You’re wrong, Pat. Most of us aren’t any more miserable than anyone else in the world. Nor do most of us want to “steal your holiday away” from you. Hell, many of us celebrate it — the secular aspects at least — right alongside you.
It’s not clear what brought your little bit of bigotry out on this occasion, but if I had to guess I’d say it’s probably the news item about the city of Santa Monica deciding to end its traditional holiday displays because some Christians are all butthurt about atheists getting in on the action the past couple of years:
Santa Monica officials snuffed the city’s holiday tradition this year rather than referee the religious rumble, prompting churches that have set up a 14-scene Christian diorama for decades to sue over freedom of speech violations. Their attorney will ask a federal judge Monday to resurrect the depiction of Jesus’ birth, while the city aims to eject the case.
“It’s a sad, sad commentary on the attitudes of the day that a nearly 60-year-old Christmas tradition is now having to hunt for a home, something like our savior had to hunt for a place to be born because the world was not interested,” said Hunter Jameson, head of the nonprofit Santa Monica Nativity Scene Committee that is suing.
Oh noes! The city won’t let us put our displays on public land anymore so we’re gonna sue!
So what did the atheists do that prompted the city to shut it down? They had the gall to participate! Can you imagine that??
In 2011, Vix recruited 10 others to inundate the city with applications for tongue-in-cheek displays such as an homage to the “Pastafarian religion,” which would include an artistic representation of the great Flying Spaghetti Monster.
The secular coalition won 18 of 21 spaces. The two others went to the traditional Christmas displays and one to a Hanukkah display.
The atheists used half their spaces, displaying signs such as one that showed pictures of Poseidon, Jesus, Santa Claus and the devil and said: “37 million Americans know myths when they see them. What myths do you see?”
Most of the signs were vandalized and in the ensuing uproar, the city effectively ended a tradition that began in 1953 and earned Santa Monica one of its nicknames, the City of the Christmas Story.
Here’s the thing that a lot of folks don’t realize when it comes to religious displays on public property: It’s an all or nothing proposition. The government is not allowed to give even the appearance of promoting one religion (or the lack thereof) over another. Santa Monica came up with their lottery system to ensure that all voices had a chance to participate. The atheists played by those rules and won the majority of the spots. Then the Christians got all upset and decide to vandalize the displays so the city decided it was way more trouble than it was worth and shut it down this year.
Rather than do something reasonable like put their religious displays on private property — there’s gotta be plenty of churches in that city that could provide them with the space — the Christians have decided that they’re going to sue the city to force them to change their decision:
“If they want to hold an opposing viewpoint about the celebration of Christmas, they’re free to do that — but they can’t interfere with our right to engage in religious speech in a traditional public forum,” said William Becker, attorney for the committee. “Our goal is to preserve the tradition in Santa Monica and to keep Christmas alive.”
Yes, because if these displays aren’t put on public land then CHRISTMAS WILL DIE!
The thing is, the atheists aren’t interfering with their right to engage in religious speech in a traditional public forum. The city points out that people can still carol in the park, hand out leaflets, and even stage a play if they want. The atheists were perfectly willing to play by the rules for the displays. It was the city that decided to shut things down because the Christians couldn’t cope with having to share the space. And all of that has made Pat Robertson sad. Those damned, dirty atheists. Always trying to steal Christmas by participating where they’re not wanted.
It’s all or nothing, folks. Either everyone gets a chance to participate or no one does. The government isn’t allowed to play favorites.
Update: It looks like a judge has turned down the Christian group’s request for an immediate injunction forcing the park to allow displays: Judge denies bid for park Nativity displays. Naturally, they plan to appeal.
So have you heard about the new Christmas movie coming out soon called Christmas with a Capital C? You’ll never guess what it’s about. Here’s a hint: It’s one of Bill O’Reilly’s favorite things to harp on starting right about this time of year. That’s right! It’s about the:
WAR ON CHRISTMAS!
When you first see the trailer you’ll think it’s a parody, but it’s not. Check it:
Is that just flabbergasting or what? The Digital Cuttlefish, which is where I saw this trailer first, pretty much sums it up:
No wonder people look at me strangely when they find I’m an atheist; this movie presents what they think atheists are, and I am not at all like that. Come to think of it, nobody is like that.
