Do Christmas Trees Make You Feel Uncomfortable?

American Atheists’ president Dave Silverman was back on Fox News Channel yesterday — this time, alongside the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue — to talk about a study which claims that Christmas trees in the workplace make some people feel excluded.

Somehow, Hitler gets worked into the argument at the end of the clip…

Donohue’s suggests that anyone offended by the tree can 1) get over it, 2) move to another country, 3) convert to Catholicism, or 4) enter an asylum.

Dave, who impresses me more with each media appearance, states the obvious: A workplace ought to be secular — a place where everyone, regardless of faith background, can come together to just get work done. Adding a Christmas tree — or even an atheist plaque — is just asking for division and exclusion.

Side note: Donohue made this appalling remark around the 3:30 mark:

“I got a lot of Jewish friends, I just talked to one of my friends here half an hour ago. Everybody celebrates Christmas…”

I was shocked.

Who knew Bill Donohue had friends?!

  • Jeff

    I’d have thought he’d have succumbed to apoplexy by now.

    One can only hope…

  • HumanistDad

    Donohue: “Look, if you find it offensive, just convert to Catholicism!”

    I threw up in my mouth a little. What fascist, totalitarian dictator hasn’t said some version of that before torturing and killing people?

  • http://atheos-godless.blogspot.com Barry

    It would have been nice if they’d actually let Silverman finish a few sentences.

  • Claudia

    OK, so I have to admit that the notion that you could feel excluded exclusively because of the presence of a Christmas tree seems a little alien to me. I mean a manger scene I could get, but even though we call it a Christmas tree, the thing is so far removed from the religious aspect of Christmas that treating it like a religious symbol seems a bit silly.

    I think it’s a lot more likely that some people with Christmas trees in their workplace feel excluded because their co-workers also go on and on about it being CHRISTmas and take advantage of the festival to be even more overtly pious and judgemental of the heathens.

    I’m writing this in my lab. Over my shoulder above the laminar flow hood, there’s a sparkly decoration with a little snowman attached. At the entrance to the centre there’s a small brightly decorated Christmas tree. Some people even make manger scenes out of lab materials (nowhere near that creative, in most cases). I think that at least 70% of the folks at my centre are atheists outright and fewer than 10% are actually Christians in any real sense. It’s about the company you keep, not the decorations around you, IMO.

  • foss4us

    I’m personally not offended by decorated evergreens. I think they’re pretty and help to brighten up the otherwise drab urban winter landscape. Christianity doesn’t own this tradition any more so than Judaism owns the display of candles.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    It’s not a Christian symbol to begin with, regardless of how some folks now may take it.
    I have a hardcore Muslim aunt who has done the Hajj three times and she puts up a Christmas tree in her home.
    I had a Jewish boss (an observing, practicing Jew)that gave every employee (200 plus) a turkey, a Christmas card and a cash bonus for Christmas. Both the headquarters and the manufacturing facility were decorated tastefully for the holidays, including several Christmas trees.
    If employers want to put up Christmas trees, they have that right. If some employees feel excluded, they need to grow thicker skins and grow up.
    A Christmas tree is only a problem if you make it a problem and it is not going to make me uncomfortable unless someone tries to shove it in my ass.

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com/ Transplanted Lawyer

    I’m not offended by, and do not feel excluded by, the display of Christmas trees.

    On private property.

    When the government displays them, that’s different.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I like Christmas trees and no right wing fruit cake will force me to associate a Yule symbol with their silly imaginary friend.

  • RiftchaserMej

    “. . . dumb down Christmas so that these people who believe in absolutely nothing . . .”

    I enjoyed listening to Donohue say this as if non-belief was a terrible crime.

  • Christopher

    Nativities I would call divisive, crosses and crucifixes I would call divisive, but Christmas trees? Are they really such a big deal. There’s not a more secular symbol of Christmas than Christmas trees, and if Dave Silverman sees the ultimate secularization of Christmas as inevitable, then he should embrace the secular aspects that exist in the holiday.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    I’m offended that Christians put up pagan trees and decorate them with gold and silver in direct violation of their biblical rules.

  • ihedenius

    Do Christmas Trees Make You Feel Uncomfortable?

    Absolutely not. It’s pagan. Renown and certified grinch Tom Flynn (“The Trouble With Christmas”) says the only pure christian addition to xmas is the Midnight Mass. Everything else is at least partly pagan.

    I guess it can depend on the ‘environment’. If the tree gets heavily invested with Jebus in a community then it can become the object of contention.

    Nothing wrong with a tradition of throwing a party at the darkest day of the year. But if and then it becomes about power, thats different.

  • phira

    Christmas trees do make me feel uncomfortable. Insisting that because the trees were originally a pagan symbol and therefore aren’t alienating for non-Christians is sort of like insisting that because the Nazi party appropriated the swastika, it’s not offensive. It’s ignoring context.

    I grew up in a Jewish family and am still a somewhat practicing Jew, as well as an atheist.* Christmas has always made me feel extremely alienated, even more so in recent years now that I have the language to explain those feelings. Every year, Christmas is a very, very strong reminder that I am not a normal, regular American, that I ruin people’s fun, and that I should just celebrate anyway because it’s practically a secular holiday, etc. etc.

    Christmas trees are just one of many symbols of Christmas. And they’re alienating for me.

