The Permanent War on Christmas?

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Xmas terrorists?

Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat muses over rising Christian cultural anxiety in the United States today. Douthat summarizes the arguments of two relatively new books on the topic, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert Putnam and David Campbell and James Davison Hunter's To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and the Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, as follows:

…both books come around to a similar argument: this month's ubiquitous carols and crèches notwithstanding, believing Christians are no longer what they once were — an overwhelming majority in a self-consciously Christian nation. The question is whether they can become a creative and attractive minority in a different sort of culture, where they're competing not only with rival faiths but with a host of pseudo-Christian spiritualities, and where the idea of a single religious truth seems increasingly passé.

Or to put it another way, Christians need to find a way to thrive in a society that looks less and less like any sort of Christendom — and more and more like the diverse and complicated Roman Empire where their religion had its beginning, 2,000 years ago this week.

I argued a couple of years back in my article, "The New Age of Reason," that Americans were becoming increasingly secular as the Fourth Great Awakening ebbed: 

American society periodically weathers decades-long storms of moral renovation set off by thunderclaps of Christian evangelism. Old spiritual and moral doctrines get reinterpreted in a new light, producing far-ranging, and not always welcome, political change. Scholars commonly refer to these tumultuous periods as "Great Awakenings."

Historians date the First Great Awakening to the mid-18th century, when widespread Presbyterian and Baptist revivals helped beget the American Revolution. The second came in the early 19th century, when evangelical Christians launched temperance, abolitionist, and other reform movements, culminating in the Civil War. The third was a response to Darwinian theory and to the social problems caused by rapid industrialization and urbanization in the late 19th century, ending with the Progressive Era in the early 20th century. The fourth unleashed the "culture war" that began in the 1960s and has dominated political debate ever since. But thankfully, there are signs that the Fourth Great Awakening is finally coming to a close. Among other beneficial side effects, this ending of an era likely will reduce calls for censorship and other legal intrusions into private activities while broadening tolerance for new and different ways of life. …

Awakenings … go through three phases: revival, when cultural stresses produce religious revitalization movements; reform, when activists persuade governments to adopt moral improvement programs; and resistance, when religious fervor wanes and the forces of moralization encounter stiffened cultural opposition. The Fourth Great Awakening has reached the stage where moral hectoring is being resisted.

As evidence I cited a bit of suggestive survey data:

Perhaps the best evidence that the evangelical phase of the Fourth Great Awakening is winding down is that large numbers of young Americans are falling away from organized religion, just as the country did in the period between the first two awakenings. In the 1970s, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that between 5 percent and 7 percent of the public declared they were not religiously affiliated. By 2006 that figure had risen to 17 percent. The trend is especially apparent among younger Americans: In 2006 nearly a quarter (23 percent) of Americans in their 20s and almost as many (19 percent) of those in their 30s said they were nonaffiliated.

The Barna Group finds that only 60 percent of 16-to-29-year-olds identify themselves as Christians. By contrast, 77 percent of Americans over age 60 call themselves Christian. That is "a momentous shift," the firm's president told the Ventura County Star. "Each generation is becoming increasingly secular."

Whole Douthat op/ed here.

Disclosure: Some of my best friends are Christians.

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  1. “Or to put it another way, Christians need to find a way to thrive in a society that looks less and less like any sort of Christendom ? and more and more like the diverse and complicated Roman Empire where their religion had its beginning, 2,000 years ago this week.”

    The trend echoes the information revolution. We have the means, and the freedom to study all sorts of traditions in America.

    1. I don’t know. Even Richard Dawkins calls himself a “cultural Christian”, so I’m not sure what “looks less and less like any sort of Christendom” is supposed to mean. Are we all supposed to worship Mel Gibson or something?

      Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

      I pick the Road Warrior Gibson, though.

  2. It’s pretty funny to hear christians complain about being marginalized or even repressed when the entire western world is celebrating Christmas. Yeah, you have it real rough.

    1. Significant portions of the Eastern world are celebrating Christmas. From Abu Dhabi to Tokyo.

      1. The eastern world, it is exploding…

        1. Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’…

        2. And the best line in the song:

          Hate your next-door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace

    2. No shit. I mean, as a Fundamentalist Zoroastrian, I find that nobody respects my religion at all. I feel so alone.

    3. No shit. I mean, as a Fundamentalist Zoroastrian, I find that nobody respects my religion at all. I feel so alone.

      1. You’re never alone with schizophrenia.

        Or the server squirrels.

