Reminder: Tis the Season Not to Be an Ass

Question from e-mail:

Any thoughts on the current state of the War on Christmas™?

I think it’s about as silly as it ever was, considering that Christmas has conquered December, occupied November and metastasized into late October. To suggest that the holiday is under serious threat from politically correct non-Christians is like suggesting an earthworm is a serious threat to a Humvee. This is obvious enough to anyone with sense that I use The War on Christmas as an emergency diagnostic, which is to say, if you genuinely believe there’s a War on Christmas, you may want to see a doctor, since you might have a tumor pressing on your frontal lobes.

But — but — what about all those horrible atheists taking over holiday displays with crucified Santa skeletons? Surely that’s evidence of a war! Well, no, it’s evidence of some non-believers taking a page out of the PETA playbook, i.e., being dicks to get attention and to make a point. I do strongly suspect that if we didn’t have some certain excitable conservatives playing The War on Christmas card when a business says “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” and such, there would be less incentive for certain excitable non-believers to make a public show of desecrating Christmas symbols, but that’s just an opinion and I don’t have anything to back that up. What I do know is that the War on Christmas crusaders and the Santa crucifiers deserve each other; the rest of us, unfortunately, have to watch them both make public asses of themselves.

This is not to say that non-believers have to passively suck it up during the Christmas season; they have as much right to public display space as anyone and in a theoretical sense I’m glad they’re out there to remind people that not everyone defaults to Christian or even “religious.” I like it better when they do it in a manner that doesn’t explicitly say “take the symbols you cherish and shove them right up your ass.” But then I’m also the sort of non-believer who doesn’t take every public religious display as an intentional slap in the face. When people put up Christmas displays, or (to the point) when municipalities allow public space to be used for them, I don’t see them as a Christian majority saying “bow down to our hegemony, heretics and infidels,” I see them as people saying “Yay! Christmas!” Which is a different motivation entirely.

Here’s the thing: If you’re using the holiday season to go out of your way to be an asshole to someone, believer or non-believer, you’re doing it wrong, and I wish you would stop. That’s not a war, it’s a slap fight and it’s embarrassing. As a non-believer, when someone says “Merry Christmas” to me, I say “Merry Christmas” back, because generally speaking I understand that what “Merry Christmas” means in this context is “I am offering you good will in a way I know how,” and I appreciate that sentiment. Left to my own devices, I use “Happy holidays” because I know a lot of people who aren’t Christians (or at least Christmas-centered) and that seems the best way to express my own good will; the vast majority of people get what I’m doing and appreciate that sentiment too.

I think most people get the idea that regardless of religion or lack thereof, we’ve designated this time of year as the one where we make an effort to be decent to each other. Accept it. Welcome it. Live it, in the best way you know how. Be tolerant and gracious when others share this sentiment in a way different than you would. Look for what they’re saying means, not just the words they use to say it. It would be a fine way to have everyone enjoy the season.

153 Comments on “Reminder: Tis the Season Not to Be an Ass”

  1. But — but — what about all those horrible atheists taking over holiday displays with crucified Santa skeletons?

    False advertising! A crucified Santa decoration would have made a fantastic addition to my Christmas display. Instead, it’s only a link to a story. Pah, I say. Pah.

  2. If Christmas is a celebration of the birth of the messiah, and the message is “Don’t be a dick” does that make Wil Wheaton the messiah?

  3. My friends and I have a similar attitude. If someone wishes me a Merry Christmas or Happy Haunkah or Joyous Kwanza I politely wish them the same back. Personally I’m agnostic and have no problem with saying “Happy Holidays” as a way of being inclusive, though I’ll often say Merry Christmas since my family does celebrate that in a non-religious, non-orgy of cosumerism way.

    Either way, let me say to everyone reading this right now, Happy Holidays to you and yours. May you have your fill of good food, the warmth of friends and family, and a decided drought of holiday drama.

  4. I’m an atheist who leaves “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance, but I celebrate Christmas and say, “Merry Christmas,” to people . I also sometimes say, “Happy Holidays.” I like non-Christian holiday displays that help people realize that it’s OK not to believe in God, but I don’t think it’s the place or time for atheists to say, “There is no God, suckers!”
    I think Christmas displays on public land (in front of courthouses, city halls, public schools, etc.” should focus on celebrating the holiday and its traditions rather than harping on the existence or non-existence of God. Of course on private land, Christmas displays can say whatever the property owner wants about God.
    At any rate, I wish a very merry Christmas and happy New Year to you and you and your family, John, and also to all the other Whateverites.

  5. Well said! From what I can tell, a lot of this “War against Christmas” thing was made up, like a lot of stupid angry controversies, to attract people to cable news programming. I don’t understand why we let TV blowhards poison our relationships with our fellow citizens.

  6. I remember when some Christians used to complain about the commercialisation of Christmas. Now a certain subset get bent out of shape if cashiers don’t name-check the holiday every time they ring up another sale.

  7. I work in a retail environment, thus “Happy Holidays” is the mandated greeting. I am agnostic, and mostly amused when some people reply with “Merry Christmas” with a particular emphasis. My reply is “And a happy New Year.”

    There’s no reason to be mean about it either way. Life is too short.

  8. Where can I sign up for the War on Christmas? There needs to be a united front to hold the line and hopefully push it back until after Thanksgiving in order to save Thanksgiving and Halloween. Maybe start with a boycott of stores that set up Christmas displays in October. Move on to groups with pitch fork wandering the suburbs destroying Christmas displays put up before Thanksgiving. We must at least let them know that we have reached the breaking point of this far, but no further!

  9. Move on to groups with pitch fork wandering the suburbs destroying Christmas displays put up before Thanksgiving.

    What’s the strategy for those who leave their Christmas lights on the house all year?

  10. I’m an atheist, but like some others, I don’t insist on Happy Holidays – I am fine with responding in kind (and sincerely) to whichever greeting I’m given by people. It’s not going to upset my digestion to say Merry Christmas several times, and if I know a friend is a Christian it’s just the polite thing to do.
    I save my energy for other fights that have more important consequences.

    I also happen to agree that putting up Christmas lights before mid-November, and airing ads for Christmas in late October, is silly. There isn’t much I can do to stop it, unfortunately.

  11. Ironically, the right wing Christmas warriors may actually be hurting their own cause, again. I’m sure I’m not the only one who now thinks twice about leading with “Merry Christmas,” because I don’t want to give the appearance of supporting the right-wing blowhards who think they own that phrase.

    Maybe I’ll go with Happy Christmas instead.

  12. I think that winter is long and dark (especially up here in the great white north) and any excuse to light the lights, get together with friends to eat drink and be merry, and to generally be nice to strangers on the street is a good one. And what ever anyone wants to call it I will wish the same back to them.

    I have to say I’m tired of the hysterical “Let’s put the Christ back in Christmas” posts on many social media site (facebook being the worst for me) But hey, for some people hysterical ranting is the reason for the season, so knock yourselves out.

  13. PMCook: Just the displays that are actually lit, or if they are like those huge snow globes or other blow up displays. And don’t get my wrong, I love Christmas, it is a ton of fun with the kids. I just wish it only lasted two weeks instead of three months.

  14. As a non-believer, I love to emphasize the pagan origins of Christmas, especially since it blends in so well. The “Christmas” tree is the most obvious example.

    As for greetings, I prefer Good Yule (God Jul), which also blurs the line, since those crafty Scandinavians actually use the name of their old Pagan festival for their Christian Christmas.

    In many ways “Happy Hanukkah” may be the most appropriate greeting since it is actually Hanukkah right now — Christians are still in Advent, not Christmas.

  15. My deist wife and I have taken to responding to the people who give us a snippy “We say Merry Christmas!” after a given “Happy Holidays” by becoming very sad faced and taken aback and following up with, “Why don’t you want us to have a Happy New Year? What did we do to you?” Usually leaves ’em stumped.

  16. I fully think there’s a War on Christmas! A war on the traditional customs of Christmas celebrations! All those people who think that Christmas is supposed to be about “family” and “togetherness” and “sobriety”: BAH! Christmas is supposed to be about wandering around drunkenly, demanding more liquor from other houses! I’m going to do my small part in bringing back the *real* meaning of Christmas this year by wassailing. If that’s the way our Founding Fathers celebrated Christmas, then that’s the right way to do it.

    Merry *hiccup* Christmas!

  17. I agree completely, but there’s some additional information that the War on Christmas neglects. The most important point I think to contribute is that if you celebrate using Santa motifs and a Christmas tree YOU ARE CELEBRATING HERESIES. No seriously, do a little history reading . . . Northern European traditions were incorporated during their conversion. . .you know how Easter is called Passover in everything but English? Yeah, that’s because Eoster was a fertility goddess in pre christian beliefs.
    I support saying ‘merry Christmas’ if you are of the inclination, as has been said, the sentiment, not the specific term, is what is important. In the same way, I’m not offended by someone saying ‘salud’ instead of ‘cheers’ or ‘gesundheit’ instead of ‘bless you’ … Obviously they are well wishing you, and well wishing is never a bad thing.
    happy holidays to all

  18. There is a tendency to declare non-military Wars in this country, perhaps because our whole history is pretty much defined by military ones, from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War, the WW’s, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and etc ad nauseum. I don’t know if there was ever a generation of Americans that did not have a military action to define the backdrop of their lives.

    So we have figurative Wars on Drugs, Wars on Poverty, Wars on Illiteracy, Wars on Illegal Immigration,and etc. ad nauseum. This seems to be the only way we can sell our concerns. Americans are criticized as having short attention spans. We move on with our lives very quickly doing whatever we individuals want to do and the special interests leaders probably think War is an effective way to keep us marching in their direction. In order to sell a War, you don’t necessarily need facts, just a persuasive argument.

    I don’t know if there is a literal conspiracy against Christianity, but there is enough persuasive anecdotal data to alert me that there might be. I’m sometimes caught between my reflex to “let it be” and my caution against losing a civil liberty through inattention.

  19. “Look for what they’re saying means, not just the words they use to say it.”

