While I was offline for a month, I kept a note of any links and news stories worth commenting on. Now that I’m back, I’m aiming to post two short items a day here, about stuff that happened during my online absence, until I’ve cleared the backlog. This is one of those.
Someday I’ll put together a proper analysis of just how empty this War on Christmas business really is. Maybe next year.
But it seems that these days, even before the snow’s had a chance to demolish the entire infrastructure of the south of England, and before atheists have even started popping up to point out that actually Jesus is still made up even on his birthday, the cries of outraged Christian persecution and woe swamp all discussion of this season of joy and goodwill.
Most atheists I know enjoy Christmas. Most Christians I know are fine with that and don’t much care how I want to spend the holidays one way or another. But some people will loudly insist that if anyone else doesn’t do things their way, it’s oppressive and unfair.
Maybe the USA is home to a lot more Hindu fundamentalists than we thought, but I rather suspect this is all just about that branch of conservative Christians making a fuss over nothing.
When I say “happy holidays,” I am being offensive to my Christian neighbors. When they say “merry Christmas,” even if they know I am an atheist, I am supposed to smile and return the greeting. It does not matter how insensitive it might be.
Personally, all my religious friends are happy to be wished a Jovial Hannukwanzaamas, but this is genuinely how some people seem to think. Other people having a different name for something means they’re trying to censor you.
Mind you, I’m all for atheists (and anyone else who wants to) celebrating Christmas as the cultural event that it is, without getting weighed down by its Christian baggage (just like most Christians don’t worry over its pagan origins now). Mitch Benn’s perfect explanation of this point was one of the highlights of 2010’s 9 Lessons and Carols for Godless People:
If only Christians get to use the word “Christmas”, then only Vikings get to use the word “Thursday”.
Some folks in America play the “Christian nation” card around this point, and claim that anyone living in the country should abide by the traditions of its heritage.
The thing is, this amounts to saying that there’s something in your country’s laws or culture that exalts and respects Christian tradition specifically, above all others.
That is the opposite of being persecuted. You can’t have it both ways.
Anyway. Christmas is great; don’t let it be ruined by people who like it almost as much as shouting at anyone who doesn’t. That’s my holiday message.