During the last few weeks I have had and also overheard multiple conversations about the supposed, “War on Christmas,” and how atheists supposedly hate people telling them, “Merry Christmas.” As an atheist myself who enjoys the Christmas season, I was curious what other atheists think about the situation. Personally, I have no problem with a person wishing me, “Merry Christmas, “Happy Holidays,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Merry Kwanzaa,” or, “Happy New Year.” So long as you are sincerely wishing me well in your own way, I am cool with that.
When I was enjoying a cup of coffee and reading some Carl Sandburg at Waffle House several days ago, I got to be a fly on the wall when a few employees had their own ideological battle over what phrase is appropriate this time of year. As a customer was leaving, their server said loudly, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” The customer answered in kind. A few moments later, another employee mocked the first server, “Christmas isn’t for four days! You don’t need to say, ‘Merry Christmas.’ You can just say, “Happy Holidays.’ It covers everything.” The first server then replied, “I can say, ‘Merry Christmas,’ if I want! It is my Constitutional right!” As the two went back and forth, another server joined in on the side of the non-“Merry Christmas” side and the first server got even more agitated. It ended with some dishware being tossed angrily into the sink bin and the second server announcing, “You say what you want! It’s your job!” with the implicit warning that saying, “Merry Christmas,” could get you fired.
After the conversation cooled down, I asked all three, “Does your company have a specified policy on what to say during the holidays?” All shook their heads in the negative and one replied, “No, I don’t think so.” I said, “Just for the record, I am an atheist, but, I have no problem with a person saying, ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Holidays,’ or whatever to me during the season.” Oddly enough, the second and third servers from the previous conversation did not seem happy to hear my interjection. Yet, not upset enough to argue with me. I also asked the three of them if they had experienced any negativity from any customers to being told a particular holiday phrase. They all said, “No.” It was strange to see people getting so riled up about what seemed to be a non-issue. I felt like the ironic atheist, publicly defending, “Merry Christmas.”
With my interest peaked even more about the issue, I decided to poll some of my fellow atheists to see what they thought about it. I did an informal poll on two different secret atheist groups on Facebook that I participate in.
My poll was simple. I posted,
“I’d appreciate the Club’s help with an informal poll for a Christmas article I’m working on. Here is the question…
As an atheist, does it offend you when a stranger says, “Merry Christmas,” to you, rather than, “Happy Holidays” or something more generic for the season? Please start your response with, “Yes,” (that it does offend you) or, “No,” (that it doesn’t)”
I got responses from atheists from all over the United States and in multiple other countries. The responses totaled 84 votes between the two Facebook groups.
The results were:
– 82 atheists had no problem being wished a, “Merry Christmas.”
-2 said that the phrase did SOMETIMES bother them.
The two voting that the phrase was at times offensive to them added,
“Yes, sometimes, I do get offended, but only because I live in the south where everyone just always assumes everyone is Christian. I’m tired of always having to live by their rules. I also am aware that it’s a small thing that I don’t need to sweat, so don’t anyone go off on me.”
and, “Yes, depending on the person saying it. If they know me personally, then they know I’m an atheist and I would expect them to respect me enough to say happy holidays as I would do the same in return as my wish for them would reflect whatever religion they observe. From a stranger, no, doesn’t bother me at all.”
All said and done, over 97% of the atheists polled did not mind people telling them, “Merry Christmas,” at all. The two people who did find it offensive, only did under certain circumstances. Though my sample group was not very large, it did offer great variation in culture and geography. That said, I don’t think that the whole, “War on Christmas,” by atheists is everything the media cracks it up to be. Heck, the vast majority of the atheists polled even celebrate Christmas to some degree.
I have rarely every found an atheist that had any problem with another person’s personal expression of their own religious beliefs. But, we do tend to get upset when religious dogma is imposed via federal, state, or local government. As much as we value the rights of individuals, we also value the Constitutional restrictions regarding government pushing or showing preference to any religion. Again, I speak generally and not for every atheist in the world. We don’t all live on an island, have an atheist Pope, or think the same thing… and, we’re more like a herd of cats than a herd of sheep.
