Monday, December 07, 2015

The holiday season begins and so does the “war against Christmas”

By SJ Otto

It is December and that means the Christmas season has begun. People do a lot of shopping to buy gifts for friends or family. They put up neat decorations and we start to hear Christmas music everywhere.

I like this festive season but I’m not a Christian, I am an Epicurean. [1] Instead of celebrating a Christian holiday I celebrate the Winter Solstice—the shortest day and longest night of the year. The symbols and traditions are about the same. But I celebrate nature rather than a religious deity.

There are more people as me that celebrate this season according to their own religions or traditions today than in years past. Some time ago people began trying to include Chanukah in the holiday season. In some cities, such as New York, there are a lot of Jews. There are menorahs in public places and many people say “happy Chanukah.” It makes economic sense that stores sell Chanukah cards and other things related to the Jewish holiday. It means stores making more money and more people feeling included in the traditional holiday season.

Another holiday trend is for “new age” pagans to celebrate their traditional holidays. That includes Samhain, Yule and Winter Solstice. Many of our modern holidays come from pagan celebrations. Most of our Halloween symbols come from pagan religions and the holiday Samhain. Most of our Christmas symbols, such as Christmas Trees and Santa Clause have their roots in these older religions, once called Yule or Winter Solstice. The date for Christmas was originally set for the winter solstice or earlier holidays held around the solstice.

Several years ago I studied Druidry along with a lot of other kinds of pagan religions. After a few years I decided to go back to a more humanist approach to spirituality and I adapted the doctrines of Epicurus.

All of this has led some Christian conservatives to believe that non-Christians are out to destroy their public holiday displays—and destroy Christian holidays altogether.

Much of this war started with people saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” For years now conservative Christian pundits have complained about perceived attacks on Christmas and the Christian celebration of it. For example, this year some Christians have attacked Starbucks for having holiday cups that are not Christianly Christian enough.

According to Nat Parry, of;

“This year, we have an early taste of the asinine arguments to come with a contrived controversy over the choice that Starbucks has made for its holiday-themed coffee cup. Eschewing its typical designs incorporating iconic wintry images of reindeer and snowmen, the 2015 cup goes for a minimalist approach of a plain bright red design with the green Starbucks logo in the center.

With no pictures of Baby Jesus or even snowflakes, the red and green cup evidently is not “Christmassy” enough for some Christians, many of whom have taken to the Internet to vent their outrage. In a viral Facebook post that has received more than 10 million views, Joshua Feuerstein fumed: “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus.”

It seems like a real stretch to claim that plain red cups somehow show contempt for Jesus Christ. The “war on Christmas” folks seem very touchy and jump to conclusions easily.  

However there are people and groups trying to promote atheism and that has led some Christian warriors such as Chris Long, to go on the war path. Long is the president of Ohio Christian Alliance, a so called "educational organization," He said:

"The war on Christmas is underway once again this year as the American Atheists have launched a multi-city billboard campaign attacking Christmas and religious faith. Atheist legal groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the ACLU, and People for the American Way believe it is open season to attack public expression of faith with their relentless lawsuits and letter campaigns of intimidation to city officials, school districts and public institutions. Continuing the tradition of their predecessors in earlier decades starting in the '60s, they won't rest until every expression of religious content is wiped from the public square, whether it's a football team that prays before the game, a city council that seeks divine guidance, or a Ten Commandments marker on public property. Even peaceful nativity scenes are targeted. Their motivation? It is not tolerance, but intolerance of those who hold a religious belief that is contrary to their atheist views." this guy ever repressed?! He sounds as if the country is crawling with atheists trying to destroy his faith in God. This guy is clearly at war with non-believers:

"With each case they win, either by capitulation or in the courts, a little bit of the American way of life dies with it. Ronald Reagan stated, "The frustrating thing is that those who are attacking religion claim they are doing it in the name of tolerance...Question: Isn't the real truth that they are intolerant of religion?"

Some of the response of Christian warriors and pundits to the atheist bill boards is insulting to those whose beliefs do not rely on the existence of a god or gods.

For example, two years ago I saw an article in the Huffington Post where the president of a Kentucky Creationist Museum told Fox News that Christmas was a time to take on the atheists who used their free speech rights to doubt the existence of God;

“Well, it wouldn’t be Christmas without someone complaining about Christ, Fox & Friends host Elisabeth Hasselbeck told Creation Museum President Ken Ham, noting that atheists had put up a billboard in Time Square which suggested that Christ was not needed during Christmas.

“You know, the atheist who are a very small minority in the population have been trying to impose their religion of atheism on the culture now for quite a while,” Ham explained. “You know, getting Bible, prayer out of schools. Christian symbols out of public places.”

And the most insulting statement from this person was;

“I mean, what’s the atheists’ message? There is no God? When you die that’s the end of you? So everything’s just meaningless and hopelessness?”

Why is it that if we don’t believe in god and a religion that focuses on god being more important than anything else we are “meaningless and hopeless?”

This year, as in years past, I am not out to tear down someone else’s beliefs, (which seems to be the aim of some Christian warriors). I simply celebrate my holidays, enjoy the festivities of the season and here at my blogs I like to post thought-provoking and entertaining music clips. Hopefully these musical clips can be enjoyed by non-Christians and people who enjoy festivity without feeling offended.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Christmas At Ground Zero

[1] Epicurus did not deny the existence of god(s) but decided that gods take care of gods and humans need to take care of themselves. He also told people we should learn not to blame everything on gods. ‘If your house is crushed by an earthquake it isn’t the anger of the gods, you built your house in an earthquake prone place.’ Also he didn’t believe in an after-life.

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