The War on Christmas – Santa Monica Edition
Some folks are in a FOX-fueled frenzy already, focusing on a situation in Santa Monica, California. The City Council there has elected to not allow any religious or holiday displays in a park that has hosted a fourteen-part nativity scene for over fifty years, citing the resources necessary to maintain and secure the site (as well as environmental concerns). A religious non-profit organization has attempted to reverse the City Council’s decision but was recently dealt a blow when a Federal judge refused to block the nativity ban.
Many Christians are, of course, livid about this situation and casting the blame on the evil atheists that wish to destroy America. This very vitriolic post, “10 Reasons Atheists Can Go to Hell Over Holiday Decorations Fight,” published on The Stir by its Managing Editor, Cynthia Dermody epitomizes the typical American-Christian misunderstanding of the situation and of atheism in general.
Here are her ten reasons and my responses:
1. You aren’t going to make Christmas or Hanukkah go away. (Bah your separation of church and state argument — we know that’s what the real intention is here.) But it’s never. gonna. happen. NEVER. So deal with it.
First, a straw-man where Dermody claims that the separation of church and state argument is just a front for the “real intention” of atheists; of course this is a completely fallacious statement — most atheists are not trying to make Christmas or Hanukkah go away, we simply want to ensure that the government is adhering to the First Amendment by either a) allowing ALL religious viewpoints equal voice on government-owned property or (more preferably) b) not allowing ANY religious viewpoint to be espoused from government-owned property. On church land or your own private property? Go crazy, have a thousand nativity scenes and giant crosses and menorahs. Just not on public land.
2. You are coming off looking shallow, mean, and spiteful, like the spoiled neighborhood brat who always got pissy when everyone voted to play kickball when they really wanted to play tag. No one ever liked playing with that kid.
Ah yes, anad hominem attack on atheists. Because titling an article, even a rant, “10 Reasons Atheists Can go to Hell” is not mean, spiteful, or pissy.
3. The displays aren’t going to convince someone who isn’t religious to suddenly convert or defect from your ranks. There’s no priest hiding behind the manger with a portable baptismal font ready to christen you unawares. It doesn’t work that way. But if you did decide to join, we would forgive, forget, and accept you with open arms. We’re good like that.
Clearly Dermody doesn’t understand atheism, but this sort of ties back to the straw-man erected in her first point. This is not about some fear that atheists will lose members to the Church and the issue of the religious displays is not some us-versus-them one. Again, it’s about whether or not the government should be sponsoring religious scenes on public property. Period.
4. Many of the past nativity scenes from area churches represented historical scenes from the Bible, such as Joseph and Mary (on a donkey) riding into Bethlehem, or a scene from Herod’s court. Whether you believe Jesus was the messiah or not, many of these events are recorded history.
The veracity of the bible as a historical document is up for debate, at least from an academic point of view, so this point may be moot. Even still, assuming that some of the nativity story’s scenes are completely and wholly factual and accurate, the point has not changed; they being utilized to espouse a particular religious belief and the state should not be involved in such actions.
5. You’re just jealous we get presents and you don’t. Yeah, it sucks to be you this time of year.
You’re right, no atheist ever gets presents, and especially not a Christmas-time. Nor do we ever give presents. Or celebrate Christmas. Come December 25th we hide in our caves, reading our Dawkins and Hitchens, fearful that festive carolers may come and accidentally convert us to Christianity.
6. Your kids might actually enjoy them. Like it or not, your little atheists will probably attend school with other children who are being raised in a faith, whether it’s Jewish or Hindu or Muslim or whatever, and they are going to have questions. This is a very non-threatening way to teach them about this stuff. They need to get used to it sooner or later.
Following this argument along this lines, would you mind if I tell your kids about some of the other well-documented and “historically accurate” creation myths out there? They may rather enjoy some of the Persian stories of creation, or the Native American myths. Hell, they may even find the Quran to be a wonderful and beautiful tale.
7. You’re winning anyway! Atheism is the only “religious category” that’s actually on the rise in the United States — almost all other religions are in decline or staying the same. You know how the coach taught you not to celebrate the goal when you’re already pummelling the other team 10-1? Yeah, like that.
Ah, the poor persecuted Christian angle; yes, atheists are “winning” in that we are showing growth, on whole. But we are still one of the least-trusted minorities in this country and represent small portion of the population. Let’s spin this a different way: Christians represent the vast majority of the country, so you’re really the ones “pummelling” (sic) the other team. Religious believers have churches and temples and mosques throughout this great land and in great numbers, and religion permeates everything from our government policy to our currency. Why do you need to celebrate with displays on public land? Yellowpages.com shows over 1200 churches listed in Santa Monica — can’t one of them display your nativity scene?
8. You don’t have to walk through or drive past this portion of the park. You have the freedom to travel any which way you want so you don’t have to look at anything you don’t want to. Isn’t this country great?
Again, missing the point; it’s not that atheists are some sort of vampiric creatures that cringe at the site religious idolatry. Public land should be hosting religious messaging. You needn’t walk or drive through this portion of the park to see your nativity scene when you can easily put it on private property somewhere, no?
9. People are going to continue to put up displays in their yards. I would if I lived next door to you in Santa Monica. A big old honking one with lights and sounds. And I’d leave it up ’til Easter.
Awesome! Go for it! We fully endorse this plan. On your property, on your land, on your church’s land, put up whatever you like and all the more power to you. We actually have suggested this, on more than one occasion.
10. You are waging this war in Santa Monica, ironically. “Santa” translates to SAINT, by the way. That’s a Christian term in case you didn’t know. I guess that’s next on your list. You better get going, you’ve got a long way to go.
And New York represents a relationship with York in the UK that no longer exists; your point? Besides, we’re not “waging [a] war” we’re simply supporting the United States Constitution instead of a holy text written thousands of years ago. You should try it sometime.
Oh, and for the record, atheists did not ban the nativity scene this year, nor did atheists request that the City Council remove the display. Atheists were not involved in the lawsuit(s) around the ban, and atheists did not vandalize any of the displays in prior years. Just, you know, for the record.