Religion is Ruining the True Spirit of Christmas

by Jesse Galef -

That’s right: religion is ruining the true spirit of Christmas. That’s my argument in today’s US News & World Report Debate topic “Has Christmas Become Too Secular?”  Believe me, I had a lot of fun answering. The secular submissions are dominating the religious ones – go upvote the ones you like!

US News gathered four secular representatives:

  • Me, with the Secular Student Alliance
  • Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association,
  • Annie Laurie Gaylor with the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and
  • Herb Silverman for the Secular Coalition for America

They also got five people to take the other side, representing:

  • Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute
  • Traditional Values Coalition
  • Family Research Council
  • American Family Association
  • Catholic League

Yup, that’s some of our favorite groups, including our old friend Bill Donohue. Here’s a taste from his answer:

Having gotten about as far as they can by swinging their legal club, the secular dogmatists switched gears by seeking to blunt Christmas celebrations with contrived competition. So now we are told that December is “Diversity Month,” a time when we must recognize the multiplicity of races, ethnic groups, religions, and cultures around the world. It’s as political as it is pathetic.

(~Bill Donohue)

I went for the moral high ground, claiming that Christmas is about secular values:

Take a look at the most important parts of Christmas: togetherness, compassion, and peace. Those are secular values. A secular Christmas is an inclusive Christmas true to the spirit of the holiday.

Some might claim that the “most important” part of Christmas is a particular religious belief. But do we really want to put faith before family? Doctrine over charity? No. If anything, religion is distracting us from the real meaning of Christmas.

(~Jesse Galef)

I celebrate a secular holiday about family and the spirit of giving. I call it Christmas – the federally-recognized holiday occurring on December 25th. It confuses some people because a Christian holiday has the same name. But as you know, winter celebrations have changed over time (evolved, if you will). From Saturnalia to Solstice, Christ’s Mass to today’s secular Christmas, we’ve seen it happen. And we can take it further.

If you don’t want to celebrate Christmas because you think it’s too closely associated with religion, I understand. Give it time. Before you know it, Christmas will be focused on the things that matter: family and charity. And atheists celebrating it our way helps claim that focus. I like this framing because it make it clear: WE have the moral high ground. We’re focused on the real aspects of morality.

By the way, it probably isn’t in the “true holiday spirit”, but I do enjoy seeing the point spread between my answer and Bill Donohue’s:

For the record, there are only 9 spots.  He’s in last place with negative 500 votes.  It’s as if we atheists have a strong online presence or something!

Check out the other submissions and vote!

About Jesse Galef

Jesse is a career atheist, and is currently Communications Director for the Secular Student Alliance. Before that, he worked for the Secular Coalition for America and the American Humanist Association. He also blogs about science, philosophy, and rationality at Measure of Doubt with his sister Julia.
(The views expressed are not representing the Secular Student Alliance or any other organization.)

  • Andrew Morgan

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bill Donohue smile.  Then again, he *is* Catholic.

    • EJC

      Having been raised as a catholic, and figuring out just how fucked up it is before I turned 10, I would say, if I was still catholic, I would be frowning too.

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Tom Lawson

    I may have been a little hard on Billy-Boy. Oh, hell’s bells, I honestly held back.

  • Erin W

    I also notice who’s smiling and who’s frowning.  What good is his religion if it leaves him such a sourpuss?

  • Anonymous

    Quite honestly, the “YES” arguments are all so horrible that I can’t believe I had the stomach to go through all of them.

  • Anonymous

    Quite honestly, the “YES” arguments are all so horrible that I can’t believe I had the stomach to go through all of them.

  • Charles Black

    Its nice to see the no arguments way ahead of the yea arguments.
    The really amusing part would have to be the difference between 1st  & last place.

    • Charles Black

      *yes*

  • naath

    Mostly I’m celebrating that we are going to shortly have MORE DAYLIGHT.  Because, damn, but it’s miserable going home from work in the dark.

  • Momma J

    Yes, clearly secularists are taking the moral high ground here. Or not. Cursing in the rely section of this thread is the oral high ground now?

    • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Felyx Leiter

      Yeah, typing “damn” or “hell” is *so* much worse than trying to take away the rights of gays, women and unbelievers, or asserting that recognizing diversity is “pathetic.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23430830 Matthew Shepherd

      You’re not seriously taking that route for argument?

    • Rich Wilson

      I’m more comfortable with a few swear words than a bunch of lies:

      If Jesus Christ had never been born, there would be no United States of America.

      The history would have been different since the pilgrims would not have been seeking a place to practice their own brand of puritanical, but I’m pretty sure there would be people here.  Maybe there would be more Native Americans around though.

      The kids don’t run downstairs at 5 a.m. on New Year’s morning.

      They do in other countries.  It doesn’t require Christmas to support the Chinese economy.