    * I hope I don’t have to explain again how it’s possible to be a Jewish atheist.

  • Lauren

    I have a tree in my house….decorated with snowmen and reindeer and lots of crap my kids made! Nary an angel in sight. Like all the other posters said, its PAGAN! And they are fun and pretty. Screw the Christians, they aren’t claiming this one too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    I think at the end there Dave should have just blinked when dillhole claimed Hitler was Atheist and not Catholic and said, so are you denying that the current pope was ever a Nazi? Seriously. How does the fact that the current pope was a literal Nazi keep getting a goddamned pass?

    Trees don’t make me uncomfortable and I think they’re going too far when they insist on removing them too. They aren’t even freaking Christian, for fuck’s sake. Mangers, on the other hand, need to go.

    Private employers is iffy. Can you really demand they don’t decorate any way they want if they’re selfish assholes who don’t care how it makes their customers and employees feel? Let it affect their bottom line.

    Dave’s a little overly optimistic. I suspect he’s right; however, I don’t expect to see it in my lifetime. I will, however, be delighted if he’s right and I’m wrong.

    Words fail for me for all the bigotry that spilled out Dillhole’s mouth. I also don’t believe a fucking thing he said about some of his best friends being Jews. Nobody who hates all non-Christians so vehemently that he demands they convert or be committed has non-Christian friends and, frankly, his Christian ones are limited to those sucking up his ass because he’s rich.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    Tell those darn Christians to get their claims off our pagan trees!!! Take winter solstice away from the Christians and tell them that their god is not wanted in our winter festivities.

  • http://s2solutions.us/wordpress Seth Strong

    Christmas trees are like pumpkins in Halloween. I side with the camp that views the trees as a religious neutral American winter decoration..

  • Philbert

    At my workplace we have Christmas trees, Jewish Hanukkah symbols, and all kinds of other decorative things. I don’t feel offended at all.

  • Darin

    Now, I’m not trying to be a wishy-washy Atheist here, but the ONLY legitimate argument, in my opinion, against Christmas trees is that they are a ‘gateway drug’ into more religiosity.

    Don’t forget that the ‘Christmas’ tree was hijacked by Christians in the first place. Stripping away religious trappings, the evergreen tree is a very appropriate symbol for endurance through this hard season.

    I’ll argue against putting an angel on top of that tree, and I’ll argue against nativity scenes; but the tree? Really?

    Having this argument only serves to turn moderate Christians against atheists, something the fundamentalist Christians have been trying to do for a long time. We need to pick our battles carefully; I don’t see why we’re attacking trees.

  • Nerdette

    I don’t have a problem with the trees – if I did, it would only be because yet another phallic-based shine has become entrenched in society. *sigh* Penis worship…. but anyway, no, I enjoy decorating the evergreens and find them to be representative of the solstice celebrations over the Xian co-ops.

    I have problems with manger scenes. Have them on private property all you want, but keep them out of the public way.

  • Alycia

    Phira, that makes total sense to me. Even though I am comfortable around Christmas trees & still practice culturally Christian holidays, I can understand how it makes you feel alienated.

    I live in Ohio, which is just batshit crazy for OSU football. I’ve been surrounded by this insanity my entire life. My family doesn’t care for football at all, so I’ve never really gotten involved nor understood the craze for it. I now live in Columbus where the preoccupation is everywhere. It’s inescapable! I even had people ask why I worked at OSU if I didn’t like football. My birthday is always around the same time as the OSU/Michigan game, & people have asked why the hell I’d have my party the day of the game. I’ve had nasty looks given to me & rude things said about me because I refuse to be involved in the stupid O-H-I-O cheer or sing Hang On Sloopy.

    So yeah, I can relate to your feeling of exclusion. It’s not exactly the same thing you are experiencing, but it’s kinda close.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @phira,
    Oh, where to begin?

    “…Insisting that because the trees were originally a pagan symbol and therefore aren’t alienating for non-Christians is sort of like insisting that because the Nazi party appropriated the swastika, it’s not offensive. It’s ignoring context.”

    No, it’s not fucking “sort of like” that at all. You constructed a straw-man of the argument that was proffered which is that it is silly for non-Christians to be offended by a symbol that isn’t Christian. Nobody sane is going to state that a Christmas tree isn’t alienating to some people, however that is their choice to be offended. You have made a conscious choice to be offended. If anything is truly offensive, it is your bizarre analogy between festively decorated pine trees and the hakenkreuz.

    “I grew up in a Jewish family and am still a somewhat practicing Jew, as well as an atheist.*”

    And therein lies the crux of your problem. It’s not a religious issue for you, it’s a cultural one. A little honest self-assessment is in order here. Don’t like decorated pine trees in the winter time? Move to a place where there isn’t a cultural tradition of doing so or stay here and deal with it and let others live their lives in peace.

  • Jordan

    I’m an officer in the Army (an instrument of the U.S. Government nonetheless) and I have to deal with more than my fair share of passive-aggressive proselytizing in the workplace throughout the year. Chaplains pray before awards banquets, commanders pray before missions, and faith groups try to recruit from the ranks.

