Refreshing Words from a Christian

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I said everything I have to say about this "War on Christmas" crap last year, so this December I'll turn the microphone over to Ryan McMaken, who unlike me actually follows the faith that's allegedly under attack:

Since American Christianity has often been a most bland, tacky, and stripped down version of the real thing, it seems Americans have a thing for filling in the holes with efforts at blending the religious and the civic. Who cares if the government buildings have a nativity scene on their front steps? I sure don't. In fact I sure don't want my tax dollars paying for the upkeep of decorations. Leave the government buildings undecorated. Let's not pretend that the government has ever had the best interests of the faith in mind. Then there are those parades that cost untold amounts of police overtime pay. I'd agree that "Holiday Parades" are stupid. They should be "Christmas" parades because that is what they are. But why have a parade at all? There are plenty of processions and rites to mark any holy day at my parish. When it's a religious holiday, I know it. I'd be overjoyed if every house in my street had a nativity scene out front, but I sure don't need the government or the check-out girl at Target to remind me it's Christmas or to make it "joyous."…

When I walk in my house, or the homes of my friends or family during Christmas season, it's pretty clear that it's Christmas, a Christian Holy day. No one says Happy Holidays. I have plenty of religious ceremonies to attend, plenty of devotions to participate in, and plenty of prayers to say, and I don't have some pathetic need for others to validate my Holidays. If they share my faith, wonderful. If not, that's too bad for them. But I have better things to do than get my religious validation in the check out line at the grocery store.

Read the whole thing. His best line is about Wal-Mart: "I'm there to shop, not have a religious experience."

NEXT: Good Deed Goes Unrewarded

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  1. Shouldn’t we all just get right to the point and say “Happy dollars!”?

  2. As another practitioner of the faith “under attack,” I’d like to echo the sentiments of the Mr. McMaken. I’d also like to point out that a great many things about Christmas as we celebrate it (including the date) were essentially stolen from Pagan religions. So even if society *is* trying to muscle Christianity out of the season Christians should take it with a grain of salt, since we muscled it in there in the first place.

  3. Hallelujah!

    The only Christians that get uptight about this crap are the “Hey Jesus! Look at me!” Christians. The ones that have real faith don’t need society to validate it. Which I thought was the point of having faith. But what do I know? I’m a godless heathen.

    I’m not Mr. PC, I think a Christmas tree should be called a Christmas tee, but always thought that saying Happy Holidays to someone you don’t know was being polite. Not assuming that everyone you meet shares your faith or cultural background just seems like the – I don’t know – Christian thing to do.

  4. Heretic! Burn him at the stake!

  5. Remember, boys and girls, BOYCOTT any store that does not wish us all a Frabjous Yak Shaving Day!

  6. A thought occurs to me: Not every faith (or lack thereof) is having a holiday at this time. So telling someone “Happy Holidays” could be as irrelevant as saying, “Enjoy Jesus”. Of course, there is New Year’s Eve, I suppose.

    The whole debate is silly. Christmas really is quasi-secular on many levels, and saying “Merry Christmas” is no big deal. I’m so tired of the domination of the heckler’s veto in this country. If someone says Happy Chinese New Year to me, do I slug him? Usually not.

  7. Ryan McMaken misses the point.

    There is a blatant effort on the part of liberals (ACLU, most Dems, etc) to destroy the traditions and beliefs of the majority of people in this country. Well, we are not going to stand by and let that happen.

    Political correctness has run amuck to the extent that people feel they have to watch everything they say just so they don’t inadvertently offend someone. Well that’s just bull crap!

    Most people I know are not offended by Hanukah or Kwanza or Ramadan or whatever. Why should a non Christian be offended by Christmas? THAT’S WHAT THIS HOLIDAY SEASON IS ABOUT!!! You have a problem with that? Tough. So you’re an atheist? That’s your problem; don’t try to make it mine.

    Would it kill you to smile and nod to someone that wishes you a Merry Christmas? Suck it up and deal with it. They are trying to be pleasant. Does that concept elude you?

    The majority of this country considers itself Christian. I would suggest the left learn to be a lot more tolerant of the rest of us and we will try to do the same for you.

  8. Oh, as a Christian/Agnostic/Zeus Follower mix, I agree with McMaken–it ain’t about parades and public displays. It’s about family and friends. Which is why the holiday has managed to transcend faiths (nothing weirder than that moment you visit a Jewish friend with a Christmas tree).

  9. Remember when the faithful use to complain that Xmas was too commercial? Now they complain that commerce is insufficiently monotheist.

  10. Estimated number of posts this thread will generate: 120.

  11. By the way, according to the link at the bottom of this post (whose accuracy I admittedly haven’t checked into) Christians make up more than 75% of the U.S. population. I don’t think we need to sweat the pagan hordes smashing our religious traditions and outlawing our faith just yet.

    http://www.adherents.com/rel_USA.html#religions

  12. Hey, John, cool your jets. Christianity survived Nero, I think it can survive the ACLU. What really puzzles me about this whole “It’s our culture, live with it” thing is that it essentially turns Christianity into a national identity, as opposed to a faith. Why are so many Christians more interested in making sure non-Christians act like them than in convincing non-Christians to think like them? It’s a recipe for disaster.

  13. Pro Libertate,
    Well, New Years is coming up. That’s a holiday and non-religious*.

    *Yes, yes other cultures have other New Years celebrations, but you’re in the US, you use our calendar now!

  14. Would it kill you to smile and nod to someone that wishes you a Merry Christmas? Suck it up and deal with it. They are trying to be pleasant. Does that concept elude you?

    I agree. I also think the exact same advice applies to anyone offended by “Happy Holidays.”

    Some people just live to get offended and to raise a stink about nothing in particular. Some of them are on the left. Others have shows on Fox.

