Who’s really responsible for the war on Christmas?

Tis the season when a lot of people get uptight over those who say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

Their thinking (I think) is that those who say Happy Holidays are doing so because they’re evil non-believers who hate Christmas, Jesus and/or Christians.

We hear every year that there’s a war on Christmas. And it’s common to hear that it’s the atheists who are perpetrating said war.

Even Donald Trump said at a rally, that we can start saying Merry Christmas again, to much applause.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s always been safe for people to say Merry Christmas. I hear it every year and never once have I chided anyone for saying it, much in the same way I don’t get my undies in a bunch when someone says god bless you after a sneeze.

Actually, that one does bother me because I think it’s wrong to single out that sole bodily function for comment. I mean, no one bothers to acknowledge my coughs, my burps or my farts, which, if we’re being honest, could use a blessing especially after I’ve eaten cheese.

But I digress.

It’s true that Christianity has dominated the public square for a long, long time. It’s only recently that people started to wake up to the fact that America is a diverse country with many beliefs and traditions. Many people who who hold agnostic or of other beliefs celebrate Christmas. One could argue that Christmas is a Christian holiday, and that if you’re not Christian, then don’t celebrate it. One could also argue that if you’re not Jewish or Muslim, then you don’t have to participate in their holidays either.

The problem with that, as I see it, is that Christmas is – for better or worse – embedded in American culture. Just turn on the TV anytime after Thanksgiving and you’ll see commercial after commercial offering Christmas sales. And speaking of TV, how many Christmas specials run between Thanksgiving and December 25th? I mean, we literally have a channel that runs a movie called A Christmas Story for a full, god-damned 24-hours. And can you imagine the kind of shit a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa gets at school?

And because it’s so commercialized, companies want to maximize the number of people celebrating the holiday because it means more dollars into their coffers. This is why you’ll see stores saying Happy Holidays, and advertising Holiday Specials rather than Christmas specials.

It’s really not about those evil atheists hating on Jesus. It’s totally about the companies trying to get as many people shopping in their stores as they can.

True, there are plenty of secular organizations who complain when a nativity scene is on public property.  Some, such as the Satanic Temple, call for an inclusive approach. If you get your nativity scene, then they get their satanic display. That seems fair. That might be what some Christians see as the war on Christmas, but frankly, the time for keeping religious displays on private property and church property is long overdue.

Whether the Christians like it or not, Christmas is everyone’s holiday now, and that’s not the fault of the atheists. That’s the fault of the corporations and the consumer culture.

I can’t speak for all atheists, but I don’t want to destroy Christmas. I’m not on a crusade to ban Santa, nativity scenes, yule logs or any of the trappings. And I’m not opposed to anyone saying Merry Christmas.

So, this Christmas season, say whatever the hell you want. And next time someone tells you that it’s the atheists who are waging a war on Christmas, you can tell them that, no, it’s the corporations – and they won that war a long time ago.

Atheist holiday billboards taken down

2016-billboard-2

Billboards put up by American Atheists in Monroe, Louisiana, urging people to skip church this Christmas season were taken down only two hours after being put up, after residents complained according to KNOE 8 News.

As usual, Christians got their undies in a knot for someone daring to put forth a different viewpoint.

One resident said

“I praise God that there was so much stirred up about it that it was taken down.”

Blech.

Seriously, if God was so offended, why didn’t he stop the billboards from going up in the first place?

To be fair, it is the Bible Belt, and there probably isn’t a diversity of opinion. Still, the message isn’t offensive and, if these people’s faith can’t stand up to something as innocuous as suggesting that people skip church, then it isn’t much of a faith, is it?

Nick Fish, program director for American Atheists said,

“They need to get over themselves and realize this is a country with a lot of viewpoints, and they’re not the only ones with a view on this.”

Agreed.

Donald Trump’s Christian problem

To me, there are so many red flags regarding the incoming Trump administration that it’s tough to pick one over which to freak out.

One issue that isn’t going to get a lot of coverage in mainstream media is Trump’s Christian problem.

Andy by Christian problem, I don’t mean Trump himself. I read more than a few people who say he’s actually an atheist or at least doesn’t care much about religion. And to be fair, it does seem that Trump worships himself first, (which might make him a Satanist if anything) and money second.

