'War on Christmas' Soldiers Have No Foe

We are once again in the middle of what can now be considered a new American tradition: falsely bashing nonbelievers for being anti-Christian in general, and anti-Christmas in particular. This annual religious right ritual claims that secular Americans are involved in some sort of insidious campaign to stop everyone from saying Merry Christmas.

In 2005, the Liberty Council and the Alliance Defense Fund offered over 1,500 lawyers between them to battle this manufactured problem, with a spokesperson saying, "It's a sad, sad day in America when you have to retain an attorney to say Merry Christmas." Without citing any evidence, DefendChristmas.com currently claims it has gotten so bad that "many nearly come to blows debating the mere use of the word 'Christmas' in schools and at public events."

Bill O'Reilly is the one given credit for popularizing the assertion that there is a "war on Christmas" and that stopping use of the phrase Merry Christmas is part of it, claiming it is part of "the secular progressive agenda."

As a leader in the movement advocating for atheists, humanists, and agnostics I ought to know if we're at war, and yet I remain unaware of any organized effort to thwart businesses and others from saying "Merry Christmas." There is no secular group spending dollars to advocate for the elimination of Merry Christmas from the lexicon. There is no effort to remove Christmas as a federal holiday. And there is no hatred of Christians or Jesus driving our agenda.

Sure, secular Americans don't want government specifically promoting sectarian holidays in a way that entangles our tax payer dollars in religion, but that's not antagonism toward Christmas. It's just an interest in supporting the First Amendment of the law of our land.

Sometimes there is a case where a school or some other government entity tells employees that certain sectarian language and/or symbols won't be allowed. These moves are to maintain church-state separation and to not exclude anyone from the events and work being done. It doesn't mean that there is a general "war on Christmas" or an attempt to stop use of "Merry Christmas" by the general public.

Because there is no enemy to fight in this "war," one had to be conceived: businesses that decided to be inclusive rather than exclusive in their holiday advertising. The result is a powerful campaign by fundamentalists to force businesses to use Merry Christmas instead of Seasons Greetings or Happy Holidays.

The real question is why do fundamentalists reject the holiday spirit by attempting to force people to use language that only references Christians? Aren't they aware that such sectarian language excludes 1 in 5 Americans? Why would they endorse a campaign of exclusion during the holiday season when togetherness and joy is supposed to be primary?

Of course: it's all about money.

The main target of this effort by the religious right is not an enemy looking to eliminate Christmas, as a word or a holiday. The real target is their existing audience of supporters. Pitches for money by places like the Alliance Defense Fund and the Liberty Council based on this shadow fight make the members of the religious right feel threatened and more likely to give. This also fits with their requests for businesses to be boycotted who don't advertise in a manner approved by the Religious Right.

When believers (and most non-believers) are asked what themes are supposed to be at the center of the holiday season, the most common answer will include sentiments like joy, happiness, togetherness, giving, and cheer, among many others. Fighting a made up war for money is anathema to this list. Do the "soldiers" in this war know what they are really fighting for?