Last Tuesday’s North County Times editorial page featured a fortuitous pairing: Richard Cohen’s syndicated column about war deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan and a local article praising secular humanism.
The latter piece suggested that secular humanists have no problem with Christmas—an odd assertion in view of aggressive, ongoing efforts by the ACLU and likeminded “humanists” to ban religious symbols from the public square. Indeed, in cities throughout the country battles are annually waged about the propriety of Christmas symbolism during the “holiday season.”
To give just one local example, “Christmas on the Prado” was changed in 2001 to “December Nights” in deference to folks who couldn’t tolerate using the word “Christmas” for an extended celebratory period in a public venue. Various retailers have also omitted the “offensive” word from their advertising in the name of “diversity.” (One might have thought that the addition of “Hanukkah” and other festivals to the decorative mix would represent diversity better than omitting “Christmas.”)
One school district (in Plano, Texas, of all places) went so far as to ban red and green decorative utensils and religion-themed gifts during its “Winter Break Party”—lest these tokens offend those “tolerant” folks whose offspring might be reminded of the “holy day” whose name dare not be mentioned.
The idea that this kind of widespread anti-religious activism has been consistent and ongoing since the fourteenth century, as the local column suggested, is strange—especially when applied to the U.S. Even the deist Thomas Jefferson, for example, regularly attended religious services in the Capitol building itself—services that continued to be held there until 1866.
Richard Cohen’s article doesn’t use the word “humanist” or “secular,” but he does ponder the implications of a society in which “Religion has lost (its) mystery,” and “Dying has become harder.” “We remain a religious nation,” Cohen says, “but not as we were in the Civil War, when the dying tried to take comfort from the certainty…that a better life awaited them.”
Putting a semi-happy face on this state of affairs—which contrasts sharply with the perspective of suicide bombers who embrace that other religion that must not be named—the columnist observes, “Maybe we have come to cherish life too much.”
Cohen has put his finger on the ethical and practical dilemma faced by those who insist that life is a bowl of self-actualizing cherries, that you only go around once, and that (in the words of an in-your-face Humanist Association “seasonal” ad) “No God, No Problem.”
Folks don’t seem to be willing to fight and die for subjective values posited by creatures that have evolved from random mutations lacking any transcendent purpose. Heck, as Western Europe’s dismal demography illustrates, they don’t seem committed enough to future generations to reproduce themselves.
Christmas, by contrast, is a child-focused holiday that affirms the joyous existence of “absolutes” worth both living by and dying for.