  15. No Smappy, i’m afriad you have it wrong too.

    Most Christians aren’t that interested in making sure non Christians act like them, they (I) want the left to back off and keep their smarmy hands off our beliefs.

    If you don’t see that there is a concerted effort by the extreme left to marginalize Christians and the Christian religion, you are either terribly ill informed or in total denial.

  16. …..there’s a Festivus for the rest of us!

  17. Mo, your Western calendar hegemony will not be tolerated. Besides, I mentioned New Year’s Eve, didn’t I?

    This all reminds me of the old Seinfeld bit. When you see someone regularly during the day, don’t say something convoluted like, “Hi, how are you doing” or “Have a nice day”. Just say, “Acknowledge”.

    Acknowledge.

  18. Excuse the spelling errors in my previous post, I was a little distracted….

  19. Why should a non Christian be offended by Christmas?

    You have things backwards, at least with respect to some of us. I don’t care if someone says Merry Christmas; what I object to is the claim that one SHOULD say Merry Christmas and NOT Happy Holidays (which is this year’s right-wing holiday shibboleth), that the former is more Christian than the latter. New Year’s Day is one of the holidays of the season, and if I want to wish someone happiness for ALL the holidays, Happy Holidays is a good, polite, shorthand way of doing so.

    THAT’S WHAT THIS HOLIDAY SEASON IS ABOUT!!!

    For you. Not for everyone. That’s the point.

  20. Most Christians aren’t that interested in making sure non Christians act like them, they (I) want the left to back off and keep their smarmy hands off our beliefs.

    If you don’t see that there is a concerted effort by the extreme left to marginalize Christians and the Christian religion, you are either terribly ill informed or in total denial.

    John,

    I think that the majority of the left consider themselves Christians as well. To assign religious belief along party/political lines is idiotic. Unless you consider people who disagree with your politics to be heretics as well.

    Anyway, I don’t see how Happy Holidays is an egregious attack on Christian values.

  21. John,

    I find it interesting that you divide the country into at least two groups: Christians and “The Left.” Given that the overwhelming majority of Americans are Christians, at least some of them *have* to be members of “The Left.” Unless, of course “The Left” is just the remaining 25% of the country that is not Christian, in which case I’m astounded that those rascals have managed to get hold of all necessary levers of government to marginalize Christianity. Of course, the althernative to your theory is that the majority of people in the ACLU and left are not hostile toward Christianity, but toward Public (read “government”) support thereof. Also, how you determine that *private* businesses *voluntarily* using generic holiday greetings could somehow be part of a conspiracy of leftists to marginalize Christianity is completely beyond me. At the very least you shouldn’t be bothered by that, since what you claim is just for the left to back off.

  22. So Ethan, you think it’s ok to outlaw the word Christmas because it’s not for everyone (just the majority)?

    I am constantly amazed that the left is for diversity and inclusion, EXCEPT for Christians.

    What a bunch of hypocrites

  23. John,

    “Outlaw”? Please tell me you’re joking.

  24. I can solve this problem Call the media.

    The “Secular Left” should be more liberal in allowing references to Christmas. In exchange, the Christian Right can drop the whole ID nonsense. Works for me.

  25. So Ethan, you think it’s ok to outlaw the word Christmas because it’s not for everyone (just the majority)?

    I am not sure where you got that from what I wrote. Outlaw? What are you talking about? I will give you a chance to re-read my post and try again. Read the WORDS this time.

  26. Smappy, so I am speaking in generalities. Sue me.

    The left is the driving force behind the efforts to marginalize Christians. That’s why I stressed the “left”

  27. Church entanglement with the state is worse for the Church than it is for the State. It makes the Church lazy and bureaucratic as dogmatic and even more prone to social correctness of the day. If the athiests of the world were really smart they would demand state sponsored religion as a sure way to destroy religion forever.

  28. I am constantly amazed that the left is for diversity and inclusion, EXCEPT for Christians.

    Apparently, the lack of legal enforcement of all tenets of a particular stripe of Christianity is exclusionary to Christians.

  29. Eathan,
    I didn’t mean to imply YOU said outlaw. But that is what the (extreme) left is trying to do. So just because it’s not everyones holiday doen’t mean it’s not someones holiday.

    I use the word outlaw becsue there are numerous documented instances of Schools and even some businesses not allowing the word Christmas in there facilities. One school I read about recently decided to reprint the “Holiday” lunchroom menu at a cost of $450 because a new employee put Merry Christmas at the top of the menu.

  30. Hey John,

    Merry Christmas.

    So you say the ACLU, through its quite obvious control of the Bush administration, is gunning after Christians. Maybe you’re right. Don’t let it bother you too much, however: if you stay up all night December 24th gnashing your teeth about this leftist assault on all things holy, Santa Claus might not come.

  31. Ok, my spelling has gone to crap because I’m in a big hurry to get these posts out before I have to leave for work.

    I would love to continue this but I gotta go….

    MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone (grin)

  32. Why is she so certain that holdiay parades and decorations are put up to celebrate Christ Mass? My city has a “City of Lights Parade” at the end of November, then a “Winterfest” in February. I guess we’re being sleazy and dishonest, and should just rename them the “Poorly Timed Chirstmas Parade” and the “Poorly Time Christmas Festival.”

    On the other hand, they also have DPW workers assemble a city-owned nativity scene in a public park on the city’s dime. So that’s not right.

    Public festivals are good. Just about everybody celebrates something around December/early January. Traditionally, people decorade with lights and stylized winter scenes. What’s the problem here?

  33. “Would it kill you to smile and nod to someone that wishes you a Merry Christmas? Suck it up and deal with it. They are trying to be pleasant. Does that concept elude you?”

    Gee, you sure do sound pleasant. I think I’ll put “Suck it up and deal with it” on my Christmas cards this year.

    Feel the love. John Dendy, you are as a clanging bell.

