Holiday Fare

A Non-Believers’ Shout at
the Crossroads of the World

It’s that time of the year again. The great American tradition of pluralism and tolerance gets stretched to the limit as the country is blanketed with religions candor. A time to supposedly celebrate our humanity turns into an all out feast of devotion and shopping.
Christmas being the biggest religious holiday, many think that it means the same to everyone. Or that it should. Despite the Founding Fathers’ explicit aim at keeping church and state apart, everywhere we look, the first tramples the latter. Now, some are pushing back.
Concerned that people may be forgetting that that this country was founded on ideas and laws, not faith and piety, American Atheists decided to use the occasion to remind us that not everyone is on the same page. So they just put up a billboard at Times Square, New York.
Do we have to use the cliche, ‘all hell broke lose’ to characterized the (over) reaction of some media pundits? Or much prior to this, there was already another concerted effort to label ‘war on Christmas’ any initiative that says otherwise? Who knows and who cares? Well, atheists now care.
Not just them, but also Jews, Muslims, Hindus, do we need to keep on going? Except that other faiths, perhaps used to play second fiddle, don’t even complain about it. And there’s an implicit, unwritten code preaching that, even though there’s no doubt that ‘my god is better and bigger than yours,’ I don’t mind that you worship yours.
That is, as long as you’re worshiping one god or another, right? Now, for those who dare not to have a preferred god or cult to follow, and don’t even care about it either way, the rules of ecumenical patronizing don’t apply. So it’s easier to just bash them. Figuratively, of course.

Taking the risk of starting a fight here, it’s undeniable that there’s a changing pattern going on in American life right now: people have lost their Inquisition-induced fear of eternal damnation, or of burning in the fires of hell, when they say that they don’t believe in god.
And they’re saying it on talk shows, social networks, in stores and shopping malls, regardless of all those Christmas carols playing on a loop, most of them, by the way, written by Jewish composers. The church, of course, is paying attention. Why else would the pope himself take it to Twitter?
The fact is that a certain brand of fanatical religiosity has increasingly taken over airwaves and even the public discourse, attempting to dictate cultural mores, and influence government policy. The current push back may as well be an answer to such zealotry and intolerance.
For is one thing to believe in a set of fantastical tales, and base one’s life on them, as literally as one sees it fit. It’s another alarming matter when there’s an attempt to shove such set of beliefs down everyone else’s throats. As it usually happens, the last straw may have come when there was a threat against certain fundamental women rights.
In another disturbing trend that mirrors the obscurantist attachment to the past of certain Asian faiths, the so-called Christian right’s attempt to rule over a woman’s body may have ultimately done the extremists in. All of a sudden, the whole society respond against the threat with a loud NO!

In hindsight, such an assault couldn’t possibly succeed, and to say that it’s because it was essentially unconstitutional is an understatement. But we may have yet to fully regain a certain measure of confidence that we live in a society that accepts ALL lifestyles, for as long as they don’t hurt anyone else. Some of it, along with time, may have been lost.
Something else may have been affected by this period, hopefully now in the past, of extreme religiosity, talks of rapture and miracles and, perhaps not coincidentally, of one the bloodiest war times of our country: science. All of a sudden, there was a scary wave of dismissal of scientific research threatening to drown us all in ignorance.
We’re not quite out of the woods on that one yet. If there’s any war is on the Theory of Evolution, which for over 150 years has defeated all attempts to prove it wrong. Such attempts, scientific experiments for short, have been only corroborating its main tenets. It’s still our best shot to understanding how we all got here.
But we still see elected officials and politicians denying it, which is not only inconceivable for someone in their position, but downright dangerous. And let’s not even get started with what they say about the age of the Earth, dinosaurs, the facts behind climate change, for Jesus’s sake.

Yup, you’ve read it right: we’ve just tossed in the man after whom the world’s arguably biggest religion is named, and who, as it goes, happens to have been a Jew, and never found any religion of his own. And since we’re at it, let’s throw the book at them too: he did not write the Bible. There. we said it.
But hey, if someone thinks that this is the season for finding our common humanity, and to do some charity, or volunteering, or just, why not, being nice to each other, we’re all for it. It’s really great. As long you’re not doing that in some kind of bargain with your invisible buddy, go ahead.
Just let those who don’t feel one way or another, be it, will ya? As for the atheists, many of them who don’t even see the point of placing billboards declaring what they do and don’t believe in, they’ll be fine. They, and the millions of non-Christians, are probably out too, buying gifts for their loved ones. Hey, ’tis the season, right? So cheer up.

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