    4. It’s a pretty catchy idea to have a big party week in the middle of winter, it being so bleak and all. That we’ve gotten almost everybody to call that week Christmas is pretty meaningless.

    5. the entire western world is celebrating Christmas

      A small part is celebrating Christmas. Most are celebrating something called Christmas. Tweedledum would appreciate the difference.

    6. Not to mention that every candidate for major office has to have cameras follow them to church for a few weeks to have any chance of getting elected. There’s officially what, one Muslim and one Atheist in both houses of Congress combined?

  3. But thankfully, there are signs that the Fourth Great Awakening is finally coming to a close. Among other beneficial side effects, this ending of an era likely will reduce calls for censorship and other legal intrusions into private activities while broadening tolerance for new and different ways of life.

    Doubtful. It will simply shift which things are censored and which things are tolerated. Sexuality becomes more tolerated while dissent becomes more restricted. You are freer than ever to buy gadgets and gee-gaws, but less free than ever to inconvenience your betters.

    Religion is one avenue where the desire for control appears, but it’s not the only. Don’t kid yourself: shifting from Anglo-Saxon Low Churchism to Elite Technocratic Consensusism still leaves someone around to bust some heads, and plenty of reasons to do so.

    1. Can you give some examples of dissent becoming more restricted or people having less freedom to “inconvenience their betters”?

      1. McCain-Feingold.

        1. Well the part of that bill that (arguably) limited one’s ability to dissent was overturned, was it not?

          And even when it was in effect, it had a rather narrow application; and couldn’t really stop people from expressing whatever dissenting opinion they want.

      2. Read Three Felonies a Day.

      3. Can you give some examples of dissent becoming more restricted or people having less freedom to “inconvenience their betters”?

        Bans on PI speech.
        Limits on “dangerous” economic activity.
        Increased government intervention in personal choices on smoking, getting high, food choice, education choice, choice of associations.

        1. Bans on PI speech.

          What is PI speech?

          Limits on “dangerous” economic activity.
          Increased government intervention in personal choices on smoking, getting high, food choice, education choice, choice of associations.

          So I guess “inconveniencing one’s betters” is a general umbrella term for any limit on freedom in a non-sexual sphere?

          In any event, I don’t think the decline in religiosity is the reason for those restrictions (some of which date back to when the country was much more religious than it is now).

    2. Exactly right on the money! The puritanical streak in America is simply finding new ways to manifest itself, as political correctness, deference to Islam’s delicate sensibilities, the drug war, the anti-smoking…, the anti-MacDonald’s … etc

    3. Yeah. I’m an atheist, but historically, religion abhors a vacuum. What will fill the void?

      1. Sports?

        1. Well, the NFL has the ‘once a week celebration led by people engaging in sexual improprieties’ part down.

    4. Hmmm… Head busting with sex, head busting without sex.

      I’ll take “with sex” please.

      Human societies involve the violent abuse of power, regardless of what religion they claim to follow. How does making 13-year-old boys want to kill themselves because they can’t help jacking off somehow improve that?

  4. You dumb fucking atheists are all going to burn in hell! You’ll feel stupid when you die and are judged by God!!

    1. Don’t forget the Mary-worshiping catholics! Lets see them venerate saints while Satan is bowel-fucking them!

      1. Yeah! Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.

        That’s what Christmas on the internet is all about, Charlie Brown.

    2. A good Christian would mourn the loss of a soul. While we believe in free will and the individual sets their own path, a Christian following the ways of Jesus Christ would not rejoice that someone is not going to Heaven.

      I understand the satire, just pointing out that just because someone says they’re Christian doesn’t mean they embody the words and actions of Christ.

      1. just because someone says they’re Christian doesn’t mean they embody the words and actions of Christ.

        You ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie.

      2. I understand the satire, just pointing out that just because someone says they’re Christian doesn’t mean they embody the words and actions of Christ.

        Bears repeating.

    3. You dumb fucking atheists are all going to burn in hell!

      Curse words make baby Jesus cry. And rape.