This is a beautiful piece of propaganda; in the trailer alone, the revisionist history about both the holiday and the country shine through. As most of us know (except, of course, the people who need to the most), the beginnings of Christmas in America (home of The War On Christmas, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fox News) were not festive in the least. The Puritans had better, purer things to do on December 25th (for a couple of decades in the 1600’s, Boston even had a law prohibiting the celebration of Christmas!); a Christmas holiday as we know it did not begin until the 1800’s. Interestingly, celebrating Christmas (as opposed to observing it) spread with the notion of Santa, “The Night Before Christmas”, and commercial connections to stores and products, not with the story of the birth of god’s human sacrifice.
Yes, that’s right. The rise in popularity of the modern holiday of Christmas had more to do with Santa and good old fashioned materialism than anything having to do with the birth of Christ. Which shouldn’t be too surprising considering that the original holiday was dreamed up by the Catholic church to allow the Pagans to continue their Winter Solstice celebrations with the “proper” religious iconography in hopes that converting them would be easier. It’s basis in Pagan rituals is part of the reason so many True Christians® in the past made a point of banning it in the legal code of the time. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about the delusion of Christian persecution this movie represents.
Apparently this film was in production back in February and is just getting noticed outside of the Christian nutcase fringe because it was shown at the Family Research Council’s Values Voters Summit last night. Seeing as a lot of news media actually give that convention of the religiously obsessed more attention that it probably deserves this was the first major exposure the film has had. Over at the official movie website we find the synopsis for the story:
Christmas has always been a exceptional time of love and tradition in the small town of Trapper Falls Alaska. Hometown of Mayor Dan Reed (Ted McGinley) looks forward to each year with enthusiasm to all the events, friends and family that fill this special season. Together with his brother Greg (Brad Stine) they dedicate time away from their adventure tour company to drape the town is [sic] Christmas cheer. When Dan’s old high school rival Mitch Bright (Daniel Baldwin) returns home after 20 years, Dan is immediately suspicious. Mitch is a highly successful big city lawyer who has never wanted anything to do with Trapper Falls or its people, so why now?
The rivalry re-ignites when Mitch takes offense to seeing the town’s flagrant violation of the constitution’s Establishment clause. Mitch wants the Nativity scene removed from the front of City hall and more importantly the word Christmas switched to Happy Holidays on all signs. Fifty years of tradition are now challenged not by an outsider but a former member of the community. As the conflict escalates it goes beyond one persons opinion but magnifies into an entire town problem when Mitch enters into the mayoral race to have Dan replaced.
In the heat of the legal battle and facing certain defeat, Dan’s wife Kristen (Nancy Stafford) and their daughter Makayla (Francesca Derosa) wanting to show the true meaning of Christmas are inspired to launch a “Christmas with a Capitol C” campaign as an effort to keep the town together. In doing so they discover the secret behind Mitch’s return but also reminds all of Trapper Falls that with the arrival of God’s Son, peace on earth and good will was to be given to all; even those whose heart seem closed to Him.
I have so got to find a copy and watch the whole thing just to verify that it’s as bad as it sounds from that plot description. Of course, the fact that the hyper-religious Daniel Baldwin is starring in it (as the evil atheist no less!) is already a pretty good sign it’s going to be terrible. It was originally supposed to be released straight-to-DVD this fall, but word has it they may delay it until 2011 in hopes of getting an actual theatrical release. Wouldn’t that be special?
Here’s the really interesting part. Apparently the movie is inspired by a song of the same name by a Christian pop group called GoFish Guys and it’s full of the sort of lyrics you’d expect from a song about the fictional War on Christmas:
Well I went to the coffee shop to get myself a mocha,
The lady at the counter said “Happy holidays”;
I said, “Thanks lady, I am pretty happy,
But there’s only one holiday that makes me feel that way.”
It’s called Christmas, what more can I say?
It’s about the birth of Christ
and you can’t take that away.
You can call it something else,
but that’s not what it will be.
It’s called Christmas with a capital “C.”