    The way that I look at it is this:
    I would like to do something about the overt establishments of religion, but realistically, there’s not a lot I can do. However, when I have the chance to shape policy within my own limited spheres of influence, I use that opportunity to do the right thing. If people in my unit want to pray before a mission, that is fine; but you will never see me using my position of authority to endorse a particular point of view.

    I think this is a fair game plan for the civilian sector as well. Do the right thing when you can. You can’t win every battle, but you can do your best to set a positive example when in a leadership role.

    My 2-3 cents on the matter…

    And happy winter solstice to everyone!

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lakh sc0tt

    I’ll have to say Megyn is handling these segments better as well… less inane questions, less insulting accusations. This was one of the less worthless bits I’ve seen from these players. Maybe it’ll evolve into actual discourse. If so, it’ll be thanks in big part to Dave who conducts himself admirably every time.

    Glaedelig Jul everybody.

  • Megan

    I’m not from Canada but I’m kind of offended and threatened by the way Megyn said, “In a new study from Canada…” ?!?! Why the eyebrow raise and snotty face?! Disgusting.

  • Erp

    I suspect most of us who come from either a christian cultural or humanist cultural background might have little trouble with the trees (barring ones that are overtly religious). People from other backgrounds (e.g., Jews, Muslims, certain Christians who don’t celebrate Christmas) even if now non-religious are more likely to be uncomfortable.

    Personally I have no problems with trees at work (assuming no fire danger and no overt religion) though I didn’t approve of chopping down a really large tree each year to have a national Christmas tree (they eventually just planted one in 1978).

  • Sue

    My workplace is absolutely stuffed with Christmas trees – there’s two of them just in my department and a giant one in the middle of the building. I don’t think it’s bothering the atheists (we put up some of the trees, after all).

  • Marty

    Did you notice her little dig at about 3:20 that we have the xmas tree, the menorah, and NOTHING, so you are represented. Atheists are nothing.

  • Megan

    Also, it’s all fine and good to claim the Christmas tree doesn’t offend you because it’s Pagan–not Christian. In the end though, big business would need to relinquish the tree and only use it in Pagan advertisements and Pagan winter solstice cards and Pagan tree decorations at the mall, etc. etc. etc. Until the “Christmas tree” is used SOLELY to represent the pagans, and until every Christian understands that the tree is SOLELY a Pagan tradition, the War on Winter Solstice will not have been won.

  • AWayfaringStrainer

    There is a nice review of the research at Christmas Trees Are Surprisingly Depressing for Some. Non-Christians reported more negative feelings in the presence of a Christmas, while Christians reported more guilt. Most notably, the none of the participants sensed any difference. They were completely unaware of their changes in mood.

    My guess is that they might get the same results at Valentine’s Day among those that like the holiday and those that don’t. The bottom line is that one should be mindful of others when decorating the office, as it might have unintended consequences.

    Unfortunately, Fox is more interested in a sparring match between David and the world’s biggest idiot, then reporting on an interesting science article.

  • http://criticallyskeptic.blogspot.com Kevin, Critically Skeptic

    I have a tree on top of the shelves over my desk. My colleague let me borrow it. It’s red and shiny and looks pretty. I’m not offended at all, obviously. The Christmas Tree has never been a Christian symbol to me. The Christian symbols of the holiday are things like the angels and the creche and such.

  • Tony

    I have a christmas tree in my house. My wife put an angel on it. I put a krampus ornament on it. Then we put all kinds of star wars, nascar, snowmen, santa clause and even a spongebob ornament on it.

    I see David’s point and I appreciate that he is out there bringing attention to atheists. I don’t know that getting christmas trees out of the work place is the best fight though.

    Here in Pensacola, FL the county courthouse is decorated for christmas and the winterfest group is holding nightly events there. There are six christmas trees up (if I counted right), a horse and carriage providing rides around the parks, people singing christmas songs in costume, food venodrs and the big man himself is sitting on his sleigh for photographs.

    When my wife and I went she gave me the look of “Oh hell, I’m about to hear the church & state the thing again.” When I saw the look I told her “No worries. I’m here to have fun.” and we did! I also noticed that there were no stars, no baby jesus, no nativity, nothing religious about any of the displays. Even the singers skipped the religions songs.

  • Tony

    I like the way my friend Nate says it over at Precious Metal.

    But I digress, back to the topic at hand. Buddhist or not, Muslim or not, Christian or not, it does not matter. Religion has nothing to do with compassion and happiness. So that’s how I can celebrate this holiday, because to me it’s not about the story of a birth in a manger, it about love and togetherness.

    http://preciousmetal.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/being-a-buddhist-and-celebrating-christmas/

  • Jeff Ritter

    It seems to me that this “war” on christmas was started by those on the right that see this entire holiday season as rightfully theirs and ONLY theirs. The christmas tree goes up every year in my home. My family and I enjoy decorating and watching the kids giggle over the silly ornaments we buy each year. It’s fun. And I’ve never thought of the tree as religious. You could make it that way but then again you could make slavery, prejudice, and discrimination religious to. What? That’s been done already? It’s the same with the greatings. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Festivus. I don’t care how you say it really. If I know you celebrate Kwanza I’ll wish you a merry kwanza. And I’d expect a merry christmas or happy holidays back. If I don’t know what you celebrate I’ll play it safe and wish you a wonderful season of joy and celebration, or happy holidays for short. I wish people would just get over themselves. And I wish my family that know I am an unbeliever would not send grossly religious and proselytizing christmas cards. That really does start to get to me. I get it already, you love your baby jesus and want me to worship the man-god. Sorry, not into, merry christmas anyways. I still set them out, they are my family and I love them and the many cards decorating the house does make the place warm in heart. I do wonder though what would happen if I sent out cards with an direct atheist bent to it. I’m certain there’d be hell to pay come the family gathering!

