Is There Really a War on Christmas?

We have heard the phrase “war on Christmas” for the last few years. Conservatives and Evangelical Christians have been shouting from the rooftops about the poor baby Jesus and His nativity scene being pulled down and packed away in little towns and cities across America.

We have heard the December greeting shift from the traditional greeting of “Merry  Christmas” to the less religious, more universal “Happy Holidays.” Less Jesus and more consumerism… the “new holidays.”

But does all of this mean there is actually a war on Christmas? Has someone–anyone–systematically set out to wage war on Christmas, or has something else happened entirely?

On Friendly Atheist, there was a post discussing this very question, with a link to Atheist Oasis, proposing that Christmas is not, in fact, in any real danger. The author asks the question, do “you honestly believe that the Christian celebration of Christmas is under attack by a secular conspiracy to remove Jesus Christ from the holiday and silence Christians…”?

So, is there some anti-Christmas conspiracy? This particular atheist argues no. He says that most people love Christmas, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. He goes on to say, “There is no ‘war on Christmas.’ Right now, in 2010, Americans are just as free to celebrate the religious holidays that come at this time of year as they ever have been.”

Here’s my favorite part of the story. On the same day that Friendly Atheist posted the “war on Christmas” post, claiming that there is no such thing, he also posted this:

“If You Like Blunt Atheist Ads”:

Here’s my question–how can you on the one hand honestly believe and argue that there is no such thing as a war on Christmas and then simultaneously post an advertisement from Freedom from Religion Foundation stating that there is no God, and not only that, but next to an iconic Christmas image like Santa?

Perhaps this is what atheists and others who mindlessly believe Christmas is not under attack fail to realize–they make no correlation between denying God and the celebration of Christmas. They blindly believe that the two are independent of one another.

Christmas is about God–sending His Son to die a cruel death, to save us and reconcile us to Himself. Christmas is celebrating the very gift of the Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ.

I do not believe there is some secret underground conspiracy to undermine Christmas and all its religious and spiritual implications. I do think, however, that many people who deny God haven’t bothered to figure it out, or are painfully apathetic to asking the important questions in life, are slowly eroding and chipping away at the holiness and sacred celebration of Christmas.

We are blinded by the drive to buy, buy, buy and get, get, get. We spend more time on our Christmas list than we do to pause and ask why it is we actually celebrate this holiday in the first place.

Is Christmas under attack? On some scale, I say yes. We are perhaps not in a full-fledged war, but the Christmas battle is just one more battle, in the war, that we need to win.

What do you think? Is there a war on Christmas? Have you seen Christmas attacked or do you think it is exaggerated? If there is a war, how do we fight and win?

post image here

55 thoughts on “Is There Really a War on Christmas?”

  1. “Perhaps this is what atheists and others who mindlessly believe Christmas is not under attack fail to realize–they make no correlation between denying God and the celebration of Christmas.”

    There are so many things wrong with this sentence that I’m not sure where to start. First of all, there IS no correlation between “denying” god and celebrating Christmas. Didn’t you read my article? You are free to celebrate Christmas as a Christian — but I am not required to celebrate Christmas as a Christian.

    Atheists do not “deny” god, they simply don’t believe in god. Saying an atheist “denies” god implies that the atheist first accepted god and then changed his mind. That’s not the case.

    You are free to celebrate Christmas in any way you please. Why is it necessary for everyone else to celebrate it the same way YOU do? Is your faith that weak? That empty? Do you need ME to prop it up for you? That’s not my job. I don’t care one little bit how you celebrate Christmas. Why do you care how I do it?

    1. Out of curiosity, why do you celebrate Christmas? I know it’s tradition in the states to do so whether or not a person is a Christian, but just wondering why you do and how you celebrate.

    2. Ray,
      Thank you for commenting. I did read your article.

      The point I was specifically referring to was the second post on Friendly Atheist (the blunt atheist ads portion.

      I think in being intellectually honest, seeing ads proclaiming there is no God in the context of Christmas–is to many Christians an attack.

      Regardless of the roots of Christmas as a pagan holiday or the history of the attacks on Christmas being steeped in racism and bigotry, to the average Christian, Christmas is all about God.

      We do see a correlation and when we see that so easily tossed aside, it is disheartening. It is not that my faith is weak. It is that our faith is foundational and motivational. Thus we defend it.

      That is not to say that I somehow believe or expect people to celebrate Christmas in the same way I celebrate. Of course not. Regardless of the existing stereotypes, most Christians are not irrational, brain-dead, sheep.

      Thank you again Ray for responding here. Merry Christmas!

  2. We have enough wars already.

    The war on drugs, the war on terra… terrorism? the war on criminality.

    Christians seem to believe that anything that does no exemplify them is detrimental to their beliefs.

    There are just a whole lot of people that … wait for it… Don’t. Really. Care.

    All the same, we’re not going to let you promote your religion (at any time) against our MUTUAL constitution. It’s against our principles. Is now, always has been.

    It has been said often, but maybe not quite often enough: if you want a theocracy, look at Saudi Arabia. Check their laws against our constitution.

    Your reasoning is very questionable, and the final result of that particular slippery slope is not what I want for our United States of America.

  3. Oh, good grief. Really?? Two major wars, a nation in financial crisis,and Brett Michaels FINALLY proposes to his girlfriend..and THIS is what you worry about? Really??

    Let me end your ‘war’ for you…

    Point one : Christmas started as a PAGAN holiday. I imagine Jesus would very much like it if you allowed him to bail on it.

    Point two : Having Pagan roots, Pagan rituals ( mistletoe anyone?), etc…The sacredness and holiness of this pseudo Christian holiday is already in serious question.

    Ignoring the above for the sake of argument..

    Point three : Merry Christmas is a pretty recent greeting. So, since it evolved from something else..and yet the holiday STILL remained..I’m sure that saying ‘Happy Holidays’ will not destroy Christmas as you know it.

    Point four : Since the people who fought to give you the right to write this crap, as well as worship the way you choose, were themselves from all faiths, traditions, and religions, I think it very appropriate to say ‘Happy Holidays’ to INCLUDE them all.

    When all else fails, lets ask ourselves what Jesus would do( because it IS all about Jesus for you, right?) : Love his fellow man, worry about feeding the poor, healing the sick, and spreading peace. Im pretty sure that being a spaz about a simple greeting wouldn’t fall into any of those categories.

    1. Why are you so angry?

      “Since the people who fought to give you the right to write this crap…” Why do you find it necessary to pronounce to me the rights that have been fought in the name of freedom of speech and simultaneously insult my exercise of that free speech? Is that simply you, exercising your freedom of speech?

      Please, be a gentleman. There is no need to insult my writing simply because you do not agree with my position. I happen to disagree with atheists, but I didn’t set out to attack them in this post.

      Since you called to light the fact that those who fought for my right to write this crap, were themselves of many different faiths and backgrounds–then perhaps it is not so much of a leap for you to recognize and understand that to Christians, like myself, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ and not just a pagan holiday.

      If it were simply only and ever a pagan holiday, I don’t think we’d even be having this discussion.

      Thank you for commenting on this crap, all in all. Merry Christmas!

  4. Whoa, guys – chill. This particular debate is one that inspires strong feelings, but not to the point of rudeness.

    It sounds to me what Nicole is saying is that there is a root beneath the current Christmas festivities, and that’s worth looking into to find some deeper meaning. That expresses a dissatisfaction with the “buy, buy, buy” mentality but it’s not a criticism on any of you personally, nor is it an invitation to theocracy. It’s more of a call to look again, to see what is good (and what is tradition/pagan) and not throw everything out without noticing.

