Tag Archives: holidays

It’s Humanist Time in the City….

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A friend of mine sent out an e-mail about attending a recent HumanLight celebration in the Philadelphia area. It was hosted by another friend who had been a member of my local Humanist group here in Ohio. HumanLight is a positive secular humanist take on the winter holiday season so full of theistic religious symbolism. My friend Martha Knox was interviewed for Tuesday the 23rd on Morning Edition on NPR about the celebration.

While others are lighting Hanukkah candles or decorating Christmas trees, atheists and humanists are holding their own December celebrations.

The secular holiday known as HumanLight began eight years ago. And while there are no set traditions, many of these gatherings use familiar rituals such as singing and candle lighting to highlight reason and human achievement.

HumanLight can be celebrated anytime on or around Dec. 23. The date was chosen because it is between the winter solstice and Christmas. This past weekend, groups gathered across the country to celebrate.

Because humanists don’t have a bible or religious doctrine, there’s no right or wrong way to celebrate HumanLight. Gary Brill, who co-founded the holiday, says the parties are usually family occasions. However, some humanists ignore the holiday, saying it feels too much like religion.

HumanLight: December’s Secular Holiday (includes audio)

I am not one to totally ignore the holiday season since that would be impossible, but I still don’t celebrate it religiously or secularly. However, if the Christians stole the holiday season from the Pagans then I guess we secularists can carve a slice off for ourselves.

More on “war” on Christmas: writer wants special treatment for Christians

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In his essay, False perceptions regarding the attack against Christmas (Renewamerica.us 12/14/05), Robert Meyer tries to make a case that businesses expressing “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” are being offensive to and exclusive against Christians.

He writes that a recent letter to the editor he read pointed out how can Christians complain Christmas traditions are being marginalized, when many of the traditions they uphold are of non-Christian origin to begin with?

Meyer responds:

Yet such analysis entirely misses the real crux of the conflict though. If certain retail stores or other entities had said that they were no longer observing long-standing traditions (such as the “Christmas Tree”) because of their pagan origins, he might have made his point. I would applaud this type of distinction.

Yet, that is hardly the case. We might ask whether the Puritans would have thrown out the Savior with the tree, as some retail outlets are more than willing to do. In fact, the true reason for discontinuing these practices, is a false perception on the part of some, that there is a halo around the Bill of Rights which creates the implied right not to be offended. Unfortunately, this is both a false and dangerous proposition.

In trying to be inclusive and unoffending, they become demonstrably offending and exclusive in their new approach. We might also ask what public perceptions led to this policy change? With the majority of the U.S. still professing to be Christians, it is a wonder they never considered whether that majority would themselves be offended by the changes.

Free exercise of religion isn’t realized by an exclusion of all. This is an attempt at negative neutrality that publicly squelches the free exercise of religion, but does nothing constructive to ultimately avoid conflict. It amazes me how the First Amendment, which protected the public’s free religious exercise from intrusions by the government, now is twisted so that the Establishment Clause is used to sanitize the public square from any mention of God.

Like all strident religious and political conservatives, Meyer misses the illogical conclusion he expresses. Sometimes I wonder if they listen to what they say and really think about it.

It isn’t about “sanitiz[ing] the public square from any mention of God” as he and others state. It is about not letting the government be the head cheerleader and using its time and resources to support a single religious sect like Christianity. We don’t live in the United States of Christian America… [yet….]

Why do people like Meyer have such a hard time understanding what “neutrality” means. Are they morons?

If Wal-Mart or some other business wish to say “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays”, or even “Happy Festivas”, it doesn’t matter to most and the public can only speak with their feet. If those business do or don’t recognize Christmas has NOTHING to do with free exercise of religion of the individual. Wal-Mart, by not saying “Merry Christmas”, isn’t burning your church down. The government really has no say in what Wal-Mart says in expressing the holiday season but people like Meyer seem to wish it could.

Meyer continues:

It is interesting to note that a position of “deliberate neutrality,” is by default an endorsement of the atheist/humanist position, since the atheist claims to be motivated by an absence of belief, and not an active choice to disbelieve.

SIGH…….

