Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Real War on Christmas

There really is a “War on Christmas”, it’s just not what you think.

The “War on Christmas” is simply what religious conservatives call the culture war in late November and December.

The problem for religious conservatives is that it’s less a “War on Christmas” and more about the secular appropriation of Christmas. 

More specifically, it’s about the American culture becoming less religious but keeping the fun Christmas stuff that never really had anything to do with Christianity anyway.

The effects are subtle as far as atheism is concerned, but I think are best shown in this exchange between a Humanist Mother and her Daughter:

Daughter: "I want to be Christian so I can get presents."
Mother: "Christians are Christians because they worship Jesus, not because they get presents. We're Humanists and we give and get presents, too." 
Daughter: "Okay. Yay!" 

For years Christians have tried to use the notion that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” to try and get people to think that if you want to have the fun stuff of Christmas, you have to go along with Christianity.  The problem with that is that it’s absolutely demonstrably false. 

This is why I really love the American Atheist billboard campaign this year.  It points out the uncomfortable truths that many Christians don’t want to face:

All the reasons people really like Christmas have nothing to do with religion or Christianity in general.

  • Presents – Pagan origins in Saturnalia and Yule which died out for some time until it was revived in Victorian England in the 1800’s, eventually becoming the focus of the holiday as we see it today. References: 1 2 3 4
  • Tree/Wreath – Pagan origins in Yule.  This became co-opted as part of Christmas. 
  • Santa – A relatively recent (early 1900’s) blend of a variety of myths and some historical figures. Reference.
These are all cold hard facts about the cherished parts of the holiday, and they have little or nothing to do with Christianity or religion.   Contrary to what Christians will tell you, Jesus isn’t the reason for the season.  The season was around well before Jesus ever showed up, it was just co-opted by Christianity.

What we’re witnessing is the decline in religiosity in American culture, and Christians are panicking as our culture steals back all the fun bits of the holiday that Christians originally stole all those centuries ago.

Not just Speculation

Think this is just a theory? Well it's actually backed up by a study released by the Pew Research Center:
“But a new survey shows that while nine in 10 Americans take part in the holiday that theologically commemorates the birth of Jesus, only about half actually see it as a religious celebration…”
Check out the article and full study, even only two thirds of self-identifying Christians view Christmas as a mostly religious holiday!

It also shows a majority of Americans feel that businesses should greet customers with “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” over “Merry Christmas”.

What’s worse for religious conservatives is that much like the rise of religious “nones” it’s even more pronounced among young people, which means this problem is only going to get worse for them as time goes on. 

For us atheists, this just gives us more reasons to have a Happy Holiday. 

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