  • microbiologychick

    Xmas trees are secular. We need to take the remaining christ out of christmas and promote all the secular aspects of the holiday. This exchange was horrible PR for atheists. Who will want to call themselves an atheist if they think we’re all grinches who want to take away xmas?

  • BEX

    I just LOOOOVE how she said “Canadian” like it’s a word to scoff at….like she’s thinking…why are we even bothering to talk about this when it was a study done in Canada so is obviously not relevant to us. Like Canadians are less credible or something.
    Fuck you Fox news blond bimbo…and you wonder why the majority of Canadians have an anti-American attitude.

    PS. I have no problem with the decorated tree. We always had a Christmas tree and it never represented Christianity to me.

  • yoshi

    I find myself agreeing with Donohue on one minor point.

    Get over it. Its a tree.

    The idea that the workplace can be completely secular is bull. The workplace frequently reflects on the ideals and morals of the owners and/or the culture. If a private business wants to put up a Christmas tree in the lobby – more power to ‘em.

  • Remus

    @The Godless Monster
    Thats nice. You don’t like it, then suck it up or just leave.
    It’s not like anybody forces thoose jews to be offended by a swastika or other nazi symbols, they choose to be offended…

    Okay admittedly comparing nazism and christmas is a little harsh, but criticising a persons sensibilities is just low. On this site we go after the arguments not the person.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @Remus,
    Bullshit.
    I never wrote that Jews (or anyone else for that matter) should not be offended by a swastika. You are a liar for implying so.
    In addition,by doing so, you are making a a personal attack by attributing something nasty to me that is a complete and utter falsehood.
    If you can’t make a valid point without making shit up, why bother?
    “On this site we go after the arguments not the person.”
    I suggest you get your shit together and follow your own guidelines for debate before slinging mud.

  • SeekerLancer

    I don’t care about Christmas trees. It’s an extremely secular holiday symbol. We have Christmas trees at the flipping White House. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of divisiveness over Christmas trees. They’re a symbol of peace and good will. I think if people do feel excluded in their workplace it’s only because their Christian workers make them feel excluded, not because they put up a tree.

    I kind of completely disagree with Dave here, but that doesn’t make Bill Donahue any less of a monster. “Become a Catholic!” Go to your own imaginary Hell, Bill.

    If we’re going to go after something as harmless as Christmas trees now then we should be called grinches. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere. There’s a reason to keep baby Jesus’ version of Christmas out of the work place but why Santa Claus’? Christmas isn’t just becoming secular as Dave said, it’s already there. It’s a major part of Western culture and one I hope we don’t abandon.

    Regardless I’m sick of this war on Christmas nonsense dredged up by Fox News. It’s to the point where no one can enjoy the holiday season. The entirety of 2010 has been a year of fighting against reactionary right-wing nonsense and even during the holiday’s we can’t take a break in the fighting.

    Happy Holidays. Now shut up and try to enjoy them.

  • En Passant

    This one, I think, was a poorly chosen battle on Dave’s part. He had no grounds–there is no law against privately owned businesses having Christmas trees, and trying to argue that having multiple faiths represented equally was still divisive just sounded juvenile.

    I really don’t know anyone, and I am thinking of my Jewish and Muslim friends as well as other secular folks I know, who feels threatened by Christmas trees. Stuff like this makes people on the right seem credible when they claim there’s a war on Christmas.

    Granted, there’s no bad publicity, as they say. But I think Dave should have steered clear of this one.

  • qwertyuiop

    I think that fourth option is perfect for Bill.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @En Passant,
    Well stated. I agree on all points except the “no bad publicity” comment. Mr. Silverman seems to have lost perspective.

  • http://sacredriver.org Ash

    Two comments:

    1) Dave is making a tactical error here. By arguing for keeping Xmas trees out of the “secular” workplace, it solidifies their religious connotations. He should have gone in the opposite direction and made it clear that a decorated tree is religiously neutral; people can project religious ideas onto one or not, as they choose. As Seth said above, decorated trees are to Winter holidays as pumpkins are to Halloween.

    2) I disagree with the idea that the workplace has only one function: to get work done. Workplaces are for many people much more than that; for instance, a great many marriages are between prior workmates. Many spend 40 out of 72 waking hours during the week at work (if they’re lucky), and I think developing some sense of workplace community is necessary, not only for personal well-being but for business success.

    Of course it isn’t easy, if not impossible, to develop a workplace culture that is always inclusive and never produces discomfort in any employee. Any such culture would be completely sterile. But I think it’s easy to avoid explicitly religious intrusions; as many have pointed out, a tree is fine, but a manger is not. And sure, some people will be uncomfortable in the presence of a tree, but as long as no preaching comes along with it, no real harm is being done. As we like to say around here, no one has the right not to be offended.

  • Epistaxis

    To paraphrase Kissinger, Bill Donohue has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.

