New Year’s Resolutions for the Religious Right

January 1, 2008

Americans for Separation of Church and State has a great list of resolutions that the Religious Right would do well to take to heart. Their advice to drop the “War on Christmas” fund-raising gimmick seems particularly good way to close out our recent silly season of holiday hysteria.

Drop the whole “War on Christmas” thing: It’s tiresome, and you’ve raised enough money on it. Attacking people for failing to use certain terms or employing certain symbols to celebrate the holidays is silly. It also makes a mockery of a season that is supposed to be dedicated to peace and goodwill. Display your sacred symbols in houses of worship all you want; don’t expect the government to do that job for you.

Dear Christians: Thanks for Christmas, Love Atheists

December 25, 2007

Christian friends, the season is upon us. Not, as some of you seem to think, just your season either. Our season. All of us.

The fact is, any thriving society needs community holidays and social rituals. And Christmas is simply one of the finest ever conceived: a holiday that boasts its own distinct cultural spirit. If you think that non-believers can’t appreciate it, you’re quite wrong. Why would we need disown it, or turn up our nose at it? It’s as much ours as yours in its modern character and conception. We don’t even need to take the Christ out of Christmas: we can recognize its roots even as we enjoy its modern fruits, finding spiritual meaning in stories without having to believe in the supernatural pretensions. Mythology can be meaningful too, after all.

Read the rest of this entry »

Baptist Albert Mohler doesn’t get it: More Stupid Christmas Tricks

December 16, 2007

I’m not sure what to make of this sneering holiday column by Albert Mohler, leader of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He’s baffled, simply baffled by “atheist apostle” Richard Dawkins and his singing of Christmas carols. It’s not clear what Mohler thinks his point is here, other than that he believes there is some sort of disconnect between atheists and celebrating Christmas or even culturally Christian traditions.  I can’t quite follow the logic: do I really need to be “Hot for Teacher” to enjoy Van Halen songs?  Do I need to believe in Purple People Eaters to sing that song to kids?

All we can say for sure is that Mohler is a pretty good example of how incapable of empathy or understanding many believers can be when they try to wrap their minds around the reality of atheists (complete with an inability to use anything other than religious ideas like “apostle” to describe us). All he’s really exploring is his own self-flattering ignorance of who atheists are and what we’re about.

He even manages to find solid evidence that evil atheists like Dawkins want to purge our culture of religion just like Mitt Romney and Neuhaus warned us:

“So, yes, I like singing carols along with everybody else. I’m not one of those who wants to purge our society of our Christian history.

“If there’s any threat these sorts of things, I think you will find it comes from rival religions and not from atheists.” (emphasis added)

Oh wait, no.


So, let me get this straight: religious nuts like Mohler spend half of their time railing against how atheists want to ban Christianity.  Then they turn around and debunk their own lies, and act surprised to find that atheists don’t actually hold the straw man position that they claimed  And we’re then supposed to think Dawkins is weird or inconsistent in the face of that sort of intellectual vaudeville act?
Well Mohler: Merry Christmas, moron.

Bill O’Reilly’s Know-Nothing War On Christmas Rhetoric Sparks More Violence

December 13, 2007

Bill O’Reilly and pals have long been fanning the flames of pointless cultural resentments as a way to drive up ratings and keep their annually angry audiences constantly outraged about trivial or even imagined holiday slights. But bogus “War on Christmas” rage boiled over into real life violence yesterday, as a group of Christmas zealots attacked Jews on a subway train when one of them dared to wish them Happy Hanukkah in response to “Merry Christmas.”

“Almost immediately, you see the look in this guy’s face like I’ve called his mother something,” Adler told CNN affiliate WABC.

Two women who were with a group of 10 rowdy people then began to verbally assault Adler’s companions with anti-Semitic language, Hellerstein said.

One member of the group allegedly yelled, “Oh, Hanukkah. That’s the day that the Jews killed Jesus,” she said.

It got worse from there: stitches, broken noses, black eyes.

The silver lining of the story is who came to the aid of the Jewish subway riders: a Muslim student from Bangladesh, who apparently knew better than native Americans that this sort of thing was despicable. (Of course, the police arrested the student initially… but later let him go after his newfound allies vouched for him).

I’ve posted several stories about holiday tribalism in just the last few days, and it just seems to get worse and worse. The ridiculous thing here is that in none of these stories was anyone infringing on the rights of revelers to freely celebrate Christmas any way they want. But apparently, that’s not good enough for the right wing’s Christmas crazies: Christmas must dominate all other choices, or else it’s not merry enough for them. And in this case, the apparently horrifying suggestion that other holidays and religions exist was enough to spark a fistfight.

Maybe folks like Bill O’Reilly should think twice before exploiting Christmas to make a quick ratings bucks off of bogus blowhardism. Some people are apparently taking this rhetoric seriously.

Update: Still think O’Reilly is serious about his War on Christmas crusade? Check this bit of utterly self-interested inconsistency out.

Wiccan Symbol Vandalized: More on Militant Merry Christmases

December 11, 2007

People treating the holidays like a sort of cultural pep rally, complete with pranks and shenanigans, seems to be a theme this year. I’ve previously posted about the bizarre horror experienced by folks in one town where the Christmas tree wasn’t exactly as impressive as a Hanukkah menorah.

Via Pharyngula comes another such story of folks who apparently feel that Christmas must dominate all other holidays… and on public land no less. It was so important to them that they smashed into a Wiccan pentacle with a pickup truck. Folks like Bill O’Reilly claim that they would be just as happy living in a country dominated by a different religion, but given their screeching shock at the existence of any other religion or non-religion, it’s very, very hard to take this assertion seriously.

They also never seem to understand that the only constitutionally legitimate way to have religious expression on the grounds of a government building is if this access is free and open to all points of view. But the very same people who whine about how “tolerance” demands that the government aid their religious practice don’t seem to like it when anyone but their favored sect gets into the act.

If you don’t want atheists getting into the game then there’s really no one to blame but yourself.

Mine is Bigger than Yours: The True Spirit of Christmas?

December 8, 2007

I think a good measure of whether or not you and I can get along is whether or not you find the people in this story to be as utterly deranged as I do. Somehow, I don’t think treating Hanukkah as if it were an opposing football team is really what Santa Claus intended.

Update: Atheists get in on the game, though in this case, seemingly to prove a point about what an open forum on public lands really means (i.e. you can’t only have the opinions you like).