    In February of 2004, I found myself in a restaurant in Istanbul. February in Istanbul is dead time as far as the tourist district goes; everyone working there was bored. So I ended up having a conversation, one day, with the waiter and the cook at a local restaurant; both were Kurdish, the cook was so devout that whenever the call to prayer would go out, he would turn the music in the restaurant off.

    At the time, my brother was a member of the 82d Airborne Division, and was in Iraq. Conversations with strangers in that part of the world always seem to devolve around family; after I ducked the questions about whether I was married or had a girlfriend, the conversation turned to my siblings, and what my brother was doing.

    The cook was very excited and happy about it and promised to pray for my brother.

    I’m a Taoist; Muslim prayers mean nothing to me. And yet, they meant something to *him*; to him, a prayer offered up to his God to protect the life of the brother of this stranger was one of the greatest gifts he had to give. And so I was thankful, thankful for the sentiment and for the meaning the offer had to the giver, regardless of what it meant to me.

    And that, in a nutshell, is why I think we should all stop fighting about what words we say to each other. Sure, I’ll make a point of saying ‘happy chanukkah’ to my friends whom I know are Jewish, and saying ‘merry Christmas’ to my friends whom I know are Christian … but I also think it’s crazy to be *offended* at what words someone uses to express “may you have a happy holiday season”; for those words are, in intent, an expression of good will and a hope for a shared happiness which transcends our different faiths.

  20. I was recently asked by one of my religious friends on the book of face how I liked to be greeted durring the season, and what i thought of the “culture War” My responce was as follows.
    “As a Pastafarian, I take no offence in receiving the well wishes of my friends in whatever form they may come. While I may not share your faith, I am appreciative of the sentiment. To further the comment, a Christmas Tree is a Christmas Tree and should be called that. Just as a menorah is not a “holiday candle holder”. I invite you, as an individual, to wear your faith as openly or as hidden, as you like, but I cannot accept that from my government. I’d rather my government makes no mention of any holiday or observance, just because if they do it for one, then it is incumbent on them to do it for them all. I feel the best way for government to recognize your faith is to stay out of it. I also think that the “Culture Wars” are a bit silly. Nothing I can do or not do can remove Christ from Christmas. Saying “Happy Holidays” is merely a way of acknowledging that we (thankfully) live in a pluralistic society. As a person, I am weary of fanaticism in any form, be it fanatical Christianity, or fanatical Atheism”

    Happy Hollidys Mr. Scalzi. I wish nothing but the best for you and yours.

  21. I am a Christian. I am frequently embarrassed by the words and deeds exhibited by the Fundamentalists. I reply “To you as well” to whichever greeting I am given. I prefer to say “Merry Christmas” but it gets too many negative reactions. My intent is for them to be uplifted by our shared thoughts of good will rather than be derailed by looking for an implied agenda. So I make the choice of sharing that moment of mutual encouragement. I think it is more important to act like Christ than to insist others pay homage to my choice. I can’t imagine Christ getting an attitude and being judgmental if he were wished a “Happy Holiday”.

  22. Whether Santa has ontological primacy over Descartes and God, a sculpture of Santa may have an armature. One thing that I like to explore in fiction is this sort of Theobiology and Theophysics, where Ontology and Epstemology collide. And horribly try to mate with your footnotes.

    I just passed 1,111,111 words of fiction written since 6 July 2010.

    This Solstice morning’s chapter where Shakespeare meets Adam Smith. Sort of. In my novel “I Am Hamlet’s Ghost”, begun handwritten 5 Dec 2011 in the Hollywood Jury room. Now 265 pages, 55,650 words of story, a small excerpt of which (with Scalzaic permission) follows.

    24. Pinhead in a Haystack

    Then things went haywire. A word from your brane which means, informally: Mentally confused or erratic; crazy: went haywire over the interminable delays. Or Not functioning properly; broken. American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2000) says:
    [From the use of baling wire for makeshift repairs .]
    Word History: Why should the word for something as functional and mundane as haywire have come to be applied to something that is not functioning properly or to a person who is crazy? It would seem a story of semantics gone haywire. Haywire is a compound of the words hay and wire, originally simply denoting wire used to bale hay or straw. The term is first recorded as a noun in a debate in the Canadian House of Commons (1917), so it is a Canadianism or, since it appeared soon thereafter in a U.S. publication, a North Americanism. We find an earlier (1905) attributive use in the phrase hay wire outfit, a term used contemptuously for poorly equipped loggers. What lies behind this term is the practice of making repairs with haywire. Haywire is found in other contexts with the general sense “makeshift, inefficient,” from which come the extended senses “not functioning properly” and “crazy.”
    SCENE iv. The platform.
    HAMLET — The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.
    HORATIO — It is a nipping and an eager air.
    HAMLET — What hour now?
    HORATIO — I think it lacks of twelve.
    HAMLET — No, it is struck.
    HORATIO — Indeed? I heard it not: then it draws near the season
    Wherein the spirit held his wont to walk.
    A flourish of trumpets, and ordnance shot off, within
    What does this mean, my lord?
    HAMLET — The king doth wake to-night and takes his rouse,
    Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring reels;
    And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,
    The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out
    The triumph of his pledge.
    HORATIO — Is it a custom?
    HAMLET — Ay, marry, is’t:
    But to my mind, though I am native here
    And to the manner born, it is a custom
    More honour’d in the breach than the observance.
    This heavy-headed revel east and west
    Makes us traduced and tax’d of other nations:
    They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
    Soil our addition; and indeed it takes
    From our achievements, though perform’d at height,
    The pith and marrow of our attribute.
    So, oft it chances in particular men,
    That for some vicious mole of nature in them,
    As, in their birth–wherein they are not guilty,
    Since nature cannot choose his origin–
    By the o’ergrowth of some complexion,
    Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,
    Or by some habit that too much o’er-leavens
    The form of plausive manners, that these men,
    Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
    Being nature’s livery, or fortune’s star,–
    Shakespeare himself was ambivalent about Astrology: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141). Now, how infinite are the possibilities, the branes, in my dialogue with Hamlet.
    HAMLET — Their virtues else–be they as pure as grace,
    As infinite as man may undergo–

  23. I try to make a point to say ‘Happy Holidays’ rather than ‘Merry Christmas’. I am generally agnostic but didnt realize the impact of my assumed choice of words when I said it without thinking to a n acquaintance and they sheepishly said they were Jewish, which I knew, but the default “Merry Christmas” overrode in my brain. I felt like a bit of an ass and try to say ‘Happy Holidays’ since.

    This does make me think that anyone who insists that the correct greeting is “Merry Christmas” and the only religion worth observing towards the winter solstice is the Christian religion, and they are clearly doing that *on purpose* after having been pointed out that such dismissive attitudes to someone of a different belief makes that person uncomfortable at the least, means they are a much larger ass than me saying Merry Christmas without thinking.

  24. I completely agree with COD upthread: I used to have no problem saying “Merry Christmas” but now I really don’t for the sake of not using what is becoming a dogwhistle for social conservatives.

    FWIW: I consider myself most an apatheist (though one who enjoys Christmas a great deal), and this fight depresses the hell out of me. All of it. Particularly when it degenerates into wanton assholery. This time of year is a great excuse to be nice to each other.

  25. Somewhere in the bible there is a reference to decorating trees this time of year. Only one refernece. And what it says is: don’t do it, it is a pagan thing. That does always give me a chuckle.

    This really reinforces the idea that society norms change over time and evolve. And given that we do change, I think the proper universal greeting for this time of year for Americans is really “Welcome to WalMart”

  26. As a Neo-Pagan who spent this weekend attending a couple of Solstice rituals, I’ve been bemused by the efforts of some atheists to push for the Winter Soltice as a non religious holiday. As for personal greetings, I usually just say “Thanks, you, too” to whichever phrase is offered.

  27. My favorite “War on Christmas” story was when my 5 year old explained to the babysitter that Baby Jesus grew up to be Santa Claus and giving gifts was because he was born in a manager. I laughed so hard, but when I think about it from her perspective, that is the two focuses around Christmas. Also in her defense, I was raised crazy conservative Baptist so I only enter churches for weddings.

  28. This year I’ve seen lots of commentary about how there isn’t a war on Christmas, but I haven’t actually heard much from those claiming that there is.

    I’m largely not concerned about the war on Christmas, but I do think that Roy McMIllion’s comment about holiday trees is on target. If an organization pointedly avoids making references to Christmas to avoid excluding others and then turns around and pointedly refers to other holidays celebrated around the solstice by name, that would tend to be irritating. I seem to recall that the US Post Office stamp offerings a couple years ago were a bit like that, but I can’t name a recent example.

  29. If I know the winter holiday someone is celebrating, I wish them such. Otherwise, I tend to either “Happy Holidays!”, which I prefer on the Christmas cards I send, because a good quarter of the list are not Christians, or not Christmas-celebrating Christians. In some ways, I’d like to celebrate “Santa-coming”, because I think there’s a part of Santa that’s forgotten — it is a season to give, to children, family, friends and enemies, strangers, any and all who come into your life. Love grows with giving.

    May all of you and yours enjoy the very best of holidays, and find happiness in the coming year!

  30. I’m a Christian, and I joyously say “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” “Happy Hanukah,” and “Bah! Humbug!” to anybody who says the same to me! LOL

    Christmas perplexes me every year. Yeah, my family is Christian, too, but we’ve never celebrated Christmas as a “birth of Christ” sort of season. For us, it’s always been about fun with friends and family, pretty decorations, comforting lights on cold winter nights, cramazing food, and showing appreciation and gratitude for each other. I cock my head like a surprised puppy every time I hear a fellow Christian (“Christian”?) ranting about the whole “keep Christ in Christmas” thing. My question is — what for? He wasn’t “in Christmas” to begin with. Yule was in Christmas. Saturn was in Christmas. Jesus wasn’t in it until two or three hundred years after he died.

    Let’s face it: The so-called “Christian” celebration of Christmas is one of the greatest examples of syncretism in the history of the world. I don’t care if my fellow Christians want to use it to celebrate the birth of Christ…but I’d love it if they were honest with themselves about where their traditions really came from.

