December 18, 2018

Why Some Care About Religious Displays on Government Property

Christmas nativity scene

Here we are in the midst of what many refer to as the "holiday season" because they personally celebrate various holidays this time of year or because they are well aware that their culture strongly encourages them and everyone else to do so. And just like every year, governments will violate the separation of church and state by promoting specific religions, prompting objections from some atheists who will be condemned as "Grinches" or worse.

It is in this context that I'd like to call your attention to an excellent post by Rob Boston (Americans United for Separation of Church and State). In it, he makes an important point of which some atheists lose sight this time of year because they like Christmas decorations. I'm highlighting it not just because it is timely but because I think Boston does a great job explaining why some of us do care about religious displays on government property.

December 17, 2018

Apologizing For Who You Are

woman with no face

While flipping through the TV channels the other night, I landed on a news program in which a multiracial man was being interviewed. I don't even recall the topic, but what captured my attention was that he seemed to be apologizing for being Black. He reported that he had one White parent and one Black parent and that he had been raised to value both aspects of his heritage. And yet, here he was sounding apologetic for the fact that he looked Black. I found myself feeling angry that he - or anyone else - would have to feel bad about his race. Nobody should have to apologize for their race.

The issue here is not limited to race, of course. Nobody should have to apologize for their ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. It is not uncommon to find ourselves in situations where we should apologize for our behavior. That's different. Nobody should have to apologize or even to feel bad about who they are. Isn't enough that this guy lives in a society where he is going to be treated differently (and often poorly) because he looks Black? Surely, he doesn't need to apologize for who he is.

December 16, 2018

Predicting a Trump Victory in 2020

outraged women marching

If the liberals I follow on Twitter are right, President Donald Trump's days are numbered. Robert Mueller is coming, and Trump will be impeached long before the 2020 U.S. presidential election. I find this unlikely. I hate to say it, but I think that the title Ford O'Connell's recent post in The Hill is much closer to what we will probably see: "Trump will likely win reelection in 2020." Yep. I know it isn't a popular thought among liberals, but I think the safe bet is that we'll probably see another Trump term.

O'Connell briefly reviews the crowded field of possible Democratic candidates before noting that incumbent presidents tend to do fairly well when it comes to being reelected and that there is not usually much of a relationship between the midterm election that occurs during a president's first term and whether they are reelected. These points can be argued, of course. Trump is hardly a typical incumbent, and the anti-Trump sentiment reflected by Democratic wins in the House could continue to build into something we haven't seen before. But while that is possible, I can't say it strikes me as probable.

An Adult Who Believes in Santa

Santa in front of a fireplace

What would you say of a modern adult who genuinely believed in Santa Claus and all the associated stories (e.g., flying reindeer, visiting every home)? I imagine some of you might be able to refrain from openly mocking such a person, but most of you would probably have a hard time thinking that they were serious. I'd have a hard time moving past the possibility that someone was playing an elaborate joke on me by finding someone to pretend to believe something so silly. But really, what makes this any sillier than a modern adult who genuinely believes in gods and accepts religious dogma as true? Is there any more evidence that Jesus is still around in some capacity than there is for Santa?

There is at least one big difference between a modern adult who believes in Santa and one who believes in Jesus. The adult who believes in Jesus has far more company. And while most of us recognize that the popularity of a belief does not make it any more likely to be true, some religious believers seem to forget this when it is convenient to do so. Even if the popularity of a belief tells us little about the likelihood of the belief being true, we should recognize that it often does make the belief seem less silly. Extremely popular beliefs are, by definition, normal. When enough of a culture holds them and passes them down across generations, most people in that culture grow up perceiving them as much more normal than other belief systems. It should come as no surprise that Jesus-belief seems more normal to most of us raised in Jesusland than Santa-belief does, at least for adults.

December 15, 2018

Horror in December

Winter horror

After reaching my limit with Christmas music, Christmas-themed TV commercials, and other Christmas-related nonsense earlier than usual this year, it dawned on me that the only way to get a reprieve was either to turn off my TV or watch material from other sources. I did the former for as long as I could stand it before remembering that I had filled my DVR up with horror movies that aired during October that I hadn't had time to watch. With a few exceptions, I'd much rather watch British horror flicks from the 1970s than any Christmas-related nonsense. If I can remember this lesson next year, I think I'll plan to do the same thing.

I think I have seen most of the horror movies that use Christmas imagery, but the only one I really like is Black Christmas (1974). I suppose Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) isn't bad either. Some of the others were entertaining the first time around but don't hold up that well once the novelty wears off. I really wanted to like Krampus (2015) because I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to make a genuinely scary Christmas horror film, but it did not deliver the scares.