      We see the governor of Rhode Island changing the name of a Christmas tree to a holiday tree.

      Nope, it was Holiday tree under the Republican Governor too.

      The United States is more Christian than India is Hindu

      Nope.

      the anti-Christmas elites have gone way beyond the legal strategy: They jumped on the multicultural bandwagon by trying to neuter Christmas in the schools, malls, and the workplace. Here’s how it works.

      Schools in some ways, but not malls.  Malls are private entities that can celebrate whatever they want.  My local mall has both Christmas and Easter crap every year.  Any neutering of Christmas by commercial entities is an attempt to cash in on the 20%of the market that isn’t Christian.  That’s it.

      The Air Force Academy also came under attack because of its participation in “Operation Christmas Child,” a Christian ministry that provides shoeboxes to hundreds of thousands of needy children around the world.

      The program is now appropriately being handled by the Chaplaincy.  Besides which, there are plenty of ways of helping kids without proselytizing to them.

      That the secular world today doesn’t understand and turns Christmas into a commercial parody or tacky heyday does not in the slightest diminish the significance of the day for people of faith.

      Yes, it’s the rather small secular minority of the world that is at fault for making Christmas into a tacky commercial parody.

      • Rabid

        Worth noting that, ironically, the people who generally rail at the secular world not understanding Christmas… don’t understand Christmas either. Yes, Christians… We’re looking at you and your appropriated myths and traditions.

    • Rabid

      I’d rather someone said “Fuck” to my kids than… well, ya know… fucked my kids.

      Explain why swearing is immoral and how it causes anyone any harm?

      You’re talking about a point of taste, not morals. I personally find seafood sticks repugnant. Cannot stand the taste or smell. That doesn’t mean eating seafood sticks around me is immoral.

  • Momma J

    And to that matter when will all of the followers on this site realize that Catholicism is not true Christianity. So why do they keep getting used as your example of what’s wrong Christians? Trust me they have two sets of practices.

    • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Felyx Leiter

      Wow, won’t the Pope be surprised!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23430830 Matthew Shepherd

      Aye, and no TRUE Scotsman puts sugar in his cereal.

    • Anonymous

      Seriously, do you know how ridiculous you sound? It’s like saying “Don’t
      you realize that German isn’t truly Germanic? English is true German,
      and the vocabularies are very different, believe me.”

      Here is a simple lesson in the evolution of your religion:

      Early Christianity (to make it easy, let’s include the Jerusalem church, the Pauline church, the Gnostics, the Arians, the Nestorians etc. etc.) –>
      ****Orthodox Nicene Christianity–>
      ********Eastern Christianity (including Greek Orthodox, Coptic, Slavic churches with all variants such as the iconoclasts)
      ********Western Christianity (Roman Catholicism and medieval variants)–>
      ************Protestantism (including Lutheranism, Calvinism, Baptists, and variants)
      ****************New World syncretic religions and variants (such as Santeria, Voodun, Mormonism)

      There have been hundreds of different true Christianities.  Like anything that evolves,  there comes a point of “speciation” wherein the descendant is so unlike the ancestor that we must consider it to be in a different category. Such a case could be made for Moromonism, for example. But Protestantism from Catholicism? I think not. Aside from which, the older, more stable ancestor has more right to be classified as the “true” species of X. So, if Protestantism has diverged enough to be thought of as something distinct, it would have to abandon its claim to be Christian at all (cf. Islam).

      • T-Rex

        I think you went over her head with word “evolves” because you just know Momma J thinks evolution is a lie.

    • NorDog

      Momma J, what are the two sets of pracitces to which you refer?

  • rupi capra

     Why do these questions always seem to be put to either atheists or  christian right nuts? Hasn’t U.S. News and World Report heard of {what used to be called} mainstream christians? The NCC really needs to work on their media relations, like letting the media know they exist.

  • Justin Miyundees

    Hey Bill!  You’re a miserable bastard, you know that?  Ha!  There’s a Hitchens quote applicable here – can’t find it right now but can paraphrase.  If religion is supposed to make you happy, how come it doesn’t?  How come so many prune faced jack asses are scowling around?  Is it because they’re pissed they’ve been taken in and we’re free of the pretense?  Merry Christmas Bill – now go be mean to a homeless person or something maybe it’ll cheer you up.

  • T-Rex

    So sad that ”Merry Christmas” has turned into “Fuck you” when the Christians say it to anyone with a different belief system. And they still have no  grasp of what this time of year is truely about or the rituals involved. The only thing Christian about Christmas is that they adopted this date as the birthday of their “zombie savior”. Nothing else. Ignorance is ugly and the Christians yelling “keep Christ in Christmas” and shouting “Merry Christmas” at everyone that wishes them a happy holiday are the ugliest mother F’ers around.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Very well written, Jesse. You’re an eloquent spokesman for humanism. 


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