I’m again asking for activist atheists and humanists to make either a quick note or a detailed critique to a letter to the editor of my local paper. Both the humanist starting point and the (off-topic) theist reply are included. I invite others to post similar letters so that others can help out. Even a short note is valuable if the editor receives several of them. Please post your letters here when you have done so. Thanks to BB for such a great letter last time.
Cowichan Vallley Citizen editor: Andrea Rondeau (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HERE IS THE ORIGINAL LETTER to the editor that was posted in my local paper. It is a response to the generic emails we all get at Christmas from acquaintences, telling us to "keep Christ in Christmas", because some threatening, anonymous "they" are conspiring to remove him/it. It is more specifically a response to an opinion piece by Walker Morrow titled "Keep Christ in Christmas", in which Morrow "can’t abide" people who say "Happy Holidays", when he says they should say "Merry Christmas". Such Christians do not use MC as a greeting, but rather as a test of religiosity, and that is the point of the letter.
The "Christ in Christmas" columns and e-mails have made the rounds. If you didn’t get yours, I’ll paraphrase for you: the phrase "Merry Christmas" is not a salutation, but a means test of tribal purity. If you use it, you’re in the tribe; if you say "Season’s Greetings" you are depriving the tribe, by not pandering to them and telling them how special they are.
Put Christ in Christmas? Who's forcing anyone not to? Nobody. The only group trying to tell others what to think, what to do, and how to do it are those demanding that everyone "Put Christ in Christmas". Atheist author George Orwell coined the phrase "double-speak" to describe such blatant deception.
The real issue here is that state and business endorsement for one viewpoint to the exclusion of all others is waning, and the previously priveleged can’t accept being treated the same as everyone else. If that sounds familiar, it is - priveleged groups reacted the same way to equality for women, non-whites, and homosexuals. Identical arguments have been used against all these movements. Religious prejudice exists year round and is only voiced at Christmas as an appeal to tradition. This issue is important because it is part of a much wider societal struggle.
Secular society permits people to do what they want on their own property, on their own time. However, our state (including schools) and businesses cater to everyone, not just the 55% of British Columbians who self-identified as Christian in the 2001 Census. It’s discriminatory for government to privilege any one religion, or religion generally. It’s bad for businesses to do so, so they don’t. State and business therefore wish everyone happy holidays, not just one group.
Those who "can’t abide hearing Happy Holidays" are intolerant of all non-Christian religions, and all who practice no religion. That’s 45% of British Columbians, and growing. Why is this bigotry still so mainstream? Why do we have to read, every December, columns and e-mails from the same theocratic bigots, advocating the imposition of their views upon everyone else?
HERE IS THE RESPONSE. Please note that the respondent has not responded to the issues raised in the first letter; namely the fact that at Christmas time it is Christians, like Walker Morrow who "can’t abide people saying Happy Holidays"; and who are trying to tell others what they must think to the point of telling them what phrases they must use (ie "Merry Christmas"). Note also that Brianne has not addressed any of the points raised by Sheena regarding what this issue is really about. It’s not MC that is being frowned upon, it’s HH, so Brianne should not get away with trying to switch the topic around 180 degrees. "Politically correct" is used as a way to dismiss any opinion Brianne disagrees with.
Merry Christmas Not Offensive
The Cowichan Valley Citizen
Published: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
When I read the letter "Christmas forcing religion" (Jan. 9), I was saddened to find that the author of the letter seemed to imply that saying "Merry Christmas" was forcing religion upon others.
Let me get something straight -- people have been celebrating one of the most well-known events in history for over 2,000 years, and now simply greeting someone with a "Merry Christmas" is frowned upon?
We all have fond memories of Christmas -- a gathering of friends and family, filled with love and the Christmas spirit. To Christians, it is an important holiday filled with love and celebrating the birth of Christ. Even to those who are not Christians, Christmas is a time emphasizing peace and good will.
Large corporations and the politically correct would feel that "Happy Holidays" is a better greeting during the month of December. What sort of feeling does the phrase "Happy Holidays" conjure? A time when stores are advertising sales, the nightmares of busy parking lots, and malls overflowing with people trying to get all their Christmas shopping done? Where is the "Christmas spirit" of love, and the feeling that giving is better than receiving?
Those who wish to be politically correct would feel that "Happy Holidays" is less offensive. But less offensive to whom? Most people don't have a problem with others celebrating their own religious holiday. I certainly don't have a problem if someone of a different religion were to wish me a religious greeting. How can "Merry Christmas" be offensive to those celebrating the holiday (which the vast majority of Canadians do)?
If we were to continue with all this political correctness to "not offend anyone," where will Christmas be in 25 or 50 years? What will it mean to your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren? Will they have the same feeling of love, peace, and good will that we have embedded in our memories? Or will they simply say, "Happy Holidays" without feeling, and forget the meaning of Christmas entirely? For the sake of those to come, I certainly hope not.