Why atheists should quit the ‘War on Christmas’

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The “War on Christmas:”  what — or who—is it good for?

In recent years, one organization, American Atheists, has claimed the mantle of prime atheist promoter of the tired “War on Christmas” narrative.

This year, they ushered in the season with an electronic billboard in New York City’s Times Square carrying the message: “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody.” The word "Christ" is crossed out, just in case their message wasn't clear enough.

The American Atheists maintain that their latest entry in the annual “War on Christmas” saga is a message to other atheists that they are not alone.

In a recent Fox News appearance, American Atheists President Dave Silverman said, “The point that we’re trying to make is that there’s a whole bunch of people out there for whom religion is the worst part of Christmas, but they go to church anyways, and we’re here to tell them they don’t have to.”

While that intention is important and admirable, very few people—atheist or theist—seem to interpret the message as welcoming to anyone. Many of the responses I’ve seen have been vitriolic and disturbingly anti-atheist.

Written By: Chris Stedman
continue to source article at religion.blogs.cnn.com

24 COMMENTS

  1. @OP link – Many atheists, myself included, suspect that there are more effective approaches to tackling these important issues.

    Ah! the apologetics – lets do a “superior” unspecified “something else” argument.

    To start, atheists can build positive relationships with believers to humanize our communities and educate one another about our differences.

    That is what the billboards are doing! A midwinter festival is for everyone. It does not need to be monopolised by one insistent group.

    That’s something that billboards, for all of their flash and fundraising capabilities, likely won’t accomplish.

    Paying for billboards is fund-raising???? Really???? That sounds like an accommodationist using faith-thinking!

    Atheists face real marginalization in the U.S., and it should be robustly challenged.

    Yep! That’s the challenge the billboards present.

    But we also have good tidings and great joy to offer

    Strange he has nothing new to say about these!

    —important contributions to the public square that are currently being drowned out by attention-grabbing billboards claiming “nobody” needs Christ in Christmas.

    Oh dear – backwards thinking for the most part. There may be a few of the god-deluded who need to pander to their addiction, but most can have a good solstice party without supernatural myths or mythical fake birthdays.

    In the spirit of generosity, compassion, and kindness so often associated with this time of year,

    That would be the “generosity and kindness” of making up silly claims about “wars on Xmas”, as the obsessional claim their “right” to stuff their delusions down everyone’s neck, and then play the martyr when some object.

    Don’t apologists love false dichotomies pretending theists have a monopoly of “generosity, compassion, and kindness”, and that these disappear in the absence of dominating woo!

    let’s ditch the billboards and build relationships of goodwill.

    Why not? Let’s ditch the hypocrisy and false dichotomies as well. Lets do a deal. When the churches all over the country or the world take down their hundreds of billboards, these ones can go too.

    In the meantime, let the atheist billboards tell those who insist they have a monopoly of billboard messages they don’t!

  2. Putting up billboards is such a tiny voice for atheism, but seems to get a boost factor by the notice from the religious recoil. In this case I am not so happy with the messaging, but do think we should keep making our claim to the secular holiday part of Christmas. I would not cross out “Christ” (although that has a certain ‘ring’ to it) because that gives too much reality to something I see as mythical (the deification of dead Jesus) adding to the “hating God” trope that the religious fling at us.

  3. The billboards are part of the noisy fringe. Fringe can be pretty – and important. It’s not usually my style, but I don’t see the need to cut it off. There can be, and are, multiple approaches to change.

  4. The sign is logically incorrect. Obviously there are Christians who feel that they DO need Christ at Christmas, so you can’t say NOBODY does. The sign goes on to say that you can enjoy Christmas without Christ, but believers strive for an experience beyond that of mere holiday pleasures, so the sign just begs the question. Besides, if asked to explain Christmas to a child, even I would need Christ for an explanation. I don’t need Christ at Christmas, but I also don’t need to dramatically cross him out either, so the sign is a little confusing even for me.