    Happy Merry Hanukah Christmas Holidays, and Saturn bless us all, every one! ; )

  31. @Kilroy: I don’t know about you, but any of those giant blow up lighted displays makes me want to declare an actual war on Christmas.

    @Ed Quales: Well said. I usually stick with a generic greeting to avoid any unpleasantness. It is, after all, the holidays. I prefer to be of good cheer as much as possible.

  32. I choose not to make a big deal of it either way, as some of my fellow unbelievers have said upthread. Live and let live, just don’t be a dick.

    As to the folks who genuinely believe their religious beliefs are being targeted, this is all I have to say.

  33. What I don’t get is, how is multiculturalism an attack on Christmas? It takes a lot of insecurity to need the whole universe to validate your beliefs for you by pretending they’re the only beliefs worth mentioning.

    Celebrating Christmas technically makes me a Bad Quaker, so I’m kind of tempted to go around responding to the “MARRY EFFING CHRISTMAS” people with a look of disgust and an assurance that I’m far too pious to sully Christ’s name by slapping it on a secular holiday. But trawling is mean.

  34. A few things…

    1. Roy: Christmas trees aren’t actually exclusive to Christmas. They’re one of many Northern European seasonal traditions coopted by early Christians when trying to fit in. Thus, anyone who celebrates the season in itself is entitled to such decoration, regardless of whether they’re celebrating the Christian holiday as well. Same goes for Easter, what with all those spring fertility festival trappings (eggs, bunnies, etc.)

    2. I’m basically an atheist, so I don’t believe Jesus was divine, but I do think he existed as a mortal man, and counts as one of the Wise (along with Siddhartha, Mohammed, Confucious and John Lennon, among others) so I’m down with celebrating him from time to time. Besides, he throws a hell of a birthday party, so I’m in.

    3. Honestly, I’ll take any excuse for a celebration. Love Hanukkah, for instance, because of its celebration of religious freedom. Ramadan is a good time to take a few steps back and reflect on what’s important in life. Diwali is an excuse to clean house and buy new clothes (and Kwanzaa has similar trappings.) I celebrate winter solstice as the end of the natural year, and thus a time to put away the previous life cycle and start a new one. And that’s just fall alone. Gimmeh everything from Chinese New Year to Cinco de Mayo to Bastille Day, and I’m in. The world is a nasty place much of the time, but it’s also beautiful, and beautiful in its human diversity. Why not celebrate that whenever there’s the tiniest excuse? There is a limit, of course, and one must be careful not to do too much cultural appropriation of things that are solemn and sacred to some–especially those suffering oppression–but other than that? For any celebration/festival that’s remotely secularized, why not just join in the fun? I may not believe everything my friends do about whatever it is they’re celebrating, but I’m happy that they’re enjoying themselves, and that’s what really matters to me.

  35. Karen: Technically speaking, the solstice IS non-religious, what with it being an astronomical phenomenon. Not entirely sure that a celebration that boils down to “yay, we’re getting six months of increasing sunlight!” is a coopting of a religious festival. Likewise for any other seasonal celebrations, from cherry blossom festivals to harvest.

    Thing is, no one culture or religion has a patent on life and natural cycles that are universal. Just like one can’t claim that the US is a Christian nation simply because some of its founding principles dovetail with Christian principles, neither can one claim that generic celebrations of seasons, adulthood, marriage, birth, etc. belong to any one religion–or to any religion at all. Natural phenomena and milestones of human existence may be considered in a divine context by some, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist outside of that context.

  36. Too bad there has to be a designated time of year for people to be nice to one another. Why can’t people try to be nice on a daily basis? It’s really not that difficult to do and what a better world we would occupy. Peace and love throughout the year no matter what you believe or don’t believe in. Keep up the good work!

  37. John, I think that you may be over-simplifying.

    Sure, the celebration of (little-c) christmas dominates December, etc. But the attack on (big-C) Christmas is not aimed at that, rather at Christ and His church. My analysis is that the “War on Christmas” has the goal of encouraging a generation of Americans to think that Christ, Christianity, and Christmas is foolish & not worthy of their serious consideration. I would be worried except that I am pretty sure that atheists will (by nature, must) always underestimate their opposition (i.e., God).

    For all of you non-Christians out there, at least consider the benefits that having a christian moral consensus has given to the USofA. I think that it is worth keeping the culture, even if you don’t have the Faith.

  38. Humph. I get the feeling a lot of people just want a fight. Probably lamentably true on both sides of the coin. The notion of “Oppressed Christians Struggling to Celebrate Christmas” does boggle the mind, though. Yes, there’s a church-and-state issue at work, but you know, I’m not fussed about the Christmas tree in the White House either.

    Bah humbug to everyone who just likes to start a fight. Everyone else, Merry Eczemas.

  39. The other day, my wife was behind a woman in Michael’s (hobby and craft store, if you’re not familiar). She was whispering to the cashier “I know we’re not supposed to say this, but Merry Christmas.” This, in a place that, as she puts it, “looks like Christmas exploded inside it.”

    I really think some of these people long for the drama of the days when Christians had to hide their faith and meet in catacombs and wonder when they’d be free, because they’re constantly pretending that’s what’s going on.

  40. Yesterday I was listening to the interminable debate in the house over the payroll “tax cut” (it’s not a tax cut, it’s a reduction in contributions to retirement, but let’s not digress). Republicans wished people a merry Christmas, Democrats stated a “wish for peace during the holidays”.

    Pretty clear cut difference, actually.

  41. @Scott Kemp:

    As a non-Christian, I would point out that the positive parts of the nation’s Christian moral consensus are far from being unique to Christianity. As someone whose rights are denied by the Christian moral consensus, I’m not much of a fan of the rest.

    “I don’t see them as a Christian majority saying “bow down to our hegemony, heretics and infidels,” I see them as people saying “Yay! Christmas!” Which is a different motivation entirely.”

    I think that they can mean the latter and still be doing the former.

  42. A Mediated Life @ 2:17 Well, my point was that for some folks, such as myself, celebrating the solstice is a religious event. I didn’t say it was the only reason for doing so, if at all. If you prefer to note it purely as a natural occurrence, that’s fine, too.

  43. The root of all evil is arrogance and marshmallows. It is arrogant for Christians to demand others follow their religious practice. It is equally arrogant for for non Christians to demand obeisance to their beliefs or lack there of. Then you have marshmallows! There is nothing more evil than a multidimensional, goatee jiving, super villain munching on some sinfully sugary fluffiness of marshmallows.

  44. The most important message of Jesus is love and compassion for every human being. Nowadays this message may seem obvious but 2000 years ago, when humans killed other humans like flies, this was incredible.
    Christians or non-christians, everybody should celebrate the birth of Christ because he represents humanity.

  45. @ Scott Kemp; my experience of the War on Big-C Christmas is one being harked on about by people calling themselves Christians but who seem to display little or none of the expansive and inclusive love and understanding Christ himself gave as the single commandment. As a Christian myself, I’m not seeing a war on the celebration of Christ’s birth, what I am seeing (deep in the bible thumping south) is a bunch of special-snowflake Christians (you know, the only “true” Christians, all six billion flavors of them) whining because a great many of us took the actual reason for e season to heart and expanded our greetings and wishes for the seasons to include as many people as possible even if they are not christian — maybe most specifically if they are not and we know it since Christians over the last few decades (Centuries?) have been a particularly exclusive and judgmental lot, despite the fact that every year for going on three months, our faith gets a boat load of attention from all corners. It seems like the people doing the damage to Christmas are ourselves for being such snotty brats about it.

    No one is threatening to take Christmas away from Christians as we celebrate it in our homes and churches or even in the vast majority of our communities. Christmas for me is that moment when I sit back in a pew at midnight mass and here the nativity story read yet again (it never gets old) and listen to the heartfelt echoing of my priest reading from Luke and afterwards the entire congregations rising to pass the touch of peace among us.

    The rest of Christmas, from Halloween forward, is quite literally, window dressing. Any Christian who can’t accept a heartfelt Happy Holiday, Joy of the Season, Seasons Greeting, or Blessings of the Yuletide, needs to go back to those later passages in Luke and reread.

    As a Christian, pretty much the only time I feel like I’m being attacked for my faith is by other christians, and that’s without the cry-wolf Christmas issue.

    @Billk and I’m sure Joe Lieberman appreciated the sentiments from both Repubs and Democrats; ie. I’m sure he was convinced of the sincerity of his Republican colleagues, but at least with his Democratic colleagues he didn’t have to take the sentiment and parse it out. (But I’m also pretty sure his closest colleagues wished him a Happy Chanukah…there’s just no soundbyte for it.)

  46. @Gabriel S.

    This message was not unique in its time, and people are still killing each other like flies. I don’t think it’s important to celebrate every person in history who had a good unoriginal idea. If one wishes to celebrate Christ for religious or philosophical reasons, great! But I’d suggest that intellectual honesty would go a long way if your goal is to have others do the same.

  47. My husband and I are both atheists. However, he’s of the militant (anyone who believes is a complete moron) variety, whereas I’m much more tolerant (believe what you like, as long as you don’t shove my face in it). My husband was an only child, so his parents never made a big deal out of xmas. I grew up in a very dysfunctional household, where my mother decorated like Santa threw up in an effort to pretend that we were all “one big happy family”.

    The net result is that hubby and I don’t celebrate xmas or any other major holiday, in any other way than to spend time with my inlaws, or with other friends, hanging out. While I can truthfully say I miss my mother’s holiday meals (she makes a mean turkey with all the trimmings, my father does a marvelous New Year’s ham), I don’t miss the unnecessary bullshit and drama that go along with them.

    As others upthread have noted, why do we have to designate a particular time of year to be nice to each other? Is it so hard to do that year-round? Is it really necessary to be nice to each other “in the name of god”?

    Happy Holidays, everyone!