    Ray and Max, it startles me that atheists can be so willing for people to question things and so sad when they come to a conclusion that is in line with Christian thought. Why is that? Maybe it’s the “war” rhetoric that offends you, but for people who are arguing that there isn’t any such thing, you aren’t half doing it in a combative fashion…

  5. I’m sorry, Tom, I’m not trying to be difficult, but I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re saying. Could you clarify your post? Are you saying that I’m being rude or combative? If so, could you please specify where and how?

    1. Argh, Ray, I’m sorry I didn’t reply – I didn’t put “follow-up comments” on. What I mean is that where you ask Nicole,

      “Why is it necessary for everyone else to celebrate it the same way YOU do? Is your faith that weak? That empty? Do you need ME to prop it up for you? That’s not my job. I don’t care one little bit how you celebrate Christmas,”

      it feels a little bit like you’re extrapolating beyond what’s been said. If Christians are allowed to celebrate Christmas as they choose, then a statement of how they value that celebration is not an invitation to theocracy or hegemony (as Max said) just an encouragement to other people to try looking at the celebration in a new light.

      So just like you’re saying that not all atheists are as one-dimensional as people sometimes say, Nicole’s statement that we need to hold onto what is valuable in the Christian celebration of Christmas isn’t saying everyone needs to celebrate it identically. Sometimes the terms of the debate do cast the debate in an unnecessarily black-and-white light, which makes real dialogue more difficult.

      That’s not wildly articulate, but maybe it goes some way to explaining?

    2. Argh, Ray, I’m sorry I didn’t reply – I didn’t put “follow-up comments” on. What I mean is that where you ask Nicole,

      “Why is it necessary for everyone else to celebrate it the same way YOU do? Is your faith that weak? That empty? Do you need ME to prop it up for you? That’s not my job. I don’t care one little bit how you celebrate Christmas,”

      it feels a little bit like you’re extrapolating beyond what’s been said. If Christians are allowed to celebrate Christmas as they choose, then a statement of how they value that celebration is not an invitation to theocracy or hegemony (as Max said) just an encouragement to other people to try looking at the celebration in a new light.

      So just like you’re saying that not all atheists are as one-dimensional as people sometimes say, Nicole’s statement that we need to hold onto what is valuable in the Christian celebration of Christmas isn’t saying everyone needs to celebrate it identically. Sometimes the terms of the debate do cast it in an unnecessarily black-and-white light, which makes real dialogue more difficult.

      That’s not wildly articulate, but maybe it goes some way to explaining?

  6. Is it just me or is the phrase “War on…” over-used and chosen to get people worked up?

    Is Christianity as a whole under attack? Yes, but check the bible…Its been the case for 2000 years.

    Is The War on Christmas a war we (as Christians) MUST win? That depends… but we know the final outcome of the REAL war. I think we may come to a time where celebrating Christ’s birth openly will as taboo as drinking and driving while talking on your cellphone… but thats just my opinion!

    1. Andrew,

      The real war is the war I was referring to, which is spiritual and extends far beyond Christmas.

      I’m not overly concerned about attacks on Christmas, and that is why I reduced it to a battle and not a war.

      My point was that, like you said, if we as a nation continue in the direction we are currently headed, we will have a lot more to worry about than saying “Merry Christmas.”

    2. If that were to happen, you might want to consider the possible cause. If Christians continue to behave as if the First Amendment protects only them, if they continue to grow more and more strident (which has been the case over the last decade in particular) in demanding that everyone “respect” their beliefs in a way they find acceptable (which seems to be only abject agreement, and seeing that everyone lives by them whether they subscribe to them or not) and in trying to silence any expression that is not specifically Christian, and if they keep insisting that this is a “Christian nation” when it demonstrably is not, I can imagine the situation reaching a boiling point at which lawmakers will have to respond. You may not be one of them, Andrew, but there are Christians in America today who loudly advocate the arrest and even the execution of homosexuals because they disapprove of their sexuality on religious grounds. The battle over abortion is getting more and more heated and there has already been plenty of violence in that battle. It’s not enough for Christians who believe that homosexuality is wrong simply not to be homosexual themselves, or who believe that abortion is wrong not to have abortions themselves — they want others to follow their rules. That is un-American, and if it keeps growing more heated, more hostile and more violent, I can see a time when Christianity might cause the fulfillment of its own prophecy. America’s freedoms are for everyone, and I think we’d all be better off remembering that and enjoying them individually rather than trying to dictate how they should be enjoyed to others.

      1. So… are you saying that because we believe murder is wrong, we should not try to prevent one from taking place because we would be “trying to dictate” the actions of others?

  7. @Andrew P—I had born-again acquaintances through my equally born-again sister, back in 1975. They were ABSOLUTELY convinced that within a year or two they would be forced to live underground (where, exactly, they were never able to specify). They believed, with all their collective-heart, that they would only able to quote memorized scripture to each other, as their bibles would have been confiscated by some form of satanically-influenced para-military organization.

    I haven’t seen any of these people since then, but I am REASONABLY sure that they are residing in the same type of visible-from-the-street suburban houses they had 35 years ago.

    Hal Lindsey, of THE LATE, GREAT PLANET EARTH fame, has faded into obscurity. Look him up, if you are a young man.

    NO ONE is coming to take away the nativity scene on your lawn, your bible or your Jesus.

    1. Michael,
      I have to respectfully disagree with you. No, I do not think Christians are going to be living underground in the next 5 years, hiding from those that would persecute them.

      However, I do know that there are currently and constantly many attacks on religious freedom in this country. The secularization of America is very real and very rampant. Despite, what may perhaps be a mocking tone in your comment, people are, in fact, coming and taking away Nativity scenes, people’s right to study their Bibles, etc.

      Here is a brief list for you from the Alliance Defense Fund, a judicial organization that I used to work for:

      A then-second-grade student at a public school in New Jersey was told that she could not sing “Awesome God” in an after-school talent show.

      A pastor of a church in Arizona was ordered to stop holding meetings or Bible studies in his private home.

      Five Christian men were threatened with arrest for sharing their faith on a public sidewalk in Virginia.

      A Christian student at a university in Missouri was threatened with having her degree withheld because she refused to write a letter to the state legislature expressing her support for homosexual adoption.

      A pro-life nurse at a hospital in New York was forced to participate in a late-term abortion, even though her workplace had agreed in writing to honor her religious convictions.

      The shift towards a more secular America is not an illusion, but a reality, and is growing in prevalence each day. Thanks for commenting Michael.

  8. Wow, this discussion got heated really quickly! Here’s my take: I think the best way for us as Christians to celebrate Christmas and to preserve the truth and sacredness of the holiday is to stop celebrating it the way the rest of the world does, like you said, with the “buy buy buy” mentality. I think that focus on material things has probably done way more to detract from Christmas than any group who’s gotten pissed off about a nativity scene on gov’t property.

    I don’t expect people who don’t love Jesus to pretend they do on Christmas. So, instead of worrying about what the world is doing to Christmas, I think we need to take a really close look at whether the body of Christ is treating the holiday as it should. Are we glorifying ourselves and material things or are we glorifying Christ? Are we looking for joy and hope in things that are fleeting or in Christ who gives us eternal joy and hope?

  9. I must sigh as I realize that I’ve lived long enough to see old ideas suggested as if they were brand new. Nothing wrong with that, it’s the cyclical way of the world. I can remember as a devout Christian little boy hearing a lot of talk from my teachers and preachers about Christmas being too commercial, people buying things for each other and so on, and now I’m seeing it again from young Christians. Nothing wrong with that. I would just say that giving is good. This is a fine time of year to indulge any charitable impulse you might be having and give something to the down and out, who are more numerous at this particular point in our nation’s life and history. Giving is a good thing, not a bad thing, and to a certain extent, commercialism is part of the warp and woof of American democracy and its main economic engine of capitalism.

