War On Christmas

Keep in mind, this guy says Christianity isn't a religion.

Here in LA, the temperatures have dropped all the way to the mid 60s, families are going to vacant lots and shelling out $100 or more for long dead Douglas Firs imported from Oregon, and it’s fully possible to spend an entire day driving around a mall parking lot in search of a parking space. That can mean only one thing – the holidays have arrived, which means my atheist brethren and I must resume our War On Christmas.

For the past few years now, right wing butthurt over a perceived ‘War on Christmas’ is as much a part of the holidays as cable reruns of Elf or trying to figure out what the fuck Kwanzaa is. If you ask me, though, a war that only happens one month out of the year isn’t really a war. It’s more of an annual skirmish or a yearly brouhaha, and I wish Fox News would pick up on that because I really want to hear Bill O’Reilly say ‘brouhaha.’

Recently, an old Christmas essay written by Ben Stein has started to pop up again in email forwards and on some of my conservative friends’ Facebook pages. The thesis of the essay, in keeping with the Christmas spirit of love and joy, is that atheists like me are responsible for every single terrible thing that has happened to America in the last 40 years:

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Hurricane Katrina).. Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'

In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said okay.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

So here’s what Ben Stein thinks is wrong with America: Freedom of religion and not enough child abuse. Merry Christmas, everybody!

We have ‘In God We Trust’ printed on our money, public officials are sworn in with their hand on a Bible, all of our presidents have been Christian, and approximately 85% of Congress is Protestant, Catholic, or Mormon, but Ben Stein thinks that because there is some popular support for an increasingly secular government in our country, God has reneged on the ‘unconditional love’ thing and completely forsaken us to deal with terrorists, hurricanes, and Honey Boo-Boo.

Here’s a question for you, Christians: If you really think God is such a petty, passive-aggressive douchebag, why do you worship him? Do you actually believe that the all loving deity who created the entire universe is going to get his jimmies rustled by the fact that some Americans don’t want Him to be a part of their government?

It’s not like secular government is some kind of newfangled atheist conspiracy – trust me, I’m on all the atheist conspiracy mailing lists and the separation of church and state wasn’t one of our ideas. Our Christian founding fathers put that stuff in the Constitution, and they believed in it so strongly that they put it right at the top of the page, directly above that oh-so-popular part that says you get to have guns.

What’s more, Ben Stein’s logic completely ignores the fact that terrible things have been happening in this country for as long as it’s been here, regardless of our religious makeup.

Throughout the 19th century there was a widespread series of religious revivals known as the Second and Third Great Awakening, which championed Protestant morality and ideals. Church membership surged, temperance leagues were founded, and Christians preached openly against sin and religious skepticism.  

In this same period of time, a foreign power invaded the United States and burned down the White House, there was a year with no summer, and the common use of a somewhat controversial business practice known as slavery.

Hell, let’s look at more recent disasters. George W. Bush was about as Christian a president as we’ve ever had – he opposed marriage equality, abortion rights, and stem cell research on religious grounds, and 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Great Recession all still happened on his watch.

I’m not trying to use any of these tragedies to prove that Christians are somehow amoral or that God isn’t real; I’m just saying that terrible things happen regardless of whether you say ‘happy holidays’ or ‘merry Christmas.’

And for the record – even though I say this every year – I love Christmas. It’s an inherently awesome holiday no matter what you believe in. It’s a cheerful, festive time where you get to see your family (whether you want to or not) and exchange gifts with the people you love. That’s bigger than any religion.

And that’s why this annual War On Christmas bullshit really gets to me – it’s now become a new Christmas tradition to shit all over atheists like me, and my mother, and my father, and my late grandmother, and my grandfather, and three of my aunts and one of my uncles. We’re all Americans, and we all love this country to varying degrees, but there’s a sizable faction that wants to make us feel like outsiders for what we don’t believe. Christians, take note: This is what being marginalized is.

I really think that Christmas brings out the best in people – the problem is that it has to bring out the worst in people first. For the entire leadup to the holiday we’re so busy fighting over mall parking, which gifts go to whom, who sits where at the dinner table, and which religion is actively destroying Christmas that by the time we actually get to the holiday we’re so worn down from all the conflict that we love each other out of exhaustion, if nothing else.

Truman Capps gladly acknowledges that the vast majority of Christians are fine people who don’t participate in the misguided defense of Christmas, just as there are some atheists – most of them Redditors – who are actively waging war on Christmas with a withering campaign of snarky Facebook posts and Neil DeGrasse Tyson quotes.