  5. Hi Kevin,

    Maybe you can call up Martin Gaskell and tell him he’s all wet … right after you finish pulling the wings off some flies.

    1. Being that even in academia in America Christians are a majority, this case seems more likely one group of Christians questioning the orthodoxy of another Christian than a man of faith being persecuted by atheists.

      1. Furthermore, while there are certainly some fervent evangelical atheists, it’s a safe bet that most atheists aren’t exactly religious about our lack of beliefs.

    2. So a university in the UK appears to do a poor job of vetting for a position, and now christians are routinely marginalized? The governor of KY wants to use public funds for a Noah’s Ark theme park, replete with dinosaurs. The TX state board of education wants their history books to diminish the role of Thomas Jefferson while expanding coverage of Moral Majority types. We still have groups of christians trying to force Intelligent Design into the classroom. And btw, if Gaskell was actually a creationist, he should have been excluded from consideration. As it is, it looks like the University screwed up.

      And still, most of the world is celebrating Christmas! Christians have no room to bitch about how the world doesn’t go their way, because it caters to them far more than any other group.

      1. The governor of KY wants to use public funds for a Noah’s Ark theme park, replete with dinosaurs.

        Money the government mercifully doesn’t confiscate is not the same as “public funds”. The difference is critical.

        1. Details on the funding:

          Under the tourism law, developers can recover up to 25 percent of the cost of a project. The state returns to developers the sales tax paid by visitors on admission tickets, food, gift sales and lodging costs. Developers have 10 years to reach the 25 percent threshold.

      2. Kevin, the story Darleen linked to happened at the University of Kentucky (UK), not at a university in the UK.

        Which is what made me think it was funny. I think it far more likely that an academic official in Kentucky would be a Christian discriminating against someone from another sect of Christianity than some raging secular humanist barring a believer.

        The one thing that really heartens me is the fact that the religious left and the religious right are kept at odds with each other over evolution, abortion and sex education in schools. If they ever resolve their differences it’ll be all over for us. It’ll be self-righteous busybodies united as far as you can see.

        1. You are right, of course. I had read a different, article about the same incident, just bad typing on my part.

  6. Boy, it semms like the war on the war on Christmas gets started earlier every year.

    1. It’s called “Black Friday” because of all the persecution of Christians.

      1. No, Epi, Christ was crucified on the Day after Thanksgiving and was ressurected on the Third Day of the Sale.

        1. That’s why he changed water into Orange Julius at the mall!

          1. I once brought a friend back from the Dead concert…

          2. I thought he rolled away the stone, saw his shadow, and that’s why we’ve got six more weeks of winter.

            1. LOL

              Seriously, I did.

  7. I was at ? forgive the expression ? a Christmas party at the Department of Justice.

    1. Just wait till you get to the Department of Eternal Justice, beyotch.

    2. I was at ? forgive the expression ? a Christmas party at the Department of Justice.

    3. In the circles I move in, one would take this to mean that she’s apologizing for the expression “Department of Justice.”

  8. “[Christmas] cannot have an exclusively religious meaning. The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men?a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.

    The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: “Merry Christmas”?not “Weep and Repent.” And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form?by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance . . . .

    The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions?the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors?provide the city with a spectacular display, which only “commercial greed” could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.”

    1. Huh, huhhuh. She said “gaiety.”

      1. That was way before they had gaieties in the military.

  9. Okay, as a Christian I have three thoughts on the subject…

    FIRST, I think that most folks who whine about the War on Christmas should shut up. There’s a mother in Pakistan who was recently sentenced to death for proclaiming her Christian faith; THAT’S persecution. The fact that the greeter at WalMart says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is not.

    SECOND, I’m equally unmoved by folks who argue that Christians should shut up because everybody celebrates Christmas and somehow that means that they’ve won. The popularity of secular Christmas traditions is about as indicative of the spread of Christianity as the popularity of chicken vindaloo is of the spread of Hinduism.