  34. You know, I used to be a conservative of John’s stripe. And even when I became a libertarian I still was more skeptical of the left than the right in this country. But ever since 9/11 I’ve become convinced that it’s the right that truly wants to see John and Jane Q. Public goose-stepping down Main Street, bowing to the same political gods. This whole Christmas under attack debacle just further convinces me.

  35. I guess what I don’t get about the whole thing is why attack the stores for saying “Happy Holidays.” As far as a soulless corporation can celebrate anything, they certainly aren’t celebrating just Christmas. They want you to buy candy and costumes on Halloween; food on Thanksgiving; gifts and decorations for Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa; alcohol and party favors for New Year’s. They may want to say Happy Holidays because they really are celebrating more than one holiday. Hell, they even have their own extra holiday: Black Friday. Seems to me that Happy Holidays is quite appropriate.

  36. This all reminds me of the old Seinfeld bit. When you see someone regularly during the day, don’t say something convoluted like, “Hi, how are you doing” or “Have a nice day”. Just say, “Acknowledge”.

    Pro Libertate,

    [Acknowledge, acknowledge]

    I always think of that bit Seinfeld did when I’m walking in the hallway and have to say hi to somebody. Or sometimes, even when I’m posting a reply to someone on H&R who made a completely irrelevent comment that needs to be acknowledged. I’m not talking about you, of course.

    [acknowledge, acknowledge]

  37. It’s almost as if people like John don’t want to anyone to acknowledge that there are members of our society who celebrate different holidays.

  38. joe said:
    “Public festivals are good. Just about everybody celebrates something around December/early January. Traditionally, people decorade with lights and stylized winter scenes. What’s the problem here?”

    It’s no coincidence that societies in the higher latitudes have evolved a preference for lights and frivolity around the time of winter solstice.

  39. The people who get angry over “Happy Holidays” are a perfect example of why Festivus makes sense: Some people need to air grievances.

  40. I don’t think my atheism is a problem for me or anyone else.

    I would suggest the left learn to be a lot more tolerant of the rest of us and we will try to do the same for you.

    The hell you will.

    If the athiests of the world were really smart they would demand state sponsored religion as a sure way to destroy religion forever.

    Seems to be working in Europe. Took a long time, though.

    I’d say if anyone’s oppressed (help, help!) it’s pagans, having Saturnalia ignored.

  41. “I’d say if anyone’s oppressed (help, help!) it’s pagans, having Saturnalia ignored.”

    You can say that again, Poco. Just try sacrificing a live pig to the Invincible Sun God at Town Hall and see where it gets you!

  42. I’m still stunned at the doublethink it requires to believe that when governments or companies fail to support your religion, they are actively attacking it.
    And if Jesus were still around, he’d spend his days retching in revulsion at what has become of his message.

  43. And if Jesus were still around, he’d spend his days retching in revulsion at what has become of his message.

    You mean that people are saying Happy Holidays when his message was Merry Christmas? 🙂

    Maybe he’d just say, “Dude, I was born in March,” or something like that.

  44. Fundamentalist Christians and Christian conservatives read the Bible. They read that Jesus and the apostles faced persecution. They read that persecution and opposition will always dog Christians, and that the world hates and fears them.

    Then, they look around. The country is 80% Christian, including the head of state, most regional heads of state, most of the Supreme Court justices, most of Congress, and most of the regional legislatures. Churches of every stripe abound. Christian bookstores dot the landscape. Incredibly horrible Christian rock sells hundreds of thousands.

    There’s a disconnect, and it needs explanation. The most coherent explanation is that Jesus and the apostles couldn’t fathom a society where Christianity was not a tiny, hounded minority. The fundamentalist/conservative explanation is that the persecution really is ongoing. But since no Christians are being locked up for their beliefs, denied jobs, excluded from the government, or anything else, the persecution ends up being stuff like saying Happy Holidays (recognising the 10%-15% of non-Christian religious Americans). They’re idiots.

    – Josh

  45. Last week a check-out lady at wal-mart wished me “Have a blessed day.” Since she had just helped me even though her line had closed, I resisted the urge to get clarificaton what she meant using the word “blessed”. I suspect it was her personal religious belief motivating her. Or is there another, quite secular meaning to the word “blessed”? She did not look or speak like she was a recent immigrant.

  46. a preference for lights

    Just as we need to stimulate our livers with spiked egg nog, the pineal gland needs a workout too!

  47. Keith,
    Yeshua was born in the early fall. Most likely during the Feast of Tabernacles, a celebration of God being physically present among us.

    Which means we should be celebrating his conception soon. Merry Christmas.

  48. smacky, acknowledge 🙂

    I told that joke to one of our staff back in my in-house counsel days. She and I said “acknowledge” to each other for the next four years. Good run for any joke, in my opinion.

    Back to religion–I get frustrated at how non-Christian many Christians act. We’ve got no monopoly on hypocrisy, but you’d think all that “love your brother” stuff would be more evident this time of year. I’m “full of doubt” (as opposed to “cocksure”) when it comes to religion, but, mostly because I was raised that way, I still see myself as at least somewhat Christian in the philosophical sense. “Love Jesus or die” isn’t one of the messages I recall hearing. How about a little tolerance, stoicism, humility, and brotherly love, my angry Christian friends?

    As an aside, the vast majority of Christians in this country appear to be perfectly sane about religion. We teach evolution in schools, we have pretty good barriers between church and state, etc. Don’t condemn them all because of some loud-mouth extremists. Every group has some loons to deal with, right?

  49. Don’t condemn them all because of some loud-mouth extremists. Every group has some loons to deal with, right?

    Well said, Pro Libertate. I just wish the “majority” that the extremists in every group claim to represent would occasionally slap them back into coherence.