You have the right to say whatever holiday season well-wishing you want to people. They may like it or may not. Likely, they won’t even care.For me, I generally respond to a person with what they offered me. If, “Merry Christmas,” I respond with, “Merry Christmas.” If, “Happy Holidays,” I answer the same back. Still, I do think that, “Happy Holidays,” is the most comprehensive and inclusive benison. It includes all holidays and and excludes none. Yet, I know that some Christians feel excluded when not specifically blessed per their specifications. They don’t give much credence to the holidays of other faiths during this season and have tunnel vision for Christmas. Only wear that shoe if it fits. I am not trying to ruffle your feathers. Let each search their own conscience regarding this issue.
There is enough drama in life. There is no need to spend December pissing on one another’s holiday campfire and fighting battles that don’t exist. So cheer up! The, “War on Christmas,” is just a sham. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And, have a great New Year! -Luke
“They call us ‘Homophobic’! I ain’t scared of no queers! They are the ones going to hell! They should be scared!” That was the line shouted by my red-faced, Independent Baptist pastor from behind his sacred pulpit nearly fifteen years ago…
Let me first back up even more to my childhood. Born in 1977, I was primarily raised during the 80’s. It was a time when there were no obviously gay characters on regular TV and “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straights had the lyric “that little faggot with the earring and the make-up” playing on the radio. The 1980’s saw the end of the golden age for those who wanted a primarily gay-free pop culture. Outside of the correlation made between the outbreak of HIV/AIDS and homosexuality, I don’t remember many other references to gays by the media during my childhood.
I didn’t have any inherent dislike of gay people growing up. Though, being called a “fag” or “queer” by a peer was considered highly unfavorable and generally started a fight. Even though homosexuality wasn’t a primary topic of conversation during those years, when it was mentioned, it was always a negative thing and typically spoken of with disgust. “Queers” were people you had to watch out for. They were the kind that messed with little boys. I don’t recall a single correlation of homosexuality with anything less than evil in daily life or the media until I was in my teens. If I’d grown up somewhere other than Indiana, that may not have been the case. But, my childhood was during the 80’s and I was a Hoosier.
I didn’t know anyone who was outwardly gay in school until I was a senior and one girl came out as a lesbian. I did not know her well, but I did give her a ride home from school once. Even with all the negativity toward gays growing up, I had no dislike for gay people. Or rather, since I didn’t really know any, I didn’t dislike the idea of people being gay.
I remember the TV movie “Doing Time on Maple Drive” in 1992. Jim Carrey was in it and played the alcoholic brother of a young, closeted, gay man. I really liked that movie. After watching the movie, I recall asking myself, “Am I gay?” I didn’t feel gay, but I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time either. After a day or two, I concluded for certain that I wasn’t gay. Shows like that make you think and ask deep, uncomfortable questions. That’s one reason why conservatives don’t want shows like that on TV.
A guy in his mid-thirties, Walter, was the first gay person I actually became friends with. He was a prep guy in the kitchen at the country club I worked at part-time on the weekends my junior and senior years of high school. He was a nice guy and was always joking around. Once, I had a mishap in the kitchen and exclaimed, “Damn! I almost poked my eye out!” Walter told me that it would be horrible if I lost an eye, because my eyes were pretty. After that, my other busboy friends nicknamed me, “Pretty Eyes.” It wasn’t meant to be a derogatory name. They weren’t making fun of me because a gay guy thought I was cute. It was just a funny nickname… kind of like how we called the sous chef, “Spider.” Though, I don’t know how he earned that moniker.
Walter was a cool guy and was very kind to everyone. I once got upset when a drunk wedding guest at the country club was joking about gays within Walter’s earshot. I could see that it hurt his feelings and that bothered me. There was another gay man that worked there for a while. He was the head chef and was a jerk. I learned that being gay doesn’t make you act one way or another. As is the case with all types of people, regardless of ethnicity, color, creed, or sexual orientation, you are in charge of your own character and behavior.
