Saturday, December 21, 2013

Who Needs Christ in Christmas?

This is the question of a sign in Times Square, sponsored by American Atheists. President David Silverman has appeared on several news shows to defend the sign. He maintains that the idea behind the sign is not an attack on Christianity, that he is improving Christmas, and that nobody believes in Jesus anyway and Christians all hate going to church so they should do something else on December 25.

I find myself more disturbed as a human being than a Christian by Mr Silverman's attitude, and his sign. After all, Christianity has been under attack since it started. Our saviour, Jesus Christ, the son of God, was nailed to a cross. You can't get much more rejection than that. And while Christianity, like every other religion in the world, has been guilty of oppression and persecution, I suspect that most Christians are like most Muslims, or Jews, or pagans, or members of any other faith system. I believe that most of us just want to live our lives in accordance with our beliefs and we don't want to hurt anybody.

I now believe this is true of atheists, despite the sign. I admit I had fallen into the error of thinking that all atheists were hateful people who only wanted to attack people of faith. Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the woman who had prayer banned in schools, founded American Atheists, and I thought she was a typical example of an atheist. But then I saw that sign on the news, and I heard David Silverman defending it in such hurtful terms, and I began to wonder-can all atheists really be this obnoxious? So I went looking.

I went to the American Atheist website, and a few other atheist websites, and I looked for some blog posts, and what I found was that a number of atheists are not happy with the sign either. One atheist put it very well-a statement of belief should not be depending on a negative. In other words, you wouldn't expect to see a sign that said Happy Hanukkah-Jesus is not the Messiah. Hanukkah, like Christmas, like Ramadan, is about affirming a personal belief system. You don't affirm yourself by attacking someone else. So I was pleased to see that so many atheists feel that the sign is a bad idea, that it is indeed an attack on Christmas and on Christians, and that their viewpoint would be better served by expressing it in a positive way, without leaning on attacking another belief system.

I am reminded of Isaac Asimov, atheist, humanist, and creator of the Zeroth Law. He started out with Three Laws of Robotics. 1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws. Later, he added a fourth law that took precedence over the others-that a robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm. This was the Zeroth Law. And it's easy to see, with these laws, that while every major religion has some version of the Golden Rule, this is not a religious or even a spiritual rule. This is a basic rule of decency and humanity that can even apply to robots. I also like Rabbi Hillel's thinking, that what you don't want done to you, don't do to others. It's not a complete blueprint for harmonious living, but it is a good place to start.

So to answer the question of the sign in Times Square, Christians need Christ in Christmas. Jews need menorahs, Muslims need Mecca, pagans and Wiccans and Buddhists and Hindus and even atheists all need what affirms their basic belief systems. For a sign to say that not everybody needs Christ in Christmas would be acceptable. Some people don't believe in Jesus, they want nothing to do with Him, and Christmas is a pervasive Christian holiday that must leave every non-Christian feeling a little left out. I get that, and a sign that reminds people they can have fun at Christmas even if they are not Christians might not be a bad idea. A sign that arrogantly asserts that no person anywhere who professes the Christian faith needs Christ is completely unacceptable. It's unacceptable as an attack on Christianity and Christians. But even more, it's unacceptable as a violation of the Golden Rule. I don't think Mr Silverman has treated others as he would like to be treated, I think he has done something to others that he would not want done to himself, and I believe he has given atheists another boost in negative perception by the public. In any case, I am a Christian who needs Jesus. I love Him, I have accepted Him as my saviour, and my dearest hope is to be with Him one day in Paradise. I am not alone in this feeling, yet even if I were, my one spark of faith would outshine the sign in Times Square and negate its message that nobody needs Christ in Christmas.


beilmandulin said...


To preface this for being so late to reply to this specific post, (on March 21, 2014) I just recently came across your blog when reading your interesting and well though out analysis of Black Sails on IMDb and saw that you had a blog and based on your intelligent conversation (especially when having to deal with inane arguments lol)I thought that I would check out your blog to see what you had to say about other topics.

Now, I am a child of a retired Christian minister but personally I am more of an agnostic THIEST(by wikipedia's definition).

Although reading what you have to say and your open-mindness is making me think twice and think about re-evaluating my beliefs.
As opposed to some Christians that I have met that are not as open-minded about other religions as you.

And although I am not a devout Christian, I spent most of my childhood, starting around the age of 8 all the way to age 16, going to church and "Sunday school/youth group" and learned a lot about Jesus and the bible.

When I first saw the picture of the sign BEFORE I read what that guy said, I thought that he was going to be talking more about the commercial aspect of Christmas. And how "Christ" does not seem to be important or emphasized in Christmas anymore. But I saw that wasn't the case.

Even though I am not a devout christian, and I don't want to seem arrogant, but I like to think that I am sensitive (at least when it comes to the other members of my mother's church (she's the retired minister)), to the Christian religion.

I actually think that CHIRST should be part of Christmas EVEN MORE than it is now. I think that Christians should try to find away to try and get people to listen when told about the true meaning behind the holiday, as a celebration of THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST.

It is NOT about Santa Claus. I mean Santa Claus' outfit is based on a drawing of Sinterklaas that was made for the Coca Cola company.

I think that Christmas needs to go back to what it truly represents, the birth of Jesus Christ.

It is NOT about how to make a lot of money by commercializing a lot of peoples' religion

Pandra said...

Thanks for the nice post! I always appreciate a well-thought out post. And I am humbled by your comment that some of the things I have said might make you think twice and re-evaluate your beliefs. Personally, I tend to take the Bible very literally when it comes to the parts like "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I can't expect people to respect my beliefs if I don't respect theirs. I wouldn't disrespect a tree that someone else finds sacred. And I always loved that part in Moby Dick where the Christian wants to ask his cannibal pagan friend to go to church with him, so he's willing to worship his friend's idol with him, in the spirit of the Golden Rule.

Well, I love Santa myself, but only for such things as the movie Miracle on 34th Street and that lovely piece, Yes, Virginia, There IS a Santa Claus. I totally think it's a shame that Christmas has become so commercialized. I barely celebrate it as the world does-I like to get a tree, and I give my loved ones gifts. And that's it. I don't go out, except to look at Christmas lights, and I avoid the stores as much as possible. The true meaning of Christmas (and when I see televangelists I think the true meaning of Christianity) is pretty much lost now, although people such as you give me hope. Thank you so much for brightening my day. :)