  50. John Dendy you are a dandy!

    However, your comments are completely fucked up. The libertarian position (these dudes are considered to be “right wing” you idiot)is that taxpayer money should not be spent on religious displays. This is not an attack on Christianity or Christmas – it is a basic conservative principle.

    Private corporations such as Wal-fucking-Mart should be allowed to exploit the holidays anyway they want. Their job is to maximize earnings. If they believe that supressing the religious aspect of the holiday leads to greater profits then they have every right to adopt this approach. They might believe that a giant display of baby Jesus buggering Santa Claus with a candy cane will increase sales. Then I am all for this display, as long as it is done in good taste. Regardless of their methodology, their motivation is the accumulation of almighty greenbacks and not the promotion of religious or secular agendas.

  51. I see the airing of grievences is going right on track. Next we’ll have the feats of strength. I want to see Laura Bush vs. Mary Cheney in a no holds barred, Texas Cage Match in Jello. Happy Festivus!!

  52. As an aside, the vast majority of Christians in this country appear to be perfectly sane about religion.

    Exactly. That’s why it’s surprising to me that so many people around here are SHOCKED to see a Christian expressing a reasonable opinion.

  53. Crushinator (Great handle by the way)

    “They might believe that a giant display of baby Jesus buggering Santa Claus with a candy cane will increase sales. Then I am all for this display, as long as it is done in good taste.”

    In South Park, Jesus and Santa settle their differences:

    Jesus comes down from the heavens and he asks the boys where he can find the mall. The boys agree to bring him to the mall. When they arrived at South Park mall Stan asks Jesus why they are here. He points at Santa and claims that he’s is a blasphemer and that he is ruining the spirit of Christmas. Santa notices Jesus and challenges him to a fight and tells him there can only be ‘one’ winner. The fight continues with both Santa and Jesus trading blows. After Jesus fires a shot at Santa, Santa fires a beam ball at Jesus, with Jesus just dodging the shot but it continued on it’s course of destruction and chops Kenny’s head off. Brian Boitano makes an appearance and he tells the boys that Christmas is a time of loving and caring for one another, and he does’nt help the boys out with their problem. Eventually Stan and Kyle convince them to stop the fighting by telling them that both of them are important people at Christmas time. They settle their differences and Jesus offers to buy Santa an orange smoothie which Santa gratefully accepts.

    Can’t we all just get along and buy each other an orange smoothy?

  54. I’ve come out of the afore-said 80% Christian population (reared in a practicing Christian family as a child, at least), and I am willing to say (meaning no disrespect to believers) that IMHO it is in many respects a silly religion. Just one example, the Trinity is a pretzel of an idea, a contortionistic creation arising from the need (but why?) to make Jesus divine while still claiming monotheism (though I still don’t get the part about the Holy Ghost — why not a Holy Fairy? Or a Holy Sea Otter?). I say this though I was hard-core born-again in high school. I felt so relieved when I could say, finally, that the whole thing makes no sense to me. The pretzel in my brain stretched out. — During this season, sometimes I say “Merry Christmas,” sometimes I say “Happy Holidays,” and I thoroughly enjoy myself — but it doesn’t change what I think or how I feel. What makes fundamentalist Christians mad is not so much that they can’t make people say certain things, but that they can’t make people think or feel certain things, including shame at not towing the line. It infuriates them that people in this country are really free.

  55. Catalina;

    “It infuriates them that people in this country are really free.”

    We are not free in our actions, just try to open a house of prostitution or openly distribute drugs. Anymore, we are only free to have our own private thoughts about things, but give it a little time and that will change if the fundimentalists have their way.

  56. The country is 80% Christian

    Well, sort of but not really. The majority of U.S. citizens are Christian, but there’s no “Christian majority” in the U.S. And it’s an important distinction that many Christians don’t understand.

    True, if you ask, “Are you Christian?” <check yes/no> about 80% of us will check “Yes.” But if you ask, “What church do you belong to?” <fill in the blank> very few Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Catholics, Church of Christ, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Evangelical responses will be “Christian.” You couldn’t get all the Baptists to stop at “Baptist.” Even my own United Methodist church has subjects we don’t bring up at Annual Conference, lest there be theological foodfights. And we’re way laid back for Christians.

    Too many people hear “Christian government” and think, “Cool. The country run according to the beliefs and traditions of my church.” Actually, however, the vast majority of us would find ourselves in a country run according to the beliefs and traditions of someone else’s church. And that’s inevitably meant disaster.

  57. The main problem with “Happy Holidays” is that it takes Christmas, which has a whole bunch of warm and fuzzy connotations, both religious and secular, and replaces it with absolutely nothing or, at best,Christmas-but-not-really.

  58. The people getting worked up over “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” should calm down and have some eggnog.

  59. I don’t know if anyone’s mentioned this already, but as a practicing Christian, I would prefer if the holy day were not sullied by its secular observance, which is little more than a festival of greed.

    If Jesus were still on earth in bodily form, I suspect he would kick each and every fake Santa Claus’ ass from here till Judgement Day. Did I mention that I don’t like Santa Claus? 😉

  60. “Well, sort of but not really. The majority of U.S. citizens are Christian, but there’s no “Christian majority” in the U.S. And it’s an important distinction that many Christians don’t understand.”

    Right, well, plus there’s the fact that many if not most of the “Christians” we are talking about do not practice and many do not even believe (though they may hope). Though we are famously much more devout than most Europeans, for example, the homeland of Jean-Paul Sartre, where probably 98% of the non-Arab population is “Catholic,” but do not believe.

  61. Or at least he would reenact the Cleansing of the Temple at your local mall.

  62. P.S. I admit that I am pulling my statistics out of my rear end.

  63. The whole “controversy” is idiotic. Christmas in the U.S. is about selling stuff and making money. Period.

  64. Catalina,

    Some scholars believe that the holy triumvirate is yet another pagan absorption along the lines of Christmas itself.

    For a very very long time the Hebrews worshipped a (pre-monotheistic) (earth) goddess alongside Yahweh, often as his wife. Most of the OT prophets insisted Yahweh didn’t like that much. Along with the goddess came the old cultural “son being reborn” a la Baal. So it seems all the old religions of the area had a triple godhead. I think these other explanations for why we have Father, Son, and Holy Ghost may be later revisions explaining the fact that the early beliefs were never fully eradicated.

  65. Very similar to the claim that the same goddess is also the origin of Virgin Mary worship.

  66. linguist,

    So how come the Trinity doesn’t include Mary?

  67. If Jesus were still on earth in bodily form, I suspect he would kick each and every fake Santa Claus’ ass from here till Judgement Day. Did I mention that I don’t like Santa Claus? 😉

    Hmmmm…. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever met the ‘violent-Jesus’ before…. is that like an evil twin?

    Seriously though, Religion is a private thing and should be a private thing. I don’t why people are scared of ‘winter break’. I guess there’s also the ‘no-christmas songs’ in school thing, although I think it would be great if schools did like 1 christmas song, and 1 jewish song, and 1 kwanzaa song… and even better if students have different traditions they could bring in a winter cultural song of their own… I don’t think that’s offensive.. but maybe it’s just me.

    I do understand a jewish writer who wrote on the other day, that it’s hard for his 4 year old kid, who gets randomly approached all the time asking if he’s excited to meet santa. And he has to explain to the parent, and then to his kid that they don’t have santa yatta yatta yatta. He says he just finds it frustrating, and that I understand.

    But why would anybody want their religion name postcarded on this bastard hallmark holiday I’ll never know.

  68. “I’m there to shop, not have a religious experience.”

    Much in the way overdosing on LSD can be a religious experience, shopping at Walmart can be a religious experience. Have you ever looked at some of the people who shop there? Jebus. Some days I feel like I never really recuperated from that last flashback.

  69. ” but I don’t think I’ve ever met the ‘violent-Jesus’ before…. is that like an evil twin?”

    with goatee and everything 🙂
    (what you’re otherwise describing – at least with mainstream religions of the 70s and 80s was what my school did. if a culture represented at the school had an important day, we’d get to celebrate and learn about it, too. it was always framed as a positive aspect of this wonderful world we have – i still know more chanukah songs than christmas ones. grin)

    back to VJ (violent jesus) the man could get tough – he busted up that temple and all. but yeah – the violent, punishing jesus is a bit much for this citizen, too. (although, how many fundies use religion as a weapon of punishment and of control?)

    but: some of the crass sides of xmas are a but much for me, too. i try to sit out most of the stuff on the sidelines. and i do say whatever holiday greeting is appropriate. funny true story: a jewish buddy of mine wished someone whom he thought also to be jewish a happy chanukah, only to find out that it was a fairly strong fundie type who was insulted out the wazoo. snicker.

    and crimethink: i feel your pain, partially, at least (best i can do) – and i can imagine how bad easter must annoy you, considering that’s the most holy day in the christian calendar!

    there is a secular “christmas” in our culture. it apparently is bigger than the various, fragmented religious ones. and that’s fine. otherwise, we could get into it with how one celebrates (which days, is the epiffany important, etc), and all. it’s too messy – thanks to Larry A for highlighting that 🙂

    merry christmas!

  70. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever met the ‘violent-Jesus’ before….

    I pray you won’t; but you will, if you do not repent. Or if you are a fake Santa Claus.

    I mean, how would you feel if people were using your birthday as an excuse to sell worthless crap?

  71. Smacky,
    You cut me right to the bone. I am one of those lost souls wafting around Walmart. It has been years since I tried it on LSD, but a little interstate commerce can make the experience richly rewarding (and my Spanish has improved measurably). I even notice the background music when I have a good buzz raging. Walmart is not the evil AntiChrist that everyone condemns on reflex. It is a pleasure palace for the proletariat.

  72. Catalina, I am with you in that I can’t make a lot of sense of much of popular Christianity. At the same time, I don’t think that rejecting certain parts necessitates rejecting the whole. I have always struggled with the idea of a Holy Trinity. Okay, so I can’t make sense of that, and I set it aside. Even without that particular doctrine, though, there’s still a lot left that does make sense to me, and I’m not going to reject the rest just because I can’t accept that one certain part.

    I think that the important point is that the doctrine of the Trinity and some others doctrines are based on after the fact interpretations of the certain things said by Jesus and the apostles that aren’t necessarily correct interpretations, and that can perhaps be excised from the core without affecting the core itself. Sort of like cutting dead branches off the tree without damaging the trunk. Given that the aforementioned doctrines may be simply mistakes made by fallible men means that I may set aside certain parts, yet retain the option of accepting what does strike me as sensible, and what strikes me as sensible about it is quite a lot.

  73. Let?s assume that John D?s figures are correct and Christians, of one stripe or another, are the majority religion in this country. The political party that currently holds control of congress is almost entirely Christian of a very traditionalist persuasion. The sitting president is a self-professed “born-again” Christian. Over the last 5 years, Conservative Christians have had considerable political success: FDA disapproval of the Plan B contraceptive, public funding of “faith based” social programs, conservative influence over FCC rulings on ?indecency? in the media, many states have passes laws barring gay marriage, not to mention the Christian Right?s success in having blatant creationism snuck into public school biology courses under the guise of “intelligent design.” Yet John, and many like him, portrays American Christians as an oppressed people, stripped of all rights, and victims of “intolerance” from those hypocritical, fiendish atheists and their godless, liberal allies in the ACLU.

    However, as one of John?s hated atheists, I don?t have a problem with anyone who says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Chanukah” of even “Jolly Saturnalia.” I keep this season in my own way, I don?t begrudge anyone their good time, and I appreciate the intentions of the greeting in which it is given. However, since I?m not psychic (not that there are any psychics) and we don?t have our religious affiliations tattooed on our foreheads, I prefer use ?Happy Holidays? as a courtesy to make sure I?ve got all my bases covered. When someone says “Happy Holidays,” they are acknowledging the Christmas? and Chanukah? and New Years? and Kwanza? and all the other celebrations, religious or not, that are going on this month.

    Yet, while I?m the filthy unbeliever who allegedly wants to take away his precious holiday, John, by the tone and manner of his comments, seems to blow his stack if anyone was foolish enough to mention any holiday other than the one?s he practices. To them, the entire month of December is the wholly (and holy) owned monopoly of Christianity. No other faiths, creeds, or lack of faiths and creeds exist. All must acknowledge the existence of Christ…

    …and I’m the one who needs to be lectured about tolerance and intolerance?

    Forgive me for thinking it vindictive for the Cultural Warriors to lift their collective leg and mark this month as their territory, but there is no “War on Christmas” any more than there is a “War” on the other religious holidays, and this society isn?t a pissing contest between Christians and non-Christians.

  74. VM,

    Thank you for feeling my pain. Actually, the run-up to Christmas is even more annoying; this occurs during Advent, which like Lent is supposed to be a time of repentance for a Catholic, in preparation for the holy day to arrive. Not that I have any right to expect society to cooperate with my spiritual exercises, but it is irritating.

  75. You cut me right to the bone.

    Crushinator,

    Not exactly sure what that means, but I hope I didn’t hurt you, anyway.

    It is a pleasure palace for the proletariat.

    I thought that was Target. 🙂

    I myself never wandered around in public while high, or at least I avoided it. Of course there was that shopping spree I went on on the Fourth of July a few years back while *ahem* under the influence, but besides that, rarely did I seek to be in public places, especially public places like Walmart or Kmart or S-mart. Being under flourescent lights is a scary enough experience for me when I am sober…

  76. i do appreciate the conundrum you’re in.

    growing up, a family friend of ours was minister at a presbyterian church – a tall fellow. booming voice. presence lit up the room. great. wonderful person.

    i’d go along to the xmas eve service just to hear him (and to sing “o holy night” more on that in a sec). his final sermon before retiring was a story that only a few of us had heard before. how he found his calling.

    dec 24, 1944 his ship was off the french coast, and as midnight hit, he and a few buddies went up on deck to sing a carol, quietly. they sang “oh holy night”. a nazi sub torpeoed the ship, killing almost everybody onboard.

    he ended up in berlin in the “four in a jeep”. when he refused to shoot somebody suspected of being a nazi, he was transferred to the pow camp.

    as a kid, it was meaningful thinking about how and why H.A. survived. he is a great person.

    (and he’d really ham up and get into “lord of the dance” at eastertime. lots of fun)

  77. Please, nobody get pissed at me, but,

    Happy World Year of Physics, Everyone!

  78. So how come the Trinity doesn’t include Mary?

    Just a couple of years back, a group petitioned the Vatican to declare her something you might call the “Fourth Member of the Trinity”. It didn’t go through.

  79. Akira, it’s not “jolly Saturnalia!” What kind of pagan are you? Io Saturnalia; Io, Io, Io!

  80. “Xmas At K-Mart – Root Boy Slim & The Sex Change Band”
    (c. 1978 by Greenlee, MacKenzie & Lancaster)

    “Hey Santa I hear you just got in from San Jose
    Got a little trouble out that way
    But I got a little song that’ll pick up your spirits the most
    Goes kinda like this…


    Christmas at K-mart all over the store
    Christmas at K-mart, Christmas at K-mart
    People are buying just a little bit more
    Christmas at K-mart, Christmas at K-mart
    So if you’re still shopping with money to spend
    Christmas at K-mart, Christmas at K-mart
    How about this album by Root Boy Slim?
    Christmas at K-mart, Christmas at K-mart
    The mood ring counter is all aglow
    Christmas at K-mart, Christmas at K-mart
    When Root Boy starts his Christmas show
    Christmas at K-mart, Christmas at K-mart
    Winos sleep on the hot air grill
    Christmas at K-mart, Christmas at K-mart
    Hippies’ll take their Christmas pill
    Christmas at K-mart, Christmas at K-mart
    Costs are up, sold out tonight
    Christmas at K-mart, Christmas at K-mart
    Those locker room users in their usual fright
    Christmas at K-mart, Christmas at K-mart
    That lingerie counter was grab and go
    Christmas at K-mart, Christmas at K-mart
    Shoplifters bags on overflow
    Christmas at K-mart, Christmas at K-mart
    Santa got a dose in San Jose
    Christmas at K-mart, Christmas at K-mart
    Comes to the K-mart once, loves to stay
    Christmas at K-mart, Christmas at K-mart
    I musta died and gone to heaven
    Christmas at K-mart
    Cause hell is Christmas at the 7-11″

  81. Some people just live to get offended and to raise a stink about nothing in particular. Some of them are on the left. Others have shows on Fox.

    Which leads to another question: how do charmless morons like John Gibson and Nancy Grace wind up getting their own talk shows? No, never mind – no answer necessary…

  82. Jim, thanks for the thoughtful response. Despite the slightly acid tone of my post, I actually love listening to people discuss religion and philosophy (though, probably like you, I don’t get the connection between serious ideas and a “Merry Christmas!” sign taped up over a display of lawn mowers at WalMart).

    And linguist, thanks for the info. I need to learn more about Baal. All I know about it is that episode of the original Star Trek where the natives worship an enormous angry-looking paper-mache face and wear white lipstick.

  83. Io, Saturnalia, indeed. To celebrate, we should do the traditional role reversal here. On the winter solstice, we commenters will write articles for Reason, and the editors and writers will be consigned to Hit & Run. Should be fun.

  84. pro lib, the server squirrel needs to choose a random poster and make him webmaster for the day. Jove would be pleased.

  85. To celebrate, we should do the traditional role reversal here. On the winter solstice, we commenters will write articles for Reason, and the editors and writers will be consigned to Hit & Run.

    Wow! That would be so fun.

    I don’t know if the editors and writers could cut it, though. It might be tough to fill our shoes. Bad bathroom humor and ad hominem attacks don’t just materialize.

  86. Please, nobody get pissed at me, but Happy World Year of Physics, Everyone!

    Heathen!

    😉

  87. I hope that some of the people, who are so upset over this “War on Christmas” shit, will read Ryan McMaken?s article. I could never understand people who put a lot of energy in petty shit instead of debating and getting involved with more serious matters.

  88. “Akira, it’s not “jolly Saturnalia!” What kind of pagan are you? Io Saturnalia; Io, Io, Io!”

    I been meaning to ax: Is IO pronounced “Yo,” as in, “Yo, what be goin’ down?”

    (By the way, my homeys be busy, busy, busy raht now makin’ xmurs cheer to be sold at a very reasonable price on a street corner near yo.)

  89. John Dendy,

    As a libertarian I wouldn’t complain if those in the U.S. voluntarily walked away from your religion (or any religion). Good riddance.

    Pro Libertate,

    As an aside, the vast majority of Christians in this country appear to be perfectly sane about religion.

    Are you sure about that given the significant numbers of them who believe that angels really are on board. Hell, I knew joe was nuts when he finally admitted that the reason economic rights aren’t as important to him was because God told him they weren’t.

    ___________________________________

    That Christians get upset over these sort of things simply demonstrates how intellectually and morally bankrupt the Christian religion is.

  90. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t “holiday” derive from “Holy Day”? Therefore, when someone wishes “Happy Holidays” aren’t they actually wishing “Happy Holy Days” which could cover Christmas, Hannukah and Saturnalia?

  91. Thanks, Hakluyt. We were all waiting with baited breath to find out your position on this issue… 😉

  92. Akira, it’s not “jolly Saturnalia!” What kind of pagan are you?

    Well, as an atheist, I not a pagan, I’m a blasphemer which is supposedly worse.

    Io Saturnalia…

    Is that anything like “Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn?”

    (BTW, any and all Lovecraft fans out there, if you haven’t seen “The Call Of Cthulhu” fan film, I highly recommend it.)

  93. Tonight my ultra-Catholic father was complaining about this very issue. He was upset that Target was sticking by its “Happy Holiday” guns and not letting the Xians roll over them.

    I pointed out to them that there are other religious holidays going on this month. His enlightened answer:

    “What? You mean for the 5 kikes and 3 kwanza-niggers who still live in this country?”

    I think I’ve seen the true colors of the pro-Christmas crowd.

  94. Akira, I painted with too broad a brush, perhaps heathen would be more fitting :). Also, yes, it’s sort of like that – in The Horror at Red Hook he has people shouting “Io Pan!” which is the same thing, except for Pan.

    Io – it’s the Latin “huzzah”

  95. Hakluyt, I’m a little baffled as to why you think that libertarianism is by definition divorced from religious faith. Mine isn’t. In fact, the concept of democracy and limited government in American history has come largely from the idea that man is sinful, and therefore no man is good and wise enough to exercise unrestricted power over his fellows. Take for example Jefferson’s question, “Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him?”

  96. Jim Nelson,

    Hakluyt, I’m a little baffled as to why you think that libertarianism is by definition divorced from religious faith.

    I didn’t write that it necessarily was, so I’m not quite sure what your damage is.

    In fact, the concept of democracy and limited government in American history has come largely from the idea that man is sinful…

    No, it doesn’t. It comes from classical Greek and Roman models as well as Renaissance and Enlightenment ideas on the nature of man which were largely secular in nature. I suggest (as a start) that you read Montesquieu.

  97. Jim Nelson,

    It never ceases to amaze me how ignorant religionists like yourself always ascribe human progress to religion when the vast majority of writers and thinkers on the subject of liberal societies have been decidedly secular in their analyses.

  98. Jim Nelson,

    As to you religious beliefs, I don’t care one whit about what irrational belief system you ascribe to.

  99. Take for example Jefferson’s question, “Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him?”

    I think you’re taking this quote way out of context, especially given what else Jefferson had to say about religion and Christianity in particular. Besides, organized religions, like governments, are also run by human beings who aren’t perfect either despite their faith.

  100. Akira,

    Yeah, I shouldn’t have just written off the quote as being a non-sensical usage and should have written something about it.

  101. Akira,

    Then again, taking statements out of context, putting words in the mouth of speakers, etc. is a common trait amongst Christian apologists. Witness the faux-quote attributed to James Madison by many Christians for example. I get the impression that the ideology of religionists is so strong they’d rather create falsehoods than question their belief (e.g., witness what Christians did with various classical works and how they tried to eradicate them or change their text).

  102. smacky, what will our cover story be about? It should be something libertarian with offbeat pop-culture references, I think 😉

    No, wait, I have it. Remember that cool cover that Reason did for subscribers, where each cover had a satellite photo of the subscriber’s home? Let’s do the same thing, only this time, each cover will have a personally tailored ad hominem attack. That’s so us, as you so astutely noted.

    Io, Saturnalia!

  103. just heard the madison one a few weeks ago from someone who would be insulting to the religious folks here. this bozo drops “born again christian, like me” and “praise jesus” (complete with hand gestures and looking up) whenever he can. often trying to change the conversation to throw in one of those markers-of-how-“religious”-he-is.

    he cites reagan and likes being “small government conservative, but there are times when you need a strong government. like what madison said. he was born again, like me.” (madison =deist. ‘born again’ not around for about 80+ years after him)

    i would suspect that this person’s antics would not be appreciated by those with faiths that don’t need proclaiming at any and every opportunity; nor would those whose faiths don’t get shaken by the smallest of things.