Yes, it seems Meyer is a moron because he doesn’t understand what “neutrality” means.

Let me make it simple. Lack of belief isn’t neutrality. Neutrality means having no specific view or taking no specific position. In terms of the state and religion it should be all religions or none. To pick Christmas or Easter for acknowledgement or special rights is to give preference to a particular sect – Christianity. “Happy Holidays” at least recognizes all beliefs that have celebrations at this time of year.

See the difference?

Christmas = Christianity
Holidays = Everyone

Finally Meyer ends by writing:

In a society run amok with prostration to tolerance, it seems to me, that there should be an onus on the minority to graciously tolerate customs held by the majority of citizens.

Well, Robert Meyer, we minorities do, every day of the year. I have to with every church I pass, every “God Bless America” the President utters, every God invoked when my favorite team wins the game, and every Christmas when I have to hear people bitch and moan that we need to celebrate the “real reason of the season”.

I have reached the end of being gracious because religious nuts like yourself are like Dads we can’t please because you expect more and more and more and still are not happy with what you have and are given.

Cal Thomas gets it on “war” on Christmas

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This holiday season some religious and political conservatives have decided to try and force retail businesses to wish customers a “Merry Christmas” instead of the more inclusive “Happy Holidays”. See the post “Have a Merry Christmas… Or Else!”.

Cal Thomas, a conservative columnist, has gone against his conservative brethren. Both in a recent column and on the FOX News Channel, Thomas complained about the efforts in support of “Merry Christmas”. In his column titled “Not so silent night”, Thomas writes:

The effort by some cable TV hosts and ministers to force commercial establishments into wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas” might be more objectionable to the One who is the reason for the season than the “Happy Holidays” mantra required by some store managers.

I have never understood why so many Christians feel the need to see and hear “Merry Christmas” proclaimed to them at stores by people who may not believe its central message. While TV personalities, junk mail letters and some of the ordained bemoan the increasing secularization of culture; perhaps some teaching might be helpful from the One in whose behalf they claim to speak.

And:

I do not care if a mall employee wishes me a “Merry Christmas,” or not, or if mall managers favor snowpersons over manger scenes, or erect trees they call “holiday” and not “Christmas.” It isn’t about their observing this event, giving us a “religious rush” and creating a false sense of security that culture is better than it is. It is about people who believe in this historic event observing it in a way that recalls the birth of the Savior of the world (not the savior of the bottom line): silently, wondrously and worshipfully.

Let the world get drunk at its office parties. Let it consume material things, pile up credit card debt and embrace other trappings of this counterfeit “Christmas” road show. I prefer the “original cast.”

Not so silent night

Thomas also stated the same view on December 13th, on the Fox News Channel show “Your World with Neil Cavuto”, when he was asked if he was troubled by the lack of “Merry Christmas”:

CAVUTO: Cal, you’re a deeply religious man. I know you personally, and you’re one of the most decent guys I know. Now, do you, when you go searching for Christmas cards and have a tough time finding Christmas cards, or go to stores and have a tough time even hearing the word “Christmas,” does that bug you as a religious guy?

THOMAS: [laughs] Not at all, Neil. I’m not expecting it there. I hear it in church. That’s fine. That’s no problem for me.

Cal Thomas: “War on Christmas” crusaders “might be more objectionable” than those saying “Happy Holidays”

Of course this isn’t the first time that Cal Thomas has expressed views contrary to religious conservatives who want to force Christianity into all the nooks and crannies of public life. In a column in 2000, he took religious conservatives to task in comments on a US Supreme Court ruling that prohibited prayer at high school football games:

Conservative Christians ought to stop looking to the state for permission and validation and start looking to God for their commission and marching orders. With this kind of faith, they won’t have to petition government. Government will petition them to find out why what they’re doing works.

If and when they do, they will find they are exerting real influence. They will stop believing that public displays of their faith are changing anything, from the outcome of football games to the transformation of culture.

From: Court, Jesus agree on public prayer by Cal Thomas of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. Jun 22, 2000

So we may not agree with everything Cal has to say but at least on this issue he gets it.

Have a Merry Christmas… Or Else!