    THIRD, the only thing that actually annoys me with the whole “Christmas” vs. “Holidays” argument is when people use “Holiday” when they clearly are referring only to “Christmas.” Dec. 25th is Christmas whether you celebrate it or not. I remember a few years ago Amazon had a little tag that read “Guaranteed to arrive by the Holiday if you order by Dec. 21.” Not only was that stupid because they were obviously referring to Christmas, but that would also seem offensive to Jews as you WOULDN’T get your package by your preferred holiday if it happened to be Hanuka.

    That is all.

    1. “Guaranteed to arrive by the Holiday if you order by Dec. 21.”

      Maybe they meant Easter?

    2. +1,000,000 to this.

      1. -6 for not discussing chicken tandoori’s popularity and the spread of Hinduism

    3. As a non-Christian, I agree with everything you say there.

    4. Chicken Vindaloo is popular?

  10. Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat

    lol

  11. “[…][B]elieving Christians are no longer what they once were ? an overwhelming majority in a self-consciously Christian nation. The question is whether they can become a creative and attractive minority in a different sort of culture[.]”

    Minority? “In 2006 nearly a quarter (23 percent) of Americans in their 20s and almost as many (19 percent) of those in their 30s said they were nonaffiliated.” Who’s the minority?

    And even if Christians were a “minority” in the US, the article itself does not address the issue indicated in THE VERY TITLE of it: “The Permanent War on Christmas?”

    (Disclosure: Some of my best friends are Christians as well, but I don’t go insulting their intelligence by arguing that there’s no war being waged against Christmas or Christianity by the Federal Government, the MSM and the Statist fucks.]

  12. I’m decaring War on the War on the War on Christmas. I’m sick of the strawman attack on all christians. Most christians are just fine with Christmas as is stands now, and only a few blow hards use it as a chance to attact attention. So complaining about the people who complain about the War on Christmas is a a strawman attack. Attack them for really being dicks, not just because Bill Oreilly is a dick.

    1. A rich dick. Pinhead!

    2. Bill O’Reilly is what happens when you let an Irishman sober up.

  13. I’m a secular person, but I rue (rue!) the day when we become irreligious automatons. Non-religious societies are boring, consumerist, libtard statist hellholes.

    1. I saw The Irreligious Automatons open for Ultravox in ’82.

    2. How could you possibly know this? Since when has there been a society, any society, religious or not, that valued freedom above conformity for any length of time? The US certainly hasn’t managed it, neither has Europe. I would not give religious societies any higher marks for liberty. I’d give them less. Human history is basically the story of religious oppression.

      1. It depends a great deal of what you consider “religious”. Atheist societies are relatively new inventions, and are generally exemplified by totalitarian hellholes. Pure secular societies (as opposed to Christian ones with a veneer of secularism, like the United States) tend towards the welfare state and slow decay (see Europe).

        That third category (religiously-based but secularly implemented, like the U.S. and pre-Christian Rome) seems to be where the sweet spot is — how you think of the category determines how much you trust religion in your government.

        And this judgment is from an atheist, if it matters — I’ve always though that atheism’s greatest weakness is that it doesn’t have a core “payload” of morality that can be passed on, the way a religion does.

        1. The “core payload” of morality you refer to usually means violence towards those not in the group, oppression of women, poor regard for human rights, all manner of social and ethnic intolerance. The reason the US and other like nations are in “the sweet spot” is due to the degree to which they have departed from their religion. Most of the remaining social ills in this country can be laid at God’s feet. Although it’s possible to have a horrible society without God, it’s practically impossible to have a good society with Him.

          1. All ‘good’ societies know religion.

            All ‘bad’ societies try to stamp out the religious impulse.

            There are no societies in which religion is not a factor.

          2. Estonia is a Catholic monarchy, and currently one of the most free places on Earth, according to most libertarian think-tanks. Ireland is likewise very free and very religious. The US, which certainly fits in the top 10, is vastly more religious than most of the mostly less-free Western Europe.

            There is no direct correlation between cultural religiosity and lack of liberty. The very concept of Natural Law came about because of religious nut-jobs.

            Allegiance to a favorite Invisible Sky Bully has historically been a strong motivating factor in tearing town totalitarianism. That’s why Stalin and Mao were so anti-religion.

            1. So tell us the name of the Catholic Estonian monarch already!

  14. Are atheists engaged in activity or inactivity under the auspices of the slack, humped-out sphincter of the modern Commerce Clause?