  • L.Long

    1st Faux News is a xtian outfit and the atheist was there only to give Donny someone to bounce words off….Hitler was atheist…say lies often enough and you can make brain-eaten Xtians believe it.

    2nd..When asked anything about Xmas or Easter I always tell them ‘Why yes I take very chance I can to celebrate the great pagan holidays.’

  • Doc Quatermass
  • Cheryl

    My only problem with the trees at work is they are always placed in the worst spot. They often disrupt traffic flow and are too big for the small spaces I’ve worked in. At one place it was put in the break room and two table were taken out so most of the time we had to eat at our desks or go out.

    I’d rather have a small tabletop tree, if any, and other wall decorations that don’t get in the way of work.

    The only thing I truly hate are poinsettias. Ugly plants.

  • Non-Litigious Atheist

    I live in Ohio, which is just batshit crazy for OSU football. I’ve been surrounded by this insanity my entire life. My family doesn’t care for football at all, so I’ve never really gotten involved nor understood the craze for it. I now live in Columbus where the preoccupation is everywhere. It’s inescapable! I even had people ask why I worked at OSU if I didn’t like football. My birthday is always around the same time as the OSU/Michigan game, & people have asked why the hell I’d have my party the day of the game. I’ve had nasty looks given to me & rude things said about me because I refuse to be involved in the stupid O-H-I-O cheer or sing Hang On Sloopy.

    @Alycia: That doesn’t sound like anything that can’t be fixed by a good old-fashioned ‘friendly’ lawsuit making OSU fans the defendants.

    When my wife and I went she gave me the look of “Oh hell, I’m about to hear the church & state the thing again.”

    @Tony: That’s what being an atheist means to me – being able to walk in a room and create an instant reaction of ‘Shit, why do I have to deal with this prick again?’

    I plan on doing my part by insisting that the local courthouse don my nice shiny new Festivus pole!

    Who will want to call themselves an atheist if they think we’re all grinches who want to take away xmas?

    @microbiologychick: You said it all, chick. Seeing people like Silverman as their self-appointed representatives might well put atheists back in the closet, just like so many of the ‘nones’ turned out to be Christians that just didn’t call themselves Christians because other people thought ‘Pat Robertson type’ when they heard ‘Christian’.

    I really don’t know anyone, and I am thinking of my Jewish and Muslim friends as well as other secular folks I know, who feels threatened by Christmas trees. Stuff like this makes people on the right seem credible when they claim there’s a war on Christmas. Granted, there’s no bad publicity, as they say. But I think Dave should have steered clear of this one.

    @En Passant: There is bad publicity if you don’t want people to think you’re a ‘prude’ like Silverman just because you’re an atheist. To be offended by festive decorations is juvenile, and it’s sad that there are people willing – anxious even – to go up on stage and spotlight this ‘pressing moral travesty’ given that there are so many ‘minor infractions’ like Darfur going on in the world.

    Dave is making a tactical error here. By arguing for keeping Xmas trees out of the “secular” workplace, it solidifies their religious connotations. He should have gone in the opposite direction and made it clear that a decorated tree is religiously neutral; people can project religious ideas onto one or not, as they choose.

    @Ash: That’s a little convenient, isn’t it? The trees are going to be there whether you like it or not because no one gives a damn what tree-bashers say, so better to embrace the trees with open arms so you can declare a victory when no one changes a thing, like they would have done if you had never said anything at all.

    But I agree with you that workplaces are for more than just getting work done. How drab the world would be if that were true! See, the thing is that the people doing work in workplaces are human beings, and human beings are not automatic ice dispensers that are just there to dispense ice whenever someone needs it. They have needs and interests other than being cogs in their employer’s machine. Why, on occasion they might even have to take 15 minutes to get something to eat or take a dump, even though that won’t bump up the bottom line. Poor employers having to deal with real human beings!

  • Greg

    Can someone make one thing clear to me?

    I got the impression that this was talking about a study about how Christmas Trees in the workplace made many people feel excluded, and Donohue was there to say tough cookies, and Dave was there to explain why people might feel excluded.

    But judging by some of the comments here, people seem to be saying that Dave Silverman is going on a crusade to get Christmas Trees out of the workplace.

    Did I completely miss something?

    I don’t think Dave Silverman is choosing the wrong battles with this, in that I don’t think he chose this as a battle, per se, at all.

    As an aside, well done Dave for getting the last word in at the end there. Rather than the clip ending on ‘Hitler was an atheist, and all atheists are like Hitler’ it ended on ‘actually, Hitler was a Catholic – if you don’t believe me read this book he wrote.’ Small victory, but a victory nonetheless imho.

  • JD

    Bill Donohue is a piece of work. Christmas trees are fine, I’d dare say they’re secular now, despite pagan origins, it’s morphed into a symbol of commercialism. For anyone to say it’s a Christian symbol is to be ignorant of its origins and its present state. Now, if someone puts a manger scene and all its trappings in the workplace, or on public land, then that’s starting to push the bounds of reasonableness in my opinion. But I’m not offended by them. I would be offended if a manger scene was allowed on public property but other items were excluded. In short, if undue favoritism or exclusion is in play, then that’s foul play, but if competing displays are allowed, then I think it’s fair.

  • http://brielle.sosdg.org Brielle

    I think the tree is more of a holiday symbol then a christmas specific symbol.

    I put up one in my house because it looks nice and makes the house smell fresh, and the lights outside look pretty and make the neighbor kids happy. :-)

  • http://pinkydead.blogspot.com David McNerney

    I think this one of those cases where Dave should pick his battles. I’d like to think that the secular Christmas that he predicts will include Christmas Trees and Santa Claus in great measure.

    However, off-topic a bit, I’m a bit pissed off with Bill Donohue equating Irish-American and Irish. Speaking as one of the latter, which Donohue is not, we do not solve all our problems with alcohol and violence the way our exported poorer relatives do.

  • Remus

    @The Godless Monster
    Hmm I think you misunderstood my point, and it was not my intention to cite you falsly. I apologise that my relativly simple statement was open to so strong misintrepatations.

    My point with the swastika was to illustrate how it’s not always a volunetary choice to be offended. It was not to claim that you had said so, but to point out that your logic is flawed.
    If someone is offended it’s not reasonable to just expect them to either leave or ignore it. Sometimes you have to stand your ground whether it be nazism, prayer in school or even a pagan symbol at the workplace.

    I’m not trying to convey that you support nazism or anything like that, I simply disagree with your disposition.

  • Liberty

    I view Christmas trees as secular decorations. Therefore, I don’t feel threatened by them… Unless that I know the person who has put it up believes that Christmas and all related, even secular, decorations have everything to do with Christianity. Seeing them in a work place would bug me.

    Also, I am greatly enjoying Dave Silverman being on Fox News so often. The only thing I don’t like is when he’s introduced as the president of the American Atheists- sure, it’s an organization, but I always hear “the leader and representative of all atheists in the United States.”

  • Tim

    I can definitely agree that religion has no place in the workplace, but there’s nothing wrong with secular holiday symbols. I’d even be fine with the deviously ambiguous “holiday tree.” I wish people like Dave would stop pretending that, to be a proper atheist, you have to eschew Christmas. As if it’s the higher philosophical ground or something. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating a year-end winter holiday of sharing, togetherness, and family…without any of the unnecessary drivel about a star-baby and 3 Chinese guys. I’m an atheist, and I celebrate Christmas with my family. I just don’t subscribe to the religious backstory (or the pagan back-backstory they plagiarized it from). I just subscribe to what it shows as today: a holiday of family, sharing, and togetherness. No one celebrates the original traditions of Halloween, either, and no one complains about that…There is such a thing as secular Christmas, and I think that atheists like Dave making such big noise about being “offended” by it just to prove a point are useless, and they make atheists look like a bunch of Grinches.

  • Denis Robert

    Bill Donahue doesn’t even have any Catholic friends, let alone Jewish ones.

    He’s a one-man army, whose views are rejected even by the Vatican (he strongly supports the Death Penalty, which the Vatican teaches is as evil as Abortion).

  • BlueRidgeLady

    “The ‘Vay-Gins’ feel excluded from Thanksgiving!”.

    Not in this house!

  • Disconverted

    Is it just me or has Silverman converted Megyn Kelly to atheism? She seems oddly more friendly towards the all-inclusive atheist viewpoint..

    yay :D

    Or maybe I’m reading into it a little too much.

  • Jim T

    Silverman made an ass out of himself. He has done very well on other appearances, but that was really horrible.

    I almost found myself agreeing with Bill on some of it.

  • cat

    Even the woman from Fox thought the ‘jews love the nativity’ was a ridiculous comment. I suspect Donohue’s jewish friends are as non existent as his god and his atheist hitler.

    The just convert line should have been thrown back in Donohue’s face. When he tried the ‘muslim country’ line, I would have responded with “Well, if Christians don’t like it, they can just covert to Islam.” Another great response “Ah, this is a familiar Catholic line, I recall that it was used in the Inquisition.”

    @Godless monster, yes, because minorities and unpopular groups elect to be offended, whereas majorities and the powerful can’t help it. If I had a nickel for everytime I was told to just get over sexism, racism, cissexism, homophobia, etc, I would be Bill fucking Gates.

  • Deepak Shetty

    I quite like the tree – but I suppose it will be the attitude of your co-workers that determine how you feel about it. One of our managers(Christian), after the white elephant gift exchange said Have a great holidays , celebrate it in your own ways and traditions – The other a catholic always gives us something but is careful to write Happy Holidays (and to whom I reply Merry Christmas!). I don’t really mind the tree in such an environment.

  • http://skepticat.blogspot.com/ Skepticat

    Here in the Deep South, our departments usually handled Christmas decorations. We all had a say and nobody felt excluded (that I know of). The Christmas after I had come out to my coworkers, I asked them why we had not started playing Christmas music. They said they didn’t want to offend me. I was shocked.

    So I brought a Christmas CD the next day that had secular and religious music on it. We played it the rest of the week and everything was fine.

    I guess my point is that in most cases, reasonable adults can work this stuff out for themselves. It’s only those who enjoy having their panties in a wad that we have to worry about.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @cat,

    “@Godless monster, yes, because minorities and unpopular groups elect to be offended, whereas majorities and the powerful can’t help it. If I had a nickel for everytime I was told to just get over sexism, racism, cissexism, homophobia, etc, I would be Bill fucking Gates.”