  48. Scott Kemp

    It’s an attitude like yours that encourages anti-christian sentiment. No one wants to be told what to believe. Why does it worry you that others may not consider christianity? Isn’t it enough that you believe? And whatever “moral consensus,” that exists in this country owes nothing to christianity. If that were the case we would not be considered a free nation.

  49. I personally am fine with wishing everyone simply Happy Holidays, or merry merry, happy happy, and leave it at that. Getting snarky about not wishing someone joy in a specific format seems incredibly mean spirited.

    We just had an instance where we were compelled to take down a Chinese good luck symbol we had left up since Chinese New Year (no religious meaning, only secular, like a lucky horseshoe) because it offended someone. It made me uncomfortable that we could be told to take down a relatively innocuous and common cultural display.

  50. I just got back from Penang, Malaysia. Islam is the state religion and 1/3 of the local population is Buddhist.

    And the urban areas are FULL of Christmas decorations, the elevators have musak versions of Christmas carols, and the shopping malls have dancing girls in short fur-lined skirts.

    If there was a war on Christmas, it looks like Christmas won.

  51. I am just amazingly chuffed that my county has made national news, and is being mentioned on one of my favorite blogs!!!

  52. I grew up Jewish on Long Island; our community was roughly a third Jewish, a third Italian-Catholic, and a third everyone else, including other varieties of Catholics. As a result, while I was always jealous on some level of my friends that celebrated Christmas, I had many other friends who were also Jewish so I never felt truly left out.

    In that context, being wished a Merry Christmas didn’t phase me in the slightest. Fast forward to college, grad school, and beyond, where I’ve lived in places that are substantially less homogenous, and the whole Merry Christmas thing has taken on a different, and grating, feeling for me.

    Because as secular as Christmas is for a lot of Americans, in my experience it is anything BUT for Jews living outside of enclaves. Hearing “Merry Christmas” makes me feel excluded in some very real way that I had not experienced growing up. I almost never mention anything to folks that say it, except that I respond with a “Happy Holidays.”

    The “War on Christmas” rhetoric reads to me as taking umbrage with the fact that others can/ should take into account the feelings of those who don’t celebrate Christmas; that those who aren’t with the program are merely along for the ride and should be happy we’re allowed to sit in the car.

  53. John, while I approve of and agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly, the missing piece here is that it’s not just anti-atheist; there is a very strong and not especially subtle streak of anti-Semitism in the “War on Christmas”. (Hint: who else celebrates a holiday every December and may not be thrilled to be asked to celebrate a holiday including songs about Jesus as the “King of Israel”?)

    Someone asked why anyone would get bent out of shape about “Merry Christmas”, and while I agree politeness is best, when you’re a non-Christian in the US it can feel like one more little dig.

    And excuses from Christians about it once having been Saturnalia? Guys, please. Pagan antecedents or syncretism is not some kind of magical Christ-B-Gon that renders the holiday religiously inert.

    I still wish “Merry Christmas” to my Christian friends and return the greeting when (politely) offered, because I don’t wish to be an ass. That doesn’t require me to pretend the holiday isn’t a Christian one, or that the utter dominance of Christianity in America is threatened if an atheist puts up a Santa Skeleton.

  54. I am for being decent and tolerant all the year round. Maybe it is being an ass that needs to be singled out instead. Maybe we should celebrate one day a year of being an ass to others so we can get it out of our system for the rest of the year.

    What about the Feast of the Ass on January 14?

    From the Eastern lands the Ass is come,
    Beautiful and very brave,
    Well fitted to bear burdens.
    Up Sir Ass and Sing.

    Open your pretty mouth,
    Hay will be yours in plenty
    and oats in abundance.

    -From 13th century French Sermon for the Ass. (TJ Crowley, Catholic Encyclopedia 1907.)

    Ite Missa est
    Hinham, Hinham, Hinham.

  55. scot@2:28: “For all of you non-Christians out there, at least consider the benefits that having a christian moral consensus has given to the USofA. I think that it is worth keeping the culture, even if you don’t have the Faith.”

    (boggle) Because all the other religions are the devils work and would bring about the end of civilization as we know it?

    scot, at least consider how a statement like yours would sound righteous and be offensive to a nonchristian. I doubt you intended to cause offense, but not every time you drop a comment like that on some non Christian will have an opportunity for them to have a conversation and give them the chance to ask if you meant to offend, so they will be left with offense being the assumed intention.

    If you are not familiar with nonchristian moral systems, as someone with personal experience with being Christian, non Christian, atheist, and agnostic, before finally settling on a spiritual path that works for me, let me assure you that Christianity does not have a monopoly on good, well working moral systems. Nor does any of them have a monopoly on assholes as I have found all of them can be abused and misused to bad ends by asshole individuals. ALL of them. But all of these moral systems can be the seed of good, upstanding individuals. and it is those upstanding individuals, from ALL different faiths, that make America the great nation it is today.

  56. This atheist finds the more militant/agressive types to be obnoxious and embarrassing. I imagine many devout Christians felt the same way about David Koresh.

    This is a fine time to celebrate prosperity and good fortune by giving to others. Whether you do that to celebrate the birth of Jesus or just a general sense of ‘life is good’ is up to you.

    But the local radio station that started playing non-stop Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving? They should be condemned to the third circle…

  57. Scott Kemp @ 2:28 pm:

    My analysis is that the “War on Christmas” has the goal of encouraging a generation of Americans to think that Christ, Christianity, and Christmas is foolish & not worthy of their serious consideration.

    Frankly, the Christians who get bent out of shape because my well-intentioned expression well-wishes were not to their liking are the ones who make Christianity appear foolish and not worthy of serious consideration. (Which is too bad, because most Christians, like most people in general, are nice and moral people.)

    But seriously, do you really believe wishing people a “Happy Holidays” in an attempt to acknowledge our non-Christian friends is an attack on Christ and his church? Do you really think this small gesture of inclusivity is some nefarious scheme to make Christianity look silly? Because if you really believe these things, then I don’t know what to say.

  58. Theophylact

    ‘This atheist just bought and put up his Christmas tree. Merry whatever.’

    Sound plan , Theophylact; you have not only demonstrated that you are not a dick, but provided us with a dreadful pun in the true spirit of Scalzimas.

    I salute you!

  59. I like “compliments of the season” as you can sort of take it either way – whatever the season means to you – but I’m in Australia and I’m not sure that’s as common over there. I’m agnostic but hey, I’m quite happy to wish someone “Merry Christmas” “Happy Holidays” or whatever is appropriate to them. “Happy Hanukkah” is less common in my social circle, but I’ve certainly been known to wish appropriate people “Eid Mubarak” at the right time of the year (for appropriate people, read: those who are celebrating the festival and won’t be offended by a non-believer wishing them a blessed festival). Because, why yes, seeing as these are people I like and they are celebrating a festival according to their beliefs, I do hope it’s a blessed festival for them.

    It’s all just spreading goodwill, really.

  60. Killroy:

    That is a War on Christmas I can support. Especially if it includes drone strikes.

  61. All of the hoopla goes to show (at least to me) that some people will pick any excuse to be ugly to each other… and that some won’t.

    I do my darndest to pay attention to and be one of the ones who aren’t. And for those who are…

    if Karma is a bitch, I suspect that besmirched Christmas Karma is probably the worst sort!

    I’m all for George Carlin’s admonition to “Be excellent to each other.”

  62. Did “Merry Whatever,” just become the new holiday greeting?! I’m going to field test it and see what kind of feedback it get.

  63. When I was growing up, I said Merry Christmas because pretty much everyone in the town I grew up in was Catholic. My town was a veritable Catholic factory. Now where I live is a lot more diverse (whoa, Columbus OH is more diverse than where I grew up – yikes), so I tend to say “enjoy your holiday” because I have no idea who’s what and I want them to have a merry whatever it is they have.

    Random fact: My Indian coworkers mostly say Merry Christmas.

  64. “an intentional slap in the face.”

    …. so you prefer unintentional slaps in the face? Furthermore, when I’ve accidentally flailed about and hit someone with my hand, I *apologize,* *stop,* and *try to correct my behavior.*

  65. I am a Christian (Catholic to be specific). I greet people with “Merry Christmas” and send Christmas cards. Christmas is the big party it is for evangelical reasons and that’s what I’m doing. “This is what we believe and we’re really happy about it. Join us!” If you can’t tolerate evangelism from people of other faiths, you’re going to spend a lot of time upset. Any supposed war on Christmas is between Christians and non-Christians who want a homogeneous society. I don’t and I think I’m in the majority on that. (I’m also sure that once everyone else is gone, the Catholics would come next.)

    As for businesses, although it might be useful in some legal settings to anthropomorphize them, they don’t have souls and can’t celebrate Christmas. If a business puts up a sign saying happy “insert holiday” it means “Hey, you celebrating? We have stuff for that. Buy it here.” Businesses are lousy at evangelism and I couldn’t care less if they try.

  66. Thanks for the link to one of the stories about our courthouse lawn display issues, John. As the only member of our nine-seat county board of supervisors who voted to ban all displays (on the outrageous liberal thinking that the courthouse is, you know, a place where equal protection of the laws might be hard to reconcile with religious iconography at its entrances), it’s comforting to see that I’m not alone in some of my views.

    Don’t think, however, that the “War on Christmas” doesn’t work as a political tool. When I proposed the compromise of disallowing any public displays in favor of leaving our war memorials alone on the lawn along with one traditional-style Christmas tree and a menorah (and/or whatever it is the White House has), our most far-right member accused me of being part of a conspiracy intended all along to “ban the Nativity Scene.”

    Prior to this year’s election, my board was 5-2-2, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Going into next year, it is 9-0, Republicans all the way. The War on Christmas played a part in that, be sure of it.

    Stevens Miller (D-Dulles)
    Loudoun County Board of Supervisors
    Virginia, USA

  67. Thank you, Kezza, I didn’t know the correct well-wish for the Muslim holidays, and appreciate the information. The next thing I need is to be sure of is saying it to someone for whom it would be appropriate!

  68. Frankly, I don’t find either “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” any more offensive than someone wishing me a great Labor Day weekend, even though I don’t belong to a labor union.

