December 2, 2013

The Politics of the War on Christmas

"Give War Bonds for Christmas" - NAR...
"Give War Bonds for Christmas" - NARA - 514402 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Austin Cline (About Agnosticism/Atheism.com) brings us news of a 2011 poll about the so-called 'war on Christmas' we secularists are allegedly waging in the U.S. The results may be a bit dated, but that does not make them any less interesting. And while most of the findings were predictable, there is at least one surprise.

Based on these 2011 data, the U.S. population appears to be about evenly divided on the question of whether there is any sort of war on Christmas. I suppose this will be a surprise to some, but it makes sense when one considers that we seem to be about evenly divided on nearly everything these days. Things get more interesting when one digs below the surface and examines finer distinctions showing that belief in this particular form of nonsense varies by political orientation and region. For example, Republicans are far more likely to believe that there is a war on Christmas (58%) vs. Democrats (22%). Similarly, conservatives are more likely to agree (61%) than liberals (21%). It should also be no surprise that belief in the Christmas wars is higher in the South. One surprise, as Austin notes, is that the difference between the South and other regions is not more pronounced.

Austin wonders whether belief in the war on Christmas is due more to conservative political beliefs or the conspiratorial thinking. Both are likely involved. The type of conspiratorial thinking one finds among social conservatives is a perfect match for the manufactured war on Christmas. It has been a lucrative myth for those seeking to exploit this segment of the population, particularly when it is promoted by Fox "News" and conservative talk radio. I think this propaganda is the primary reason for this belief and that it serves to maintain it year after year by fitting secular activism into the war on Christmas narrative.

The biggest surprise from the poll data for me concerns the Democrats and liberals. Who the hell are these roughly 21-22% on the left who actually think there is a war on Christmas taking place? Are they similarly misinformed by right-wing propaganda, deluded, or what? Could they have had something very different in mind when they answered this question? Perhaps they were thinking about the war the Christian right has created and waged against secularism, common sense, and tolerance. Or maybe they were thinking about how many Christians seem to freak out whenever anyone says "happy holidays" this time of year. Might this have been why they indicated that there was a war on Christmas? I don't know, but it does seem strange.

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