Woven between the lyrics are snippets of a comedy rant by Christian comic Brad Stine (who plays the hero’s brother in the movie) about how no one supposedly says “Merry Christmas” anymore. One of the more telling bits he says is “But nobody wants to say Christmas [inaudible] after Christmas. Why? I know why. You do too. It’s because it’s got “Christ” in it and after 2,000 years he’s still intimidating people. You see when a religious person says ‘I am the way’ people don’t want to hear it.”
Which, much like this trailer itself, shows us how Christians think we think as opposed to how we actually think. I can’t speak for all atheists, but I find it pretty difficult to be intimidated by something that doesn’t actually exist. I’m no more intimidated by the concept of God than I am the concept of the Bogeyman, but that will never sink in for the reality impaired.
Doubtless someone will claim I’m upset — which I’m not — about this movie because it reveals how atheists want to kick Christ out of Christmas, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I know some atheists who don’t celebrate the holiday at all and are annoyed by it, but the vast majority of atheists I know, and I’m one of them, celebrate the day right along with everyone else. We just leave out all the Jesus-was-born-on-this-day nonsense. The simple fact is that it’s as much a secular holiday as a religious one and has been for nearly a century and a half with the rise of commercialism and conspicuous consumption. It’s an excuse to give each other presents and who doesn’t love getting and giving presents? The retailers are certainly happy about it and work very hard to encourage as much participation as they can. On top of that, most of the rituals practiced have their roots in Pagan custom as much as Christian tradition and, while I may not be a believer in Pagan Gods either, they did have some fun customs which I enjoy partaking in. In fact I’ll go to a Pagan party over your average Christian party any day of the year. Some folks just know how to do it right.
And while it is true that many atheists will put up a fuss about a nativity scene on the lawn of City Hall (or other government building) the vast majority of us have absolutely no problems with one on the lawn of the downtown Church or in the window of a business or on your own front lawn. If a business wants to put up great big obnoxious signs saying Merry CHRISTmas that’s certainly within their rights, but if they want to go with Seasons Greetings or Happy Holidays then THAT’S FUCKING OK TOO. In fact, you Christians would really do your image a favor of you’d back off on insisting that everyone only use greetings which you approve of.
Face it. The holiday isn’t yours alone anymore. You don’t have to be happy about it, but you should acknowledge that what you think of as “Christmas” hasn’t had much to do with what it originally was for a very long time. The only reason it grew so massive in popularity is because a whole bunch of shit that had nothing to do with Christ got mixed into it. It’s an amalgamation of different faiths, myths, customs and traditions of which Christ’s birth is only a small part. It doesn’t matter how many times you claim candy canes were invented to symbolize Jesus (they weren’t) or that the 12 Days of Christmas is a coded reference to Christian concepts (it’s not) or whatever other popular piece of Christian revisionist history is making the rounds regarding this holiday, the truth remains that it’s a sloppy mess of secular, religious, and plain old myth making that happened to capture the attention of the masses.
And, honestly, it’s probably one of the best bits of Public Relations any religion could hope for. It makes a lot of people, Christian and otherwise, feel pretty damn good for at least a few days every year. Granted, it also stresses the fuck out of them for about three months, but when the day finally arrives it does seem to bring a little of that fabled good will towards all men that everyone — Christian, atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. — would love to see realized in this world. Why would you fuck that up by being so obnoxiously shrill over what a store decides to use as a greeting on their seasonal sale signs? Or any of the other obnoxious things you do to try and force everyone else to celebrate the day the way you think it should be celebrated?
If you want to focus on the story of Christ’s birth and whatnot then, by all means, make that the focus of your celebration. Go ahead and knock yourself out! We won’t mind! But let the rest of us celebrate the season the way we see fit as well. Be happy that something you had a hand in creating seems to bring some joy to the world even if it’s not exactly the way you had intended it to bring it about.
Or you could continue to be obnoxious pricks about it like you have the past few years with movies like this one and continue to wonder why Christians have such a bad image among non-Christians.
Earlier this month, PAN Capital Area director Carl Silverman of Camp Hill wrote the borough a letter stating its intention to erect the sign. While the group believed it did not need the borough’s permission because the creche required none, it was submitting a proposed design in “the spirit of cooperation,” the letter said.