    1. Excellent point. Atheists should pay for my health care!

      1. Makes a certain sense. “The power of prayer” has been shown to be of clinical value, but only if you are aware of it and believe it will help.

        This makes atheists statistically more expensive to treat, since they will not respond to the placebo effect of appeals to a higher power.

        Of course, in a market-based health care system, this wouldn’t be anybody else’s problem.

    2. Well, we’re clearly engaged in the activity of persecuting the Christians who massively outnumber us, so…yes?

      1. persecuting the Christians who massively outnumber us

        It’s like that story about David and Somebody.

        1. David Coverdale and Tawney Kitaine?

          1. Here I go again on my own

            Clearly an atheist anthem.

          2. I believe this calls for pseudo-Biblical verse, from someone with such literary talents, ending with Tawney nailing David to the upholstery of the Jag with a 4-inch heel.

            1. So get right on it, you lazy piece of shit.

              1. Look, I already wrote the ending. Besides, I’m on a break.

                I’d be like Fry without the Robot Devil’s hands. This calls for a less delicate touch.

                1. You atheists can all rot in Robot Hell, where you will suffer tortures until the end of time, mostly ironic and all of which rhyme.

      2. Kind of like how libertarians are responsible for the country’s ills, despite being statistically insignificant and holding no elective offices. You atheists are oppressing the great silent majority of good, god-fearing folk.

        Don’t ask me how. Do you guys have, like, an orbital mind control laser or something? If so, can I borrow it for a weekend?

        1. A local atheist group has adopted a section of the highway, meaning they volunteer to clean up litter. Pretty scary shit, I tell ya.

        2. an orbital mind control laser

          Argh!!

          Ive been turned from weird to straight for a turn. Damn you Bermuda!!!

    3. Well by not believing in god, they are making an economic decision… yadda yadda.

      Or is it the act of believing there is no god? Hmmm… is this a case of degrees of atheism? Or of two different flavors – those who affirmatively believe there is no god, and those who do not have the belief that there is one?

      What about the dry, wrecked sphincter of the First Amendment?

      1. I believe in dog.

        1. I think you can get help for dyslexia these days.

  15. So, Joe Biden’s ahead of the curve?

    1. Don’t fuck this up Mitchell!!!

  16. OK, “War on Christmas” is hyperbole, but in recent years there has been a pervasive and often aggressive anti-Christian movement. It’s another version of leftist political correctness: humorless, pushy, hypercritical, a wish to redesign society according to their new definitions of “fairness.”

    Atheists, if there is a memorial cross on public land, or a store ad says “Merry Christmas,” or someone says a prayer at a graduation ceremony, just lighten up. Those are American traditions, they aren’t really hurting anybody except hypersensitive jerks like you, so man up and deal with the “feeling of exclusion” or whatever b.s. “suffering” you think you’re experiencing. Sheesh. (Disclosure: I’m an agnostic who thinks atheists are foolish for thinking they’ve proven that particular negative.)

    1. i personally see more christians getting huffy about “happy holidays” more often then anyone else getting mad about merry christmas. they’ll seriously make a point of saying “we say merry CHRISTMAS around here” liking they’re being un-pc somehow by saying.

      any point you make about aggressive anti-christian political correctness being more prevalent of recent years is a mute one because it’s NOT WORKING. if there’s a war on christmas then christmas (and christians) are winning. they have nothing to complain about. since when does giving the SLIGHTest consideration to non-christians equal persecution? Most americans are christian. every american president has at least identified as christian. Christmas gets longer every year.i remember when i was a kid the joke was that christmas season started the day after thanksgiving but now you see christmas stuff before halloween is over.

      i also don’t understand the fuss over “happy holiday” that started a couple years ago like it was something new. i’ve heard people say it and seen “happy holidays” signs in stores etc since i was a kid. why now?

      1. The Christmas trees were on the shelf in Garden Ridge this year the weekend before Labor Day. In fucking August. I mean seriously, WTF?

      2. Few objected to “Happy Holidays” in the past partly because there weren’t all the other anti-Christmas PC actions, and partly because it’s gone so far that it sometimes seems like it’s replacing “Merry Christmas” everywhere.

        1. What anti-Christmas PC actions?

          And didn’t “Happy Holidays” start because department stores wanted to make sure they got the Joozians’ money in December as well?

