Here we go again. As the festive season descends upon us, big media outlets with nothing particularly exciting to report on revert to age old techniques to draw viewers in to meaningless controversies that don't actually exist. Case in point being the supposed 'War on Christmas' - a Fox News speciality that sees hours of dedicated programming - usually at the behest of Bill O'Reilly - over the Christmas period. Here are three stories (out of many) that Fox has covered over the past couple of weeks:
As you can see, attempts around the nation to distance public institutions from religious ceremony (the entire point of the American experiment) is a sign of an impending war on the Christian festival, and should apparently be taken as a warning that religious freedom is coming to an end in America. This is of course, the complete opposite of what is happening. A decennial census of U.S. religions in America was released earlier this year by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB), and it found a large increase in religious diversity and stunning growth in several subsets of Christianity, including Latter Day Saints and Mormons. Despite what Fox News is reporting, religion is on the up in America.
As an annoying consequence of the media hoopla created every year, both sides of the conflict love to work themselves into a tizzy and spend hours defending their beliefs and shouting across the internet at one another - and both are as bad as each other. The debate is, if you think about it for more than a minute, completely pointless.
Atheists argue that America is not a Christian country, and make a huge deal about being discriminated against. Christians argue that America is a Christian country and make a huge deal about being discriminated against.
I'll settle this argument once and forever: America is not, and has never been a Christian country, and neither Atheists or Christians are discriminated against in any meaningful way (outside of a few anomalies). Being attacked for saying 'Happy Holidays' or not being allowed to put Christmas lights on university property does not count as persecution. If you want to understand real religious persecution, there are any examples throughout history that may provide some perspective (the Crusades and Holocaust are two that spring to mind).
The truth is that if you live in America, you can celebrate Christmas or not celebrate Christmas, use religious terminology or not use religious terminology, go to church/mosque or synagogue or not go to church/mosque or synagogue. You can choose to believe that the world is 6000 years old and baby Jesus was born of a virgin in a barn, or believe in the big bang theory and evolution. There are legitimate discussions as to what should be promoted in publicly funded education, but outside of that, you can pretty much do what you want.
So to the Christians I say this: Stop getting angry when publicly funded institutions abide by the constitution and refuse to promote religion. You wouldn't have a problem with it if the University of Virginia stopped students putting Islamic prayer mats all over their property, so please don't be hypocritical.
To the Atheists I say this: Say Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings to your hearts content. Just stop going on about your right to do it. No one cares. And if you do see Christmas decorations on government property, calm down. Sure, it shouldn't technically be there, but so what? Coming from the UK, technically a Christian country, no one bothers to argue about the legitimacy or role Christmas plays in public life. Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus all do a bit of Christmas celebrating in the UK because more than anything, it's good fun and a time to be with family. I really don't understand what all the fuss is about.