COLUMN By JEFF NALL
Dec. 7, 2005
On December 5th, Beyond Belief Media (BBM), the group responsible for the less than impressive film The God Who Wasn‘t There, made Jerry Falwell’s dreams come true. Under the control of president Brian Flemming, BBM officially declared 'war on Christmas.' In a press release Flemming stated that: "Christian conservatives complain nonstop about the 'War on Christmas,' but there really isn’t any such war."
Most recently Bill O’Reilly, Falwell and other religious fanatics have complained about retailers and other agencies opting to use the slogan "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" during the 2005 holidays. Such pundits found Boston's decision to name its annual Christmas tree a "holiday tree," particularly distressing.
While most sensible people have treated such half-witted rhetoric accordingly, Flemming's decision to make the "War on Christmas" a reality does nothing but lend support to our enemies. It also undermines those like Joe Conn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who has publicly stated: "There is no war on Christmas...This is in large part a publicity stunt and a fundraising maneuver by Jerry Falwell." Not to mention Rev. Barry Lynn, who properly observed that "Jerry Falwell has found that this war on Christmas is a very good, healthy, fundraising mechanism.”
Flemming says his group is waging a real war on Christmas in order "to demonstrate what it would look like if Jesus’ birthday were truly attacked." Unfortunately, this kind of activism, which is really nothing but cheap advertisement for the company’s lack-luster film, plays into the Religious Right's persecution propaganda. Already an October 2005 poll conducted by the Anti-Defamation League shows that 64 percent of the nation feels religion is "under attack." The last thing atheists need to do is heighten such illogical fear, particularly when such will inevitably inspire Christians everywhere to send Falwell more money. Secondly, such a "War on Christmas" will put-off ordinary people who are already disgusted by Falwell’s nonsense.
As it is, atheists already have enough of an image problem to overcome, particularly the perception that we have nothing to affirm but aversion. Considering that just four days before BBM's announced assault, a group of college students at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) made headlines with their "Smut for Smut" event, in when they gave away pornography in exchange for religious scripture, it's clear we‘ve got our work cut out for us. While these kinds of clever spectacles succeed in garnering media exposure, they never fail to play into the Religious Right's hands by casting atheists in a misanthropic light; showing atheists as people endlessly plotting to ruin religion or just plain antagonize believers.
The sooner we realize that spiteful antics and attitudes of superiority sadly mirror the presumptive, "all-knowing" mentality of the Religious Right, the sooner we can move beyond religion and form a truly vibrant movement. One would do well to remember the lesson of the Enlightenment wasn't that the enemy of reason was/is belief in God. It's that religious fanaticism, or any other fanaticism for that matter, is the true enemy of rational minds.
Jeff Nall has written for publications such as the Humanist, Freethought Today, Toward Freedom, the Humanist Network News, and IMPACT press. Jeff has spoken at conferences such as the 2005 Secular Student Alliance Conference and this year’s 30th Annual Meeting of the Association for Humanist Sociology. His recent work, "A New Vision for Freethought: Reaching Out to Friends in Faithful Places," is slated to appear in the 2006 issue of the journal, Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism.Jeff lives in Brevard County Florida with his wife, Desiree, and their daughter, Charlotte.