My worry stems from the fact that Trump has little if any experience in governing. I think he’s going to rely more on advisors and people in his cabinet for the nuts and bolts of his administration’s policies, than have past presidents. This is where the Christian problem comes into the picture.

I think by now, we’re all aware of Mike Pence’s stance on religion, but if not, he’s described as a born again evangelical Catholic, whatever the hell that is.

And much like the pervert who can’t keep it in his pants, evangelicals have a tough time keeping their religion to themselves.

Which brings us to Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Education – billionaire Christian, Betsy DeVos.

DeVos is a Calvinist, who, depending on which side of the bed Pence gets out of on a particular morning, may or may not be going to hell.

According to an article via POLITICO, DeVos, said that she wants to reform the whole education system to bring “greater Kingdom gain,” which is evangelical-speak for, “we want to teach your kids about Jesus.”

She went on to say,

The church — which ought to be in our view far more central to the life of the community — has been displaced by the public school as the center for activity, the center for what goes on in the community.

It is certainly our hope that churches would continue, no matter what the environment — whether there’s government funding some day through tax credits, or vouchers, or some other mechanism or whatever it may be — that more and more churches will get more and more active and engaged in education,” he said. “We just can think of no better way to rebuild our families and our communities.

To be fair, DeVos hasn’t come out and said that she wants to introduce a Jesus-focused curriculum into the public school system. That could be because those pesky founding fathers had some goofy ideas about keeping church and state separate. However, what she does want is to make it easier for people to send their kids to private schools where they can get a “higher quality education”, which may or may not include Jesus. Spoiler alert: it includes Jesus.

This is exactly the kind of thing that has me worried about what’s coming down the road. My gut tells me that Trump has a few big ideas of what he wants to accomplish as president – an overall picture if you will – and I think most of it is on the economic front. Think, bringing back jobs and making America great.

Trump probably doesn’t care much personally about “christianizing” the schools or our country, but I think there’s plenty in his administration who do. And if DeVos says that Jesus will help make America great again, then that’s probably good enough for Trump.

And make no mistake, he’ll have plenty of support on this front, too. I hear plenty of people, and read plenty of letters in the papers saying that what’s needed is for America to “get back to god.”

I keep hearing people say that we need to give this administration a chance, and to be sure, I have no choice. This is what we have, and most of us are going to have to sit back and watch the show.

If you haven’t done so, now might be a good time to donate to one of the many organizations who will take up the fight to keep church and state separate and who will fight for a secular government, because I think we’re going to need it now more than ever.

Oink.

Why religion needs warning labels

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but religion is not a victimless crime.

Every year thousands of people die as a result of religious practices and beliefs; a lot of them children. It’s such an epidemic that I think it’s time for religion to come with warning labels.

I’m not kidding.

We should regulate religion like cigarettes or alcohol. Don’t feed it to children, and slap a warning label across every book of “Holy Scripture” that reads: Warning! This can damage your mental and/or physical health, and it can cause you to harm others.

Other warnings can include:
This religion may cause depression, anxiety, a sense of fear, and feelings of self righteousness and superiority.
It may cause delusions.
It may block those things in your brain that help you understand facts and data.
It may cause false hope.
It may stop you from getting that thing checked out by a doctor.

Okay, maybe you think that warning labels are a bit excessive. Well, then, how about we try recommendation labels?

It’s recommended that you take this religion with a bucket of salt.
It’s recommended that you demand proof for every claim made by this religion before believing. (It’s recommended that you seek that proof from someone other than your priest, pastor, rabbi or imam.)
It’s recommended that you view religion as a collection of myths and fables written by people with extremely limited understanding of the world and how it worked.
It’s recommended to keep it out of the reach of children.
It’s recommended that you have that thing checked out by a doctor.

And lastly, and most importantly, it’s recommended that if you view Jesus as your co-pilot, you don’t let him take the wheel.

The Fresh Taste of Crow in the Morning

Disclaimer: I am not smart. I am not well-educated, well-read, erudite or well-spoken. As much as it is an embarrassment to admit these things, I do so, so that everyone take my utterances with a large amount of salt. And whenever you read something that makes you shake your head, please refer to this paragraph.

So American held an election, and to call the results a little polarizing is like calling space a little ‘out there’.

The election of Donald Trump, and the election cycle that preceded it, brought to the surface tensions and hostilities brewing in this country for years.

