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December,2001

But We Can't Even See What's Wrong by Cliff Walker

If I seem a little "Bah! Humbug!" about Christmas, it's because I am. I'm put off by all the fuss attendant with this day. It isn't my atheism, it's just me: I'd rather be with family some other time of the year.

While most see it as a good excuse to celebrate life, I'd ignore it if that was at all possible. Christians such as Dickens and Seuss have seen fit to stigmatize those of us who do not share their enthusiasm for this day. They've portrayed us as cold and sinister, calling us "Scrooge" and "Grinch."

A list is floating around this season that alleges seven "stunningly foolish" breaches of humanity and common sense. This list talks of agencies banning poinsettias and Christmas trees in buildings, of people not allowed to say "Merry Christmas" to other workers. This is not a trend of some sort, contrary to what editorialists suggest; rather, this may be the complete list of such incidents all across the land! One or two might even be hoaxes. (People do that, you know!)

But this is not "the tip of the iceberg" or "a well-organized campaign to destroy" (of all things) the Christmas season. The real problem -- the big snag -- is that the High Holy day of one religious sect somehow became a national holiday. That's what's wrong, and that's what needs to be fixed.

So should we remove Christmas from America's list of national holidays? For us to organize a campaign along these lines would not be the best use of our limited resources. We'd also face some very strong opposition: atheists may even recoil from this! Only a grassroots movement would suffice. Even then, I still don't think it'll fly.

Most see why Christmas shouldn't be a national holiday, but ask, "What's wrong about the seasonal trappings?" If you can see why decorating a public office with memorabilia from the Confederate army could offend or grieve someone, then you would have a peek at how non-Christians feel when Christians (in the majority) do what no one else can get away with.

"We have our bad apples, but how can anybody be offended by Christianity?"

It's easy to see why some people would take offense at a Confederate flag: we've had the history of that event handed to us pretty much intact. The history of the church, however, is not widely known -- even to church members. The suggestion that people might be offended by mention of or affiliation with the church will draw a blank: "What has the church done wrong?" Armed with knowledge, we can tell them.

Ignorance is not bliss. Many of us do see the damage wrought. We have suffered from the acts of the church. Some still reel from what the church continues to do. A few need only see the church's suppression of science to want nothing to do with her. But here we are endorsing her by the fact of our having made her holy day a national holiday -- unless we tell others what's wrong.

Had we been subjects of a king, we'd have nothing to say. But in America, our government is established -- created -- by "We, the People." Thus, when our country does something, it is you and I who do it!

Describing that inner conflict just might work. But barring religious ornaments from a tree won't do it. What will is you and me showing each other what's wrong.

    • Notes:

    • Follow-Up: Founding Fathers Hated Christianity For Good Reason (Response, with Matt Newcomb)

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Copyright ©2001 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon