Myth #5: Atheists are waging a War on Christmas.

Myth #5: Atheists are waging a War on Christmas. December 14, 2012

A secular census has recently been launched and Mary Ellen Sikes is doing a week-long blog series about the results. She shot me an email this last weekend, which I just got to yesterday, and asked if I’d post them. Seemed interesting, so here we go. :) (You can also find these posts over at Stephanie Zvan’s blog Almost Diamonds)

Post #1 can be found here.

Post #2 can be found here.

Post #3 can be found here.

Post #4 can be found here.

The winter holiday season faithfully delivers at least three predictable “presents” to all good Americans each year. The first is a creche or other religious display on some public property somewhere. The second is pushback and the occasional counterdisplay from the secular community.

And the third, as original as a department store tie in a predecorated box, is the announcement by religious conservatives and news media that atheists have declared a War on Christmas.

Atheists do oppose government-endorsed religious holiday symbols, just as they oppose civic religion in other settings like public schools and the military. This year right-wing shock jocks have been using words like “fascist” and “terrorist” to describe atheists who speak out at Christmas, but many people of faith actually agree with secularists that state and church don’t mix.

In any case, it isn’t atheists who spin Christmas as the ultimate secular controversy shot through with the language of wars and coups d’etat; all that’s just a media marketing ploy.

In their personal lives, atheists themselves celebrate the secular aspects of the season: 87% of those completing a holiday survey on the Secular Census indicated they’d observed Christmas in 2011, and 39% of those polled had celebrated more than one winter holiday, with Solstice as the second most popular. Atheists say they celebrate by putting up a tree, exchanging gifts, getting together with family and friends, enjoying festive music and food, and in many cases helping the less fortunate — not so different from many religious families, really.

What if Fox News gave a war and no one came? Reasons Greetings to all, and to all a good light.

Mary Ellen Sikes is the founder, president, and developer of the American Secular Census. She became involved in the secular movement in the early 1990s, went on to found and lead a local humanist group, and has served in various staff, officer, advisory, and board positions for regional and national organizations, most recently as a co-founder of Secular Woman.

American Secular Census methodology: Because not all registrants complete every form or every question, sample sizes vary from topic to topic and cannot be generalized. Until the Census reaches a 5-figure registry overall, analysis should be considered suggestive rather than statistically authoritative; however, most questions now have sample sizes approaching or exceeding those of nationally recognized surveys.

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