“We didn’t want to take Jesus out of the public square,” Silverman said. “We want to put atheism in the public square.”
Bill McLaughlin, president of Chambersburg’s borough council, said that after discussion with the borough’s solicitor, two practical options emerged — it could either allow everything or allow nothing to be displayed on the fountain. Council chose to allow nothing, he said.
At least they’re smart enough to know that it’s an all-or-nothing situation, unlike many small towns that think they can be selective in who they allow to put up displays on public land, and they’re not hiding their biases and prejudices in any way either:
McLaughlin said he took PAN’s letter as “a demand, with an implied threat of legal action.”
“The down side of ‘everything’ is it means everything,” McLaughlin said. “It would mean this group, and groups that are much more odious.” That was something, he said, council could not live with.
A letter submitted in “the spirit of cooperation” is considered an implied threat? That’s a new one. Still it’s refreshing to see that he doesn’t consider the atheists to be the worst of the possibilities.
So just what was on the atheist’s sign that was so terrible that the council could not live with it? Actually, not all that much:
The sign, which he said has not yet been made, would have had a picture of a sun rising over the words “Celebrating Solstice. Honoring Atheist War Veterans.” The sun would have had an italicized “A” in the middle.
Wow, that’s just horrible!
The response from the True Believers™ has, of course, been nothing but positive and supportive as they always are. Yeah, right:
May “GOD” send you and your organization straight to “HELL”!!! I’am a true believer and when an parasitic organism like yours starts ruin the wonderful Christmas holiday season for everyone. May you all drop DEAD MAGGOTS!!!
You people are fucking nuts. You want to advertise NOTHING. Do we really need signs that say believe nothing. Funny how I am a Jew and yet a nativity scene has NEVER affected my life. Guess what? It never will because I am not a fucking loser like you. I hope one day you happen to walk on my posted property.
Thanks for screwing up our town, Chambersburg. I was in war and I know for a fact that there are no Atheists in war. If you dispute that then feel free to go to war and find out for your self, I know a great front line position just waiting on people like you. I am looking forward to seeing you in hell while we sit in heaven looking down on you Atheists
No one seems to realize that the folks at PAN didn’t win anything at all. They weren’t out to have the creche removed. They just wanted to be able to participate in the display, which they have every right to do. It was the council that decided to ban all displays if they couldn’t legally restrict it to just the one they wanted. It’s an all or nothing situation. You either allow everyone to participate or you don’t allow anyone to do so.
At least the True Believers™ have an option open to them:
A solution may be on the horizon. Central Presbyterian Church, on the square across from the fountain, is considering construction of a perch on its property where the Nativity scene could be displayed.
Which is where the damned thing should have been in the first fucking place. Why these Christians feels they should have a right to be the sole display on public property is beyond me. Well, it’s not really beyond me, they think that because they are the majority that gives them the right. As exemplified by this comment:
Lisa Blackstock of Mercersburg is spearheading a demonstration at noon Saturday in Chambersburg’s downtown. She believes the majority of people in the community want the creche to remain. “This is Christ-mas. It’s a no-brainer if you ask me,” Blackstock said. “There’s no way people in Chambersburg should let (PA Nonbelievers) win.”
In other words: We’re the majority and, ignoring how it came about, it’s our holiday so we demand special favor from the government.
Because that’s what Christmas is all about. Lording your superiority over all the lesser world views.
Here in Michigan in the Detroit suburb of Berkley there’s been an ongoing attempt to subvert the Wall of Separation because some True Believers™ are upset that the City Council did the right thing in moving the city’s nativity display off of public property and onto private church property to avoid a lawsuit from the ACLU. It seems Berkley has had a nativity scene on display for years, but without any additional holiday decorations such as a Santa Claus or Jewish menorah which the courts have ruled are necessary to keep such a display Constitutional. The City Council had two choices: Water down the scene with additional non-Christian decorations or give the nativity scene to the downtown churches to display solo. They made the better of the two choices in my mind in part because it allows the display to be downtown without being water down and in part because I’ve always thought the argument that including other decorations was a pretty fucking weak attempt to allow something that shouldn’t be allowed. The Detroit News had an article on the dispute back on the 15th which read in part:
Leading the charge for a civic display in Berkley is Georgia Halloran, a 37-year resident angered by last year’s decision by the Berkley City Council to remove the figures from City Hall property and turn them over to the Berkley Clergy Association to display at local churches around the town of 15,500 residents.