    There’s probably too much combat being offered from both atheists and Christians, far too little understanding. This post was, sadly, no exception Just one of the perplexing slaps to the atheist face offered in this post was the following, entered in boldface to emphasize its importance:

    “I do think, however, that many people who deny God haven’t bothered to figure it out, or are painfully apathetic to asking the important questions in life, are slowly eroding and chipping away at the holiness and sacred celebration of Christmas.”

    I’m reminded of the old saying, “I think, therefore I am.” It seems to have been modified to “I think, therefore I am right.” Clearly, the above remark was meant to patronize non-believers and to portray them as thoughtless or lazy in their moral lives. But I see nothing to back up the assertion the author makes that “many” atheists “haven’t bothered to figure IT out” (whatever “it” is). I changed “people who deny God” to “atheist” because of the former’s blatant mischaracterization of what it is to be a non-theist. We do not deny God. We simply accept that there is no evidence for his existence that could not be explained more simply by natural rather than supernatural causes. For us to deny god, we would have to first know that god exists, rather than being as certain as it is possible to be that he does not exist. The burden of proof for god lies squarely on the shoulders of those who continue to assert him in the absence of evidence and in the presence of much evidence to the contrary. A loving creator made this world and everything in it and 99.7% of the life forms he made are now extinct, including a separate species of man (Homo neanderthalensis)? And so on, and so on.

    When I was a Christian, I knew people who could sound very positive in their assurance that god existed. But it now appears that this belief, based on faith, has become confused in the Christian mind with the world of fact. Christians, you are free to believe whatever you wish. You are not free to make up your own facts. I do realize that the phrase “people who deny god” was probably deliberately worded in that way to indulge the author’s anger toward non-believers, but it’s the sort of truculence that makes true dialogue less rather than more possible.

    I’m hoping we can come to a time when Christians can truly have enough faith in their god to be happy in themselves and feel no further need to assert what is not proven as if it were a fact and just generally get in the faces of people who do not believe. Atheists are not monsters, we’re human beings who love, work for the common good, like to laugh, and have nothing against our Christian friends celebrating Christmas, going to church, or whatever it is they want to do with themselves and each other. We just wish you didn’t have to demonize us in the process. We wish you could accept that we do not believe as you do and let it go at that. While it’s true that atheists are beginning to speak up after years of keeping our heads down, we have a long way to go to be as much in the face of everyone around us as it seems many Christians have become these days.

    A final thought. If the atheists are stealing Christmas from the Christians, why did the U.S. Post Office issue religious stamps for this Christmas season, but no Santa Claus, no Nutcracker, no Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, nothing from the more ancient origins of the celebration of the winter Solstice? We have angel stamps this season, but no Santas, elves, reindeer, no Christmas trees, not so much as a red bow. For those of us who celebrate the older charms of this holiday season, sending cards to each other and to our Christian friends, the USPS offers just a stamp with pine cones and pine needles on it. Of course, the pine cone stamp did have one word on it not present on the angel stamp:

    1. Steven,
      First allow me, the author, to introduce myself. My name is Nicole.

      I will admit that the quote of mine that you highlighted, “I do think, however, that many people who deny God haven’t bothered to figure it out, or are painfully apathetic to asking the important questions in life, are slowly eroding and chipping away at the holiness and sacred celebration of Christmas” was missing an important comma between “many people who deny God, haven’t figured it out, or are painfully apathetic..” (See missing comma between ‘God’ and ‘haven’t’).

      I also acknowledge that in an atheist’s mindset using the words “deny God” is not only incomplete, but flat out wrong. For that I am sorry. I recognize that the difference is not that you do not deny God but do not believe in Him, which is a statement of belief versus a universal negative, such as the former statement. Denying God, is as I understand it, a logical error, but believing He does not exist is a belief.

      Also, allow me to clarify that I do not have any anger towards atheists. My post was not meant to “demonize” or “indulge” my anger. It simply does not exist.
      Please do not confuse my misuse of a atheist phrase or a philosophical and theological disagreement, as anger or ill-will.

      I agree with you that giving is good. I don’t think buying or purchasing or consuming is always the equivalent of “giving.”

      I did not know about your U.S, Post Office example and while I trust that it is true, there are also numerous stories and examples on the other side of the aisle, as well. The removal of a nativity scene for instance.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and engage me in this discussion. Blessings.

  10. Nicole — Those ads are aimed at other people who do not believe in god. They are not an attack on Christians or Christianity and are not aimed at either. They are intended to let other nonbelievers know that their nonbelief is perfectly acceptable. That is necessary because so many people in this country are made to think there is something wrong with them because they don’t believe in god or do not subscribe to the majority religion. They are told that their nonbelief means they are immoral, that they are, by their very nature, bad people, and this tends to make them feel like they must be silent. The ads are directed at those people to reassure them, and it is an exchange that does not in any way involve Christians. The fact that Christians get so upset about them says far more about Christians than it does about the ads.

    You do realize, don’t you, that not everyone in this country — or this world — believes as you do? Those Americans who do not share your beliefs are just as protected by the First Amendment as you are. They are free to express themselves. One of the side effects of a free society is that we are all exposed to opinions and expressions we personally may not like. That’s what makes it a free society. We must find a way to navigate ourselves through it without letting everything we don’t like make us angry and bitter. Christians who get so angry about those ads appear to think that the people who create them are NOT free to express themselves — that, in fact, anyone who holds non-Christian convictions should be silent. This is un-American. It conflicts with the free society in which we live. Christians respond by insisting that this is a Christian nation — which it is not. It may be a nation that holds a majority of Christians, but it is not a Christian nation. There’s a difference. This makes Christians appear as if they want this country to be a Christian theocracy. Again, this is un-American and goes against everything the founding fathers intended.

    There is absolutely nothing you can do about the fact that many people do not believe in your god. Complaining about their nonbelief, demonizing them for it, does you no good. In fact, the most vocal, visible Christians in America have probably done more damage to Christianity than an army of atheists ever could. Instead of going about the business of LIVING their faith and being an example of their beliefs by actions rather than words, they rage on about all the people who do not believe as they do. It’s not exactly a great endorsement of Christianity. As I pointed out in my article, the only people I know who complain at Christmas time, who are angry and bitter, are Christians who don’t like the fact that not everyone believes in the birth of their savior.

    I just turned 48, and in all my years on earth, the most Christ-like people I’ve ever known — without exception — have been people who do not believe in Christ.

    1. Ray,
      I somewhat agree with you that those ads are intended to bring about awareness and solidarity among atheists. However, I think it would be naive to think that those who place such ads, never do so with the small hope that they may in fact, persuade ( or at least raise questions) to those who are “seekers”.

      Atheists evangelize, as well, and I would expect nothing less.

      I have no issue with such ads. I never said I did. I was simply hoping to call out the irony in a statement such as “there is no war on Christmas” while simultaneously posting atheist ads (such as was the case on Friendly Atheist). You may see them as non-related or irrelevant, but to the average Christian they are not. It does not mean there is an actual war on Christmas being waged, but I hope you can understand how it may be perceived as such by some believers.

      You also asked me “You do realize, don’t you, that not everyone in this country — or this world — believes as you do?”

      Well, yes Ray, I do. I have not always been a believer. I did not know God for the first half of my life. No one in my family is a Christian either. I also have non-believing friends. So yes, I am painfully aware of the fact that not everyone believes as I do.

      Lastly, I just wanted to address your labeling of upset Christians as “un-American.” I studied politics and law in college. I have a great love and respect for freedom of speech. I have never called for the removal or silence of atheist anything and I never would. Disagreeing is one thing. Attempting to silence a person or groups civil liberties is something quite different.

