November 17, 2008

Rethinking the War on Christmas

war on christmas
The month of November brings both Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving, but it also heralds something even more special - the war on Christmas. It is almost unfortunate that this war is nothing more than a marketing campaign by Christian extremists to solicit donations from their deluded supporters. If the war was real, it could bring atheists together to denounce Christian privilege as a potent cultural factor for maintaining extremism. But sadly, the war on Christmas is nothing more than an exercise in atheist-bashing where we become the boogeyman long enough to fill right-wing coffers. For this season, I have but one simple question: is there any way we could use this imagined war to benefit ourselves and our compatriots in reality?

I realize that this may seem like a strange question, and to be honest, I'm writing this post without much idea of where it will end up. That is, I'm not sure how we could turn this war to our advantage. It only occurs to me that it might be a question worth asking.

The Christian right has a platform from which to loudly blather about our fictional attacks on their religion. Each year, representatives from atheist groups set the record straight, pointing out there there is no such war. It makes no difference, and the dance is repeated next year.

What if we went off script? What if we embraced their imagined war and made it real? I don't mean armed conflict, of course, but an unflinching war of ideas. Perhaps this would give them exactly what they most want - an enemy they could use to incite fear and raise dollars. But in a way, they already have this even without our participation.

Instead of using our limited public forums to defend ourselves against Christian extremists, what do you suppose would happen if we went on the offensive? Imagine an atheist saying something like the following on national TV:
We all know that there is no actual war on Christmas and that windbags like Bill O'Reilly talk about it just to raise money for Christian extremists groups. But maybe there should be a war - not necessarily on Christmas itself - but on the Christian extremism responsible for spreading hate and blocking our educational and scientific progress as a nation.
If nothing else, might this force the mainstream media to discuss Christian extremism and how it impacts our nation? Might that not be a place to start?

Personally, I'm on board with boycotting Christmas altogether as just another celebration of superstition. But I recognize that this idea has little traction in the atheist community and am fine with that. After all, Christmas isn't the problem; Christian extremism (and arguably Christianity itself) is the problem.

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