    Secondly, I think the sign strikes the wrong tone, especially during the beloved holiday season. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I care terribly about hurt feelings (believers rarely care about ours), but clearly part of the reason for these billboards is politics, and as far as that goes, I don’t think this is politically smart, nor is it good marketing. I’m sure that believers look at this sign and think, “CHRISTmas comes from Christ. These atheists are idiots. If they can enjoy Christmas without him, fine, but they shouldn’t be telling us how to celebrate OUR holiday.” AA claims the believers are not the target audience, but the sign doesn’t give that impression. There is already a negative stereotype of atheists, and I think it’s smarter not to play directly into that narrative. Since the sign seems to represent all atheists to the ignorant public, it effects how all of us may be perceived, and I, for one, am not that thrilled with this representation.

    On the other hand, so what? I’m not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. AA can do whatever it wants with its money and this sign is probably not that big a deal. True, this forces FOX to deviate from their rabid anti-Obama programming to do hit pieces on the atheists, but then the folks who watch FOX wouldn’t vote for us anyway. On the plus side, it’s good to have some presence. Perhaps this is the atheist version of “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.”

  5. You have to remember that these billboards are designed to get a reaction from the religious in order to obtain lots of free publicity. David Silverman has been invited onto several shows to discuss the billboard. There have been several articles featuring the billboard. It’s called smart marketing.

  6. Another piece from Chris “Quisling” Stedman telling us to bend over and take whatever the faith heads say about or do to us, no matter how stupid or egregious, just so we don’t hurt their precious feelings. He clearly loves religion so much, I don’t see why he doesn’t just wear a white collar and get it over with.

    Recall the term “Uncle Tom” used for the “House Negroes” in the pre-Civil War South, who sided with their white masters against the other slaves in exchange for privileges. Is there an equivalent label to give to a collaborating atheist like Stedman? If not we should come up with one.

  7. Here is the website of Harvard Humanists:

    http://harvardhumanist.org/

    An excerpt from it:

    Vision Statement
    Globally:

    Humanist groups gathering anywhere will have a model and a stimulus for growth according to best practices.

    The Humanist movement will have a network of high-functioning local organizations that will generate new members, advocates, and supporters for national organizations such as the American Humanist Association, Secular Coalition for America, Foundation Beyond Belief, and Secular Student Alliance.

    Around the world Humanism will be represented by thriving communities, bringing together people of like minds to share views and serve others. These communities will help religious and nonreligious people alike to understand that Humanism is an ancient, evolving tradition with importance equal to that of the world’s major worldview traditions.

    Locally:

    Where you live: There will be a community center where you can come to meet new friends, learn about Humanism, build a better world, raise a Humanist family, and be a better person.

    At Harvard: Secular students at Harvard and beyond will develop as ethical, compassionate, fulfilled individuals, inspired by Humanist values and by connection with a community and movement of Humanist peers.

    I live a few miles from Harvard and I’ve kept an eye on this group for some years now. They have just acquired a new larger meeting space in Harvard Square and from what I can gather, their membership has grown steadily. They have organized events with religious groups for charitable work in the past. I think the group serves some people who may have eased out of their traditional religions but who don’t want to give up meeting as a group and organizing themselves through the group to participate in charity work and engage in this mindfulness/meditation type behavior, and hearing the various speakers they bring to the meeting place.

    I am interested in how people self identify and what emphasis they give to any aspect of life as a free thinker. I’ve hung out with people who self identify as humanists, skeptics and atheists and they seem to give different emphasis to various things.

    I’m not sure if there is any data out there on this so I’m just speculating here, but it seems like the humanists put good solid emphasis on ethics which is something that I embrace very much. I find myself accessing that material from them when I need it. However, the mindfulness-meditation stuff and their out reach to work with religionists is grating on my nerves and I can’t ever deal with that. Perhaps it’s because It took me my teens and part of my twenties to extricate myself from the Methodist church and now I can’t stomach dealing with theists anymore, no matter if it is for a good cause or not. Perhaps those Atheists amongst us who were not brought up in a religion in the first place can be more patient and accommodating than I am. I identify as Atheist first and foremost and I guess I’m just too hard core to mix well with Humanists. This is all why Chris Stedman sounds like an accommodationist in this article, as Alan4discussion has explained in the first comment here. For more information google Greg Epstein as well because Epstein is the Humanist Chaplain at this same Humanist group.

    I’ve attended a meeting of the Harvard Skeptics book club and will be going to their next meeting in January to discuss Pinker’s book Better Angels of Our Nature. The Skeptics are another interesting group and I’m getting used to hanging out with them. I found it interesting to discuss a book with them in a “skeptical way” . It’s strange for me to approach any book with such a strong skeptical filter as they do. Certainly I’m proficient with my skills in that way and that’s how I ended up being an Atheist in the first place, but if I spend more time with the skeptics they will certainly toughen me up in that way and it’s a good thing.