      I, however, think it is important to clarify that many Christians identify themselves as believers or Christ-followers before “Americans.” A life devoted to Christ is just that and it is our motivation and where our convictions stem from. That is not to say, that I do not hold American ideals or don’t consider myself an American. However, I see myself as a Christ-follower first, and everything else down the line.

      I will admit that Christians have begun to align themselves more with a political party and particular social agenda, than with Jesus Himself. That is another post for another time though, I’d say.

      Lastly, you wrote “There is absolutely nothing you can do about the fact that many people do not believe in your god.” This I must admittedly disagree with. If this sentence were true, then I would have never come to know God. God calls people to Himself. However, a friend was bold enough to speak to me about Jesus, invite me to church, pray for me, care for me. She did, in fact, play a role in my belief of God. That is part of the Gospel. It is powerful and trans-formative…and God graciously allows individual people to participate in His work.

      Thank you again Ray for your thoughtful response and comment. Blessings.

      1. Let me try to help you understand atheists a little better, Nicole. I’m not trying to be condescending, I’m really not, but the fact is that Christians simply do not understand atheism. They tend to project a lot onto atheists that isn’t there. That’s what you’re doing, and that’s revealed in this statement:

        “Atheists evangelize, as well, and I would expect nothing less.”

        Yes, I know that’s what you expect. That’s the problem. Christianity is a belief system, so Christians tend to claim that atheism is a belief system, too. It’s not. It is the LACK of belief. Atheism is as much a belief system as NOT collecting stamps is a hobby. Christians evangelize, so when they hear atheists discussing their atheism, they project that onto them and claim that atheists are evangelizing. Not true. Any atheist knows — and I’m speaking for every atheist I’ve ever known, here — that it is not his job to change anyone’s beliefs. Atheists have no desire whatsoever to make Christians stop believing. None. You may not believe that, and you may cling that expectation of yours, but it’s true — atheists do not evangelize. When atheists post those billboards, they are posted for other nonbelievers. If you say to an atheist, “You’re trying to get people to stop believing in god!” he will laugh at you. It will be genuine laughter, not mocking laughter, because he will find that funny. Most of the atheists I’ve known — myself included — were raised in a religion. They have been on both sides of this, and they know how powerful one’s religious beliefs are. Now, an atheist — like me, for example — may engage you in a discussion about belief and nonbelief, but I assure you, that is not evangelizing. I would NEVER try to change your beliefs — I find the very idea deeply offensive. And that, by the way, is why atheists find the proselytizing of Christians and other religions so offensive — it’s an attempt to alter the way a person thinks. Atheists don’t do that.

        “However, I think it would be naive to think that those who place such ads, never do so with the small hope that they may in fact, persuade ( or at least raise questions) to those who are “seekers”.”

        No, it is not at all naive to think that. It is, in fact, quite accurate. Thinking that shows a great lack of understanding of atheists. One of the reasons atheists are so often frustrated is that most of us understand the religious, we really do — like I said, most of us started out there. But not only do the religious not understand us, there is no attempt made to understand us. The religious tend to do what you have done here — they take their own expectations and feelings and beliefs and project them onto atheists.

        “I will admit that Christians have begun to align themselves more with a political party and particular social agenda, than with Jesus Himself.”

        Oh, yes, I agree. The Republican party is no longer just a political party. It is the political arm of the Christian religion, and that’s what deeply worries a whole lot of people. And that’s also very connected to the “war on Christmas.” You may not be one of them, but there are a great many Christians in America today who ARE trying step on the civil liberties of others and silence them. Claiming to be persecuted and attacked when they are not is one of the ways of doing that.

        “Lastly, you wrote “There is absolutely nothing you can do about the fact that many people do not believe in your god.” This I must admittedly disagree with. If this sentence were true, then I would have never come to know God. God calls people to Himself. However, a friend was bold enough to speak to me about Jesus, invite me to church, pray for me, care for me. She did, in fact, play a role in my belief of God. That is part of the Gospel.”

        And that is where a lot of the trouble starts. You feel it is your duty to turn others to god. Many of those people have no interest in your god or your religion, but you don’t let that stop you — you even sometimes hold the mistaken belief that if you keep at it long enough, that person will be moved to agree with you. This is extremely irritating to a great many people and it often causes them to respond with hostility, to lash out because they get so very tired of it. When that happens, Christians tend to claim they are being persecuted and attacked when they are merely faced with a natural response to extremely irritating and rude behavior. I used to be very nice to religious people who came to my door to tell me about their religion. After I put up a “no soliciting” sign and they continued to come, I changed my approach. Now, they only come once and never again. I find it unconscionably rude for someone to come to my house and disrupt my day to tell me they have something that I need or I won’t be a good or complete person without. Christians claim to be doing this out of love and this attitude seems to make it impossible for them to see just how obnoxious so many people find it. But, this IS America and you are free to express your religious belief. No one is trying to stop that. And yet, a single atheist billboard can send Christians into a frenzy. The billboard is attacked, vandalized, the people who post it receive death threats, and Christians organize to remove the billboard and silence this expression that they do not like (this has happened in MANY cities across the country). Do you see how that works? It’s a two-way street.

        America has always been known for its tolerance. This country — like the rest of the world — is becoming more secular. Fewer people are buying into religion, and at the same time, greater numbers of people who are not Christians but subscribe to other religions are filling America. The Christian response to this is not in keeping with America’s reputation of tolerance. It’s a big table, and Christians aren’t the only ones welcome at it — they need to keep this in mind.

        1. Ray,
          I appreciate your willingness to school me on the topic of atheism. I think you have explained your position well. The problem however, is that when it comes down to it–you and I simply have different perspectives in the issue. Neither of us could convince the other.

          I do think atheism is a belief system. I do not think all atheists hold the same belief system, but every person believes in something. Period. Some atheists believe in themselves or a more humanistic worldview. Or they believe in emotion, or matter, or love, or beauty, or nature, or fill in the blank.

          Just because you do not believe in God does not mean you lack a belief system. I do not think the two ideas must exist independently of one another. Believing in absolutely nothing sounds like anarchy to me, not to mention impossible.

          To the point of Christians sharing their faith being a “duty.” Well yes, it is a command–the last words Christ spoke–so they are somewhat important. “Go and make disciples.”

          I have heard people who do not believe in God or do not know if they believe in God, ask why it is, if Christians really believe that they know the Truth and the answer to life and eternity–why it is, that they are so silent. Why are they not screaming from the rooftops? Christians get blasted for not being vocal enough and acting instead like a clique-y, superior, exclusive club.

          Then Christians are also critiqued and blamed for evangelizing and opening their mouths. We are told we are “obnoxious”, rude, pushy, and the like. We are told to stop sharing our faith. Be silent.

          As long as there are people who love Jesus, and I mean really love Him-not Sunday Christians–there will always be either argument. There will also, always be people sharing the Gospel, not only because we are called to, but because we are compelled to.

          I do not regret the girl who shared Jesus with me some 13 years ago. I am glad she wasn’t told to shut up or go away. She helped change the course of my life and I will be eternally (literally) grateful.

          Blessings to you Ray and again, Merry Christmas. I hope you enjoy your wife’s fudge and time with family and friends!

          1. “I do think atheism is a belief system.”

            You’re free, of course, to believe whatever you please. That’s the great thing about beliefs — they can be whatever you want them to be and have no need to be influenced in any way by reality.

  11. Nicole wrote: “However, I do know that there are currently and constantly many attacks on religious freedom in this country.”

    I agree with you. What most Christians seem unable to see is that these attacks on religious freedom are coming from Christians. Christians are still the majority religion (although that majority isn’t as big as it once was) and they are still able to practice their religion as freely as they’ve ever been able to practice it. But because of this siege mentality that Christians have, they continue to believe they are under attack, and as a result, they are aggressively “fighting back” — against nothing — and imposing their religion on others, refusing to allow other religions to be equally recognized as the Constitution demands, and insisting that anyone who does not believe what they believe simply be quiet and/or go away. THAT is where the attacks on religious freedom are coming from. Christianity has become the big bully on the block while it continues to cry “Persecution!”

