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Is it Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

By Staff | Dec 20, 2013

Richard Zigler’s Dec. 6 Letter to the Editor reminded me of a holiday party I attended that was hosted by the Social (not socialist) Committee of a condominium I was living in some years back. It was held in the Community Room. I was in the food line and said, “Happy Holiday” to the person behind me. He shouted back, “Merry Christmas!” Perhaps he was trying to be heard over the din, the little din there was, but his tone suggested he was trying to communicate that this was not a holiday party. It was a Christmas party, get used to it goldarn-it. The devil in me wanted to replay, “Happy Solstice.” I’m not a person of faith, and the Solstice is something some of us celebrate, but the good in me took control and I replied, “Merry Christmas.” Why not? I celebrate Christmas, and besides, I wasn’t at the party to make a point, but to make my acquaintance and perhaps a few friends.Which I did.One was a Hindu from India and the other a Protestant from Oklahoma.

Mr. Zigler doesn’t seem to care for atheists and liberals. In his mind they go together like love and marriage, a horse and carriage. You can’t have one without the other. I don’t know who filled his head with such nonsense, but he’s been sold a bill of goods. I happen to be Vice-Chair of the Mountain State Freethinkers, a social (not a socialist) group that meets monthly, eats food and discusses a topic usually not political. Here’s getting it from the horse’s mouth, atheists as a group have political views that are just as diverse as people of faith. For crying out loud, one of our members is a Libertarian.

Atheists are just as likely to live ethical lives, volunteer, postpone immediate gratification for long term gain and be good citizens as anyone else. Except that we don’t believe in a supreme being or an afterlife, we’re pretty much like everyone else. I will admit, that there are some atheists, I wish there was a hell because they belong there. I feel the same way about some theists. So it goes.

I would like to point out that our constitution does not mention Christianity, Christ, Jesus, Yahweh, Buddha or any other deity or faith. Religion is only mentioned in the First Amendment which prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, or impeding the free exercise of religion. It does not establish the USA as a theocracy. No Sharia, Islamic or otherwise. It says that when it comes to your beliefs about religion, they’re nobody’s business but your own. The government stays out of it unless someone’s belief fist collides with another’s belief nose. This is a good thing. It is one of the ideas that makes this country great. It should be celebrated.

The idea that most atheists want to ban public religious displays is hooey. I have to ask you, Mr. Zigler, in heaven’s name, where do you come up with this stuff? It is total baloney.

If a person owns property that abuts a public road, he can put up three Christian crosses like those on Route 45 about 2 miles outside Shepherdstown. They’ve recently been repaired and repainted and they look great.

If a person, who has the where with all, wants to put her version of the Decalogue in her front yard, she can, even if she lives across the street from a court house or a public school.

Even in National Parks, if the government wants to designate an area where people can memorialize their veterans, so long as all groups have an opportunity to build a monument, theists and non-theists alike, mainstream religions and those Mr. Zigler might consider cults, I don’t think many atheists would object. There was an interesting case where a veteran who qualified for burial in Arlington Cemetery was denied the right to have the symbol that represented his faith tradition on his tomb stone. He was a Wicca. His family took it to the Supreme Court and fortunately they agreed with the family. He served his country. It was his grave. It was his stone. He could have any darn thing he wanted carved on it. Good for him and his family.

The great thing about public schools is that they aren’t allowed to proselytize. You can teach courses in religious history, comparative religion. Along with math and theater clubs, students can organize Bible study clubs, Zen mediation clubs, Freethinker clubs and whatever the heck they want. Maybe not a swingers club – unless you are living in the Midwest where, I’ve read, swinging is quite popular.

And parents can send their children to public schools secure that their religious beliefs will not be undermined. No Catholic kids encouraged to become Episcopalians. No Muslims converting to Judaism. No Jews being introduced to Hinduism as the one true faith No one’s child having their theistic or atheistic beliefs belittled.

Another misconception that some theists have is that atheists want to rob you of your faith. We have no interest in talking you or your children out of your faith. Live and let live. We respect your right to be who you are. We would like you to show the same respect toward us.

Of course, if you want to argue the existence of God, some of us will be happy to engage. And sometimes a letter to the editor demands a response.

Well got to go. I still have presents to purchase, just a few. And because of the snow, not all the lights are hung.

I want to wish Mr. Zigler and his family a very Merry Christmas. I hope 2015 treats him and his loved ones well. In fact, Season’s Greetings to all and all the best life has to offer. May whatever you are celebrating be a celebration to remember.

Austin Porter