer” and Citizenist)

    Its funny how people who claim to be rational, progressive and the like get so , so very angry when challenged as to their basic assumptions. But I too wish you a happy Christmas. I surely will have one, I’m baking cookies right now. Cheers.

  90. stari_momak says:

    “forgive the expression” not “excuse the expression” , the point remains the same.

  91. stari_momak says:

    Let me just add that when I saw that comments were ‘moderated’ and that nearly if not all of the comments were approving of your essay, I figured you wouldn’t post mine. So kudos to you for that. Many ‘progressive’ blogs (e.g. Crooked Timber ) don’t allow challenging views even if expressed in non-abusive language.

  92. Ray Garton says:

    Stari — Madeline Murray O’Hare did not write the Constitution. The separation of church and state existed prior to her activism. And it existed in 1905. Here’s an excerpt from the article you linked, Stari:

    “Just before the 1905 Christmas school recess at Public School 144 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, principal Fred. F. Harding told an assembly of children words very much like the following: “Now, boys and girls, at this time of the year especially, I want you all to have the feeling of Christ in you. Have more pleasure in giving than in taking; be like Christ.” Augusta Herman, a 13-year-old student otherwise lost to history, boldly requested permission to speak. She asked Harding whether he “did not think such teaching more appropriate in a Sunday school or a church?” Harding replied, “Christ loves all but the hypocrites and the hypocrites are those who do not believe in him.” There is no record of the young Ms. Herman’s response, but there is one of the Jewish community protest that Harding’s remarks precipitated.”

    That community was right to protest. Harding’s remarks were not wrong because they had anything to do with Christmas, they were wrong because he was proselytizing Christianity in a public school (and, by the way, he obviously did not know the definition of the word “hypocrite,” because it’s got nothing to do with whether or not you believe in Jesus). That was unconstitutional then, it’s unconstitutional now. The Jewish community in Brownsville not only acted within the law, they did the right thing — for their community and for the United States. Government-sponsored Christmas displays and decorations are perfectly legal as long as they are INCLUSIVE and do not uphold only one religious tradition. You identified this as “the first salvo in a war,” which reveals your own bigotry — which explains your fondness for Sailer, who is an anti-Semite, a racist, and a religious bigot no matter what organizations he joins or doesn’t join. Actions speak louder than membership cards.

    Stari_momak wrote: “As to Jews and Christmas, I can multiply examples all day … ”

    Oh, I have no doubt of that. And I’m sure that, like the 1905 example, they’re all empty and prove absolutely nothing, except in your paranoid, bigoted view and your desire for this to be a nation of, by and for Christians, which it is not.

    Stari_momak wrote: “Its funny how people who claim to be rational, progressive and the like get so , so very angry when challenged as to their basic assumptions.”

    Get over yourself, Stari. You haven’t challenged anything. You are, quite simply, wrong. I know I will never convince YOU of that because of your bent world view, but I think I’ve sufficiently pointed it out to the reasonable, rational people here — of which you are not, by the way, one.

    All comments are welcome here, Stari, as long as they’re reasonable. What’s not welcome is proselytizing and repetition of the same tired old crap over and over again, which is what you’re beginning to do. This is an atheist forum in which discussion is welcome, but discussion requires some substance, and you haven’t brought any so far.

  93. Rich says:

    First, Merry Christmas to all who will accept it. To the rest, take the day off, on me.

    Ray, if you happen to read this. I honestly didn’t realize that you had posted the OP here. I was under the mistaken belief that it was Stardust. I just didn’t look at who had written it. So I was first rather pleased at your comment to me. And then when I noticed that the original post was yours, well, I am honored. But please don’t. I’m too old for that job. ;)

    Thanks again for a well crafted post and the compliment. I’m going to have to order a few of your books, since you are so obviously an intelligent and erudite gentleman. :o

  94. Amanda Martin says:

    As a very happy and contented atheist with friends of every religion, I have to say — loved this article. Even with my horrible ADD I managed to stick it through to the end (and read all the comments). Whatever greeting I get around the holidays, I return happily — with one caveat.

    You know the way Ann Coulter says it? You can kind of tell when someone’s doing it as though they’re handing you a 100 lb sack of potatoes instead of genuinely trying to brighten your day. When that happens (thankfully rarely) I just give them a tight-lipped smile. But if someone wants to say “Happy Hannukah”, “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays” or whatever, I repeat it with a smile, because they’re including me in their joy over the season and I think that’s wonderful. Anyone who doesn’t smile at one of the only times during the year when someone will look you in the eye, beam brightly and deliver a greeting meant to brighten your day IS A SCROOGE. K.

    So, this atheist will happily return whatever the heck greeting you want to throw at her. :) What I hear when someone says “Merry Christmas” is “isn’t it a wonderful time of year?” And in spite of the stress and the commercialism that makes us all go crazy, at the end of the day… it is.

  95. Jim says:

    As someone who would be considered “messianic” we hold to the Law and commandments of Yahweh. Your blog is historical and accurate. Christians have no concept of where xmas came from or for that matter where their religion started from. Hint…same people who brought you christmas. And most really don’t care. I’m not bashing christians. There just is no depth or truth in christmas in as much having anything to do with Jesus. Simple knowledge of the priest hood in the tabernacle and kings reign will tell you the exact time line. But I’m the same as most of you, just smile and say “you too”.

  96. Mishka Fishka says:

    Hello, This is Mishka Fishka, i really like that post, you are doing a great job. Thanks.

  97. LaLaLaaaa says:

    I waffle daily between being a non-believer and a unbeliever (those are different things, in my opinion) but I do love Christmas and all the crazy trappings that come with it. It’s a time to celebrate with your loved ones, in whatever manner you chose to. I have never understood why someone would take offense to “Happy Holidays”, I always just felt it meant “Have a happy couple of days off work with your family and friends, relaxing and enjoying life.” Rather like wishing someone a nice vacation.

    I don’t understand why people have to get so angry about everything all the time. As my Mom always used to say “why can’t we all just get along?” When did taking offense about everything become acceptable? It doesn’t seem to matter what religion (or lack thereof) or political party or background, most people seem to have forgotten the concept of common decency. When someone wishes you any sort of happiness or celebratory salutation, you should respond with felicity and with an equal salutation. How hard is that?

  98. LaLaLaaaa says:

    oh, btw, Ray, it is a wonderful post, I enjoyed reading it a lot. It was quite interesting to learn the history behind the season.

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