There really is a war on Christmas!


And it’s being fought by some of the bravest atheists in the country, nonbelievers in rural areas and the heartland

The Times Square billboard is not shy about its war on Christmas: “Keep the merry, dump the myth,” it reads, juxtaposing an image of jolly St. Nick with one of Christ’s agony on the cross. Sponsored by Cranford, N.J.-based American Atheists, the sign is funded in significant part by small-town nonbelievers nationwide.

“In New Jersey and the New York area, you don’t have as much of a feeling of oppression. We have a very diverse population,” says American Atheists managing director Amanda Knief, explaining the group’s backing in rural and small-town America. She points out that their 2010 national convention in Newark, which included an Easter Sunday trip to the American Museum of Natural History, attracted few local participants. By contrast, the 2011 850-person Des Moines gathering drew more than half of its attendees from inside the state. “It was the first opportunity in Iowa for people who were non-religious to come together. And it was the first time where it was safe to do so.”

Forget Hollywood and the Upper West Side. The angriest atheists are from the American heartland, where they live surrounded by the faithful. A 2007 Pew Research Center study found that 50 percent of rural atheists and agnostics see a “natural conflict between being a non-religious person and living in a society where most people are religious.” That’s 10 points higher than among their urban counterparts. Maybe Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has been looking for the War on Christmas and its “secular progressive” leaders in all the wrong places.

“Here’s the bottom line: Where religion is weak, atheism is weak” in its intensity, says Pitzer sociologist Phil Zuckerman. “Where religion is strong, atheism is strong.” Zuckerman has found that people in Scandinavian countries like Denmark and Sweden, among the world’s most profoundly nonreligious, generally eschew the “atheist” label and even marry in Lutheran churches. He labels the dominant attitude “benign indifference.”

“In small-town USA, people are much more likely to be anti-religious because they have religion thrown in their face all the time — prayers at little league, prayers at city council meetings, Nativity scenes and Ten Commandments billboards, preachers on the radio and TV, etc. — and their lack of religion is often associated with being immoral.”

But take out the conservative Christian dominance, he says, and “the natural default position of secularity is a mere indifference to religion.”

Written By: Daniel Denvir
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  1. “Where religion is weak, atheism is weak”

    I like this, I think it pretty much sums up my atheism …. it’s basically a reaction to having “God” mentioned in times of tragedy or as a way to fill the gaps of knowledge by people who don’t seem to have very strong imaginations or by people who commit atrocities in his name.

    Take all that away and active non belief suddenly seems superfluous.

  2. And it’s being fought by some of the bravest atheists in the country, nonbelievers in rural areas and the heartland

    There’s a chance they could win out in the sticks!

    The Times Square billboard is not shy about its war on Christmas: “Keep the merry, dump the myth,”

    But neither the community merriment nor the myth, have any chance against the massed takeover by COMMERCIALISM in the cities. – Compare the % of these billboards with the % of advertising and lights!

    IN THE CITIES – THE SALES HAVE NOW STARTED! – No contest! (I shall avoid commercial centres, and keep the remote handy so TV ads etc. are suppressed.)

  3. Even though I live in what is supposedly the most liberal part of a liberal state in the Pacific Northwest, I am literally surrounded in my rural neighborhood by people who really do cling to their bibles and guns, wrapped in the American flag. They are Tea Party extremists who are members of the local Protestant megachurch, which somehow, in a town of less than 7,000 people, manages to fill a huge elaborate structure and five-acre parking lot every Sunday. And it’s not the only big church in town. Farther away but no less influential in my life are my parents, aunts, uncles, and other family members who are all fundamentalist Christians – Seventh Day Adventists, to be precise. I am deluged with Adventist magazines, books, and tracts, as I try to relax on my days off with gunshots echoing through the woods around my house and anti-Obama, anti-gay, anti-liberal, and anti-atheist rants flooding my Facebook page and my email.
    So yes, I tend to be much more “strident” and defensive about my atheism than I might otherwise be. It’s a matter of survival.

  4. The image is very confusing. I thought it represented an exaggeration by an apologist whinger.

    The article is encouraging though.

    “Where religion is weak atheism is weak.” Action and reaction. After all who started this fight?

  5. Its going to take a long time, but it seems even America is starting, ever so slowly, to turn its back on dogmatic religious belief. As for apologetics, they’re just the remnants of people trying to reconcile belief with science, they can wait till later 😉

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