          1. You really haven’t noticed any? Here are some I found in one minute of Googling:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_controversy#Americas

            More from the Amazon page for John Gibson’s book:

            ? In Illinois, state government workers were forbidden from saying the words “Merry Christmas” while at work

            ? In Rhode Island, local officials banned Christians from participating in a public project to decorate the lawn of City Hall

            ? A New Jersey school banned even instrumental versions of traditional Christmas carols

            ? Arizona school officials ruled it unconstitutional for a student to make any reference to the religious history of Christmas in a class project

            1. What part of ” the free exercise of” do they not understand?

            2. The AZ school thing is PC bullshit.

              The rest? Wake up and smell the coffee. This is a litigious society where everyone is afraid of being sued.

              This is where I differ from libertarian orthodoxy. I don’t think that lawsuits solve everything, and I do think they’re subject to abuse.

              Yes, what you list indicates a problem. However, the actual nature of the problem can be misidentified, too.

              1. I don’t think out-of-control trial lawyers living off of PC hypersensitivity are part of libertarian orthodoxy.

                1. Actually, libertarian orthodoxy simply denies the problem of out-of-control trial lawyers, lawsuit abuse, and high-dollar wars of attrition through the courts.

                  That was why Ron Paul voted against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. That was probably the last major effort in Congress to curb some very blatant abuse of the civil court system.

                  1. Being unwilling to stifle freedom for the sake of solving a problem is not the same thing as denying a problem exists.

                    My next door neighbor lets his kid eat too much junk food, and does not care about any advice I may give on the matter. There are no solutions to this problem which I would prefer over simply letting the problem continue.

          2. The ‘holidays’ originally referred to in the greeting ‘Happy Holidays’ are Christmas and New Years’.

      3. every american president has at least identified as christian

        Bullshit.

        1. Jefferson identified publicly as a christian.

          His writings indicate that he had a lot of trouble with the mystical and supernatural parts of most religions so he put his own spin on what it was to live a christian life.

          1. Again, not much different from Richard Dawkins.

  17. Disclosure: I’m an agnostic

    Nice rant, fence-sitter.

    1. Re: Mean Atheist,

      Nice rant, fence-sitter [agnostic].

      Ah, so you’re a true believer!

      1. There is no evidence that god exists. So yes. I believe reality.

        1. In a universe as large and ancient and multi-dimensional as ours, you’re one little creature who has lived a few decades on one little planet in the boondocks of one galaxy, but you know “reality” for sure, huh?

        2. Re: Mean Atheist,

          There is no evidence that god exists. So yes. I believe reality.

          There’s no evidence Santa Claus exists, yet I do not go around asserting he does not exist, as I cannot know that for a fact – I simply don’t believe he does. That’s not the same as asserting he does not exist – how can I know that? Maybe I am a “fence-sitter” regarding the Santa Claus issue.

          Which is why I find your epithet rather ridiculous – calling a doubter, a skpetic, a “fence-sitter.” You use the epithet as a way to differentiate yourself and paint yourself as clever, as a person that knows – just like a religious person!

          1. Semantics.

          2. BTW if you met an adult who believed in Santa Claus, you’d think he was crazy, or really stupid. That’s not an argument for or against god. I’m just saying that your point is complete BS.

            1. Of Course Santa exists.

              He is me.

    2. True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know.

  18. Ronald: Is the disclaimer at the end really necessary? It just came across as a bit smug, but maybe that’s just me.

    As a Christian, I am appalled at those who share my belief in God, yet constantly complain that their religious freedom is being marginalized. When it comes to that particular religion, we have it pretty good here in America when compared to other faiths.

    1. Precisely. While I dislike the PC bullshit that is canceling particular school plays because they are “Christmas-themed,” I also would hate to see the first amendment rights of so many others trampled because Christians think they have it rough. This country was founded on the principle of religious freedom; so people should be allowed to have a nativity scene at the library, just as people should be able to have a FSM diorama at the post office if they so choose.

      1. At a private library, have whatever holiday paraphernalia you like. At a public library, no, it’s not OK.

        1. You anti-Christmas warriors are pathetic.
          If I was a Christian I would take great satisfaction in knowing that you’ll BURN IN HELL!!!