  12. Yes, I truly DO believe there is a war on Christmas, as well as all Christians, and will continue to believe that until God calls me home.
    I am not one of those people who try to sway anyone to my beliefs. I think that your soul is between you and God. If you choose not to believe in Him, it’s truly, truly YOUR loss, not mine. I will not, however, say Happy Holidays. Buy from an establishment that caters to such crap. Or take down my decorations because they offend you. No, I don’t think you should take yours down too. That’s your choice. I just ask to be left alone to love God, in the way I see fit. If that’s saying Merry Christmas and you’re offended, well, I’m just so sorry. Walk away, the same way I do when I see a Happy Holidays sign.
    Nicole, as usual you’re writing about very touchy subjects, and I congratulate you. Not afraid to step on toes, are you darlin? LOL You handle yourself gracefully and well-spoken on everything, so all I really can say is, keep your chin up in the face of the enemy!! And if they don’t want to celebrate Christmas, that’s ok — at least you know who not to buy CHRISTmas presents for!!

  13. Ade wrote: “I will not, however, say Happy Holidays.”

    No one is saying you have to.

    Ade wrote: “Buy from an establishment that caters to such crap.”

    You’re perfectly free to do business wherever you like.

    Ade wrote: “Or take down my decorations because they offend you.”

    No one is asking you to take down your decorations.

    Ade wrote: “I just ask to be left alone to love God, in the way I see fit.”

    You are. And I defy you to cite one genuine effort to stand in the way of that.

    You’re complaining about things that simply are not happening. No one is preventing you from doing any of these things. No one. I don’t know what you’re so angry about, Ade. See my earlier post about Christ-like people. The love of Christ does not radiate from your post.

    1. You don’t know me very well. Although I have plenty of things to be angry about, I’m actually not, nor do I feel like my post came across angry at all.
      Here’s my ONE example, though, just for your amusement. I was recently cited at my job — by a very well known gift basket company that I provided customer service to — for not saying Happy Holidays. I chose not to. I didn’t stuff my belief’s down their throat by saying Merry Christmas when I answered the phone. I just said, thank you for calling ______. But I got in trouble, because I might have offended someone else by not saying Happy Holidays to them.
      Tell me no one has ever tried to take my right’s to not say Happy Holidays again. You’ll be just as wrong the second time.

      1. Ade — It is perfectly within your employer’s rights to tell you how to greet customers on the phone. It always has been. Businesses WANT to be inclusive, even if you don’t. They want to appeal to as many people as they possibly can because it increases their chances of making money. The problem here seems to be your strong aversion to the phrase “happy holidays.” What’s the problem? Did you read my article about the “war on Christmas,” by the way? It addresses this very thing, especially right at the end, where it asks a question that applies here.

        No one has stepped on your rights, Ade. Your employer did nothing wrong. And yes, I will tell you that no one has tried to take away your rights — not in this case, anyway. You have the right to quit that job if the words “happy holidays” offend you so deeply. You do not have the right to say whatever you want to your employer’s customers on your employer’s time. That’s not a “war on Christmas” — that’s workin’ for the man. You take it or leave it.

  14. Ashleigh — I’m guessing your question about celebrating Christmas was directed at me, or at nonbelievers in general. If I’m mistaken in that assumption, I apologize, and I’m sorry for missing it my first time through the thread.

    My wife and I are both atheists, but we love Christmas and enjoy getting into the season’s spirit of generosity and togetherness. We both enjoy Christmas music, including the religious songs, many of which are beautiful. I happily sing about the baby Jesus just as I sing about Santa Claus — the mythology of Christmas in no way offends me. We spend time with family and friends; my wife makes amazing fudge, which our friends have come to look forward to each year; and we exchange gifts. It’s a time to take stock of the year that’s passed, note our mistakes as well as our victories, and look forward to the new year with the intention of doing a better job. We have friends of varying beliefs, and nonbelief, who celebrate the holiday in varying ways. If everyone had to celebrate Christmas the same way, it wouldn’t be a holiday, it would be an enforced chore.

  15. @Nicole—Please note that I wrote that no none is going to take anyone’s LAWN nativity-scene. This was making reference to that which is owned PERSONALLY. I was not making reference to public or government-held property.

    May we then, if you please, move on.

    Although I have encountered various estimates, for the sake of argument let me assert that roughly 75% of Americans are god-fearing Christians. That is more than SEVEN times the numbers of atheists (that we know about) in this country.

    Even if all American atheists rose en masse to attempt by some arcane means to “de-program” Christians (which is not the intention of ANY non-believer that I know) there would be NO possibility of succeeding against such overwhelming numbers. No chance in hell (as it were).

    HOWEVER, it is the “divine imperative” of Evangelical Christians to be “fishers of men” and attempt to convert those same minority non-believers (or different believers) to THEIR belief system. If this is not accomplished through tales of “Jesus’ love”, then the threat of god-mandated eternal punishment is used in an attempt to terrorize the aforementioned into conversion.

    So. Who is doing the bullying here..?

  16. @Nicole—Please also recall that my comments were almost exclusively directed to Andrew P, related to his “end-times” beliefs…

    1. Well Michael, this is a blog where discussion, such as the one taking place, is open to any reader. There is no exclusivity.

      Not to mention the fact that this is my blog and I wrote the post you are commenting on, I feel it’s appropriate for me to comment.

  17. “. . .every person believes in something. Period.”

    Can’t get much more adamant or positive than that. But here again, Nicole, you seem to laboring under a delusion of the form, “I think, therefore I am right.” I can understand why someone who “believes” that there is an invisible entity called god who answers prayers, created the world, offers salvation, and all the rest can get to thinking that everyone else believes in something of a similar unproven magnitude. I want to assure you that it is possible to be free of believing in or hoping for something that can’t be proven to exist and for which there is no solid evidence. It is perfectly possible to be free, also, of the anxiety, doubt, guilt, anger, and downright tetchiness generated by not knowing, not being able to be sure of something that you’ve been trying to believe.

    In the interest of greater understanding between Christian and atheist I offer this: I was pretty much miserable as a devout Christian. I felt I had to keep saying I believed in god even though the few bits of “evidence” I could pull together that might indicate the existence of god (e.g., transcendental feelings I might have when I prayed on my knees in my closet, or the fact that I’d prayed for something which then, WOW, came true) could all be explained more readily by non-supernatural effects. (E.g., I can also get transcendental feelings listening to Rammstein, and the fact that when you pray for something, there are always two possible “answers” and one of them will happen whether you pray to god or your dog). As I went through the process of de-indoctrinating myself from what I was taught as a child, before I had developed critical thinking skills, it gradually became possible for me to understand that, if something as hugely significant as god really existed, you would not need faith or belief, you would know it, as surely as you know that the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. The mental gymnastics and contortions that I, as a Christian, had to keep up in the air at all times felt to me like trying to juggle five anvils. They were too heavy and when they kept clunking down on my head, it hurt! I thought a lot about this, and there was just no logical (as opposed to theological) reason I could find to think that a being worthy to be called “god” would first create me, then hide any and all conclusive evidence of his existence from me, and then insist that I have faith or suffer the consequences of not believing, whether that be hell, as some Christians insist, or simply the eternal nap on the wrong side of the lawn while those who “believed” get to live forever. Not only could I believe that such a god actually loved me, it seemed so illogical for a being worthy to be called god to even act that way that I was finally able to drop the juggling act and walk away.

