Friday, November 30, 2012

It's a dessert topping! It's a floor wax!

This argument is threatening to become completely silly.

Oh, wait; I'm already too late to say that.

Best I can figure the chronology on this, Bill O'Reilly had an atheist on to argue about the "war on Christmas."  Who is fighting this war, of course, is always vague.  Apparently it's conducted by stateless terrorists, because while FoxNews complains about "holiday trees" being put up by government entities, they seem to place the blame for the name on people who...complain about the name!

And they said irony is dead.

Anyway, in the course of that "argument," the atheist said Christmas trees are religious symbols because "Christ" appears in the word.  Increase Mather couldn't have said it better (irony!  Again!).  Except, of course, it is the use of the symbol, not the derivation of the word, that really matters.  Easter is a Christian holiday, but is anybody really going to argue that the "Easter bunny" is a religious symbol?


So let's set that nonsense aside.  As I said before, I don't know of a church that allows a "Christmas tree" into its worship space, and the ones I know that did were very careful to label them "Chrismon trees," even if they stayed outside the worship space proper.  A Christmas tree is a secular symbol.  Many a non-Christian non-atheist puts up a Christmas tree and never thinks twice about the baby Jesus or even Joseph and Mary, or the doctrine of atonement or the Incarnation or anything else peculiar to Christianity.  Is the famous Rockefeller Center tree a symbol of religious belief?  Or belief in mammon?  So far as that goes, O'Reilly and the atheist deserve each other.

But O'Reilly said, in defense of Christmas trees, that Christianity is not a religion, it's a philosophy.  When that wasn't clear enough, (and hence my reference to a chronology), he doubled down on it, declaring those who don't understand what he's saying  "so stupid it's painful."

Um...right.  Yes, Bill, you can focus solely on the teachings of Jesus, and derive from those some valuable moral insights.  That's what Thomas Jefferson did, but no one has ever accused Jefferson of being a Christian (not even in his lifetime).  And most of the "Founding Fathers" were Deists, and more or less followed Jefferson's lead (with notable exceptions).  Remove Christ from Christianity, and you remove the religious claims from Christianity; in fact, you remove Christianity!  You are left with either humanism or (some say) Unitarianism.  What you aren't left with, is Christianity.

It's not really a point worth arguing, of course.   Apparently O'Reilly went on to argue that churches are religious, but that Christianity is just a philosophy.  How this works is truly anybody's guess.

This is also truly the point where taking up this "argument" means you are wrestling with the pig:  the pig likes it, and you only get dirty.

On the other hand:  can we now say the "war on Christmas" is clearly so patently absurd we should all just point and laugh whenever it is mentioned seriously?  Because if it hasn't reached that point with this, I don't know when it ever will.


  1. Rent-an-Atheist meets Vent-a-Matic.

    It reminds me of when Sandra Day O'Connor said that reciting the Lords Prayer wasn't really about God but was a convention of "civic religion". In other words, it was in violation of the commandment against taking God's name in vain.

    He's not got the over-the-top Dada quality of Old Maddy. The quality of atheist loudmouths has gone down but it didn't have far to fall.

  2. Scott the Obscure7:19 AM

    Lead me not into temptation, TC, for jokes about losing one's head in the argument spring to mind...
    And to complete the off-topicality, that is one bee-yootiful image, RMJ. Well-chosen and evocative of the season.