        2. Actually I think you’re wrong about this.

          At a private library, the owner of the property can allow or not allow whatever speech they so choose.

          At a public library, you should be able to have any display you would like. Freedom of speech and all that jazz.

          For instance, the Christians should feel free to put up a nativity scene, and the Jews should feel free to hang a Star of David.

        3. …or preventing the free expression thereof.

          You all always seem to ignore that part of the thing.

          See, when you take the whole phrase you get a very different situation. The government is forbidden to make any law that helps or hinders any religion. That means that the aren’t allowed to forbid Christmas decorations on public land any more than they can forbid Jews from wearing yarmulkes. They aren’t allowed to go one way or the other.

  19. In 2006 nearly a quarter (23 percent) of Americans in their 20s and almost as many (19 percent) of those in their 30s said they were nonaffiliated.

    Purely anecdotal, but I’ve noticed a growing trend among my Christian friends of stating that they follow the ways of Jesus Christ, and try to distance themselves from the term “religious” as it indicates more of an institution instead of JC’s teachings. In other words, when asked that ridiculous catch-all question: “What religion are you?” they would answer “None.” because that is truly how they see it.

    On the other hand, having recently graduated from and still working at a university, I can see that there are a large number of college students that are anti-religion (probably in the originally intended sense of the poll).

    1. Ive always answered the question with “Christian”, which confuses people looking for a specific denomination.

      I dont distance myself from the term “religious” (although I understand your friends view). I do distance myself from the term “spirituality”. I hate it.

  20. …like the diverse and complicated Roman Empire where their religion had its beginning, 2,000 years ago this week.

    Ugh. Why pair the very un-clever specificity of “years ago this week”(!) with an absurdly-rounded estimate of Jesus’s birth to 2000 years ago?

    Color me annoyed.

    1. I don’t have that color. How about green?

    2. Especially since it’s believed that Jesus wasn’t born in December, but likely in the spring or the fall.

      1. or maybe in the Summer, or maybe not at all.

      2. It is much more widely believed that Jesus was born on or around December 25th.

        1. He was born on Christmas. Even I know that.

      3. The traditional placement of the birth of Jesus around this time of year is older than you might think.

        There was a contemporary Jewish belief (perhaps “belief” is too strong a word) that the prophets and other important figures like Moses died on the same day of the year that they were born or conceived. The early Christians had a pretty good idea of when Jesus died: a Friday during Passover. Once you know the year, you can get the exact date. Regardless of the exact year, we know that Jesus had to have died in March/April. That’s why the Annunciation is fixed on March 25. Go forward nine months, and you’ve got Christmas.

        1. Gregorian or modern calendar?

  21. As long as we can kill a tree for Jesus’ birthday and sing “Deck Us All With Boston Charlie” the world will go on forever!

    1. I have to sing that at least a couple of times every holiday season in honor of my ailing father, who taught me the words and can no longer remember them. The fact that it annoys the crap out of my wife is just an added bonus.

      1. I sang it for my children when the son was 4-and-a-half and the daughter was 9. She asked, “Dad, did you make that up?”

        I said, “Oh no. That was written by Walt Kelly, the cartoonist who did Pogo. Great cartoonist. Walt’s dead now.”

        My son said, “Serves him right.”

  22. So if an atheist man marries a Christian woman, is she his “beard?”

  23. Stop! You’re killing me!

  24. God walks into a motel, drops a handful of nails on the front desk and asks the clerk, “can you put my son up for the night?”

    1. Hey! I can see Walmart from here!

  25. Santa Claus Inc is evil. His fake north pole address to avoid taxes, his third world factories using slave midget labor, illegal subsidies from the Vatican, etc.

  26. …where they’re competing not only with rival faiths but with a host of pseudo-Christian spiritualities,…

    I’m curious how Douthat characterizes the distinction between rival faiths and psuedo Christian. Any splinter group more than 200 years old is legit? Or is he the arbiter of true Christianity?