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The holiday season always causes a frenzy with the religious right. From installing Baby Jesus on courthouse lawns to chastising businesses for not expressing Merry Christmas, political and religious conservatives are hell bent to force everyone to remember why we have Christmas.

Two items show how serious they are.

Liberty Counsel, a religious right group, started a “Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign” to help Christians fight the “war” against Christmas. It provides a memo for concerned Christians to give to school and public officials that detail what is permissible and what is not. It also asks for people to report on stores that “refuse to recognize Christmas”.

Wal-Mart, the uber store, was forced to change its policy of expressing the more inclusive “Happy Holidays” after a threatened boycott by the Catholic League.

The e-mail response from a Wal-Mart customer service person (who was fired for the e-mail) actually described the truth behind many of the symbols Christians claim is Christmas. It included:

“Wal-Mart is a world wide organization and must remain conscious of this. The majority of the world still has different practices other than ‘Christmas’ which is an ancient tradition that has its roots in Siberian shamanism” and added that “Santa is also borrowed from the Caucuses, mistletoe from the Celts, yule log from the Goths, the time from the Visigoth and the tree from the worship of Baal.”

Not to mention that it has never been proven that Jesus was born on December 25th. Common stories have Christmas being created by Christians in order to get their new converts from worshiping Pagan gods like the Roman Saturnalia which had a celebration in December. The Christmas traditions we have today have roots in the old Pagan religion.

The History of Christmas

It is a fact that celebrating Christmas wasn’t a US Federal holiday until the 1870 when interest was revived by Washington Irving’s Christmas stories, German immigrants, and the homecomings of the Civil War years.

But the truth isn’t going to stop James Dobson, founder of “Focus on the Family”. He has a legal fund and lawyers ready to file lawsuits to combat “any improper attempts to censor the celebration of Christmas in schools and on public property,” through his Alliance Defense Fund.

Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News commentator, believes the greeting “Happy Holidays” offends Christians celebrating the Christmas season.

“It absolutely does. And I know that for a fact,” he declared on his program, “The O’Reilly Factor.”

According to the website “Media Matters”, O’Reilly is quoted as claiming there is “a very secret plan” by the “secular progressive” movement, which he said aims to “diminish Christian philosophy in the U.S.A.” and it starts with getting rid of “Merry Christmas”.

According to O’Reilly, the “secular progressive” movement has three elements:

* First, progressive financiers George Soros and Peter Lewis “pour money into the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union], they pour money into the smear websites, you know, they buy up a lot of media time.”
* Second, “the ACLU is their legal arm. … [T]he ACLU runs around the country suing everybody and intimidating people.”
* Third, “the smear websites are their media arm.”

O’Reilly said these three elements operate “in tandem”:

O’ REILLY: [Y]ou use your left-wing smear websites to go after anybody who stands up for Christmas. If you stand up for Christmas, they come after you. So the tandem intimidates. The tandem intimidates. Suing on one hand; smearing on the other hand.

The result? According to O’Reilly:

O’ REILLY: In every secular progressive country, they’ve wiped out religion … Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, all of them. That’s the first step. Get the religion out of there, so that we can impose our big-government, progressive agenda.

O’Reilly: “There’s a very secret plan … to diminish Christian philosophy in the U.S.A.”

Is there really a war against Christmas. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State says no. “They’re preparing a campaign to fight for Christmas in a war that in fact does not exist. This is just one more fund-raising gimmick for Jerry Falwell,” Lynn said.

And the ACLU?

The notion of a “war on Christmas” is “nonsense,” said Jeremy Gunn, director of the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

Christians can put religious displays on church and personal property “and the ACLU will defend their right to do so,” said Gunn. “The issue is whether people want to have a political fight about putting religious displays on government property. We wonder why people are seeking such controversy. Is that the Christmas spirit?”

Holiday sayings stir war of words

December is month full of festive celebrations of many different faiths and for those who celebrate the Solstice and I thought it was a positive development when businesses moved to be more inclusive by expressing “Happy Holidays”. It is unfortunate that some political and religious conservatives want to force you to focus on the birth of Jesus – a primarily Christian celebration.

Talk about a buzz killer.