There are a lot of hazards to being a secular person in today’s society, from raging televangelists decrying us as the heralded doom of the U.S. to the looks of silent disdain when people learn of our doubting natures.
Christmas is one of those times when it is particularly difficult for us. If the analysts at socially conservative media outlets are to be believed, atheists, agnostics and secularists are waging a full out war on the holiday of Christmas, trying to ban everything from Christmas Trees, to nativity scenes, to the very acknowledgement of the phrase “Merry Christmas” itself.
At least that’s what all of the hyperbole seems to indicate. As a secular person, I am oftentimes confused and exasperated by this annual occurrence. If there is an effort to ban the holiday of Christmas, it does not appear to be coming from the American secular movement.
Sure, there are organizations such as the American Atheists who are pretty fervent in their desire to ensure a strict separation of church and state. They have a good reason for this, the display of religious paraphernalia (such as nativity scenes) on government property is a pretty strong endorsement of Christianity, something forbidden by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. But this is hardly an attempt to ban Christmas for private citizens.
This of course operates on the assumption that secularists do not observe the holiday, which is absurd.
While we personally may not believe in the religious aspect of the holiday, that does not stop us from partaking in the spirit of the holiday. Many of us go out and buy gifts for friends and family, put up Christmas trees and even observe church services with family members who are Christian. For us, we do not see Christmas as the observance of the birthday of Jesus Christ, but rather as a time for generosity and spending time with friends and family.
Just because we say “Happy Holiday’s” instead of “Merry Christmas” does not automatically mean that we hate everything that has to do with Christmas. We say this in the spirit of inclusivity, given that Christmas is not the only religious holiday that falls in the month of December. For instance, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins on December 8th and lasts until December 16th. The Pagan holiday of Yule also begins on December 20th and lasts until December 22nd.
We are not trying to ban Christmas. There are a lot more pressing issues for the secular movement to be working on. For instance, the state of Kentucky has made it a crime to be an atheist, citing the necessity for the Christian God to the security of the state. The law carries a penalty of a 12 month prison sentence simply for not believing in the Christian God. The law first surfaced six years ago, but it has yet to be struck down despite its blatant disregard for the First Amendment. Getting that law off the books, at least in my mind, is a helluva lot bigger of a priority than stopping states from putting up Christmas trees.
Notwithstanding the decades, and sometime centuries old, state laws that demand a test of faith in order to hold public office, seven states have laws on their books which disallow those who do not believe in a god or gods from serving in public office, in spite of the popular vote. This blatant disregard for Article 6 Section 3 of the Constitution also trumps encouraging Wal-Mart greeters to say “Happy Holidays”.
From a secular perspective, this so called “War on Christmas” is a colossal waste of time and effort to be waging, if we are waging it at all.
But if people have a driving need to blame atheists for something, then by all means continue to spew your hyperbole. Just do it in the knowledge that we, the secular community, tend to just look at these accusations as some of the best comedic material of the year. We are not trembling in our boots, we are laughing so hard our sides hurt.
So let your so-called War on Christmas begin! Come at us with your shouts and your rants! We’ve already made popcorn and have watched reruns of the Daily Show in preparation for the greatest media sideshow in history!
Trust me, I am much more interested in catching the Christmas special of Doctor Who than trying to stop you from putting up a Christmas tree. Happy Holidays, social conservatives!