    Let me say again what I said before, to which you offered no response: The burden of proof that god exists lies on those who propose him. Really, discussing what god is like, or what he expects of us, or whether something like Christmas is being stolen is premature when no proof of god’s existence is or can be offered by those who propose him. Most eminent theologians readily agree that god’s existence cannot be proven. They “believe.” They “have faith” and advocate it to others. As a clinical psychologist, I can’t help noticing a possible motivation for this. If you hope for something but aren’t sure it’s real, the more people you can get to hope along with you the more likely it seems that this thing might be true and real.

    Let me assure you, having been a devout Christian into my twenties, one who at one point wished to be a Christian minister, that I am much happier not believing, not trying to keep those anvils up in the air in the absence of evidence. Let me also assure any Christian reading this blog that I have no problem with you or anyone else acting like god exists, believing it, hoping it is true or arranging your lives accordingly. Where I do have a problem is when I am asked to either assume the same thing or be branded as an undesirable person. In polite society, the belief a person might have really is insufficient reason to go out in the world and preach it as a fact, and go aggressively after people who are simply saying, “come back when you can prove the guy even exists.” And it certainly is beyond arrogant to try and marginalize people for not believing something you can’t prove exists in the first place. It is those attempts to denigrate and marginalize atheists that most concerns me in this whole ridiculous debate about “stealing Christmas.”

    I have no desire to “convert” you or any other religious person, be he Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or anything else away from your belief system. This is America and you can believe whatever you like so long as it doesn’t hurt other people. It has simply been my experience that, the more we learn about ourselves and the planet we live on, the more we see that the dog-eat-dog conditions under which most life forms live and to which most life forms on this planet ultimately succumb, the less credible seems the existence of a loving, caring creator. When I state my position, I’m not really stating a belief. I’m saying that, based on the evidence before me–and the utter lack of evidence religious people are able to provide for what they would have me believe, I find that there is no reason to believe in their invisible deity or that proposed by any other religion of man.

    So, to sum up: Please. Everyone does not believe in something–not in any way that is equivalent to faith or belief in god. Belief with a small “b” is an ordinary part of life in trivial ways. I might believe (or expect) I’ll get a Christmas card from someone who has sent me one every year for the past twenty years, but that is both trivial and utterly different than believing in an invisible entity. People can have happy, well-adjusted productive lives that are valuable to their fellow men without any sort of belief with the capital “B” such as you have been proposing. Abraham Lincoln is an example of a man who was not a Christian, who, ironically, ended the Biblically endorsed practice of slavery in America and who, while still greatly admired on all sides, sadly, could not be elected president of the United States in 2012. Thomas Jefferson is another such example, an off-and-on Deist who was decidedly not a Christian and who wrote copiously of his very low opinion of religion and the clergy. In these culture wars over Christmas and prayer in the schools and so on, Americans are in danger of forgetting their true roots as a nation where, at the founding of this nation, unbelief was just as legitimate as belief and the laws and constitution are explicitly set up to preserve this situation. (If you doubt this, get a copy of the U.S. Constitution and read through it to the place where any religious test for public office is forbidden.)

    I can assure you, Nicole, that I have no faith in a higher power, feel no need or desire for such faith or belief, and that my lack of belief in what you believe does not constitute belief in something else that could be called anything like equivalent. It is illogical to suggest that non-belief equals belief in something else, as you have done here. I love my wife and my friends, and have a charitable feeling toward my fellow man. If I can help someone out, I do. I believe society works best when we watch each other’s backs and do what we can for each other. I do it not for any reward, nor because any deity expects or demands it of me, but because it makes me feel good and I have found that it is the best and happiest way for me to live. You can say that I believe in helping my fellow man when I can, or characterize that as a “belief in” helping my fellow man, but the closer you look at that belief, the more quickly you realize that it is in no way the equivalent of believing in an unseen, unproven entity in the heavens. I’m sure you would quickly agree that belief in just any unseen, unproven entity (let us say, the Easter Bunny), would clearly be a delusion. Belief in Santa: delusion. That is the company belief in god is in. I have no such belief and neither do many other Americans. If I am happy giving people a helping hand when I can, there is no room for that to turn into an Easter-bunny-type delusion because it is not a “belief” in something unseen, unproven or untestable. It is simply a way of acting that I find comfortable and rewarding in my life. I will not wake up one day and wonder if “helping my fellow man when I can” does not exist, or is not real. I cannot lose my “faith” in it. Give altruism as many other tests as you like, and you still won’t find any equivalence with believing in an unseen, unproven deity who wants us to worship him and expects us to obey him. In short, to assert that if I don’t believe in god I must believe in something else, the burden of proof is, again, on you to show what there is in my life and the lives of so many other non-theists that is equivalent to your belief, your faith. I assure you, you won’t find anything.

    I think one of the problems of trying to believe in (or actually believing in) an unseen, unprovable entity is that, the more successful you become at keeping the belief up and running, the more likely it is that you will start generalizing your belief in god to a belief in whatever else you might choose to believe is true. This is a fundamental flaw in logic that makes it all the harder to develop and use good critical thinking skills of the sort that can help you through life. It’s certainly allowed for people to believe anything they choose (though I really wouldn’t recommend it) but it is not okay to believe that believing is the same as knowing, or, even more illogically, the same as “not believing.” It isn’t.

    1. Steve,
      I never said, in any stretch, that believing in beauty, or love, or yourself was somehow equivalent with believing in God or a higher power. I used a lower case “b.” Reason being–because I don’t think believing in those things is equivalent with God. How could I, when I believe wholeheartedly in Jesus. I find no need to carry the burden of proof on that point. You cited altruism, as something you do–perhaps even believe in, on some level. That proves my point. I was not pretending that for the average atheist giving a gift of charity, or acknowledging the beauty in nature is somehow a substitute for belief in God. The ideas sounds silly to me, in fact, so I apologize if that point was not clear.

      I’m sorry that your earlier experiences with religion were so strained, difficult, and seemingly impossible to maintain and continue in. I’m sorry because I had much the same experience myself as an early Christian. I received Christ with a fervor and excitement. I felt immediately changed, but slowly as time wore on–Christianity seemed impossible.

      I felt like all I was asked to do was “be good” or “perform.” I knew I couldn’t and so I walked away. I had no relationship with God for almost 4 years.

      Everything around me fell apart in those 4 years however. I longed for that peace I had once experienced, but refused to acknowledge that it came from God.

      It would be a long time before I finally, slowly, started crawling back to God. I did though and have never regretted it. The difference was that the second time, I knew that I am not expected to act ‘good” or ‘behave.’ I understood real grace and real forgiveness. I understood the difference between me trying within myself to be saved and me trusting Jesus for that salvation.

      Lastly, I know that the burden of proof is on me to explain God’s existence. But why would I here–on this blog and for what purpose? My original post had nothing to do with the question of whether or not God exists. I’m not trying to cop out, I just simple feel like it would serve no purpose here. You probably know the standard Christian answers and you would probably discount my own personal testimony and experiences with God as delusion. So what’s the point? Christians are asked to be quiet when it comes to sharing our faith, but speak up when we are asked to provide the burden of proof. It’s a lose-lose.

      I’m not here to convince you of anything or prove anything–simply discuss. Without being presumptuous, I would guess the same for you. Not to mention the fact that according to Ray, atheists don’t proselytize.

      Sorry, I am not responding to each of your points either Steven. It is also that Christmas Eve is upon us and I off to spend time with my family. I hope you enjoy the holiday.

  18. Believe me, Nicole, I understand why you are not responding to each of my points. What I don’t understand and will never understand is how someone can say, with obvious pride, the following:

    “. . .I finally, slowly, started crawling back to God.”