Halloran and other residents collected 952 signatures to force the question to a vote on Nov. 6. She sees passage of the initiative—which would amend the city’s charter—as Berkley’s chance to stand up to the American Civil Liberties Union, which told the city the display violated the law.
“I’m tired of these organizations coming into a small-town community and threatening us with lawsuits and the city rolling over,” Halloran said. “We are celebrating a national holiday. We are not promoting a religion. The government isn’t supposed to be hostile toward religion.”
So the True Believers™ got their panties all in a twist and have managed to get a petition on the November 6th ballot to force the city to reinstate the nativity in front of city hall. They’ve set up a website full of misleading information to try and persuade folks to vote for what is clearly an Establishment Clause violation that’ll just end up in an expensive lawsuit with the ACLU that they’ll probably lose which is just stupid when they could avoid the whole fiasco with what is a very reasonable compromise.
Fortunately there’s a group of folks out there actively campaigning against the charter amendment and they too have a website: Citizens for Religious Freedom and they appear to have a fair amount of support of their own. Additional today’s editorial in the Detroit Free Press advocates Berkley residents to vote NO on the proposal:
The decision made solid sense then, and on Nov. 6 citizens should insist the choice stand now by voting NO on a charter amendment that would require the city to display a nativity scene on public property.
There ought to be equal distaste for the amendment’s demands as there was among some for the city’s bow to the ACLU.
Both smack of inflexible strong-arming. Beyond fumbling with the charter, the proposal overreaches, going so far as to set the dates of the display and the minimum requirements of which holiday figures to include, namely Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Noticeably absent is any mention of Santa Claus.
Georgia Halloran makes the claim that this isn’t about promoting a religion, but if that’s true then why all the fuss over where the nativity is displayed? If not an implied government endorsement then what is it she thinks is gained by having the nativity on government property? How is the display diminished by having it on private Church property where it’s still in full view of the public, but no longer gives the impression of government endorsement? There answers to both questions won’t be found on their webpage because they don’t bother to address them. One is left to conclude that implied government endorsement is exactly the goal in mind.
The American Family Association is getting an early start on bitching about the so-called War!On!Christmas! already. Seems Sam’s Club just released the latest issue of their in-house magazine Source which included an ad for Christmas stuff that’ll be showing up in the stores very shortly and the AFA’s panties are all in a bunch because the ad uses the word “Holiday” instead of Christmas:
Randy Sharp, special projects director for the American Family Association, says it looks like Sam’s Club parent company Wal-Mart is adhering to the same “holiday” policy in the 2006 season as it followed in 2005. “Last year,” he says, “Wal-Mart refused to use the word Christmas in their advertising, and they were inundated by angry customers. And already this year they’re showing their true colors by again refusing to acknowledge Christmas.”
This past June, Sharp notes, AFA sent Wal-Mart a copy of a letter and more than 200,000 petition signatures that went to most major retailers in America, asking them not to ban the word Christmas from their advertising and promotions. He says there was no answer until the advertisement in Source came out.
“Last week the first Christmas ad came out, and that was for Sam’s Club, owned by the Wal-Mart Stores Corporation,” the AFA spokesman explains. “The ad is clearly meant to promote Christmas decorations and Christmas tree items,” he says, “but Sam’s Club refuses to refer to Christmas as Christmas. They simply use the generic term holiday.”
Sharp suggests that potential shoppers, especially Christians who celebrate the holiday, should let Sam’s Club know how they feel about this issue. He urges pro-faith, pro-family consumers to e-mail the company right away with their pleas that call the holiday by its true name.
Give me a fucking break. Leave it to Christians to make me dread my favorite holiday by being obsessive pricks about whether a store makes sure to use “Christmas” every time they advertise anything related to the holiday. Isn’t it enough that they managed to steal the holiday from the Pagans to begin with? Now they have to get all fucking uppity if someone refers to it as anything other than the name they bastardized it with. Only 118 days before all these assholes can stop whining about it until next year.