It’s the time of year for proselytizers and evangelicals to wind the “War on Christmas” trumpet, and to bemoan the lack of “Christian” values that (to them) is the inevitable result of squelching religious displays, iconography, and public religious practices on government property and in our schools.
I don’t mind Christmas displays or messages, and it represents the most innocuous side of faith. The Christmas story, no matter how inaccurate (there was no census by Rome requiring that Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, and no contemporary historical source mentions Jesus at all – save the Bible itself and later revisionist insertions) is a pleasing, warm and fuzzy family story. I like that it highlights poverty and the love and acceptance of a baby born into poverty. I like the image of Kings (the magi) bowing to an infant born of simple people. All of that is cool. I even like the supernatural elements – as long as people understand that its a story. A fable. A myth. Fiction. Never happened.
It doesn’t even bother me that Christmas or Yule or the Solstice is NOT anywhere near the supposed time of Jesus’ birth (March or April), I don’t care. They chose to celebrate it on the 25th of December in order to co-opt an already-popular holiday, I get that.
But what the Christian community apparently cannot understand is that it is also just another element of the crushing, suffocating, DAILY imposition of Christianity on the lives of non-Christians. Lives that should be immune, if the principles of the First Amendment were adhered to, from this imposition in the government sphere. Erect a manger, by all means. But do it in your front yard, do it in a shop window. Do it where it doesn’t give the appearance of governmental support and complicity. My experience, as an Atheist, is that I can’t make it through a single day without SOME kind of Christian intrusion into my life. Door to door, flyers, blessings, offers of prayer, churches on every corner, news items, Facebook posting, friends and family, on and on and on. Some days, I find myself wishing that I lived in another country, a more secular one, or that I could squirrel myself far away from all other people, just so that I could spend a few days without the Christian religion being shoved in my face.
Many Christians defending the common practice of erecting Christmas displays in public-use and federal buildings say that the “War on Christmas” and the removal of God from the classroom (they often conjoin these two arguments) has resulted in a more violent and rebellious youth culture, but this correlation is faulty, it is not a LACK of religion that causes unethical behavior, it is a lack of ethical instructions and expectations. Christianity uses morality from authority and guilt to motivate its adherents to refrain from immoral behavior. And that works precisely to the extent that the subject Christians allow it to color their feelings of remorse, guilt and approval seeking. Not very well, in other words. A glance at per capita violent crime statistics will show you that we’ve actually improved in a lot of areas, especially in the last twenty years. What we’ve gotten a LOT better at is reporting these instances immediately.
It SEEMS to be a more violent U.S., but it really isn’t. Bullying was not reported or addressed at all in the 80s, for instance, where now a single incident summons the police and charges are filed. Bullying is on the wane nationwide.
I remain convinced that if we taught children critical thinking and social ethics, from third grade onward, we’d raise a generation of amazing citizens. We have removed God from the secular classroom (thank you, Dr. O’Hair), in other words, but we haven’t replaced him with appropriate instruction.
National Atheist Party