December 20, 2007

Atheists, Put HR. 847 In Perspective

When I first heard about Congress passing H. Res. 847 for the purpose of "Recognizing the Importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith," I nearly crapped myself. Yes, I admit it. My initial impulse was to fly off the handle and begin ranting about this as being one more step toward theocracy. Instead, I took the time to learn something about the context in which this resolution occurred and discovered that it does not actually change anything. I am still upset, but I'm not going to the mattresses over this one.

You can read the full text of H. Res. 847 here, and I will be the first to admit that it sounds pretty awful. It refers to Christianity as "great," lends credence to the idea that America was somehow rooted in Christianity, and fosters the myth of widespread persecution of Christians (in the United States of all places).

But, it is important to realize that this is merely one of hundreds of similar resolutions the House approves every year, largely for ceremonial purposes. Examples include Haitian Flag Day, Grandparents Day, and countless others. In fact, this same Congress has already passed similar resolutions about Ramadan (H. Res. 635) and Diwali (H. Res. 747). Thus, interpretations of H. Res. 847 as the dawn of American theocracy or evidence of Nazism are unfounded and run the risk of making us look ill-informed.

I do agree with much of the statement issued by the Council for Secular Humanism which I previously posted. The resolution was unnecessary, and it does sound bigoted in its focus on Christianity while ignoring the contributions of persons of other religious backgrounds and atheists. Its intent was to throw a bone to Christians and not to be inclusive, just as previous resolutions focused on other groups and did not try to be inclusive. I agree with the Council that Congress should be educated about this, and I commend them for issuing their statement.

It is tempting to call upon Congress to do something similar for atheism, but I'd prefer they stopped wasting their time on ceremonial statements and spent their time crafting solutions to the many problems facing America.

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