    If crawling is what you seek in life, the whole god thing ought to satisfy you, I suppose, but I can’t believe that this is healthy and so I must, as an altruistic person, regret it whenever I see it. The requirement Christianity makes that I must crawl like some hideous, sinful, unworthy human being back to an imaginary righteous entity who will make it as though I have some worth–the demand that I worship, that I obey, that I subjugate myself, as if to a pharaoh–none of these things is considered healthy for a human being in any other context than religion, and I find it impossible to believe that all these varieties of self-abnegation are suddenly good when connected with a hypothesized but unproven deity in the heavens. I will continue to hope for the day when more and more people come to realize that they are responsible for the good that they do, and the bad and everything in between. That they are in charge of their lives and their lives will be what they make of them, not what some invisible imaginary deity makes of them. That praying is a great way to feel like you’re achieving something when you’re not. (If you doubt this, look at the studies done in an effort to prove that prayer has an effect. Without exception, when properly designed and executed, these studies show no effect for prayer.)

    I will repeat: Whatever anyone wants to believe IS his or her own choice in life, so long as it doesn’t cause harm to others. Religion has caused a great deal of harm in this world, going back well before the Crusades, but it IS possible to practice religion without causing harm to others if one avoids the many harm-causing ingredients of religion by picking and choosing carefully. Trying to make another person believe he is a sinner and will miss out on eternal life if he doesn’t believe as you do does constitute doing harm to others. But if you want to avoid all that, you can. That’s your choice, too. I wish you well. And I hope that, somewhere along the way, you’ll realize that others who do not believe as you do are not missing out just because you believe they are, and take care not to let religion become a pretext for considering non-theists to be inferior or undeserving human beings. We are simply people who do not believe what you believe.

  19. Wow! This has been a milestone post for Modern Reject. Thank you, Nicole, for dealing with a hot topic that brings out dialogue on an important issue. Thank you, Ray, for being such a thoughtful and articulate advocate from an atheist position which, as you correctly stated, is not well known by most Christians. (I’m not dissing the rest of the respondents, merely acknowledging the two primary proponents.) This has been enlightening for me and for many others, I’m sure.

    I would like to submit my thoughts from a different perspective. I disagree that there is a “War on Christmas.” There is, in fact, a great conflict among competing world views which are mutually incompatible, and the adherents of the various positions adopt varying degrees of militancy in advocating their belief system. Some would prefer to live quietly with their own thoughts, some write blogs, some put on seminars or teach in seminaries, some file lawsuits, some make death threats, and some make war. Islam, Communism/State-ism, and Judeo-Christian world views (among others) compete with one another for supremacy. In the past, Islamic Crusades for world domination were met by Christian Crusades seeking to stop them. In our modern age, Islam and (atheistic) Communism have engaged in mass murder to accomplish their aims, without rebuke from their fellow practitioners. Whenever an individual nut-job commits murder in the name of Judaism or Christianity there is an immediate outcry from within that religion against such an act.

    Throughout history, competing world views have won various battles in this overall war. When I was growing up, militant atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hare successfully battled to have prayer and Bible reading removed from public schools. Until this time, the Bible had been a foundational source of instruction in the United States. Today’s youth are almost entirely biblically illiterate, and teachers around this country are now routinely prohibited from even having a Bible on their desk. Atheism gained a huge victory at the expense of Christianity. And our society has suffered greatly for it, IMHO.

    The place of Christmas in our society is one small battle in this large war. What is Christmas? It is a day arbitrarily chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who willingly left His safe place in His heavenly kingdom to enter into His creation in order to experience life as a human being (so He could empathize with us), to teach us about God and His good desires for our lives (which bring true peace on earth), and ultimately to give Himself over to torture and death as an acceptable substitutionary sacrifice to pay the penalty for people’s sins so that any person may come to God, the righteous judge, as a guiltless adoptee into His family. I say the day is arbitrarily chosen because the actual date of His birth is unknown, and probably actually occurred in summertime instead of winter. Fourth century Christians selected a day that had been associated with a pagan celebration, full of debauchery, focused on the worship of Saturn, a false god. Why December 25? Right or wrong, they thought that they could bring some light into the middle of the darkness of their society. They took the offensive to try to bring civility to an immoral people. (Read about “Saturnalia” if you wish to better understand this vile celebration.)

    Christians have felt for a long time that Christmas is sacred territory they have held, partly because Christian songs have been played on secular radio stations, public displays of nativity scenes were common, and the word “Christmas” has been used extensively throughout our society. But our “ownership” of December 25 is an illusion. It never existed.

    Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25. Those who do not recognize the coming of the Savior of mankind keep on celebrating a pagan holiday, worshipping the god of the materialism world view from around “Black Friday” until the taking of year-end inventories. There will always be pagan holidays and practices and world views coexisting with the Christian world view, and some who are more militant will seek to reduce or extinguish Christianity’s part. In Philadelphia this year, some people decided to complain that the traditional “Christmas Village” had an “offensive” name, resulting in the “offending” signs being taken down by city officials. After a deluge of subsequent complaints, the signs were restored. The tug-of-war continues.

    Christians, do not be surprised that there will always be opposition to your world view. Christmas provides an opportunity to bring your light into a society more focused upon consumerism than upon the spiritual need of their souls to be reunited with their Creator. Be full of the joy of the true message of Christmas instead of depressed by the substitution of Santa as another false pagan god. Your job is to show the love of God to this world that is in darkness. Don’t curse the darkness and those who dwell in it! Jesus came to seek them out and to meet their desperate need. They will be unwilling to listen to you if your attitude is one of defensiveness, belligerence, or condemnation. Love them. Serve them. Listen to them. Pray for them. Love them some more. So many of them have been wounded by people claiming to be Christians, who do not know Christ at all.

    So, Happy Birthday, Jesus (whenever Your birthday was, thank You for coming to save us!), and may the light of loving Christians open up genuine dialogue with those whom we do not know or understand. We may not agree with their –ism, but we need to love the –ist.

  20. Dave, I notice you left out “Christian Fascism” (Hitler was Catholic) in your gallery of evil repressive regimes. Actually, calling Fascism Christian just because the dictator happened to be a Christian is as ridiculous as calling Communism atheistic because Stalin didn’t practice a religion and tried to suppress it in very evil ways.

    You also assert this.

    What is Christmas? It is a day arbitrarily chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who willingly left His safe place in His heavenly kingdom to enter into His creation in order to experience life as a human being (so He could empathize with us), to teach us about God and His good desires for our lives (which bring true peace on earth), and ultimately to give Himself over to torture and death as an acceptable substitutionary sacrifice to pay the penalty for people’s sins so that any person may come to God, the righteous judge, as a guiltless adoptee into His family.

    I would have no problem with that assertion if it were offered as an opinion, simply one opinion among many, about the significance of Christmas. Whether you think of it as the unvarnished truth or your opinion, It deserves no more and no less respect than the opinions of those who say nothing about baby Jesus this time of year, instead telling their children that Santa is coming–people who put all those presents under the tree for their kids and each other and watch all those movies about Santa and his elves and kiss under the mistletoe. Or the people who celebrate at that time of year for the same reasons (having to do with the winter solstice) as the ancients, long before Christianity joined the long panoply of religions various factions of humanity have adhered to over the ages.

    Nicole, one last thing: I truly do wish you well. You and Dave and everyone else who posted here are welcome to your opinions, as I feel sure I am welcome to mine, because we live in America and that is the American way. You wanted to keep this focused on whether there is a war on Christmas. I don’t think it goes too far afield to suggest that those who do not believe Christ was divine or even existed might have trouble understanding how, on an admittedly arbitrary date, the celebration of the birth of someone whose existence, much less divinity, cannot be proven can be “stolen.” That aside, neither I nor any other atheist I have ever known has the slightest interest in interfering with how you and other Christians celebrate Christmas. We simply expect our own non-supernatural views to receive equal respect in the marketplace of ideas.

