When I grew up merchants and advertisers respected non-Christian customers by using Xmas instead of Christmas. Today, Xmas has been replaced by “the holidays.” That’s the spirit in which I use the word, to acknowledge the fact that, in the words of President Obama, “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers.”
Christmas itself, the Christian holiday, is of course Christmas, but it’s one of many holidays grouped around the end of the year, almost all of them with their roots in ancient pagan celebrations. An intolerant segment of the American population would like nothing more than to force non-Christians to use the word Christmas, and even to call the holiday season itself Christmas. To call the holiday season “the holidays,” they say, is making war on Christmas. This time of year right-wing news outlets love to push the meme. Here’s a great example from Tuesday’s Arizona Star:
The story, as you might guess from the headline, flogs the “poor persecuted Christians (most despised minority in America)” narrative so popular at this time of year. It also fans fears of militant atheism. Why before you know it, Obama will be forcing Christian families to marry off their daughters to atheists at mass weddings held in Occupy encampments!
I cringe at stories like these, not so much because they’re cultural propaganda aimed at an uneducated audience, but because there’s usually a small kernel of truth in them. Organized groups of atheists and freethinkers probably are taking advantage of municipal freedom of religion ordinances to advance their message.
Christians of a certain stripe … the kind who would happily impose their own version of sharia law upon their fellow Americans … hate atheists more than they hate Jews, even more than they hate Muslims. And the atheists they hate most of all are smart-ass atheists who go out of their way to challenge religious belief. Those are the atheists this story is about.
I’m honest about my atheism, but not militant about it. I think all intelligent people have doubts, and I don’t need to needle them about it. According to what I read in the papers and magazines, more and more of us are abandoning religion. That’s not happening because organized groups of in-your-face atheists are putting up Happy Solstice billboards. It’s happening because we’re literate and educated. It’s happening because we have access to information at heretofore-unprecedented levels.
I don’t think you can advance that clock by insulting the evangelicals. I don’t think the evangelicals can push that clock back, either. Just let it be, people. And meanwhile, happy holidays!
Since it is the holiday season, it’s time to start working on the annual Woodford letter to friends and relatives. Until last year or the year before we always sent our letter by post, printed on non-denominational holiday stationary. Then we switched to email, sending printed letters only to the few people we know who aren’t on line. Conventional people that we are, we felt a twinge of guilt over the change, even though for practical purposes an email is just as much a letter as one sent by snail mail.
I mention this because we got a lovely snail mail card and letter from some old friends yesterday, announcing the fact that starting next year they’re switching to email too. Gee, we never made an announcement, we just did it. Perhaps if we’d given everyone a year’s notice, we’d have felt better about it?
What’s up with this weather, Tucson? First it gets cold, really cold. Then it rains steadily for two days. Then it snows in the mountains and the snow doesn’t melt as soon as the sun comes out. Are we going to start having seasons now?
Here’s a nice photo to add to today’s holiday bag. From our house the lower ridges of the Santa Catalina Mountains obscure the higher peaks, except for gaps here and there. One of those gaps is called Gunsight Pass:
© 2011, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.