  69. “when IS the season to be an ass?”
    The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

  70. Out of curiosity, when IS the season to be an ass?

    Apparently, election season… which is getting longer and longer all the time (as evidenced by Our Gracious Host’s other message from slightly later today)…

    * * *

    I have no problem with greetings, whatever they are. I have a problem with people who will not accept someone else’s objection to their own preferred greetings, or ceremonial actions, or whatever, in the spirit of that objection, instead of as an assault upon their very being and the core of All That Is Right and Good. Try getting excluded from a country club some time because some of one’s ancestors were from Eastern Europe and wouldn’t eat pork for religious reasons… at a military-sponsored event. (1991, near — ironically enough — Loudoun County, Virginia.)

    The whole point of democracy is that it doesn’t just tolerate dissent — it celebrates dissent as the primary way we learn things and test the validity of our own beliefs. Conversely, when someone in a position of authority pushes a position/ceremonial activity as somehow required to be “good,” for some value of “good,” I tend to get a little bit irritated… but then, my background is a bit different from most and involved putting my butt in the potential and actual line of fire defending democracy (and the rights of those in various religions to freely practice their faiths).

  71. grocery store checker: Is it all right to say “Merry Christmas”?
    me: Of course!
    gsc: (with big smile) Merry Christmas!
    me: And a Good Yule to you!
    gsc: (very confused look on his face as I grabbed my groceries and left)

  72. +1 to Kezza. I’ve been using “Joy of the Season…” for a while now. Why shouldn’t I wish for all of my friends, of whatever theological or philosophic persuasion, a Joyous Season? Q.E.D.

  73. The Bible has all answers, except on Calculus Final Exams.

    As to the season-of-the ass, unless this is a prophecy about Plasticman::

    “Elijah tied his ass to a tree and then walked a mile.”

  74. 1) Wishing you all a joyous Festive Winter Solstice Holiday Season (FWSHS). I do like “Merry Whatever” though, for variety.
    2) My new, plastic, 1,37 m, pre-lit, FWSHS tree will be decorated by tomorrow evening, just in time for the Solstice..
    3) Where do I sign up for calling in pre-Thanksgiving drone strikes on FWSHS gun-jumpers? Is there an app for that?

    Jack Tingle

  75. JVP:

    Elisha/Elijah is my hero. Although my translation says he walked five miles, after tying his ass to a tree. Heh.

  76. “War on Christmas” people just make me want to go write more horror. I try to pay as little attention to them as possible. Don’t get in my face, I won’t get in yours. But if you DO get in my face, I can guarantee I will be against whatever it is you are pushing on me. You want a “War on Christmas” just so you can have one more bogey man to make you feel superior? Fine. Where do I enlist? With the other side.

  77. I saw a documentary on the History channel last Christmas about the origin of the Catholic religion and was amused to see how many of the Christian (including my family’s) our Pagan-based. Constantine his people to a mix of Paganism and worshiping of himself. I still celebrate Christmas, Halloween, and Easter, but after doing more research on holidays, I quit Valentine’s and Saint Patrick’s Day. I think it’s important to know where your rituals and superstitions come from.

  78. Personal anecdote warning. Your mileage will definitely vary, especially if you live in a Red State –

    Growing up in California in the 80s, we were prohibited from singing Christmas songs in both elementary and high school. However, this prohibition only applied to Christmas, so in 2nd grade we were all given dreidels, taught the dreidel song, and played the game. Which was fine and all (I think I won chocolate), but the rank hypocrisy struck me, even at that young age.

    In high school, I actually read the note from the principal to the teachers stating that Christmas carols were prohibited, and only “inclusive” songs were to be allowed to be sung on campus during the school day. Note that Hanukkah and Kwanzaa was not included in this ban, and so they had decorations for them up in the school corridors.

    The question I have for people is: why is it considered acceptable to discriminate against Christianity?

  79. “”The question I have for people is: why is it considered acceptable to discriminate against Christianity?””

    Because when you discriminate against the majority, it is not “discrimination”, it’s ‘protest’ or ’empowerment’ or ‘insert your favorite PC term here.’ The minority is always downtrodden, ergo can not be guilty of discrimination.

  80. I think this XKCD appears to pretty much sum up Johns attitude:

    But you know, when people tell me that they’re excited that christmas is around the corner and I ask them to describe what they are looking forward to, I almost never get answers that deal with the religious aspects of the holiday. It always seems to be perfectly secular stuff, like getting the family together for the huge feast, baking christmas cookies with your sister/daughter/grandmother, watching the kids open the mountain of presents, strolling around the winter markets sipping a mug of glühwein, etc. Those that do respond with religious traditions such as christmas mass, seem to actually look forward to the family tradition of _going_ to mass rather than the mass itself.

  81. Matthew @ 8:16pm “when IS the season to be an ass?”
    The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

    Thread winner

  82. @billk “Yesterday I was listening to the interminable debate in the house over the payroll “tax cut” (it’s not a tax cut, it’s a reduction in contributions to retirement, but let’s not digress). ”

    Too late, you already digressed – you probably don’t realize this because the networks have done a horrible job reporting on this whole fiasco, but it its not a reduction in contributions to retirement. As with the initial payroll tax cut from earlier this year, offsets to the Social Security contributions have been made up through the General Fund – so no (new) threat to Social Security from the (temporary) payroll tax reduction and proposed continuation. Happy Holidays!

  83. I’m a little late to the “Let’s kick Scott Kemp party”, but now I’m here, so let’s have at…

    “For all of you non-Christians out there, at least consider the benefits that having a christian moral consensus has given to the USofA. I think that it is worth keeping the culture, even if you don’t have the Faith.”

    Would that the a moral system based on the ACTUAL teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, or of his later re-interpretors? Because the “christian moral consensus”, as far as I can see, promotes the denigration of women, describes homosexuality as a sin, by definition condemns practitioners of all other faiths to a proprietary hell, requires governmental intervention to prevent “sin” but decries it for “redistribution of wealth” and is generally antithetical to the teachings of a possibly apocryphal Aramaic rabbi who purportedly died not quite two millenia ago.

    To any “Christian” who would preach about morals, I commend to you Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”, especially calling attention to Mattew 7:1. You know it, “Judge not, lest ye be Judged”. For the ignorant, the unspoken addendum is “and be found wanting, bee-yotch.”

    Let’s not even get into Jesus instruction for the rich as regards the poor, i.e. giving up everything worldly that you might gain entry into the Kingdom of God.

    Personally, I do not believe in the divinity of Jesus. I harbor serious doubts about whether he was, in fact, a single person, or in actuality a construct of multiple teachers and holy men woven into a single coherent narrative. But I find it intolerable that those who loudest call his name are the ones who are least likely to follow his ACTUAL teachings. Modern Christian morality is virtually antithetical to the conduct that Jesus expected from his followers, and in fact closely resembles those very precepts he spoke out against in the Sermon on the Mount.

    I can see absolutely no value to a “christian moral consensus” in this country. In fact, from where I sit, the desire of the more fundamentalist strains of Christianity to force such a moral framework on the country is the root of much of our political strife. So please, and I say this with the utmost respect and gentleness, take your visions of a Christian theocracy and stuff them up your ass.

  84. War on Christmas? Bah! I’m and atheist (see it says so in my name). I have no problems at all with Christmas or any of the various greetings or anything else.

    As for the WoC nonsense, there are times I truly wish the Puritans were once again in charge in this here country… then you would REALLY see a War on Christmas. What with bans, fines, expecting people to work if it was a work day, those Puritans really knew how to wage a war on Christmas.

    Yep, those self-same forefathers who helped found this nation–and are held up as proof that this is a ahem“Christian” nation–saw Christmas as a pagan celebration and would not tolerate any public nonsense surrounding it. Foolstide they called it, and you best keep your celebrating inside and quiet, and no decorating unless you wanted said decorations destroyed.

    Now THOSE cats new how to wage a War on Christmas. Nowadays it isn’t a war, hell it doesn’t even rate as a “police action”. Skirmish may even be to strong. Bring on the Puritans and lets get this War started!

  85. Perspective time: in Greece, where you’re basically assumed to be Greek Orthodox unless you definitely state otherwise (and in a lot of contexts, revealing yourself to be something other than Greek Orthodox can lead to serious ostracism, and believe me, I speak from personal experience*), the traditional felicitation at this time of the year is «καλές γιορτές» – “kales giortes”, literally “good holidays”.

    And this is in a place where less than five years ago, the official national Christmas tree got frickin’ LIT ON FIRE as part of a protest. Imagine if that happened back home…

    *Such personal experience included getting latrine duty during Sunday services during my army conscription term because I was on their books as agnostic – although I may have been on the books as an atheist, because the local mindset doesn’t seem to recognzie the difference, but that’s another story entirely – and getting ordered point-blank by the training regiment chaplain to get myself baptized as a Greek Orthodox.

  86. @billk: Your school was, apparently, treating Hanukkah not as the religious observance it is, but as a cute cultural activity, remote from actual practice, that the children could learn about, the way that grade-school kids might dress as ancient Greeks for a history lesson.

    My question for you is, are you willing to accept anecdotes as proof as to who is or isn’t on the receiving end of ‘discrimination’? I’m thinking you may want to withdraw that opinion.

  87. I have an acquaintance who has a quite distinctive objection to “Merry Christmas”. He regards it as meaning “Enjoy Christmas by drinking alcohol to excess” and insists on “Happy Christmas”.

    He’s a recovering alcoholic and he regards “Merry” as having exclusively the “drunk” meaning.

  88. I myself am thankful (I know, wrong holiday) for the assholes of the stripe who take “War on Christmas” as a challenge.

    I. They keep the asshole Christians busy yelling at someone else.
    II. Some of the stuff they say and do is hilarious, at least to me.
    III. If they ever start getting silenced en masse I know it’s time to GTFO. I don’t think this is likely, but never show contempt for your safety equipment.

  89. The question I have for people is: why is it considered acceptable to discriminate against Christianity?

    Never having experienced that myself, I couldn’t tell you. Given that, when I was growing up, religions like Judaism were sort of viewed as a novelty, it’s likely its less intentional discrimination as it was possibly an attempt to extend cultural understanding or at worst, patronization. Kwanzaa is a secular holiday, so I’m not sure why you thought it should be banned. It’s less religious than St. Patrick’s Day, for example. Growing up in New York and Pennsylvania in the 80s, we never heard of Kwanzaa at all.

    tl;dr? It is not considered acceptable to discriminate against Christianity. I’m not sure I’d draw a direct equivalence. You’re telling me all Christmas decorations and celebrations of all kinds were banned, school-wide? Or just you weren’t allowed to have kids write Christmas cards and sing carols in the halls?

  90. @Liz: Sadly, the main thing I think of when I hear “Loudoun County” is Mainstream Loudoun v. Loudoun County Library, another case where people tried to impose their personal moral viewpoints on others’ behavior.

  91. billk@4:03: The question I have for people is: why is it considered acceptable to discriminate against Christianity?

    I wouldn’t. The scenarios you describe, if you’re describing them accurately, wouldn’t be something I would defend. I’m definitely in the “clear separation of church and state, no really”. So I wouldn’t have schools force students to engage in Christian, Jewish, or any other religious practice that is observed around the winter solstice.

    Thing is, suggest that to a *Christian*, and they most often balk at the idea. And the more the balk, the more I have found that they feel Christianity deserves an exception to the “separation of church and state” rule. Suggest that to someone who is non Christian, and they pretty much will shrug their shoulders because that’s how public schools and government property pretty much treats their religion now.

    The history of the original post indicates that someone enforced the idea that religious displays at the courthouse violated the separation of church and state issue, so they stopped it. What happened? A whole bunch of *Christians* showed up and *demanded* they get their religious display on government property.

    Which then forced the government to pretty much *ignore* the whole separation of church and state idea and instead fall back to the “separate but equal” nonsense. If everyone has their own separate religious display on government property, then it is somehow equal.

    What happened *then*? The discussion almost automatically devolved into which religions are “appropriate” to have space and which are not. Skeleton Santa and Flying Spaghetti Monsters being the extreme, but there are no doubt some religions more in the “grey” area than these two.

    And whenever someone tries to uphold the commitment to separation of church and state, nearly every time that happens in America it is a *Christian* group who comes in and insists they are the exception to that rule. Prayer in school. Under God in the pledge. Religious displays on government property. And then rather than actually separate the church from the state, people bend themselves into all manner of pretzel logic to try and justify the fact that they’re really arguing over the arbitration system for deciding which religious displays get put up during winter solstice and which forms of religious prayer is acceptable in school and which are not, and so on.

    And my question to all the existentialist Christians out there is this: Why can’t you practice your religion in your home, in your church, in your private life? Why is that not enough? Why must you *insist* that the government endorse your religion? How does that not entirely conflict with the whole idea of SEPARATION of church and state?

  92. I agree w/ Randall:
    “Matthew @ 8:16pm “when IS the season to be an ass?”
    The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

    Thread winner”

  93. “The question I have for people is: why is it considered acceptable to discriminate against Christianity?”

    I think some people may be confused as to the definition of “discrimination”. I don’t see anything unjust about keeping religious observances out of a public school (playing with Dreidles is skirting the line between cultural and religious, but I don’t imagine they taught a whole lot of the actual meaning of Hanukkah; and as another noted, Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, it’s cultural).

    You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means. – Inigo Montoya

  94. I am an atheist. I can care less about Christmas. I see no need to change it to the Holidays or whatever. Its a day off of work for me. Non-Christians who get insulted by a holiday are pretty stupid. Why would I care?

    That being said, I think the whacko rights worry about a ‘war on Christmas’ is ridiculously overblown. If some town wants to call their Christmas tree a holiday tree and you don’t live in that that town, why do you care? Seriously. Get a life.

    The vast majority of people who celebrate Christmas are not even all that religious. Most of the news stories are about how busy the malls are and what the sales are like.

  95. A few people (Nick D, Chris, Greg) read a previous post and (if I understood / interpreted their comments correctly – always a concern) concluded that the moral consensus in the United States could just as well have been created by other forces than Christianity. However, they failed to elaborate. I encourage them to do so. What religion(s), cultural heritage(s), or other factors can be shown to have created an equivalent moral consensus? Just because I know of none certainly does not mean that they do not exist.

  96. Christmastime seems to bring out the best and the worst in some people. I just de-friended someone on Facebook because I was tired of seeing his anti-God, anti-Christian, anti-Religion pictures, shares, and posts in my news feed every day. The closer we’ve come to Christmas, the more this person ramped up the “volume,” as it were.

    I work very hard to accept the fact that lots of people aren’t thrilled with church. As a science fiction writer I have to have a thick skin for that sort of stuff because most of my professional associates are atheists, agnostics, or at the very least, lapsed (insert religious system here) who carry forward some of the traditions, while adhering to none of the doctrine. But because I am a science fiction writer, most of my professional associates also talk about other stuff on their blogs and their FB pages. Interesting stuff, that’s worth my while.

    When your blog or FB page is filled predominantly with anti-anything to the extent that you appear to be a zealot — of whatever conviction, believer or non-believer — you’ve got a problem. And while I don’t question your right to speak your mind, I do think I have the right to “turn you off” the way I’d switch radio or TV channels. I’m not interested in reading about how much you hate God — someone you don’t even believe in.

  97. In terms of the news outlet coverage of the War on Christmas(TM), I saw an excellent blog entry describing Fox News’ war on Christmas. Given that they’re some of the most fierce claimants that there is, indeed, a war on Christmas, I enjoyed that the conclusion of the article was “So if there is a war on Christmas it’s the one being waged by Fox News.”

  98. @Greg says 12:08 pm
    “Why can’t you practice your religion in your home, in your church, in your private life? Why is that not enough?”
    It’s not enough because we can’t spread the good word behind closed doors. The government should never sponsor a religion but it shouldn’t force people to hide religious practice behind closed doors either. Suppressing all religions equally isn’t religious freedom.
    Courthouse lawns are public property but public parks are used for private purposes all the time. Otherwise it would be illegal to have a picnic. There can be fights over who gets to use the time and space though. Then things get messy and there often aren’t any good answers, only unpleasant compromises.

  99. Brad – at least we agree on that. I also just stopped reading blog entries and the Twitter feed of an old friend I’ve known for 20+ years, because she recently found Atheism and seemed to think she needed to evangelize on behalf of the movement – instead of focusing on discussions of writing like she used to do.

    I’m not a Christian – indeed I’m a polytheist – and I found the noise was just as annoying as those emails I get from my well-meaning mother that decry the secularism of our society today and evangelize about Jesus. My religion doesn’t condone proselytising. :)

    Like in the OP, I don’t see this War on Christmas anywhere. I have a co-worker who’s extremely devout and occasionally she’ll parrot something about “can’t say Christmas to people anymore” and I let her go on thinking that, but you can’t throw a stone without hitting some indication of Christmas in this region so I fear a little for her mind and how easily swayed it is by repetition of falsehoods.

  100. Scott@12:20: Greg) …. concluded that the moral consensus in the United States could just as well have been created by other forces than Christianity

    Well, now you’re shifting the topic slightly. The US was in fact created by forces that were not entirely Christian. There certainly were a lot of Christians, but, for example, it is clear that not all the founding fathers were Christian. It does seem to be an interesting but annoying behavior that almost universally occurs among a subset of Christians to try and claim *all* the Founding Fathers as their own. History does not support that. Ignoring them and trying to rewrite history so that they were all one big happy Christian nation is… I’m not sure what the exact word is, but creepy comes to mind.

    It’s also insultingly dismissive of non-Christian beliefs to dismiss them from history. Sort of like when certain Christians today insist that we are even now a “Christian Nation”. It has the same feeling as I was describing about the separation of Church and State: certain Christians think they are an exception to that rule. Certain Christians think that *everyone else* practices religion, but Christianity follows the “truth” or something, so it isn’t really a “religion”. Which is also in it’s own way, kind of creepy.

    What religion(s), cultural heritage(s), or other factors can be shown to have created an equivalent moral consensus? Just because I know of none certainly does not mean that they do not exist

    I… I am not sure what you are asking for here. Are you asking me to explain history to you?

    A simple example of “equivalent moral consensus” is “Thou shalt not murder”. It is a fairly common moral consensus among all religions and even atheist and agnostics tend to support it (Godless heathens opposed to murder? Crazy, isn’t it?). It is “equivalent” in that “murder is wrong” can be found in most cultures. It is “moral” in that it asserts teh “wrongness” of the deed. And it is a “consensus” in that the varying cultures all formed a “consensus” among themselves that it was something they would follow. And they did so without your Christian bible. Hinduism started long before Genesis was written, just as an example.

    Is that what you’re looking for?

    Perhaps a more important question would be: are you actually willing to see it for what it is? Because the whole “ten commandments in the courthouse” debates have spotlighted that certain Christians fiercely believe that Christianity is the only source of America’s laws and no other source could be possible. It’s the source, i.e. the founding fathers were all extreme Christians like they are. And it’s the ONLY source, i.e. it can never be replaced. Regardless of the religious orientation of the founders, if we remove the ten commandments and the religious morality that it imposes, then no morality is possible at all. All morality must be divined from God. Remove the Ten Commandments, and morality collapses and can never be built from any other non-Christian source.

    If that is the unstated premise you’re working from, then you’ll never see any other non-Christian system as having any sort of “equivalent moral consensus” and the meaning of that phrase will always shift to “that isn’t it” when aimed at some non-Christian moral system.

    Just because I know of none certainly does not mean that they do not exist

    On some level, this really just shouts out that you never really looked for one. There are a LOT of equivalent moral consensus cultures. It would almost take a willfull act of ignoring them to ask for proof of their existence.