It wasn’t until I became a Christian and started really caring what the Bible had to say that I found out gays actually were evil after all. I got “saved” the summer after I graduated high school and later began attending a fundamental church when I was nineteen. At my first church, they didn’t talk a lot about gays. Most people were nice. They loved gays, but just despised their sin like you were supposed to. Only after the pastor left and that church dispersed did I end up in a church that really hated gays in a comprehensive fashion.
The only other congregation I knew anyone at in the town of Mooresville, In. was Victory Baptist Church. I’d been to a revival there and it seemed lively. As a newly married couple of twenty-one, my wife and I started attending Victory and quickly made it our official church home. We remained members there for several years and I also did some ministry. But, the general disdain for gays was more than obvious. They weren’t “gays” anyway. “Gay” means happy and gays are actually miserable people, so we were told. They should only be called “queers,” “fags,” “Sodomites,” or other similar terms.
The ideology was an uncomfortable fit for me, like a sweater two sizes too small. But, I was a young, impressionable man. And the most important thing was that they had “Bible” on their beliefs. The Bible DOES say to stone homosexuals in the Law. Jesus DID validate the Law of Moses. Paul DID write that those who burned in lust for the same sex were worthy of death. Not only that, but those who supported them deserve condemnation as well. I didn’t particularly have anything against gays, but my God did. I didn’t want Him mad at me, so I accepted that ideology for a span of time.
Let me give you a “through the looking glass” view of what it’s like to be in that place dogmatically… you say you aren’t “homophobic” because you aren’t afraid of gays in a one-on-one way. (I mean, they’re sissies right? So they can’t beat you up.) Yet, you are terrified of their impact on culture at large. The idea that the traditional, fundamental voice may lose the cultural microphone in America is unspeakable. Any one getting to speak a positive word publicly for gays equals persecution of you personally. The “Gay Agenda” is evil, anti-God, and wants to steal your Christian liberty in America. That’s what the fundamental pastors say anyway. You outwardly express that you “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Though, you quietly despise the sinner too. They are an abomination to God. You can’t love God AND love those who implicitly spit on His Word at the same time in any genuine or uncondescending way. You won’t even allow yourself to enjoy watching Ellen on TV. (Our pastor always referred to her as, “Ellen Degenerate”.)
In the end, the pastor’s racism got to me more than his homophobia. The New Testament, for the most part, disagreed with his racism. So, I talked to him about the racism issue privately. After being called an “Antichrist,” I left the church. But, the condemnation of gays followed me out the door in the Bible tucked under my arm.
As I grew in maturity and compassion over the years, my “too-small sweater” convictions became ever tighter and more uncomfortable. To be clear, I was very compassionate toward gays prior to adopting Biblical dogma about homosexuality. It took my religion to numb my natural instincts for some years. I did not hate or despise gays during those next few years. I actually had quite a love and understanding that I had to forcibly repress in order to align with the Sacred Text. The final nail in the coffin for the negative convictions I had embraced toward LGBT individuals came in 2012.
One day when I was messing around on Youtube, I saw a video post titled, “Same Love.” I had no idea what it was, but I clicked on the link.
I watched that video which now has well over 1oo million views when it was a new post gone-viral. I was sitting alone at my laptop in the house. I don’t recall where my family had gone that afternoon. The words of that song, the story, and images were exciting a part of my human conscience that I had turned off for over a decade. It actually made me cry. I think I watched it several more times right after. But, even though it moved me deeply, I wasn’t bold enough to share it on my Facebook wall at the time.
I had already been wrestling with my faith and beliefs in general for some months. But that song was a sniper’s shot directly to one specific conviction that had to be confronted and done away with. Since then, I have allowed myself to fully break free from ancient and repressive dogmas. My natural instincts to love other people, regardless of sexuality, exist unhindered. I am actually ashamed of the quiet and disingenuous spite for homosexuals that I carried for those years. It wasn’t a preeminent thing in my life. Yet, it did exist. It sat deep under the surface, but ready to be activated when occasion called for it. That is sad. I apologize to the LGBT community for my lack of insight toward homosexuality during that stage of my life. I am sorry for not lifting my voice for your freedom in our culture earlier. I will now.
