The abuse of Christmas in the public square
I’m mostly indifferent to Christmas. I neither celebrate, nor generally care that others, including atheists, do. I don’t care if anyone says “happy holidays” to me, or even “merry Christmas”. People should do the things that make them happy, and the mere beliefs or choice in celebrations of others is no threat to anything I believe. I don’t really have a dog in the hunt, here. Except for this.
This is one of several religious banners appearing in the Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, PA, right now. What exactly does it have to do with Christmas? Damned if I know, but Christmastime, or perhaps “the holidays” are the excuse to put it up, and on public land. A more common instance is the traditional nativity scene. I have no objection to any of these displays, so long as they were placed on private property.
Resistance to the public showing of these displays on the basis of constitutionality are often combated successfully with appeals to tradition and the celebration of Christmas as a national holiday. Perhaps that is why some atheist groups adopt a different strategy: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Justin Vacula working with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has succeeded in getting this secularist banner placed in the same location. I would not generally approve of this kind of me-too-ism, nor the pointedness of the message. It’s sure to offend many, and persuade few , if any. I am not interested in celebrating the solstice. Pre-modern agrarian peoples celebrated the solstice either for religious reasons or because it was important to life-sustaining agriculture that they conducted themselves. Neither reason has any significance for me. All that said, I find the strategy a sound one. If every church gets a spot in the public square, so must humanists and atheists. It’s only fair. And maybe it will highlight the pointless pageantry of showcasing religious beliefs on public land.