    Cry me a fucking river. Your self-righteous wailing is misplaced. I’m a member of one or more of those unpopular minority groups that you weep about. Also, please point out where exactly I stated or implied that one should tolerate ANY of the things you just mentioned.
    You can’t because I didn’t write that, nor did I imply that. Like Remus, you just made the shit up. It’s silly to be a looking for a fight where there is no fight to be had and it’s unethical to be making false claims and accusations. At least get your facts straight and please have a point – other than the microcephalic cone on your head, that is.
    I also never mentioned that the majority or those “in power” always behave themselves and/or shouldn’t be held accountable for bad behavior. Where in hell did you get that idiocy from?
    What the fuck…is there some kind of “take an idiot liar to an internet cafe” holiday today?

  • Dianne

    I am an athiest, my husband is a non-practicing Jew and we have a Christmas tree. There is an angel on top but only because she’s been on every tree I’ve had since I was 4 years old. I don’t like having religion pushed down my throat but at the same time I don’t like a big deal being made of everything. If someone wishes me a Merry Christmas I wish them one back. They are only words.

  • Hollynoats

    I think it’s about high time that Bill Donohue go and hang out with Jerry Falwell in heaven.

    I’m interested in hearing his thoughts on extraterrestrial life. Since he mentioned that “Vagans” are excluded on Thanksgiving, I assume he’s talking about inhabitants of Vega. (1:35)

    I also learned that astonishingly, EIGHTY percent of America is CHRISTMAS. (1:43) Here I was, not enjoying this December holiday, but it turns out that chances are that I’ve been Christmas this entire time.

    But seriously. Bill Donohue is one insurmountable assclown.

    Just convert?? Where would this country be today if our Founding Fathers had “just converted” and “gotten over” the exclusion that drove them from the Monarchy to begin with.

    This video has my brain spinning circles and my psyche shouting “bullshit!”

    People should stop granting FauxNews interviews. Talk about divisive.

  • Dan

    I AM AGAINST CHRISTMAS TREES (but maybe not for the reasons you’d think).

    Most people have their Christmas Trees up until a week or so after the new year. That’s about 12-15 days.

    This means trees are being cut down and shipped away from their homes only to be wrapped in electric lights (they can catch fire) and ugly decorations (in tinsel like a cheap whore) and then THROWN AWAY into the garbage!

    They could have lived on for years. Pine trees are one of the few trees that have the gift of staying green throughout the winter. I understand that may be the very reason they’re used this time of year, but shouldn’t we allow them to thrive because of it, rather than chop them down, and throw them out 2 weeks later?

    It’s sad. I hate it. I look at all those trees on the street corner for sale; it’s like a tree holocaust. Dead tree bodies, piled on top of each other, laid flat on concrete, their pine needles smashed together from being wrapped tight in wire. Ew.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    I was pretty critical of Dave when he had the debate with 4 people on Fox about the Myth billboard, but I have absolutely nothing to complain about here. Dave did an excellent job. He laid out the simple fact that religion, like politics, strongly divides people, and thus should not be in the workplace. He stayed quiet and let Donohue spout ridiculous rude and obnoxious things that will only serve to hurt his own public image. Convert to Catholicism if you’re feeling like an outsider? Beautiful. Anyone with half a brain watching this would know how arrogant that statement is.

  • Steve

    @Dan
    Most people don’t just cut down random trees in the forest. Christmas trees are produced industrially. There are huge plantations that grow nothing but pine trees.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

    Donohue’s suggests that anyone offended by the tree can 1) get over it, 2) move to another country, 3) convert to Catholicism, or 4) enter an asylum.

    So next time Donohue’s offended by something, we can expect him to get over it, move to another country, or enter an asylum? Sweet…

  • Richard P.

    anyone offended by the tree can 1) get over it

    I good with that.

  • Carlie

    Dan – our waste authority takes Christmas trees and chips them up for mulch that the city then uses and also sells to gardeners. I assume that other places do the same.

  • Derek

    It’s been quite awhile since I’ve been able to visit the Friendly Atheist. I hope everyone is doing well. This little debate was a little odd to me. Donohue was annoying and over-bearing as usual. I enjoyed listening to Silverman, and I understand the point he’s trying to make. However, I still find it hard to believe that there are many people that feel that way about Christmas trees. I guess it’s possible, but even in these comments it seems o be a vast minority.

    I was also a little confused by some of the comments. Especially the “I’m okay with this or that since it’s really a pagan symbol/celebration instead of Christian one. If it comes from a pagan religious background, how does that make it better for an atheist? Just curious.

    Peace and love to you all.

    Cheers and Excelsior!
    Derek

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    I think that a private employer can decorate a place of business to reflect personal interests, values, etc.

    That said I believe this study can go a long way to informing employers of the potential results of certain decorating choices. With this information the employers might choose not to act on all aspects of decorating freedom to support and respect staff. It also provides more ammunition to help convince goverments not to undertake such displays.

    On another note, with his recent media appearances, Silverman is giving the impression that rather than be a catalyst for change in society he wants to be yet another pundit that the media can wind up when they are short on news.

    Why wallow with the likes of Donohue? No one respects his shilling for the limelight and continued association of atheist issues with Donohue aren’t going to win over the undecided or develop more tolerance in the general public, rather we’ll be remarginalized to the fringe of public discourse. If we need to debate catholics on tv let’s get a George Will or George Weigel and have it mean something more than a sideshow.

