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Dec 19 2013

The war on Christmas is pretty much over

And the secularists are gaining ground. A new survey indicates that while the holiday is still celebrated, fewer are doing it for religious reasons. It is returning to its roots as a secular holiday meant to lift people’s spirits in the darkest days of winter.

This year more than ever, Americans prefer that stores and businesses welcome them with the more generic “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” than “Merry Christmas,” according to a survey released Tuesday (Dec. 17) by the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service.

And for one in four American adults (26 percent), Dec. 25 is simply a cultural holiday, not a religious holy day.

“The trend is in that direction, for sure,” said Robert Jones, CEO of PRRI. The percentage of people who say the Bible’s Christmas story is historically accurate has fallen more than 17 percentage points since a 2004 survey reported by Newsweek.

What most surprised me is that only 59% expect to attend church on Christmas day or Christmas eve, a day that, next to Easter, is the most pro forma day of attendance when even nonbelievers go just for the sake of family holiday solidarity.

I am beginning to wonder if Fox News’s and some other groups’ obsession with defending Christmas from its supposed enemies is, in some perverse way, leading to its demise as a religious holiday, by enabling more people to realize that this season is celebrated by people other than Christians.

Fox News may have been more successful if they simply focused on showing nativity scenes, carolers, and other messages that promote a positive image of Christianity. Of course, that would not get much ratings by getting their viewers’ blood boiling, which is what this silly war is all about anyway.

31 comments

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  1. 1
    raven

    The war on Christmas is pretty much over

    Oh no.

    I haven’t even gotten my all dinosaur Nativity scene up yet. And here it is December 19th.

    Then again, at the rate that project is going, it’s going to be a few years.

    Oh well, I still have to meet my War on Xmas commando group. We usually go out for lunch and then do some shopping.

  2. 2
    wtfwhateverd00d

    I find it offensive and erasing to ever describe “Christ” fucking mas as a secular holiday.

    If you want to celebrate it as an atheist, be my guest.

    But calling “Christ” fucking mas a secular holiday leads to pressure on atheists and non Christians to celebrate it.

    Why don’t you have a Christmas tree? The Plotzes down the block are Jewish and they have a Christmas tree!

    Since you believe “Christ” fucking mas is a secular holiday, I see no reason for you to complain about a Christmas tree on a public square. Or for that matter a representation of the cross that Jesus was crucified on a mountain top in a public park or a monument to the ten commandments next to a courthouse.

  3. 3
    JonP

    Fox News may have been more successful if they simply focused on showing nativity scenes, carolers, and other messages that promote a positive image of Christianity. Of course, that would not get much ratings by getting their viewers’ blood boiling, which is what this silly war is all about anyway.

    I don’t think Fox News really cares about defending Christmas as religious holy day. I think they care more about the ratings (read: money). It is a perpetual unwinnable “war” that still attracts viewers. I think the war on christmas will be over when it starts to decrease fox news ratings.

  4. 4
    dano

    You may be right but my friends, family and office still say Merry Christmas and by the way we say the proper God bless you when someone sneezes as well. Our church, Eagle Brook Church, recently opened up our 6th location. That’s right 6! We are expecting between 35-40,000 people for our Christmas Services (41 services offered) and regularly see 18-20k every weekend. I know I will be flamed but Merry Christmas to all and may Christ be your guiding light for 2014.

    God Bless!

  5. 5
    JonP

    But calling “Christ” [redacted because I believe Prof. Singham does not like swearing in comments] mas a secular holiday leads to pressure on atheists and non Christians to celebrate it.

    I disagree with this statement completely. People are free to choose to celebrate christmas however they want, and whether or not they wish to decorate their homes with trees, or any of the other festive christmas decorations. Because of the amount of attention to the holiday this time of year, it’s almost impossible for nonchristians to avoid. But that is not the same as pressure to celebrate.

    I see no reason for you to complain about a Christmas tree on a public square. Or for that matter a representation of the cross that Jesus was crucified on a mountain top in a public park or a monument to the ten commandments next to a courthouse.

    I agree that there is no reason to complain about christmas trees in public, especially because they do not represent a government endorsement of any religion. Christmas trees are not religious symbols. They are symbols of the secular christmas holiday, as are santa claus, reindeer, mistle toe, gingerbread men, red and green wrapping paper covering gifts, etc.

    However, when christian symbols like the cross and the ten commandments are displayed, legal problems are created. To avoid government endorsement of christianity, the government can not allow only christian symbols to be displayed on public property. The government must allow all other displays as well (e.g. from satanists, atheists, hindus, muslims, etc.). There is not enough land to allow every religious group to put up monuments, so therefore it is generally easier to not allow any religious displays on public property. Mentioning this in a public forum like internet blogs is not complaining.

  6. 6
    JonP

    I like to say “Happy Winter Solstice!” It tends to catch people a little off-guard, but it is the Reason for the Season.

  7. 7
    ShowMetheData

    “I see no reason for you to complain about christmas trees in public”

    Always have the right to complain.
    In a public place – specifically a private area – you can complain about its tackiness but not its legality.

    In a public place – specifically a governmental place – if it’s a tree with christmas lights and possible religious ornaments, we have a right to ask questions. Does this have a secular purpose(one part of the Lemon test)? Honest answers are required.

    But history has proven time and time again that the answers given by Christians are usually lies just to keep the religious elements in – unconstitutionally

    Is that baby jesus – no, just a jewish baby hanging about
    Is that a set of bibilcal wise-men – no, just maintenance guys

  8. 8
    JonP

    I almost forgot,

    May the best evaluation of consequences for your behavior, based on observations from actual reality, be your guiding light in 2014!

  9. 9
    colnago80

    And a merry Isaac Newton’s birthday to you.

  10. 10
    OverlappingMagisteria

    Don’t worry about being flamed for saying “Merry Christmas”, dano. I think for the most part, atheists don’t care whether you say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hannakuh, or whatever. You’re wishing us a happy day and I appreciate that!

  11. 11
    Al Dente

    God Bless!

    And may the Flying Spaghetti Monster touch you with His noodly appendage.

  12. 12
    wtfwhateverd00d

    > In a public place – specifically a governmental place – if it’s a tree with christmas lights and possible religious ornaments, we have a right to ask questions. Does this have a secular purpose(one part of the Lemon test)? Honest answers are required.

    But that’s my point. Professor Singham just said Christmas was a secular holiday. Certainly then Christmas Trees are also secular. No no harm no foul by placing them on public square. No need for menorahs or atheist displays to balance.

  13. 13
    dano

    I don’t know if that is a good thing or not Al?

  14. 14
    wtfwhateverd00d

    The Holiday is called CHRIST mas. It’s not called “Winter Solstice Celebration”. It commemorates JESUS CHRIST who allegedly died on a CROSS.

    If CHRIST mas is a secular holiday that has no religious meaning, then certainly the CROSS that JESUS DIED ON THAT THE HOLIDAY COMMEMORATES has no religious intent either. Hence, no problems with putting it up in the public square at Christmas next to the CHRIST mas tree.

    OTOH, Menorahs are clearly part of Judaism and the gov’t cannot endorse religion, so menorahs and displays from satanists, hindus, atheists, and muslims must be kept off the public square UNLESS they are celebrating CHRIST mas.

  15. 15
    Scott D

    I don’t really consider my upcoming comment as “flaming.”

    I’m okay with being wished a Merry Christmas. It doesn’t bother me. Christmas is a cultural event and people are wishing me to be “Merry” during this religiously named holiday called “Christmas.” Such a statement isn’t really wishing me to change to the Christian religion. It’s just wishing me an attitude of good will and celebration.

    But for someone to come onto an obviously secular website “Christ be your guiding light for 2014,” seems to indicate a slightly passive aggressive wish to offend people. At the least, it blatantly attempts to minimize what has now become a core value to many of the people who frequent FTB and especially Mano’s blog: The desire to guide one’s life by knowledge and reason. Letting belief in a deity we do not believe in be part of your well wishing for us is an affront, given the fact that you know what kind of blogsite this is.

    So, in the spirit of didactic reciprocity and with no malice in my heart I say to you,

    “Merry Christmas and may you give up your Christian faith and become a skeptical, critical thinking secularist!”

    If it burns , you may learn.

  16. 16
    Mano Singham

    You are confusing the name of something with its meaning and significance. Because something has the word ‘Christ’ in it does not make it religious just because Christians worship Jesus. I can give my dog the name Christ and is does not make him holy. Similarly, I can decide to rename Jesus as Fido, and it does not make him into a dog-like character.

    Similarly, just because something that has the word ‘Christ’ in it is secular does not mean that everything associated with that word is secular. So a Christmas tree can be a secular symbol while the cross is not. To argue that because the Christmas tree is secular, therefore Christ is secular, therefore the Latin cross is secular, therefore it is fine to have the Latin cross on government property is wordplay, not logic.

    It is the context and intent that is relevant.

  17. 17
    dano

    Scott, I am not offended and as a daily reader and commenter I understand your plight. Just for you Scott I am wishing you and your family Happy Holidays and a glorious 2014! I feel much better now don’t you?

  18. 18
    Scott D

    Yes! That is a pretty darn good Christmas wish! Right back at you!

  19. 19
    filethirteen

    I live in a city called Christchurch. Yes, this is named after a CHURCH of JESUS CHRIST. But I live here and I’m an atheist. I didn’t choose the name and no amount of getting my knickers in a knot about it will ever change it. What do you propose I should do?

    To me, this is very similar to joining in celebrations for the winter solstice even when the popular name for it is Christmas.

