Saturday, November 29, 2008

Billboards Stir Spirits in Denver

The Colorado Coalition of Reason has begun an ad campaign to bring together atheists and agnostics to the chagrin of the faithful. In his column for the Rocky Mountain News Bill Johnson outlines some of the hate-filled responses self-proclaimed Christians have hurled at the billboard's backers. In Just eight words on a billboard Johnson explains the absurdity of the controversy by evenhandedly laying out the argument that calling for a coalition of atheists is no different and no less protected under the constitution than calling for a coalition of Christians.

This reminds me of another news story from Washington, DC where an ad campaign by the American Humanist Association postures "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake." Their reason for the doing this at this time of year is "there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion."

I have been reading Markos Moulistas Zúniga's (the founder of the Daily Kos) Taking on the System lately. Beginning on Page 87 Zúniga describes one battle in the culture wars; the secularist "War on Christmas." He takes the reader through a brief history of this so-called war on the Yuletide holiday but eventually brushes the whole thing off as a concoction of Bill O'Reilly and others like him to boost their bad ratings during the holiday news lull. The secularist is, in Zúniga's eyes, a made up villain crafted by the right so they have someone or something to rally against. "O'Reilly knew that the enemy didn't have to exist to rally the troops, whip up interest, and -incidentally, of course- stoke his ratings" reports Markos.

I am an agnostic and I love Christmas and everything about it. The family, the traveling, the snowflakes, the presents the trees, wreaths, holly, and all the glorious smells. I even love all the beautiful music about the little 8 pound 6 oz. baby Jesus. All of it is warm wonderful and enlivening to the spirit. So in a way Markos is right there is not a mass war on Christmas, but what does exist is a culture war, and part of that is a war on ignorance. On accepting things on blind faith, on not realizing that the celebration that we call Christmas goes much further back than the year 0. It goes back to the science of the earth. To the timing of the longest nights of the year in the northern hemisphere where civilizations blossomed. A time when a celebration of light and love was necessary to keep our collective mental status positive and bright. The war on Christmas could be better characterized as a healthy debate on understanding the culture that we so lovingly practice and making it better through that understanding. Happy Holidays to all and may there be peace on earth.

Though terror still grips our planet as we saw this week, in a way, I am glad to see responses like this as I do firmly believe that a "war on terror" is on oxymoron. "India at this moment has to contain any reactive violence from the fundamentalist Hindus, which is very likely and possible. So India has to condemn that by not blaming local Muslims. They have to identify the exact groups." said Dr. Deepak Chopra in an interview with Larry King.

When Timothy McVeigh killed hundreds of Americans including children in Oklahoma City no one claimed that all Roman Catholics were terrorists just because he was one. I acknowledge that radical Islam is more widespread than radical Christianity, but Islamic terrorists should be treated the same as the David Koresh's and Timothy McVeigh's of the world, with the arm of Justice, not a backlash of hate for their religion.

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