An Illegal Holiday?
Surfing the web in search of intellectual stimulation I have recently happened upon various atheism sites which promote philosophy, logic, Freethought and the abolition of mind control. Of these sites yours is by far the most complete I have explored so far, so I direct my question to you. Christmas is a national holiday by what law, and if there is such a law, is that law not in violation of the Establishment Clause?
I will continue to peruse your site and others, and may possibly come across some discussion of this question. In the meantime, thank you for your pursuit and promotion of free minds and liberty.
Las Vegas, NV
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <email@example.com>
To: "David Shell"
Subject: Re: a legal question
Date: November 09, 2002 10:04 PM
We promote freedom most of all. It is not our business what others do or think as long as they do so and think so in truthfulness and peacefulness. However, if folks want their minds placed under control, I hereby submit my application for the position of supervisor!
Congress has indeed "made a law regarding an establishment of religion," but what can we do about it? Not even a California judge will be able to get a second judge for a majority among three to rule properly in a case revoking the legal status of Christmas!
As an experiment, go around telling people you know that you've just joined a movement which is trying to stop Christmas from being a legal holiday. Better yet (so you can keep your friends), print up some pamphlets and pass them out Downtown. You won't last an hour before you see precisely what you'd be up against and why almost all atheistic activists who do think that this ought to be done would rather save their precious resources for a project that is much more likely to succeed.
What our family has done is to consider Christmas to be a universal, human holiday, which we interpret one way and which Christians interpret differently. As far as I'm concerned, they lose out, too. As one recent writer expressed,
When all the sad Christians are stuck in church, we can sit at home eating, drinking, and watchin' our asses grow.
But we have this really cool angel for the top of our tree. She must be 130 years old by now, if memory serves. It came from Europe with one of the "recent immigrant" branches of Mom's side, meaning that it crossed the Atlantic in a box of family treasures perhaps as long as 90 years ago. (Her father's father was trying to save his boy from certain death as a soldier for the Queen during World War I, which ended up decimating the son's entire generation of young men!) She always loved the angel top-ornament so it was a natch that she got to keep it when she left home. Though it never attracted much attention with friends, neighbors, and other family members, this thing has always been the apple of Mom's eye.
What we do know is that of the line of generations who have perched this angel on their trees, the most religious of them all was Mom's Grandpa, a Unitarian of the "Spinoza's god" variety, a minister, ideologically indistinguishable from an atheistic pantheist, but speaking as a theist might, for the sake of peacefulness among a diverse community.
Bottom Line Number One:
You don't have to be religious to benefit from the good things that religion has to offer!!
Bottom Line Number Two:
The Winter Solstice has been around a lot longer than 2,000 years. It was so universally popular that the Church simply could not abolish the celebration of this day, and of the human life so vividly symbolized by the Solstice Festival.
So what did the Church do? They stole it! Of course they did! What else can we expect the Church to do when she cannot produce her own good things?
What was once the universal Winter Festival of the Northern Hemisphere was given a Christian name and some vaguely Christian meaning. This move backfired spectacularly in that almost every single point of symbolism that you will find in even the most "Christian" of Christmas celebrations predates the Christian religion by millennia. Humanity has been collecting and honing this symbolism for all this time, because the symbolism of the Winter Festival is nothing more than a very powerful metaphor for the cycles of human life -- that is, the cycles of humanistic life!
When you found out that there's no "Santa Claus," what did you discover? Tell me! What did you learn when you saw that it was your family and neighbors and, in many cases, anonymous people simply giving -- humans, all -- who sacrificially procured these wonderful gifts, who physically carried them, who personally placed them at the base of your tree -- because it's Christmas?
And what does gift-giving, this most prominent of Christmas traditions, have even remotely to do with "The Gospel of Jesus Christ"? How could this possibly relate to "God's Plan of Salvation"?
Neither the Christian faith nor any other can silence the vividly humanistic statement that is at the very core of the Christmas holiday -- however you may see it; however you might celebrate it; whatever you happen to call it!
Bottom Line Number Three:
Just because religion absconded with something good, or stole it or whatever (as religion, especially the Christian one, is indeed prone to doing), doesn't mean that what they have taken rightly belongs to them.
To think that their taking it from all of us has somehow "tainted" or "polluted" it is, I suggest, magical thinking -- that is, superstition.
And the idea that their taking it means that we don't have it any more is flat-out erroneous.
To Answer Your Question:
My polemic against Christmas might still be found in the poetic archives of the Clyde Lewis radio program. When I met him, Clyde was issuing a regular e-letter -- an e-poem, you might say -- describing what has happened on his show in recent weeks. I appeared as a guest a few years ago and played the role of the "spite-filled atheist trying to shut down Ex-Mass" and sat there and gave all the reasons why it shouldn't be a national holiday. Then I copped out and told him I was on my way to eat ham and turkey and have a ripped-roaring good time!
The only problem, really, was trying to figure out how one could possibly "appear" on a radio program!?
Truth is, though, I love Christmas -- at least when my family gets up the nerve to invite me over. In lieu of that, in lieu of a family, in lieu of at least one pair of eyes that I've gazed into for at least a while, it has got to be the most depressing day of all, because nothing is open.
I mean, as Karen Finlay said, "I don't wanna hafta be able to buy things all day and all night long!" But to close everything, just because, as Lenny Bruce said, "Iss a riligis chah-liday" is collective insanity.
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