Poor Atheists

It’s hard for me to take this sort of thing [it’s available for free until Dec. 16] seriously. 

But a number of the atheists who have issues with Christmas said their feelings come in part from years of discrimination.

Larsen, a mechanic, said his ex-wife suggested his atheism was a character flaw in court filings during a contentious divorce with the custody of their children in dispute (he lost custody).

Really?  Discrimination?  All the reporter could find is one instance of something that was said “during a contentious divorce,” and suddenly atheists face discrimination at every turn?  Maybe you could sell that to Richard Dawkins, but you’re going to have to give me something more if you want to play the victim. 

Come to think of it, I don’t like it when Christians play the victim, either.  No one is taking Christ out of Christmas–except maybe Christians.  And who cares if they don’t say “Merry Christmas” at Walmart? (Do we really want capitalism equated with Christmas?  Not that I have anything against capitalism.)  If Christians would actually order their lives and thinking around the Church Year (=the life of Christ), it wouldn’t matter at all what the world does.  Perhaps that is precisely the problem: Christians order their lives around what the world does, so if the world doesn’t recognize Christ (and we should expect them to do so?), that constitutes a serious identity crisis. 

Even as they chafe at the omnipresence of Christmas, many of the atheists here are quick to stress their belief in the pagan roots of a yearly celebration near the winter solstice. Before Christianity and other organized religions, many cultures would mark the point where days started getting longer again with a “festival of light” that included parties, gift exchanges, even placing trees in homes. Some of those rituals were religious, but usually in a polytheistic way.

“What we’re celebrating this year is the promise of the sun returning. That’s S-U-N, not S-O-N,” said Bill Weir, a retired marketing executive from Plymouth.

“Then the Christians stole it,” said Marie Alena Castle, Minneapolis, the 82-year-old founder of Atheists for Human Rights and an atheist activist for two decades. It’s a season of celebration for the Jewish faith as well, with Hanukkah.

How many times does this assertion have to be disproven before people stop believing it?  (Of course, it would be useful to the “pagans” if it were true.)

Read this from Gene Edward Veith’s Cranach blog from 2006.  The salient point would be this:

William J. Tighe, a history professor at Muhlenberg College, gives a different account in his article “Calculating Christmas,” published in the December 2003 Touchstone Magazine. He points out that the ancient Roman religions had no winter solstice festival.

True, the Emperor Aurelian, in the five short years of his reign, tried to start one, “The Birth of the Unconquered Sun,” on Dec. 25, 274. This festival, marking the time of year when the length of daylight began to increase, was designed to breathe new life into a declining paganism. But Aurelian’s new festival was instituted after Christians had already been associating that day with the birth of Christ. According to Mr. Tighe, the Birth of the Unconquered Sun “was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians.” Christians were not imitating the pagans. The pagans were imitating the Christians.

But even if we “stole” the pagan festival from them, it would seem that we’ve been pretty successful at keeping it.  It’s like trying to change B.C. and A.D. to CE and BCE.  No matter what the periods are called, they’re still calculated from the ostensible year of Christ’s birth.  The French tried to turn back the clock on the Christian calendar, and they weren’t very succesful.  And even if pagans had some festival of light, it would only show how the prophecies of the Christ infiltrated every country and every religion (just as we see flood stories in every, or nearly every, ancient religion).  

Sorry, pagans.  No matter how much you whine, you can’t have it (back).  Every knee will bow.

And see here about Christmas trees, just for the fun of it.  (All you Christians in the U.S. have the Missouri Synod to thank [or dislike] for Christmas trees in church.)