(A gold star for the one who gets that reference …)
Every year around this time I offhandedly wonder when I will a) see the very first Christmas commercial, and 2) see the first collective-dash-to-the-fainting-couch over the OMFG WAR ON CHRISTMAS.
I can pretty much guarantee that these days, the first signs of Christmas will be seen around the second or third week in October. The store shelves are still stocked with giant 5 lb. bags of Halloween candy, you can’t go ten feet in the supermarket without tripping over a goddamned pumpkin, and the Internet is littered with sites on how to put the finishing touches on your “sexy 1900s steel conglomerate tycoon” costume for the big party. And yet, in the thick of it all, you see the red-green cardboard rack of old, worn out Christmas CDs sitting inconspicuously between the Totes umbrella stand and the As-Seen-on-TV kiosk next to the self check-out aisle. You can’t help but feel a dull, nagging ache behind your left eye, and you’re not sure if it’s the thought of suffering through yet another ten-week onslaught of Christmas carols, or the fact that they don’t bother dusting off any of their things before taking them out of storage.
I can also guarantee that when this happens, it is only a matter of days before Fox News or some functional equivalent takes some of their own old, dusty things out of storage. This time, though, there was a new culprit. From the Huffington Post:
American Atheists are planning to put up more holiday “Myth” billboards this year. Last year, the atheist organization’s “Myth” campaign featured billboards with phrases such as: “You Know It’s A Myth. This Season, Celebrate Reason,” the Christian Post reports.
But this year, the group’s planning to erect signs featuring images of Santa, Jesus, Poseidon and the devil next to the message: “37 Million Americans know MYTHS when they see them.”
According to Opposing Views, it’s going to be put up on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel. Smart location. And, I think it’s kind of good, actually:
It’s funny, too, since it’s almost always the case that someone like Mike Savage, Lars Larson, or Bill “My Name is Mudd” O’Reilly starts the yearly tradition by yammering on incessantly about how some drugstore cashier in Nowhere, Iowa wished someone a “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” and how this is to be interpreted as a precursor to the End Times.
Blair Scott, Communications Director for American Atheists, stated, “Every year groups like The Catholic League and American Family Association told Americans about a war on Christmas that simply did not exist. Last year we thought we would give them what they seemed to want and fired the first shot in the war on Christmas. To both groups we say, ‘Happy Holidays!’”
Oh, good. Let’s kick the hornets’ nest, why don’t we? To be honest, I’m not too sure I wouldn’t have done the same thing in his place. If the same kind of hyperventilating is going to take place regardless of any other consideration, then it’s likely I would also feel compelled to at least put something out there for people to chew on.
Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, told Opposing Views that he hopes the group’s new signs are “equally thought-provoking and spark plenty of conversations nationally.”
I very much doubt that will happen. The problem is that even if I may agree with the sentiment, this country views atheists with so much distrust that nothing we do will provoke thought, discussion, or any rational discourse. It will only cause more manufactured indignation and outrage on the part of the religious conservative demographic as a result of some paranoid delusion that we’re trying to destroy the country …
… by telling people that taking a myth as fact or going so far as to call it science is silly and dangerous in every context, without exception. Oh, the horror. Then there’s this guy:
But one pastor told the Christian Post the new sign shows “ignorance.”
“Only the most dense and simple-minded person would put [Jesus] in the same category as the other three. Clearly, even those who lack a personal commitment to Jesus recognize that there was in fact some historical figure by this name — religious leader and teacher — around 2,000 years ago.”
My immediate thought is that only the most dense and simple-minded person would think that the issue is about the existence of a flesh-and-blood person named Jesus (Joshua, etc.), and not the claims of his divine nature or the “miracles” he performed for which there is no proof whatsoever. There is some historical evidence that gives support to the claim that he may have actually been alive then … but who cares? That’s not the point. Hell, it’s also possible that there was a Briton warlord named Arthur around 500 AD who provided the basis for another set of widely popular myths … but I doubt we can think of anyone who believes that the supernatural elements of those stories have any truth to them.
Maybe, given the fact that some people can’t figure out exactly what the billboard is saying, they should have put Jesus, King Arthur, St. Niclaus, and John Henry on it instead. All myths, all with arguably real – and normal – people at the core.