There are moments and events that can be a tipping point for things in our lives and in our culture. But for me, I will never forget where I was the first time I heard the song, “Same Love.” Many thanks to you Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, and Mary Lambert. Much love to you. –Luke Austin Daugherty
When I heard several weeks ago that Bill Nye would be debating Ken Ham at the “Creation Museum,” I was beyond excited. Not only that, but I ACTUALLY got one of the less than 1,000 tickets to the event! (see my previous blog, “I Got a Golden Ticket! I’m Going to the Nye vs. Ham Debate!”)
Since then, I’ve noticed quite an outcry against Nye participating in the debate with a “young earth creationist.” There is the assertion that Nye’s presence will give the Creation Museum and it’s founder, Ken Ham, a new level of credibility. Also, that the task is a waste of time because those who don’t regard modern science over their religious dogmas regarding the age of the earth, evolution, etc. will not change their minds anyway. Some suggest that Nye, like Richard Dawkins, should eschew debates with creationists outright.
Let me give you several reasons why I support Nye participating in the debate:
1. Nye is a true ambassador for science- From 20 years ago with the “Bill Nye the Science Guy” show until recent years appearing on many news shows, Nye desires to educate the masses about the Scientific Method and demonstrable facts about the world and cosmos. We live in a Nation where nearly everyone uses advanced technologies, yet the vast minority of people is scientifically illiterate. We NEED people like Bill Nye, Neil Degrasse Tyson, and others who are giants in the scientific community, yet passionate and able to deliver a zest for science to the masses.
2. Bill Nye ISN’T a “debater”- Some have decried Nye’s potential potency as a debater against Ham, who is a seasoned debater for his YEC cause. Ham knows his “argument” well and is very experienced at presenting it. You can see Ham’s unforgiving debate style even against a fellow believer that holds an “old earth” position in his square off with Hugh Ross in this video.
Bill Nye is a natural educator, not a debater. He follows the patient, explanatory pattern of his own professor in college, Carl Sagan. Sagan’s desire to kindly and methodically impart scientific facts is illuminated in this video of his dialogue with a creationist challenging evolutionary science decades ago:
You can note Nye’s similar style in this video where he was supporting the issue of climate change:
In this ongoing, “beating a dead horse,” creationist vs. evolutionary science battle; we need more dialogue and less debate. Bill Nye can be a HUGE part of that needed dialogue.
3. People DO actually change their minds- I know, because I am one of them. I used to be a fundamentalist, Young Earth Creationist Christian. I took the book of Genesis as a literal history of the creation of the earth and humanity. Eventually, I had to face science, logic, and reason. When that happened, I changed my mind. Even if it’s the minority of adults who WILL ever change their minds for the better, it’s still encouraging. It is the next generation that will be the real catalyst for moving from fables to fact. Events like this one that Nye is participating in will add needed momentum to this paradigm shift in our scientifically ignorant Nation.
4. “Credibility” isn’t so easily earned- There is a large number of American Christians that give Ken Ham’s teachings and the Creation Museum credibility now. There is a larger number of Christians, believers in other faiths, and non-theists who do not. Successfully inviting an established scientist to a publicized debate isn’t going to cause many of the second group to dispense a new-found credibility to Ham or the Creation Museum. I am going to the debate. I spent my $30 for the ticket. But, I do not have 1% more respect for the veracity of Ham’s position or the Creation Museum than I already did. That said, I am glad the Creation Museum is having the event. I also doubt the “Museum” will lose much credibility with those that support it when they hear Nye’s presentation. Though I believe the greater potential for gains is on the side of science. Facts don’t always win, but facts do possess more traction than fables in the long run. We can’t be afraid of the bullying of fables or those who preach them as truth. I applaud Bill Nye for being willing to confront a premier preacher of these fables on Ham’s own turf.
I am in great anticipation of this event on the 4th of February. Please follow my blog for more updates and information before, during, and after the debate! For more information and opinions on this debate, see the links below:
AronRa’s take on the debate:
Bill Nye talks about debate:
Bill Nye’s original viral video against creationism:
Ken Ham’s initial response to Bill Nye’s viral video against creationism:
The Friendly Atheist’s blog on the debate: