Religion

Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding

What's so funny about Christmas as a secular holiday

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A couple of years ago, perceiving a giant, light-covered fir at the Capitol in Olympia, Washington, as a symbol of Christmas, the Jewish organization Chabad of Seattle sought to erect a menorah to commemorate Chanukah. A local real estate agent, perceiving the menorah as a religious symbol, decided to sponsor a Nativity scene.

This year the Freedom From Religion Foundation, offended by the Nativity scene, retaliated with a large plaque in the Capitol declaring that "religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds." The provocative plaque attracted nationwide criticism and inspired various rejoinders, including a sign announcing that "atheism is but myth and superstition" and a five-foot aluminum pole marking Festivus, the fictional holiday invented by George Constanza's father on Seinfeld.

All this fuss could have been avoided if only Chabad had recognized that the decorated evergreen in the rotunda, sponsored by the Association of Washington Business, was not a Christmas tree. As the Associated Press noted, it was in fact "a nonreligious Holiday Tree."

You don't buy that? Neither do I, but it's remarkable how many people at this time of year will insist with a straight face that they are celebrating a secular winter holiday season, when the reason for the season—the birth of the Christian Savior, whom his followers believe to be the Son of God—is about as religious as things get. Even Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, who was predictably outraged by Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire's willingness to make room for atheists, tries to have it both ways.

O'Reilly says the Capitol's "traditional holiday display" was "perfectly appropriate since the federal and state Christmas holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem." At the same time, he says "most Americans, even those living in the far-left enclaves, respect uplifting traditions like Christmas, where peace and love is the theme of the great day." He adds, "Can't we all just get along for a few weeks in December?"

The plea to get along is touching, especially coming from a professional hothead like O'Reilly. Yet O'Reilly can't seem to decide whether Christmas is, as the name suggests, all about Jesus Christ, or simply a time of warm feelings that even atheists can appreciate.

He is not alone in his confusion. As long as local and state governments stick to illuminated evergreens and other "secular symbols" of "the winter holiday season," the U.S. Supreme Court has said, they don't have to worry about violating the First Amendment's Establishment Clause by endorsing a particular religion.

This sort of reasoning explains why the Christmas Program at my 5-year-old daughter's public school in Dallas was called a Holiday Program, at which the children sang festive holiday songs that to my untrained ear sounded a lot like Christmas carols. The school did seem to eschew songs that explicitly mention Christ (as long as you ignore the Christ in Christmas), but it still forced my wife and me to choose between 1) letting our daughter publicly celebrate a religious holiday that is not part of our tradition and 2) making her feel excluded by stopping her from joining all the other kindergarteners in an official school activity that involved weeks of preparation in music class. The Christmas stocking with her name on it that she proudly brought home from school and wanted to hang above our fireplace put us in a similarly ticklish position as practicing Jews.

I'm not sure this sort of thing rises to the level of a constitutional complaint, but maybe we'd all get along better if the majority did not pretend that everyone can comfortably celebrate Christmas. The other day, as we were preparing for the first night of Chanukah, we had a visitor who remarked that she had always thought of Christmas as a secular holiday. My wife, a rabbi, explained to her why that view is problematic. Upon leaving, our visitor wished me a happy Chanukah and a merry Christmas.

© Copyright 2008 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Sorry Mr. Sullum but the original “reason for the season” was not Christ. It was a pagan holiday that was “appropriated” by the christians when they failed to wipe it out.

    http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm

  2. ktc2, I think you’re missing Jacob’s point. Indeed, you’re demonstrating it! You see, by insisting that it’s a pagan religious holiday, your confirming that it’s not a secular holiday.

    Duh.

  3. Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas and fuck you very much!

  4. With the U.S. government spending trillions it doesn’t have… is this what is really worrying the Sullum clan? Yeah, it would be nice if people didn’t pretend Christmas is really a secular holiday. It would be nice if they didn’t pretend they elected candidates on “the issues.” It would be nice if they pretend they knew a rat fuck about anything outside of reality TV. It would be nice if the worst thing we had to worry about was an animal sacrifce to Baal in the public square.

  5. Merry Christmas!

  6. God loves you, dear reader, and calls you to faith.

    All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

  7. Good ol’ Reason, bravely fighting for…

    Oh who the fuck even knows anymore.

  8. @ktc2:

    Sorry Mr. Sullum, but the original…

    Yes, and the original reason for hunting was for food. And the original reason for beer was because it kept. And the original reason for silly putty was warfare.

    And it’s all got fuckall to do with the last few centuries.

    Sorry, working on Non-Denominational Holiday Eve has me cranky.

  9. Merry Kwanzanukah everybody.

  10. As long as christians insist that the existence of opinions other than their own constitutes persecutuion, my christmas wish will be that they get the chance to experience actual persecution so that they learn to know the difference.

    Ho. Just Ho.

  11. I don’t see how any one culture can stake a claim to an event that makes the entire world happy, longer days. Jacob, secularists at least aren’t bitter that it isn’t their religion that’s getting the credit. Isn’t it about time to get over it?

  12. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    If this was about anybody but Gawd Ahhhhlmitey it would be immediately dismissed as the rantings of a lunatic.

    Let’s try.

    Steven Segal made a perfect movie to be a shitty movie for us, so that in Steven Segal we might become the awesomeness of Steven Segal.

    Do you see how your religion sounds to us?

  13. That’s not a very Christian attitude Jeff.

  14. As long as local and state governments stick to illuminated evergreens and other “secular symbols”…they don’t have to worry about violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause

    But that’s precisely the problem. Let one pressure group have a display on public property and you are morally obliged to let any crackpot with an agenda have one too. The simple solution is to respect the property rights of private individuals and keep public places neutral and free of political displays. What’s so hard about that?

  15. My Religion is bigger than your dick!

    Oh wait, that doesn’t sound right at all…

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!

  16. rtrnr,

    You missed my point entirely. I never said it was a secular holiday. I merely pointed out that it was not originally a Christian holiday.

  17. i don’t believe in perpetuating myths be they jewish, christian, islamic or whatever. chanukah, christmas, and every other religious holiday can kiss my ass. long live halloween.

  18. Peace and Love rock! They are good things indeed!

    jess
    http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

  19. Actually peace on earth is the last thing I think of at this time of year. I’m not sure who should bear my wrath more, the stinking ritual loving pagans, or the selfish Christians who stole the thing and made it an even bigger hassle. Now, I need to go out and figure out why my 20 year old strand of C9s won’t fucking light.

  20. And what about that jolly fat bastard who brings me toys? Sure, originally he was a saint, but to me it is all about the XBox that my kids are going to get and that I will play after they go to sleep.

    As an atheist I don’t believe in the virgin birth any more than I believe that a family of monkeys secretly lives in my butt. Even so, I still put up a tree and I think that I have a couple of manger scene ornaments.

    Heck, I’d go to Hanukkah parties if my Jewish friends would quit being so clannish and invite me! (Are there such things as Hanukkah parties?) I’d even celebrate Ramadan if it was any fun!

    Other atheists who get their panties in a knot need to chill. What’s the big freakin’ deal? For me I can make it as secular as I want!

  21. No. A christian attitude would be one of smugness in my co-opted third-hand morality and denying that ethics existed in any form before monotheism.

    When the dominant belief system, permiating every sector of our lives, claims it is wounded because of the machinations of unbelievers, they rival only holocaust-deniers, and possibly O.J., for sheer disconnect from reality. They invalidate themselves as rational beings.

  22. Easter is a much more religiously significant holiday, yet it is a blip compared to Christmas.

  23. Tomorrow, we celebrate the virgin birth of a savior who rose again from the dead.

    Happy Birthday, Mithras.

    http://culturalvision.net/html/merry_mithras.html

    http://exchristian.net/exchristian/2003/04/is-christianity-based-on-pagan-roots.php

  24. A family of monkeys secretly living in one’s butt would make a great basis for a Christmas belief. They could come out and fling poo and bad kids…

  25. Steven Segal made a perfect movie to be a shitty movie for us, so that in Steven Segal we might become the awesomeness of Steven Segal.

    This makes perfect sense to me. You have seen Hard to Kill, right?

    And also: this.

  26. Christmas is big because the season was already festive. And it gets bigger as secularists go along and other religions elevate lower tier holidays to keep their kids happy.

  27. Ramadan is lots of fun, especially at night and when it’s over. Y’all should try it some day.

  28. This makes perfect sense to me.

    I know. Once I wrote it I thought “Crap. that’s a religion I could really get behind.”

    Guess I have to believe Jesus is magic now.

  29. Jesus could raise the dead. Jesus could fly!

  30. No mention of Krampus?

  31. Jesus is actually a confused zombie. He’s back from the dead and goes around wanting the rest of the world to eat pieces of him, instead of the other way around.

  32. Guess I have to believe Jesus is magic now.

    Actually, I suggest Shatnerology.

  33. I don’t see how any one culture can stake a claim to an event that makes the entire world happy, longer days.

    Typical Northern Hemisphere bias!

  34. Evidently so many people in my company abused access to Shatnerology.com that it is blocked by the IT gods.

    I’m being oppressed!

  35. Meh. You’re very silly.

    The Establishment Clause says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

    Putting up a Christmas Tree or a Menorah makes no law, and prohibits no free exercise of any religion or lack thereof. If you don’t like Christmas, cool. Don’t celebrate it. You’re missing out, of course. I don’t believe that Christ was god and I love Christmas; but to each his own.

    Just do us all a favor and lighten the heck up, though. Isn’t there some kind of U.S. socialist revolution (at least in campaign rhetoric) that you should be writing about? “Merry Christmas” is the least of our problems.

  36. FrBunny, try this to at least see the main page.

    And now you see the violence inherent in the system.

  37. Jesus could fly!

    And yet, in 33 years, Jesus never mastered Abraca-Chicken.

    Epi – Thanks. You have toppled the IT oppression and freed my soul. I will now worship you and celebrate the day you were born… on December 25. With a tree in my living room.

  38. Christmas in my Atheist household is about family and sharing. We couldn’t give a crap about Christ. Have we sold out? Frankly, I don’t really care. I get a day off to watch the Celtics pound the Lakers, lots of cookies and a Blu-Ray version of The Dark Knight.

  39. And yet, in 33 years, Jesus never mastered Abraca-Chicken.

    That’s pretty advanced. I don’t know if even G.O.B. could do it.

    I will now worship you and celebrate the day you were born… on December 25.

    Works for me.

  40. I’m looking forward to some rum nog, a little CoD 4 and NHL 09, and the two day food orgy. If you’re down to get fat, drunk and stoned with me, cool, merry Christmas. If you’re not, enjoy whatever you’re doing.

  41. Because it seems appropriate, I give you What Christmas Means to Me by C. S. Lewis.

    The first paragraph, especially, seems to fit this discussion.

  42. I apologize for the background on that link. Merry Christmas, hope you get new eyes.

  43. ‘the Christmas Program at my 5-year-old daughter’s public school’

    One can no more avoid religious issues in public schools than you can avoid them in collective farms. Just as the management at a collective farm has to decide whether to celebrate harvest rituals, give workers time off for religious holidays, etc., public schools have to decide what to teach in contentious morally-charged issues, whether to give students time off, etc.

    ‘ticklish position as practicing Jews’

    So which of Maimonides’ key principles of Judaism do you believe in?

    http://www.ou.org/torah/rambam.htm

    ‘i don’t believe in perpetuating myths be they jewish, christian, islamic or whatever. chanukah, christmas, and every other religious holiday can kiss my ass. long live halloween.’

    I wasn’t aware that All Hallows Eve had a secular origin. I am aware that some argue for a pagan origin, but secular? Or is this just the old Enlightenment idea that paganism is cool but Christianity sucks?

    denying that ethics existed in any form before monotheism

    Oh, it existed, all right, but it was a different ethics. There’s an attempt to revive a version of pagan ethics today.

    Exposure of infants —- abortion
    Gladiatorial games —- reality TV
    etc.

  44. I’m looking forward to some rum nog, a little CoD 4 and NHL 09, and the two day food orgy. If you’re down to get fat, drunk and stoned with me, cool, merry Christmas.

    You suck. I have to float around my parent’s huge annual Christmas Eve party making small talk with everyone. I will take Vicodin and drink wine to make this more bearable.

  45. BTW Jacob, why didn’t you mention the fact that the simple act of making Christmas a State and Federal Holiday is far more violative of establishment then decorating the town hall with Christmas lights?

  46. Putting up a Christmas Tree or a Menorah makes no law, and prohibits no free exercise of any religion or lack thereof

    How about posting the 10 Commandments in a court of law? Is that ok too? Is Christ on a cross acceptable? Rational Americans needn’t be reminded that they are in the minority. The evidence is all around them. Irrational ones can put their tacky manger scenes on their own property. Overtly religious displays on public property is tyranny of the majority, something the Constitution explicitly addresses. “Free exercise” doesn’t mean public financing of religion or religious symbols, regardless of the season.

  47. Most cultures have a winter festival. What is celebrated around Christmas is mostly secular now. Just the same as the Chistians modernized the Pagan holidays, we have modernized Christmas, by largely removing the Christian elements from it. You don’t need to be religious to put up a X-Mas tree and buy presents for your kids, pretending Santa brought them on a sled pulled by reindeer. Besides, without the lie about Santa Claus, when would a lot of us have started questioning what other lies we were told about mythical figures?

  48. “How about posting the 10 Commandments in a court of law? Is that ok too?”

    Uh… no?

    I like that you need to make that jump, though, to maintain any sort of case against Santa Claus. It just implies what I think, and why I think this article is silly: mistletoe doesn’t equal Jesus Christ.

    “Overtly religious displays on public property is tyranny of the majority”

    Public property is itself the real tyranny.

    But you’re in the “rational minority,” right? I’m sure you’re all over this.

  49. Overtly religious displays on public property is tyranny of the majority, something the Constitution explicitly addresses.

    Oh my…the majority is making me see something that’s not in line with my belief set! Oh, the humanity!

    Tyranny is typically associated with force. Calling a public display “forced imagery” is stretching the meaning of “force” beyond any usefulness. The economic angle I can sympathize with. But most public displays are private donations, so there typically isn’t an economic angle to whine about.

    Maybe I’m just not as thin-skinned as the Jacobs and eds of the world.

  50. I hope that everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy Chanukkah – those twin holidays celebrating the victory of monotheism over pagan superstition.

    Ho, ho, ho!

  51. When I saw the post topic I said “surely Mad Max has commented.”

    It’s nice to know some things in life one can reliably count on.

    You know though Max might be right about this annoying seperation of church and state. I mean remember the good old days when you could, on Christams, talk about Jesus around a fire without anyone getting all upset?

    Did I mention there was a heretic in the fire?

    Merry Christmas to all!

  52. Obviously, it should be The Physics of Santa *Claus*…

  53. I don’t know Yerbaff, I always wanted to know how Tim Allen did that stuff he did in that movie.

  54. That sappy Christmas shoes song bring this to mind:

    “I cried when I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet. And then I laughed REALLY hard.”

  55. As best as I can do related to Christianity:

    “Orlando, you can’t be a pilgrim. The pilgrims had snowy white skin to match their pure Christian souls. They didn’t sacrifice coconuts to their monkey gods.”

  56. I found this post utterly clueless and repellent. How can people “pretend” to be celebrating a secular holiday, when “the” reason for the season is your particular god-myth? Well excuuuuuuse me! Some of us like celebrating the Solstice, the secular fact that in the hemisphere we live in it’s now the darkest part of the year, and now the days will be getting longer. People have been celebrating this in all sorts of ways, secular and religious, since long before your particular religion was invented, and although your authorities have tried really hard to co-opt it (including forging the birth-date of your “savior”) that doesn’t mean that your little story is “the real reason” for the celebration, and the rest of us are just “pretending”.

    What a dolt.

  57. “Steven Segal made a perfect movie to be a shitty movie for us, so that in Steven Segal we might become the awesomeness of Steven Segal.”

    actually, this is entirely true, and that movie’s name is above the law.

    and our lord sayeth:

    “hey! whose hot dog is this?”

    and then flingeth it over his shoulder.

  58. those twin holidays celebrating the victory of monotheism over pagan superstition.

    Uh huh, “victory.”

    Tonight, I’m going to go a Christian mass, at which the priest will intone “Today, we celebrate light coming into the world.”

    Mission Accomplished, Paganism is in its last throes.

  59. And he will also offer a blood sacrifice at an altar.

  60. JC, JS, WTF?!?

    X-Mas these days is more secular than religious.

    Even my wife and her entire extended Jewish family loves Christmas – but it’s not like they’ve converted they just like the tree and the presents and the Christmas Dinner…

    I’d take any excuse to have a day off, no matter how silly, even if I wasn’t going to get presents. If Islam had a holiday that celebrated the birth of the baby Mohammed that gave me a day off I’d celebrate it, too.

    In fact, I’d be overjoyed at the opportunity to take a week off for X-Mas, another week off for Hannukah, another week off for Kwanzaa, a month off for Ramadan… And I’d be a lot more positively disposed toward the religions of the world if they’d line their calendars up to make sure that these dates were always consecutive but not overlapping.

  61. As I mentioned in Beato’s Christmas thread, it really is more secular than not. But on the flipside, Sullum is right in that it does have religious elements still uncomfortably lingering for some. I don’t really like governmental support for the specific religious elements of the holiday, however. I wouldn’t care about Santa but mangers and menorahs are over my limit. In the end, though, I don’t really care because of all the fights to pick, this really isn’t one of them. The only thing I could relate to is the story that Sullum told, regarding his child being taught traditions that he does not support in school. This would bother the crap out of me, but the rest I can take.

  62. MNG,

    Heretics roasting on an open fire
    Flames are licking at their nose . . .

  63. joe,

    I hardly denied that paganism has a *temporary* ascendancy in many places.

  64. Max, that’s been the Catholic rite at Christmas mass for centuries.

  65. Mad Max walked right into that one!

  66. lol now I’m looking for the Delete button. 🙂 Having read the piece now (rather than just the blurb), I see that Sullum isn’t speaking as a Christian himself; the “reason for the season” isn’t *his* religion, it’s the religion of those guys over there. Still wrong, but not quite as maddening; I would take back that “dolt”.

    The “Christmas tree” is not a Christian symbol. Why would it be? Not alot of Scotch Pines or Blue Spruce in Bethlehem as far as I know. Evergreens are emblematic of the fact that life continues through the winter, that there is Spring coming. No particular deity involved. Christian symbols shouldn’t be allowed to sneak into the public arena disguised as secular ones; but if we can work on wresting some of the truly secular symbols away from the grubby hands of Christian co-optation, I think it’s a good thing.

  67. I wonder why nobody gets their panties in a wad about Easter bunnies and baskets. I mean trees, bunnies, and baskets seem to contain equal parts Jesus if you remove their religious descriptors beforehand.

  68. Spring is coming, as good as that is, is still no reason to bring a tree indoors. Decorate outdoor trees to your heart’s content, but that first guy that brought a tree into the house better have a good explanation for it when I catch up to him in hell.

  69. Will the War on Christmas have a Surge?

  70. Dale,

    Good thing I read to the bottom before calling you an idiot. You did it yourself. Good job.

  71. Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make our country great (not to imply that the United States is necessarily greater than any other country) and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

    By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms: This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

    Disclaimer: No trees were harmed in the sending of this message; however, a significant number of electrons were slightly inconvenienced.

    mlaw.org

  72. Peace Love and Rap.

  73. I thought Santa Claus secularized Christmas, not “winter holiday season” trees/parties/events, etc.

    Anyway, I’m not sure secularized is the right word for what has happened to Christmas. I think it’s more appropriate to talk about the cultural rituals that take place as a result of it, cultural rituals that have positively no religious meaning to most people who participate in them.

    Egg nog?
    Shopping?
    Baby it’s cold outside?
    Cellophane-wrapped mugs filled with candies?
    Christmas lights? (which are pretty, esp. with snow) I think they’d put those up even if there was no christmas.
    Santa Claus?

    The most religious stimulation most people (even real Christians) get around this time is the Christmas eve service they attend, maybe some other choir/organ/bell concert, saying a prayer at said service, and maybe eating the chocolates out of their advent calendar. Am I wrong?

  74. I’ve had too much eggnog to detail how everybody on this thread has Xmas all screwed up.
    < ;-)>>>

    To my friends and adversaries (some I place in both categories) at H&R:

    Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men.

    Argue with that, bitches!

  75. Believing in Santa is just a trial run with positive reinforcement for believing in Jesus.

  76. If you rearrange the letters in Santa you come up with Satan. Santa is the devil!!!

  77. MP | December 24, 2008, 10:41am | #

    Oh my…the majority is making me see something

    Your reading comprehension skills need some work, MP. I said I had no problem with anyone (majority or minority) hanging tacky religious shit all over their own property. But when they hang it on public property, they are not only making me see it, they are making me pay for it. That’s what reasonable people object to.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Michael Solana | December 24, 2008, 10:39am | #

    But you’re in the “rational minority,” right?

    That is amply demonstrated by my comments, and yours.

  78. “J sub D | December 24, 2008, 12:20pm | #
    Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men.

    Argue with that, bitches!”

    I will!

    Here’s what the Westboro Baptist Church wants to post on a sign at the Washington state capitol:

    “Santa Claus Will Take You to Hell”

    “You’d better watch out, get ready to cry,
    You’d better go hide, I’m telling you why
    ‘cuz Santa Claus will take you to hell.

    “He is your favorite idol, you worship at his feet,
    but when you stand before your God
    He won’t help you take the heat.

    “So get this fact straight: you’re feeling God’s hate,
    Santa’s to blame for the economy’s fate,
    Santa Claus will take you to hell.

    “Don’t leave your kids with this red fright
    Just like the priests he’ll rape ’em at night
    Oh Santa Clause will take you to hell.

    “You tell the children he is real,
    You know that’s just a lie,
    To justify your own vile sins
    That’s the only reason why.

    “So get this fact straight, you’re feelin’ God’s hate
    Santa’s to blame for the dead soldier’s fate
    Santa Claus will take you to hell.”

  79. Fred – that’s awesome. But where’s the part about Santa being a gay-lover?

  80. Santa is a fag-enabler and a pedophile.

    (He really said this)

  81. Hey, Festivus IS a real holiday. If real people, really celebrate it, they do, then it becomes real. Don’t be knocking Festivus or I’ll hit you with my Festivus pole. Peace on Earth be damned.

  82. Decorate outdoor trees to your heart’s content, but that first guy that brought a tree into the house better have a good explanation for it when I catch up to him in hell.

    What? WHAT?

    I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THE SHOP VAC!

  83. Peace on earth is coming.

    Just as soon as I can get you humans to completely annihilate yourselves. Now, drop that eggnog, and get back to work on the Hadron Collider!

    Chop chop!

  84. Libertarianism is as much a religion as Christianity or Judaism and needs a winter solstice holiday of its own so that all the Christians and Jews who have compromised their religious principles to embrace libertarianism can feel some sense of community together with their fellow apostates. Happy Privatization Day!

  85. Fred Phelps | December 24, 2008, 1:03pm | #

    J sub D | December 24, 2008, 12:20pm | #
    Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men.

    Argue with that, bitches!

    I will! [followed by a lengthy non sequitor]

  86. You want one.

    You know you do.

  87. I like to greet people with a hearty “Io, Saturnalia!” during the holiday season. 🙂

    Though that’s on the 17th, the 25th is Dies Natalis Solis Invicti.

  88. Rabbi Hanina said, “Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the government, people would eat each other alive.”

    Milton Friedman said, “Fuck Rabbi Hanina.”

  89. We might be able to get this world spinning on the right track again if we could put Marduk back into Zagmuk!

    See http://knudsensnews.blogspot.com/2007/12/remember-when-zagmuk-used-to-mean.html

  90. Rabbi Hanina said, “Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the government, people would eat each other alive.”

    Milton Friedman said, “Fuck Rabbi Hanina.”

    LBJ, Roger B. Taney, Andrew Jackson, … and more recently, Kwame Kilpatrick, Rod Blagojevich, Ted Stevens, …

    Thank god for our overlords, I only wish that there was a hell.

  91. Christmas is both a religious and a secular holiday. Santa Claus has nothing to do with the Nativity story. Some people celebrate the modern version of the pagan holiday for the winter solstice; some people worship the alleged birth of Jesus; most do a bit of both.

  92. Damn server squirrels!

    Take two:

    Rabbi Hanina said, “Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the government, people would eat each other alive.”

    Insert bad Monica Lewinsky joke here.

  93. Presuming that the displays are funded with private money, it seems more like a mild tragedy of the commons than a first amendment issue. I see it as mild in that the tragedy only leads to aesthetic “destruction”, rather than anything significantly physical.

    Less public land would help mitigate cases like this. Religious displays on private land are apt to fuel far less controversy.

    Still, as long as we’ve opened the public land to everyone’s use, I’d make a small donation to a Wiccan Great Rite display.

  94. But the folks love Christmas and will go to any length to use government to enshrine Christianity as the official mandated state religion!

    Buy my book, you pinheads!

  95. And on this Christmas eve let us not forget that our good, God-fearin’ country has its army in various places throughout the world killin’ folks who need killing. Because Jesus is love. Or something.

  96. Overtly religious displays on public property is tyranny of the majority, something the Constitution explicitly addresses.

    The constitution at best *implicitly* addresses the tyranny of the majority. Unless, of course, you think Tocqueville wrote the constitution.

  97. ex?plic?it
    Pronunciation: \ik-?spli-s?t\
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: French or Medieval Latin; French explicite, from Medieval Latin explicitus, from Latin, past participle of explicare
    Date: 1607
    1 a: fully revealed or expressed without vagueness, implication, or ambiguity : leaving no question as to meaning or intent

    I understand the meaning of the First Amendment, Seamus. Do you? Or would you rather argue endlessly over the exact meaning of words? “Establishment” is very clear to me. Or to put it more plainly: I know it when I see it. Erecting a manger scene on public property, with (or without) public funding, is clearly “establishment”, if not by edict, then at least by intent.

  98. The libertarian dream of totally neutral public property will never ever happen. It’s worth mentioning in a footnote, not worth trying to establish. It won’t happen. It won’t.

    People do and always will like for the state to commemorate things the people like. Always. Libertarians will never win on this. Ever ever. Ever. Won’t happen. Give up.

    Anyway, I’m an atheist but I have no problem with ceremonial Christianity. All that it takes is for the Supreme Court to say “Ceremonial acknowledgement of the majority religion does not violate the First Amendment” and *poof* it magically doesn’t. That’s how the vague provisions of the Constitution work.

  99. Erecting a manger scene on public property, with (or without) public funding, is clearly “establishment”, if not by edict, then at least by intent.

    I’m an unabasheed atheist. I dislike Hello Kitty too. I don’t fret about either being in the Thanksgiving Day parade though.

    Short version – Get over it.

  100. Oh, for Pete’s sake!

    Christmas has something to do with Jesus Christ. That’s kind of hard to miss, though Jacob Sullum seems to think we need his diamond prose to remind us of that fact.

    Lots of Christmassy traditions have very little to do with Jesus Christ. That’s also no secret, though we seem to need a hundred posts of debate to remind us of that fact. To each his own.

    Merry Christmas, already! Trim the tree if you have one, or go out for Chinese food and a movie if you’re old school that way, eat a few too many cookies, and be kind and take care of yourselves! Good will towards men, right?

  101. Eat hearty.

    Drink deep.

    Have fun.

    If you want to do it because it is Christ’s birthday, the Winter Solstice, the election of B.O., whatever, I’ll join in for the fun.

  102. The authors of the statement “Imagine No Religion” has also been also been accused of blasphemy during this season that many claim belong to Christ. However, someone reading “Imagine No Religion” on a billboard will note there is no answer given. One is left to ones own conclusion, and it is quite possible that one could come up with the answer: Without religion, the world would be a dystopia. So, I suspect that any fear generated by the message is that many, even believers, would come to the conclusion that the world would be a better place without religion. And surely, if these people and certainly impressionable young people come to believe this, then they may start to question other types of authority and associated beliefs. They will want things to change in the Government also. I am surprised that Homeland Security allowed the message to be posted.

  103. Jesus said, “The meek will inherit the earth.”

    Ayn Rand said, “The Meek won’t inherit shit.”

  104. And I thought you criticised libertarians for being the ones not in touch with reality, Lefiti.

  105. I’m just breakin’ your balls, dbcooper. Merry Christmas (or Hanukkah, or whatever).

  106. Erecting a manger scene on public property, with (or without) public funding, is clearly “establishment”, if not by edict, then at least by intent.

    Yeah? Well, Merry Christmas to you, too, asshole!

  107. “Today, we celebrate light coming into the world.”

    Yes, self-evidently pagan. I’m surprised I never noticed it before.

    Merry Christmas!

  108. Pagans have *always* believed that Christ is the Light coming into the world. I just never connected the dots before.

  109. you guys are fighting the wrong fight, and its not even close

  110. Axial tilt is the reason for the season.

    Shahmen of every sort attach myths to this (and everything). It’s a big holiday because of the commercial aspects.

  111. The Akathist hymn to the Virgin Mary, sung in Byzantine Catholic churches during the Easter season, hails the Blessed Virgin as “you who cleansed us from the stain of pagan worship.”

    http://www.byzantines.net/liturgy/akathist.htm

    Merry Christmas, everyone!

  112. Happy Festivus to All. And to all…well I have to many grievances to air ranging from the election of Obama to the influence of the religious right in public policyu to corporate welfare bailouts to the passage of Prop 8 in my home state of California.

    I will close my abbreviated grievances with the words of Hank Williams Jr….”Are you ready for some football?”

  113. Oh, and one other grievance to air….

    Joe Biden: Drug Warrior and Patriot Act Head Cheerleader…need I say more?

    Onward to The Feats of Strength!

  114. You send your kid to government school? Why not one of those atheist private schools where she can learn the freethinking fundamentals?

  115. “The Akathist hymn to the Virgin Mary, sung in Byzantine Catholic churches during the Easter season, hails the Blessed Virgin as “you who cleansed us from the stain of pagan worship.””

    whatever helps you sleep at night, heathen.

  116. dhex

    Is there any particular reason why some H&R posters are celebrating Christmas by trying to channel Ian Paisley?

  117. Paisley panics about the Papacy’s ‘pagan priesthood’.

    Good thing the H&R community is ready to leap to the barricades in defense of fundamentalist Protestantism!

  118. “Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers, that it move not” (Jeremiah 10:2-4)

    The tree is definitely not a Christian symbol, in fact it’s precisely contrary to their teachings to keep one. Not that religious people have a habit of being very familiar with their own myths anyway, but if the government is endorsing anything it’s endorsing the Paganistic roots of the white Europeans who founded the country. Though I’m sure they’re not aware of that fact either.

    See also:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule

    The whole argument is stupid anyway. Regardless of the roots or meaning of Christmas, we all know exactly what is is today: a commercial holiday to pad profits. Doesn’t get much more capitalist than that, so go buy buy buy and stop complaining complaining complaining, right?!

  119. Justen,

    You’re quite right, we need fewer Christmas trees in public places and more creches.

  120. One thing that I’ve never understood is that if Christians hate the government so much, why do they want it promoting their religion.

  121. Stick to drugs Jacob. When writing as a Jew you’re a total asshat.

    JOYOUS SOLSTICE EVERYONE

  122. Justen, find me a few more passages like that, and you might make a Christian out of me yet. Dressing down ritual and bashing worthless jobs programs is God at his best.

  123. JSH: You are my hero!

    Thank you for mentioning Mithras!

    Can you Imagine if Mithra’s had won? we’d all be slaughtering a Bull and eating stake on Dec 21st instead of Fruit cake on the 24th!


    “The idea of achieving security through national armament is, at the present state of military technique, a disastrous illusion.” -Albert Einstein

    http://www.campaignforliberty.com/

  124. you guys are fighting the wrong fight, and its not even close

    There’s only one? Which, pray tell?

  125. It’s possible for atheists to celebrate Christmas, and even sing Christmas carols about Jesus; my family does it every year. We like it. It’s fun. The magic Jesus in Christmas is just as real as the ghosts in Halloween, and so what?

    Nationalisms are religions, too, but I don’t think states will stop celebrating national holidays any time soon.

  126. Sean Stromsten has it exactly right. Superstitious types want a holiday? Fine. Atheists can sing harmony and gather up families too. As the song has it, we’ll be “laughing all the way.”

  127. This is so wrongheaded. Jews can (and should) appreciate Christmas, too.

    http://www.jewishjournal.com/d….._20101215/

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