Since I’m not a theist, then I guess I must be an atheist. Actually, I call myself an atheist, an eclectic atheist.
Several months ago, after I blogged about that, I got a call from the BBC and wound up being on one of their talk shows, the subject of which was “bringing up children to be atheists.” I didn’t do badly, considering there were some very well-known atheist/writers also on the show.
The other day I got a call again from the BBC. This time the subject was “is Christianity retreating.” As fate would have it, as I was supposed to say my piece, my mother appeared at my side, nudging the way a child does for attention. My mind immediately slipped out of gear, and what I said, I think, was entirely off the wall. It must have been because they certainly didn’t ask me to say any more.
But I do have more to say, triggered by my overhearing some staff in my dentist’s office ordering buttons that say “You can wish me a Merry Christmas.”
Oddly enough, an article in the conservative Heritage Foundation’s web site reflects, in a kind of mirror-image way, what I see going on, especially during this Christmas/Holiday season:
But this is about more than Christmas, whose real meaning can certainly get lost in the orgy of gift giving and parties. It is Judeo-Christian culture itself that is under attack as the religious foundation of the Western World, be the example du jour legal challenges to the Ten Commandments on a wall in a courtroom in Alabama, protests against the Pledge of Allegiance with its reference to “one nation under God,” or the banning of religious groups meeting in public schools. The issue of gay marriage became a symbol of these trends in the November presidential election.
In Europe, framers of the new EU constitution, after much debate, agreed to remove Christianity from the preamble. Amazingly, the Archbishop of York this month told the BBC, “I’d be a bit hard pushed to say we were a Christian country.” (Opinion polls actually indicate that 60 percent of the British consider themselves Christians.) A new study, “Muslims and the Future of Europe,” by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, writes that Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe. “The centrality of Islam in the lives of so many European Muslims is hard for increasingly secular Scandinavians, Germans and Frenchmen to understand.”
While the Heritage Foundation article thinks it’s making a case for Christianity somehow being persecuted, it’s actually making a case for why Christianity needs to accept and adjust to it’s lessening role in the religious scheme of things.
Is Christianity retreating? If so, not willingly. It’s retreating because it’s being forced to by current reality; Christians are circling their wagons because they are feeling threatened by the increasing visibility and vociferousness of those who are non-religious or non-Christian. They seem to view the assertiveness of non-Christians as an assault on them rather than an effort of these “others” to finally hold their own space.
With the increasing visibility of Islam comes a painful awareness, on the part of Christians, of the existence of at least one another major religion (besides Judaism, of course).
According to the U.S. Defense Department website: :
Islam is the second-largest religion in the world, counting more than 1.3 billion believers. Americans have the misconception that all Muslims are Arabs and that all Arabs are Muslims. In fact, less than 20 percent of the Muslims in the world are Arab, and all Arab countries have populations that believe in other religions. The nation with the world’s largest Islamic population is Indonesia — 88 percent of its 280 million people are Muslims.
In the United States, Islam is the fastest growing religion, a trend fueled mostly by immigration. There are 5 million to 7 million Muslims in the United States. They make up between 10,000 and 20,000 members of the American military.
So, now it’s Christmas, and Christians are feeling defensive and possessive about their “holy day,” always forgetting, of course, that not only does this winter holiday have ancient non-Christian roots, but also the fact that December 25 is NOT the day that Jesus was born.
Do I wish people Merry Christmas? I sure do. I’m in perfect agreement with the sentimentss posted on this blog, which include the following:
I used to have a very good friend who became an aggressive, in your face Christian. He once told me that an Atheist who celebrated Christmas was hypocritical. I’ve been told that Atheists can’t even CALL the holiday Christmas because they don’t believe in Christ.
Hogwash! Midwinter celebrations existed long before Christ was invented. The midwinter Solstice, the shortest day of the year was seen as significant. The Roman festival of Saturnalia was celebrated before the birth of Christ. Christmas symbols are older than the supposed birth of Christ. Gathering together with friends, over food and gifts is a tradition that precedes Christmas.
And why shouldn’t I call this holiday Christmas? Just because I do call it Christmas doesn’t mean I’m being hypocritical, any more than I would be in naming the days of the week.
Wait, you didn’t know? Every day of the week is named after a different God.
In order, they are: Mani – Moon God, Tyr – War God, Woden – aka Odin, Thor – Thunder God, Fringe – God of Beauty (and 5 ‘o Clock Friday IS beautiful!), Saturn – God who ate his children, and Sunna – a Sun Goddess.
The current “War Against Christmas” rhetoric by those few on the loudly squawking right is working against the best interests of Christians. And it is definitely undermining the spirit of Christmas.
I trust that any non-believer would whole-heartedly support the true spirit of Christmas – “Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward all.” A very worthy, human sentiment.
May your Christmas be merry – what ever that means to you.
You can wish me a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Merry Yule, Happy Solstice, or any other greeting that reflects your own wishes for Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward All. And I will offer the same wishes in return