    You took some pains to point out that you are a Christian first and an American second. I hope you will understand why some of us find that attitude at least potentially alarming. Some are fond of criticizing Islam because in the hands of a few Muslims, their holy book became the justification for an awful act of destruction. As far as that goes, I think it is important for Islam and everyone else to acknowledge that the men who perpetrated 9/11 considered themselves to be the very best of Muslims, acting on their holy texts as they understand them. And in so doing, we should also acknowledge that, according to the Christian holy texts, whole peoples were wiped from the face of the earth in the name of the same God of Abraham that Christians now worship.

    Some would say that accusing atheists of trying to steal Christmas isn’t very Christ-like, but I’m not among them. Jesus himself said, “I am come not to bring peace but to bring a sword. That text (Matthew 10:34) is the start of a passage in which Jesus promises to set mother against daughter, father against son and so on. Some theologians have bent over backwards to try and neutralize these disturbing words and suggest that they mean something else. Other, more militant Christians are beginning to act as if these words are a call to battle, onward Christian soldiers. I would simply say that logic is not the same as theologic and we atheists who are acquainted with the Bible can, perhaps, be forgiven for taking these text at their word. So, sadly, I think Christians who argue that Christmas is theirs alone and others who would claim it for another purpose ought to stifle themselves are simply acting out the promise of Jesus to set people against each other.

    That’s just one reason why some of us might find it unfortunate, even alarming when someone says he or she is a Christian first and an American second. Having been a devout Christian, I’m very well aware of this thinking and how Christians justify it to themselves. I would suggest that, between belief in an invisible deity and commitment to the freedoms of the American Constitution, the true higher calling is supporting the Constitution of the United States. That constitution states that this is a land where people are free to believe in the god of their choice or–equally–to not believe. That freedom is enshrined in the governing law of the land (not the Declaration of Independence but the U.S. Constitution.) Certain evangelical Christians are beginning to try to assert the primacy of their view of Christianity over the principles of separation of church and state enshrined in the Constitution, which is why this smaller controversy over whether atheists are trying to “steal” Christmas and ought to stop it is not trivial. In the earliest days of America, in the Puritan colonies, people could be put in stocks or whipped for some small infraction in keeping the Sabbath. By no means all Christians would wish to return to that sort of theocracy, but it is becoming clear that some would like to institute a new system, betraying the principle of separation of church and state. This false controversy over Christians being “attacked” simply because someone has publicly disagreed with them is a possible first step on that road to theocracy. This is America. It ought to be all right with all of us to disagree with each other. We ought to be able to do that without being characterized as attacking or trying to suppress each other. Which is why Ray and I and others have presented our differing views on your blog. I hope you can join me in hoping that America will always be a place where it’s all right to do that.

  21. Almost forgot: to Dave, Nicole, Ray, and everyone else who posted here, regardless of what Christmas means to you personally, I hope you will have a happy and Joyous and, dare I say, very Merry Christmas today!

  22. If you want to argue that Jesus of Nazareth never existed as a historical person then you’re is simply displaying your ignorance. You can argue as to if he was the Son of God or not, argue about the supernatural aspects of his life, but arguing about the historical character of Jesus is foolish, all the evidence is in favor of his historical existence. I choose to celebrate his birth on 12/25. I have a 1 in 365 chance that it is the correct day and that’s okay.

  23. Dave, if it’s okay with you if you call me ignorant, it’s certainly okay with me. Again, I am not one of those who would say it is “un-Christ-like” of you. If you are not aware of the controversies regarding the actual existence of Jesus (and the striking lack of the sort of evidence that ought to be there if he did, in fact, exist) then nothing I say will change your mind. In the absence of historical proof outside the scriptures, the Bible can no more be used to prove that Jesus existed than my novel, Rulers of Darkness, can be used to prove that there is a medical reality behind the vampire myth. In case you are actually of a mind open enough to look over the evidence, which speaks directly to the supposed mentions of Jesus by Josephus and Tacitus, (the two main sources of non-Biblical reference to Jesus Christians tend to quote) you (or other readers of this blog) can look here and see the argument laid out in full, if you wish:

    In closing, I believe I’ve made it quite clear that I am happy for you to celebrate Christmas however (and, indeed, whenever) you see fit.

    1. Hey Steve,
      I wasn’t sure where you stood on the question of the historical Jesus. I didn’t read all the blogs but I did catch one of yours that said there are “those who do not believe Christ was divine or even existed”. So to be clear, you don’t believe that a historical jesus ever existed? I did read Zindler’s article. So lets examine the manuscript evidence about Josephus first. I hope this is okay with you, and the blog owner, to do this here. I’m not much of a computer person and I can reply slowly between working. All of the greek and Arabic mss from Josephus mention Jesus. The first time Jos. mentions Jesus is in 18:63-64:

      “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” (Greek version)


      “At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon their loyalty to him. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly they believed that he was the Messiah, concerning whom the Prophets have recounted wonders” (Arabic version)

      Jos. again refers to Jesus in 20:200-? about the death of James:

      “And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king, desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrin without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.”

      Mentioning the death of his brother James not only is outside the historical biblical narrative but the manner that he uses is unique to a Jewish position. He also refers to Jesus as the “Christos” so no one will be confused. Dr. L.H. Feldman has said, “few have doubted the genuineness of the passage on James”. So I wonder why would Zindler take this position? What presuppositions would lead someone to take such a stance?

      I know the quotes are long, sorry for that, but they are rather clear.
      Dave V.

  24. If you examine the evidence presented at the web site I listed, you’ll see why these mentions by Josephus were considered rather crude insertions made by someone else later for obvious purposes. As I understand it, basically, Josephus, being a Pharisee, would be very unlikely to take the view found in the manuscript attributed to him, and when one reads the manuscript in the original form, the evidence of an insertion by an unknown later writer is quite clear.

    But I share your misgivings about taking over Nicole’s blog. I did not make my comments about “stealing Christmas” with the idea of debating the existence of Jesus with believers. I thought it would be fairly well known that atheists do not necessarily believe Jesus actually existed. But apparently I was wrong. I’m sorry I inserted it because it was off the point I was trying to make, which is that no atheist I have ever known has the slightest interest in interfering with how any Christian celebrates Christmas, or, indeed, whether he believes in the real existence of Christ. I’m uncomfortable embarking on a long exposition of the evidence against his existence (and the lack of evidence, which should be far more widespread if a man of his importance had actually existed). All I really want to say is that we atheists would like to be seen as people who love our cats, have warm feelings toward our fellow man, and have non-supernatural views about religion that deserve equal respect in the common discourse between citizens. Being accused of trying to steal Christmas is certainly a step in the wrong direction and, speaking for myself, I regret any such charge and do what I can to refute it when I see it cropping up. It is NOT how atheists feel. We simply wish not to be marginalized or even demonized because we do not believe in the existence of a supernatural deity. Perhaps we should leave it at that.

  25. The way that Ray described his Christmas celebrations being an Atheist, is actually the way I believe most “Christians” celebrate it. I do not believe there is a war on Christmas, but I believe it’s already been taken over.

    As believers, I think our celebrations should look different then those that don’t believe, and they sadly aren’t.

    1. Personally, I think that as long tax payer money continues to pour into religious nonprofits, as long as we must swear on a bible for witnessing or as an oath for office, until they remove the word God in the pledge of alegance , as long as the religious vastly outnumber the nonbelievers, I feel that every single time a billboard or protest against the dominance of religion occurs is worth cheering for.

  26. Hm. Okay, let’s be honest:

    Atheists. One second after you die (which will be the exact moment that my Father commands it) you will say, “Oh crap. Jesus IS real!”

    Merry Christmas, indeed.

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