    Even though I very much like to access the Humanists and the Skeptics in their own groups, somehow I feel like the Atheist groups are my best fit although I’m enjoying the overlap that certainly exists between all of us that live under the freethought umbrella.

  8. Stedman seems to forget where he is writing ! Everything’s brash in America ! In yer face ! Compared with what ever other signs there are in Times Square, and I know there are many, this AA sign is a piss in the ocean. Like others, I don’t particularly like the sign, but if it’s annoying the sensibilities of the overly sensitive religios, then it’s doing a good job !

    Come on, pretty much anything that gets Bill O’Reilly into a lather has to be good news !

    I write from relatively religion free London, where not a single carol singing session has reared its head in my district. Around here Jesus creeps from shadow to shadow. Allah, of course, is nowhere to be seen !

    • In reply to #8 by Mr DArcy:

      Around here Jesus creeps from shadow to shadow. >

      Much the same Downunder. Only fleeting references to Jesus and the only babies in cribs adorn the houses of those from a Mediterranean background. The sign is a very bold statement, but in keeping with the brash signs advertising Christianity.

  9. The atheist billboard is mistaken in leaving out Baby Jesus altogether. He has a place in the background to the holiday. Bring back Jesus. Don’t let’s throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    • In reply to #9 by aldous:

      The atheist billboard is mistaken in leaving out Baby Jesus altogether. He has a place in the background to the holiday. Bring back Jesus. Don’t let’s throw out the baby with the bathwater.

      I agree. Jesus of Nazareth probably was a real person, who had some good teachings. But there is no evidence that he was supernatural or divine in any way.

    • In reply to #9 by aldous:

      The atheist billboard is mistaken in leaving out Baby Jesus altogether. He has a place in the background to the holiday. Bring back Jesus. Don’t let’s throw out the baby with the bathwater.

      LOL, I got a laugh at the “baby with the bathwater” remark. It’s somewhat literal in this case.

  10. fuck the “war” on christmas, they’re the ones firing all the the shots … its THEIR fucking “war”…

    there, thats my christmas rant for the year, i’m done… i need to do dishes… >:|

  11. American Atheists are giving us all a bad name with these ridiculous, strident billboards. What do they remind me of…?

    Ah, yes. Preaching. Evangelism. Converting the heretics. That sort of thing.

    Get a life – and leave others to live their lives. Most of the world enjoys Christmas, and is perfectly content to call it Christmas. I don’t care why some people go to church at Christmas, Mr Silverman. I went myself last night, to a carol service. Because my girlfriend is a talented soprano and was singing. Today I shall “do” Christmas with my kids.

    The word Christmas will be used a lot, I don’t give a fuck about “happy holidays”, and I think people who want to Bowdlerise Christmas in that way are really just a little bit sad and need to find something better to do with their lives.

    Merry Christmas everyone.

  12. I think it really should be left alone, in time if things continue on, we’ll win over the majority of people by pure rational choice, if they’re bullied they’ll hold onto the teddy bear longer, in he future, violently if need be. At least that’s how I see it when people are having their beliefs held up as stupid to them, no matter how goddamn dumb they are.

  13. For those saying that American Atheists should shut up, remember that the USA is GOVERNED by Christianity despite our Constitution saying differently. Our last President consulted with a “higher father” before dropping bombs on Baghdad. When that war started people all came together in support of the war and Christianity was the glue that bound them together. I’ll shut up when “god” stops interfering with our politics and stops causing wars.

    • In reply to #20 by matt1162:

      For those saying that American Atheists should shut up, remember that the USA is GOVERNED by Christianity despite our Constitution saying differently.

      America is possibly the most Christian nation on earth, but at least it has a secular Constitution.

      You would not have 26 unelected bishops chosen by an established church in the Senate with full voting rights, would you? We do, in Britain. How about a legal requirement for every school to conduct a daily act of worship of a broadly Christian character? Yep, we’ve got that too. And our head of state (also unelected) must by law be an Anglican.

      But I still thinking trying to take the Christ out of Christmas is a wholly counter-productive way of challenging these issues.

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