Up yours, Virginia

Dispatch from the War on Christmas: Atheists make fools of themselves in Olympia while violence breaks out at Wal-Mart. The sacred season is now a very, very sick season.
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Dispatch from the War on Christmas: Atheists make fools of themselves in Olympia while violence breaks out at Wal-Mart. The sacred season is now a very, very sick season.

The War on Christmas is going full force on two fronts. First, the atheists are making fools of themselves. Second, Christmas' most enthusiastic boosters — insane shoppers — are disgracing the holidays by murdering each other.

Usually, the war on Christmas is headlined by some boob making an asinine declaration in the name of inclusiveness or separation of church and state — for example the Port of Seattle pulling down a Christmas tree at Sea-Tac so as not to have to also put up a menorah. Or King County Executive Ron Sims banning "Merry Christmas." These guys are the usual PC pinatas that pop up every year.

Now the state of Washington and Gov. Christine Gregoire have come up with a new way to celebrate the season: Let anyone set up a religious display in the state Capitol (no sacrificing goats, though!). Since you can't selectively use public property to endorse a long-standing religious tradition anymore, the pendulum has swung wide and now anyone with an axe to grind on a Christmas, excuse me, "holiday" tree, is welcome.

The Capitol has had a "holiday" tree for years, part of an Association of Washington Business fundraiser that's raised $300,000 for rural poor kids. And there will be a nativity scene too. But this year joining the fun will be atheists posting a state-permitted placard pissing on religion in general.

According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, which highlighted the controversy over Thanksgiving weekend with page one, above the fold play, the atheists' sign will read:

"At this season of the winter solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

Yes, and there's no Santa either, so up yours, Virginia.

Atheists are their own worst enemy — and I speak as an atheist-sympathizer. One of my beefs is the obnoxious, counter-productive ways many atheists find to express themselves. One would think that independent-minded atheists could live and let live, or offer their views with respect or persuasiveness. At the very least atheists should be sensitive to the dangers of proselytizing. But no. During the Christmas and Hanukkah their PR strategy is to call Christian celebrants brainwashed slaves. Myth and superstition themselves do not harden hearts, but here's what does: The inability to respect the beliefs of others or treat anything as sacred.

The same edition of the Spokesman-Review, a guest columnist, Donald Clegg, wrote a piece for the "Faith and Values" page titled "Biblical passages at times contradict Christian message." Clegg wondered just "how 'Christian' was Jesus himself." I have no doubt some readers found this provocative, but it was a polite doubter's case for reading the Bible as myth. But more important is Clegg's final quote:

I don't read the Bible any differently than I do The Iliad or The Odyssey, and if you feel otherwise, I'll just go with Thomas Jefferson on this one: "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket not breaks my leg."

This, I think, is a good attitude for people of all faiths, atheists included, to keep in mind. Don't pick thy neighbors pocket, don't break thy neighbors leg in the name of religion or anything else.

Unfortunately, those who worship at the shrine of Christmas commerce aren't following those rules. I've been disgusted for years by the grotesque spectacle of Black Friday. Media coverage has turned holiday shopping into a nasty, competitive sport that promotes destructive consumerism. This year, as we face the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, things turned even uglier.

On Long Island, a Wal-Mart clerk was trampled to death by unrepentant bargain hunters who turned sullen when asked to leave the store after his death. I repeat: holiday shoppers murdered a clerk to get at holiday bargains.

The mood was weird in California too, where a shootout in a Toys R Us left two dead. The store was quick to say the deaths had nothing to do with the toys, but does that let them off the hook? Retailers and their media enablers whip up holiday mania and exploit the resulting mayhem. And here in America, before the soul-searching about the morality of it all, the first question addressed is: Who's gonna get their ass sued for wrongful death? Turns out that the Black Friday massacre could be good business for lawyers too.

So the War on Christmas continues. The atheists, playing spoilers to Judeo-Christian belief, give atheism a bad name instead, while PC public officials pursue policies that debase the whole notion of the sacred season. I score this a loss for the anti-Christmas forces.

Likewise, the pro-Christmas shock troops who are now the measure of the success or failure of the holiday season, are out of control, as selfish and murderous as Somali pirates. The success of Christmas is no longer determined by how many spirits are lifted but by the blood and treasure shed or gained. Religious interests have surrendered to commercial ones. I score this a loss for the pro-Christmas forces.

This is a war that nobody is winning, but everyone had better hope the atheists are right. Otherwise, there'll be hell to pay.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.