As with all things polarizing, when things break one way or another, the inevitable finger pointing starts, and this was the case over the last few days. Twitter and Facebook became battlegrounds with people hurling vituperations like pitching machines gone haywire. Full disclosure: I’m guilty of being quite the asshole on Twitter, which I realize is ironic given the above sentence. Hypocrite, thy name is Wisnton.

So what’s this got to do with atheism? Everything.

The divide in the atheist community is reflective of the divide in America. As Martin Hughes over at Barrier Breaker pointed out

“We’re really starting to hate each other, which leads to us attacking each other more, which leads to the atheist movement becoming less and less about attacking religion, and more and more about whether you’re a social justice advocate or an anti-SJW in the atheist arena.”

I don’t want to get into the whole SJW vs Anti-SJW argument here, other than to say it’s one of the core issues that’s separating us as a community and as a country. I, being the non-smart person that I am, have no answers on how to fix this, and it seems we’re destined to travel on opposite paths at least for the time being.

The point is that people who advocate for a secular government are now looking to the future with a sense of dread. True, Trump isn’t an overly religious person – hell, some even speculate that he’s a non-believer. Mike Pence, however, is every bit the Christian, and rumors are that he’s going to be very influential in the Trump administration. I think this, combined with such a decisive victory, emboldened the religious right. Progressive ideas, of which secularism is one, is out of fashion in America today.

I’m a terrible soothsayer. I foresaw Clinton sweeping the country in a landslide. More than a few people said – people whom I mocked and derided – that I was wrong, way wrong. I was. Way wrong.

I don’t know if the atheist community will come together in light of this turn of events; somehow, I think not, but I’m going to try and make an effort. My goal is to be less vocal about politics and more vocal about church and state issues.

Lastly, I do hate the taste of crow, but eating it can often be good for you, I’m told.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to weigh in.

Pope gives sacrament to cancer patient

Religion News is reporting that Pope Francis recently gave the sacrament of confirmation to a Sicilian teenager suffering from cancer. The 16 year old boy, Giuseppe Chiolo, met with the pontiff at the Vatican where he received the sacrament.

Pope Francis is praised by many for being sensitive to the needs of the sick and disabled. He offered criticism at a mass in June of those who try to marginalize those who cannot “live the lifestyle held up by the culture of pleasure and entertainment.”

He added:

“In an age when care for one’s body has become an obsession and a big business, anything imperfect has to be hidden away, since it threatens the happiness and serenity of the privileged few and endangers the dominant model.”

While meeting with Giuseppe, he offered words of comfort to his parents and other relatives who accompanied the boy. In addition, Francis also met with a girl who suffers from paralysis from a gunshot wound.

No word as yet if His Holiness, or the recently canonized Mother Teresa, were able to conjure up a miracle of healing to cure any of these people, but the Vegas odds of that happening don’t look good.

The outrage on social media

I read a post recently over at Atheist Revolution in which the author wrote of how he’d decided to stop watching cable news back in December. He noted how this decision led him to feel less angry and he wondered if limiting his intake of social media might also be a benefit to his mood and wellbeing.

This got me to thinking about how angry people seem these days.  I wondered how much of a role social media plays, if any.

The reason I ask is because I recently had a conversation at a coffee shop with the owners where we discussed the election and politics in general. And, although we disagreed on a few points, it was a pleasant conversation. I listened to what they had to say, and learned some things that I’d never considered before.

Driving home I wondered, if this conversation had taken place on Facebook or in the comments section of a website, how soon would it have devolved into name calling and blocking? Probably pretty quickly.

And it’s not just politics that get us riled up either. If you were to go onto virtually any website that allow comments, you’ll find people becoming obnoxious rather quickly regardless of the topic.
Which makes me wonder whether our true nature is one that is combative and nasty or if the relative safety and anonymity of the Internet creates an environment of intolerance to different viewpoints and opinions.

As a side note, I realize the irony of this post seeing as how Winston can be acerbic and rude on social media.

In my personal life, I’ve removed myself from Facebook because there are more posts now that look to illicit a response. I see posts about religion, politics, guns, more religion, anti Obama, etc. And I know that were I to engage any of these people, it would only be a matter of time before the gloves came off, and the block party started.

So I put it to the readers: Are we humans nothing more than anger bombs waiting to go off or has social media caused us to become more isolated and tribal?

Does social media play a role in our being less tolerant of other opinions and views?