Chris Stedman on the Non-Existent War on Christmas

Chris Stedman was invited on Bill O’Reilly’s show last year to talk about the fake war on on Christmas. He was initially invited back again this year, but instead they brought on the staggeringly moronic Dr. Keith Ablow to psychoanalyze people he’s never met. So Chris decided to write out what he would have said on the show.

But here’s the problem: Because there are so few atheists in this country—only about 2 percent of Americans identify as atheists—most people don’t have many opportunities to meet an atheist. For those people, their perception of atheists and atheism is shaped almost entirely by the media, and what they see is likely to be negative.

We often see negative stories about Christians, too, since so much of our media is driven by stories of conflict. But most Americans are much more likely to know many different kinds of Christians. This means they have more than just conflict-driven media to base their understanding on. Many of these same people, though, may only have seen an atheist on TV—discussing an anti-religious billboard, perhaps.

I’ve only ever been invited to Fox News to talk about the so-called “War on Christmas,” and I’m surely not the only person with this experience. But there are so many other stories they and other networks could be covering.

Why aren’t they reporting on the positive contributions of atheists and agnostics, like the newly launching Humanist Service Corps, the growing number of Humanist communities and campus chaplaincies, or the surge of nonreligious congregations?

A great many atheists show deep compassion as a direct result of their Humanist principles. Many atheists are working to make the atheist community a safer place for people of all backgrounds, and the world a more accepting place for people of all faiths and beliefs. Many atheists are working with people of faith to save our planet, promote justice, and tackle systemic inequities.

I’d love to see Bill O’Reilly invite atheists on to talk about those things, instead of an imaginary “War on Christmas.” Until he does, the “War on Christmas” feels a lot more like a war on the voices of most atheists.

Frankly, I think it’s little more than a marketing slogan. The Christian right is very good at generating false ideas and catchphrases that cause their audience to become afraid and feel persecuted. They do that because that’s how you raise a lot of money. Demagoguery is a powerful way to pry open the wallets of the credulous.

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  • http://zenoferox.blogspot.com/ Zeno

    little more than a marketing slogan

    True. And it works! Bill O’Reilly got my parents to buy a doormat that proudly proclaims, “We say MERRY CHRISTMAS!” Well, BFD and good for you! (Suckers.) Oh, and Happy Holidays!

  • http://mostlyrational.net tacitus

    The only rational response to O’Reilly’s nonsense is to point out that they lost the “War on Christmas” decades ago. Religious observance of Christmas comes a long way down the list of activities in terms of time, effort, and cost, even among the majority of Christian households.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    My wizard had a Wallet of the Credulous, back when I played D&D.

  • raven

    little more than a marketing slogan

    Well, it works.

    I look for the most nonxian End of Year Holidays cards available. And buy them and mail them.

    The ones that say Happy Holidays in metallic foil are almost gone but the new box says Season’s Greetings and has a picture of a snowperson on it.

  • Sastra

    Many atheists are working to make… the world a more accepting place for people of all faiths and beliefs.

    Well, maybe not O’Reilly, but from what I’ve seen the atheists who are actively trying to make the world in general and atheism in particular a “more accepting place for people of all faiths and beliefs” are routinely being wined, dined, fawned over and waved around hopefully by most of the mainstream and more liberal media. Places like Huffington Post practically piss their pants in excitement over the Good News about the Good Atheists.

    Chris Stedman is a fine fellow and makes some excellent points. But I fear I fail his test of standards.

  • Loqi

    If the War on Christmas is nonexistent, then why am I carrying this flamethrower?

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    @Zeno #1:

    O’Reilly’s site used to sell a remarkably ugly bumper sticker with the same slogan (and may still, but I haven’t visited the site in years). I was raised Christian, and in my experience the words “Merry Christmas” were always a sincere wish for a happy holiday season. It never would have occurred to me to wield them as a weapon to browbeat people, but apparently nothing is beyond O’Reilly.

  • raven

    If the War on Christmas is nonexistent, then why am I carrying this flamethrower?

    Good question. It is December 26 and Xmas is over with!!!

    Put it away until the next holiday, the War on Easter.

    I and my Happy Holidays commando group just carry small rectangles of plastic with “Visa” and “Mastercard” written on them and shop a lot and eat too much.

  • matty1

    Dear Mr O’Reilly,

    Please clarify what part of the word merry you don’t get.

    Yours,

    The Atheists

    PS Happy Yule

  • busterggi

    Christians lost the War on Christmas again this year – the commercial version starts in August and continues until New Years Eve when heathen hedomism takes over but the religious version lasts a mere 24 hours (at most) no matter how much Christians claim it should.

  • kantalope

    We had a house in the neighborhood that had the “We Say Merry Christmas” slogan in 4 foot high letters. For some reason every time I drove by I had the urge to put up an addendum sign “and if you don’t you can just Fuck Off!” Since I thought that would better capture the mood.

    Am I wrong in hearing the adamant Merry Christmas peoples tone is to bludgeon others with their message?

  • magistramarla

    Raven,

    “I look for the most nonxian End of Year Holidays cards available.”

    Me too. I currently have three beautiful cards on the mantle. Two came from non-xtian friends and feature three cute kittens and a Santa flying over a town. The third is one that I bought by supporting Dogs for the Blind, which features a German Shepherd that resembles mine lying in the snow surrounded by puppies.

    Our holiday tree is decorated with Star Trek ornaments. It looks pretty through the window and xtian neighbors don’t have a clue how subversive it is.

  • Al Dente

    The War on Christmas™ is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fox News®. It’s a declaration by right wing Christians that other people aren’t celebrating Christmas the way the conservative Christians want it to be celebrated.

  • Nemo

    Accepting the 2% figure for the sake of argument, that’s small, but plenty large enough that most Americans have met atheists, and met them often. They just don’t know it.

  • Anri

    As it turns out, like most other conflicts Fox News deals with, the War on Christmas has Good Guys and Bad Guys. And the Good Guys are a valiant, struggling minority somehow fighting back against overwhelming odds while simultaneously being the clear and obviously right-minded majority being dangerously and treacherously undermined by the lunatic fringe.

    If the Evil Atheists are in fact winning the War on Christmas, what the hell kind of decorations have I been seeing for the past three months? And if they’re losing, why is it a story?

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com tommykey

    I’m thinking of making a bumper sticker that reads “Keep Dad in Felix Navidad”