  27. BTW does anyone know how you pronounce Douthat?

    1. “Douche-hat”

  28. BTW I haven’t heard “Free Will” on store sound systems for at least the past month. Has anyone else?

  29. Can I tell you about my personal relationship with cheeses?

  30. From What Chrismas Means to Me, by C. S. Lewis:

    Three things go by the name of Christmas. One is a religious festival. This is important and obligatory for Christians; but as it can be of no interest to anyone else, I shall naturally say no more about it here. The second (it has complex historical connections with the first, but we needn’t go into them) is a popular holiday, an occasion for merry-making and hospitality. If it were my business to have a ‘view’ on this, I should say that I much approve of merry-making. But what I approve of much more is everybody minding his own business. I see no reason why I should volunteer views as to how other people should spend their own money in their own leisure among their own friends. It is
    highly probable that they want my advice on such matters as little as I want theirs. But the third thing called Christmas is unfortunately everyone’s business.

    I mean of course the commercial racket….

    …We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade. It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things. I don’t know the way out. But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst I’d sooner give them money for nothing and write if off as a charity. For nothing? Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.

    1. Speaks to my soul.

    1. You know who else didn’t say anything sometimes?

  31. ? In Illinois, state government workers were forbidden from saying the words “Merry Christmas” while at work

    ? In Rhode Island, local officials banned Christians from participating in a public project to decorate the lawn of City Hall

    ? A New Jersey school banned even instrumental versions of traditional Christmas carols

    ? Arizona school officials ruled it unconstitutional for a student to make any reference to the religious history of Christmas in a class project

    And the religious beliefs of the officials who issued these orders were…?

    I’m betting not atheist or secular humanist.

    I mean, seriously, in what body in what level of government is there any official who does not profess a religious belief, with the distinct majority being of the christian variety?

    Odds are the officials who issued these orders belong to some wishy-washy mainline christian church that has elevated a phony and superficial tolerance above all else.

    In trying to not offend some they end up offending all.

    1. Oh, the other thing to consider is the fact that googling the last three of the items listed fails to turn up any reference to the stories other than in John Gibson’s book and those quoting from it.

      Maybe a skeptic has reason to wonder wonder about the veracity of the claims.

    2. True, the atheists and secular humanists aren’t necessarily giving these orders. The orders are given by craven bureaucrats fearful of lawsuits and of offending anyone (except Christians).

      1. More likely (per my second comment), they never happened at all, or their scope was limited to one single moronic administrator who made some stupid statement that John Gibson has blown completely out of proportion.

        As I said none of the events listed were reported anywhere but in John Gibson’s book. Every other mention was some other preacher or blogger quoting him uncritically.

      2. Also, more likely than not, these action were undertaken by admistrators and teachers who have misinterpretted the policy instructions given to them to be neutral on religious issues themselves to mean that they have to enforce some kind of religious neutrality in individual employees or students.

        No court decision on church/state issues was ever intended to interfere with any individual’s right to his or her own personal religious observance.

        The fact that some (mostly christian) stupid people in positions of authority have interpretted them to do so is not the fault of secular humanists or atheists.

  32. Merry Christmas Ronald Bailey. Your alt-text is the best gift we could have asked for.

  33. I’m a Christian but I can admit that the church a while back decided it wasn’t too fond of the winter pagan holiday. Then they went out and started Christmas. I bought into it all for a long time.

    Now the holiday feels a bit pointless, though I go along with it – for the children.

    But I no longer pretend that decorating a tree and putting a ton of presents under it (while millions/billions around the world struggle to survive) has much to do with anything found in the Bible.

    But don’t confuse my recognition of reality with some kind of awakening where suddenly I will use the lack of scientific validity to determine outright the lack of God.

    No matter what you believe, it’s still a belief system. Nothing is 100% proven.

    1. Since the way Christmas is celebrated today is pretty much a mid-nineteenth century American creation (driven mostly by commercial motives, the purest motives off all, I’ll add), any appeal to age-old tradtions of Christian faith are pretty meaningless.

    2. It’s not a Christian holiday, why should it have anything to do with the Bible?

      The Church didn’t ‘go out and start’ Christmas, they co-opted a festival that they couldn’t stamp out.

      Hell, they did that with most of their ‘holidays’–they didn’t even bother to change the name of Easter–and that’s supposed to be their biggest holiday.

  34. “Christmas is rooted in Roman paganism and Jesus probably hates all of you for celebrating it.” – Huey Freeman

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