Atheist Myth #5: War on Christmas

This is a guest post from Mary Ellen Sykes, who runs the American Secular Census. It’s the third in a series of five posts that will run this week. Links to all the posts in this series can be found at the bottom of this post.

Myth #5: Atheists are waging a War on Christmas.

American Secular Census logo, bar graph next to organization name.

The winter holiday season faithfully delivers at least three predictable “presents” to all good Americans each year. The first is a creche or other religious display on some public property somewhere. The second is pushback and the occasional counterdisplay from the secular community.

And the third, as original as a department store tie in a predecorated box, is the announcement by religious conservatives and news media that atheists have declared a War on Christmas.

Atheists do oppose government-endorsed religious holiday symbols, just as they oppose civic religion in other settings like public schools and the military. This year right-wing shock jocks have been using words like “fascist” and “terrorist” to describe atheists who speak out at Christmas, but many people of faith actually agree with secularists that state and church don’t mix.

In any case, it isn’t atheists who spin Christmas as the ultimate secular controversy shot through with the language of wars and coups d’etat; all that’s just a media marketing ploy.

In their personal lives, atheists themselves celebrate the secular aspects of the season: 87% of those completing a holiday survey on the Secular Census indicated they’d observed Christmas in 2011, and 39% of those polled had celebrated more than one winter holiday, with Solstice as the second most popular. Atheists say they celebrate by putting up a tree, exchanging gifts, getting together with family and friends, enjoying festive music and food, and in many cases helping the less fortunate — not so different from many religious families, really.

What if Fox News gave a war and no one came? Reasons Greetings to all, and to all a good light.


Myth #1: Atheists are bitter, unhappy people who contribute nothing to society.

Myth #2: Atheists want a government that is anti-God and anti-religion.

Myth #3: Atheists want to kick God out of public schools and indoctrinate children in atheism.

Myth #4: Atheists disbelieve because they are ignorant about God and religion.

Myth #5: Atheists are waging a War on Christmas.

Mary Ellen Sikes is the founder, president, and developer of the American Secular Census. She became involved in the secular movement in the early 1990s, went on to found and lead a local humanist group, and has served in various staff, officer, advisory, and board positions for regional and national organizations, most recently as a co-founder of Secular Woman.

Screen capture of American Secular Census About page.

American Secular Census methodology: Because not all registrants complete every form or every question, sample sizes vary from topic to topic and cannot be generalized. Until the Census reaches a 5-figure registry overall, analysis should be considered suggestive rather than statistically authoritative; however, most questions now have sample sizes approaching or exceeding those of nationally recognized surveys.

Atheist Myth #5: War on Christmas
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3 thoughts on “Atheist Myth #5: War on Christmas

  1. 1

    I’m one of those anti-Christmas warriors who puts up lights, a tree, exchanges presents, makes a cheese ball, drinks egg nog and—gasp—says Merry Christmas to people I know celebrate Christmas. I even go to a Christmas Eve service with my kids because it’s important to them and I love them. I hold a candle, sing religious Christmas songs, and honestly enjoy the hell out of it. Just not because of Jesus. (Admittedly, it helps that my kids go to a very progressive church led by a pastor who says crazy things like, “We welcome everyone no matter their faith, creed, or lack thereof.” The members are really nice and don’t give a crap that I don’t share their beliefs.)

    That said, one sign of my uttermost evil is I say “Happy Holidays” to people I either don’t know or who I know don’t celebrate Christmas. And I get cranky when religious people try to foist their beliefs onto everyone else, too often with the tacit approval if not outright cooperation of government. Let’s face it, I’m a monster.

    So, who wants in on this cheese ball? It’s got booze in it.

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