Christmas continues to cheer our increasingly secularized and benighted world, and this sets on edge the teeth of its relentless detractors. Consider the length to which the Grinches go to persuade us that Christmas is nothing special. Proving a negative is always a challenge, but arguing there’s no original cause for the Christmas effect is a hopeless exercise. Despite the war on the celebration of the birth of the Christ, the spirit of the season endures.
The American Atheists group this year has purchased space on a huge electronic billboard above New York’s Times Square to flash the question: “Who needs Christ during Christmas?” The word “Christ” is crossed out, replaced with “nobody.” Nobody, of course, is the patron of the atheists, who urge everyone to believe in nothing. With the zeal of Saul-turned-Paul on the road to Damascus, the atheists urge New Yorkers to “Celebrate the true meaning of Xmas,” without saying exactly what the meaning might be. New Yorkers, famous for brusque street demeanor, gave a television reporter an earful of unfestive Gotham response. The atheists still have a lot of work to do.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has taken Wisconsin’s Badger State nickname literally and installed a “natural nativity scene” display to badger visitors to the state Capitol rotunda in Madison. Mimicking a creche, the scene features a baby doll dressed as Santa Claus in a manger, surrounded by such secular heroes as Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein. Beside it hangs a plaque bearing the inscription: “At the season of the Winter Solstice, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens the hearts and enslaves the mind.” Reason continues to prevail, anyway, and Christmas continues.
The faithless faithful argue that Christmas actually grew out of an ancient celebration of the winter solstice — the shortest day of the year — and is nothing more than an appropriation of the pagan feast celebrating the return of the sun. The faithless further argue that the Christian holy day of Dec. 25, honoring the birth of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, is a fraud seized on by Madison Avenue to sell blenders and bicycles to the credulous masses. They say the world is the product of random chance and coincidence, and preach a gospel of emptiness, with no meaning in life. Such people must be careful in this season lest they hear voices singing a joyful carol or see a cheerful display that tugs at their conscience.
The powerful and enduring story that God gave his only Son so that men and women can have the gift of eternal life cannot be refuted by billboards, mocking displays or even lawsuits, because there’s something deep in the human heart that says it’s all true. Our holiday wish is that everyone — believers and unbelievers alike — feel the warmth and comfort of the Christmas effect. And to our atheist friends, God bless you.