  20. 20
    wtfwhateverd00d

    > To argue that because the Christmas tree is secular, therefore Christ is secular, therefore the Latin cross is secular, therefore it is fine to have the Latin cross on government property is wordplay, not logic.

    To claim that CHRISTmas is secular is delusional on it’s face. To excuse it by noting you can call your dog Christ and it doesn’t make him holy doesn’t even qualify as sophistry.

  21. 21
    jonP

    I like it.

  22. 22
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    I dunno – I never thought, when I was learning countries’ names in the early 70s, that there’d be a place we’d come to know even partly as Aotearoa, either. Keep hope!

    Of course, I recently found an atlas I’d nicked from the school back in the day, and spent a little while looking at maps of countries that don’t exist anymore. Sure are a lot of them.

  23. 23
    wtfwhateverd00d

    I grew up in a very liberal Democratic portion of Southern California surrounded by Christians who

    + Excitedly talked in public school about going to Christmas Mass
    + Told me that Christmas was the holiday where the Jews killed Christ
    + Wanted to know why I didn’t have a Hanukkah Bush

    It’s insane for any atheist to claim that Christmas is some sort of secular holiday

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_8_Genesis_reading

    Frank Borman
    “‘And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
    And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.’
    And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

    Madalyn Murray O’Hair, an atheist, responded by suing the United States government, alleging violations of the First Amendment.[4] The suit was dismissed by the Supreme Court due to lack of jurisdiction.[5] Later, on the Apollo 11 mission, Buzz Aldrin received communion on the lunar surface shortly after landing. Although he did not keep his actions secret, he only said a non-religious sentence on the intercom, and read from the scripture off-air.[4][6]

  24. 24
    mnb0

    “But calling “Christ” fucking mas a secular holiday”
    Such petty problems for you native English speakers. The Dutch speaking people have shown foresight by corrupting the word into Kerstmis. As a result nobody cares anymore if it’s associated with the birth of some preacher about 2000 years ago. The German speaking people are even more prudent: they call it Weihnachten.
    So much fuzz about a few words.

  25. 25
    mnb0

    This doesn’t work if you live near the equator, like me.

  26. 26
    mnb0

    It’s insane and arrogant for an American to make a global claim like

    “It’s insane for any atheist to claim that Christmas is some sort of secular holiday”.

    Keep your silly American problems to yourself. Don’t burden me with them, because I don’t f**king care.

  27. 27
    Steve Morrison

    Hm. Do you celebrate a holiday called “Easter”, and if so, does it mean that you worship a pagan goddess? Or, would that be what linguists call the etymological fallacy?

  28. 28
    Lofty

    You can name any day after any fictional character, including that supposed “jesus” character out of a moldy old book of fables, doesn’t make the day special. The decision to share the day with family and friends is what makes the day special. As it is commonly know as “christmas” (short “i”) I can continue to use than name if it aids understanding as to what day we’re referring to. This year christmas falls on a wednesday, which is named after another fictional character out of pagan mythology.

  29. 29
    elpayaso

    whreupon Tiny Tim noted, “And a gloriously debauched Saturnalia to us all!”

  30. 30
    Raging Bee

    I find it offensive and erasing to ever describe “Christ” fucking mas as a secular holiday.

    Tough shit — it’s called Christmas (even by non-Christians, who need to distinguish it from Yule and Solstice), and it’s become a secular holiday. Those are observable facts, not just claims made up by atheists.

    But calling “Christ” fucking mas a secular holiday leads to pressure on atheists and non Christians to celebrate it.

    Bullshit — there’s been pressure to celebrate it as long as I can remember, and it has nothing to do with what anyone calls it. And for as long as I can remember, that pressure has been avoidable in some real ways.

    The fact is, LOTS of different religious and cultural traditions have some sort of celebration on or near the Winter Solstice (Christmas, Solstice, Yule, Saturnalia, etc.); so it makes perfect sense to have some sort of secular holiday then, to at least try to accomodate as many of those traditions as is feasible.

    As for the decorated evergreen tree, yes, that’s become a generic secular symbol, quite different from the cross. It’s certainly not exclusively Christian — it’s a tradition they stole from the Norse, and I know there are plenty of Pagans, agnostics and atheists who set up trees in their homes.

  31. 31
    Scr... Archivist

    mnb0 @24,

    The Dutch speaking people have shown foresight by corrupting the word into Kerstmis.

    We Anglophones would probably mis-hear that first part as “cursed”. And for some of us, it is….

    —–

    wtfwhateverd00d @20,

    To claim that CHRISTmas is secular is delusional on it’s face.

    To claim that All Hallows’ Eve (which is on the first day of Hallowmas) is secular is delusional on its face. I mean, it’s as religious as Cristes Mæsse!

    Look, call it “Crimble” like the Beatles did, and you’ll be fine.

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