  101. Scott Kemp@12:20pm: I’m not sure you realize the breadth and depth of the question you’ve just asked, and I’m pretty sure trying to answer it would thoroughly derail this thread. At the core, it’s best to start with the idea that morality and ethics are philosophical concepts – and while almost every religion has a philosophy built-in, not every philosophy is necessarily born of, nor tied to a religion. It may not be the best place, but you could try starting with Wikipedia’s page on “Morality”, and going from there. (See “Secular Humanism” for one example of non-religious based morality)

    The shorter answer, of course, is to look around at other world nations or religions that pre-date Christianity. In India, you’ve got Hindu as perhaps the largest group – in Asia, Buddhist, Shinto, many more. And of course, remember that many nations might be influenced by more than one religious code of morality, distilling a legal moral/ethical code that doesn’t truly belong to any religion.

  102. “…unfortunately, have to watch them both make public asses of themselves”? Nah, that’s the only thing I disagree about in your piece, John. It’s very entertaining to watch people make asses out of themselves. But when it pisses people off, yeah, that shows the person is only reacting out of their own pain, anger, frustration, whatever. And unfortunately, it’s the freaks, geeks and weirdos the media targets this and any time of year when they publish these stories because it is perceived that that is what we are as a public on the whole want to see.

  103. Karl Henderson
    Why do you need to “spread the good word”? Again it raises Greg’s question: why can’t you keep your beliefs to yourself? Why the need to press your beliefs onto others? When atheists attempt to do the same christians get extremely upset. So, why is it ok for one side but not the other? It goes back to Greg’s point that many christians truly feel that separation of church and state doesn’t apply to them and that this country really is a “christian” country.

    Scott Kemp
    I believe Richard and Greg answered the same why I would have. Morality did not originate with Christianity, it is much older than that. And what makes you think there is such a thing as a “moral consensus.” If such a thing existed this would be a much more friendly country, in fact, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  104. Richard / Greg –

    Let me state the issue / ask the question a different way:
    – I submit that the late-18th century to mid-20th century United States is an example of a society whose moral underpinnings came from Christian principles. And that this society is among the best (if not the best) in the history of mankind for providing a quality life for its members.
    – Please submit an example of another society that provided a similar or better quality of life for its members that did NOT have its moral underpinnings from Christian principles. And suggest a source for the moral underpinnings of that society.

    (Richard started down this road in his 1:42pm post. But he stopped before producing the level of specificity that would allow for objective comparison.)

    I am an amateur student of history and philosophy. I do not know of any. I would not mind being enlightened. (sarcasm = OFF, really)

    If you are willing to take shots at Christianity, it is only fair that you display your own target and accept the responsibility of defending it.

  105. Scott,

    This country is QUITE different than it was when it was founded, but even when it was founded it was under the idea that church and state would be separate. As Greg said not all of the founding fathers were christian, so how could all of the pricinciples be based on christianity? I will admit though that plenty of the principles were christian or at least similiar to what is stated in the bible. However, saying that moral values such as feeling an aversion to murder or to steal were created by christianity is just wrong. Also lets think about some of the christian values that were part of the founding of this society, i.e slavery, and the submissive/inferior role of women. It is only after many years of reform and moral evolution have we reached the level of equality that we now live in.

  106. billk @ 4:03 am: I don’t think it’s acceptable to discriminate against any religion, and I think someone at you school should have called that ACLU. It’s okay for schoolchildren to learn about different religions, as long as it’s not in the context of proselytizing. (This includes Christianity. Learning about the Bible, for example, is very valuable when studying western history and literature.)

    I don’t want to discount your experiences, because even one example of discrimination is one too many, but I don’t think your anecdote implies that there is a widespread, systematic bias against Christians in the U.S., who comprise the overwhelming majority of Americans at this point.

    Greg @ 12:08 pm: May I kindly suggest that you are engaging in dangerous generalization here. Just because some Christians engage in the behavior you describe does not mean that all–or even most–Christians do so. For example, you might have heard of the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, whose executive director is one Rev. Barry Lynn.

    Scott Kemp @ various times: I would agree that current moral consensus in America hasn’t emerged, in large part, due to the historical influence of Christianity. Also would also agree that Christianity contains some great moral ideas. But I don’t accept that you have to be a believer to benefit from those moral teachings or to be a moral person. I would echo the words of the humanist write Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote (in his book A Man Without a Country):

    I say of Jesus, as all humanists do, “If what he said is good, and so much of it is absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?” But if Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being. I’d just as soon be a rattlesnake.

    I believe our host, an agnostic, has described using the Bible as part of his daughter’s moral education.

  107. Argh. I meant to write “has emerged”, not “hasn’t emerged”, in the first sentence of my response to Scott Kemp.

  108. Scott Kemp @ 2:39pm:
    – I submit that the late-18th century to mid-20th century United States is an example of a society whose moral underpinnings came from Christian principles. And that this society is among the best (if not the best) in the history of mankind for providing a quality life for its members.
    Well, right off the bat, I don’t accept this premise. For a host of reasons, but for two primary ones: first, that ‘Christian principles’ is too ambiguous a term, considering the wide background amongst the Founding Fathers (not all of whom were traditionally Christian), and second that many (if not all) the ‘moral underpinnings’ our country is based on likely pre-date Christianity, and probably have a more solid pinning on the Code of Hammurabi than, say, the Ten Commandments (six of which wouldn’t even work as law in the US).

    – Please submit an example of another society that provided a similar or better quality of life for its members that did NOT have its moral underpinnings from Christian principles. And suggest a source for the moral underpinnings of that society.
    Sadly, countries don’t neatly separate themselves into petri dishes for us. Nor do philosophies, or religions. Again, I think you’re attempting to reduce a complex problem down too far, to simple precepts and conclusions I doubt most folks here would agree with.

  109. And that this society is among the best (if not the best) in the history of mankind for providing a quality life for its members.

    You might want to ask the African-American residents of the southern states to fact-check that assertion for you.

    It looks to me as though you are starting with a fairly shaky premise there.

  110. Cofax –
    I remember watching Mohammed Ali being interviewed after coming back to the U.S. after fighting “The Rumble in the Jungle” – a boxing match against Joe Frazier staged in Africa in order to get around the U.S. income tax. He was asked what he thought of Africa and he said (I may be mis-quoting slightly – it was several years ago that I saw the interview) “…thank God my granddaddy got on that boat …”. Not exactly fact checking, but it does give credence to the premise that the poor of the 20th century U.S. (which Cassius Clay was before he became Mohammed Ali) were better off than the average African of the same time period.

  111. Scott, I don’t get it. You want the name of a country that is predominantly nonchristian and morally equivalent to America? Some place like Japan for example? India?

    Also, quality of life is economic and has nothing to do with morality, so I don’t know if you changed subject by accident or not. If you want to measure morality, I guess you would measure stuff like murders per capita. If you want to compare “quality of life” that would be stuff like number of people below the poverty level, number of homeless people, infant mortality rate, how many people go hungry, how long people live on average.

    quality of life, as measuree by those sorts of economic i.dicators has nothing to do with the religios breakdown of the country’s population.

  112. And thus all of the evils of slavery were erased and it all became good for everyone involved.

    Back to the war on Christmas. I wish Bill O. and the rest of Christendom would magically appear in the 1600’s when those religious forefathers they brag about were running the place. I would love to see a picture of them in stocks or paying fines for celebrating Foolstide.

  113. This time of the year, I often say “Happy Holidays”, just because it’s faster than saying even “Merry Christmas and a happy New Year”, let alone adding in any of the other observances. My personal laziness pays off in the occasional rant-eruption which I find entertaining to watch, then even more entertaining extinguishing through reasoned conversation.

  114. Scott Kemp: Japan – as one of the few non-Christian countries that managed to avoid being colonized by a Christian country and successfully industrialized itself.

    There are too many confounds in what you ask – Christianity in various forms and at various times and for various reasons has actively sought out, subjugated, subsumed, and eradicated many other cultures. Where it couldn’t erase, it frequently stifled under colonial rule.

    Also… From where I sit, insisting that everyone recognize your particular belief system is inherently superior (which is ultimately what you’re asking for) counts as, well, being an ass.

  115. I’m an atheist and I don’t mind ‘Merry Christmas’ or whatever. What get me out is people who a) know I’m an atheist and b) *insist* on saying ‘God bless you'” EVERY time I sneeze. I work in a dry, dusty shop and I sneeze twenty times a day. Please ignore it. Before I say something uncharitable…

  116. I think it’s very true that Christmas decorations are about “yay, Christmas” and almost never about “up yours non-believers” and, most importantly, if you’re using Christmas to be an asshole to people you’ve failed at Christmas.

    I think some people simply pour an awful lot of thought into this sort of thing. If you sit down and think hard enough about one thing for long enough you’ll fall down rabbit holes that people who are too busy getting on with other stuff don’t even know are possible. At war-on-Christmas / Christmas-as-a-stick-to-beat-atheists levels it really reflects the person’s own preoccupations.

  117. Not exactly fact checking, but it does give credence to the premise that the poor of the 20th century U.S. (which Cassius Clay was before he became Mohammed Ali) were better off than the average African of the same time period.

    You do conveniently elide the fact that the bulk of the time period your earlier post referred to (mid-1700s to mid-1900s, right?) the great majority of African-Americans on this continent were subject to inhumane conditions, including having their children sold away from them.

    Cassius Clay rose to become one of the greatest boxers of the century, and thus a wealthy and privileged man, and unsurprisingly enjoyed his life and wouldn’t want to trade it for that of a poor man in Africa. That this is true doesn’t in fact negate the incredible suffering of millions of people at earlier times. I wouldn’t dream of asserting that the benefits he gained from being born in 20th-C American outweighs the suffering of millions during the last few centuries.

    You haven’t made your case, I’m afraid.

    But we’ve gone astray, and I fear the application of the Loving Mallet of Correction, so I will bow out.