    Pro: 🙂

    toodles.

  104. Jim Nelson,

    Take for example Hayek’s statement in The Road to Serfdom, “We are rapidly abandoning not the views merely of Cobden and Brith, of Adam Smith and Hume, or even of Locke and Milton, but one of the salient characteristics of Western civilisation as it has grown from the foundations laid by Christianity and the Greeks and Romans.”

    When it comes to historical or philosophical analysis I take Hayek with a grain of salt. Christianity is and remains a budensome yoke upon mankind.

    You can keep C.S. Lewis.

  105. Christianity is and remains a budensome yoke upon mankind.

    A bizarre statement given that Christianity is spread through non-violent, non-oppressive means in the modern world, and mostly so in the past. If it is a yoke, then it is strange that so many choose it. Here we live in the most Christianized nation of the great powers, and yet also the one which is most distrusting of authority. We are not a people given to handing ourselves over to slavery, and yet Christianity thrives. America’s tradition of freedom has not come in spite of Christianity, but largely because of it.

    A more important point though is that it is religious motivation that is behind most of the charitable work that is being done around the world. In the aftermath of natural disasters I see the Salvation Army and Clara Barton’s Red Cross helping. I see charitable hospitals built by religious organizations. I see halfway houses, homeless shelters and soup kitchens being run by churches. I see missionaries in Africa and Latin America giving shelter, food and medicine to the poor. Nearly every revolution against tyranny has been at least partially based in the belief that the rulers were oppressive of the God given rights of man. What does atheism have to its name? The various communist revolutions is all I can think of off the top of my head. If you want those, consider them yours.

  106. Jim Nelson,

    A bizarre statement given that Christianity is spread through non-violent, non-oppressive means in the modern world…

    In the modern world it is contracting.

    …and mostly so in the past.

    Wrong. Christianity was spread by the sword throughout the length of Europe, Latin America, etc. – temporally and geographically. Whether we are discussing the persecution of Roman pagans, Charlemagne’s wars of conquest and conversion against the Germans, etc. Your ham handed efforts to deny the blood nature of your religion won’t do.

    We are not a people given to handing ourselves over to slavery…

    You really aren’t paying attention, are you?

    America’s tradition of freedom has not come in spite of Christianity, but largely because of it.

    That’s a flat out lie and has no basis in the historical record and is as moronic as those who claim that American law is based on the Decalogue.

    Your examples are largely based on the charitable works of Christians (which have always been problematic in and of themselves given that charity and oppressive empire have generally been synonomous), but that says nothing about freedom or liberty or the philosophical doctrines which got us to Locke, Montesquieu, etc. – authors you would do well to read someday.

    What does atheism have to its name?

    Aside from atheists being murdered by Christians? How about the large number of scientists who are atheists?

  107. Jim Nelson,

    Nearly every revolution against tyranny has been at least partially based in the belief that the rulers were oppressive of the God given rights of man.

    You are confusing the rhetoric of the American revolution, and specifically one text associated with it, with every other revolution. I don’t recall the Velvet Revolution discussing such after all (just by way of example).

  108. Jim Nelson,

    Also, let me blunt about this, charity does not fix the problems creating the need for it, its at best a very paternalistic, insulting form of temporary relief.

    Next you’ll be telling me the wonders of AA, which is itself total bunk.

  109. In the modern world it is contracting.

    Please. Christianity is growing worldwide. It is particularly exploding in the third world. In America it remains pretty steady. This is partly due to a lot of Christian immigration, but then the same reason can be given for the decline of Christianity in Europe. The reason it has declined there is largely due to falling birth rates and a high level of Islamist immigration. There is some even some dispute as to whether Islam is really the fastest growing religion in the world when spread by way of conversion. It is growing fast of course, but much of this is because most Muslim nations have high birth rates.

    That’s a flat out lie and has no basis in the historical record and is as moronic as those who claim that American law is based on the Decalogue…You are confusing the rhetoric of the American revolution, and specifically one text associated with it, with every other revolution. I don’t recall the Velvet Revolution discussing such after all (just by way of example).

    Reread the documents associated with the American Revolution and the founding of this country. You will find reams of references to tyranny as being opposed to the Will of God. Even the sceptic Thomas Paine, in The Crisis, Number 1 wrote, “I have as little superstition in me as any man living, but my secret opinion has ever been, and still is, that God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly to perish, who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war, by every decent method which wisdom could invent. Neither have I so much of the infidel in me as to suppose that He has relinquisheed the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils; and as I do not, I cannot see on what grounds the king of Britain can look up to heaven for help against us.”

    Not enough? Look at the motivations of abolitionists. To pick one example William Lloyd Garrison, who was moved by his Christian faith. The Civil Rights movement? Ditto.

    Your examples are largely based on the charitable works of Christians (which have always been problematic in and of themselves given that charity and oppressive empire have generally been synonomous)

    Please, enlighten me on the imperial aspirations of the Christian Children’s Fund.

    Aside from atheists being murdered by Christians?

    Not really relevant to the question I asked, but if you want to bring up persecution, okay. Communism anyone?

    How about the large number of scientists who are atheists?

    Oh, right, I forgot about all the scientists who do their research in the name of atheism. Those who investigate nature in the furtherance of their atheist duties. Let me ask you something. Do you think it possible that their scientific devotion might be to a, you know, devotion to science rather than to atheism?

    Also, let me blunt about this, charity does not fix the problems creating the need for it, its at best a very paternalistic, insulting form of temporary relief.

    Yes, the the third world children who were starving and now have food, shelter and clothing must feel truly insulted. What do you want the missionaries to do? Open factories in totalitarian countries? Even if this were feasible and they did it you would soon be accusing them of operating sweatshop labor.

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