    Lastly, yay Canada for doing interesting research! :)

  • souper genyus

    Bill Donohue said,

    Get over it.

    Says the guy who has temper tantrums over billboards, artwork, and “improper” cracker consumption.

  • Krista Y

    I have two Xmas trees in my house. Just because I believe that religion is a crock doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the decorations of the season!

    However, I coulda done without this idiotic blow up ball with a bell in it that has “Jingle With Joy For Jesus” written on it that mom sent me. WTF ever.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Derek,

    I was also a little confused by some of the comments. Especially the “I’m okay with this or that since it’s really a pagan symbol/celebration instead of Christian one. If it comes from a pagan religious background, how does that make it better for an atheist? Just curious.

    Maybe it’s because those are dead religions. Everyone in our culture recognizes that the Norse, Greek, and Roman deities are mythological. Pagan religious customs don’t bother me because no one believes in them anymore. Whereas with Christianity, people actually do still believe in things like angels and virgin births. Heck, if everyone in our society acknowledged that the nativity was a myth, the story of Baby Jesus would be as innocuous as Frosty and Santa and Rudolph. It would just be an ancient custom associated with this time of year, but it wouldn’t involve promoting a religion because no one would actually practice the religion in question.

  • jelk

    anyone who gets offended by Christmas trees should suck it up. When we argue about things as petty as Christmas trees it makes atheists look bad. We should stick to the important issues or else atheists will just have a reputation of being like whinny kids

  • Justin

    “We should stick to the important issues or else atheists will just have a reputation of being like whinny kids”

    Like Catholics.

  • Chuck

    It’s funny how he stated that Hitler was atheist. Hitler was a Christian, went to church and celebrated Christmas.

    He’s right. The workplace should be neutral without any religous bias.

  • Natalie Sera

    I worked in the public schools (a government entity, no?)for 23 years, and they all had large Christmas trees. I don’t feel any more comfortable with Pagan symbols in government venues than with Christian symbols. And yes, there is a significant population of practicing Pagans. I think religion belongs in the church and in the home, but not in public. (In Mexico, priests are not allowed to wear religious garb in public). Santa and reindeer and Christmas trees are NOT part of my heritage, and I don’t relate to them. Celebrate whatever holiday however you wish, but don’t denigrate the feelings of others.

  • Grimalkin

    I don’t personally care about Christmas trees. It’s part of my culture anyway, so I’m really not bothered.

    But last year, we had a Muslim working in our office. She wasn’t uncomfortable with other people celebrating Christmas, or even decorating the office, but she was clearly uncomfortable with the assumption that she should participate. I actually had to sit down with our office “party planner” to explain that even though she is a Catholic, not everyone is and she needs to be sensitive to that. I explained to her the difference between decorating a tree and putting up a nativity (one is arguably appropriate, the other is not).

    It took forever. She just couldn’t understand. She was of the “but but… everyone loves Christmas!” persuasion. She had never heard of Ramadan/Eid and had no idea that our Muslim co-worker had celebrations of her own that are different from hers.

    This is living in Canada, in a large, multi-cultural city where you literally cannot walk two blocks (in most neighbourhoods) without meeting Muslims. It was really scary.

    She did get it in the end, thankfully. She’s a really nice person and she wanted to make everyone feel welcome, so there was no maliciousness. She just legitimately did not get it. Once she did, she removed all the angel and nativity decorations, and secularised our party games (and stopped asking the poor Muslim what her family was planning to do for Christmas!!).

  • bigjohn756

    Move to another country!? It seems to me that if they don’t like this country and its Constitution then they need to start their own country with a Constitution that they like. Maybe they could call it Saudi Christiania.

  • http://oddboyout.blogspot.com/ oddboyout

    Decorated evergreens don’t make me uncomfortable, nor secular Christmas songs. Only religious songs do.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    I’m not offended by the tree, but I am offended when Christians use Christmas to badger everyone else and insist that only their religious decorations should be included while others are not included. I do get tired of Christians who claim that being inclusive would exclude Christians, when really it would just take away special treatment.

    Also, I wish Bill Donohue would follow his own advice (“get over it”) when someone writes a book, makes a movie, or puts up a billboard he doesn’t like.

  • Jersey Devil

    Bill Donohue says that people uncomfortable with a Christmas tree in the room need to be institutionalized.

    Can we PLEASE make this the highlight of the video? This man is saying that these people (of other faiths? Jews, probably?) all need to be brought together, locked up, to be treated as lesser citizens and institutionalized.

    Where does THAT sound familiar? It’s like he’s trying to “concentrate” them now.

  • William S Sr

    You can still get your work done and not be interrupted by any display of religious, patriotic etc. if you have to..How do displays keep anyone from working? I did it for 45 years as a big city police officer. If I let it hinder my work I would not have lived through many bad situations. My atheists friends agree with me that Atheism is not a religion and does not fit into a catagory of any religion because the two necessary components are missing to a TRUE Atheist…I am Roman Catholic but have no problem with any of my friends and family members who have different beliefs than I do…they should all get over it and live your life as you feel most comfortable. Stay safe all…see not offinsive


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