  118. @Chris says: 2:25 pm
    Why spread the good word? Jesus said to. The best way to do this is to practice Christianity publicly and set a good example. That shouldn’t mean forcing it down people’s throats.
    Getting upset about seeing other people practicing their religion and asking them to do it behind closed doors is intolerance. If you look for people upset about other religions existing, “My kids shouldn’t have to see that!!!” you’ll find a lot of Christians but that is because there are a lot of Christians. Christians don’t have a monopoly on intolerance. (They are about the only religious group in the U.S. big enough to get away with it though.) Christian or otherwise, if you don’t want your kids exposed to other cultures, you’ll probably have to join a closed community and home school. I personally recommend, however, that people deliberately expose their kids (and themselves) to other cultures.
    Religious freedom means that people have a right to practice their religion and do it in public. That goes for Christians and non-Christians alike.

  119. Scott@2:38: “I am an amateur student of history and philosophy.”

    Student? OK. School is in session.

    You made a statement @2:28, that everyone ought to consider the advantage that a christian moral consensus gave America, implying that no other religion could possibly do the same. You didn’t prove this or even provide evidence. Instead, you said that you knew of no counter example to prove it false.

    That’s a logical error of a very severe degree. It’s called argument from ignorance, which can be summarized as “I don’t know, so it must be true.” And that’s exactly what you did.

    After saying you don’t know of any counter examples, you ask us to provide counter examples to disprove it. There is an implication of sorts in your posts that your assertion is true until someone can disprove it. That’s an even larger and more fundamental logic error. If you make an assertion, then its up to you to prove it is true. That’s just how logic works.

    You can’t provide a single example as absolute proof of some more generic assertion. That is a logical fallacy called hasty generalization. It sounds something like “This swan is black, all swans must be black”. Or “life on earth is carbon based, all life in teh universe must be carbon based”. It doesn’t work that way. It is a logical error to try to do that.

    But here’s a funny thing about logic: Evidence about a single individual cannot prove a broader assertion about the entire population. But a single individual that violates the assertion completely and utterly destroys the assertion. It’s kind of weird that way, but that’s how it works.

    You say you are a student of history and philosophy, yet you can’t find a single example of a non Christian country with moral equivalence to the US?

    Really? Sixty seconds googling “compare homicide by country” found this: the homicide rate per 100k in 2010 was 4.8 for United States and 0.83 for Japan and Japan’s demographics say it is about 90% Buddhism or Shinto. So that completely blows your assertion regarding “moral equivalence” out of the water.

    Lastly, at 2:38, you said this: “If you are willing to take shots at Christianity, it is only fair that you display your own target and accept the responsibility of defending it.”

    No, it doesn’t work that way at all. You make the assertion, the burden of proof is on you. What you did by asking us to disprove it is a logical fallacy called “shifting the burden of proof”. ANd this last statement, saying that to be “fair” we should provide our own “target” so you can shoot at it, that is yet another example of a severe error in the logical process. I don’t even know if it has a specific logical fallacy name attached to it, possibly a “red herring”. But a logical error none the less.

    I’m not exactly sure what kind of “student of history and philosophy” you are, but I strongly suggest you put that on hold for a little while and study how logical arguments work and don’t work. The best site I’ve run into for succinctly explaining arguments and having a good concise list of logical fallacies is this one:

  120. My brother used to work in a shop where you could buy rubber versions of the symbols people cherished that were specifically designed to be shoved right up the ass.

    Maybe if a few of these were gifted to the neo-atheist douches and war on christmas pyschos, it would ease tensions.

  121. Scott @ 2:28: “My analysis is that the “War on Christmas” has the goal of encouraging a generation of Americans to think that Christ, Christianity, and Christmas is foolish & not worthy of their serious consideration.”

    This isn’t really a logical fallacy issue, so I didn’t include it above. Actually, this is a bit of a jaw dropper because it sort of stunned me into shock to the point I’m not even sure how to respond to to this directly. I think it would best be replied to with a question I would like you to answer.

    Given your assertion: The war on xmas people are out to make Christianity look “foolish and not worthy of consideration.”

    My question is this: How many non-christian belief systems do you go out of your way to tell people that these non christian belief systems are worthy of serious consideration?

    Because it seems to me that everything you’ve posted on this thread boils down to this: Only Christianity made America the great country that it is, and no nonchristian beliefs have ever produced any moral equivalent to America in any other country at any time throughout history.

    It seems to me that you are doing exactly the thing you’re accusing the “war on Christmas” people of doing: making the other religions look foolish, not worthy of serious consideration.

    I’m at a loss.

  122. I have to agree, John. I’d like to think that your average person/stranger/person at the register/etc. who says “Merry Christmas” to you has no underlying motive–I highly doubt they’re thinking “HA! Take that, you atheist HEATHEN!” More to the point, they’re doing exactly what you’re saying: “Hey, it’s a fun holiday, hope things are cool with you and yours.” Anything more than that, and you’re just reading WAY too much into it.

    That said…I’m more of a person who likes to dispel any tense situation with silliness, so in the great words of John Lennon:

    “Garry crimble to you
    Garry mimble to you
    Getty bable, dear Christmas
    Happy birthday me too!”

    Hope you and yours have a great holiday, John. :)

  123. I submit that the late-18th century to mid-20th century United States is an example of a society whose moral underpinnings came from Christian principles. And that this society is among the best (if not the best) in the history of mankind for providing a quality life for its members.

    Other folks have pointed this out, but I’ll come right out and say it: how do you reconcile slavery with the above assertion?

  124. Here’s an interesting, and I think important point:

    All those “evil atheists” who are forcing thier municipalities to allow them to put up secular holiday displays, don’t really want to put up secular holiday displays. What they want is for their municipal governments to stop breaking the law. Placing a nativity scene (because let’s be honest, that’s what this is all about – nobody’s objecting to city Christmas trees) on public property is in direct contravention of the first ammendment to the Constitution of the United States. When confronted with this fact, municipal governments have two legal options: 1) Allow all displays, or: 2) Allow no displays. I find it fascinating that most places in America would prefer to put up with the hassle of dealing with the logistics and complaints generated by allowing all displays, than the much easier second option.

  125. What really annoys me? I went out to buy cards for the teachers in my kids’ public school at Walmart last night, NOT A SINGLE ONE said “Happy Holidays”. ALL they had were Christmas or New Years cards. Look, I’m a Christian, but I respect that other people celebrate other holidays or for other reasons, and I just want to wish people well. To go so far that we can’t even have a proper selection of cards for gifts is just plain ridiculous. Anyway, happy holidays everyone…

  126. Just two thoughts to add to the “Christian Principles Made America Great” argument:

    “Christian Principles Made America Great” is extremely dubious, since not stealing is a commandment, and the vast majority of the land the country rests on was was stolen, directly or through various forms of blatant flimflammery.

    “Christianity Made America Great” is slightly more plausable, especially since many Euro countries have done quite well. However, the leading causations for this greatness in most texts seem to be miltary advantages, industrialization, and the Enlightenment. Certainly Christianity existed before these three things and its record over the time period is mixed.

  127. @Greg says 12:08 pm
    “Why can’t you practice your religion in your home, in your church, in your private life? Why is that not enough?”
    Karl@1:02: “It’s not enough because we can’t spread the good word behind closed doors.”

    Ah, well, see, spreading the word is exactly what separation of church and state is intended to stop.

    Courthouse lawns are public property but public parks are used for private purposes all the time. Otherwise it would be illegal to have a picnic.

    Picnic, sure. But how many picnics do you know of that are there to “spread the word” and get other people follow their style of picnicking rules? Only red/white checkerboard drop cloths are allowed, must be a wicker picnic basket, no pork products,

    I’m not asking you to put your religion in the closet, to hide it behind closed doors. I’m asking why must you have an advertisement of your religion on government property? And advertisement is exactly appropriate since you yourself said the issue is you can’t spread the good word behind closed doors. Why must the government endorse your ad by giving it space on public property?

    Why is your church property not good enough? If you have a business, why is that not good enough? If you have a home or apartment, why is it not good enough to have a christmas display there? Are there not enough christmas songs on the radio? Not enough Christmas specials, christmas movies, christmas episodes on TV? Why is it not good enough to buy time on a billboard and spread the word about your religious beliefs there?

    Why is it you have to have free advertising space on government property to spread the word on your religion? Why when there are the endless ways to spread the word that I listed above?

    And the only answer that really makes sense is because government endorsement has power that a billboard does not.

    And this power is exactly why “separation of church and state” exists.

    People can ignore billboards. They can change channels if they don’t want to watch your christmas special. But government endorsement is really about removing the choice of people to say “no”. It’s an email list you can’t unsubscribe from. Government endorsed religious advertisement has a kind of power that an ad on church-owned property does not have.

    I’m not saying you can’t spread the word of your religious beliefs. I’m asking why you insist on getting free advertising space on government owned property. That you are willing to negotiate to allow other religions some free advertising space just so you can continue to have your free advertising space is irrelevant to my question. My question is WHY do you insist on having free advertising space on government property when there are many, many, many, many other ways to advertise and spread the word about your religion on private property like a home or church and commercial property like a billboard and commercial airtime like a TV ad or show or movie?

    All those different mediums to spread the word but you still have to have free advertising on government property as well? Why if not for the power that comes from government endorsement?

  128. To: Courtney Cantrell @ 1:57 PM THANK You! Every time I see a “Put the Christ Back in Christmas” bumper stickers, for me, that person’s apparent IQ goes down at least 10 points. Honest to gnocchi, it is a Saturnalia miracle that I haven’t tried to swerve them off the road to gently explain.

  129. This was my first holiday working in retail, and I was worried about this issue. I generally say “Happy Holidays” because I believe in inclusiveness, and anyway, it’s clear just from their baskets that our store’s customers celebrate other holidays besides Christmas. But I grew up in a more conservative area where there actually were a lot of delusional Leviticans who thought there was a “war on Christmas” and probably nodded right along with Rick Perry’s “Strong” ad while preparing red-and-green cupcakes for their son’s classroom Christmas party. I was worried this was going to be an issue.

    But other than a few customers saying “Merry Christmas” back with the “particular emphasis” jeanfiend mentioned, it never came up. Oh, wait, there was one customer who complained about “Happy Holidays” – in a completely out-of-left-field rant months before Christmas. Did I mention this customer was drunk?

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